Is Russia upping the ante on Kosovo? Is the EU? NATO? The UN?

The Associated Press is reporting just now that ” Serbia’s minister for Kosovo, Slobodan Samardzic, crossed the border Monday to visit Serb communities in Kosovo. The top UN official in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, said he allowed Samardzic into Kosovo on the condition that he issue a public statement ‘making it very, very clear that he distances himself from violence and the visit is about ensuring peace and calm with the Kosovo Serbs’. Ruecker said he also insisted on meeting with Samardzic to ‘tell him what we think of some of his recent statements’ — but said later that he was not satisfied with some of the Serbian official’s answers. Samardzic said he told Ruecker that the Serbian government ‘will do everything to maintain peace in the regions of Kosovo it controls, where the Serbs live‘.” This AP story (datelined Kosovska Mitrovica, KOSOVO) is posted here.

So, the top UN official is being un-diplomatic, and the Serbs say they will continue to control areas of Kosovo that are populated by Serbs.

Is a real fight in the works?

The Russian Foreign Minister has weighed in: ” ‘We actively support Belgrade’s demand … to restore the territorial integrity of Serbia, restore the country’s sovereignty’, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on state-run Vesti-24 television. Lavrov claimed NATO and the European Union, which plans to deploy a 1,800-member police and justice mission to Kosovo, were considering using force to keep ethnic Serbs from leaving Kosovo. ‘The question of using force to hold back Serbs who do not want to remain under Pristina’s authority … is being seriously discussed’, Lavrov said in the broadcast, without offering any evidence. ‘This will only lead to yet another “frozen conflict” and will push the prospects for stabilizing Europe — and first of all for stabilizing the Balkans — far to the side’. The EU did not immediately respond to Lavrov’s remarks. But EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said earlier that the bloc’s mission would cover all of Kosovo, including the northern parts where Serbs are concentrated.“, the AP reported.

7 thoughts on “Is Russia upping the ante on Kosovo? Is the EU? NATO? The UN?”

  1. the following was just lifted from

    Serbia: Creating a Balkan Powder Keg?
    February 25, 2008 | 1659 GMT

    Serbia intends to rule parts of Kosovo where “loyal citizens” (Serbs and non-Albanians) look to Belgrade for governance, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Feb. 25 as he stood beside Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. This Russian-backed move to partition Kosovo could lead Bosnia’s Serbs to try to break away and join Serbia to form a Greater Serbia — a development that could create a dangerous situation in the Balkans.

    Serbia intends to rule parts of Kosovo where “loyal citizens” (Serbs and non-Albanians) reside and “still look to Belgrade for government,” Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Feb. 25. Notably, Kostunica issued the statement in Belgrade alongside Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov reinforced Kostunica’s declaration with an ambiguous warning to the West that attempts by NATO to use force against Serbian Kosovars will further destabilize the region.

    Kostunica is essentially delivering a message to the European Union and NATO that a partition of Kosovo is inevitable now that the Albanian Kosovars have unilaterally declared independence. The post-independence Kosovo leaves Serbian Kosovars in the minority — only about 5 percent of the country’s roughly 2 million people. Without a political voice in Kosovo, the best option for Serbian Kosovars now is to merge their enclave with Serbia proper.

    Geographically, this makes a good deal of sense for Serbian Kosovars, as the region of Kosovo where they form a majority directly abuts Serbia and is separated from the rest of Kosovo by the Ibar River. Though the European Union and NATO will be reluctant to see Kosovo split, recent riots in the now-former Serbian province have already indicated that holding onto this Serb-majority region may not be worth the security cost.

    But partitioning Kosovo could be only the beginning. A dangerous precedent has been set for the approximately 2 million Bosnian Serbs to campaign for a merger with Serbia and set off another powder keg in the Balkans for the European Union and NATO to deal with.

    The Bosnian Serbs, who live in Republika Srpska, have been threatening for years to split from Bosnia proper, especially as the Kosovo issue heated up.

    The United Nations has been pushing through any legislation it can in Sarajevo to pacify Republika Srpska, but the Bosnian Serbs tend to take their cues from Belgrade and Moscow. If Serbia and Russia gave the word, the Bosnian Serbs would leap at the chance not only to break from the Bosnian Muslims and Croats but also to return to Serbia, creating a Greater Serbia.

