The International Herald Tribune reports that the Kosovo Independence issue has escalated further with protest actions by the minority Serbs in the northern area of the contested territory. Although 95% of Kosovo’s population are ethnic Albanians, the new country’s northern territory – about 15% of their land – is held by the Serbs.
I’ve yet to check with other info sources, but IHT’s report leaves cause for concern that the situation is escalating. The “traditional” Western Powers – the United States, Germany, France and Great Britain – have all supported Kosovo, with the Germans sending in their very own Defense Minister. EU ministers have declared that partitioning Kosovo will not be allowed.
Ethnic Albanians who have communities in the contested region have vowed to stay so it does not de facto become Serbian territory. There is even talk that they are willing to fight to keep it as part of Kosovo. Meanwhile, the rhetoric is similar among the Serbians. Serb Kosovars already marched in protest over the declaration of independence by Kosovo, and UN checkpoints were torched. As a chilling indication of how bad it has become, the leader of the parallel Serbian authority for Northern Kosovo commented that the torching of UN / NATO checkpoints “might not be pleasant, but it is legitimate.”
John Kegan claims in The First World War that part of what made World War I happen was the lack of a mechanism for diplomacy that would help slow an escalation that leads to armed conflict so officials can find a solution to an issue that doesn’t involve death and destruction.
Hopefully, with all of the channels existing today – the UN, the EU, maybe even NATO as a political entity – war can be avoided. The Balkans have been a cause of major wars before, and the confluence of events in Kosovo is beginning to look familiar. Too familiar.