Kosovo - Between Serba and Albanian
(left) a Serb in a traditional national dress with a sword
(right) Albanian mafioso with a kalashnykov (CLICK TO ENLARGE)


The following article by John Zavales is quite a shrewd political analysis on the future status of the presently UN administered Yugoslav region of Kosovo. Zavales claims that independence of Kosovo, which was expected by many as the most logical solution after the war in 1999, is in fact an option which would seriously destabilize entire Balkans. As an independent state, Zavales thinks that Kosovo would not only be economically unsustainable but would generate serious problems for the neighboring countries. Quite rightly Zavales foresees that hardly any Serbs would be able to live in independent Kosovo. In fact, a new ethnically clean Albanian state in the Balkans would rather be a result quite opposite to everything which the international community is trying to achieve in the SE Europe. In the conclusion Zavales is not advocating the return of repression of the Milosevic years but rather sees Kosovo as an integrative part of a completely new democratic Yugoslavia.

As an additional reading which supports positions in the Zavales' article we suggest a text published by IWPR:
Analysis - Kosovo Independence Ruled Out

Fr. Sava (Janjic)

The Western Policy Center is a Washington, D.C.-based public policy organization advancing solutions to Greek-Turkish, southern Balkan, and transnational problems, and promoting U.S. geostrategic interests and Western values and institutions throughout southeastern Europe, through research, analysis and debate on the vital political, economic, and security issues facing the region.

July 29, 2002

Kosovo: Time for the Hard Decisions
By John Zavales


The average American, bombarded with news about the latest violence in the West Bank, the continuing hunt for Al Qaeda, and sporadic warfare in Afghanistan, could be forgiven for missing an item buried somewhere on page 20 in the local newspaper.

That buried story would have provided an account of recent demonstrations in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, against the U.N. mission administering the province. The demonstrators' ire was raised by the arrest of about a dozen former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) fighters on charges of having murdered fellow ethnic Albanians since the end of NATO's air war against Yugoslavia in 1999.

While these men will be tried by local U.N. courts, the protesters were well aware that the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague was close to issuing its first indictments against ethnic Albanians for war crimes committed during the fighting in Kosovo, principally against Serb civilians.

These events alone might not be of particular interest to most Americans, but they are an indication of far greater problems looming on the horizon.

Since September 11, 2001, the future of the Balkans has been among a number of issues relegated to the back burner of U.S. foreign policy. Given the events of the past 10 months, and the American public's short historical attention span, Washington's involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo now seems a distant memory. Nevertheless, those responsible for U.S. foreign policy cannot afford to ignore the region, where a number of issues must be settled in the next few years. How they are handled will have ramifications far beyond the Balkan peninsula. This is a matter not only of regional stability, but also of America's consistency and morality on the world stage.

There is a need to address the fundamental paradox that emerged in Washington's Balkan policy during the 1990s: the contradiction, not without logic at the time, inherent in its support for the survival of a multi-ethnic state in Bosnia, on the one hand, and for ethnic separatist aspirations in Kosovo, on the other.

During the years of Slobodan Milosevic's brutal kleptocracy, it was possible to manage this contradiction because Washington's primary objective was to contain him and counter the violence he had unleashed. The triumph of electoral democracy in Yugoslavia deprived the U.S. of this luxury. What will eventually become of Kosovo must now be confronted.

The elections held in the province in the autumn of 2001, though far from perfect, yielded fairly positive results. Participation by Serbs and other minorities was higher than expected. Among ethnic Albanian voters, Ibrahim Rugova's party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), won a clear victory over Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and the parties of other rivals closely connected to the KLA.

After prolonged negotiations, the provincial assembly, in March 2002, elected Rugova as president and Bajram Rexhepi, a moderate PDK member, as prime minister. While Rugova's commitment to a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo appears legitimate, his ability to contain extremist forces and prevent attacks on minorities and on his own supporters will likely remain limited.

Furthermore, the ultimate independence of Kosovo remains the stated goal of all Albanian parties in the province, including the LDK. Therefore, a number of observers have assumed that the current arrangement is merely a prelude to full independence, at an, as yet, undetermined date.

Under this scenario, the powers ceded by the United Nations to local elected authorities would gradually increase to eventually encompass foreign policy and border control, as well as domestic functions such as education and tax collection. When these authorities have matured to a point judged satisfactory by the international community, some type of referendum on independence would presumably be scheduled, and a timetable for establishing independence would be created. For most ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, such a process would be logical, desirable, and, hopefully, inevitable.

However, from the point of view of the international community, the further disintegration of Yugoslavia into smaller successor states would not enhance regional stability. The strong enunciation of this policy contributed in no small measure to restraining Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic's drive for Montenegro's independence and helped set the stage for the agreement earlier this year on restructuring relations between Serbia and Montenegro.

Proponents of independence for Kosovo need to consider what the long-term consequences would be of establishing yet another state in the region based on the national aspirations of one constituent ethnic group. Several disturbing questions arise. What would the effect of an independent Kosovo be on Montenegro? More critically, how could Bosnia survive as a unitary state if Kosovo gained independence? If Albanians in Kosovo were eventually permitted to hold a referendum on independence, what justification would there be to prevent Serbs and Croats in Bosnia from holding referendums as well?

