Monday, September 26, 2011

A coward gets no respect

I am puzzled at Serbia's reaction to the situation in Northern Kosovo. The situation clearly asks for a repeating - again and again - of Serbia's position and arguments and of replying to any statement made by Western diplomats.

But Tadic seems strangely quiet. His behavior reminds me of that of that conference in Belgrade where the Russian ambassador asked whether there was any Serb in the room as no one seemed ready to take up the subject of what is happening to the Serbs in Kosovo now.

As I have stated before only a principled approach and a consistent to any undesirable statement of Western or Kosovar diplomats and leaders will gain the respect that will bring Western policy changes.

Sure, such a policy will initially evoke condemnation from Western actors. No one wants to change and it is only human to protest rather than change one's way of acting. That is psychology 101. It will take persistence - without allowing oneself to be provoked - to achieve results.

Of course Tadic shouldn't do it alone. Serbia's opposition is just as absent. Someone should remember Germany of its harmful role in the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. And someone should make it clear that the policy of Merkel and US ambassador Dell is one of ethnic cleansing. Traditionally this is the role of the opposition that less hampered by diplomatic niceties. Albin Kurti in Kosovo is a perfect example of how this is done.

Serbia has a tendency to take indefensible positions. Not paying for electricity, the petrol smuggling in the North and the cadastre problems were such positions. I believe that Serbia should get rid of such positions. They evoke unilateral reactions and are internationally hard to defend. But one can wonder whether negotiations are really the best way to achieve that. In some cases unilateral gestures - in consultation with the Western countries - might be a better solution.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kosovo and the German Constitution

As President Koehler experienced a year ago the German Constitution as explained by the German Federal Constitutional Court is against sending German soldiers on attack missions outside NATO territory.

A siege definitely is a form of attack and the behavior of the German Army in Northern Kosovo has a lot of a siege. So it would be interesting to see what would happen when someone went to this Court with a complaint over the behavior of the German Army in Kosovo.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Up to World War III?

The situation now is starting to look more and more like that on the eve of World War I. It is often thought that the rise of Germany was the main cause but I think the general climate in that period was more important. Geopolitical changes like the rise of Germany are happening all the time. What differs is how people deal with them.

Before World War I there had been a long relatively peaceful period and nobody expected anything serious. People were very nonchalant about war. There were even reports of people celebrating when their country declared war and the general expectations were that within a few weeks "our" troops would be home celebrating victory.

We see now increasingly the same thing happen. The speed within which the US undertakes new wars keeps increasing while its respect for international treaties and organs keeps diminishing. And the recent enthusiasm in Europe about the Libya war and Germany's behavior in Kosovo show an increasing war-loving Europe too.

In 1914 it went wrong when the adversary proved too strong and the diplomats were incapable of finding more peaceful solutions. Now the West may one day find itself facing China or Russia and have the choice between real war and compromise. It might well end up with real war.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Diplomatic "successes"

Western diplomats are still celebrating their success in bringing down Gaddafi. Never mind that it took 30,000 to 50,000 Libyan lives. Never mind that the fact that half of the dead are Gaddafi soldiers most probably means that at least a third of all the dead were killed by NATO. Never mind too that a negotiated solution was possible and that it would very probably bring in the long run more democracy, stability and prosperity. Our most evil politicians had another "bad guy" to pummel in order to increase their popularity at home and that was what counted.

Our diplomats in the Balkans aren't sitting still either. They just managed to solve the problem of Kosovo's custom stamps. Never mind that it was a non-issue as Kosovo has virtually no exports and saw the issue merely for its propaganda value. Never mind too that the "solution" brought increased ethnic tensions, replaced negotiations with establishing "facts on the ground" and the use of violence and led to rabid nationalism in Pristina. Never mind too that the issue could have been solved with a little Western pressure, some small inducements and some token Albanian concessions... We had to feed the blood hounds at home.

Now we are heading for the next showdown in Kosovo. At stake this time is Kosovo's "lawless North". As I have written previously I think it is in reality about the money that the Kosovo government is missing due to smuggling. Here too Kosovo's government has partly to blame itself and its uncompromising attitude. The West could adopt a minimalist attitude and refrain from going beyond the immediate problem in an evenhanded manner. But they there is a risk that they will attempt to bring Kosovo's North under Albanian rule. This might result in open ethnic conflict and large scale ethnic cleansing. But our diplomats are so used to blaming everything that goes wrong on their "pre-modern" victims that this seems to be less of a mental obstacle as it should be.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Serbian blindness

EUObserver reports some Serbian reactions to the custom stamp deal. According to the article:
For his part, Serbia's minister for Kosovo, Goran Bogdanovic, on Sunday told press that Kosovo customs officials will still not be allowed to man crossing points in northern Kosovo and that customs income based on the new stamps will not be allowed to go to Pristina.

Radenko Nedeljkovic, the head of Serb enclave's local authorities, put it more bluntly. "I am sure that there will be no Albanian customs officers at the Brnjak and Jarinje crossings. As far as the stamp is concerned, it can be used south of the Ibar River," he said, referring to the river that separates the enclave from Pristina-controlled Kosovo.

I don't understand the exact meaning of this. However, if it means that Serbia intends to keep allowing the smuggling like it always happened it is bound to fail. As I have written before I think Kosovo's budget deficit due to its quarrel with the IMF is one of the reasons for the present trouble. So Kosovo needs every cent it can lay its hand on and it has an urgent need to repair holes like the one in the Northern border. If Serbia wants to keep the initiative the best it can do is to dictate the new situation itself: it should collect customs at the border and send part of it to Pristina. But it could shape the situation by keeping some of the money for the North itself and for costs, not accepting Albanian custom officers, making a difference between the North and the rest of Kosovo, demanding "exit" stamps near the Ibar, etc. The alternative is to expect that Kosovo build border posts along the Ibar and I don't see that happen.

In the recent incidents there is a division of labor between the US and the EU. The US provides the ideas, while the EU takes care of the implementation. An important role is played by Robert Cooper - the EU "negotiator". In his articles and books Cooper has written that one should use "rougher methods" when dealing with "pre-modern" states: But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era - force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. Among ourselves, we keep the law but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle..

When one considers that this kind of interventionist ideas came into being as a consequence of the Balkan wars of the early 1990s there can be little doubt that he sees the countries there as "pre-modern". It is this kind of colonial thinking by the Badinter Commission that started the problems in Yugoslavia. I consider it very harmful as it dehumanizes those "primitive" people and justifies all kinds of outrages against them. This is how America's Indians got eradicated. In my opinion we should always look at what valid arguments people have - even if we consider them "pre-modern". In some cases like ethnic cleansing special targetted measures may be justified - but who dares to say after Hitler that only "pre-modern" politicians do such things?

The recent trouble started when Cooper got closer involved with Kosovo. I don't doubt that US ambassador Dell and others have formulated the goals. When Cooper was Blair's senior advisor on foreign policy he followed US policy too with his "poodle" politics: Cooper has more ideas about the means than about the ends. If he is now happy to implement US policy it is only a continuation from his previous behavior.