Russia to Veto Kosovar Independence

According to dpa (as related on page 6 of today’s FAZ), the Russian ambassador in Serbia said that Russia would use its UN Security Council veto to put the kibosh on any UN action to recognize the independence of Kosovo. He couched his argument a tiny bit more diplomatically, in that he said Russia would veto a solution that is not acceptable to both sides, i.e., Serbian and Kosovar. But it’s essentially a foregone conclusion that the Serbian government will not look favorably on independence for its former province.

A status recommendation is expected at the end of January from UN representative Martti Ahtisaari. The dpa report says to expect him to recommend limited independence under the auspices of the EU. That’s confusing, even for diplomatic language, and it might be enough of a fig leaf to avoid a UN confrontation.

If not, it will be interesting to see how EU leaders, particularly German ones, who often praise the UN as a source of legitimacy (see Iraq, for instance), react in this case. (German public and commentator reaction will be interesting too; sometimes it seems that the UN here is regarded as a politics-free and near-holy Instanz.) My bet is that a Russian veto will be roundly ignored and recognition extended in some form on a bilateral basis. Consistency being a hobgoblin and all that.

14 thoughts on “Russia to Veto Kosovar Independence

  1. Doug have you read the latest effort by Tim Judah? He’s now claiming that Kosovo independence will be put off for another few months. It seems unlikely to me but then again, from over here, its hard to tell.

    It does, though seem like a fait complis concerning UN security council recognition – there will be none. Kosovo will be recognised in a series of unilateral moves by those countries inclined…

    By the way I checked back on some research I did (once upon a time) concerning the Yugoslav 1960’s, 70’s student movement. Nationalism, as I said was certainly not a feature of the movement. There is surprisingly little research on the subject by the way. If you are confusing the fact that some former Communist functionaries (who supposedly opposed nationalism) did an about turn you would be right. But that is a different story.

  2. Confusingly enough, there are two Dougs at AFOE, both of whose last names begin with M. It’s usually the other one who writes about Kosovo, since he’s actually lived in Belgrad and all that.

    Today, I wrote about it because I liked the UN/legitimacy angle, especially as it applies to Germany. But I think your comment is aimed at Doug Muir.

    That said, if you’ll post a link to the Tim Judah piece, I might well read it.

  3. I think Ahtisaari realised this a while back. Although his proposals for Kosovo have not been made public it has been reported that he avoids the term ‘independence’. It does seem that the main aim at this stage is to try to pass a resolution that will replace 1244 and will allow states to recognise the statehood if they so wish. In other words, rather than formally recognise the independence of the province, the intention is to secure wider recognistion that Serbia no longer has uncontested sovereignty. It will certainly be a very odd situation, and one that will cause all sorts of problems.

    It will also be very interesting to see how the EU deals with all of this. There are likely to be some serious divisions. Britain will almost certainly opt for recognition (I bet it will be the first EU member to do so), but Spain has already said that it opposes independence, even conditionally.

    Of course, all this could be solved if the two sides accepted partition as the honourable compromise. No precedent would be set – except in the minds of those who have an irrational belief that while it is fine to partition Serbia, the division of Kosovo would spell the end of the world order as we know it!

  4. At this point, Moscow’s opinion on Kosovo matters only to Berlin and, to a lesser extent, the media in Kosovo. Recognition will roll out bilaterally, and for the K-Albanian majority, the only recognition that matters is the one that comes from Washington. Russia’s veto will ultimately mean as little as decisions in Spain, Romania, or elsewhere to withhold recognition.

    I’m interested in hearing from some of the pro-partition voices out there. In the likeliest scenario, where UNOSEK recommends conditional independence shepherded by the EU, counter-secession is one route for K-Serbs north of the Ibar might take. If a UNSC resolution permits states to recognize Kosovo’s independence, and KFOR is there under a UN mandate, how does KFOR respond to the unilateral secession of part of a state that most of its members will recognize?

  5. No worries, we only have an informal division of labor here. I was interested, as I mentioned, in the UN/legitimacy angle. I’ve been a semi-regular public speaker on foreign affairs and transatlantic relations, and I’ve gotten an earful in recent years about the importance of UN backing. So I just wanted to make a public note in advance.

    Thanks for the link.

    Jim, above, is also right to observe that in EU matters (and probably UN, too, though I am less well versed), fudge and delay are always good bets.

  6. I’ve found Tim Judah very uneven, and I think this is not one of his strongest columns.

    Ahtisaari will have /something/ on the table by early February, and it will include de facto independence.

    BTW, the whole recognition thing is a bit premature. Kosovo isn’t going to have full sovereignty for a while yet, and a UN seat is many years away under any scenario. Right now they’re looking at (1) the UN moving out, to be replaced by the EU; (2) everyone agreeing that there’s no constitutional connection to Serbia; (3) a foreign ministry, even if nobody calls it that; and (4) international approval of a self-defense force. All of this via a suitably weasel-worded UN resolution that will replace 1244. They will /not/ get independence, full sovereignty, ambassadors, or any of that good stuff.

    The pinching point is “no constitutional connection to Serbia”. The Serbs will hate that a lot. Will the Russians veto? I have my doubts, especially if the resolution doesn’t include the “I-word”.

    (Of course, if a state has no constitutional connection to any other state, and is largely self-governing, what then is it? Ahem. But Kosovo is strange and unique.)

