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Kosovo: Is the EU Home Alone in the Balkans?

The UN deadline for negotiations between Serbs and Kosovars expired today. Writing for the Washington Post (Nov. 23), Richard Holbrooke predicted this failure and expressed his pessimism regarding the Balkans' future:

The United States and most of the European Union (led by Britain, France and Germany) will recognize Kosovo quickly. Russia and its allies will not. Kosovo's eight-year run as the biggest-ever U.N. project will end with great tension and a threat of violence that could spread to Bosnia.

A bit "hidden" in brackets within a paragraph full of praise for Clinton's Balkan's achieve and criticism for Bush's neglect of the region, Holbrooke opines:

(However, the State Department did not prevent Rumsfeld from prematurely turning the NATO command in Bosnia over to a weak E.U. Force, a terrible mistake.)

I have a lot of respect for Dick Holbrooke, who negotiated the Dayton Accords and wrote the terrific book "To End a War" (, The book was so well written, it reads like a good thriller. But: Is Holbrooke right about that "terrible mistake"? Is the EU force still to weak or can the EU manage to send in sufficient reinforcements, as promised?

In 1991, soon after the start of the Yugoslav civil war, Luxembourg's foreign minister Jacques Poos thought that Europe could stop the fighting on its own and famously declared: "This is the hour of Europe." I wonder how much has changed in the last decade and a half?

Given the little European support for Iraq and Afghanistan, quite a number of Americans have said that the United States should not come to the rescue of the West Europeans the next time they (we) get into trouble.

Will the Bush administration indeed stay out of this issue, if -- or rather: when -- the s*** hits the fan? I doubt it, because President Bush has been pretty vocal regarding Kosovo independence and expressed concern about Russian sphere's of influence.


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Merkel-2 on :

Balkans's situation deteriorates radically . That's definitely beyond US and EU's expectation . US and its alliance support independence claims within Yugoslavia in order to erode Russia's political influence there. Then we see Bosnia problem,Croatia problem,Serbia and kosovo problem pops up one after another. These kind of imprudent actions which Western powers took , may backfire to themselves. The complexity of Balkans was intentionally ignored by US and its alliance. They don't respect Balkans's history and reality, don't respect Balkans' religious tradition and its geopolitic status quo. When 911 disaster happened , CIA officals cry out that their anti-Soviet Union's trainee are now steering the airplane resolutely to US' s establishments. That phenomena will happen again in Balkans region. The US immorally trigger the sensitive nerve of racial conflicts , then they have no way to control Balkans people's emotion. Kosovo's independence is only the begining of a series of blood conflicts. No one gonna cheerfully harvest its crops there, even the US. When the race identy and religious tradition become the most important factors to classify who is our alliance. the whole world will split and each country will rethink of their history and territory border. In that case the sharp opium and slave trader (Briton) will be sent to stage for legal or moral trial , German will be responsible for holocaust against Jews and crime of launching two world war , While US, France,Japan ... will also need to take the responsiblity of their colonizing history. Without real compensation from these cruel looter(the so-called "civilized" states) Justice will not prevailed .Westerners will bear the consequnce of their evil ambitions.

Zyme on :

Are we allowed to enjoy our freetime until then? :D

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"Russia need gracefully back off from their long claimed position of supporting Serbia unconditionally." How do you do want to achieve that?

Anonymous on :

I don't think that either the EU or the US will be able to ignore the Balkan situation if it further violently balkanizes. MI5 and MI6 are convinced through interrogations and interviews that the lack of an effective European/US response to the Bosniak slaughter helped radicalize a generation of British muslims. I do not know how true this is of continental states, but the locals seem uppity enough already and another excuse for bad behaviour is not called for. I am disregarding Merkel's drivel, but would mention that the domestic Russian political situation might have a large influence on how any unilateral declaration of independence resolves itself. Putin sending an expeditionary force would help cement his position as the decisive power in the Kremlin, while allowing Medvedev to be a puppet. He did send airborne troops in last time without consulting NATO and General Wesley Clark's first reaction was to attack them (prat). Unhappily, Russian has the where-with-all to cause more trouble in that unhappy region.

Merkel-2 on :

Russia need gracefully back off from their long claimed position of supporting Serbia unconditionally. They know exactly what the westeren powers' strategic game aims at. The Kosovo is not a good place to exert Russia influence. Russia have lots of problems with western powers. I guess Russia's counteraction will not be launched in other fields. Serbia have little influnce on Kosovo. So Russia got no diplomatic sphere to strive for Serbia 's interests . So if Serbia show some kind of flexiblity ,Russia will not be a problem. Given that Russia object Kosovo's independence in UN Security Council, it will result in no significant impact. Becuase US and most of EU member states will acknowledge Kosovo as a state. So a possible soultion maybe like this: Parts of Kosovo (Serbian habitant in majority) combine with Serbia, then the rest of Kosovo claim its independence under the connivance of Serbia. The whole process should be carried out peacefully. if not , it will spark racist flame in Balkan and in the rest of the whole world. So I hope EU and US be more responsible to deal with this crisis . Western powers once immoral actions had triggered the Yugoslavia 's bloody racist conflicts which led to its spliting and degradation in living standards. We all learn the lesson from Margaret Thatcher and CIA officals' ovation to Chile Pinochet. When sabotage force participates in Yugoslavia's internal affairs , the things get worse instead of better. The large scale of atrocity happend within the once Yugoslavia soil ,prove Western's wisdom or their evil attemps , it is highly skecptical for me . President Bush and Chancellor Merkel should know western powers have wider interests sphere except containing(weakening) Russia. Never and ever do something stupid only for the temperary convenience.

