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Mistaken Assumptions about Russia and Kosovo

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A Serbian veteran from the Balkan wars of the 1990s rests during a protest in central Belgrade October 9, 2007. (Photo: Reuters)

Janusz Bugajski (a great academic who has been featured on this blog here and here) and Edward Joseph have a column in today’s Washington Post entitled “Seize the Opportunity with Russia on Kosovo.” Excerpt:

Three key errors by the Administration have permitted Kosovo to fester to Russia’s advantage. First, Washington failed to see how Russian objectives were evolving under Putin. Like many allies in Europe, Washington believed Moscow would bark its objections over plans to grant Kosovo independence, but incorrectly assumed that Russia, as in years past, would eventually fall into line with a few face-saving concessions. Second, the White House repeated the core mistake of the early 1990s, when the Yugoslav crisis threatened to tear apart trans-Atlantic relations. It allowed disputes in Europe to postpone concerted action. Instead of seizing on a broad consensus among the major powers that the status quo in Kosovo had to change, and move swiftly toward supervised independence on the basis of the UN plan, persistent delays have actually deepened Europe’s divisions. Each postponement signaled to Belgrade and to Moscow that the West lacked resolve, and this has enhanced Russia’s assertiveness. As a result, the inevitable reckoning over Kosovo has become even more complex and conflictive. Third, the Administration continues to participate in utterly fruitless diplomacy. As is clear to all informed observers, there is zero possibility of a negotiated solution between Kosovo’s independence-demanding Albanians (who comprise over 90 percent of the population) and Serbia (which continues to claim a territory over which it lost control eight years ago following a NATO intervention provoked by the mass expulsion of Albanians.) Another “deadline” looms, but it is likely that Russia will demand yet another extension for more “negotiations.”