Acting on cue, Serbia’s attack dog, Russia, yesterday “reiterated” its warning to Kosovo against declaring independence. Russia argued that absent a U.N. Security Council Resolution, Kosovo independence would be illegal — apparently referring to a violation of U.N. SCR 1244. Russia also condemned the “swift nature” of Kosovo’s rush to independence and urged for further negotiations.
Reading between the lines reveals a few things about Russia’s mindset. First, as to the Security Council claim, Russia should really call it for what it is: Kosovo needs our approval for independence. Second, as to the “rush to independence” claim, Russia again should really call it for what it is: Kosovo needs our approval for independence.
As a defrocked superpower coming back into its own, Russia is vying for relevance.
In that regard, the international community understands that it would have been great if Russia would “approve” of Kosovo independence. But over the course of at least the last 14 months, it became clear that Russia would not approve Kosovo independence — and that it never would.
And much to the chagrin of Russia and Serbia, the international community came up with this answer to Russia: we don’t need your approval.
Ouch, that must have hurt.
Surely, Russia’s partnership with Serbia and gamble that the core of the international community would splinter has put Russia’s relevance on the line. And that could be troublesome when it comes to talks of a cold war.
Russia is certainly a force to be reckoned with. The kitten it once was back in the 90’s is now becoming a full grown lion under Putin’s rule. And it’s hard to say “no” to a full grown lion when it has become used to getting its way. Thus, one of the most compelling questions of Kosovo independence is not whether it will start a chain reaction of “separatist” claims, but how Russia will react to its failure to win back Kosovo for Serbia.
The answer to that question has much broader implications for peace and stability in the region more than the question to how Serbia will react. After all, Serbia has more or less shown its cards by throwing back to its nationalist and isolationist ways. But what happens when a superpower like Russia were to move inwards as well?
Is there a way for Russia to save face in the context of Kosovo’s near future status? For one reason or another, the negotiations ultimately came down to a zero-sum game, and Russia landed on the losing side.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has reiterated its warning against the declaration of unilateral independence for Kosovo as the UN Security Council is preparing to discuss the issue. The Security Council will discuss a report by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on January 16. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko said the proclamation of the province’s unilateral independence, without a relevant UN decision, would be unlawful.
“We are convinced that a negotiated settlement of the Kosovo problem is still possible,” he said. A report of the Secretary-General on the UNMIK said that “while the Unity Team continued to attend the Troika-led talks, its representatives repeatedly stated that any further extension of talks would be unacceptable.”
“Public pressure on the new Government and Assembly to act swiftly to declare independence following the end of the period of engagement is high,” it said. Yakovenko said previously that the main outcome of the UN Security Council’s work on Kosovo in 2007 was to prevent a unilateral decision on Kosovo’s independence, adding that the Kosovo problem could only be resolved through negotiations.
The UN Security Council failed last year to bridge divisions over the future of Kosovo. Most Western countries are seeking independence for the volatile area, which has been a UN protectorate since NATO bombings of the former Yugoslavia ended a war between Albanians and Serb forces in 1999. The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier Russia would use its veto power at the UN Security Council if a decision on Kosovo’s unilateral independence was made. Some other Security Council members, including Cyprus and Greece, have also voiced opposition to a unilateral declaration of sovereignty by Kosovo, fearing this could set a precedent for separatist regions on their territories.
The above article was published yesterday by Russian News and Information Agency and can be found here.