The grotesque charade in Pristina on Sunday, February 17, crowned a decade and a half of U.S. policy in the former Yugoslavia that has been mendacious and iniquitous in equal measure. By encouraging its Albanian clients go ahead with the unilateral proclamation of independence written at the Department of State, the U.S. administration has made a massive leap into the unknown. That leap is potentially on par with Austria's July 1914 ultimatum to Serbia. The fruits will be equally bitter. While their exact size and taste are hard to predict right now, that in the fullness of time America will come to regret the criminal folly of her current leaders is certain. Their Balkan policy is worse than a crime: It is a mistake.
Having devoted seven News & Views columns to Kosovo over the past year I have little to add to the sordid story of Western deceit, allied with Albanian barbarity, that has culminated in the spectacle in Pristina. Suffice to say that Belgrade vs. Washington, in this particular instance, is the clearest-cut case of "white hats vs. black hats" in today's world affairs.
Some prominent Americans with no cultural or personal axes to grind are trying, even at this late stage, to check the insanity. Writing in the usually interventionist Wall Street Journal on February 9, Ruth Wedgwood, one of America's foremost legal scholars, thus warned of the "dangerous precedent to tear apart the territory of a member state of the United Nations" -- a move that may cause an unnecessary crisis when America is overengaged elsewhere. "Kosovo's best (and perhaps only) chance to join Europe's economy is to ride in as a part of Serbia," she says, but it is more likely to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference instead. In addition, Wedgwood warns, Kosovo's proclamation may well destabilize the Old Continent, from Bosnia and Macedonia to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
NOT IN THE AMERICAN INTEREST -- "An imposed settlement of the Kosovo question and seeking to partition Serbia's sovereign territory without its consent is not in the interest of the United States." While my friends and I have expressed this view many a time, it was recently stated with greater prominence by John R. Bolton, Peter W. Rodman and Lawrence Eagleburger. Writing in the Washington Times, the three heavyweights called for urgent re-examination of U.S. policy on Kosovo and urged the Bush administration to make it clear that, pending the results of such re-examination, it would withhold recognition of any independence declaration:
Current U.S. policy relies on the unconvincing claim that Kosovo is "unique" and would set no precedent for other troublespots ... [E]thnic and religious minorities in other countries already are signaling their intention to follow a Kosovo example. This includes sizeable Albanian communities in adjoining areas of southern Serbia, Montenegro, and especially Macedonia, as well as the Serbian portion of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Recognition ... would set a precedent with far-reaching and unpredictable consequences for many other regions of the world. The Kosovo model already has been cited by supporters of the Basque separatist movement in Spain and the Turkish-controlled area of northern Cyprus. Neither the Security Council nor any other international body has the power or authority to impose a change of any country's borders.
The trio further warned that the current U.S. policy is marked by a dismissive attitude toward Russia's objections: The United States should not prompt an unnecessary crisis in U.S.-Russia relations, lest Russia withdraws her support on issues such as Iran's and North Korea's nuclear intentions. Such cooperation would be undercut by American action calculated to neutralize Moscow's legitimate concerns regarding Kosovo. On an issue of minor importance to the U.S., they ask, "is this a useful expenditure of significant political capital with Russia?"
Bolton, Rodman and Eagleburger predict that a self-proclaimed "independent state" of Kosovo will be "a dysfunctional one and a ward of the international community for the indefinite future." It is plagued by rampant corruption and organized crime and a nonviable economy, they point out. Its law enforcement, integrity of the courts, protection of persons and property, and other prerequisites for statehood are "practically nonexistent." Unilateral declaration of independence recognized by some countries and rejected by many others would only make matters worse by turning Kosovo into yet another "frozen conflict."
The authors conclude by predicting that, "faced with a choice between Western partnership and defense of their sovereign territory and constitution," Serbia would opt for the latter and inevitably move closer to Russia as its only protector.
"WHO LOST SERBIA?" -- That Serbia is lost to the West is now certain. President Boris Tadic's narrow victory (51 percent) in the second round of the presidential election in Serbia on February 3 was entirely due to his claim that, as an enthusiastically pro-Western reformist, he could obtain less brutal treatment for Serbia from Brussels and Washington than his "ultra-nationalist" opponent.
In Washington Tadic's victory was hastily interpreted as a sure sign that the Serbs are throwing in the towel, and that, therefore, the scenario for independence should go ahead. (Had Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party won, they would have said that the scenario should be applied post haste because Serbia is irredeemably nationalist and should be taught a lesson.)
Far from indicating Serbia's readiness to "accept the inevitable" and sling into the vivisection kennel, however, Tadic's victory was the last chance for the U.S. and the EU to stop the trainwreck. The anger against the U.S. and the EU will translate into the well-deserved electoral demise for Tadic's Democratic Party (Demokratska stranka, DS) at the next parliamentary election. That election is now imminent in the next few months.
Serbia's mood was evident in Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's somber speech to the nation, broadcast immediately after the proclamation in Pristina. He said that the "unilateral declaration of the fake state of Kosovo represents the final act of a policy initiated in 1999 with NATO aggression." He accused the United States of a "merciless violation of international order":
America humiliated and forced Europe Union to discard its basic principles. Europe bowed before America, and it will be held responsible for all the consequences that will arise from Kosovo's independence.
It is difficult to make forecasts about Belgrade's forthcoming responses -- not least because they are treated as closely guarded secrets -- but the following sequence of events is, in my opinion, at least less unlikely than any other:
The U.S.-led Kosovo policy in the end will prove to be a blessing in disguise for Serbia. Only by NOT joining the European Union will she preserve her identity, her traditions, and her faith. Only by NOT joining the U.S.-hegemonized system of military alliances will she avoid having her youths put in harm's way for nothing, in some arid, hostile faraway lands. Only by forging an ever-tighter political, economic, and eventually military alliance with Russia will Serbia avoid the clutches of a postmodern "American" empire devoid of a single redeeming feature.
God sometimes acts in mysterious ways, and on this 21st Century Day of Infamy, February 17, we should ask for His mercy and thank Him for his blessings. Kosovo had remained Serbian during those five long centuries of Ottoman darkness, to be liberated in 1912. It is no less Serbian now, the ugly farce in Pristina notwithstanding. It will be tangibly Serbian again when the current experiment in Benevolent Global Hegemony collapses and when the very names of Messrs. Bush, McCain and Clinton are deservedly consigned to the dustheap of history.
Read the entire article on the Chronicles website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission of the author.