Yesterday, the Washington Times (yes, the Moonie cult founded newspaper) ran an absurd editorial by Jeffrey T. Kuhner defending Croatian military leader Ante Gotovina, and decrying the ICTY for its prosecution of him. Kuhner seems to be of the belief that Croatia was a victim of Serb nationalism, that Slobodan Milosevic would have destroyed said country if left unchecked, and that the only individuals who deserve punishment for the events of the Wars of Yugoslav Secession are Serbs. His view doesn’t much differ from that of the average American, who being fed a steady 90′s diet of CNN and the New York Times, sees the Serbs as the bloodthirsty butchers of Europe, heir to the legacy of brutality once associated with Adolph Hitler. But, such a belief has little basis in the facts.
To properly understand the events of the Wars of Yugoslav Secession, we must understand Yugoslav history, which begins with the defeat of the Central Powers during WWI. In the post-war settlement, the Western allies sought to create a number of independent states in East-Central Europe that would be powerful enough to prevent the resurgence of Germany and Austria, and counterbalance the dominance of the USSR, while still weak and conflict-ridden enough that international intervention by way of the League of Nations would be necessary. To that end, the nations created were not borne out of plebiscites, despite the grandiose rhetoric championing self-determination and democratic governance. Rather, states were shaped to ensure conflict.
As the enlarged version of the above map should make clear, the borders drawn were bound to cause problems. For example, Danzig was left to the Germans, but was geographically isolated from the rest of said country, as all the intermediate territory was awarded to Poland. Similarly, a large portion of Silesia was awarded to the Czechs, much to the dismay of both the Germans and the Poles. Perhaps most famously, the Sudatenland went to Czechoslovakia, which was appropriate, since Germans made up less than 25% of the population, but which all the same enraged Germany. Territorial disputes aside, the new map of Europe broke up empires, and restored historic states such as Poland, which had died out in 1795 when Russia, Austria, and Germany (then still known as Prussia) partitioned it.
Yugoslavia however, was unique. Never before had a Yugoslav state existed. As I’ve written about before, there is a well-established history of a Serb state, which included Kosovo, Montengro, Bosnia, and much of Macedonia. It even included portions of Croatia. However, the historic record is not replete with evidence of Serb rule over the collective Croat community, whose independence before World War II is a contested historical matter. And it certainly never included Slovenia. As historian Joseph Rothschild notes quite clearly in East Central Europe Between the Two World Wars, the Serbs wanted their monarchy to cover historic territory, and had no interest in being co-nationals with the Croats and Slovenes. Likewise, because the monarchy of Yugoslavia would be Serbian, neither the Croats or the Slovenes cared for such an arrangement. Lacking any sense of national unity, the country quickly fell apart when faced with a second world war.
For its part, following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, the Croats jumped at the prospect of an alliance with Hitler, whilst their Serb brethren mounted two major resistance movements (the Partisans and the Chetniks). As soon as the invasion was complete, they installed Ante Pavelic, who had been under the protection of Mussolini following the French indictment against him for the double assassination of Yugoslavian King Alexander I and French foreign minister Louis Barthou, as dictator. As Avro Manhattan noted in his groundbreaking word The Vatican’s Holocaust:
The Nazis had records of massacres of their own second to none. Yet the horrors committed by Pavelic’s Ustashi troops proved to be of such bestiality as to shock even them: a most crushing evidence that the Ustashi massacres had surpassed anything experienced even by the Germany of Hitler. The magnitude of the butchery can best be gauged by the fact that within the first three months, from April to June, 1941, 120,000 people perished thus. Proportionately to its duration and the smallness of the territory, it had been the greatest massacre to take place anywhere in the West prior to, during, or after that greatest of cataclysms, the Second World War.
Pg 54 (1986, Ozark Books)
As the previously linked Jerusalem Post article makes clear, this brutality was not the mere result of cold, machine-like efficiency, but driven by demented competition:
On August 29, 1942, a friar from the monastery of Siroki Brijeg, named Petar Brzica, won first place for killing the most Serbs in the shortest time, boasting 1,350 throats slit in one night.
The Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) have almost as revolting a track record, but I shall avoid extensive discussion of the matter, as it is somewhat tangential to the subject at hand. What I hope the above illustrates is that the first Yugoslav confederation, known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, was doomed to fail, because it grouped enemy peoples under one government, who were happy to fracture as soon as the opportunity presented itself, with catastrophic results thereafter.
After World War II, the Western allies once again re-built Yugoslavia, this time replacing a Serb-led monarchy with a Communist dictatorship. Leading this unfortunate entity was Josip Broz Tito, a Croat by birth who led the Yugoslav Partisans (which was, in the early days, was largely comprised of Serbs from Montengro and Bosnia). It was his wartime actions which left him in power for decades thereafter. But, it is vital to note, that the only reason the Partisans became the dominant force is because Churchill betrayed the Chetniks, seemingly due to faulty intelligence passed on by highly-placed Soviet moles. A regime under his command was commensurate with the Yalta “percentages agreement” reached between Churchill and Stalin to divide influence in the new Yugoslav state evenly, as Tito was a communist, but not loyal to Stalin.
Of course, World War II hadn’t changed anything, except that now the hostility between Serbs and Croats was greater than ever, and the government had replaced monarchy with communism. With the death of Yugoslavia’s master manipulator, who routinely re-wrote the national constitution and shifted the internal borders to dilute the influence of Serbs displeased with his leadership (and in so doing empowering many of the groups who would agitate for war soon thereafter) it was all but assured that the state would fail not long after his death.
It is here where we can begin to discuss Milosevic, and the allegations of Serb brutality during the Wars of Yugoslav Secession. Kuhner echoes the dominant Silber and Little thesis, made famous in the undeservedly popular Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, which portrays the collapse as a necessary and blameless reaction by non-Serbs to extreme Serb nationalism as anchored by Slobodan Milosevic. To dispel such nonsense, we must look at Milosevic’s rhetoric, rise to power, and actions once in power.
Milosevic first became a recognizable figure within the Serb community on April 24, 1987, when he spoke before a crowd of 15,000 Serbs in Kosovo Polje. Tensions were high, as the continued influx of Albanian immigrants under Titoist policy had given the group a super-majority, which threatened the political and safety rights of the ever-dwindling Serbian minority population, already subject to mass violence. Accordingly, the Serbs in Kosovo clamored for intervention by the Federal government on their behalf, which had not yet happened. As an empty gesture designed more to pacify the crowd of angry Serbs than to facilitate a redress of grievances or study the situation to determine an appropriate course of action, Milosevic had been “dispatched from Belgrade (as documented by Louis Sell in “Slobodan Milosevic: A Political Biography,” which ran in Problems of Post-Communism 46.6 Nov/Dec 1999).” This is particularly important to understand as it makes clear Milosevic went to Polje not with an agenda that would end with his seizure of power, but because his superiors ordered he go there and give a party-approved speech devoid of any proposals for a change in policy that would give Serbs equal protection in Kosovo. In other words, he was sent in as a pawn with no nationalist aims.
His statements acknowledged the importance of Kosovo, though not in radically nationalist terms. Speaking of the situation, Milosevic described it as “the weightiest problem during a difficult economic crisis, when standards have fallen drastically, when prices have climbed, when there are more unemployed,” thereby attempting to frame his case in the prism of communism that so defined his policy. In the speech, he specifically cautioned against degenerating into nationalist conflict, saying “I believe that those who carry the spirit of brotherhood and unity, equal rights and progressiveness can be and must be the only working class of Kosovo, because those that are unified have identical interests, and the least reason to divide into nationalism.” Only through willful misinterpretation of his words can sentiments of Serb nationalism be found in his words. Lines such as “It was never in the spirit of the Serbian and Montenegrin nation to bow before adversity, to demobilize when they need to fight, to demoralize when times are tough. You need to stay here because of your forefathers and because of your descendants. You would shame your forefathers and disappoint your descendants,” must be understood in context. He was not concerned so much with asserting Serb control over Kosovo as he was interested in ensuring that Serbs and Montenegrins not be “pressured by crime and humiliation” to give up their land, and that Kosovo have a sufficient ethnic balance that the Albanians could not achieve their secessionist aims. This is particularly well evidenced by his concluding statement that “Yugoslavia would disintegrate without Kosovo! Yugoslavia and Serbia will never give up Kosovo!” The mention of Serbia is expected because Kosovo, though largely autonomous, was (and technically speaking still is) a province of Serbia. But that is of relatively little consequence, for he focuses chiefly on Yugoslav unity, speaking to the need for action in Kosovo based on its integral role in preserving Yugoslavia.
