Balkans: Taking Sides Over Kosovo


March 2 , 2008: Yugoslavia's World War Two partisan leader and long time ruler Field Marshall Josip Broz Tito remains a controversial figure in Croatia. In early February several thousand Croats demanded that a square in Zagreb, Crotai's capital be renamed. It is currently named Marshall Tito Square. The demand may reflect more than Croatian nationalism. Some of Tito's bitterest rivals were Croatian Fascists in the Ustase movement. The Ustase established a pro-Nazi government in Croatia during World War Two, and were very active in fighting Serb communist guerillas.

February 27, 2008: Serbian government offered police to protect Serbian town in Kosovo. Serb police and military forces withdrew in 1999 after Serbia was defeated by NATO in the Kosovo War. The Serbian National Council (a Kosovar Serb organization) asked Russia to re-deploy Russia troops as part of the KFOR peacekeeping force. The Serbs believe Russia troops would "help stabilize" the situation in Kosovar Serb majority areas of Kosovo. This is a thinly disguised appeal for the insertion of Russian forces that would provide a "buffer" for separating predominantly Kosovar Serb areas from the rest of Kosovo.

Serbia called Kosovo's "illegal" unilateral declaration of independence something "worse than the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia under the 1938 Munich agreement". The Serbs accused the United States of breaking international law in helping create a "a fake state" (ie. Kosovo).

February 26, 2008: A coalition group of political organizations in Transdniestr (separatist statelet within Moldova) asked the world to recognize Transdniestr's "de facto independence" from Moldova. The Transdniestrians are also insisting the world call Transdniestr "Pridnestrovie" (which also mean Transdniestr).

February 22, 2008: The UN Security council condemned violence in Serbia and Kosovo, specifically attacks on foreign embassies in Serbia. The European Union also warned Serbia that attacks on western embassies and supporters of Kosovo independence would harm Serbia's chances to join the EU or reach new trade agreements with EU nations. The Russia said Western governments should have anticipated "backlash" by Serbs who object to Western support of Kosovar separatism.

February 21, 2008: Approximately 100,000 Serbs in Belgrade demonstrated against Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. During the demonstrations a large group (estimated at 1000 people) attacked the US embassy in Belgrade and set it on fire. One person died in the arson attack, a young Serbian man. The US State Department said that Serbia had failed to provide adequate police protection for the embassy.

In the predominantly ethnic Serb town of Mitrovica (orth Kosovo) thousands of Kosovar Serbs demonstrated against Kosovo independence. The crowd taunted UN police on the scene.

In the Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb statelet within Bosnia) members of the government said they would hold a secession referendum if a majority of the EU and UN support Kosovo's independence. Presumably the Bosnian Serbs would secede from Bosnia and join Serbia.

KFOR reported that "several hundred uniformed Serbian reservists" demonstrated on the Kosovo-Serbia border. The military reservists threw rocks at KFOR peacekeepers and set fire to trash and tires. The reservists claimed to be veterans of the fighting in Kosovo (1998-1999).

Venezuela declared that it will not recognize Kosovo's independence. Speaking on his country's behalf, Venezuela's president (dictator) Hugo Chavez said Kosovo's independence set a dangerous precedent. This is also Russia's diplomatic view of Kosovo's independence. Chavez has in the past two years bought several billion dollars worth of arms from Russia. Spain, China, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Sri Lanka also oppose Kosovo's independence. Spain asserted that Kosovo's independence had "no legal basis." Spain is battling Basque separatism. Interestingly enough, Italy recognized Kosovo's independence but with qualifications. Italy's stance could be a "diplomatic bridge" to reach out to China and Russia. The Italian government said that it recognized that Kosovo is " an independent state under international supervision." That means NATO and other international peacekeepers will remain in the country The UN and EU will continue to provide governmental and financial assistance.

February 19, 2008: The US and major members of the European Union recognized Kosovo's independence. 17 EU states recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence.

Serbia's President Boris Tadic declared that in the wake of Kosovo' "illegal" separatism no nation's sovereignty and borders were secure.Ths is another way of saying that Kosovo's independence sets a "dangerous precedent" for resolving ethnic and nationalist disputes.




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