Kosovo “Train Wreck”: is the Warning Bell Starting to Ring in Washington?

Published on January 14, 2008, American Council for Kosovo

Category: News from the American Council for Kosovo

Former Secretary of State Eagleburger Opposed to "Grabbing a Hunk of Territory" from Serbia

Former National Security Advisor Scowcroft Warns: U.S. "Pushing Too Hard" on Kosovo, "Potential Ethnic Cleansing" of Serbs, "Radicalization of Serbia," Russians "Not Going to be Pushed Around Anymore"

Admiral Lyons: Don’t Trigger "Optional" Crisis with Moscow, Create "Failed, Nonviable Rogue" Kosovo State

Editorial Comment from the American Council for Kosovo – As noted before in this space, America’s Kosovo policy has been set on a course for disaster, desperately crying out from some adult supervision. No one has yet blown time out on this misguided policy, but there are increasing signs that serious minds and eyes are paying attention to a little-noticed issue that could set off a big crisis.

To recap where we stand at the current juncture, Washington has stated its intention to recognize a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by Kosovo’s Albanians sometime in the next few months, maybe weeks. This is despite the fact that Serbia has said it never will accept the amputation of its province, which despite phony “assurances” would mean eradication of Kosovo’s remaining Christian Serbs and destruction of their spiritual and cultural heritage by Muslim Albanians. It is also despite the fact that Russia, standing on a firm legal foundation under the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and other binding commitments, refuses to permit such an outrage through the UN Security Council. Moscow has warned that an American-led attempt to circumvent the Security Council, and recognizing Kosovo’s UDI while Resolution 1244, which reaffirms Kosovo as part of Serbia, is still in effect, would be “crossing the Rubicon” and would set off a possible “uncontrolled crisis.”

Russia’s military establishment has indicated it would be willing to supply unspecified material assistance to Serbia if asked. Belgrade’s coalition government has not spoken with one voice as to what steps it would take if foreign states were to recognize a Kosovo UDI, which would be a blatant act of lawlessness and aggression against the territorial integrity of a sovereign state; in this case, that state is a democratic, multiethnic, European democracy, unlike Kosovo itself, which is an increasingly monoethnic Albanian and monoreligious Islamic entity, controlled by jihad terrorists and racketeers. But if the UDI and U.S.-led recognition were to go forward, with the inevitable violence and destabilization, no one should assume the result would not be a political earthquake in Serbia and the prospect that Belgrade would take Moscow up on its offer.

It is understandable that with all the issues on America’s front burner, starting with Iraq, few Americans, or even most U.S. policymakers, have been paying attention to Kosovo. Sadly, that’s why the U.S. course has been steered by the State Department so far into the fever swamps. But there are now indications that this is changing, not so much because of Kosovo, or even Serbia, but because the larger damage to U.S. global interests is becoming evident to some sober-minded people, who are sounding the warning.

To be sure, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton was one of the first household names in the foreign policy stratosphere to point out the wrong-headedness of America’s Kosovo policy. Now add the names of retired Admiral James Lyons (former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations, and deputy chief of naval operations, where he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters), former Secretary of State and U.S. Ambassador to Belgrade Lawrence Eagleburger, and former National Security Advisor to the President, General Brent Scowcroft.

Writing in the Washington Times, Admiral Lyons, whose thoughts on strategic topics command wide respect in national security circles, takes note of Washington’s and Moscow’s glaringly asymmetrical understandings of what Kosovo is about:

It is difficult to see what advantages exist for the U.S. to force a resolution for Kosovo, especially one that threatens to unleash instability in the troubled region, as well as a broader political showdown with Russia, and China too. Not only do we have enough serious issues with those countries, over Iran, Taiwan and North Korea, the U.S. can ill afford with our ongoing efforts in the Middle East to commit additional military forces to a new confrontation in the Balkans. With an unemployment rate of up to 70 percent, no one who has been to Kosovo, as I have, can doubt we are looking at the creation of a failed, nonviable rogue state. This, notwithstanding claims by the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman that somehow Muslim-led governments will embrace the United States for supporting creation of a Muslim state in the very heart of Europe. They will embrace us the same as Iran did after our elimination of their archenemy Saddam Hussein. There is no reason for the secretary of state to be beholden to the Holbrooke Cabal in the State Department. A recent op-ed by Richard Holbrooke, President Clinton's former ambassador to the U.N., urged the U.S. to move forward with Kosovo's UDI — a position also embraced by Hillary Clinton's campaign. Oddly, even Mr. Holbrooke concedes that supporting Kosovo's UDI would set the U.S. toward a “train wreck” with Russia. Before the Kosovo UDI turns into what the Russian Foreign Ministry has called “crossing the Rubicon” and a possible “uncontrolled crisis,” someone in the Bush administration needs to call for a long overdue reassessment of our Kosovo policy. America has much more important business to take care of that we cannot afford to jeopardize over a seemingly minor dispute to vindicate a Clinton agenda item.

Secretary Eagleburger, in an interview with the U.S. government’s Voice of America, states:

I have really very serious problems with the international community and part of that being the United States, advocating grabbing a hunk of territory from one country and making it independent. I don't think that's a tradition that we want to establish very substantially. There are perfectly good reasons for objecting to international efforts to hive Kosovo off from Serbia. You can argue all you want to about the difficulties between Serbs and Kosovars, but there is another issue involved here which is the international tradition of all of a sudden establishing the right of the international community to order or pressure the taking of a particular territory and telling the nominal host country that it's no longer a part of their territory.

Also speaking to Voice of America, General Scowcroft says the following with respect to the U.S.-Russia relationship and our headlong rush on Kosovo:

We really have to go back to the end of the Cold War. We think it was a very smooth ending and so on and so forth. But I think we sort of overlook what must be a great sense of humiliation in the Russian soul at their fall from one of two superpowers to a country that nobody paid any attention to unless we wanted something. And I think that probably was a deep scar on the Russian psyche. And now, after the complete collapse in 1998, Russia is now a strong power primarily because of energy exports. And I think Putin is taking advantage of that to say, "Look, we're not going to be pushed around anymore. We want to be paid attention to and we want to have a major seat at the table everywhere." . . . My own sense is that we have been moving too fast on Kosovo. I think that situation is not really ripe to be turned loose. Even in Bosnia - we've been in Bosnia five years longer than in Kosovo and without a European presence, Bosnia would revert to what it was before. These are very difficult, emotional issues. And there is potential ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, there is the possible radicalization of Serbia - it's an issue filled with emotion. Kosovo is, after all, the psychological heartland of Serbia. It is where Serbia got started. It is where their religious roots are. Their Fourth of July is the battle of Kosovo (1389) and so it has deep feeling for them. And I sort of think we are pushing too hard.

Let us hope that Washington is beginning to wake up to how bad the unnecessary confrontation with Moscow is likely to be if the U.S. pulls the trigger on illegally recognizing an independent Kosovo. There is little doubt that if most policymakers were sufficiently aware of that now, before the crisis were unleashed, Washington would take a step back from the brink. But the paradox is that, as of this writing, other American responsible actors, preoccupied with other problems, will not take note of the mess the State Department has made until after we move, by which time it will be too late to avert the crisis. Respected voices, like those of Secretary Eagleburger and Admiral Lyons, can help change that.

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