Among pro-Serb advocates, there is understandable agreement with Russian ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Konuzin’s challenge at a recent forum in Belgrade. Konuzin questioned the negative criticism dominating an event that was influenced in a Western neoliberal-neoconservative foreign policy direction. The slant he challenged included comments directed against Russia.
Konuzin’s comments relate to a perception that sympathizes with Russia needing to get economically and militarily stronger, in conjunction with a more prudent foreign policy from the West. An economically and militarily stronger Russia need not equate with that country and the West becoming increasingly confrontational with each other. Conversely, a noticeably weakened Russia can lead to greater global instability.
What Konuzin said and what a very limited Russian military contingent did in 1999 (entering Kosovo as the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia ended) fall well short of deterring the Western neoconservative-neoliberal foreign policy interventionists from pretty much having their way on Kosovo.
Key Western officials can go to Serbia and confidently say things that belittle Serb concerns. One example is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent comments during a visit to Serbia, when she essentially suggested that Serb recognition of Kosovo’s independence must happen if Serbia is to move closer to the European Union (EU). The Serb government appears to be doing a balancing act between its population and what the likes of Merkel prefer. While expressing a difference of opinion with the German leader on Kosovo, Serb authorities recently stopped Serbian Orthodox Christian Bishop Artemije’s entrance into northern Kosovo. Stopping Artemije and other Serbs seems to be a greater concern than policing the Albanian organized crime wave, which extends beyond Kosovo. Some view the current Serb government as having a Vichy manner.
There is the issue of how United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (recognizing Kosovo as a continued part of Yugoslavia) is being misapplied by treating Kosovo as an independent state. Serbia is considered the legal successor to the Yugoslav state which signed onto that agreement. In Yugoslav and pre-Yugoslav times, Kosovo was part of Serbia. The International Court of Justice’s non-binding advisory opinion on Kosovo’s status said that the Albanian political entity in Pristina can declare the territory’s independence, without saying whether such a move should be universally accepted.
These aspects are of little concern to the pro-Kosovo independence advocacy, which believes that Serbia should come around and accept Kosovo’s separation. That partisan advocacy is noticeable in The National Interest articles by Morton Abramowitz and James Hooper this past July 8 and September 20. Running counter to their stance are Ted Galen Carpenter’s National Interest articles of August 5 and September 26.
Abramowitz and Hooper suggestively present the image of an internationally recognized independent Kosovo, which is not in sync with reality. The majority of nations do not recognize the disputed territory in question as an independent state. It is not recognized as such by a number of organizations including the United Nations (UN). Hooper’s and Abramowitz’s National Interest commentary does not address the political and socioeconomic shortcomings in Kosovo vis-à-vis the repackaged Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Whether characterized as a nation or province, contemporary Kosovo is far from being a shining example of a successful entity – despite the considerable aid that it has received.
The diplomatic mess over Kosovo could have been lessened with balanced advocacy. Before any recognition of that province’s independence was stated, the major powers could have presented a united stand in support of Kosovo becoming an irrevocably autonomous republic of Serbia, with its own UN and International Olympic Committee delegations. (Precedents for such are evident.) Having received a good deal of independence recognition, the Albanians are not likely to accept a non-independent Kosovo.
Down the line, one settlement option could involve Ted Galen Carpenter’s suggestion of Republika Srpska (currently in a problematical Bosnia) linking with Serbia, in exchange for Belgrade’s acknowledgement of an independent Kosovo. At present, that scenario is not likely to happen anytime soon. The Western neoliberal and neoconservative foreign policy advocacy of the 1990s remains quite influential. That line of thinking continues to be slanted against seeing things from a mainstream Serb perspective, which is within reason.
The partitioning of Kosovo is problematical, given how Serbs and Albanians have been at odds on how to partition the territory they both claim. For now, another doubtful outcome is what a British foreign policy hand suggested on how Kosovo’s independence recognition could be reversed if Albanian nationalist activity becomes increasingly intolerable.
In 1999, it was said that Russia could not send additional troops to Kosovo because it was denied air space permission to do so by a few countries. In contrast, the Clinton administration led NATO bombing against Yugoslavia (then consisting of Serbia and Montenegro) did not require United Nations approval or Yugoslav air space permission. In politically incorrect terms, might makes right. The post-Cold War experience maintains the might making right reality and how military force can be hypocritically used on the premise of “humanitarian intervention.”
Prior to the NATO attack on Yugoslavia, the diplomatic meeting in Rambouillet took the form of an anti-Serb diktat, with little if any attempt to earnestly negotiate a settlement. On the hypocritical side, NATO member Turkey is not bombed for engaging in violent conflict with the Kurds. Overall, Turkey has not been more tolerant of the Kurds when compared to what the Albanians in Kosovo have faced. Prior to the decline in Turkish-Israeli and Turkish-Western relations, it was commonplace in the West to depict Turkey as a victim of Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) terrorism – something that many Serbs note with irony, relative to the repackaged KLA. Since the decline of the aforementioned relationships, some establishment pro-Israeli pundits have noticeably emphasized issues like Turkey’s past mistreatment of the Armenians, along with the continued Turkish military presence in northern Cyprus and Kurdish gripes with Turkey.
At times, the portrayal of a given nation can have a misleading geopolitical bias. The Western mass media characterizations of Serbia typically leave out certain issues related to ideals like the free expression of valid views. The muzzling of views in Serbia countering neoliberal and neoconservative positions is not a focal point. Likewise, with the Canadian government blocking Srdja Trifkovic’s entry into Canada. There have been other instances of Canada’s government choosing to deny such entry to law abiding people in Western countries.
In comparison, greater attention has been given to British journalist Luke Harding being denied reentry into Russia. Harding was later granted permission, with an explanation that the denial was due to his not following an administrative guideline for reentering Russia and proceeding contrary to a standard media procedure, while in that country. Frequent critics of Russia regularly leave and reenter it.
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