Kosovo Decision Will Have International Ramifications
November 28, 2007
A decision on the final status of Kosovo is imminent. On December 10, negotiations between Kosovar Albanian leaders and Serb government representatives officially expire without any compromise in sight. Kosovo remains adamant about independence; Belgrade is vehemently opposed. It will then be up to the major international players (the United States, the European Union, and Russia) to move the process toward resolution.
Q1: How will the status of Kosovo finally be resolved?
A1: The most likely scenario is a division between Washington and Brussels on the one hand and Moscow on the other. While the Russian government will seek further delays in decisions that have already been postponed for several years, the Americans and Europeans are likely to support the implementation of a plan for “supervised independence” forged by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. The most pressing question is whether the EU and the United States will bypass the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), as Russia looks certain to veto any form of independence for Kosovo. Washington and Brussels will need to launch a process that can legitimize Kosovo’s independence while mandating the emplacement of an EU supervisory mission in the new state. Just as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization launched a war over Kosovo in 1999 without UNSC approval, it will now need to finalize a long-term political settlement without a UNSC mandate.
Q2: What is the potential for regional instability?
A2: The potential for regional instability is much greater if Kosovo’s independence is again postponed or denied. Frustration among an economically impoverished population of almost 2 million people is rising, and there is a danger of militancy and violence if the Albanian population sees little hope for their future. This could spill over several borders and unsettle Macedonia and Serbia itself. Independence for Kosovo, supervised closely by NATO and the EU, can help stabilize the region. The United States and the EU, working in unison, must also prepare for provocations by Serbian radicals in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina—instigated by nationalist politicians in Belgrade—pushing for territorial partition if Kosovo achieves independence.
Q3: What impact will Kosovo’s independence have on U.S.-Russia relations?
A3: Russia’s reaction to Western recognition of Kosovo’s independence will be negative. Moscow will claim that the United States and the EU have acted illegally and that Russia is the defender of the international system and state integrity. In practice, the Kremlin is unlikely to use the Kosovo precedent to push for the partition of Georgia and Moldova, as it prefers to maintain “frozen conflicts” along its borders to keep its pro-Western neighbors off balance. Russia will, however, continue its pursuit of a renewed sphere of influence in the Balkan and Black Sea regions primarily by using its energy and economic instruments. It will try to exploit Serbia as a bridgehead and a potential bulwark against further Western enlargement. Russia’s own expansionist ambitions, fortified through a comprehensive election victory by a pro-Putin government, will continue to generate confrontations with both the United States and the EU.
Janusz Bugajski is director of the New European Democracies Project and senior fellow in the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
© 2007 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.