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Does this now mean that the minority Serbians and Romanis in Kosovo are in turn entitled to break free? Where does history begin and where does the process end?

Kosovo UDI Problematic

NATO, midwife to Kosovo’s UDI, seems determined to start a new cold war by insisting on spreading eastwards and setting up new missile defence rings

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald/Tribune, 4 March, 2008

Kosovo’s break away from Serbia and its unilateral declaration of independence with US and partial EU backing does not augur well for the ordering of international relations. It is no wonder that at least 18 countries, including Serbia, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Romania, Russia and China (the last two with veto powers to preclude UN Security Council approval) have denounced the move. India too has expressed its unhappiness.

Kosovo’s independence has been fostered and asserted under NATO/US patronage in the face of solemn guarantees given to the contrary to the UN in 2000 when a short lived Republic of Kosovo was dissolved and the region placed under a UN Interim Administration as an autonomous part of Serbia. Slobodan Milosovic, the Serbian leader, was persuaded by Russia to withdraw its troops from Kosovo on the basis of this assurance from which the US and NATO have reneged. In the interim period the Kosovo Liberation Army was enabled to run riot, resulting in ethnic cleansing of Serbian Orthodox Christians by Kosovar-Albanian Muslims to prepare the ground for UDI by an allegedly secular Kosovar Republic. Kosovo, though always a Muslim majority area, represents the heartland of the Serbian Orthodox Church with which Russia has traditionally had strong cultural ties.  

What UDI implies is a radical break from the established world order based on the integrity and inviolability of state frontiers that was the basis of the Final Helsinki Declaration between the Western Alliance and the Soviet Union in December 1975. This spelt out an agreed framework for guiding international relations. This was breached with NATO’s unilateral bombing Yugoslavia in 1999, an action that like the invasion of Iraq was undertaken bypassing the UN and on the flimsiest of grounds that either then or ex post facto failed to stand up to scrutiny. This leaves the world with two principles of realpolitik, namely, might is right and victor’s justice.

Kosovo is a small mountainous territory the size of Haryana but with a population of no more than 2.2 million of which over 90 per cent is ethnically Albanian Muslim. Does this now mean that the minority Serbians and Romanis in Kosovo are in turn entitled to break free? Where does history begin and where does the process end? Kosovo’s UDI follows the mischievous logic of an inevitable or even desirable clash of civilizations in a globalising world where multiculturalism exists, not merely in ancient civilisations as in Asia, but also in Africa and, now, increasingly in Europe and North America. Britain and France have yet to come to terms with the turban and head scarf while various ethnic communities like the Basques in Spain and France and minorities in Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and so many other countries around the world are attempting and being encouraged to assert their independence.

During the phase of Western decolonization, the UN held fast to the doctrine that self-determination was a principle that may be asserted against colonial powers but must not be used as a tool to dismember sovereign states. This notion has by and large been upheld, but Kosovo marks a glaring exception. There is also some danger of the new UDI by force majeure finding justification in terms of the new principle of humanitarian intervention by the international community through the UN should national governments fail to protect their own populations from “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. This emerging doctrine of the “right to protect” or R2P has a veneer of justification but also carries with it the grave danger of misuse by interested parties to stir trouble within rival or target nations in order to set up an arguable pretext for “humanitarian intervention”.  Kosovo offers an example.

The hypocrisy and humbug underlying some of these holier than thou declarations is manifest in the fact that at the very moment of Kosovo’s UDI coincided with  the US and NATO’s endorsement of Turkey’s invasion of Northern Iraq ostensibly to curb Kurdish PKK guerillas. The Kurds number 30 million and are distributed over Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Azerbaijan. But the great powers that punished Saddam Hussein for gassing the Kurds - with their assistance and blessings at the time - have otherwise, as now, upheld the crushing of Kurdish nationalism. In the so-called British Indian Ocean Territories, Diego Garcia remains a US strategic base after its entire population of some 5000 souls was deported en masse decades back and is even today denied the right to return home despite the highest court in the UK ruling that they should be permitted to do so. This is genocide and a crime against humanity as is the “collateral damage” that continues to be done in the name of all that is good and virtuous in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

NATO, midwife to Kosovo’s UDI, seems determined to start a new cold war by insisting on spreading eastwards and setting up new missile defence rings against legitimate Russian protests that it is being militarily targeted. There is something very wrong and dangerous afoot and it is going to take more than the US presidential election to set things right. 

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