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Sarkozy Makes Premature, Unnecessary, Familiar Statement on Kosovo

Nicholas Sarkozy stated last weekend that the issue of Kosovo's independence, "is not an affair of Mr. Bush or Mr. Putin, but one of Europe." (Le Figaro, in French). Another article by John Ward Anderson in the Washington Post reports:

"Kosovo's independence is inevitable," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters after the summit. "It's an issue for Europe to sort out."

Does Sarkozy mean to say that despite a recent history thick with US political and military engagement in the Balkans, Kosovo is now strictly a European issue? Has Sarkozy forgotten so quickly that the United States bailed out Europe in the Balkans even after the 1991 declaration by Luxembourg's foreign minister Jacques Poos that "This is the hour of Europe?"

Joerg recently cited the Jacques Poos quote in an Atlantic Review post he titled "Kosovo: Is the EU Home Alone in the Balkans?" Perhaps another question is, "Kosovo: Whose House is it?"

What is the benefit for Sarkozy or the EU of preemptively decrying American support, especially when the US and EU strategy for Kosovo seem to be in sync? Why not declare this the "hour of the allies" or the "the hour of cooperation", or perhaps be more candid: "this is the hour we will hopefully not f*** up again in the Balkans, but if we do we are glad to have our American friends to back us up?"

Sarkozy's statement is particularly frustrating to America's proponents of transatlantic cooperation, because it is exactly the type of churlish bombast that leads American Europhobes to argue that the pubescent EU Common Foreign and Security Policy aims to build the EU as a counterweight to the United States, rather than as a stronger ally.

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Don S on :

"Has Sarkozy forgotten so quickly that the United States bailed out Europe in the Balkans even after the 1991 declaration by Luxembourg's foreign minister Jacques Poos that "This is the hour of Europe?"" Different situation. Sarko may be shooting off his mouth, but this time Europe may actually be in a position to do something - if it wants to and can summon enough political will and unity. Doubtful I suppose. The Balkans are not more than a tertiary issue for the US. The only reason the US is concerned at all was because many of our NATO allies are primarily concerned (Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Austria(?)). Therefore as Leader of NATO the US had to be concerned. But that was sooooo 1997! Since then we in the US have learned that the US is not (and perhaps never was) the 'leader' of NATO. So any interest in the Balkans reverts to the minimal. Sarko's idea may allow the US to honorably withdraw from a committment which was never in US interests and therefore should never have been made, at least in a Zyme-like view of national interest being paramont. The US intervened in the Balkans not in the interest of the Balkans and not in our own interests - but in the interest of then-important NATO allies. Since then we have learned (most forcefully) that those 'important NATO allies' have no interest in returning the favor. So it's in the best interest of the US for 'Europe' to sort out the Kosovo question with as little US involvement as possible - so we can continue to withdraw from Europe. That is the US 'interest' - and Sarko's statements are not inconsistent with it....

SC on :

Do you think this is the thinking in the White House and State, Don? Joerg made the point in an earlier post that the President has a declared interest in Kosovo. And State? The definition of US "interest" has often depended on who's doing the defining.:) If your point is that all concerned in Washington will be happy to let Europeans sort the Balkans out, I'm sure your right. But wasn't that true in the previous Balkan blowup before eventual Washington involvement? The question is what happens if things aren't sorted out again. You correctly point to one facet of the domestic politics of another Balkan blowup, but the desire to establish multilateralist bona fides hasn't diminished in certain quarters.

Don S on :

With all the second-term resignations and changes in the WH I'd be surprised if the WH staff could find their gluteus max with both hands right now, SC. Especially about Kosovo. State might be a bit more coherent as the resignation wave hasn't hit there as hard yet. But ask yourself a more fundamental question - does Washington care (much) about the Balkans? Do the presidential candidates care much about the Balkans? I don't think so. Don't forget that two successive administrations (Bush pere and Clinton) stretched heaven and earth to stay out of the Balkans for a long time. I contend that Clinton finally decided to intervene in Kosovo only because it was so important to other members of NATO. The US then saw it's role as leader of NATO, and one thing a leader needs to do is try to satisfy the needs of the other members of the team, whether the leader itself gives a rats ass about the issue itself - which the US fundamentally did not. Now that we've learned that the US is not the 'leader' of NATO and is unlikely ever to be so again, why should any US President care about Kosovo? Except about the US troop deployment there, that goes without saying.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