    Doug M.

  7. Regardless of an ambiguous resolution that would allow bilateral recognition, the UN would technically not be allowed to intervene in the secession of a state that it does not explicitly recognise. In order to do so, it would require a UN Security Council recognising Kosovo or one authorising force to prevent the move. Again, both would be rejected by Russia.

    In such a case, counter-secession would have to be conducted by actors that support independence, such as the US and Britain. Would the US be willing to take such a step knowing that this would really antagonise Moscow? I don’t think so. Therefore, if a counter declaration of independence was made, I predict a stalemate. This would eventually evolve into an agreed double partition that everyone could live with.

    In any case, the complacent view that seems to exist in the minds of many about the recent Russian statement is outstanding. As is the idea that EU member states can be ignored. In case it hadn’t been noticed, the idea of a common EU position on Kosovo seems to be slowly dissolving. Just this week, Italy and Greece have also indicated their concern about an imposed solution. The idea that US support is the only support that matters is sheer hubris. Kosovo is not in N. America. It is in Europe and its whole future is tied up with the EU. A fundamental division among EU members could be disastrous for the province. Spain, Italy and Greece (and soon Romania) may not seem important at first glance, but they nevertheless command an important say in EU decision making.

    By the way, Mijawara, you never did give me a satisfactory answer as to why you believe the partition of Serbia along essentially ethnic lines is acceptable (remembering that Serbia remains a far more multiethnic state even without Kosovo than Kosovo will ever be) and yet the thought of the division of Kosovo seems to cause your head to implode!

  8. It seems to me that Kosovo is not that important to Germany. My guess is that Germany will support anything that gets the troops out quickly.

  9. Judah is considered to be very slightly pro Serb (in recent years, although his book on Serbian myths incurred the wrath of some Serbs in the past). Mind you it appears to go with the territory for some just as the opposite goes with the territory for liberal (particularly US) types.

    I read today that Nicholas Burns said that something will be put on the table at the UN in February or March Doug. Dont know Burns has a pretty hard line in support of Kosovo independence – if he’s finally conceding pushing dates back then…

  10. *If not, it will be interesting to see how EU leaders, particularly German ones, who often praise the UN as a source of legitimacy (see Iraq, for instance), react in this case.*

    This remark gets my back up. The Iraq invasion was putatively based on a violated UN resolution. The reason why the UN’s imprimateur was required for regime change was that the rationale for the invasion was a prior UN resolution that Iraq’s government was alleged to have broken. If it happens that EU functionaries really do have an irrational admiration for the UN, then please cite another example. In the case of the Iraq Invasion, EU objections to its illegality were entirely accurate and meritorious.

    UN SCR 1441 was advanced by the Bush Administration as its justification for the invasion. Yet it was entirely clear that, while 1441 had been passed unanimously, none of the UNSC members besides the US and UK regarded the measure as having authorized war. Since these were the parties that voted on 1441 in the first place, it is absurd to pretend that 1441 authorized an invasion. Clearly, such an argument is sophism at best, and deadly silliness at worst.

  11. “for the K-Albanian majority, the only recognition that matters is the one that comes from Washington”

    This is probably true – identity politics being what they are. The Kossovars have good reason to see themselves as an American protectorate, even though it’s the EU that picks up most of the bills. They don’t trust Europe, both because Europe was more reluctant to bomb Serbia than was the US, and for historical reasons going back to 1913.

    What’s in it for the US and what’s in it for Europe? Spain is worried about the precedent for its own national unity, presumably, but one can’ help wondering what factors are behind the US, British, French, Italian and German positions. Any ideas anybody ?

    Just a thought: The Trepca mineral resources are considerable, even though the mine is completely run-down. Partition might make it more difficult to get them running again – and that’s a pretty big contract to leave partly under Serb control.

    BTW – Is there any nation in Europe worse at PR than the Serbs ?

  12. ‘but one can’ help wondering what factors are behind the US, British, French, Italian and German positions. Any ideas anybody’

    Good question (except on Italy I think their hesitant position is not difficult to explain).

    The Trepca mine resources arent all that considerable by the way. The type of resrouces to be mined is second grade and much of the good stuff was blasted off in a foolhardy manner. I dont think (on a capitalist level) that it matters who controls Trepca as long as its run well.
    That does bring up another issue though regarding Kosovo and Serbian investment – the Serbian mobile phone operator which was cut off by UNMIK. Apart from pandering to Kosovo Albanian populist sentiment I dont see the point.

    Investment is investment and the local population has to understand (it is after all the type of values the West wants imposed upon all countries) that money and business doesnt have a colour.

    You might want to use the country word Serbian rather than the ethnic group Serb by the way although domestic nationalists prefer to describe tribe (erhem, I mean ethnic group) rather than ‘citizen Serbian’.

    As for the PR – watch CNN and tell me what you think of the latest Serbia advert. If you are only referring to politics then I dont think any amount of lobbying will change the minds of the US, France or Britian.

  13. Kosovo should not be independent. You rememeber the deal in 1999? Autonomy! The Kosovars did nothing to work it out with the Serbians. They are only in there for one thing!

    And what about the Albanias in Macedonia?
    Independent also?

    He, let’s give the Kurds a real state then. And the Armenias in Turkey, the Catalans in Spain….

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