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    Saturday, February 16, 2008

    The Kosovo conundrum

    It sounds increasingly like Kosovo is going to unilaterally declare independence from Serbia tomorrow.

    Whatever you think of the arguments for and against Kosovo becoming an independent state, it's a dangerous step that could provoke fresh violence not only in the Serbian areas of Kosovo (if Serbia is divisible, why isn't Kosovo?), but in ethnically divided Bosnia-Herzegovina as well. Leaders of the "Respublika Srpska" could be forgiven for wondering why - if Kosovo is allowed by the international community to go its own way - they can't also declare independence or push again for union with Serbia.

    Russia's foreign ministry once more earned itself the enmity of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili last week when it linked the fate of Kosovo with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia's two breakaway regions. But the Russian stance has some merit: Why are the Kosovars more worthy of independence than the Abkhaz or the South Ossetians?

    (It's worth noting here that many Georgians see the logic in what the Kremlin is saying: "Today there is no bigger problem for Georgia than possible recognition of Kosovo," Kakha Dzagania of the opposition Labor Party was quoted as saying yesterday. "That may become a precedent for recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.")

    There are those who will argue that the Abkhaz and South Ossetian separatism movements are not genuine, that they are manufactured by the Kremlin as a way of maintaining influence over its former colony. While there's certainly some truth to this, you could say the same about Kosovo, which has been nurtured and protected by NATO since 1999.

    My point here is not to argue for or against independence for Kosovo. But I do find myself wondering how the United States and the European Union find it reasonable to argue that the Kosovars deserve the right to determine their own fate, Serbia be damned, but other peoples of Eastern Europe in similar situations do not.

    If Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence is going to get the support of the international community, let's make the right of national self-determination the new global standard. Let's set about determining the real will of the Abkhaz and the South Ossetians and back open and fair (not Russian-sponsored) referendums on whether they want to remain in Georgia. Then let's help them enforce the results.

    Hell, while we're at it, let's do the same for the Transdniestr, the Respublika Srpska , Chechnya and the Crimea. If we're going to open this Pandora's Box in Eastern Europe, let's open it all the way.

    Anything less looks like the West is picking favourites to suit its geopolitical agenda. And that's just begging for trouble.

    6 comments:

    Frodo said...

    Not just Eastern European countries affected by these implications, as you say-- I suspect that the UK and the USA if anything, are the ones who have the most fear from the precedent set by Kosovo.

    For example, in the USA, the Lakota Sioux have already declared their independence in the Upper Great Plains region-- formally. And to be honest, they have a much better claim that the Kosovar Albanians, who were the descendants of Albanian immigrants who didn't become a majority until after WWII, in a region that historically was the cradle of the Serb nation and religion.

    And it's not just the Sioux-- the native Hawaiians, Alaskans and Puerto Ricans have all been moving in the same direction. For that matter, possibly the most explosive effect of the precedent will be in the American Southwest, especially in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as well as in southern Florida.

    Latinos in the Southwest retain very bitter memories of the Mexican-American War in 1848 and the US seizure of half of Mexico's territory, with a lot of Mexicans expelled. Now, they're again the vast majority in much of the region, and soon will be the absolute majority in many of those states. They don't want to return to Mexico, but independence from both countries-- whether in the form of "Aztlan" or something else-- is hardly uncommon, and ethnic solidarity can easily be converted later into political action.

    IOW, US recognition of Kosovo in 2008 provides a direct line to the rise of Aztlan in the Southwest. And notice, we haven't even begun considering similar kinds of territorial claims by African-Americans, or various state secessionist movements. Methinks that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have both opened a Pandora's Box here.

    The UK is similar-- Scotland is likely going to break away soon, as will northern Ireland in some form. Wales probably not too far off. And England itself? Rapidly, becoming majority Asian/African population, and Muslim too-- Mohammed in its various forms, is already the most popular boy's name there! Again, seems like a case of being careful what you wish for.

    Michael Averko said...

    To repeat some earlier expressed points, which IMO are quite important:

    For the most part, independent states are created from the territory of existing nations. Each independence claim is unique because the historical and human rights conditions (among other pertinent issues) aren't the same.

    The parameters being set with an independent Kosovo confuse things, because there're others having either a better independence case, or pretty much just as good of a claim.

    La Russophobe said...

    "a dangerous step that could provoke fresh violence"

    Isn't that true of the American revolution, too? Would you suggest America shouldn't have declared it, but rather should have remained enslaved by Britain?

    "But I do find myself wondering how the United States and the European Union find it reasonable to argue that the Kosovars deserve the right to determine their own fate, Serbia be damned, but other peoples of Eastern Europe in similar situations do not."

    Perhaps it's because Serbia has been, perhaps still is, an evil regime that NATO assaulted with military force.

    Michael Averko said...

    "Perhaps it's because Serbia has been, perhaps still is, an evil regime that NATO assaulted with military force."

    ****

    The above quoted involves misinformative innuendo, based on half truths and outright lies, propped by some not so objective English language mass media journalism

    Anonymous said...

    Abkhazians don't represent a majority of people from Abkhazia. Georgians were close to a majority before the Abkhaz initiated ethnic cleansing and are still a large minority, Abkhaz are only a plurality and not a majority. If you had a referendum of the inhabitants of Abkhazia and refugees from Abkhazia, there wouldn't be a majority in favor of independence. In addition, the Abkhaz/Russian troops don't control all of Abkhazia.

    Similarly, in South Ossetia, the separatists are not a large majority and don't control large areas of South Ossetia which are populated by Georgians and administered by Georgia. There hasn't been a clear vote on independence, and there is an Ossetian-led government that is allied with Georgia.

    So these examples don't have the same conditions as Kosovo did, especially Abkhazia, which still isn't majority Abkhaz even after ethnic cleansing of non-Abkhaz.

    Russia won't push this too much, because they don't want Chechnya or Tatarstan to break away.

    Michael Averko said...

    Chechnya and Tatarstan don't want to leave Russia and Pridnestrovie (Trans-Dniester) has a better case for independence than Kosovo; vis-a-vis comparing historical and human rights conditions.

    The independence mood in Chechnya dissipated because of the lawless mayhem in that republic during the Dudayev and Maskhadov regimes. Tatarstan is content with its autonomy within Russia.

    It's really not in America's best interests to recognize an independent Kosovo. It's perhaps tough to understand why when relying exclusively on English language mass media.

    Among some other sources elsewhere, Diane Johnstone and George Szamuely have recently (within the past two weeks or so) written some splendidly excellent material on the subject at http://www.counterpunch.org