Empire’s Choice

After over six years of occupation, and a year of preparatory propaganda, it appears the Empire is ready to finally separate Kosovo from Serbia. Treated as a fait accompli in the media as they reported on the death of Albanian President Ibrahim Rugova two weeks ago, separation of the occupied province has now been officially broached to Belgrade. After a decade of isolation, followed by bombing and scandal-ridden post-coup “democracy,” Serbia has been driven to despair from which, the government and the Empire promise, only “Euro-Atlantic integrations” can offer deliverance. All Serbia has to do for that promise is give up Kosovo, along with its history, culture, tradition, and faith.

The “Contact Group” Speaks

In 1994, after the EU-UN peace conference on Bosnia had failed, six countries appointed themselves the law in the Balkans and proceeded to impose an imperial peace. Led by the United States, the soi-disant Contact Group included the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and as an afterthought, Russia. But for all the illusions of revived imperial glory, the old empires of Europe have always played second fiddle in that band to the one actual Empire, the United States.

So it was that the Contact Group was officially the source of the 1999 Rambouillet ultimatum, composed, directed, and presented by Washington. And the Contact Group – not the UN or NATO – is now in charge of “final status” talks concerning the future of occupied Kosovo.

On the last day of January, the Contact Group met in London and issued a statement filled with appropriately vague diplomatic language and sordid bureaucratese. It was, however, an unmistakable endorsement of an independent, Albanian Kosovo, separated from Serbia.

The statement explicitly reiterated that the “Contact Group Guiding Principles of November 2005 make clear that there should be: no return of Kosovo to the pre-1999 situation, no partition of Kosovo, and no union of Kosovo with any or part of another country.” The only option this does not exclude is the formally recognized status quo: Kosovo as an independent country, ruled by Albanians.

While calling on the Albanians to implement UN “standards” – which the UN itself gave up on when it endorsed the status talks last fall – the Contact Group included several telling messages to Belgrade:

“[We] look to Belgrade to bear in mind that the settlement needs, inter alia, to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo. … Contact Group, the EU and NATO stand ready to support Serbian democratic forces in taking this opportunity to move Serbia forward. … Constructive engagement by the parties will also pave the way for a European and Euro-Atlantic future….”

Since diplo-babble is a bit confusing, here is a handy translation. “People of Kosovo” are Albanians. Yes, Kosovo is supposed to be multi-ethnic in theory; but in practice, the Contact Group has done nothing to stop the ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians and mass immigration from Albania, which have resulted in the 90 percent Albanian majority. “Moving Serbia forward” means faithful obedience to the desires of EU and NATO. “Serbian democratic forces” are those agreeing with EU and NATO demands. The last bit about a “European and Euro-Atlantic future” is a hint that giving up Kosovo would speed up Serbian annexation to the EU – but never an explicit promise.

It can be argued that this is just one interpretation of a text slipperier than a greased weasel – but as it happens, it is the correct one. A British diplomat was actually stupid enough to say so.

A Surprisingly Overt Message

John Sawers, political director of the British Foreign Office, was visiting Kosovo on Monday and met with both Albanian and Serb leaders. Reuters reported on Tuesday morning that Sawers told the Albanians:

“The more Kosovo’s leaders can work together, the more they can understand each others issues, each others concerns, the more fully the goal of the people of Kosovo can be achieved and the quicker it will be achieved.” (Emphasis added)

So the question is not whether Albanians (“people of Kosovo”) will be given independence (“the goal”) but how soon (“quicker”) and to what extent (“more fully”). Sawers went on to deliver the same message to the Kosovo Serbs, urging them to accept the inevitable.

Belgrade’s commissioner for Kosovo, Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, said that Serbia should reconsider taking part in the talks, if (if!) the Contact Group thinks this way, while the opposition Radical Party called for new elections so the people of Serbia could decide whether the present government was representing their interests properly.

