In February, when former ICG board member Martti Ahtisaari opened the "negotiations" between Belgrade and the Albanian separatists in Vienna, Stanko Cerovic of the RFI ran a commentary which I've translated below. He described - with all too much sympathy for the poor little Powers That Be in the West - the quandary with Kosovo, and the likely thrust of Imperial policy. While I disagree with several of his assertions, as far as Imperial policy is concerned he has been right so far. That makes this commentary worth revisiting.
Concerning the Kosovo Negotiations
Stanko Cerovic, Radio France Internationale, 20 February 2006
Such as they are, the talks between Pristina and Belgrade that began in Vienna today have no real importance for the future of Kosovo. Even so, they indicate the difficulty of the problem facing not only the Serbs and the Albanians, but also the international diplomacy
This problem is so difficult, complicated and important, that literally nothing can be left up to the Serbs and the Albanians themselves. It is said they would negotiate only the internal arrangements in Kosovo, i.e. the rights of the remaining Serbs, but even those technical details are meaningless until there is a decision on Kosovo's actual official status.
Obviously, there is no point discussing internal arrangements of a state before it is actually a state. International diplomats sponsoring these so-called talks know this very well. The talks are needed to create an impression the Serbs and the Albanians are talking, so the Contact Group could then step in and cut the Gordian knot between them, since they are unable to reach an agreement. That way the Contact Group can feign neutrality and claim it was forced to step in because the Serbs and the Albanians could not find the solution themselves. The “solution” imposed by the Contact Group, after what it would claim was long and neutral deliberation, would be independence.
Arguments for such a decision are familiar already. As Kosovo governor Jessen-Petersen has said, “After all, you have to heed the will of the majority.” This is a sort of a democratic argument. Another is the economic argument, mentioned in every report from Kosovo: that the province is backwards, with over 60% unemployment, and that only independence could fix that. There’s also the strategic argument: so long as there is no security in Kosovo, this would feed Albanian extremism that destabilizes the region – Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro. Resolving the status of Kosovo is the key to regional stability – this is suggested by today’s Financial Times.
There is even a security argument, albeit unrelated to moral and human concerns. According to this, Albanians will be violent towards the Serbs for as long as their desire for independence goes unmet – but would be open to tolerance once independence is achieved. This argument appeared after the great anti-Serb pogrom of March 2004. The pogrom was condemned by the international community, which then promptly concluded it was grounds for fulfilling Albanian demands...
This sort of logic – showcasing just about all the corruption and hypocrisy politics is capable of – isn’t actually as rotten as it appears to its victims, in this case the Serbs and Serbia. International diplomacy is no longer especially partial to the Albanians; unofficially, many admit that NATO’s war was probably a mistake – but such is reality right now that none of those diplomats sees any other choice. Western troops in Kosovo can’t fight the Albanians, and why would they? Even if everyone wanted it, it’s unrealistic to imagine Kosovo in Serbia.
It is obvious that the diplomats are also aware that giving Kosovo independence would create tremendous problems not only in Serbia, but elsewhere in the region and in international relations in general. However much one twists the diplomatic tongue, the brutal truth is that Kosovo is an ancient Serb territory occupied by foreign troops, and if that is how one achieves independence, then any borders of any country are not subject to revision, as it only depends on who does the revising. However, when they weigh the negative consequences of their plan to Kosovo, Western diplomats still think it’s a little easier to impose independence on Belgrade than enter a permanent war with Kosovo Albanians. And they may not be wrong.
The trouble is that only one people and only one state are being violated here: the Serbs and Serbia. Belgrade has the grounds to wonder “Why us?” The answer is, because it is easy. Western diplomacy is trying to soften this injustice through various incentives. The recent visit of the European Commission chairman Barroso to Belgrade was intended to communicate that while taking away Kosovo, Europe is opening a door to integration. There is hope this could assuage the bitterness of Serbs that could bring the Radical Party to power, although no one knows how. The Radicals claim they would defend Kosovo better than the current government.
Concerning this policy, Le Figaro quotes one high UN official, who said:
Serbia will be “voluntarily raped”– namely, Belgrade will be required to declare the rape consensual after the fact, and then be given hush money by the rich playboy responsible for the act, in this case the EU.
Unpleasant, yes, and certainly not even the Western diplomats enjoy such open injustice and brutality, but no one sees another way of untangling the Kosovo knot.
An additional problem is that the various incentives the diplomats offer are far from convincing. Opening the perspective of European integrations to Serbia in return for its acceptance of independence is hardly credible. The Union is not open to further enlargement, and even if it were, only the entire region from Bosnia to Macedonia would be considered as a bloc. No one could even begin to guess when the entire region could satisfy even the minimal criteria for entry. Furthermore, none of the supposed conditions of Kosovo’s independence sound convincing, either. No conditional independence could restrain the Albanian extremiss. For, if the international community could not force them into moderation so far, it’s hard to see how it could do so in the future. The proposed ban on unification of Kosovo and Albania does not sound convincing either. Who could deny the Albanians the right to abolish the border separating them, and why would anyone try?
Under such circumstances, hardly any government in Serbia could accept the Western scenario of voluntary rape, even if it wanted to. But if Belgrade rejects this imposition and declares Kosovo occupied, as has been rumored, the consequences would be harsh and impossible to predict. Both for the Serbian people, in Kosovo and elsewhere, who would need tremendous strength to resist their own extremism as well as international political and economic pressure, and for the entire Balkans – as well as the international community, which would then have to face the consequences of its violation of basic rules governing the affairs between nations.