Many cite his 1989 speech marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo as evidence of his nationalist vision for Serbia. Indeed, his rhetoric was more firebrand than before, and one so motivated could pick out individual statements that seem somewhat damning. Yet the overall tone is again moderate. “Yugoslavia is a multinational community and it can survive only under the conditions of full equality for all nations that live in it,” he said. And even when speaking of Serbia itself, Milosevic noted that “Serbia has never had only Serbs living in it. Today, more than in the past, members of other peoples and nationalities also live in it. This is not a disadvantage for Serbia. I am truly convinced that it is its advantage.”
Certainly, this does not sound like the rhetoric of an ardent Serb nationalist. Compare these statements against the words of his Bosniak and Croat counterparts, and it becomes apparent just how moderate Milosevic’s words were. Of course, politicians throughout history have said one thing and done another. So, we must ask, is Kuhner’s claim reasonable? Did Milosevic really aim to “unite the truncated parts of Croatia with the nearly 70 percent of territory his forces had carved out in neighboring Bosnia,” and in so doing, engage in “state-building through genocidal partition?”
Useful in understanding the Croatia situation is the story of Slovene independence, as it fought for independence at the same time Croatia did. The wealthiest of the Yugoslav states, Slovenia was often the odd republic out, having few bonds with the other peoples of Yugoslavia, except for the Yugoslav national identity pushed by the state. Thus, on December 23, 1990, Slovenia held a referendum for independence, with only 5% voting to remain a part of Yugoslavia. In one of the least bloody conflicts in regional history, Slovenia won independence in the Ten Day War, which claimed a mere 62 lives. Neither Milosevic nor the Serbian military leadership supported the Federal plan for a full scale invasion, defending Slovenia’s exit from Yugoslavia. It was not that he saw the disintegration of Yugoslavia as a positive, but that their independence was not a profound threat to the Serbs. Slovenia was (and remains) the most ethnically homogeneous former Yugoslav republic. It had very few Serbs, and would not present major territorial dispute issues for Yugoslavia moving forward.
Croatian independence was an entirely different matter. Before Operation Storm, which ethnically cleansed the region, Krajina had an estimated 430,000 Serbs. Moreover, an independent Croatia would fight with the slowly collapsing Yugoslav state for control of Bosnia, which contained more than 1.3 million Serbs. No neat borders could be drawn, and neither territory was prepared to allow their Serb minority to remain with Yugoslavia. Given the all too recent history of World War II, the Serb minorities in each had profound reason to fear for their safety. This is made especially true by the fact that both the Bosniaks and the Croats quickly returned to their Nazi-era habits. As Djilas notes in the linked Croatian article, almost immediately after the democratic election of Croat leader Franjo Tudjman (an infamous Holocaust denier), the government restored to prominence of the pro-Nazi Ustashe regime and adopted its flag, currency, and anthem. Further, under his direction, Croatia dropped the official use of the Cyrillic script favored by the Serbs, fired many government-employed Serbs, and significantly reduced Serbian parliamentary representation.
Yet, as willing as the Croats were to threaten the Serbs, Milosevic provided little support to his ethnic kin in the rebel republics. The greatest evidence of this is in his handling of Bosnia, where Bosnian Serbs were at war with Croats and Bosniaks for control of their shared homeland. Following the Bosnian Serb rejection of the Vance-Owen Plan, which would have involved the surrender of substantial territory to Herzog-Bosnia (Croatian Bosnia), Milosevic imposed a blockade on the Drina in 1993, cutting off the availability of weapons and other critical resources to the VRS (Bosnian Serb Army). It is worth noting here that NATO did not first bomb Serb territory until 1995, so there was no military pressure for Milosevic to betray his own. As to the Krajina Serbs in particular, Srdja Trifkovic notes in The Krajina Chronicle: A History of Serbs in Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, “In Serbia however, [the Republic of Serbian Krajina] was seen as an unwanted economic and burden by Milosevic. To his frustration, the Krajina Serb assembly continued to reject his demands to settle the conflict by accepting the principle of Croatian sovereignty (pgs 217-18).”