The elected government in Kosovo has stated that it does not recognize the border demarcation agreement reached between Yugoslavia and Macedonia because of its impact on Kosovo's frontier. If Kosovo were no longer a province of Yugoslavia, what significance would its borders retain? What rationale would there be for forcing Mitrovica and other mostly non-Albanian areas to remain in an independent Kosovo? Wouldn't a majority vote in those areas to secede from Kosovo and rejoin Yugoslavia be equally legitimate? Would KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, have to fight the Mitrovica Serbs to keep them a part of this new country?

Assuming that these contradictions could be managed, which is a major assumption, the next issue would be the viability of an independent Kosovo. Given current resources, what would be the economic capability of such a state? Would it remain a ward of the international community in perpetuity?

What, realistically, would be the level of effective law enforcement in this nation? Over the past three years, Kosovo has come to pose a significant transnational crime threat, serving as a conduit for the trafficking of weapons, drugs, and thousands of women from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union who have been forced into prostitution. An elected Kosovar government, especially one headed by Rugova, would not likely support such activities, but probably could not prevent them.

Some optimists continue to hold out hope that an independent Kosovo will not be a de facto mono-ethnic state. When it became clear that Vojislav Kostunica had triumphed over Milosevic in the 2000 Yugoslav elections, a Kosovar Albanian man on the street, quoted widely in the international media, dismissed as irrelevant whether or not Kostunica was devoted to democracy and said that the Kosovars would not return to Yugoslavia even if the Serbs elected Vaclav Havel, the president of the Czech Republic, as their president. It was illuminating that he picked the most internationally respected statesman from a Slavic country as his random hypothetical democrat. This mindset calls into question the kind of future that Serbs would have in an independent Kosovo.

Perhaps the greatest irony of an independent Kosovo, given the support this goal enjoys among Albanians worldwide, would be its effect on Albania. That nation, by most estimates the poorest in Europe, is still struggling, with admirable success so far, to consolidate democracy in the wake of the 40-year rule of Enver Hoxha. Given the extensive clan ties between Kosovo and parts of northern Albania, the ability of armed and well-funded Kosovar factions to interfere in Albanian internal affairs -- unchecked by KFOR or Yugoslav authorities -- would be significant. Their activities would further destabilize the sensitive balance between the different regions and political parties of Albania. The impact of an independent Kosovo on Macedonia's stability would be even more disturbing to contemplate.

Having outlined the challenges that an independent Kosovo would pose for regional stability, it is appropriate to turn to the consequences it would have for U.S. foreign policy. One fundamental question has to be answered: Why did the U.S. go to war over Kosovo? As articulated in 1999, NATO's air campaign was undertaken for humanitarian reasons because the methods employed by Milosevic to fight the KLA insurgency were seen as unacceptable. The goal of halting the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanians was accomplished. Many lives were saved, and hundreds of thousands of refugees returned to their homes. The Milosevic regime has fallen from power, and its architect is at The Hague. Now what?

It is impossible to overemphasize how different the war over Kosovo, and especially the U.S. role in it, was from the other wars of secession in the Balkans. Slovenia and Croatia won their independence essentially on their own, though certainly the West turned a blind eye to embargo violations on behalf of Croatia and to atrocities committed by its troops. In Bosnia, limited NATO military action, with strong support for negotiations, hastened a settlement, but the Dayton accords essentially refined and ratified the military facts on the ground, thereby establishing the problematic dual entity that exists today.

Kosovo was another case entirely. While not ignoring the brutal tactics of the Yugoslav military and police, which could justify NATO military action at the time, the fact remains that they were unquestionably winning the war on the ground at the time NATO bombing commenced. It is highly unlikely that the KLA would have ultimately prevailed, and it might have been annihilated as a military force, if NATO had not intervened.

In June 1999, Yugoslavia withdrew its forces from Kosovo in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, which guaranteed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations in the region. The continued status of Kosovo as part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was clearly inherent in this provision. Had such language not been included, there is no doubt that the war would have been longer and bloodier, and NATO ground forces would probably have had to fight their way into Kosovo at a heavy cost.

If the international community ultimately decides to hold a referendum on independence for Kosovo, NATO will have "won"this war under entirely false pretenses, misleading not only Yugoslavia but the United Nations as well. If the United States had stated in 1999 that Kosovo's full independence was an objective, would Russia and China have agreed to Resolution 1244? Would France, Italy, or Washington's other NATO allies have agreed to go to war for that objective?
The creation of an independent Kosovo in this manner would produce a result that no amount of Wilsonian rhetoric about self-determination could disguise. If Kosovo becomes independent, NATO -- the U.S., really, when one considers the impetus for the military operation -- will have militarily intervened on behalf of an ethnic insurgency and detached, by force of arms, part of the territory of a sovereign nation with internationally recognized borders.

