09 July 2007

US fear of Russian veto stands between Kosovo, independence - Serbian commentary

BBC Monitoring Europe (Political) - February 8, 2007 Thursday


Text of commentary by editor-in-chief Ljiljana Smajlovic: "Theft of Kosovo" by Serbian newspaper Politika on 6 February


There is only one sole reason why the paper that Martti Ahtisaari brought to Belgrade and presented to Boris Tadic last Friday [2 February] does not completely openly and explicitly propose creating an independent state of Kosovo. The Americans have told the Finn to give Kosovo all the attributes of a state (anthem, flag, coat of arms, constitution, president, and assembly), but not to mention the word "independence" for the time being, just to be on the safe side.


Washington has good reason to fear that the "i" word would trigger Russia's veto in the UN Security Council.


And really, the United States' fear of a Russian veto is at the moment all that is standing between Kosovo and independence.


Ever since Washington and Brussels first thought that the Russians might be serious about lodging a veto this time, the number of visits to Belgrade by our Western friends has tripled. They are kindly explaining to us that the Russians do not have good intentions, that their motives are not pure or noble, and that their wish is not to help Serbia. These interpreters of the intentions of others are explaining that Moscow is in fact "only consulting its own interests." The word "hegemony" is also being used in these talks, Russian hegemony, that is. The West is suggesting to us to follow this logic: when the Russians stand up for Serbian interests in Kosovo, then it is hegemony; when the Americans and Europeans stand up for the Albanians' interests, then they do so in a principled way, with good intentions, and for the sake of "stability in the Balkans." Our Western friends (the word "friends" here should not be interpreted as irony) know very well that Serbia aspires to be part of the West, a member of the European Union, safe among neighbours and friends; they know that a hefty proportion of Serbia's population would much rather have support from the West than from Russia; they know that though all those years, we hated being under sanctions, unloved, and bombed; they know that it is easy to awaken our fears of another isolation.


Also, they know that we are poor and hungry for everything and that it is easier to bring pressure to bear on us than on the Russians, whose energy revenues are sky high. They know what we have only recently learned - albeit at third hand, thanks to the gabby (not to say braggart) Slovene foreign minister, Dimirije Rupel: that Vladimir Putin told Condoleezza Rice that "Russians will not be greater Serbs than Serbs are themselves," that is, that Russians will protect Kosovo in Serbia only so strongly as the Serbs will want to protect it. Similarly, a New York Times correspondent reported from Kosovo two days ago [4 February] that Albanians were firmly resolved to accept nothing short of independence, but only because they had first obtained the United States' blessing for this position.


Therein lies the heaviness of the current political moment in Serbia. The only chance for keeping Kosovo in Serbia for another year is for the Russians to block the passage of a resolution in the UN Security Council that would pave the way to a unilateral recognition of Kosovo. Perhaps the Russians will endure in their resolve to block a solution that would not be favourable to Serbia and perhaps they will not. We cannot be sure either way. All that we can be sure about is that Putin will not be a greater Serb than Kostunica or Tadic. But if the two of them continue to fight for Kosovo, perhaps he will, too. Even if, in the final analysis, he may do so out of some selfish interests best known to himself.


Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 6 Feb 07