Categorically therefore, we can conclude that Milosevic was not a hardliner bent on creating a Greater Serbia. Both his actions and his rhetoric evidence as much. On those grounds alone, one should be prepared to disregard the Kuhner article. If not, his outright hypocrisy should do the trick. Whereas he trivially asserts that Operation Storm, which essentially led to an exodus of all Krajina Serbs not killed in the initial attack, as a proper rebuff against the Serbs, he laments supposedly similar actions taken by the Serbs. Action which he fails to fully explain, and which are not well grounded in history. And, while he faults the HDZ as “fundamentally treasonous” and hopes to see them replaced with “a new conservative party – one that will provide voters with a real patriotic-populist option,” he makes certain to describe Tomislav Nikolic and his Progressive Party (an offshoot of the Radical Party) as “odious,” and their popular support as troubling. More profoundly, he insists that Croatia cease its participation in the ICTY, but never indicates that other countries should do the same, implying that the Serbs should still bow before the court’s authority.
In truth, there is only one phrase in Kuhner’s article which the facts support. Namely, he is correct in describing the ICTY as “a kangaroo court.” Where he is once again in error is in insisting that it is subordinate to the whims of Serb nationalists, and has made a substantial effort to prosecute non-Serbs. The numbers tell a rather different story, as does the fact that Western forces that bombed the Serbs repeatedly (and allied themselves with the Croats, Bosniaks, and Kosovo Albanians) are not being held to account for violation of the same rules of warfare the Serbs are said to have ignored.
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Note: The version below corrects the two errors made by the printing paper (Student Life), which were the size of the radical Muslim population and the missing comma.
As is so often the case, the American people are being forced to choose between two poor presidential candidates, neither of whom is truly fit to hold the highest office in our nation. On the one hand, we have a senator with the most liberal voting record this session and no substantive experience to report. On the other is a man who typically holds the Republican line, which might be fine, if it were still the party of small government and personal liberty. But, when it instead morphs into the party of warrantless wiretapping and the denial of evolution, that is hardly something we ought to get excited about. More alarming, when he does break with the party, it is usually to back populist positions that play well in the polls but hurt us, like “taking on big oil” as though it were some monolithic force of evil, rather than the engine of modern civilization.
So, with neither candidate deserving of the office for which he is running, how is the average voter to decide? In my mind, it ought to be based on the one area of great importance where there is a real difference, which is national security. And no, I don’t mean the alarmist “no liquids or gels in excess of three ounces” variety. Rather, now that the era of unipolarity is all but over, we very seriously need to consider which candidate has a more rational foreign policy, one that will ensure the safety of the American people. In that regard, it seems quite clear to me that the better man is Sen. John McCain.
While the War on Terror might be misnamed, as terrorism is a tactic and not an entity, the underlying idea is important. The greatest threat of the 21st century thus far appears to be Islamism. Now, to be clear, Islamism is distinct from the brand of Islam practiced by the majority of Muslims in that it has specific political ambitions, including the recreation of a caliphate governed by Sharia law. Whatever textual support exists for their beliefs, they make up a minority among a largely peaceful bunch. But with between 10 and 15 percent of the Muslim world being radical, as Dr. Daniel Pipes estimates, that translates to more than 130 million such individuals. Even if just one percent of that group takes up arms, they pose an exceptional threat. And which candidate is more aware of this threat? If the reaction by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which Sen. Charles Schumer said “has ties to terrorism” (Sept. 2003 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism), to the GOP convention is any indication, then clearly it is John McCain. If not, we could simply ask which candidate was endorsed by the leadership of the infamous terrorist organization Hamas. Unsurprisingly, it is the dangerously naïve Barack Obama they picked as the preferable candidate.