    And with Medvedev and Lavrov standing symbolically by Kostunica’s side, this appears to be precisely the message Russia wishes to convey to the European Union. Russia already has proclaimed Serbia an ally and made it all too clear that redrawing Kosovo’s boundaries would be a fatal decision for the European Union. Backing off is not an option for Moscow; by supporting Serbia — and the partitioning of Kosovo — Russia could be creating the conditions to tip the Balkans back into chaos.


    Kosovo, Serbia: Don’t Use Force At Border — Lavrov
    February 25, 2008 | 1618 GMT
    “NATO contingents” are trying to close by force the administrative border between heavily Serb northern Kosovo and the rest of Serbia, Interfax reported Feb. 25, citing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov said the action will result in “the appearance of one more frozen conflict” and jeopardize the stability of Europe, especially the Balkans.


    Serbia: Wants To Rule ‘Loyal’ Kosovo Citizens
    February 25, 2008 | 1518 GMT

    Serbia plans to govern areas of Kosovo inhabited by “loyal citizens” who seek government from Belgrade, Reuters reported Feb. 25, citing Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Kostunica said Serbia will do all it can to implement its jurisdiction and state prerogatives for both loyal Serbs and non-Albanians in Kosovo. The news comes the same day Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, who met with Kostunica and Serbian President Boris Tadic, said Russia will not waver in supporting Serbia after Russian presidential elections the week of March 2.

    a bit earlier

    Geopolitical Diary: Russian Rhetoric and Inaction on Kosovo
    February 25, 2008 | 0329 GMT

    The Kosovo situation has neither settled down nor flared up. In the aftermath of demonstrations and a riot that saw the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade set on on fire last week, U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Cameron Munter demanded that the Serbian government take responsibility for protecting U.S. facilities, while the Serbs demanded that the United States reverse its recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. Further demonstrations took place in Vienna, Austria, along with an attempted attack against the U.S. Embassy that was blocked by police. The Commonwealth of Independent States summit ended in Moscow and the Russians made no major attempt — publicly at least — to squeeze pro-Western countries such as Georgia or the Baltics.

    At the same time, the Russians have not let go of the issue. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Sunday that U.S. backing for an independent Kosovo was an act of “flagrant cynicism.” He went on to ask, “Is it not cynical to openly humiliate the Serbian people and tie Belgrade’s Euro-Atlantic prospects to their agreeing to Serbia’s dismemberment?” This was Russia’s answer to U.S. State Department claims that Russia was aggravating tensions over Kosovo.

    Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will go to Belgrade on Feb. 25 for talks with Serbian leaders. Medvedev is the expected successor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, so this means that some big guns are heading to Serbia. Given the statements made on Sunday about American cynicism, we can assume that this is not an attempt to mediate between the Kosovars and the West. The Russians have to provide some show of support for Belgrade. Perhaps most important, given U.S. displeasure with Moscow, the simple act of sending big guns to Belgrade is a gesture of defiance against the United States.

    It is interesting to note the extent to which the Serbs and Russians have focused on the United States in this dispute. Europe — particularly the United Kingdom, Germany and France — was at least as heavily involved in the independence decision. The Europeans more so than the Americans, in fact, because they were the ones who offered to send a peacekeeping force to administer an independent Kosovo. The Russians at one point tried to reach over the Europeans’ heads, appealing to the United States not to participate in recognition. But at this point, the rhetoric in Moscow and Belgrade treats the situation as if the United States were the primary actor. This could be due to the fact that both Russia and Serbia have more important economic relations with the Europeans than with the United States, or it might have to do with their belief that Europe is merely acting on Washington’s wishes. Either way, both the Russians and the Serbs have chosen to focus on the United States as the main actor.

    The Russians continue to intrude — carefully and deliberately. Medvedev’s and Lavrov’s visit to Belgrade, framed in the language used by Russia over the weekend, continues to raise questions at to Russia’s intention. Without the rhetoric about American cynicism, there would be some possibility that the purpose of the trip was to calm things down. But the rhetoric is there.

