Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Tue

30

Jan

2007

Kosovo, curtain-raiser for Iraq, still in search of a solution
Tuesday, 30 January 2007 00:27
by Brian Barder

Anyone under the widely shared illusion that NATO's attack on Serbia in 1999 over Kosovo permanently resolved the problem of Kosovo's relationship with the rest of Serbia needs to have another think.  The veteran peace-making miracle man, Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and accomplished godfather of UN solutions to intractable problems, is shortly to announce his proposals for the future status of Kosovo, having consulted at length with the governments of Russia, the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy, the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo, and many others. 

The forecast is that (after yet another round of protracted 'consultations') he will propose for Kosovo a form of internationally policed quasi-independence from Serbia — but without any specific mention of the i-word; probably also without any entitlement to membership of the UN, other countries then free to decide whether to 'recognise' Kosovo as a state or not. This, like any other kind of severance of Kosovo from Serbia, will be bitterly and perhaps violently opposed by the great majority of the people of Serbia, and (not unnaturally) by the small, beleaguered Serbian minority still clinging on in Kosovo.  For there are still some Serbs in Kosovo despite the virtual ethnic cleansing that followed the departure of the Serbian army and police in 1999 and the installation of the NATO-led international régime in Kosovo under the revised settlement programme skilfully negotiated by — you guessed! — Ahtisaari, with discreet help from the Russians and the Americans, after the NATO bombing had failed to bring the Serbs to heel.
There's a predictably excellent account of the current situation in the Guardian of 26 January 2007 by Jonathan Steele, who argues with his usual persuasiveness for the award of full independence to Kosovo without further delay, despite the acknowledged risks.  One such risk is that when the package is submitted to the Security Council for endorsement, the Russians, traditional protectors and patrons of the Serbs, will veto it. There's also the risk of armed resistance by Serbia to the secession of Kosovo, prospect reinforced by the sweeping victory of the Serb nationalists (united in their determination that Kosovo should remain part of Serbia) at the recent Serbian elections. 

Another risk is that even qualified independence for Kosovo will precipitate a demand by the Bosnian Serbs for secession from Bosnia and union with Serbia, a situation that could also degenerate into violence.  Any move by the newly independent Kosovars, often referred to as the Kosovo Albanians, to seek a union with their kith and kin in neighbouring Albania would give a strong fillip to the campaign for a Greater Albania which in turn would arouse intense alarm throughout the region, providing another destabilising element.  Yet another daunting factor is the impact of any UN-approved Kosovo secession from Serbia, justified on grounds of nationalism and self-determination, on the serious dispute between Russia and Georgia over the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (usefully described in an article last August in the Christian Science Monitor).  There could even be consequences for Chechnya, in that case wholly negative for Moscow.  Here too there's a real danger of disputes erupting, or erupting again, into violence.

There's a sad irony in all this.  The Kosovo nationalists fighting for their independence from Serbia in the period leading up to the NATO attack on Serbia in 1999 were given a promise by the Americans of an "act of self-determination" — unmistakeable code for independence, the inevitable result of any such exercise of self-determination — in exchange for the Kosovars' reluctant acceptance of the NATO ultimatum drawn up at the Rambouillet conference in March, 1999. 

The ultimatum had been carefully crafted to ensure that the Serbian government — any Serbian government — would reject it, as indeed it duly did.  The US and some other western delegations at Rambouillet, presumably including the British who co-chaired the conference with the French, were determined to ensure that their ultimatum would be accepted by the Kosovars and rejected by the Serbs.  This was designed to provide a plausible justification for the NATO aerial assault on Serbia on which Madeleine Albright, the then US Secretary of State and leader of the US team at Rambouillet, was determined, drawing on a false and misleading analogy with the west's failure, earlier, to use force against the Serbs in Bosnia until too late. 

NATO's escalating attack on Serbia for 11 weeks in 1999 had many eerie parallels with the US-led attack on Iraq four years later, for which in many ways Kosovo was intended to be the model.  Contrary to the current received wisdom, both wars were illegal, neither having been authorised by the UN Security Council and neither fought in self-defence.  Both failed in their proclaimed objectives:  it wasn't the NATO bombing that eventually dislodged the Serbian forces and administration from Kosovo but the flexible and constructive behind-the-scenes diplomacy of an American and a Russian negotiator (Strobe Talbott and Viktor Chernomyrdin) — and Martti Ahtisaari. 

