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Neither the War Nor Ending it Will Solve the Problem of Kosovo



June 9, 1999

LONDON- This was (or still is?) the sixth war that affected the destiny of Kosovo this century. The first was in 1912. Serbia, along with Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria divided up the remains of the Balkan part of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire. Then the Serbian army, living out the national quest, stormed into Kosovo.

The second was in 1915 when the Serbs were chased out of Kosovo by the Austro-Hungarians and the Germans, with the Albanians of Kosovo taking their sweet revenge.
The third was in 1918 at the end of the First World War when the Serbs swept back and, after taking their own revenge, they implanted- -Israel like--Serbian settlements inside Kosovo.

The fourth was in 1941 when the Italians fighting on Hitler's side captured Kosovo and incorporated it into Italian-ruled Greater Albania.

The fifth was the victory of Tito against the Nazis and the Italians in 1945, which led to the re-incorporation of Kosovo into Serbia, despite a promise to allow a future communist Kosovo to become part of Albania. (War has always been an unusually cruel business in the Balkans. Doubters of this should read the account of Yugoslavia's supposed "Renaissance Man", Milovan Djilas, much feted in Western literary circles, who describes his sheer enjoyment at massacring Italian troops.)

Why on earth Clinton, Blair et al should think the 6th war with its messy, muddled outcome will solve anything stretches credulity.

Amazingly, having disrupted and destroyed much of the infrastructure of the whole region, they want a simple return to the status quo ante. They are prepared to re-affirm that the Albanian-majority province should live under Serbian rule, albeit with a measure of autonomy. They want to re-confirm the boundaries of Kosovo. And they want to disarm the Albanian guerrillas and, indeed, ensure, by occupying the territory with peace-keeping troops, the present arrangements could last until kingdom come, if necessary.

Clinton, Blair, Schroeder are all presiding over countries that went to war twice this century, dragging the rest of the world with them. In neither case did it make sense in terms of lives lost and cities destroyed but the cumulative effect had a positive outcome-- boundary problems, where country demarcation lines did not coincide with ethnicity, were effectively sorted out. If they hadn't been, just to take one of many possible examples, a Poland of today existing within the ethnic proportions of 1939 would certainly be racked with violent Polish nationalism and guerrilla ethnic-based secessionist movements.

The Balkans is the one remaining part of Europe--apart from Ireland and the Basque country--where boundary lines are actively contested. If there is one lesson from the century's great European wars it is that there will be no real peace until they are re-drawn and better coincide with the ethnic makeup of the region. (Ditto for Africa too.) For the West to have gone to war to preserve the status quo is not very clever.

If ever there is a time to get this right, once and for all, this is surely it. The post-conflict situation (if that's what it temporarily is) lends itself to creative map drawing.

Once the Nato-Russian peace plan is implemented it is likely that there will be a de facto Russian sector (where the small--only 10%--Serbian population is concentrated) and a de-facto Nato one (where the Albanians will chose to live).

This natural division will be inevitably reinforced by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) freedom fighters who will want to use the cover given them by the presence of Nato troops to ensure the ethnic purity of the Albanian-populated part of Kosovo. Remnants of the Serb population will be encouraged to flee into their sector or Serbia proper. The peace agreement calls for disarmament of the KLA, but we know from the Northern Ireland Good Friday peace deal this is very hard to effect.

The West should wake up: the war in Kosovo is just the latest act in a territorial conflict going back 1,300 years. Even a century doesn't provide the true historical depth. The wolf is not going to lie down with the lamb. The solution for ex-Yugoslavia, as for the rest of Europe, is separate nation states with clear and overwhelming ethnic majorities. The Kosovars, both in fairness and for a lasting peace, must now be allowed to become part of a Greater Albania. Kosovo should be partitioned. To placate the Serbs, Serbia should be allowed to incorporate the Serbian parts of Bosnia.

That leaves a difficult question, what to do about neighbouring Macedonia, which has a sizeable but minority (22%) Albanian population? At the moment Macedonia is relatively well governed and stable. So perhaps this is the right moment for rational discussion about partition--with the Slav majority joining up with Bulgaria and the Albanians with Albania.

The Balkan map never made sense. It certainly never made peace. This is as good a time as ever has presented itself to try and get it right.


Copyright © 1999 By JONATHAN POWER


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