U.S. Support of Kosovo Independence Proving Costly

(Los Angeles Times) - Kosovo's declaration of independence has touched off an all-too predictable spasm of violence and hostility in a region that emerged from devastating war scarcely a decade ago.

From an American Embassy in flames in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, to stone-throwing at NATO troops along the new unsteady border between Serbia and Kosovo, the anger of Serbs over the loss of a region they consider their cultural heartland is intense and dangerous.

And the U.S., which pushed for Kosovo's separation from Serbia and was among the first countries to recognize the new nation, will receive the brunt of Serbian fury. Far from stabilizing the region, as the Bush administration forecast, the move by Kosovo has launched a period of volatile uncertainty.

Riots in Belgrade on Thursday night, which left one person dead, 150 injured and more than 200 arrested, were the largest outburst of anti-Western rage since before the fall of dictator Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000.

The unrest represented what Ljiljana Smajlovic, editor of Serbia's influential Politika daily newspaper, said was a "tectonic shift" in Serbian public opinion that will carry far-reaching and unpredictable consequences.

Still, she and other Serbian analysts said in interviews Friday, an all-out war does not appear to be among those consequences for several reasons.

First, Serbia's military capacity is far diminished from the days when the then-Yugoslavia fielded Europe's fourth-largest army. Many of its generals and commanders ended up at the international tribunal at The Hague, charged with war crimes, because of the bloody campaigns they led to repress the breakaway states of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

And ethnic Albanians who dominate Kosovo and who deployed a ferocious guerrilla army to fight for their independence are on their best behavior while receiving favorable treatment from Western powers.

Second, there are 16,000 NATO troops deployed in Kosovo, plus a U.N. police force to give pause to any military challenges. The presence of international forces stands in marked contrast to 1992 Bosnia, for example, when civilians were left largely to the mercy of Serb paramilitaries, which resulted in three years of bloodletting before NATO stepped in to help stop the killing.

Perhaps most important, Serbia is a changed place. Milosevic, the architect behind most of the warfare of the 1990s, is dead. The past eight years in Serbia have seen the rise of pro-Western, democratic leaders who have fostered political reforms.

But many pro-Western leaders of Serbia now feel betrayed.

They spent the past few years extolling the virtues of Western international law and justice that included, they point out, the 1999 U.N. resolution that establishes self-rule for Kosovo but as part of Serbia. They see as the epitome of hypocrisy that Washington went around the U.N., sidestepping the Security Council because of Russian opposition, to approve Kosovo independence.

"This is a total disaster for people who are pro-Western and pro-European," Smajlovic said. "This helps radicals who say it was never about democracy and right or wrong, but all along about taking away from Serbia, about humiliating the Serbs."

Many of the fiercest demonstrators torching embassies Thursday night and shouting "Stop U.S. terror!" were young protesters who might have little memory of Milosevic but who came of age as NATO was bombing Belgrade in 1999 to punish Serbia for its attacks in Kosovo.

Cedomir Antic, a historian with the Institute for Balkan Studies, noted that in elections earlier this month, the ultranationalist Radical Party, while narrowly losing, had managed to quadruple its vote over balloting in 2001, in part because of Kosovo.

"People are very frustrated," Antic said. "The Serbian government is very united on the issue of Kosovo but very divided on where to go from here."

The division weakens the ruling democratic coalition and makes it possible the government will fall and the pro-Moscow Radicals, whose president is also on trial for war crimes at The Hague, will take over.

What seems most likely, however, is that low-intensity skirmishes along the Serbia-Kosovo border will continue unabated. On Friday, for the fifth consecutive day, Serbian protesters chanting "Kosovo is ours!" hurled stones and bottles at U.N. police who were blocking a bridge that divides the Serbian north in the flashpoint Kosovo town of Mitrovica from the Albanian south. Earlier this week, similar gangs torched customs and police posts at other crossings between the two entities.

The debilitating divisions within the Serbian government were accentuated Friday in exchanges over who was to blame for Thursday night's violence, which came at the fringes of an otherwise peaceful demonstration. The "Kosovo is Serbia" rally was sponsored by the government and convened 200,000 people.

