Home Staff Courses DocumentsEventsLinks Contact

 

 

The future of Kosovo: Europe's hour or, once again, Europe's shame?
20/06/2007
MOSCOW. (Lev Dzugayev, member of the RIA Novosti Expert Council) -

The new architecture of the European Union, its expansion, and Russian-American ties
are among the most frequently discussed issues in international relations.

They are directly connected to geopolitical events, which sometimes provoke
justified concern.

I am not referring to "Polish meat imports," or the United States'
protectionist policies, or Russia's unwillingness to sign the Energy Charter
under unacceptable conditions.

I am deeply worried that some forces are trying to reopen Pandora's box,
boldly thinking that they can deal with the consequences which promise
disasters.

Europe has seen this before. It has suffered the shame of the Munich
Agreement, which Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Edouard Daladier
signed with Nazi Germany in 1938. It paved the way for the Soviet-German
non-aggression pact signed by Russia's Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov
and his German counterpart, Joachim von Ribbentrop, in 1939.

In 1938, Western Europe, trying to keep Hitler away from its borders,
settled on the "appeasement" policy, although the Munich Agreement gave
Germany the Sudetenland starting October 10, and de facto control over the
rest of Czechoslovakia as long as Hitler promised to go no further.

In 1939, just 20 years after World War I, Europe was shaken by another
global catastrophe. Western military historians put the blame for the Second
World War on Soviet Russia, saying that the non-aggression pact it signed
with Germany (a year after the Munich Agreement) led to the partition of
Poland (which, I'd like to remind you, had taken part in the dismemberment
of Czechoslovakia the year before).

One of the lessons we have overlooked is that by ignoring the principle of
cause and effect, we provoke new conflicts between countries.

Who has pulled out of the ABM Treaty? Who has not ratified the Treaty on
Conventional Armed Forces in Europe? Who is stubbornly moving towards the
Russian border despite promises not to expand NATO eastward? Not Russia. Why
put the blame on it then? This reminds me of what a Russian fable writer
said: "The weak against the strong is always in the wrong."

This is why so many Western forces dislike Russia, which is struggling to
regain its position on the global scene and the right to express its
opinions, primarily about its own future.

The Wall Street Journal wrote in an editorial on June 11, 2007: "Mr. Bush's
principled stand on behalf of a small European nation's right to
self-determination and freedom is America at its best in Europe. Not least
when in the process Washington pushes back against an authoritarian leader
in the Kremlin with neo-imperial designs on the Continent's eastern half."

But when President Vladimir Putin spoke up in defense of the rights and
freedoms of Abkhazia and Ossetia, his position was described as destructive
and neo-imperial.

According to an article entitled "Europe must now stand up to Russia over
Kosovo" (Financial Times, May 25, 2007), "Independence (...) is the
non-negotiable demand of the overwhelmingly ethnically Albanian population."


Why then is the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia negotiable, even
though they demanded it at least seven years before Kosovo, while all the
other circumstances are the same?

The Canadian Globe and Mail wrote on June 12, 2007: "No matter how fervently
Serbians might wish it were otherwise, Kosovo is no longer part of their
country. Serbian troops departed eight years ago, forced out at the end of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's bombing campaign. Since then, the
territory has been administered by the UN and its security has come from a
NATO-led peacekeeping force. The Albanians of Kosovo are nearly unanimous in
their determination never again to be under Belgrade's thumb. It does not
matter that Serbia has embraced democratic reforms or that it might be open
to granting significant autonomy over local affairs."

Now, let's replace some of the words in the above quotation, and here is
what we get:

"No matter how fervently Georgians might wish it were otherwise, Abkhazia
(or South Ossetia) is no longer part of their country. Georgian troops
departed nearly 15 years ago, forced out at the end of a campaign waged by
Abkhazes and North Caucasian volunteers who supported them. Since then, the
territory's security has come from a Russian-led peacekeeping force and UN
and OSCE observers. Abkhazes (or Ossetians) are nearly unanimous in their
determination never again to be under Tbilisi's thumb. It does not matter
that Georgia has embraced democratic reforms or that it might be open to
granting Abkhazia (or South Ossetia) significant autonomy over local
affairs."

See the difference? No? Not surprising, for there is none. Why is the Kosovo
situation unique then? Because it is located in the Balkans? Abkhazia and
South Ossetia are located in the Caucasus, but this should not be important
in terms of international law.

However, "there are no parallels to be drawn between the UN-administered
Kosovo and such troubled regions as South Ossetia in Georgia," according to
The Globe and Mail.

Yes, parallels must be drawn between the two areas. A Russian-led
peacekeeping operation, which began 15 years ago, stopped the war between
Georgians and Ossetians and prevented new ethnic clashes in the conflict
zones. The Georgian enclave in South Ossetia lived peacefully by and large,
and the two sides gradually restored trust, thanks to Russian peacekeepers'
mediation.

However, the situation exploded in 2004, after Mikheil Saakashvili came to
power in Georgia and acted on the recommendations of his "friends."

Meanwhile, an anti-Serb cleansing campaign was carried out in Kosovo, a
UN-administered territory whose "security has come from a NATO-led
peacekeeping force." Hundreds of thousands of Serbs fled their homes, and
dozens of monuments of Serbian culture were destroyed. It is not surprising,
therefore, that Western experts studying the situation in that province ask
themselves what lies in store for Serbs, death or flight.

The G8 countries reportedly agreed at their summit in Germany that the Serbs
and the Albanians of Kosovo should be given some time to continue talks. But
several days later, U.S. President George W. Bush made it clear in Tirana
that the only reasonable political solution for Kosovo was independence: "At
some point in time, sooner rather than later, you've got to say enough is
enough, Kosovo is independent."

According to The Financial Times, "The answer then is for European
governments to bury any misgivings and, to borrow the cliche, stand shoulder
to shoulder with the U.S. Germans need to talk less about the risks of
confrontation with Russia, more about bringing to a permanent end the cycle
of violence that began with Berlin's recognition of Croatia. [I find the
latter phrase rather interesting, as we had been told before that it was
Serbs who started the wave of violence] Spaniards, Greeks and the rest
should forget about precedents. The stakes are too high to be held hostage
to hypotheses.

"Rather, European governments, individually and collectively, should tell
Moscow that, regardless of any Russian posturing at the UN, they intend to
carry on with the process of moving Kosovo towards statehood. There will be
no room for temporizing."

It appears that the U.S. will reject Putin's proposal to jointly use the
Gabala radar in Azerbaijan, and will deploy its early warning radar and
anti-missiles in direct proximity to the Russian border.

This reminds me of Emperor Augustus' last words: "Acta est fabula,
plaudite!" (The play is over, applaud!).

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said upon returning from Munich
in 1938: "My good friends, for the second time in our history a British
Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I
believe it is peace for our time." Everyone knows what happened after that.

"This is the hour of Europe," cried M. Jacques Poos, the foreign minister of
Luxembourg, when the fighting broke out in Yugoslavia in 1991. Now even the
West admits that the violence that ensued was largely provoked by the hasty
recognition of independence of some of Yugoslavia's constituent republics.

So what is it to be this time? Europe's hour or, once again, Europe's shame?


The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not
necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.