Monday, December 13, 2010

Wikileaks and Kosovo

Some journalists like Timothy Garton Ash say their opinion if the State Departmentment has gone up due to the Wikileaks cables. The opinion of others like Catriona Luke has gone down. I side with with the latter. What Ash sees as a high point in US diplomacy - a description of an extravagant Dagestani wedding - is for me the illustration of the problem. All humans have their quirks - and some third world leaders even more - but that doesn't mean that they don't have a serious side that is worth considering.

A good example where things went wrong is Georgia. And one of the causes was that the US relied almost exclusively on Georgian sources.

On Kosovo, the cable probably summarizes US Kosovo policy better than anything else: "Lack of activity or even access by Kosovo authorities in Northern Kosovo is a constant irritant for Kosovo's leaders and the country's majority Albanian population, and it represents for both the very real threat of the partition of Kosovo -- a reversal of ten years of USG policy and a grave threat to stability in Kosovo and the Western Balkan region.".

What we see here at work is similar to what we have seen elsewhere: the US has hooked up its fate with one side in an ethnic conflict and tries to placate that side. That side answers by upping the demands every time its present demands seem to be met. A good example is justice in Northern Kosovo. At the moment the Serbs seemed to consent we saw additional Albanian demands: asking that only Kosovo-Albanian law be applied and rejecting Serbian judges. In fact if you just want to restore the rule of law and address issues like theft and murder it doesn't make much difference which laws are applied.

There is no way that Kosovo's politicians ever will ever be satisfied until a full surrender and departure of Kosovo's minorities. Of course their mainstream politicians won't ask it the way Albin Kurti (who rejects the Ahtisaari Plan and minority rights) does. Instead they always will find just one more little demand that is justified with fashion words like "sovereignty". As long there is a good chance that the US will support a demand an Albanian politician risks being seen as non-patriotic if he doesn't ask for it.

The effect of this US policy is that nationalism stays at the heart of Kosovo's politics and more mundane subjects like corruption and economic policy stay a side show. This hurts Kosovo.

In Northern Kosovo there are hardly Albanians living. So the main motive to control it is blind land hunger. By supporting this - and even rejecting compromises like local autonomy - the US is not contributing to peace but actually stoking the nationalistic fires.

Now the arguments for this position: a partition of Kosovo would be "a reversal of ten years of USG policy". This is not a real argument. It looks like ambassador is presenting himself like a faithful apparatchik who sticks to a doctrine just because it is 10 years old and it might mean loss if face when given up.

Because that is not enough the ambassador continues with stating that partition would be "a grave threat to stability in Kosovo and the Western Balkan region". Here he sounds like a religious fanatic who claims that you will come in hell when you don't do what he does. He claims a doom scenario without any real argument. In fact there is no reason at all why the loss of the north would threaten the stability of Kosovo, let alone the Balkans.

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