Pat Patterson on :

The dismantling of Serbian influence in the Balkans most recently began in 1990's during a series of wars that found the Serbians on the wrong side, the losing side, in every war. I'm not convinced that Serbian resistence is anything other than at the urginigs of the Russians to simply continue Russia's claim of upholding Slavic unity and to tie down the US and EU in another meaningless occupation. What's interesting is that the Russians seem totally ignorant of the last time they stuck their necks out for the Serbs and ended up fully embroiled in World War I and the collapse of the Romanovs. I think Pres. Putin sees less risk here then previously and even though Russia strives to be one of the big boys it still must respond to local politics. Margaret Thatcher? She wasn't Prime Minister till 1975 two years after Pres. Allende accidentally shot himself.

joe on :

Having established once again that this is President Bush’s fault,(an obligatory requirement on issues dealing with foreign policy) the issue is what to do Before any actions can be taken there needs to an agreement if there is in fact a threat. Surely activity in Kosovo presents no threat to Europe or the member nations of NATO. Given the magnitude of the EU’s soft power, one has to question if there is a need for the use of hard power at all. If such a need does arise the US will be there with their NATO allies just NATO is with the US in Afghanistan. I would hope the US is prepared to provide the same level of support that Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy are providing in Afghanistan. In fact, I am confident that Germany, Spain and Italy are now identifying both ground and air units to conduct combat operations should they be needed. By allowing Germany, Spain and Italy to take the lead and spend their own national treasure, this should improve trans Atlantic relations. The elites and citizens of those nations will no longer feel they have been slighted by the US. If fact, this might be a better operation run by the EU under their common defense policy anyway.

Merkel-2 on :

[Surely activity in Kosovo presents no threat to Europe or the member nations of NATO.] If "threat" means direct conflict with Russia , then EU have nothing to worry about . I think the "threat" maybe not so impending , but it exerts more strength in the long run and over broader politic area. First Russia will percieve strong threat from western powers. They will not back off as Boris Yeltsin once did . Russia's sceptical point-of-view towards West will results in Russia's stand-off, it will not cooperate with US and EU. China have the same sensitive nerve as Russia, China's Caucasia problem related to TaiWan and Tibet . They don't turst west owing to its disgraceful colonial history. They believe western powers will impair its strength for its unity. China will also "derail" EU and US's track on many matters. Western powers may scorn China and Russia's role , Will they gain moral support from developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America? I highly doubt it . So many countries express their grave concerns on the integrity of the sovereign because they are made up of multi-peoples. If racist attitudes was exaggerated in this way by US and EU. there will exist no peace and harmony in their country. It seems very interesting that north Irealand and North Quebec is never and ever under great pressure from other Western powers to implement plebiscite/Referendum.Is it because of US and EU deliberately ignore local residents rights there, or whatelse. Can US and EU politician explain to the world why they keep silent on Britain's cruel colonial domination until 1985, while behave so picky-ly ,so savagely yet so ugly to the fledging independent state. Will Merkel or Gordon Brown have the courage to list what Britain did for native Zimbabwe people and what the President Robert Mugabe did . Why the EU community abruptly express such hunger for Zimbabwe's human rights . Unless EU fairly treat those atrocity happened in Iraq ,in Cuba Guantanamo prison, Afican countries and other developing countries will not take it seriously. At this moment EU seldom mentions those affairs openly . Given that US trooops' infringing human rights' complaint voiced ,every time it tone down to a level , make it meaningless and fruitless. I don't know whether western powers reach some mutual agreement (for example ,some kind of unspeakable rule of the game). i guess I don't need to remind them that stiring up internal conflicts was once the colonial powers most effective way to govern their "barbaric Afica state". Western powers and their politicians have know the importance to mutual understanding. They do own us(espically African people) an answer for their inconsistent behaviours.

SC on :

"Will the Bush administration indeed stay out of this issue, if -- or rather: when -- the s*** hits the fan? I doubt it, because President Bush has been pretty vocal regarding Kosovo independence and expressed concern about Russian sphere's of influence." All of that is probably true, but . . . domestic politics will complicate this greatly and may well cut against involvement at the same level as the last Balkans go around: Lots of diplomatic support, probably even logistical support for force projection agreed to and carried out by EU-NATO countries. More than that becomes politically problematic - particularly in a presidential election year, I would think.

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