SC and Don, the Bush admin cares about Kosovo because it wants to show the Muslim world that it is supportive of the independence aspirations of an ethnic group of Muslim faith. This is important to Washington since Afghanistan and Iraq did not go as well as planned and the US has been critized for not helping Muslims. It does not matter that the mosques in Kosovo are pretty empty, despite all the money from Saudi Arabia. Another reason why Washington cares about Kosovo is Russia. It's the same old power play habit. Likewise in Russia: Why does Russia care about this very extremely small Kosovo territory? Because of the United States. It's the old spheres of influence power play. It's ridiculous, but traditional. Don asks: "But ask yourself a more fundamental question - does Washington care (much) about the Balkans?" I agree with you that Kosovo should not be of such a considerably big interest to the United States. Fact is, however, that the US cares more about Kosovo independence than Europe. Most EU countries had a wait and see attitude towards Kosovo. Then came the Ahtisaari report in favor of Kosovo independence. The Bush admin immediately declared its willingness to recognize Kosovo indpendence, i.e. involved itself with this strongly. The EU waited and was sort of willing to accept alternative solutions (various forms of autonomy etc), which would be more viable given the size of the territory etc. As soo often, the US felt it has to show leadership rather than waiting for others to find solutions. So please, do not blame Europe, when the US is getting busy in regions that are not of national interest.

SC on :

@Don and Jorge: Washington cares about the Balkans to the extent that it can extract itself from them. I think that Don is right to suggest that many in Washington probably do not consider the Balkans of strategic interest. It certainly hasn't paid it much heed historically until the civil war broke out and unchecked refugee flows were thought to be a destabilizing threat that couldn't be ignored. The Clinton administration as I recall was all for a European solution of the problem at the time - if one could have been had. Moreover, the administration then faced some pretty stiff opposition from its political opponents in Washington; the present and any future administration can expect no less, and probably a great deal more of the same. The broad outline of the Ahtisaari plan if successfully carried out would be a large step in this direction: NATO securing the borders with the EU in charge of civil reconstruction, right? If the NATO force left to secure the borders consists mostly of European forces then that would leave the US in a largely supporting role; or am I missing something? It would surprise me if this was considered an unwelcome development in Washington. I think when Nicholas Burns (US Under Secretary) was questioned on Captiol Hill about US co-sponsorship concern was expressed about whether it could be implemented in the face of Serbian, and presumed Russian, opposition. There was a concern with the precedent it might set of other breakaway regions but I don't recall much discussion about the US ceding anything to a Russian sphere of influence. Most I think would recognize a very longstanding Russian interest in the region that has as much to do with ethnicity as with power politics. If anything, as I recall the little I can recall, there has been more concern expressed with annoying Russia unnecessarily than with any presumed propaganda value that would come from aiding Muslims in the region. The idea that Kosovo is of great value in demonstrating US goodwill toward Muslims worldwide is long past its expiration date even in Washington. I don't recall that point being made except tangentially for awhile now. The International Contact Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK and the US) ruled out a return of Kosovo to full Serbian control as well as any partition of Kosovo, or any union of Kosovo with any other country, or part of another country. So what exactly does that leave? Well it doesn't rule out independence and if independence comes from successful implementation of the Ahtisaari plan then this might even extract the US on terms that comport with Sarkozy's statements.

Don S on :

"Likewise in Russia: Why does Russia care about this very extremely small Kosovo territory? Because of the United States. It's the old spheres of influence power play. It's ridiculous, but traditional." Nonsense, Joerg! Russia went to war over a very similar small slice of Balkan terriroy in 1914. Was that because of the US also? The US-Russia rivalry is idiocy from a geopolitical or geostrategic perspective, caused only by US participation in NATO. Which (come to think of it) is also idiocy from a geostrategic perspective. What are the traditional causes of international friction? I'd say proximity and ambition. One or both powers have to be expansionary, and usually situated near enough to one another to create a problem. The US and/or Russia may be expansionary (I don't think the US is particularly expansionary but others may differ). But the proximity usually needed is lacking, or would be if the US cut bait with NATO as we rationally ought to. The only potential friction point would be if Russia seemed to wish to reclaim Alaska but I don't see the slightest evidence that this could be true. Russia may wish to dominate the Balkans - but why should the US care one way or the other? The answer is that Germany cares, Italy cares, France cares. But that merely reprises the question - why should the US care (much) when those countries don't care enough themselves to make real sacrifices to protect their own interests - as they have not in the past 20-30 years? The US has been treated as an increasingly despised supplier of unpaid mercenaries who nonetheless are somehow permanently obligated to protect European interests with no quid pro quo - and it won't wash and it wont wear!

