I’m sure those of you who have been following the future status of Kosovo read Raju G.C. Thomas’s article, “The case Against Kosovo Independence.” Mr. Thomas is an emeritus professor at Marquette University and a former professor at the University of Belgrade. His article can be found here.
Mr. Thomas’s main argument is that “many other countries with territorially concentrated ethnic minorities have reason to be anxious about the precedent that might be set if Kosovo’s declaration of independence is recognized.” In support of that conclusion, Mr. Thomas reasons that allowing “Kosovo’s independence would demonstrate that violent secessionism works.”
As a threshold matter, Mr. Thomas’s reasoning falls into the “wildfire” category of arguments against Kosovo independence. It goes something like this: if Kosovo declares independence, then everyone with half a brain and the ability to speak a language will declare independence.
For example, former Serbian foreign minister Vuk Draskovic argued that Kosovo’s declaration of independence would cause a chain reaction in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Chechnya, and Taiwan — to name a few. Relatedly, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his unknown lapdog Michael Averko have argued that if Kosovo is allowed to secede from Serbia, then the same right should be given to the territories of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria.
I think one of the most important things to point out about the “wildfire” category of arguments is the mistaken impression that the world consists of hundreds and thousands of separatist territories itching to see when Kosovo declares independence so that they can follow. Strangely, the territories that many cite in the “wildfire” category of arguments have already unilaterally seceded: Abkhazia, Transnistria, South Ossetia, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. These territories that most everyone in the “wildfire” category of arguments cite to were not directly inspired by Kosovo’s attempt to secede from Serbia.
For example, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus formally declared independence in 1983 — many years before Kosovo’s attempt to break from Serbia. In Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria, the precedent was the breakup of the USSR, not Kosovo’s attempt to secede from Serbia.
Next, Mr. Thoma’s argument that Kosovo independence would send a message that “violent secessionism works” is puzzling. According to Mr. Thomas, the “violent secessionism” by the Kosovar Albanians occurred as follows:
First, faceless ethnic secessionists attack cvilians and police. Not knowing where the enemy is hiding within the civilian population, security forces retaliate indiscriminately. Human rights violations elicit an international outcry and condemnation, followed by intervention and occupation by foreign military forces. And, in the denouement, the state loses control of its province as the secessonists declare independence.
Apart from the gross oversimplification of the events leading up the conflict, Mr. Thomas suggests that the Serbians and the international community were duped by a Kosovar Albanian conspiracy to obtain land that belonged to Serbia. This is ridiculous. To be sure, the Kosovar Albanians committed serious crimes and terrorism against the Serbians, but Mr. Thoma’s blithe dismissal of the existence of any Serb aggression, Serb crime, and Serb oppression against Kosovar Albanians is inexplicable.
Mr. Thomas then attempts to use UN Resolution 1244 for the broad theory that it does not allow for a unilateral declaration of independence. In an another post, which can be found here, I argue that that conclusion is not supported by the text of UN Resolution 1244 itself.
In the end, Mr. Thomas’s “case” against Kosovo independence falls flat.