Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stop the Rush!

The president's remarks in Albania make it more likely that we are headed for the train wreck scenario over Kosovo. Perhaps some people in this town believe in playing chicken--bluff the Russians and the Europeans will fall into line. But I don't know if that is a responsible course of action.

The worse case scenario is having a Kosovo resolution be vetoed in the Security Council, a unilateral declaration of independence in Kosovo, unilateral U.S. recognition, and then the EU unable to deploy its mission on the grounds that UN Security Council resolution 1244 has not been replaced. Then fighting breaks out and what happens if Serbia is pushed to intervene to protect monasteries or Serb enclaves that come under attack?

And having another statelet emerge whose status is unclear--recognized by some, not by others--in a region where interdependence is key to growth and security--how does this advance U.S. interests.

So, let's step back.

1) Kosovo is not a plaything for the U.S.-Russia relationship. Using Kosovo to stick it to Moscow may be satisfying to some people in DC but there are real people on the ground in the Balkans. Kosovo should be settled on what best serves the region.

2) It is not 1995 or even 1999. I think Washington will find it much harder to get NATO to "substitute" itself for the UN. And if you have a Russian veto, Chinese abstention and Indian opposition to the plan, it is a little hard to argue about there being the will of the "international community" at work.

3) The Sarkozy-Putin tete-a-tete, while it failed at the G-8, may provide a way forward: a period of delay, followed by convening of a consulting conference, a careful review of options and, I would think, a regional wide settlement of all issues on the table.

4) U.S. pundits need to stop rehashing ill-informed cliches. Serbia is not a Russia clone in the Balkans (that role has traditionally been played by Bulgaria--now a close U.S. ally). There are also a whole range of options for solutions--we don't have to make this a binary choice.

5) Some Kosovo Albanians want independence now and are threatening to riot. It seems to be a bit odd that you would try to blackmail the people who have given you de facto independence and protection (could you imagine the Taiwanese rioting)? If entering into real negotiations to settle final status and waiting longer for that resolution is distasteful (and Cyprus has been waiting more than 3 decades, Nagorno-Karabakh vis-a-vis Azerbaijan coming up on two decades, etc.), then we don't need to stay at all.

6) Finally, as I have always advocated--this is a time for the U.S. to be turning to our allies in Athens. They have some creative ideas and have shown more flexibility than frankly many U.S. officials have. If Italy is part of the Contact Group, then Greece certainly should be a member.

Putin wants the problem and the train wreck. Very cheaply and within the International Law, he will have damaged US & EU positions in the Balkanas. Furthermore, a Serbian-Kosovar War will be a God-send to him; he can play his mediator role or, watch US & EU tied up in the catastrophe of their own policies.
SO why is US hell bent on giving Putin what he wants. If US brings Serbs into a real process then even Russia can't object to final status.
Are the Americans interested in pushing Kosovo independence because they've gotten promises about eternal use of military bases with no problems? After what happened in Turkey in 2003 I think Washington wants free access bases and Kosovo has nothing else to offer.
Anonymous 2:45 PM:

US & EU cannot and will not do much to help Serbia; she is on her own - alive in the bitter sea. There is no process there for Serbia.

Why is US hell-bent on Kosovo independence? Because otherwise Kosovo has to revert back to Serbia and the 87-day war against a defenseless country will be seen for what it truly was; an exercise in power projection for the sake of power projection; i.e. political nihilim.

Anonymous 2:48 PM:

Kosovo, just like Central Asia, Azerbaijan, or Georgia is just irrelevant to US security & prosperity. No bases there are worth it to US.

Kosovo and Serbia were toys for 2 boys called Blair & Clinton. US & EU play with the weak states as though they are geopolitical toys. Then they get tired and move somewhere else.

The moral is clear; get yourself some nuclear weapons pronto if you want to remain relatively safe.
"They have some creative ideas and have shown more flexibility than frankly many U.S. officials have."

The Greeks also performed genocide against Albanians, took their lands and expelled them. You never heard of this? Maybe cause they did over 60 years ago. They sure are flexible when it comes to other people and lands but ask them about their own issues, Macedonia's name? minorities and their rights in Greece? And you want Greece to resolve this issue? They'd just be another Russia. They've got nothing to offer.
Hey Anonymous 4:59--and the US killed its native population, the British committed genocide against the Irish, and Russia is a prison house of nations. And let's not get started on the former Axis powers. So who has clean hands in the contact group?

Oh and didn't the Albanians line up with Hitler and Mussolini too?

And what the Greeks have to offer-there the ones prepared to invest and build up the region. But I guess you expect good old Uncle Sam to keep dropping the dollars.
Well, the last two comments illustrate why the Balkans is still far from being truly European.
Serbia is indeed a Russian clone. Greece in Contact Group? Why not Saudi Arabia in the Contact Group
Nicholas Gvosdev:

I would be grateful if you -- as a self-professed 'realist' -- could clarify for me your views on what seem to be some crucial issues:

1. On what points are the interests of the United States and Russia -- seen from a 'realist' point of view -- congruent?

2. On what points are those interests -- seen from a 'realist' point of view -- in conflict?

3. In your view, do the congruent interests greatly outweigh the conflicting interests; do the conflicting interests greatly outweigh the congruent interests; or do congruent and conflicting interests, as far as one can judge, appear to roughly balance out?

A further question, which only needs answering if you think that the congruent interests either greatly outweigh the conflicting ones, or at least balance them:

3. Is it actually plausible to suggest that the foreign policies of states are characteristically guided by reasonably 'rational' calculations of national interest? Or is this actually a kind of 'rationalist' delusion?
David, all good questions. Can I devote a separate post to it (as I did to comments Jun Okumura did last week).
Dave and Nik, the realist view on US-Russia relations is irrelevant. The Russian government does not submit immediately to the will of the West. Western governments do not want to adjust to that fact. Therefore Russia-West relations are bad and will get worse. QED
Look how flexible the Greeks are with Albanians:

And here's an example of flexibility from the Greek army:
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