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Kyle, "Sarkozy's statement is particularly frustrating to America's proponents of transatlantic cooperation," Come on, Sarkozy took his new girlfriend to Disneyland outside of Paris over the weekend. That is enough proof for the US media that Sarkozy is Pro-American. Besides, he says that he loves the United States. He was also spotted wearing an NYFD t-shirt and an iPod when jogging. Isn't that enough to love the new president of France? What else do you expect? ;-)

Kyle on :

This coming from a guy who writes, "And the new and supposedly pro-American governments in France and Germany are not sending more troops to Afghanistan etc. And NATO can't get together its planned Rapid Reaction Force. It seems Krauthammer does not expect much from allies. All they (we) got to do is to say nice things about the United States. Military contributions would be nice, but are not so important. Smiling is more important." (http://www.atlanticreview.org/archives/922-How-to-be-a-Good-Ally-of-the-United-States-Just-Smile.html) I was excited to hear Sarkozy is now dating Carla Bruni though--she is my favorite French singer. I have her on my iPod too, as I am sure Sarkozy does. Maybe him and I are not so different... :)

Don S on :

Joerg, your posts about Sarko seem almost.... Well I'm not certain. Obsessive or envious are far too strong to describe the sentiment, but you clearly dislike the man and seem to find him inauthentic. My point was that a policy which seems designed to help the US leave a situation and have the Europeans do the work is not necessarily anti-American. I might well view it as pro-American - depending. The fact that Sarko apparently endorsed the US preference for an independent Kosovo only reinforces that judgement in this case. Contrast Sarko's statement with Merkel's comments about the ABM bases in Poland and the Czech republic. Mild as they were, they went in the opposite direction. Not that I particularly mind because it's my view that the sooner the US pulls the most military support out of Central Europe, the better, and spiking the bases would definately advance that honorable goal. So rom my POV it's a win-win; either it helps impel the withdrawal or we get some useful bases.....

Kyle on :

Don, Thank you for the comments. "My point was that a policy which seems designed to help the US leave a situation and have the Europeans do the work is not necessarily anti-American." I would agree that the US benefits if Europe can in fact manage the Balkans mission without the need to tap extensively into US resources. In fact, this is exactly the definition of "burden sharing", and to date the United States has (cautiously) supported the development of European Security Defense Policy and its own "autonomous" Rapid Reaction Forces precisely so Europe would have the capabilities to take on such missions. However, Sarko lumped the United States in with Russia in what I perceived as a, "the US is not invited to this conversation" type of way. This was simply unecessary. Even if he was trying to rally Europe for a Kosovo mission that may require resource and political committments that Europeans will be hesistant to provide, it was still not necessary to say this is not a US affair, because after two wars, extensive diplomatic outreach and negotiations, and years of stabilization efforts--this is certainly an American affair. "Different situation. Sarko may be shooting off his mouth, but this time Europe may actually be in a position to do something - if it wants to and can summon enough political will and unity. Doubtful I suppose." Who knows if Europe can pull it off alone? I hope they can... this would be great proof that a more robust European Security and Defense Policy benefits the Alliance as a whole. However, if in fact the Balkans do spiral, and if Europe cannot take control of the situation without US help as happened in the past, then Sarko's statement will be just as embarrassing for Europe in 15 years as Jacques Poos is for Europe today.

Don S on :

"However, Sarko lumped the United States in with Russia in what I perceived as a, "the US is not invited to this conversation" type of way." Kyle, what you take as an insult I see as refreshing candor. The trend has been for the EU to marginalize the US as a partner. They decide what is to be done in inter-EU councils, then badger and bullyrag the US to agreeing to policies and international treaties which are designed and written to be in the specific interests of EU countries, not at all in US interests. Or not designed that way, anyway. Not only the US. Almost any major power around the world could and do make precisely the same observation, not excluding Russia, Japan, India, Brazil, and South Africa..... It's a power play by the EU, and it's not working....

