The Kosovo error

Published on September 17, 2007,

Category: Growing International Opposition to Imposed Solution

For wrong reasons, Russia has imposed its will in the Security Council and has been granted a deferment in the decision of the United Nations. The advantage of the gained time would be essential to reframe the question of Kosovo in accordance with the necessities and sensitivities of the present time. Ahtisaari is not the solution.

(Javier Ruperez, Ambassador of Spain to the UN, ABC) Friday, September 14, 2007 NATO took military action in Kosovo from March 23 to June 10, 1999, during 78 days that seemed interminable. It was the first time in its history the Alliance triggered a military action. It was also the first time that it did so in a geographic space other than the one originally described in the Treaty of Washington, which was limited to the territory of its member states. The undertaken combat operation was not strictly a defensive action, but it was directed against a sovereign state, member of the United Nations, and it was conducted without authorization from the Security Council.

The military action was basically airborne, registering a total of 38,000 flights, of which 10,484 were bombing raids. The targets were at first of military order and concentrated against the Yugoslav armed forces, but as the resistance grew stronger than expected, the bombings started to target civilian infrastructures, that were damaged seriously, and civil victims were euphemistically described as "collateral damages". Among them, one can remember the bombing of the seat of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, which originated a bitter diplomatic conflict.

The conduct of the conflict was not devoid of tensions within the Alliance, but a part of the Alliance decided to go through and act within difficult conditions and in spite of them, with the conviction that the actions of Slobodan Milosevic, practicing a brutal policy of ethnic cleaning against the majority population of Albanian origin, led to a human catastrophe that was necessary to avoid whatever the cost.

The operation was settled with a clear military and political success for NATO. The allied Governments knew to maintain the cohesion until the end of the process and the existing dissidences in the respective public opinion or the opposition from Russia to the intervention never reached significant level. NATO knew to wage the war and knew to do it well.

Before, during and after the conflict the spokesmen of the Alliance and of its members made an effort in stressing that the goal of the combat operations was to prevent the annihilation of a human group, support the return to the stability in the Balkans, but never to favor the independence of Kosovo.

In fact the guarantee of the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia constituted the best, in fact the only argument that the allies had in front in Belgrade: the war was not made to alter its borders.

The very day NATO ended its combat operations, on June 11, 1999, the Security Council in its Resolution 1244 stated that the political solution to the crisis of Kosovo must consider, among other ends, the respect "to the sovereignty principles and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia".

The same Resolution had reaffirmed the respect of "all the States members to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia... in the terms of the Final Act of Helsinki". In that sense the Council echoed the declaration on Kosovo a few weeks earlier, on May 6, which had been signed by the ministers of Foreign Affairs of the countries members of the G-8 (the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan). According to these documents, the future of Kosovo had to be found within the framework of a "substantial autonomy" of the Yugoslav Federation - which is today, after the independence of Montenegro -- reduced to Serbia.

What the UN is proposing right now, based on the proposal by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, is purely and simply the independence of Kosovo. Unless there is vigorous reaction of the international community, Kosovo will indeed become independent in a not-so-distant future. This is not what the NATO airplanes fought for. This was not the aim which the Security Council set up after the "humanitarian intervention".

In fact, the Ahtisaari report, surely without premeditation, endorses the policy against which the allied military action took place in the first place, but this time with the changing elements of the equation: before, it was a fight to save Albanians from Serbs, and today the priority is given to Albanians, even at the cost of vanishing of the few Serbs who still populate the territory. And the offered reason is none other than the establishment of a failure: it is difficult to imagine the coexistence between Serbs and Albanians. That was already known before the beginning of the war.

The fact that eight years of intensive international presence (UN, NATO, EU) in the territory have passed since only to conclude that the only solution consists of violating some of the most elementary principles of international law, enshrined in the UN Charter, is certainly discouraging.

In the history of Kosovo, no one was completely innocent. The nationalistic fervor which the Serbs felt towards the old lost battlefield was always absurd and potentially bloody, the treatment towards the Albanian population was criminal, and the attempts of the post-Milosevic Serbia were not enough to face the gravity of the problem.

The Albanians take a large part of the blame because they used their numerical advantage to lead the same policy as the Serbs - they form armed terrorist groups, they absolutely exclude all those who are different, they satanize the adversary. The reasons why Russia - the only permanent member of the Security Council which opposed the Ahtisaari plan - took the Serbian side are also wrong: this is not about a parochial national-cultural-religious solidarity, but about the opportunity to create in the post-Yugoslav Balkans a democratic coexistence and respect for racial, religious and cultural differences. Western countries have themselves been stuck in the policy aimed at punishing the Serbs.

But an independent Kosovo not only harms the principle of international law that demands respect to the territorial integrity of the States. It grants wings, from the peak of the international community, to all the separatist irredentisms. It means the creation of a society without shades, composed exclusively of those of the same color, same language, same race or same religion. It creates inevitably a new regional instability, that will finish affecting in a serious way all the neighbors. And it constitutes clearly a gigantic one step back in all the efforts of the humanity to construct communities of citizens different and free, able to coexist pacifically in spite of their differences.

For wrong reasons, Russia has imposed its will in the Security Council and has been granted a deferment in the decision of the United Nations. The advantage of the gained time would be essential to reframe the question of Kosovo in accordance with the necessities and sensitivities of the present time. Ahtisaari is not the solution.

(translation from Spanish by the KosovoCompromise Staff)

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