05.06.2019 Author: Henry Kamens

Very “Inconvenient and Ill-timed” Tensions in Kosovo


There is always a story behind a story, and in the case of the recent hostilities in Kosovo, a very inconvenient story. Timing is everything, and therefore the question that first comes to mind is: “why now?” However, this question alone is too mundane, and the reality is a bit more complicated.

Any intervention in its former territory on part of Serbia proper could result in a direct confrontation with NATO peacekeepers stationed in Kosovo. Both regions were once part of Yugoslavia, and since that country’s demise in the 1990s, various sub-entities have emerged—which is the root cause of the current situation.

We should not forget that Serbia gave birth to WWI, and the conditions imposed by France and the UK on defeated Germany laid the groundwork for Hitler and WW2. However, all that is history, and few people take history seriously anymore.

On July 28, 1914, one month to the day after Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were killed by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, effectively beginning the First World War.

But let us not forget that coincidences – like the recognition of Kosovo in 2008 coinciding with the Georgian-Russian war – are too convenient to be true. Things don’t transpire by happenstance.

In light of a recent incursion by heavily armed police in the northern region of Kosovo, a former Serbian province, we can conclude that perhaps this was done to further diminish the rights of the majority Serb-populated region. The several accompanying arrests, including those of foreign citizens as well as of members of the UN mission, over alleged smuggling operations, upwards of 25, could not have been more ill-timed.

It came as no surprise that in response Serbia ordered its security forces to be on full alert. The area where the arrests took place is legally part of Serbia, but in reality is a US and NATO backed fiefdom. A larger pattern is being revealed, and not only in Europe.

Let us not forget that many are regretting that international law was flaunted in this case, as it has led to predictions that Russia would use this situation to recognise the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and perhaps even Transdniestria, a breakaway part of Moldova.

Moreover, some experts argue that the creation of a Muslim state in the middle of Europe would strengthen the position of Muslim minorities and Islam in Europe, an should Saudi Arabia keep exporting Wahhabism it may eventually lead to the creation of a terrorist state in the heart of Europe.

Kosovo is often seen as an ethnic Albanian enclave, but the part where the conflict is taking place is populated mainly by Serbs. It should be mentioned that Serbs makeup 90 percent of Northern Kosovo, and want to be reintegrated with Serbia.

It takes little imagination to consider that nothing with high stakes consequences transpires without the nod of US and NATO officials, albeit they would never admit to it!

Even Russia and Serbia are blaming NATO for recent Kosovo tensions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the recent incident, which saw heavily armed Kosovo police carry out what they said was an anti-organised crime operation, was instigated by “those who want to create a buffer zone from Russia on the Balkans” and who “want to push everyone to NATO.”

Speaking to reporters in Slovenia, where he was on an official visit, Lavrov said the two bodies “hold sway” over the authorities in Kosovo.

Yes, it is clear that the “artificial state” created out of the wreckage of Serbia after NATO bombing became the symbol of the selective application of international law, and has since become a useful tool for outside meddling. The consequences of its political creation have been felt in faraway places such as Georgia, in disputes over the recognition of the defecting regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

But who is trying to provoke whom here? And does this have anything to do with sending a message to Russia over Ukraine, or its position on Iran and Syria?

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo of “lying” when they said they had informed Belgrade in advance of the police action. He then criticised them for insisting that Tuesday’s raid in the north was a regular police operation.

He also claims that since the creation of the state was first mooted the Albanians and their sponsors “didn’t want to compromise” over Kosovo over any point. Today it is absolutely clear that behind everything they (Albanians) have done are the United States and UK, and regarding the Kosovo army Germany too. He added, “the Serbs are disappointed by the very fact that nothing is new for us.”

Two views need not equal one problem

Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after NATO air strikes had wrested control of the territory from Belgrade and thwarted efforts by Serbian forces to maintain its territorial integrity. The history of this standoff goes deep, and is seemingly never-ending. Attempts by the central government to impose more control in the Serb-dominated north are usually met with resistance from Serbs. Mitrovica, the main town in the north, has been effectively divided into an ethnic Albanian part and a Serb-held part.

