Monday, December 10, 2007
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A slow motion explosion in the Balkans
CNN reports that all of the major players involved in Kosovo agree on one thing -- the status quo cannot hold:
Kosovo will press ahead with plans for independence, a spokesman for the region's Albanian leaders said Monday as negotiators were due to confirm that talks to settle the future status of the Serbian province had failed.The Economist also provides some useful background.
I will be pleasantly surprised if the next six months pass without any significant amount of bloodshed in the Balkans.
posted by Dan on 12.10.07 at 11:11 PM
"They even discussed an "agreement to disagree" solution, to no avail."
There is something sadly ironic about outside countries deciding whether Kosovo may become independent. And warning Kosovo not to take any independent action toward becoming independent. It is small wonder the militias are recruiting and stepping up their activities. Is that Abba I hear singing "Fernando" in the background?posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 12.10.07 at 11:11 PM [permalink]
No, I disagree, there is too much on stake for all parties. Violence will have severe economic and political repercussions for both sides, and this is what makes this situation quite different from the mid- to end nineties. Also there are still EU troops with a robust mandate stationed in the Kosovo that could prevent open violence.
I assume the Kosovo will declare independence in the near future, and Serbia will not be very pleased, but refrain from military action. In the end the prospect of international isolation (again) and the economic repercussions will stop those sentiments. This does not mean that there might not be some smaller outbreaks of ethnic violence, or car-bombs and the like. But I would not assume either side to back this. And I certainly don't think there will be a "significant amount of bloodshed" (although this is a question of defining signficance I guess).
Oh and let's hope that this is a realistic assessment!
Roland, thanks for a refreshingly reasonable comment. I wholly agree. The talk of something approaching armageddon is over-blown, I think, and Russia's threat to absorb South Ossetia and Abkhazia a bluff. If everyone proceeds as calmly as possible, listening to everyone else all the while, Kosovo can separate as did most of the rest of the former Yugoslavia.
Steve LeVine, author
Kosovo is not "like the rest of the former Yugoslavia." It is a province of Serbia, whereas the other post-Yugoslav states were separate republics. It also occupies a unique place in Serbian historical memory.
Nonetheless, I generally concur with the idea that the threat of a new all-out war in the Balkans is overblown. The Serbian government has few options: it can hardly engage in a renewed civil war against Kosovars, one which couldn't help but badly affect the civilian population, while seeking EU candidacy. It is precisely because the central government cannot offer a serious military response to the Kosovar Albanian separatists that talks have failed.
The question is whether the kinds of violence on the fringes of which Mr. Kappe speaks will be severe enough to provoke a spiral of killings that draws in the government.posted by: Charli Carpenter on 12.10.07 at 11:11 PM [permalink]
"I will be pleasantly surprised if the next six months pass without any significant amount of bloodshed in the Balkans."
I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised. But really, I don't think you should be surprised at all.
Think it through. The Albanians have no reason to be violent -- they're about to get most of what they want. While I wouldn't call the Albanians politically mature, they have learned the virtue of patience; they've waited for eight years now, they can wait a few more months. The only way they'll turn violent is if a significant stretch of time goes by with no progress towards independence. And that's not very likely.
The Serbs have no way to be violent -- there are almost no Albanians left in Serbia (barring a few semi-illegal workers doing scut work in Belgrade), and attacking Kosovo is right out.
Minor scuffles, sure. But large-scale violence with dozens dead and hundreds injured? Very unlikely.
N.B., I'm confident about this to make a side bet -- some nice Armenian cognac, say, against whatever tipple you drink over there.
posted by: Doug M. on 12.10.07 at 11:11 PM [permalink]
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