President Boris Tadic, the most pro-Western of Serbia's top officials, who arranged to be away for the day, condemned the violence and said Friday the riots "must never happen again." Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, a more nationalist politician, while saying the violence was wrong, praised the demonstrators for showing the U.S. government that it was wrong too.

Meanwhile, the European Union, some of whose members have recognized Kosovo, warned Serbia on Friday that it was in danger of losing its chance to join the 27-nation bloc if such hooliganism persisted.

"These acts of violence lead nowhere and they cannot help anybody," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said. He said initial talks aimed at prepping Serbia for eventual EU membership would be frozen until peace was restored in Belgrade.

Russia, Serbia's most loyal ally, threatened its own extreme measures. If NATO exceeds its mandate in Kosovo, Russia's ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said, "then I think we will also begin operating under the assumption that in order to be respected, one needs to use force."

Another of the potential consequences of Kosovo's independence is the unraveling of the region's delicate postwar balance, analysts say. Republika Srpska, the Serbian portion of Bosnia-Herzegovina, threatened to follow Kosovo's lead and secede. That could destroy the U.S.-negotiated country that emerged from the 1992-95 war, which is divided between a Serbian portion and a Muslim-Croat half.

And a sizable ethnic Albanian minority in neighboring Macedonia might find similar inspiration. It could be a tumultuous domino of secessions.

"I can't imagine anyone having the stomach for war now," Smajlovic said. "But independence for Kosovo will not stabilize the region. It will stir things up. Nationalism is on the rise. It is not going to be a happier, more stable Balkans."