Five years after the “October revolution,” Serbian politics is a mess. The Radicals have a plurality in the parliament, the president is a Democrat, and the actual government is led by a fragile, opportunistic coalition. It isn’t beyond some members of the government to actually cause its collapse and give the Radicals a Pyrrhic victory in the polls, so they would be blamed for the loss of Kosovo while the “democratic forces” would reap the benefits of popular discontent and Imperial support. It may sound like a conspiracy theory, but when it comes to Serbia and Kosovo, all too many of those have turned out to be true.

Moscow’s Double Play

A day before his representative signed the Contact Group statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin advised that whatever solution is reached for Kosovo should be applicable universally, to other places in the Balkans, as well as in the former Soviet Union. While Belgrade took this as a statement of support, it isn’t clear it was meant as such. For, while Moscow could be saying that Kosovo needs to be resolved in a principled manner, it is Washington and Brussels that have reserved the right to define principle – and in the Balkans, it has been whatever they wanted it to be.

Putin’s comment also prompted a flurry of analysis in post-Soviet states with territorial disputes, from Georgia to Moldova. Pro-American regimes in Tbilisi, Cisiniau, and Baku are concerned that Moscow might endorse the secession of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia, Transnistria from Moldova, and Nagorno Karabagh from Azerbaijan – all of which have been de facto outside the authority of those governments for over a decade.

On paper, Moscow wins in either situation – if Kosovo remains part of Serbia, then Serbia will in part thank Russia for this, and the post-Soviet disputes will continue to linger; and if Kosovo is separated, then pro-Russian separatists in the aforementioned regions will have a precedent to follow. The only trouble with this gambit is that Washington and Brussels can make the separation of Kosovo happen, because they have the military force to do so, and because Belgrade recognizes their decision as legitimate (however stupid that may be). Russia, on the other hand, cannot force the issue with Moldova, Georgia, or Azerbaijan, because their governments are all backed by Washington.

Crowning Achievement?

What Washington and Brussels are hoping for is that Belgrade will abandon Kosovo for a promise of “Euro-Atlantic integrations” – future membership in EU and NATO, which have been presented as the apex of prosperity, democracy, and peace through years of relentless propaganda, foreign and domestic. The Contact Group statement specifically mentions “European and Euro-Atlantic perspectives” and the “European and Euro-Atlantic future” of Serbia and Kosovo. Now it is up to Serbia to take the bait.

Why anyone would want to join an abortive, omnipotent mega-state constantly at war with entropy is anybody’s guess. Obsessed with controlling the minutiae of its subjects’ lives, the EU already has more bureaucrats that its people can support, while its population – nursed into senility by the nanny state – is dying off. The “solution” to this demographic change – waves of Muslim immigrants from Africa and Asia – is turning out to be worse than the problem. Theo van Gogh’s murder in Holland, last fall’s riots in France, and the current violence over Danish cartoons indicate that the vast majority of Europeans – and their political leaders in particular – have absolutely no clue about Islam, its values, sensibilities, and capacity for coexistence with other faiths. EU’s plan for integrating Muslims, drafted over a decade ago, envisions them becoming as secular as most of Europe’s Christians. This combination of arrogant faith in social engineering and abject ignorance of Islam is already proving dangerous, and may well prove fatal in the longer run.

None of this, however, is so much as mentioned, let alone considered, in the former Yugoslav lands. “Euro-Atlantic integrations” has become the credo of the new political class, the Holy Grail of political achievement that no one dares question, much less challenge. There is very little logic in Croatia wishing to be absorbed by a multinational federation just a decade after it violently seceded from another, Yugoslavia. There is even less logic in Serbia wanting to join the EU or NATO, after everything they’ve done to break up Yugoslavia and separate Kosovo from Serbia (including the 1999 bombing and the subsequent occupation). And yet, both Zagreb and Belgrade continue to profess the sanctity of “Euro-Atlanticism,” just so they can eventually get the opportunity to become the newest periphery of a moribund Empire.

In a way, they are getting exactly what they deserve.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.