This is not a trivial point. If that line is crossed, the United States becomes essentially another 19th century European Great Power that is no different from the Hapsburgs, Ottomans, and Romanovs, making war in the Balkans at the behest of its favored ethnic client. One does not have to be an isolationist to ask whether this is what the Founding Fathers of the United States envisioned. Sponsoring and overseeing independence for Kosovo would be a radical departure for U.S. foreign policy. It would be a throwback to the worst days of gunboat diplomacy, similar to the United States' forcible separation of Panama from Colombia to facilitate the building of the Panama Canal.

How would the U.S. then handle the aspirations of the Palestinians or the Kurds in Turkey? Why not demand, and enforce with air strikes, an immediate ceasefire and eventual referendum on independence for southern Sudan? The crimes perpetrated by the Khartoum regime against its Christian and animist citizens for the past two decades consign Milosevic to the amateur league. What about Tibet, or Xinjiang? Does Washington continue to mix pseudo-realist tough talk about strategic interests in the Balkans with the language of altruism, depending on the mood of the day? Or does the U.S. simply tell hundreds of millions of Africans and Asians that it cannot allow Europeans to be treated as the Kosovars were?

There is no easy answer to the Kosovo problem that readily suggests itself to U.S. decision-makers. However, given the position of political, economic, and military dominance that the U.S. enjoys, it is expected to make the hard choices. There is really only one realistic, long-term solution in Kosovo. It will be challenging to implement and difficult for a number of people to swallow in both Kosovo and the United States. It is time to begin planning how to negotiate, oversee, and monitor the gradual return of Kosovo to some form of Yugoslav authority. Continuing to put off the decision indefinitely, leaving Kosovo in its quasi-sovereign limbo, serves no one's interests.

This will require creative thinking and a new approach to the concept of sovereignty with the involvement of the United Nations, European Union, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Yugoslavia, the Kosovar Serbs, and the Kosovar Albanians will all have to compromise. Yugoslavia will have to accept limits on its authority over the province and a high level of international oversight. Kosovar Albanians will have to realize that their dream of complete independence is not feasible.

The modalities for implementing this solution will be complex. Initial steps might include the introduction of ethnically mixed Yugoslav police into Kosovo, such as the units that patrol the neighboring Presevo Valley, to begin protecting Serbian religious and cultural sites, a duty that currently consumes an inordinate amount of KFOR's attention. At first, these officers could patrol jointly with the Kosovo Police Service (KPS), which the U.N. has created. Eventually, these joint patrols could provide a bridge for incorporating KPS personnel into Yugoslav law enforcement structures. Presumably, the deployment of the Yugoslav Army will be limited to a presence at Kosovo's borders, sufficient for interdicting weapons and armed groups attempting to cross to or from Albania and Macedonia. The eventual performance of these activities by Yugoslav personnel is specifically authorized by Resolution 1244.

If the reintegration of Kosovo is to work, KFOR should not withdraw overnight but should reduce troop levels gradually. Some long-term international troop presence will be necessary. A strong and visible U.S. military presence will be especially critical in reassuring ethnic Albanians of their security during the reintegration period. The continued presence of the world's most multi-ethnic military, one that is not tied to traditional alliances in the region, will create a powerful symbol for all ethnic groups. In some areas, joint KFOR-Yugoslav patrols, despite the inherent risks, will probably be needed to begin the transition to reintegration.

Under a reintegration arrangement, Yugoslavia will have to agree to a level of autonomy for the province that will at least be equal to that revoked by Milosevic in 1989. International advisors should work with representatives of all ethnic communities in Kosovo to adapt useful models to the province's specific needs, perhaps along the lines of Swiss cantons or certain regions within EU nations, such as Catalonia and Scotland.

Continued international economic assistance and infrastructure development will be essential. As in all areas of recent conflict, it is critical to give warring parties a stake in not disturbing the peace and in working together for the common good.

Some recent events suggest grounds for optimism. In April, Kosovar Serb political parties finally agreed to participate in the provincial government and to name an advisor on refugee returns to the U.N. administration. Yugoslavia also released Kosovar Albanian prisoners held since 1999, and the Yugoslav Minister of Justice published a list of over 20 war crimes suspects who will be sent to The Hague. In response, the former chief of the Yugoslav General Staff and others voluntarily surrendered to the war crimes tribunal, and more surrenders are expected.

The reintegration process will require years of hard work, but, if it is successful, it can serve as a model for solving future crises in other parts of the world. The international community cannot afford a future of endless fragmentation, in which insurgencies worldwide seek to provoke brutal responses from oppressive governments in order to induce the United States to intervene.

What I am proposing is not a return to the repression of the Milosevic years, but integration into a new Yugoslavia, based on a concept of nationhood that is appropriate to the 21st century. On March 24, 1999, the day NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia began, President Bill Clinton, in his address to the nation, stated: "By acting now, we are upholding our values, protecting our interests, and advancing the cause of peace."Let us now find the long-term solution in Kosovo that best accomplishes those worthy goals.

John Zavales served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 1991 to 2001, most recently in the Office of European Policy. During the Kosovo crisis, he was based in Albania as part of Operation Shining Hope, the relief operation in support of Kosovar refugees.