Monday, December 31, 2007

Kosovo Countdown

Somewhat neglected amid all the attention being given to events in Pakistan, over which we have limited influence, is the approaching endgame for the Kosovo impasse, over which we have enormous influence. As things stand, it's looking increasingly likely that come the new year, the US, the EU, and NATO are going to bypass the UN Security Council, where Russia has threatened a veto, and serve as guarantors of the breakaway Serbian province's unilateral declaration of independence. Here's how Mikhail Gorbachev described the Western approach:

"It is an unprecedented step, which will certainly result in failure, both politically and morally," Gorbachev said in an interview with the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

"For the first time in history, two organizations are trying to assume responsibility for the future of a country - Serbia - which is not a member of either of them."

Serbia has already threatened retaliatory measures in the event of a unilateral declaration of independence, including suspending its membership proceedings for acceding to the EU. And as Dimitri Simes explained in this excellent IHT op-ed, the standoff has even broader implications for the West's relationship with Russia. If Kosovo serves as a precedent, it could legitimize the eventual absorption by Russia of two separatist Georgian provinces, which is why the West is trying to treat it as a one-off "policy by exception". But its heavy-handed dissection of Serbia's territorial integrity would deal Russia another humiliation at a moment when Moscow increasingly feels the need to demonstrate its resurgent influence.

I'll be writing more about this, not only because it represents a giant hornets' nest in practical terms. It also presents a lot of food for thought on theoretical levels. Addressing the potential atomization of multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian states deserves to be on the short list of our foreign policy priorities, right up there with global warming and nuclear proliferation. And whether we like it or not, how we handle Kosovo will of course determine a precedent, so exploring some its broader implications seems worthwhile. But for now I just wanted to get this up and into the mix.

Posted by Judah in:  European Union   International Relations   Russia   

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