Both wars were unnecessary:  the terms eventually accepted by the Serbs could and should have been negotiated with them at Rambouillet, producing the same as the eventual settlement without a single bomb being dropped.  Similarly, if the UN inspectors under Blix had been allowed to complete their work in Iraq, they might well have been able to show that Iraq had no WMD, which would have demolished the sole British rationale (at the time) for participation in the attack and occupation.  Both wars were publicly asserted to have a variety of objectives and justifications, some of each of them sold on a deliberately false prospectus.  Both military actions were disproportionate to both their real and their proclaimed objectives.  Both turned out to be counter-productive:  the NATO bombing of Serbia actually accelerated and aggravated Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and precipitated for the first time the wholesale flight of refugees into neighbouring countries.  So far from producing a solution to the problem of how Kosovars and Serbs could live together in peace in Kosovo, the NATO attack actually aggravated it, and the international administration which was eventually installed under the US-Russian-Ahtisaari settlement has merely frozen the problem — and made it worse by presiding over the expulsion of thousands of Serbs from their Kosovo homes.

In case some of these assertions sound improbable, I have set out the ample and damning evidence in support of them in a much earlier piece here.   Nothing can excuse the brutal behaviour of the Serbs towards their Kosovo compatriots in their repeated over-reaction to the 'liberation struggle' — or 'terrorist campaign' (select whichever description you prefer) — waged until 1999 by the Kosovo Liberation Army;  but it's almost equally hard to excuse the misjudgements, the duplicity, and the failure to exhaust the resources of diplomacy before resorting to the use of force, which characterised the western performance at Rambouillet leading, as it was always designed to do, to the NATO bombing campaign, just as the same failures characterised the performance of the US and UK governments over Iraq in 2003.  Kosovo, not Iraq, was Blair's first illegal war;  sadly, it was Clinton's and Robin Cook's, too.

I don't of course pretend to have a solution to the problem of what to do now about Kosovo.  No possible solution is without its risks and defects, and — as Jonathan Steele rightly says today — the stakes are high, as always in the Balkans.  What's certain, though, is that the intractability of the problem now is in part the fruit of the misjudgements of the western powers in 1999 in their hasty, premature, unnecessary, unsuccessful, and above all illegal resort to the use of force.  History was all too soon to repeat itself. 

BackdateFor a typically idiosyncratic take on the 1999 NATO (i.e. US) bombing written by the late Edward Said while the bombing was still going on, click here.   Edward Said was right about the effect of the bombing on Serbian support for Milosevic, whose fall occurred only months later, toppled not by bombs but by the ballot box.

Retired from Diplomatic Service ('65–’94) and Civil Service (’57–’65). Former member (resigned) of SIAC. Brian Barder's writings can be found at Barder.com

 


More from this author:
Kosovo: a war crimes trial (3454 Hits)
by Brian Barder My confident guess is that 75% of the westerners who notice a headline about a war crimes trial concerning Kosovo will...
Whose fault was the Falklands war? (6705 Hits)
by Brian Barder The 25th anniversary on 2 April of the Argentine occupation of the Falklands in 1982 has predictably, but tiresomely,...
Here’s a Big Idea for Gordon Brown (3415 Hits)
by Brian Barder Our prime minister-elect needs to shake up politics by coming into office with a Big Idea: one that's new and original, not...
With Weeks to Go, Blair Blames ’Society’ and Proposes Yet More Draconian Police Powers (3231 Hits)
by Brian Barder The definitive comment on the ill-fated Control Orders régime, which almost everyone agrees is hopeless (but for different...
The Guardian Breaks Record for Howlers in One Editorial (4114 Hits)
by Brian Barder Today's Guardian's first leader on the G8 summit at the charmingly named Heiligendamm is full of Guardianesque bloopers,...
Related Articles:
Vietnam, Iraq, and the M Word (5668 Hits)
by Mickey Z. Jimmy Carter was the latest to use the M Word. The former president said he believes the "occupancy of Iraq and all the...
Still Think It Was Murder? Sure? (5200 Hits)
by Copydude Whatever the outcome of the Litvinenko affair, the damage to East-West relations has been done. Or perhaps, it has simply...
Federalism: A Solution More for Israel than for Iraq (4967 Hits)
by Nicola Nasser Revealing both the double standards of U.S. policies and the propaganda-oriented Israeli advocacy of “minority rights”...
Off and Running, and Still Way Off (3032 Hits)
by Daithí Mac Lochlainn Now, that the 2008 Presidential race is heating up with Senator Hillary Clinton’s announcement of her candidacy, it...
Nader still in the crosshairs (4510 Hits)
by Mickey Z. I was at the gym, walking by a television tuned to one of the many insipid morning chat shows...but that's not what stopped me...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (14)add comment

a guest said:

0
Thank goodness - some facts!
Congratulations to Brian Barder for actually knowing the facts behind the attack on Serbia, and about the Rambouillet agreement being used as a pretext for the attack. Really good, well-informed article.

