Wednesday, April 4, 2007 at 10:44 PM

Kosovo: wither Serbia’s Alamo!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Twenty-five years ago, the British considered the Falkland Islands so vital to their national sovereignty that they launched a war to assert dominion over them when locals seemed poised to pledge allegiance to neighboring Argentina. Never mind that back then the Falklands were little more than a bleak and desolate cluster of islands situated 8000 miles away.

Therefore, it smacks of rank hypocrisy for the British to be the leading voice in Europe today denouncing the Serbs for considering Kosovo so vital to their national sovereignty that they are threatening to launch a war to preserve this union against secessionist efforts by ethnic Albanians who want to establish it as an independent state. After all, Kosovo holds as much historical, cultural and religious significance for Serbs as Mecca holds for Saudis. Moreover, it happens to be situated right within Serbia’s universally-recognized borders, not thousands of (imperial) miles away….

Nevertheless, there was already virtual unanimity going into debate at the United Nations yesterday on a proposal to sanction the Albanians’ efforts as the “final status” for Kosovo under international law. Indeed, the only uncertainty that remains about this inexorable drive for Kosovo independence concerns the price Russia and China will demand (from the U.S. and EU) to get on board. In fact, here’s how the foreign minister of Serbia’s perennial European nemesis, Germany, expressed his country’s undisguised schadenfreude over this prospect:

It’s never the case that all European partners have the same opinion in advance….That’s how it is in the Kosovo question. [German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier]

But as remarkable as European consensus on Kosovo independence may be, it pales in comparison to the unprecedented consensus amongst congenitally-fractious Serbs on the question of keeping Kosovo within Serbia. And, here’s how Serbia’s religious leaders expressed (or lamented as the case might be) their nation’s wholly-forlorn mission to preserve this union:

[B]lackened minds want to change the status of Kosovo, our whole history, culture and statehood. [His Holiness Patriarch Pavle (92), 44th successor to the Throne of St Sava]

I’m calling on Russia, as the biggest Christian country, but also on China, to use their power of veto in the U.N. Security Council to prevent a crime against the Serbian people….The Serbs will never give up Kosovo. [Archbishop Amfilohije, a leader of Serbia’s Orthodox Church]

Unfortunately, the international military and political forces aligned against the Serbs are such that they would be well-advised to have their religious leaders lead them in serene prayers of acceptance instead of having their political leaders lead them in jingoistic cries of defiance over Kosovo. Because it will take a miracle for them to retain any control over this province when all is said and done. In fact, defying the myth that all Serbs are irrationally nationalistic, it is telling that many of the 200,000 Serbs (compared to the 2 million Albanians) now living in Kosovo are not only packing up their bags, but also digging up the graves of loved ones to relocate to what little will remain of Serbia after the complete disunion of the former Yugoslavia.

That said, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the truly-balkanized nature of this territorial fight. Because the only thing most people know about Kosovo, or this entire region for that matter, was probably gleaned from TV-news reports about ethnic cleansing, in which the Serbs were invariably portrayed as neo-Nazis trying to exterminate Muslims (and Catholics).

But this is not the forum, nor am I qualified, to reconcile the competing versions of history the polyglot of ethnic and religious groups proffer to rationalize how they arrived at the current state of affairs in the Balkans. Nevertheless, I believe it’s fair to assert that the victims of ethnic cleansing were too often perpetrators and/or beneficiaries of ethnic cleansing themselves. Indeed, the only reason Serbs are fleeing Kosovo today is that they reasonably fear the atrocities ethnic Albanians have been committing against them since 1999 – right under the eyes of UN protection forces – will only worsen once de facto independence is conferred.

Finally, it’s bad enough that most Americans are as ignorant about the origins and nature of the religious and ethnic conflicts that blew the former Yugoslavia asunder (after the death of the dictator Tito) as they are about similar factors that are now blowing Iraq asunder. But it must add salt to the wounded pride of all Serbs when relatively-informed American politicians make policy statements about the status of Kosovo that reek of patent bias, which betray not only America’s historical ties to Serbia but also the founding principles of its democracy. Yet this is precisely what no less an influential politician than Sen Joseph Biden (D-DE), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has done repeatedly in issuing delcarations of support for Kosovo independence:

[A]droit diplomacy to secure Kosovo’s independence could yield a victory for Muslim democracy, a better future for south-east Europe and validation for the judicious use of American power.

Nationalist politicians in Belgrade have embraced the fight against Kosovo’s independence to divert public attention from their own failures and Serbia’s stalled bid for European Union membership. The actions of Vojislav Kostunica, Serbia’s prime minister have been particularly disappointing. [Op Ed in Financial Times dated 2 January 2007]

But the Serbs could not have tailored a more ideally-suited ambassador than Ivan Vujacic to represent their interests in the United States. Because no ambassador in Washington has been more adept than he has at matching political wits with antagonistic and self-righteous American politicians – on their own terms. And, that Ambassador Vujacic has managed this feat with diplomatic temperament even while defending what is generally-recognized as his country’s unsustainable position on Kosovo is quite extraordinary.

For example, even though he probably sympathizes with the critical mass of progressive Serbs who are resigned to Kosovo independence, here’s how the Ambassador defended the pyrrhic aspirations of nationalists back home aga
inst Biden’s pronouncements on Kosovo:

The truth of the matter is that Kosovo has a dismal record regarding basic security, the rule of law and respect for property and human rights for non-Albanians. Democracy should be universal and not ethnic, nor based on religion. Should the threat of violence be rewarded by a quick move to independence or is Kosovo just a propaganda tool for the Muslim world as Senator Biden seems to suggest?

Serbia expects that the principles of international law and the UN Charter should be adhered to. It does not believe that a democratic nation should be dismembered. It has stated so publicly. Surely, this is not conspiracy. [Op Ed in Financial Times dated 8 January 2007]


Indeed, if Biden – infamous as he is for plagiarizing the glib words of British politicians – had any real political integrity, Ambassador Vujacic’s rebuttal would have compelled him to acknowledge at least having some political scruples about his cocksure declarations.

NOTE: In 50 years – in Texas (or California) – when Mexicans outnumber white Americans 10:1 and decide they want independence (to annex with Mexico much as many suspect Kosovars want to annex with Albania), I have no doubt that more American politicians will be quoting Ambassador Vucjacic than Sen Biden to defend the territorial integrity of the United States of America.

Related Articles:
Brief history of former Yugoslavia


  1. Oliver January 4, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Thank you for this unbiased and truthful article about Serbia and the wrongdoings inflicted upon her over the past decades !

    You will find that every Serb that reads this article will feel a great sense of gratitude for presenting our case in a truthful way.

    Again, my sincere thanks !


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