But, though the threat posed by global jihadists is great, it is not the only national security issue that must be considered. Rather, we must also look to the recent Russian action in Georgia. It ought to have served as a wake-up call that Russia would no longer be relegated to the sidelines but would instead re-assert itself as a world power. In the hours after the unlawful incursion into sovereign Georgia, the two candidates had very different, and very telling, reactions. McCain was quick to realize that Russia was the aggressive power and demanded an immediate and complete withdrawal from Georgian land. Obama on the other hand, until he’d had enough time to rephrase what McCain uttered, was essentially too flustered to handle it, and suggested turning the situation over to the United Nations. He of course failed to realize that the only U.N. body of any power, the Security Council, contains a veto-wielding Russia to block any action that would undermine their attempt to create instability in the former Soviet republics that were starting to look westward. This was the sort of 3 a.m. scenario that Hillary Clinton alluded to in her well-known campaign ad. And guess who failed the test?
What we must realize is that, more than ever, power over security issues is concentrated in the hands of the executive branch, with the president having ultimate say. Biden’s long record of making the wrong decisions and capitulating to Iran doesn’t help excuse Obama’s foreign policy ineptitude. Nor does Palin’s relative inexperience on matters of defense count for much. This is because, at the end of the day, we are voting for a president. In either administration, he will be the one making the decisions, with minimal regard for what the bottom half of their ticket has to say. We therefore must back the candidate who can, on his own, handle these consequential security threats from day one. And in this case, the only candidate capable of doing so is John McCain.
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On August 29, leaders of the South Ossetian independence movement informed members of the Western press that they would be absorbed into Russia in the near future. In part, there was a demand for it among the non-Georgian population within the region. But more relevant is that Russia would actually consider such a move. While Russia has tried, unsuccessfully, to build an image as a source of regional stability, it has simultaneously been acting to advance its own agenda at the expense of the neighboring states it purports to be helping. Their willingness to essentially conquer, without due provocation or security concern, the land that belongs to another sovereign state, for seemingly no purpose other than to scare former Soviet states into submission reflects what many feared: Russia plans to re-establish itself as a world power.
At the end of the Cold War, Russia was clearly weak. The economic collapse that helped bring about the demise of the Soviet Union left former member states feeling crippled. Russia, the country which retained control over the vast nuclear arsenal and the UN Security Council seat, was reduced from being the heart of a great power to a nation barely able to sustain itself without significant outside aid. So naturally, its influence in the world dropped, and it took fewer opportunities to advance an anti-Western agenda. But now, with dramatic economic growth driven by oil, and restored military confidence after successfully crushing the Islamist insurgency of Chechnya and Ingushtia, Russia has shattered its image as a diminished power, and has made clear that it is a force to be reckoned with.
While the United States cannot directly confront Russia using military means, our lack of response to their invasion of Georgia is outrageous. A number of options to contain the Russian threat, and indeed help push Russia back on to an acceptable path, are available to us. For instance, returning to a G7 configuration over the recently created G8 model, or permanently ending all NATO-Russia dialog would be worthwhile first steps. By isolating them from the West, we send the unequivocal message that the reckless disregard for internationally recognized borders and the unjustified slaughter of civilians to advance a radical political agenda is unacceptable. If Russia’s economic and diplomatic opportunities are limited, and it is not allowed to advance in the direction it presently wishes, they will be more inclined to moderate their behavior. They may never be a reliable ally in the same way that Israel or Poland are, but they can cease to become a disruptive force that creates chaos in the surrounding region.
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On Sunday, Serbians headed to the polls to cast their votes in an election that was, without question, the most politically significant event in the Balkans since Slobodan Miloševic was handed over to the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) in 2001. In fact, the scope of the consequences associated with its outcome will impact the stability of the international community for years to come.