Not only are we now seeing the results of an ill thought out strategy in Kosovo, but also in Iraq (which could never have happened without the precedent being set by the attack on Serbia). Where are all of those voices such as George Robertson's, who spoke of a multicultural utopia? And where were the same antiwar voices during the 1999 attack?? What a shame that it wasn't a cause celebre; an acceptable bandwagon - it would have saved thousands of innocent lives.

The reality in Kosovo today is very ugly and will continue to affect the rest of Europe. The only half decent report to have been sseen on British TV was by Jonathan Dimbleby, which showed the terror that still exists there today.
 
January 29, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change.....
Kosovo will be independent. Serbia lost it's right to claim participation in cooperative, multi-ethnic governance by responding to the break-up of Yugoslavia with violence, nationalism, and brutality. The only choice the Serbs have left is whether they will handle the secession of Kosovo in a manner that leaves open the possibility of bilateral cooperation or if they will sow the seeds of future conflict.
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
to #2. the serbs "lost' the right to kosovo?
based on what? based on the fact that armed Albanian rebels started killing Serb police and army?? What did you expect for the Serbs to sit back and let them do so?? I think not, no nation would allow this theft of 15% of its land. what would the USA do if the Mexicans in the South West started to fight for "independence" of the SW lands? the albanian muslim ally Turkey has killed over 30,000 Kurds who have demanded the same, why don't we hear about this. If the Albanians were fighting a "just" battle for "the right for self determination" they would have supported the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia to gain the same thing they are fighting for in Kosovo, instead their war criminal leader, Agim Ceku, actually went to Croatia to fight the Serbs there!!?? Why? Because the enemy of your enemy is your friend when you are about to steal a land whcih never belonged to you. In this case Kosovo, which was NEVER under Albanian control in history. Sorry, it was for 4 years in ww2 when the Albanian ally Hitler gave it to them in thanks for their service in the SS SKendergeg division.
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Serbs and Kosovo
a. Guest misconstrued my previous remark. I did not say Serbia "lost a right to Kosovo". I said they lost their right to participate in cooperative, multi-ethnic governance of any of the former Yugoslav republics. They attacked the Slovenes who had practically no ethnically Serb populace. They razed Vukovar to in reaction to Croat efforts to secede. They then went on to incite brutality in Bosnia rather than engage in dialogue. At every turn, when presented the opportunity to find common ground and work toward a mutually acceptable outcome, the Serbian leadership chose the path of ethnic division, violence, and atrocity. They continue to choose that path.

A. Guest drags in many irrelevant arguments concerning Bosnia, Turkey, Kurds, etc... None of this is relevant to the question at hand. The assertion that the land now known as Kosovo has never been under Albanian control is relevant but is false. Never mind the claims of Illyrian ancestry which many Albanian historians pursue. Ignore the 500 years of Turkish domination under which the ethnically Albanian population was clearly in control of Kosovo. Pay no attention to the WWII era as A. Guest points out. The only relevant period of control of Kosovo by Albanians occurred in the Yugoslavian era when the constitution of Yugoslavia guaranteed Kosovo autonomy. The attempt by the Serbs to revoke this autonomy precipitated the war in Kosovo. Had they approached the Albanian majority with equitable terms of confederation, the bloodshed could have been avoided.

As I said before, the choice is up to the Serbs. Choose a policy of peaceful coexistence and the nations of Serbia and Kosova will enter the EU with a bright future. Choose bellicose nationalism and no good will come of it.

