Kosovo problem - Russia, US, international impact

Published on September 20, 2007, GosClub

Category: News from the American Council for Kosovo

"Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends

Let me begin by thanking your for your welcome to your fair city, which it is my pleasure to visit for the first time. And, I hope, not for the last time.

My topic today is the question of the future of the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija, the roles of the United States and Russia in resolving that question, and the potential consequences for regional and global peace and security, as well as the impact on relations between your country and mine.

By way of introduction, I am the Director of the American Council for Kosovo, a Washington-based NGO which is a project of my firm, Squire Sanders, on behalf of the Serbian community in Kosovo under the spiritual guidance of His Grace, Bishop ARTEMIJE of Ras and Prizren. I have had the honor of accompanying Vladyka Artemije to Russia last year, as well as on missions to Brussels, London, Ottawa, and, of course, in Washington. Our task is a difficult one, though it is simply stated: to help ensure that Kosovo remains a part of sovereign Serbia, as opposed to the illegal and forcible separation of Kosovo to create an independent state. That state unquestionably would be controlled by organized crime and jihad terror elements of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who dominate the local Albanian administration operating under UN supervision. Indeed, the major figures of that administration, according to German intelligence, are themselves kingpins in the drug, slave, and weapons rackets that constitute the only viable economic activity. These criminals would become the leaders of a sovereign Kosovo if it were separated from Serbia. In addition, there is no question that independence would mean the rapid eradication of the remaining Serbs two thirds of whom already have been driven from the province and thousands killed, under the eyes of NATO troops and UN police and the destruction of their Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries, over 150 of which have already been demolished or desecrated.

We in America are trying to prevent this outcome through a variety of activities in the areas of media relations and government relations, also known as lobbying. You may see some of what we are doing by going to our website at www.savekosovo.org . I am also pleased to note that a Russian counterpart to our organization is now being formed and will soon publish a Russian edition of our new book Hiding Genocide in Kosovo: A Crime against God and Humanity, authored by a current member of the international mission in the province.

One last point of introduction: for many years, before entering the private sector as a lobbyist, I was a senior foreign policy analyst for the Republican leadership of the U.S. Senate. Before that I was a diplomat and served in what was then the Office of Soviet Union Affairs. In my public activities I have always been a conservative and an anticommunist. I grew up in an Air Force family, and my father fought in Vietnam. The end of Marxist-Leninist rule in Russia heartened me greatly, though not the territorial breakup of what had been the USSR.

I mention this because much of what I will say today will be extremely critical of the policies of my government, not only with respect to Kosovo but in relation to our policy toward Russia. I do not want it thought that my comments proceed from anything but patriotic motives. Like many Americans of all political persuasions, I am distressed that our drive for global hegemony as the worlds only surviving superpower is bringing us to ruin, as well as corrupting what has always been good and admirable in the American character. Unfortunately, U.S. policy on Kosovo is a showpiece of what is wrong, legally and morally, with our post-Cold War approach to international affairs.

Let us be clear at the outset: The Kosovo problem as we see it today would not exist except for the misguided actions of Washington. To be sure, other actors notably NATO, the European Union, and the UN have also played a negative, mostly passive, part, but the main impetus has come from the U.S. First, the Clinton Administration, on the basis of the dishonest claim that NATO needed to save Kosovos Albanians from Serbian genocide, in 1999 launched an illegal war against Serbia. During the ensuing deployment of international forces (to which Serbia agreed, subject to many promises by NATO and the UN, none of which have been kept) a real genocide began, committed by Albanians against Serbs. Today, the Bush Administration, no less than its predecessor, remains wholeheartedly committed to the Kosovo Albanian cause due to a complex combination of inertia, delegation of responsibility to the State Department (where there remain many holdovers from the Clinton era), the malign influence of some Senators and Congressmen (many of them awash in Albanian-donated campaign funds), an obsession with cultivating the goodwill of the Islamic world by taking the side of Muslims in Kosovo against Christians, and a rising neo-Cold War atmosphere (and a consequent determination not to let Russia win on a security issue in Europe). Perhaps most importantly, in the mind of Washington policymakers Kosovo figures as a theatre in an ideological drive to maintain and extend U.S. global hegemony under the labels of promoting democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Today, Washington demands that as soon as possible Kosovo must be separated from Serbia, with the consequences I noted earlier. Indeed, that outcome was to have taken place by the end of 2006. But because of the steadfastness of the Serbian government, and the determination of Russia not to be bullied or bribed into acquiescing to a U.S.-driven trashing of the principle of territorial integrity of sovereign states, prospects for a settlement of the future of Kosovo remain uncertain. In February of this year, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, the UN-appointed mediator, unveiled a one-sided plan for Kosovo independence that was immediately rejected by Belgrade. Moscow made it clear that it would veto the plan in the Security Council if either of the parties in effect, Serbia rejected it. Now, Washington has pointed to the end of 2007 as the next deadline, but it is not altogether sure that can be met either.

