Kosovo Train Wreck Coming Second Kosovo War Looms.
The next 30 days will determine if Eastern Europe will face another bloody war over Kosovo, or some lower level protracted armed conflict, or if the EU and the United States will intervene to prevent what appears to be a looming rather massive train wreck. Not only is peace in Europe at risk, but the overall geopolitical global environment could take a very dangerous turn if Russia steps in to protect its Slavic brothers in Serbia.
In 1998-1999 the late Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia tried to impose his hard line rule in Kosovo, in the process driving out hundreds of thousands of Albanians living in Kosovo in a epidemic of ethnic cleansing. NATO intervened, bombed Serbia and effectively drove the Serb forces out of Kosovo and established a NATO/UN protectorate. However, Kosovo is still formally a part of Serbia, and in fact is considered the home of the Serb nation by most in Serbia. Kosovo forms 15% of the total territory of the Serb state. The Serbs insists that they should not be punished for the atrocities of a former dictator; that Serbia is now a European democracy and Milosevic himself was overthrown by the Serbian people.
Serbia and Kosovo have been negotiating over Kosovo's future, under the troika of the United States, the European Union and Russia for almost two years, with a deadline for negotiations of December 10th. The Serbs have made some very reasonable offers such as a "Hong Kong" model that would allow the Kosovo Province to have self-governing powers, but remain in Serbia with continuing protection for ethnic Serbs. All such offers have been rejected by the Kosovo Albanians.
The major EU powers and the Bush Administration have convinced the Kosovo government to put off any immediate unilateral declaration of independence (UDI), following the deadline for negotiations between Belgrade and Kosovo concerning the future of the Kosovo Province. It is now expected to come sometime in January (most likely in mid-January). Most of the European Union nations and the America government support a Kosovo UDI and without this support the Kosovo government would not be thinking about a formal independence. Serbia is profoundly opposed to any formal separation and in this is backed by their Slavic brothers in Russia.
The Serbian government, with over 100,000 Serbs living in Kosovo and memories of the brutal attacks on Serb police and civilians by ethnic Albanians in the Presevo Valley region that only ended in 2001, are very concerned over the end of a NATO/EU protectorate that results in full sovereignty for the Kosovo government. They know that many members of this government have criminal backgrounds and strong Muslin terrorist connections. They do not trust Kosovo's new leader, Hashem Thaci.
They see Kosovo Albanians as invaders from the single most failed state in Europe, Albania, and a part of an historic struggle for the control of Europe between Muslins and Christians. As the negotiations come to a close, without any effort at compromise by the Albanian Kosovo side, the Serbs have begun to suggest ugly and possibly bloody confrontations in the event of a Kosovo UDI. The Serbs see the Serb minority in Kosovo, most of who live in fairly isolated enclaves, as being in grave danger from attacks by ethnic Albanians and are determined to protect them.
America, led by the neocon team of Cheney and Bush, is in the strange position of supporting the Muslim clause; whereas the Russians ~ Slavs to their core ~ are passionate supporters of their Slavic Serbian Orthodox brothers and sisters. The Serbs are in the position that Americans may find themselves in, in the years ahead in the American Southwest states with the tidal wave of illegal Mexican immigration. The Serbs are demanding that the flood of poor Albanians, who have swarmed across the Serbian/Albanian border for years, not be allowed to split off a key part of the historic and cultural home of the Serbs into a Albanian Muslim state, itself a part of a greater Albania.
Most EU governments are following the American lead, however, Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania and Greece are firmly opposed to any Kosovo UDI. The Russian government has made it clear that it is strongly opposed to Kosovo's independence and has announced that it is drawing a "red line" on the issue of Kosovo. This has taken the Kosovo crisis to a higher level. The NATO effort which was presented as an humanitarian mission to stop ethnic cleansing by the Serbs under Slobodan Milosevic in the late 1990s has become part of a new balance of power in Europe. The future of Kosovo has become linked to a host of issues on which a revitalized Russia will test the will of the EU and the United States (such as energy supplies, the US missile defense shield proposed for Eastern Europe, and the overall neo-con agenda for the Middle East and Eastern Europe).
A Kosovo UDI not only will create another issue that pits the West against Russia but it may split the EU. Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Slovakia (and perhaps others) are expected to stop any formal EU recognition of Kosovo sovereignty, which will mean that the major western European powers will have to bilaterally recognize Kosovo. Russia is certain to veto any UN Security Council moves to support Kosovo or its UDI. A independent Kosovo, without either EU or UN recognition, would have less legitimacy than the present rump state/protectorate.
Russia has repeatedly warned American and Western support for Kosovo's independence would only bolster separatists movements in pro-Russian breakaway regions of Moldova and Georgia. In fact, the Russian Ambassador in Brussels, Yevgenly Chizhov, has warned of outright disastrous results from western backing for Kosovo independence, "Those who recognize UDI will be making a strategic mistake of global proportions". This very serious talk coming from Russian officials is either being ignored or there are plans underfoot for a major resumption of the Cold War in the months ahead.
The Serbs have also warned that any UDI could have disastrous fallout in the region. It could result in the partitioning of Kosovo and could encourage a new war in Bosnia by causing its Serbs to push for secession from half of Bosnia. The Serb Minister for Kosovo, Slobadan Samardzic, has said that "If the independence of Kosovo is recognized it would not be the final stage of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, but the first stage of new disintegration and secession in the Balkans".
The Serbs are expected, in the event of a Kosovo UDI, to impose a complete economic and travel blockade of the Province of Kosovo. This will include the cutting off of all electricity supplies. A new illegal Serb militia group (the Tsar Lazar Army) is mobilizing to protect Kosovo's 100,000+ Serbs and the banned Albanian National Army is recruiting members to fight the Serb militia.
The UN police in Kosovo and NATO are planning to tighten their control in northern Kosovo to prevent Serb-run areas from joining Serbia. The US has added 90 soldiers to the NATO-led KFOR troops in Kosovo. This is in addition to the 2,800 US troops already positioned in the Serb dominated northern part of Kosovo. Germany is sending an additional 500 troops to join the existing 17,000 KFOR troops. The ethnic Serbs have various clusters of population throughout Kosovo and are especially powerful in northern Kosovo around Mitrovica.
A Second Kosovo War could be very bloody and may not be the cakewalk for NATO and the EU that the first one was. Civilians always "fight the last war" in their thinking, however, this time could be different for NATO air forces. There is no "bad guy" named Slobodan Milosevic to whip up the fears of the European and American publics. Further, Russia is growing more and more upset with the expansion of NATO and the proposals to place anti-missile systems on Russia's borders.
Russia could quickly arm the Serbian government with its S-300 and S-400 air defense systems developed by the Almaz Central Design Bureau. The S-300PMU-2 (NATO code named SA-10 Grumble) anti-aircraft missile system is designed to protect key military and industrial facilities from mass air strikes including aircraft and cruise missile based attacks. Its missiles travel approximately 2,000 meters per second and are capable of hitting targets 150 km (93 miles) away at a height of up to 30 km (19 miles) at speeds up to about 10,000 km/h (over 6,200 mph).