For the record, I am an American of Irish and German descent and have no historical tie to the Kosovo issue.
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
#2
first of all if you are saying that Kosovo will be independent then YES you are implying that Serbia has no right to defend its territory, its internationally recognised borders???!! how can you say your comment was "misconstructed"?
so my comment about Bosnia is "irrelevant" yet yours about Slovenia isn't??? what a joke. the Serbs never "attacked" the Slovenians, if you knew the facts you would mention that it was Serbs and all Yugoslavs who were invloved in a battle that lasted around 2 weeks which was initaited by the Slovenes declaring independence with the use of force (you can even see evidence for this in the highly anti-serb "The Death of Yugoslavia" documentary on google video). your next comments are typical cnn nonsense and simple rhetoric. the war in Bosnia was a civil war in which 100,000 people died, 35,000 of those people were SERBS! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B...Casualties did these serbian victims inflict "teror" on themselves? your attempt to present "The Serbs" as the aggressor will work on those same people in the USA who still think that the weapons of mass destruction will show up in Iraq one day. you say that the situation with the Kurds etc is irrelevant? you are totally wrong because you can not give one minority in one nation something which will not be demanded by other minorities around the world as well (Kurds in Turkey etc). That is the precise reason that Kosovo has NOT been "given' independence after 8 years of NATO controlling the Serbian provence?!?! Illyrain???? man you are totally out of your league now TOTALLY, the first time the word Albanian was ever mentioned in the Balkans was in the 12th century (600 years after the word Serb). Before that Albanians lived in waht is now the nation of Azerbaijan as you can see here;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasian_Albania
There is not 1 Albanian source that has ever made the "Illyrian" claim from prior to the 19th century, which was after the Albanians saw the Serbs and Croats making this claim, that was the original foundation of the idea of Yugoslavia (even as Napoleon said the lands where the Croats and Serbs are make up the Illyrian lands) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illyrian_provinces

As for who lived and was by far the majority population in Kosovo for the last 1,000 years that is so easily addressed, just look at the link below. The Albanians started to form a majority not so long ago and the word Kosovo itself is a Serbian word (this is too easy)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_history_of_Kosovo

you say "pay no attention to the ww2 era" hahaha man you are a joke. for more on the Albanian Nazis in ww2 look up; Albanian SS Skenderbeg Division in any search engine. Pathetic. for the record you are german? HAHAHAH and you say kosova???? pathetic, just pathetic that you have to hide who you are and it is also very pathetic the same land the Albanians are stealing now carries a Serbian name for you. And yes it is pathetic even if you change 1 letter in the word. Amature.
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Root cause: US
Naive is the best way I can describe the arguments that the Kosovo supporter in this discussion has expressed. A victim of media distortion is a likely diagnosis. The need to take side and have bad guys and good guys in every battle is irresistible, so yes we all believe that you are a 100% American. I will be brief: whatever the process and solution for Kosovo is, it needs to be applied without a single change to the Bosnian Serbs and Croats. The "international community" is trying (by force) to keep Bosnia (a confederation!) together without really giving the opportunity to the Serbian republic to vote and decide if it wants to be an independent state. Why? Only a few miles away the same "international community" is working hard to achieve a 180 degree different outcome: session of a Serbian province. For the US democracy is just an empty word, as it was when we went to war in Iraq to "spread" it. Selective application of democracy is equal to no democracy. US is not spreading democracy: it is trying, and badly failing to dictate to the world. Double standards and principe-less US foreign policy, based on force only, will fail in Kosovo and in Iraq. Based on Kosovo model is US going to start partitioning Iraq right now. After all, the violence in Kosovo was nothing, nothing compared to the sectarian violence that is happening under US occupation in Iraq. Having same standards in conducting our foreign policy would certainly help US (re)gain a few more friends around the world and save American lifes. Do we care?
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Serb Supporters Resort to Name Calling
Waah, waah. Poor Serbia. Couldn't participate in rational, civilized diplomacy with any of the regional actors as Yugoslavia dissolved. Defeated repeatedly on the miltary front when they tried to impose their bigoted vision of Greater Serbia on their neighbors. Now their supporters are left only with the crumpled remnants of Milosevic's propaganda to soothe their egos. Even the Montenegrins couldn't stand to be associated with the rabid nonsense spewing from Belgrade. Serbia is losing Kosovo and deserves to lose it.

The intelligent choice for Serbia is to face reality and get on with rebuilding their economy and political structures with an eye toward EU membership. If they can play nice with their neighbors for 20 years they will look back and realize what absolute folly Serbian policy was in these past decades. National suicide.

So call me names, attack my maturity, take whatever shot you wish. The more you bluster, the more you make my point.

I did use the Albanian spelling of the regions name when referring the former province as an independent state because that will be the spelling at that time.
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
I'm flattered...
I'm surprised and flattered, as the author of this article, to find it faithfully reproduced here, and I have read the comments on it above -- or rather the first comment on it followed by further comments on the comment -- with interest and a certain sadness. I hope, though, that any others with comments to contribute on my original article will write them under the original, at http://www.barder.com/ephems/641 as well as here!