Mainly due to Russian insistence, a new round of negotiations is underway with the mediation of a U.S./EU/Russia Troika, but no one expects these to be any more successful in reaching a compromise solution than earlier talks under the discredited Ahtisaari. This is mainly true because Washington has promised the Albanian separatists independence "one way or another" (in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's words), which means the Albanians have no incentive to compromise. So, the prospect looms for later this year of a unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence and U.S. recognition despite absence of a UN Security Council Resolution providing for such recognition. In light of the EU's divisions and its stated position that a new Resolution would be needed to replace Resolution 1244 of 1999 (which affirms Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia), Washington would first look to key non-EU allies with Canada, Israel, and Turkey among the foremost prospects -- to follow its illegal and ill-advised example. Heavy pressure would be put on EU countries to break with current policy and go along with Washington. Meanwhile Belgrade has threatened retaliation, possibly including breaking of diplomatic relations, against any country that recognizes an independent Kosovo, and no options, including military, have been ruled off limits in dealing with what then would be a foreign occupation without any cover of legality. Serbia also has strongly denounced plans to create a NATO state in Kosovo due to the Ahtisaari plans provision to formalize NATOs unrestricted operations there.

This scenario may play out as early as December 10, the date the Troika is due to report to the Secretary General on the result of its efforts. But while the U.S. has threatened to recognize Kosovo after a unilateral declaration of independence, neither the declaration nor the recognition is certain. I believe Washington still might be dissuaded from that step if it believed other countries, notably in Europe, would not follow our example. In addition, we are stepping up our efforts in the U.S. to mobilize ordinary Americans against this irrational policy. Finally, Washington cannot completely ignore the likelihood of a serious reaction from Belgrade and Moscow and the certainty of violence as this issue moves toward an international confrontation.

The fact is, stepped-up violence in Kosovo is certain one way or the other. On the one hand, if the Albanians are frustrated in their demands, there will be an escalation of the violence directed against the remaining Serbs, and perhaps against the UN and NATO presence, which up to now have been their sponsors but which may then appear to be obstacles. The Albanians western sponsors have even pointed to this threat and the Albanians impatience as reason to move forward with independence. This is pure extortion in the face of terrorist threats. Conversely, if Kosovo does become independent, the smaller Serbian enclaves will be cleared out almost immediately, and a standoff will be created as the Albanians try to crack the tougher nut of northern Kosovo, where most of the remaining Serbs live in relative security. Also, renewed insurrections will flare up in nearby areas with heavy Albanian concentrations in southern Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and possibly northern Greece. In fact, several Albanian towns in northwest Macedonia recently declared their intention to secede from Macedonia and join Kosovo as soon as it becomes independent.

We should also note the effect Kosovos independence would have as a precedent in other troubled areas, not least in the so-called frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union. The comparison is often made that if the U.S. insists on Kosovos independence, why cannot such places as Transdniestria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, or perhaps Nagorno-Karabakh also have their independence? This question is very topical as we are now marking the one-year anniversary of Transdniestrias independence referendum.

The U.S. answer has been quite consistent: there would be no precedent, because Kosovo is unique. Why? Because we say so, thats why.

