Dangerous precedent of modern history: Kosovo is a project forever stuck in the 90s


The offender always returns to the crime scene to make sure that it took place - so it is considered in forensic science. Looking at the events of the middle of the outgoing week, it seems that the famous phrase needs to be clarified. My diverse reader experience — from the psychological realism of Dostoevsky to detectives from the station kiosks — makes it clear that this thesis is relevant for cases when it comes to a major crime, when a criminal is tormented by the question of the consequences of his actions ...

Last Wednesday it was interesting to observe the events in Kosovo. This Balkan territory has attracted the attention of non-military news stories. Pristina received guests from the United States in the person of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Both of these politicians, along with several other leaders of the leading NATO countries of the late 20th century, are very popular in the partially recognized republic of Kosovo because of their role in the struggle for its independence from Serbia.

The guests were greeted explosively. The speeches and social networks of Kosovo politicians were full of words of joy and compliments. Bill Clinton received the Order of Freedom from the hands of Hashim Thaci, the former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and now the President of the Republic. In honor of Madeleine Albright, her bust was opened in the center of Pristina, on the boulevard named after her. Bill Clinton Boulevard and its monument in the capital are also available.

Celebrations were timed to the anniversary - the 20th anniversary of the presence of the NATO peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo (KFOR mission). Alliance servicemen, mainly Americans, have been in the disputed territory since June 11, 1999, after the signing of the Kumanovo agreement between NATO and the authorities of the then Yugoslavia. The main provisions of that document was the withdrawal from the province of the Yugoslav army and the arrival of NATO peacekeepers.

And if a joyful holiday for Kosovars is understandable and explicable - the end of the war was the first step on the way to proclaiming independence - then the optimistic speeches of American ex-politicians still seem to be a pretense. As if Clinton and Albright, speaking from the Pristina tribunes of freedom and prosperity, convince themselves that their actions in the Balkan sector 20 years ago were correct.

You do not need to be a military specialist to understand: 20 years for a peacekeeping mission is a lot. This is a whole generation. And the need to extend the mandate for such a period means only that the situation in the protected area is still far from being resolved. In a comment from The Guardian, a high-ranking European politician who wished to remain anonymous, said that through Kosovo, NATO justifies failed operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Allegedly, this territory can be a demonstration of the positive contribution of the Alliance, and therefore the mission is not curtailed. At the same time, servicemen are engaged in tasks that are not quite normal for their mission, for example, they measure the air temperature in Pristina. Obviously, it is no longer about maintaining peace in the Balkans. And, it is important to note, not about the fulfillment of international obligations. UN Resolution 1244 (on the post-war structure of Yugoslavia) does not mention NATO: the document indicates the deployment of UN peacekeeping missions and “international organizations”.

Bill Clinton pleased the Kosovo public with many vivid remarks, among which were words about the alleged unity in the United States on the independence of Pristina. But his words are refuted by a very recent interview with the former American ambassador to Serbia, William Montgomery, who clearly states that Kosovo along with Bosnia and Herzegovina were mistakenly represented in the US for many years as successful projects. According to him, many in American politics still look at the Balkans through the prism of the nineties, but in the presidential administration at the highest position there are people who advocate a compromise that satisfies both sides of the dispute. “Twenty years after the bombing of Yugoslavia, we are still far from a solution,” the diplomat stressed.

There is no need to talk about "unity" in Kosovo in NATO. There are members of the Alliance, for example, Spain and Greece, who do not recognize its independence. Spain even boycotted last year's EU summit in Sofia due to the fact that Pristina representatives were invited there. A reserved approach to the Balkans was even 20 years ago. After all, the ground military operation in Serbia in 1999 did not start partly because none of the leaders of the Alliance wanted to be at the forefront of such an adventure. Resolution 1244, mentioned above, is also, in fact, a good diplomatic victory for Yugoslavia and Russia, which has stood up for it.

The current situation in Kosovo is ideally characterized by the concept of “smoldering conflict”. There has long been no permanent military action, but occasional outbreaks of violence require intervention - both military and political. And according to Kosovo legislation, the KFOR commander also has high political power in Pristina. The highlight of the mission was, of course, a pogrom in March 2014, when Albanian radicals burned several dozen Serbian churches, several hundred houses of Serbian families, thousands of Serbs were expelled from the province in a few days. The international peacekeepers did not stop these monstrous crimes, but, according to the testimony of the Serbian priests, they simply watched what was happening. There is no need to talk about work adjustments. In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, and this was the first such precedent in recent history. It demonstrates that in all international law it is not defined what is more important: the right to self-determination or the inviolability of the borders of a sovereign state. Returning to the situation on the ground, it is enough to recall the most recent incident in the north of Kosovo, when special units of the local police detained two dozen people, mostly Serbs, as a result of the operation, and beat the employee of the UN peacekeeping mission. KFOR officially gave the “green light” to conduct this action, as well as to many previous provocative operations using special forces in the north Serbs-populated areas: any such penetration causes a justifiably painful reaction in Belgrade. In short, the successes in resolving the situation at the NATO site are also not worth talking about.

Negotiations on a settlement between Belgrade and Pristina are currently withdrawn from the UN level and are being conducted on the platform of the European Union. This opened the way for the Brussels Agreement in 2013, and, as a result, led to more active Kosovo Albanians who are demanding recognition of independence from Belgrade. The same goal is served by provocations such as arrests and violence in the north: to trigger the reaction of Belgrade, in order to accuse it of violating peace and unwillingness to negotiate. Supporting such activities can be very dangerous for NATO and other peacekeeping missions, and not just with accusations of bias. The Balkans and purely geographically are an important point of European stability, which is particularly noticeable with the onset of the migration crisis.

Returning to the opening theses: I do not know how else to call the bombing of peaceful Belgrade, pogroms of churches, violence against residents and a representative of the UN mission, if not a crime. The 20-year-old presence of the NATO mission in Kosovo, as well as the promising speeches of American politicians of the past era, are insignificantly weakly argued, especially if they encourage Kosovo Albanians for new operations and provocations.

Le Club est l'espace de libre expression des abonnés de Mediapart. Ses contenus n'engagent pas la rédaction.