The U.N.'s Kosovo Exit Strategy
There isn't one.
12:00 AM, Apr 4, 2007 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Romania gained entry into Europe while Croatia, with no significant Jew-baiting party, remains excluded thanks to political blackmail by Serbia, which demands that before the Croats enter the European Union, they embrace the Serbs who launched a vicious war against them in 1991. Serb blackmail and Romanian mischief are visible elsewhere. The Belgrade regime agitates against any form of independence for Kosovo, while Romanian police serving with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) distinguished themselves by killing two participants in a demonstration in February held by a popular Kosovo Albanian national movement, known in Albanian as Vetëvendosje, or Self-Determination.
Eleven Romanian police officers have been repatriated to Bucharest, notwithstanding a request by UNMIK that they remain in Kosovo while an investigation of the two deaths is completed. The murder victims, Arben Xheladini, aged 35, and Mon Balaj, 30, were shot with rubber-coated bullets. In the same incident, 82 people were injured by Romanian gunfire, under color of U.N. authority. And Albin Kurti, the articulate leader of the Self-Determination movement, is now in prison, locked up in a windowless cell with no room to walk around and a half hour per day in the sunlight.
Bizarrely enough, March 24 marked the eighth anniversary of the NATO bombing of Serbia, which was intended to liberate the Kosovar Albanians from the cruelties of the Milosevic dictatorship. Yet almost a decade later, the territory still suffers constant power outages, unemployment over the 50 percent mark, and renewed efforts to return it to Serbian domination. The latest gambit in pursuit of the latter aim is something called "supervised independence," as recommended by Martti Ahtisaari, U.N. special envoy to Kosovo. Under the Ahtisaari plan, details of which are now public, Kosovo would be divided, with a major share of its territory set apart as Serbian enclaves under U.N. protection.
The Ahtisaari document is notable for the devious manner with which it presents the points at stake in Kosovo. It refers to the following as "practical issues" as if they were minor details that should be easily solved:
"Decentralization"--meaning handing back a third of the territory to Serbian control;
"Community rights"--that is, sheltering Serbs in their enclaves, ringed with NATO troops;
"Protection of cultural and religious heritage and economic matters"--discussed below.
These are not "practical issues." These are the matters that define essential realities in Kosovo. To treat them as trivial is worse than absurd.
In addition, the Ahtisaari memorandum refers to Albanian "violence perpetrated against [Serbs] in summer 1999 and in March 2004" as having "left a profound legacy." What about the "legacy" of the two years, in 1998-99, when Serbian terrorists murdered thousands of Albanian children and other civilians? What about the prior 86 years of Serbian oppression in the territory?
That this was not the outcome expected when NATO bombed Belgrade is an understatement. The new map of "independent" Kosovo would leave the main natural resources, including water, in Serbian hands, along with mines and other assets. In addition, the Ahtisaari setup would declare that Orthodox Christian monasteries built in Kosovo before conquest by the Turks in the 14th century--structures claimed by Albanian, Bulgarian, and other Orthodox communities that dominated the territory in the past, and handed over to the Serbs for tax-collection purposes by the Ottoman authorities--are Serb heritage sites. Thus, 5 percent of Kosovo's population at most, with a history of brutal mistreatment of the majority, would be rewarded for decades of terror culminating in the attempted genocide of 1998-99.
United States ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton commented on BBC television over the weekend of March 24 that "Iraq is Arabic for Yugoslavia." While ambassador Bolton clearly referred to the possibility that Iraq could fragment into Shia, Kurdish, and Arab Sunni mini-states, a much more appropriate parallel could be drawn between the Iraqi Sunni Arabs and the Serbs. In both cases, international diplomacy has assumed the posture that the former tormentors of a vast majority must be coddled in the name of human rights. Further, the application of such a policy in Kosovo reproduces the same immoral option imposed on Bosnia-Herzegovina, and indicates the fate that would await the Iraqis if the United States were, as some demand, to hand over Iraq to U.N. control.
The jailed Albin Kurti and the Self-Determination Movement have serious problems with the Ahtisaari "project." According to the critics, the Ahtisaari proposals would block privatization, as well as the restoration of bank accounts belonging to Kosovar Albanians and pension funds due them, which were seized by the Milosevic regime. The Ahtisaari script states with false innocence that UNMIK "has not been able to develop a viable economy" in Kosovo, as if this were accidental or, worse, the fault of the Albanians. But the refusal of UNMIK to attend to economic needs was and remains a deliberate policy, not an item in passing. In the vision of Ahtisaari, the United Nations would continue to operate the political administration, foreign troops would still keep a shaky peace, and the health and education systems, which have suffered extreme neglect in the past eight years, would further disintegrate.
Put plainly, there is no U.N. exit strategy for Kosovo. While the tragedy of a divided Bosnia-Herzegovina appears hopeless, and many Americans are convinced by a hostile American media establishment that Iraq gets worse daily, Kosovo offers an opportunity to make nation-building work. By contrast, the Ahtisaari scheme means the division of Kosovo and new conflicts in the Balkans.
The United States should say no to "supervised independence" in Kosovo and, instead, should support the aspirations of the Albanian majority which believed that America stood for democracy, entrepreneurship, and accountability when bombs began falling on Belgrade in 1999.
Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.