Don S on :

"However, Sarko lumped the United States in with Russia in what I perceived as a, "the US is not invited to this conversation" type of way. This was simply unecessary." Perhaps, but it is a frank statement of the way the UE is working these days. They make the decisions (or try to) and then seek to force their decision(s) down the throats of the rest of the world. One need look no further than Bali (or really any international conference) since the end of the Cold War to see that at work. I am increasingly coming to believe that the way forward for the US is to end the permanent partnership with Europe and make arrangements depending upon the mertits of the situation. There are many issues in which US interests are far more congruent with Russia than with the continental European powers who dominate the Eu and the UN. Or is that the EN? (you know - the body based at Turtle Bay)!

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

Don, "They make the decisions (or try to) and then seek to force their decision(s) down the throats of the rest of the world." Isn't this what all countries do? What is different between the EU doing this, and the United States? While the EU is definitely unique by its very nature as not quite federal but not quite independent states--it is still another body trying to push others around to get its way in the world. I am not sure this should disqualify it as a good ally. I dunno though, maybe the US should just not have any long-term allies... we have the guns and economic might to do what we want anyhow, without needing to make pesky compromises to get "help" from others! Do you think I would make a good neo-conservative? :)

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ Don, "Joerg, your posts about Sarko seem almost.... Well I'm not certain. Obsessive or envious are far too strong to describe the sentiment, but you clearly dislike the man and seem to find him inauthentic." You are right, I don't like him. I am not obsessive about him, but I am a bit obsessed with the IMHO 70% undeserved positive press he got so far in the US. Besides, I would like to point out that Kyle wrote this post. Not me. You think that I am envious that he is dating Carla Bruni? ;-)

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

@ Joerg: I know we have discussed at length whether Sarkozy is a real ally of the United States, or if he instead knows how to talk the talk but does not lay down where the US really needs French support. I originally missed this article because of the holiday break, but apparently Sarkozy is hinting that France may send more troops to Afghanistan: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/23/world/asia/23afghan.html Does this lead you to like him at least a little bit more?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Let's wait and see, if those additional French troops will arrive and what their tasks will be.

Anonymous on :

From the Economist: There's a donor conference on aid to Palestine on in Paris today, with Mahmoud Abbas, Tzipi Livni, Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice and others in town. Security is tight; the matter is pressing. But what are people really talking about in the French capital this morning? Only one subject: the revelation, according to L'Express magazine, that Nicolas Sarkozy's new girlfriend is Carla Bruni, a Franco-Italian model and singer.What really caught my eye about this story, however, is not that the president, who announced his divorce from Cecilia in October, has found time in his head-spinning diary for romance. It is that the couple were apparently spotted by photograhpers this weekend, not at the Opera, nor the latest exhibition at the Grand Palais, but at…Disneyland. Given Sarkozy's Americaphilia...

Don S on :

Under certain conditions I could easily see the US as friends and allies - or at least friendly. The scenario I am thinking of is if China (already a rising power) turns agressive and expansive. It isn't in the US interest to see China take Siberia from Russia. Nor would it be in Russia's interest to see China take Korea, Taiwan, or other other parts of Asia. Under such conditions (whioch have not yet come to pas and may never do so) I could very easily visualize a grand alliance of Russia, the US, Japan, and probaly India forming to restrain or stop the Chinese. Plus smaller powers like Korea, Australia, and possibly Thailand/Vietnam/Malaysia. etc) joining.

Don S on :

"Under certain conditions I could easily see the US as friends and allies - or at least friendly." OOps, my bad. I meant allies with Russia - and I'm not kidding of blowing smoke. Most of Europe does't wish to or have the capability for burden-sharing. Russia does. It;s independent and cannot be ordered around. But that is just the same as Europe. The difference is that Russia has will and enough power to make a difference where Russia cares to and where it is congruent with Russian interests. The other thing Russia and the US share are common rivalries, common adversaries or potential ones. This is less true of the Europeans than it has been since 1039 and I don't see the trend reversing soon.

