Balkans: Building Greater Albania

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December 8, 2007: Could Russia stop the UN from permitting Kosovo to officially separate from Serbia? That's the big question in behind the scenes diplomacy over Kosovo's "final status." Russia definitely opposes independence. However, the UN gave NATO permission to conduct peacekeeping operations in Kosovo in 1999. Russia did not veto that resolution. This leaves the door open for maintaining a UN mandated NATO peacekeeping presence in Kosovo even if Kosovo declares independence. This potential "diplomatic finesse" may provide the framework for allowing international peacekeepers to remain in Kosovo. If Serbia were to go to war with NATO peacekeepers deployed in Kosovo, that means the fighting would immediately involve many western European nations and the US. This could be a "backdoor firebreak" to stop renewed warfare.

December 7, 2007: Italy, Great Britain, Germany and France believe that it is unlikely that Serbia and Kosovo will reach a mediated agreement on Kosovo's final status. That's an admission that current talks have produced a stalemate. This carries a lot of weight for several reasons. Obviously, the four nations are NATO members and have significant military establishments. They have also been deeply involved in trying to reach a negotiated agreement. Italy, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the US composed the "Contact Group" that came together to resolve the Kosovo crisis in the late 1990s.

Serbia's President Boris Tadic said that Serbia would not go to war over Kosovo. Tadic was quoted as telling Serbian media that "Any war and violence most certainly jeopardize any possibility that Kosovo would ever remain in Serbia…" In other words, the Serbian government is saying that going to war over Kosovo would start a war which Serbia would lose. It's a fair bet that the statement is directed at the people of Serbia.

December 4, 2007: The government of Croatia is accusing the government of Serbia of trying to strengthen the Republika Srpska at the expense of the federal Bosnian government. Croats fear that Serbia intends to incorporate the Republika Srpska into Serbia if Kosovo becomes independent.

Spain took over command of the European Union's EUFOR peacekeeping force in Bosnia. Spain has 580 troops in the force of 2,500 soldiers.

December 3, 2007: Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), won 34.3 percent of the vote in Kosovo's parliamentary elections, giving it 37 seats of 120 seats. The Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), came in second with 22 percent of the vote (which will probably translate into 25 seats). The New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) took the third largest percentage, 12 percent (probably 13 seats). The PDK and AKR will probably form a coalition. Most Kosovar Serbs boycotted the election.

December 1, 2007: A recent poll showed that 77 percent of Bosnian Serbs living in the Republika Srpska support "secession from Bosnia."

November 26, 2007: A Russian representative at the Kosovo-Serbia "final status" talks told Serbian media that an independent Kosovo could lay the groundwork for "a Greater Albania." Among Slavs –especially Serbian Slavs-- this is a huge threat. It is arguable that as Yugoslavia fell apart, an attempt to create a Greater Serbia (by Slobodan Milosevic) kicked off the Balkan war of the 1990s. Formation of a Greater Albania could kick off the Balkan wars of the 2010s. What is Greater Albania? It would be a country formed from ethnic Albanian regions in Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. It could include claims on parts of Greece.

Montenegro will allows NATO military forces to transit Montenegrin territory (air, sea, and land). This will allow NATO to quickly reinforce peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. Montenegro wants to join NATO and this decision is another indication that the Montenegrin government has "chosen Europe." Montenegro's official position on Kosovar independence is neutrality, but Serbians think allowing NATO and European Union military forces free transit of Montenegrin territory isn't a "neutral position." And they are right.

Serbia has sent another 700 troops to southern Serbia. This is because of growing unrest there. For example, the Serb militia, "St Tsar Lazar Guard", called on Serbia's parliament to "go to war" if Kosovo becomes independent. The St Tsar Lazar Guard has threatened to cross the border into Kosovo on its own. The militia claims it has 5000 members. The militia is named after the Serbian king who died at the battle of Kosovo.

Macedonia continues to have problems with its Albanian minority. Recently, police found a cache of 18 rocket launchers (likely RPG launchers) in the village of Prsce (northern Macedonia). The village is in a predominantly ethnic Albanian area.

 

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