But Serbia, which under its constitution still considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory, has been blocking Kosovo from membership of international institutions. It also still provides financial aid to Serbs in Kosovo, and looks to the day when its territorial integrity can be restored, much the same as does Georgia and other countries divided up by outside powers.

Naturally, both sides are claiming the police action had other motives. Kosovo claims it was cracking down on organised crime in Northern Kosovo. But for Serbia and local Serbs in the contested region, the arrests were perceived as a ploy to intimidate the Serb minority in Kosovo as a whole. Since the former Serbian province declared independence in 1990 the conflict between it and the central government in Belgrade has caused more than 13,000 deaths, few of which were linked with criminality as you or I would understand the term.

It is widely known that these semi-states are often based on organised crime and “networks of patronage,” however; such inherent problems should be addressed at their core, not used to score political mileage. Part of the problem is that Kosovo has imposed a 100 percent tariff on goods coming from Serbia, which is making smuggling not only profitable but economically necessary for many.

But the war of words continues, according to Radio Liberty, not only over the recent arrests but also the fact that Kosovo’s government says it is banning Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic from entering the country after recent comments which Pristina took as being “racist.”

On May 30 Kosovo Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli accused the Serbian head of government of “disgusting and unacceptable” comments during a news conference a day earlier. Brnabic had referred to Kosovo’s leaders as people who “literally came out of the woods.” Leaders of many independence movements would take such a designation as a compliment, a testament to their status as outlaw freedom fighters or peasants, much like the designation “Jailed by the British”. Apparently Kosovo cannot bear to be seen as the sort of rogue state it was created to be by those who proudly sponsored the people in the woods.

Some pundits would go as far as to claim “that everything in Kosovo is illegal, from the recognition of its independence to its outright criminal underworld, and being an illegitimate and illegally formed puppet state for the West.”

Kosovo Case – An Unfortunate Precedent

Regardless of NATO realities on the ground regarding the manipulation of recognition by nearly 100 countries, the exceptions being Russia and few others, Serbs maintain Kosovo as the heart of their nation, culture, and Orthodox Christian faith.

This is why Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has said that he both wants to “preserve peace and stability,” and also that Serbia “will be fully ready to protect its people at the shortest notice.” He is also quoted as saying, “If there is any serious threat to the order and life of people in the north of Kosovo…we will protect our people.” Serbia’s official news agency, Tanjug, later reported that a column of Serbian Army vehicles packed with troops was heading toward Kosovo.

As ever, few want to revisit the fact that Kosovo became a state on the authority of the vote of a parliament controlled and paid off by the West, not a popular vote. Just like in Crimea, whose US-funded representatives insist it will remain part of Ukraine, and have ignored a referendum in which the people themselves voted to rejoin Russia.

One only has to read up on the “Kosovo precedent,” as described in Flagship US publications such as the Washington Post, ones of US policy weathervanes. This newspaper has describedstated over many years that any attempts by Russia to use Kosovo to justify Russia’s actions in Crimea are an unusually blatant exercise in false moral equivalency. However, it fails to state that there is but one international law, and it cannot be applied to different standards.

All the while, the EU is raising the stakes for Serbia, making its EU candidate status, dating back to 2012, contingent on giving up its claims to restore its territorial integrity. That is unacceptable to any high-level Serbian official, or one wanting to get elected. They would be considered to be turning their backs on Serbia’s history and people, as being turncoat traitors.

Aleksandar Vucic did recently tell his parliament that Serbia must accept that it has lost Kosovo, but that is merely a piece of lip service for the international community. He knows that parliament cannot back down on its already stated position, as such a reversal would be unconstitutional, and no one wants to go to jail for trying to abandon Kosovo.

It should be mentioned that Kosovo has never been a colony, nor a conquered country. It was indeed the territory where Serbian statehood came into existence and developed, and which was then lost to what was originally an Albanian minority.

Recent events may have been a selective crackdown on crime, or another provocation, or something more far-reaching and sinister, part of a larger game of geopolitical chess.

But when it comes to what is legal or not, “precedent is always in the eye of the beholder.” The Americans say that Kosovo is not a precedent, that it is a one-off exception to the rules of international law. But if it is a law there are no exceptions. I can’t murder my neighbour on the grounds that, in my opinion, someone else did this and got away with it.

You be the judge!

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.