This being the second round, there were only two choices. One was Boris Tadic, the incumbent president, who enjoyed a degree of popular support among the masses and strongly advocated strengthening relations with the West. The other was the acting head of the Serbian Radical Party, Tomislav Nikolic. He was decidedly more interested in building better relations with an autocratic Russia, and had long exhibited Euro-skeptic tendencies. The primary issue around which this election centered, and the source of the greatest division between the two candidates, was the status of Kosovo.
Following unjustified NATO bombings and military assault on the Serbians, U.N. peacekeepers took control of Serbian Kosovo and have remained in charge since 1999. Their tenure is about to expire, and Russia’s power of veto on the Security Council ensures that this time, Serbian sovereignty will be safeguarded. Consequently, the United States and many of the Western members of the European Union have said they plan to recognize the independence of Kosovo the moment they formally declare it. This is expected to happen in the coming weeks.
Both Nikolic and Tadic stated that they would not accept an independent Kosovo, as they believe it to be part of Serbia’s heartland. Yet their approaches differ greatly. Nikolic, who was unfortunately defeated, vowed to retain control of the territory by any means necessary, including war. Further, he would cease efforts to obtain EU membership, and cut relations with nations that recognized Kosovo as a legitimate country. By contrast, Tadic had said that Kosovo would not be a roadblock to the Westernization of Serbia. Even if the EU acknowledged Kosovo’s claim of independence, he would seek entry into the EU quasi-state.
In other words, one candidate would have prevented the creation of Kosovo, and he lost. With a win by Tadic, it is virtually certain that within one or two months, there will be an independent, internationally recognized Kosovo. This would be a devastating blow to Serbia in every sense, and will undoubtedly fuel rabid anti-Western sentiments among the masses. And it will do far more to retard relations with the West than Nikolic’s victory ever would have.
And yet, horrible as the consequences are for Serbia and those nations wishing to deal with it, the consequences are even greater for the rest of the world. Eastern Europe is one of the most ethnically divided parts of the world. Tension and animosity based on familial geographic origin is par for the course in many regions, and can frequently manifest itself in violent conflict. War is the natural consequence of secession efforts. And Kosovo sets the sort of dangerous precedent that will lend automatic credibility to countless similar efforts in the region. Among the many places likely to play the Kosovo card and seek new nation status are Abkhazia, Kurdistan, Nagorno-Karabakh, North Cyprus, Transnistria, South Ossetia, Srpska, and Vojvodina. And that is just the East! Further west we’ve got Aland, Alsace, Basqueland, Flanders, and Scotland. This says nothing of the non-European world, where independent movements are exceptionally numerous.
Thus, the establishment of an independent Kosovo sets a dangerous example that will invariably be mimicked elsewhere, to the great detriment of the international community. It will catalyze large-scale Balkanization and separation along arbitrary ethnic lines. There is not one way in which the international community benefits from such numerous hostile splits. And all of this will have been caused by one small election.
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Earlier today, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer demanded that Russia withdraw troops from Abkhazia, a breakaway region of the ex-Soviet state of Georgia. He claimed that the action, unauthorized by the national government, was a violation of Georgian sovereignty. Unsurprisingly, this is an inaccurate framing of the issue, and reflects the exception hypocrisy practiced by US and the international institutions it dominates, such as NATO.
First, it is quite clear that this is not a violation of sovereignty in any capacity. The Georgian government officially recognizes Abkhazia as an autonomous republic. More importantly, the vast majority of said territory has not been under Georgian control for the past 16 years. For years now, the Russian government has been the main source of aid and stability for the highly volatile region. This is reflected by the nature of the recent military deployment. Russia did not send in troops to bolster revolution, but to aid in railway repair. The 300 soldiers were unarmed, and came via non-military transportation vehicles. Clearly, this was a humanitarian mission, with the Russian government aiding de facto dependents that the national government of Georgia lacks the financial resources to care for. The average citizen in Abkhazia is neglected and lives in poverty, relying on Russian support to survive, but remaining under the thumb of an incompetent national government. Yet this story of aid in infrastructure repair does not reveal the full extent of Abkhazian-Russian ties. They use the Russian ruble instead of the Georgian lari, in large part because one of their largest industries is tourism from Russia. And, while a visa is needed for Russians to enter Georgia, it is not needed for Abkhazia. Thus, there is clearly a strong relationship between the Russian and Abkhazian people.