But in fact if Washington proceeds with its policy on Kosovo, the precedent will be unavoidable and the damage to world peace massive. This is well understood by every multinational state, especially those with active separatist movements, which see that a Kosovo precedent must lead to chaos and destabilization. All a separatist movement needs to do is demonstrate a sufficient level of violence and intransigence, and then collect some friendly states to recognize them. Not only would this present a danger to the Russian Federation but to countries as diverse as China, India, Indonesia, Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Israel, Cyprus, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Ethiopia, South Africa, and many many others, especially in Africa, where state borders reflect not demography but former colonial boundaries. Some of these countries have stated their opposition to Kosovo independence for exactly that reason, while others, afraid to offend the U.S., just watch and sweat. Even in the United States one often hears from people familiar with the Kosovo issue that we are preparing the future separation of our own southwest, which is increasingly dominated by illegal migrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

That having been said, it is my opinion that the frozen conflicts in the former USSR are of a different quality altogether, and that the question is less one of precedents than the contrasts these areas present from the situation in Kosovo. On each distinguishing point, the statehood claims of the disputed former Soviet entities carry more weight than does Kosovos, and these areas are, legally and morally, more deserving of independence. These strengths include the following elements:

First, Kosovo is indisputably part of Serbia and has been since before Yugoslavia was formed. The same cannot be said for Transdniestria with respect to Moldova, South Ossetia and Georgia, etc. Simply put, it is difficult to establish that any of these regions has in modern history been effectively controlled by an independent state identified with the former Union Republic now laying claim to them. For example during its history Transdniestria has been part of Kievan Rus, Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine. It has never been part of any independent Romania or Moldova. Serbia can demonstrate with respect to Kosovo a continuity of national capital and economic control (Belgrade) but Tbilisi, Kishinev, and Baku can make no similar showing with respect to the entities they claim. If anything, the stronger claim would be Moscows, which some of the entities would be all-too-glad to acknowledge.

Second, Kosovos status as part of Serbia is affirmed in Resolution 1244, and the international presence in Kosovo and the suspension of effective Serbian control are defined by the Security Council, with Serbias consent. This means that the (perhaps temporary) international control of Kosovo, though unwelcome, is legally consistent with Serbian sovereignty. Conversely, the failure of Georgia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan to extend actual control over the disputed entities is further evidence that these entities were never actually a part of those states. The status of the entities is (or was) defined not by the Security Council but by the same authority by which the Union Republics themselves claimed statehood in 1991: the Soviet Constitution and Soviet law. The requirement of the Soviet law on secession for holding separate referenda in autonomous republics and autonomous oblasts to allow them to opt out of secession was never honored in any of the disputed regions. The Yugoslav constitution had no similar provision for autonomous provinces like Kosovo. This means that without action by the Security Council (which Russia, quite correctly, has blocked) no possible claim can be made for Kosovos independence. But there is no legal impediment to the former Soviet entities claiming independence on their own.

Third, and perhaps most importantly with respect to the international communitys (and especially the Security Councils) interest, the former Soviet entities in general can boast the absence on their territory of dangerously destabilizing jihad terror and organized crime elements as well as a reasonably democratic governmental mandate and a tolerable standard of civil administration. By contrast, in Kosovo, as has been noted, the Albanian authorities are virtually congruent with the local branches of the Albanian mafia, whose leaders have known associations with the global jihad network and drug, slave, and weapons rackets. (In this respect, the real comparison for Kosovo is with Chechnya in the heyday of Shamil Basayev.) The threat of further KLA subversion in Montenegro, Sandjak, Presevo, Macedonia, etc. in their pursuit of a Greater Albania and eventually a Balkan caliphate contrasts with the absence of extraterritorial claims by the former Soviet regions.

If Kosovo were to become independent and again, I emphasize, this is far from inevitable I do not see how a similar development in the disputed areas of the former Soviet Union can be stopped. But the idea that these entities, or Russia, should welcome Kosovos independence to trigger such a development is, in my opinion, misplaced. This would suggest that the claims of these entities are only as good as Kosovos, when in fact, as I have suggested, they are far better. I note these entities are increasingly coordinating their policies through the Commonwealth for Democracy and Rights of Nations, founded last year by Transdniestria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia (with Nagorno-Karabakh as an observer). Perhaps one way to impress upon Washington that it is playing with fire is for one or more of the entities, perhaps starting with Transdniestria, the most populous, to proceed with a declaration of independence based on the legal claims available to it, to be recognized by Russia and other countries before any such action by Kosovo. I would expect that such a development could proceed more smoothly and more peacefully than anything anticipated in Kosovo, with Russia in both instances holding an advantageous position to influence the outcome.