Lufthansa reports smaller than expected net loss in fourth-quarter
Lufthansa reports smaller than expected net loss in fourth-quarter
Volume of Jan. 2021 cargo shipment from Romania via Turkish ports disclosed
Volume of Jan. 2021 cargo shipment from Romania via Turkish ports disclosed
UK new car sales slump in February amid COVID-19 hit
UK new car sales slump in February amid COVID-19 hit
Loading Bars
Turkmenistan ranks second in oil exports through Russia
Uzbekistan witnesses increase in volume of transport cargo turnover
Lufthansa reports smaller than expected net loss in fourth-quarter
Oil strengthens on prospect of OPEC+ maintaining supply cuts, drop in U.S. inventories
Turkey shares data on cargo, passenger traffic at Antalya Airport
Turkish company's participation in tenders of Mining Operations General Directorate banned
SOCAR Turkey reveals financial contribution of digitalization projects
Volume of Jan. 2021 cargo shipment from Romania via Turkish ports disclosed
Azerbaijani currency rates for March 4
Azerbaijan, Venezuela discuss opportunities for co-op development
Uzbekistan reveals its COVID-19 data for March 4
Anti-Iran resolution at IAEA non-constructive - Chief of Staff of Iran's president
UK new car sales slump in February amid COVID-19 hit
No way sabotage-terrorist group members can be considered POWs - Azerbaijani MFA (INTERVIEW)
Uzbekistan eyes increasing export of electrical products
Azerbaijan's Innovation Center talks on activities to support local startup ecosystem
Turkmengas opens tender for purchase of metal products
Volume of handmade carpets in Iran increases
U.S. House cancels Thursday session after police warn of possible plot on Capitol
Croatian companies increase export of IT technologies to Azerbaijan - Croatian Embassy
Swedish police investigating possible 'terror motives' in knife attack
WHO reports over 348,000 new daily cases of COVID-19
Ukraine to receive 30 mln doses of COVID-19 vaccine in 2021: PM
Turkey’s export of chemical products up in early 2021
SpaceX’s Starship prototype explodes minutes after landing in Texas
Israel reports 4,173 new COVID-19 cases, 788,869 in total
EU shares new programs to be implemented in Georgia in 2021
UK reports 6,385 new COVID-19 cases, 315 deaths
Facebook to end ban on political ads in United States
Biden says it's a 'big mistake' for states to lift mask mandates
Covid protection measures vital due to unpredictability of its mutations — WHO
Africa's confirmed COVID-19 cases pass 3.91 mln
CoronaVac efficacy above 83% after Phase 3 trials in Turkey
Karaganda region to build mega sheep farm
Iran exports over 1.4mn tons of round bar in 10 months
Georgia reaches preliminary agreement with Novavax
Bitcoin rises by over 10% surpassing $52,000
One million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in Romania
Czech Republic reports record breaking number of people hospitalized with COVID-19
WHO doesn’t recommend introducing Covid passports for now
Azerbaijan holds command training of troops of Nakhchivan garrison (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Azerbaijan reconstructs houses damaged during Second Karabakh War – Trend TV
Iran preparing for possible travel restrictions for Nowruz holiday
Iran's Health Minister expresses concern over spread of UK Coronavirus variant across country
Iran plans to release held up commodities from customs
Metallurgical production may increase in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan's foreign trade balance with Israel remains positive in Jan. 2021
Venezuela always supported Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity - Ambassador
Azerbaijan, Pakistan discuss areas of military cooperation (VIDEO)
Bio-smart pavilion ready for integration with Smart City project network - Azerbaijan Innovation Agency
Georgia makes rapid progress on its commitments under Energy Community - Green for Growth Fund
Azerbaijani State Customs Committee develops new portal for visualizing customs statistics
'Uzbekistan GTL' plant receives fuel gas for first time
All deals with corporate securities in Azerbaijan fell on secondary market - BSE
Most transactions on state securities in Azerbaijan accounts for primary market
Azerbaijan plans to expand geography of wine export
U.S. private payrolls rise less than expected in February
Prosecutor's Office talks details of mine explosion accident in Aghdam
Loan portfolio of trade and services sector increases in Azerbaijan
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price starts to rise in Iran
Azerbaijan announces net foreign assets of commercial banks for January
Croatian 'green energy' companies could contribute to dev't of Azerbaijani liberated lands
President Aliyev receives in video format delegation led by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of Pakistan (PHOTO)
Next equipment from India will be brought to Iran’s Chabahar port
Silk Way Technics company has been keeping aircraft flying safely for 15 years
Turkmenistan has potential to benefit from future co-op with EU
Uzbek currency rates for March 4
Azerbaijani, Italian FMs discuss prospects for comprehensive development of relations
Iran plans to increase mushroom production and exports
Growth of trade turnover observed between Turkey and Uzbekistan
Azerbaijan's experience of implementing 'smart' projects to be presented in Belarus
PayPal in talks to buy Israeli co Curv
Kazakhstan expects recovery of business activity in 1Q2021
Chief of Azerbaijani Aghdam's Irrigation Department heavily injured in mine explosion (PHOTO)
OPEC+ considers oil output roll over for April
Azerbaijani police officers find air defense systems left by Armenians in Fuzuli (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Kazakhstan's Home Credit and Finance Bank may face additional asset quality pressure
Iran's exports to Turkmenistan via railways increase
Turkish revenues from export of defense-related products grow
Turkey increases steel exports to Azerbaijan since early 2021
Turkey plans to increase trade turnover volume with Georgia
Hungarian Globalia Kft to support solar park creation in Kazakhstan
Significant number of people receive unemployment benefits in Georgia
Turkey attaches importance to Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey trilateral format of co-op - FM
Uzbek-Chinese JV to buy gas piston power station via tender
Azerbaijan’s PASHA Bank to continue to improve digital products
Fruits and vegetables make up majority of Azerbaijan's export of non-oil products since early 2021
EU to promote local entrepreneurship in Georgian Adjara
Georgia's Batumi sees decrease in real estate transactions
Number of apartment transactions down in Georgia's Tbilisi - Colliers International
Major Azerbaijani state companies' revenues from non-oil products' export up in Jan.2021
Belarusian Belavia Airlines extends suspension of flights to Turkmenistan
Sales of Iranian mining companies soar
Moody's unveils current account balance in Azerbaijan's GDP for 2021
Uzbekistan’s economic activity index drops significantly
French Senate interested in strengthening bilateral co-op with Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan enters list of world’s largest cotton producers
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for March 3
Russia's Rosselkhoznadzor allows imports of apples, tomatoes from some Azerbaijani enterprises
Bosnian journalist talks parallel between genocides in Srebrenica and Azerbaijani Khojaly
All news