While a distinct language is spoken among their population, and they are religiously more similar to the rest of Georgia based on Ottoman conquest, that is where the Abkhazia-Georgia relationship ends. They are not closely tied to the people of Abkazia, whose distinct identity has afforded them autonomy under many alien rulers in centuries past. Georgia may have done likewise, but remains in violation of international law. The right to self-determination is one of the cornerstones of UN policy. So, if NATO and the UN insist on upholding international law, then they must condemn the Georgian control of Abkazia, not the Russians who have elected to assist these maligned people.
Of course, when it comes to Eastern Europe, US-led institutions consistently and flagrantly defy international law. In this era of unipolarity, the US feels it has license to violate the very same laws it helped to author; avoid taking any responsibility for such actions; and still continue to hold others accountable, even where their guilt is questionable at best. This vile hypocrisy was perhaps most clearly illustrated by American involvement in the Balkans. Excluding the two American attacks on Serbia during the 1990′s, which is another topic deserving a lengthy analysis, the present Kosovo crisis provides an excellent case study.
Kosovo is, quite clearly, an integral part of Serbia, and has been since its founding. Even in the 11th century, when Serbian kingdoms were divided by Ottoman rule, the vast majority of them were concentrated in and around Kosovo. When Stefan Nemanja created what many regard as the first unified Serbian nation in 1180, he included Kosovo in it, as it was home primarily to the Serbian people. Prizren and Priština, both cities in Kosovo, long served as alternate capital cities for the Serbian monarch. It was only when Serbia fell to the Ottoman invaders that Kosovo began to undergo a demographic change. The Serbians largely refused to convert to Islam, and thus were discriminated against, forcing many to flee when able. By contrast, the Albanians welcomed the new religion, and were afforded greater territorial control within the empire. Albanian Muslims, who now account for 90% of the population in Kosovo, have only controlled the region since the 19th century, and did so mostly with the support of their own foreign rulers. Their first attempt at real independence for Kosovo came only after the Young Turks did not afford the Albanians the rights they sought. There was not ever a push for an independent Kosovo in and of itself, but for a Greater Albania, based on migration over the past two centuries. To this day, the strongest advocates in Albania and Macedonia for Kosovo are those politicians who want to create a massive pan-Albanian state, able to dominate the ethnically polarized region.
In spite of the obvious illegitimacy and irrationality of the Albanian declaration of independence, the United States supported this. Perhaps, if international law were on their side, they could be given a pass for displaying a profound ignorance of regional history. However, there is no doubt that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence is a violation of international law. Resolution 1244, passed during the illegal foreign interference in a Yugoslavian civil war, remains the most important piece of legislation regarding the status of Kosovo, and has garnered acceptance even among the most radical segments of Serbian society. It established the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, which would serve as the interim administration of Kosovo until a final status consensus could be reached. Suffice to say, the UN Security Council, which has the sole legal right to undermine sovereignty and arbitrate major land disputes was not consulted. Why? Two of the five permanent nations, Russia and China, disagreed with American policy. So, rather than comply with the rules whose design was largely American, the United States opted to circumvent the established legal protocol, and unilaterally legitimize the independence of an illegally created state. Many nations in Europe and elsewhere have noted this. Rather than attempt to correct this by withdrawing support from a false government and comply with international norms, the US has attacked nations who dare suggest that recognition of Kosovo creates a dangerous precedent and undermines the letter and spirit of international law and institutional cooperation.
With the handling of Kosovo in mind, it is unsurprising that the United States has again opted to impose its will in Easter Europe without properly understanding the realities of the region, its history, and the applicable international law by which it is bound. This does not however excuse such behavior. Other nations need to take the United States to task for this, and force them to comply with the rule of law. If the US fails to respond to such demands, then it only strengthens the case for a coalition of other powers to unite and end this unipolar reality that empowers American arrogance in foreign policy. After all, the United States is clearly in the wrong, and will continue to support or enact inappropriate policy unless forced to change course. Only then will the sovereignty hypocrisy end.
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