At a more fundamental level, it needs to be understood here in Russia that for many in Washington the future of Kosovo is not really about Kosovo, or even about Serbia: it is about Russia. In that sense Kosovo is important less because of the precedent it would set for other trouble-spots but because it encapsulates the dynamic that has defined U.S.-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War. Whether the issue was NATO expansion, the color revolutions, or the 1999 Kosovo war itself, the pattern was the same: Washington need only make clear that the outcome was a test of Moscows goodwill, and the latter would start squirming to find a way out of the confrontation. I can assure you, Washington has been astounded that did not happen this time on Kosovo.

One would think that a decade and a half after the end of the Cold War, and with top-tier problems on Washingtons and Moscows mutual plate from North Korea to Iran, this kind of primitive zero-sum approach would have been abandoned long ago. Now, on Kosovo, Russia has tried to take the moderate approach: calling for further negotiations, and insisting that a solution be agreed-to by both parties consistent with the UN Charter. These are hardly radical proposals! But the only response from Washington has been escalation of the unconditional demand that Russia acquiesce to Mr. Ahtisaaris unjust, one-sided solution.

As I am sure you are aware, for at least two or three years, there has been conducted in the United States a malicious campaign of defamation against Russia and against President Putin personally. It is not hard to see why. For those in Washington who promote U.S. global hegemony an idea, by the way, that has almost no support among ordinary Americans but dominates the foreign policy apparat of both the Republican and Democratic parties a revival of Russia as a power willing to defend its interests is completely unacceptable. The only permissible Russia is the one we had under Mr. Yeltsin, which could be counted on to do as its told. As stated by Foreign Minister Lavrov last month, at its essence such an attitude means a replication of the experience of Bolshevism and Trotskyism.

In this context, the future of Kosovo becomes a litmus test of the success of Mr. Putin's policy. As much as Russian public opinion is supportive of Serbia, and as correct as Russias legal arguments are, the real issue comes down to the question of whose power will prevail. In my opinion, Mr. Lavrov is entirely correct in laying down Kosovo as a red line for Russia and suggesting Russian recognition of one or more of the former Soviet regions. But even more fundamentally, for Russia the question is whether its status as a veto-wielding Permanent Member of the Security Council can be devalued because Washington disagrees with Moscow's position on a given issue. That, on top of trashing the principle of territorial integrity by partitioning Serbia against its will, would spell the end of whatever modicum of stability the UN system has provided since 1945.

It needs to be made crystal clear that Russophobic circles in Washington have no greater regret than the West's having agreed to Russia's assuming the seat on the Security Council formerly held by the USSR. Their hope of overcoming Russia's opposition to the forcible and illegal detachment of Kosovo from Serbia is, at its root, an attempt to rescind what they see as having been an error of over-generosity.

The institution of Permanent Membership is perhaps the most fundamental feature of the UN Charter that keeps the institution based on it from collapsing into total irrelevance like the League of Nations. As the United States has shown by its most-frequent use of the veto, often in support of Israel, the existence of the Permanent Members' veto is the guarantee that no major power can be backed into a corner and have its interests trampled on, including defense of smaller states it sees fit to protect.

Dispensing with that principle would divest the UN of what little standing it has left in the face of multiple corruption scandals and a history of botched missions, those relating to Kosovo not least among them. Washington's demand is in effect a demand that Russia's veto be rendered less equal than others'. If only for that reason, it is imperative for Russia that Washington's machinations and tantrums over Kosovo be treated with the contempt they deserve, and that it be made clear that any effort to circumvent the Security Council by an illegal action will set in motion a very serious reaction.

In closing, let me emphasize once again that I think my country is only damaging itself by pursuing its mistaken policy on Kosovo. That error can be taken as symptomatic of a flawed attitude toward Russia generally. It is my sincere hope that, against all indications, the common sense and decency of the American people may yet prevail and this disastrous course avoided. Russias firm and principled position can help achieve that outcome.

Thank you once again for your kind attention, and I welcome your questions."

James George Jatras

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