Brian
http://www.barder.com/ephems/
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
to #2
typical Albanian propaganda. If Serbia wanted to create a "Greater Serbia" they sure had a chance as anyone can see here (which they DID NOT);
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yugoslavia
Although in 1915 the Serbian Assembly had pledged itself to work for the liberation of all Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, non-Serb members of the Yugoslav Committee became alarmed when the Allies offered Serbia lands that had not been reserved for Italians. These included Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slavonia, Ba?ka and parts of Dalmatia. Croat members of the Committee feared a carve-up of Croat lands between Serbia and Italy.

as usual the debate is just to easy. you have made immature statments in the first few posts, I responded to EVERY single one of your points (you have responded to none of mine and just try to change the subject when confronted with the truth). TRUTH is as we speak KOSOVO IS STILL PART OF SERBIA (8 years later, time is just passing by hahaha)
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Great work, Brian!
Too bad so few people will get the benefit of reading this article! Mainstream media will not print anything like this.
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Germany and Slovenia
What undid Yugoslavia was Germany's hasty recognition of Slovenia. What has never been explored is the role of Germany, other EU countries, and even the US in provoking the destruction of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was a potentially strong economic rival for Germany (and potentially socialist) and could not be left intact. The Slovenes and Croats were useful foils in destroying this potential economic powerhouse.

Turkey, another potential economic powerhouse on Europe's doorstep, is just another target for destruction through manipulated minority conflicts. Western imperialism will tolerate no rivals! Divide and conquer is to rule.
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Yugoslavia - a German Rival?
Yes, as evidenced by their prolific output of .......Yugos? By their harmonious interethnic relations? Until Tito's boot came off their necks and they resumed the conflict and bloodshed that marks their history. Yugoslavia disintegrated because it was ruled by a dictator under a flawed political/economic system.
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Better than now
German rival!
So, why did Germany destroy Yugoslavia through its Croat and Slovene puppets?
Certainly, they were better off before the post-Tito meddling than they are now.
 
January 30, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Hmmmmm....
Though never mentioned, like the ghost at the banquet, the word “independence” hovered over virtually every line of the proposals for Kosovo’s future, drawn up by UN special envoy, Martti Ahtisaari. It remains to be seen if the UN will accept a plan that will ultimately give Kosovo a great deal more than the autonomy it was supposed to enjoy within the old Yugoslav Federation.

The argument that the formal departure of the last part of the once Serb-dominated Yugoslavia is the final part of a peaceful settlement for the Balkans, is unfortunately dubious. The creation of a European statelet of around 1.5 million ethnic Albanians and 100,000 now-beleaguered Serbs who may emigrate to Serbia is no guarantee of stability. Kosovo is one of the poorest regions in Europe. Clan rivalries locally and with Albanians in Albania itself are likely to challenge the growth of reliable state institutions. Union with Albania would probably create many difficulties, both regionally and within the conjoined territories. If, however, an independent Kosovo becomes an economic basket case — which would seem likely without massive investment — its people will be prey to outside interference, not least from drug barons. Reports already suggest traffickers are trying to use the area as a staging post into the EU.

The Serbian reaction to the Ahtisaari proposals was predictable and demonstrated the fundamental psychological flaw in that country’s thinking. Though some politicians in Belgrade realize it is time to move on, the popular mood is still one of anger and protest because this dirt-poor region was once the heartland of Serbia’s medieval empire, later crushed by Ottoman armies. Thus Serbs once again see themselves as the helpless victims of history. They protest their powerlessness and rue their fate. This negativity feeds the grudges and perceived wrongs by which nationalist-thinking Serbs identify themselves. Yet, a positive approach following enforced withdrawal from Kosovo in 1999 could have had remarkably different results.

What might have happened if, instead of bemoaning their defeats and the injustices they believed lay behind them, the Serbs had sought to deal with ethnic Albanian Kosovars — or indeed any other people who once were in the Yugoslav Federation — in a positive fashion? Suppose they had set out to win hearts and minds, had admitted past errors and started to tell anyone who would listen that they had changed? They could have said that too much blood had been shed, too much destroyed to permit old prejudices and rivalries to continue. Nothing could change the past, but everyone, by working together in partnership, had a very good chance of changing the future.

Unfortunately, with the exception of muted initiatives to Bosnia and Croatia, the Serbs have simply not tried to rebuild bridges. They have not looked forward. They still want to change history. And that is a very dangerous desire.
 
February 04, 2007
Votes: +0

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top