    The question that faces the Kremlin is this: Having declared Serbia to be an ally and proclaimed that the Serbs have been mistreated, what exactly do the Russians plan to do about it? If they simply wanted to back off, they could have taken any number of opportunities to shift their position. We have to assume that they have a plan. It is possible that they will offer Belgrade weapons — that would be provocative without direct action taken. They already have excellent economic relations with Serbia. They might sweeten the pot to show the Europeans that Serbia and others have alternatives besides the European Union.

    Either way, the Russians now have to put up or shut up. They have to show what the consequence will be for the United States’ and Europe’s disregard for Russian wishes, or Moscow will simply be seen as engaged in empty posturing. The latter is not something Russia, Putin or Medvedev can afford. But then we keep seeing critical moments passing with only words from the Russians.

    It will be hard for them to leave Belgrade after the Feb. 25 visit without some concrete action.

  2. Yes, the question is, what does Russia plan to do, exactly?

    It would be very inflammatory for them to send weapons.

    It may be that, in the end, they believe that by taking the high road — pointedly disapproving comments, raised eyebrows, pursed lips, and that’s all — they will be in a better position to extract concessions both here and elsewhere. This is not the same, exactly, as empty posturing…

  3. well how about this just in from

    Bosnia, Serbia: Srpska Secession on the Table
    February 26, 2008 | 1557 GMT

    The head of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska attended a meeting with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica on Feb. 25. His attendance indicates that Srpska’s secession from Bosnia could be on the table.

    Stratfor has learned that Milorad Dodik, the head of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska, attended an interesting meeting Feb. 25 between Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Dodik’s presence fuels speculation that a possible split of Srpska from the rest of Bosnia is on the table.

    Medvedev’s trip to Serbia comes just two weeks after the former Serbian province of Kosovo declared independence, much to Moscow’s and Belgrade’s fury. Speaking with Medvedev present, Kostunica declared that Serbia still intends to rule parts of Kosovo where “loyal citizens” reside, hinting to the West that a partition of Kosovo is possible. At the time, Stratfor said that Kostunica’s remarks possibly also were directed at other Serbs in the region, mainly those next door in Republika Srpska.

    Dodik’s official reason for meeting Medvedev and Kostunica was to discuss energy matters with Serbia and Russia. Medvedev vowed to include Srpska in Russia’s plans to buy up most of Serbia’s energy sector and in Russia’s proposed South Stream natural gas pipeline. In actuality, Srpska has little interest in energy deals with Serbia or Russia, since Srpska not only is self-sufficient in energy, it is a net exporter of electricity to the region.

    The real reason for Dodik’s trip was to discuss the possibility of Srpska’s breaking from the rest of Bosnia (which is mostly Muslim and Croat) and reunifying with its fellow Serbs in Serbia. The Bosnian Serbs have threatened for years to split from Bosnia proper, especially as the Kosovo issue heated up. But Dodik has waited for a cue from Belgrade and Moscow before making the leap. Now, we know the matter is being discussed fully by all three.

    The United Nations — which oversees Bosnia — is watching carefully, too. Knowing that a breakup of the country was possible, it has been pushing through any legislation it can in Sarajevo to pacify Dodik and those within Srpska. Even though Dodik is taking full advantage of having the United Nations bend to keep the peace, he has made it clear he has other deals on the table, too.


  4. right & if everyone really does coordinate a little
    & self determines too rather than just self destructs etc
    then it might be possible to rearrange a little real estate peaceably
    especially where the relevant ethnic areas are contiguous & only artificially separated anyway by otherwise arbitrary political lines

    it seems to me that should work & be workable
    & it may even be an idea whose time is finally coming & or returning

    just finding a way of simply allowing kindred spirits to cleave together

    it is only cosmic law that they should do so

    let the serbs have their way

    let the kurds have their way

    indeed let everyone have their way in their own home

    & so what if it wasnt all fully negotiated in advance by war or at a table but only now as an afterthought & on the wing

    it is like negotiating any hairpin turn

    you just do it
    with eyeballs bulging & hair on end perhaps
    because there is simply no better alternative

    for here is another principle whose time may finally be coming

    just as international law gets it that the sea follows the land
    in terms of projecting territorial seas & eezs etc
    so it should be even more axiomatic that the land follows the people

    for in reality self determination
    ever so carefully & gently performed
    actually trumps territorial integrity

    in fact a territory has no integrity other than the integrity of its people

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