First USA Wobbles Over Kosovo

The Associated Press 12th March reports a debate in the US Congress, in which Republican senators openly express fear that the Kosovo secession will threaten Balkan stability. A State Department official repeats the US Government and EU line that Kosovo does not set a precedent and that secession should not generally be encouraged, but that the circumstances of Kosovo are exceptional.

The report confirms the leaked story from Croatian News two days ago that a Balkan Army is being contemplated within NATO, but one that will exclude Serbia. It seems the height of folly to be pressing ahead with plans that have already brought threats of military consequences from Russia. It’s as if the US has learned nothing from Iraq, where it is now allied with the Sunnis, the very people the US went into Iraq to overthrow. What’s the betting that the US will ultimately find itself in alliance with Serbia and Russia after a nasty period of hostilities, in similar fashion to Iraq?

The Report

WASHINGTON – Challenged by Congress, a State Department official said Wednesday that U.S. support for Kosovo’s independence was an exception to the general rule of discouraging secession.

“Kosovo in our view does not constitute a precedent,” Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The United States was among the first countries to recognize Kosovo after its Feb. 17 declaration of independence from Serbia.

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, questioned the Bush administration’s authority to choose whether or not a group is entitled to a country of its own. Fried, defending the decision, acknowledged that “supporting separatism is generally not a good idea. This is very much an exception.”

Siding with Poe, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said U.S. recognition of Kosovo “will lead to further conflict down the road” and “more heartbreak.”

But the committee chairman, Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., complimented President Bush for helping to launch the new country. “I believe this step will shore up the security and stability of the Balkans.”

The administration’s position also won the backing of Rep. Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., who said there were no good alternatives, including maintaining Serbia’s control of its former territory. Neither U.N. nor Serbian control was a workable alternative, he said.

Fried agreed, saying Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999 and the question now is whether Belgrade casts its lot with Europe or pursues self-isolation.

“Our efforts in the Balkans are based on one overarching objective: the integration of the region into Euro-Atlantic institutions,” he said.

“Many things can go wrong and some things probably will,” he added. “But leaving Kosovo in limbo under U.N. administration could not continue indefinitely.”

Fried said the United States would participate in a European Union mission to promote the rule of law in Kosovo. He said the administration is committed to providing about 80 police, two judges and four to six prosecutors to an overall international staff of 1,900. The EU will bear the brunt of the mission’s cost, he said.

The independence has stirred anger in Serbia. But Fried said he met with Kosovo Serbs on a trip last Friday and they told him they reject any violence.

Also at the hearing, Fried said “there is a developing consensus” in support of NATO membership for Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. The military alliance is expected to take up the matter at a summit next month in Bucharest, Romania.

The lesson of all interventions in situations of regional conflict must surely be ‘don’t take sides’ – or at least not based on assessments of relative perceived moral virtue. Saddam Hussein might have been a big bastard, but he held down a lot of trouble from many other parties in the region.

The Serbs too have form in the war stakes, but they are more likely to be useful long term allies than the Albanians. The US is not acting from self interest, but from a concept of moral idealism which just doesn’t work in the real world. Working out which side is right and which side is wrong in a context of ancient hatred is impossible anyway. Hopefully whoever replaces Bush will have some concept of America’s self interest. The world will be a much safer place if it does.

Bush is increasingly perceived as an aggressor. He just gets it wrong in series. Hopefully the rumours of a US Iranian invasion caused by the premature resignation of Admiral William Fallon (Pictured), the US’ top military commander in the Middle East, are misplaced. All we need right now is another pointless intervention, merely helping the terrorists. Nor should the threat from Albanian Jihadists be overlooked.

The Tap Blog is a collective of like-minded researchers and writers who’ve joined forces to distribute information and voice opinions avoided by the world’s media.

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