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  • A New Era of Turbulence in the Balkans?
  • Ted Galen Carpenter (bio)

In contrast to the 1990s, when turmoil from the breakup of Yugoslavia dominated the security agenda of the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, the early years of the twenty-first century have been relatively quiet. Washington has viewed the reduction in turbulence with a palpable sense of relief, because the United States has had far more pressing security matters on its agenda since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. The last thing US policy makers wanted to deal with, given the requirements of the struggle against radical Islamic terrorism and the debacle of the Iraq war, were additional security problems in the Balkans.

Unfortunately, there are signs that the recent period of quiescence in the Balkans is coming to an end. This unhappy development is largely the result of policies that the United States and its principal European allies have adopted. Several of those policies threaten to reignite Balkan controversies and usher in another era of turbulence. Four developments are especially worrisome: (1) Western support for Kosovo’s independence, (2) an attempt to modify the delicate Dayton peace accords with regard to Bosnia, (3) the growing reluctance to expand the European Union, and (4) the decision to offer membership in NATO to certain successor states of the former Yugoslavia.

Recognizing Kosovo

The most prominent development that could bring the period of relative stability to an end is the controversy surrounding Kosovo’s declaration of [End Page 6] independence. Pristina’s bid for independence should hardly have come as a surprise, since US and EU policy makers had repeatedly signaled their support for that outcome. Although the United Nations resolution authorizing international governance of the province following NATO’s air assault in 1999 ostensibly confirmed that Kosovo remained part of Serbia, only the most naive observers doubted that the province would ultimately be granted independence. That suspicion was strengthened in 2007 when UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari recommended “conditional” or “supervised” independence, disregarding Serbia’s offer to give Kosovo extensive autonomy within the Serbian state.1

Belgrade immediately cried foul, and for understandable reasons. Not only did the Ahtisaari plan envision the forcible dismemberment of a UN member state by international edict, it proposed the dismemberment of a democratic state. Russia strongly supported Serbia’s protests, threatening to veto a resolution on independence if it was put before the UN Security Council.2 The United States and the leading EU powers, in turn, threatened to bypass the Security Council and grant Kosovo independence without UN approval.3 That threat was reminiscent of NATO’s actions in 1999, when it became clear that Russia would veto a resolution authorizing the use of force against Serbia over the Kosovo issue. On that occasion, Washington and its allies did an end run around the Security Council and waged war on NATO’s supposed authority as a regional security organization.

This time, the EU became the designated proxy for the will of the “international community.” In February 2008, the Kosovo government acted on the West’s encouraging signals and declared independence. The United States, Britain, France, and Germany promptly extended diplomatic recognition to the new state and urged other countries to do the same.4 The Serbian government [End Page 7] reacted with anger, and placed most of the blame on Washington. In a speech to the nation, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica denounced US conduct.

The phony state of Kosovo has been declared on the part of Serbia’s territory that is under the military control of NATO. This unprecedented lawlessness is the result of a destructive, cruel, and immoral policy of force implemented by the United States. This act says to the whole world that America places force above the UN Charter and is ready to willingly, unscrupulously, and violently jeopardize international order for the sake of its own military interests.

Placing violence above the principles of international law, the United States used reckless force and humiliated and forced the EU to break the very principles that the EU is based on. America forced Europe to follow it in unprecedented violence demonstrated against Serbia. Europe has lowered its head...


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pp. 6-22
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2019
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