Today Richard Holbrooke’s column in the Washington Post is dedicated to the Russian threats to derail Martti Ahtisaari’s proposed phased independence of Kosovo. Holbrooke makes a debatable argument that Russia’s support of the Serbs does not actually represent a “fraternal” Slav-Serb allegiance, but rather an opportunity to gain geopolitical leverage and reassert their authority on the world stage:
Yet instead of working to avert violence in Kosovo, Russia seems to be enjoying the opportunity to defy key Western countries, especially Germany and the United States. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her superb special envoy, Ambassador Frank Wisner, have told Moscow and Belgrade that the United States supports the Ahtisaari plan, but until President Bush weighs in strongly with Putin (as President Bill Clinton did a decade ago with Boris Yeltsin), there is a serious risk Moscow will not get the message. That message should be simple: If Russia blocks the Ahtisaari plan, the chaos that follows will be Moscow’s responsibility and will affect other aspects of Russia’s relationships with the West. … Now Kosovo is shaping up as the biggest international test yet of Vladimir Putin. If Moscow vetoes or delays the Ahtisaari plan, the Kosovar Albanians will declare independence unilaterally. Some countries, including the United States and many Muslim states, would probably recognize them, but most of the European Union would not. A major European crisis would be assured. Bloodshed would return to the Balkans. NATO, which is pledged to keep peace in Kosovo, could find itself back in battle in Europe.