Merkel-2 on :

Original post from [The scenario I am thinking of is if China (already a rising power) turns agressive and expansive. It isn't in the US interest to see China take Siberia from Russia. Nor would it be in Russia's interest to see China take Korea, Taiwan, or other other parts of Asia. Under such conditions (whioch have not yet come to pas and may never do so) I could very easily visualize a grand alliance of Russia, the US, Japan, and probaly India forming to restrain or stop the Chinese. Plus smaller powers like Korea, Australia, and possibly Thailand/Vietnam/Malaysia. etc) joining.] Reply to Don S - #4 : Lots of presumptions you had made, But most of them are unreasonable . What make you think China will take Korea and Siberia. any related prooves? I hope it is not from your nightmare? Seems no need to take your point-of-view seriously . if you indulge in such lunatic game , I can prompt you with a new thread here. for example ,your father presumably do some very very bad thing to your mommy, how your family and relatives will react in return ,you go on with such absurd thinking to amuse youself. if you think your mommy is not fit for stupid presumption,please don't arbitrarily criticize others, especially defile other state with your baseless claim.

Don S on :

"Lots of presumptions you had made, But most of them are unreasonable . What make you think China will take Korea and Siberia. any related prooves?" Chinese history makes me think that might happen, Merkel2. If one looks at the historical maps chronicaling the formation of China one swiftly realizes that China has been very expansionistic, and not just onder the Mongols. It could happen again under the correct conditions.

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

@ Don S: "Chinese history makes me think that might happen, Merkel2. If one looks at the historical maps chronicaling the formation of China one swiftly realizes that China has been very expansionistic, and not just onder the Mongols." If you look at the history of most countries, they have been expansionist. Do you expect the US to make a land grab further into Mexico? Do you expect Germany to make a move on France?... Or perhaps those Canadians have taken enough bad jokes and condescending from their southern neighbor? Times have changed, and I think the probability of a major land-grab war between Russia and China is highly unlikely, especially since Russia and China have substantial nuclear arsenals that still provide make Mutually Assured Destruction a possibility.

Merkel-3 on :

Don 's Comments [Chinese history makes me think that might happen, Merkel2. If one looks at the historical maps chronicaling the formation of China one swiftly realizes that China has been very expansionistic, and not just onder the Mongols. It could happen again under the correct conditions.] Reply To Don #5.1 Ha Ha, your presumption of China will taking Korea and Siberia is anything but a joke. You could never provide any substaintial facts here to support your points. You can not find prooves in reality and in history as well. Mongol conquer Han ethnic people and set up an giant empire with its capital Peking(Beijing). Within the empire ("Yuan Dynasty" in Chinese), Han ethnic people was not treated fairly and gracefully , the Mongol royal monopolize all the power. After hundred years of Mongol's cruel suppression , Han ethnic people oust the Mongol strength and set up its own state with the sovereignty over the whole Mongolia . At the early 20th century, Russia and Briton put their nose in China's affair, they regard the mongolia as their political sphere. They support Mongolia's independence from China. China's government had to make compromise to western powers because of its semi-colonial situation. That's the status quo of Mogolia : part of Mogolia claim its independence, part of Mogolia ,which is called inner-Mogolia by chinese people , stay in the China kingdom. obviously you set a wrong example to prove your baseless points. Don't blind your eyes with fake history facts. Seeking truth from facts and rationally analysing those history infomation will be more hellpful than your arbitrary presumption . If I adopt this kind of reasoning (as you did),you can see what the imprudent judgements can be made hereinafter . German will attempt to conquer the Europe with violence because of its two disgraceful world war crime records. German possiblely implement another kind of genocide against some ethnic people because of its Jews-holocaust history. Briton possibly colonize those underdevelopment states and seize profits from opium or salve-trafficing trade owing to their behaviour since industrialization . We can find the same problem with US. The yankee colonize Philippine and slaughter American Indian . Every western powers had its disgraceful history. Don , what conclusion you can make from these history facts . I don't believe such reasoning stand a reason , but it do serve the purpose of showing what a nonsense your point is . If i accidently expressed my contempts to you and your arguments, Please forgive me , I can hardly find reasons to respect people like you . P.S. If you reluctantly apply your reasoning methods to your own state ,I can do you a favor to tell you what your country gonna do next according to its history . Please let me know your motherland first. I guess that's the only way to avoid your credibility bankruptcy. Being sincere is the criteria to tell a double-standard liar from honourable gentleman. Don't make me disappointed at your moral sense and character.

ADMIN on :

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