Saturday, March 01, 2008

Matters of strategy

Inside Kosovo
After Kosovo's declaration of independence Serbia has done its best to block its realisation. My preliminary estimate is that both sides have scored some points and the final situation is still undecided:
- Kosovo was recognized by the US and a couple of other countries and the Kosovo government has a solid control over the main part of their territory (thanks to KFOR). Belgrade lost also much international sympathy with the attacks on the embassies. And Serbia's government is divided.
- Serbia can count that most countries did not recognize Kosovo and that many never may do so. Also access to many international organisations may stay blocked. For the moment Kosovo's north tip is under Serb control and even the Serb enclaves south of the Ibar follow Belgrade's lead.
The big question is what will happen now. We will face an instable situation for quite some time and in that period anything can happen. It is also a war of nerves as any party that goes too far may loose support from the international public opinion. But unless the Albanians achieve some diplomatic breakthrough they are faced with a situation where they will have to negotiate again. And this time Serbia will have a better position as it should have had from the beginning according to international law. But it may take quite some time (I expect several years at least) before the Albanians and their international supporters realize the situation. It may also happen that the Albanians will not be very eager to solve the situation: an ongoing conflict keeps them in the news and that pays by bringing them more foreign aid.
In the north tip Serbia seems to be in control. But KFOR and UNMIK are still there too and Kosovo's government, the US and the EU are all opposed to partition and aim for "integration". I have never understood why people in this area should be forced to learn Albanian because of the whims of some international politicians. At some point the situation may stabilize in some informal truce (the Cyprus option), but for the moment the situation is still unstable.
Nicholas Burns found the guts to tell the world that the US is opposed to partition. He has shown in the Krajna what is his solution to Serb minorities. Nice to know that he will quit this month.
South of the Ibar Serbia couldn't achieve very much. The attacks by reservists on the border posts there went nowhere and they now seem to realize that they will have to accept those border posts as they are - with KPS personnel. The main other action has been the refusal of the Kosovo Serb police officers to accept commands from the Kosovo government. On itself I think that this action makes sense as the lack of control over their own security for the Serb enclaves is one the main problems of the Ahtisaari Plan. But for the rest I wonder whether the Serb government isn't creating more problems than it solves by isolating the Serb enclaves from their surroundings: the present deadlock may last for years. They might mitigate the effect by making a gesture towards the Albanians like introducing Albanian in the local school curriculums.
But the main question is of course how "independent" Kosovo really will be. Until now I haven't seen any great initiatives yet from Kosovo's government.

The Belgrade riots
The withdrawal of the police before the attacks on the embassies during the demonstration has raised suspicion that the attacks were planned. But it is not clear who is responsible. Most probably it was a rogue minister, but it might also be some high police officer and other politicians may also have been involved. We may never know it, but I think that in order to pacify the foreign indignation Serbia will have to sacrifice some scapegoat.
That would also pacify the local indignation. The police showed great imcompetence by not mobilising enough cops for such a large demonstration and by allowing not only attacks on the embassies but also the pilfering of a lot of shops and other vandalism.

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