Essay, Research Paper: Kosovo Crisis

Politics

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The tension in Kosovo has existed for centuries, dating back as far as 1389 when
Serbs lost an epic battle to the Ottoman Turks in Kosovo. Not until 1912, more
than 500 years later did the Serbs regain control when Kosovo became part of the
Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes following the collapse of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire. With the conclusion of World War II, as an absolute
monarchy under the name Yugoslavia, the country became a communist republic.
Autonomy was granted to Kosovo in 1974 in a revised constitution. Kosovo,
although a Serbian province, was largely occupied by ethnic Albanians who
established Albanian-language schools and institutions. In 1987, Slobodan
Milosevic rose to power in Yugoslavia, riding the wave of Serbian nationalism
with his promises of a “Greater Serbia.” Escalating tensions between the
Serbs and the ethnic Albanians and the fear of secession prompted Milosevic to
strip Kosovo, though 90 percent Albanian, of it’s autonomy and army troops and
police were deployed in battle strength to maintain order. Kosovo’s Albanian
majority voted in 1992 to secede from Yugoslavia, voicing a desire to merge with
Albania. President Bush warned Serbs that the United States would use force if
the Serbs attacked Kosovo. In 1997, The Kosovo Liberation Army began killing
Serb policemen and others supporters of the Serbs. The conflict turned into a
guerilla war after Milosevic sent troops into the areas controlled by the Kosovo
Liberation Army and killed 80 Kosovars. Shortly after, talks were held for the
first time advocating a peaceful path to independence for Kosovo, but the
Albanian side boycotted further meetings. Later, the United Nations Security
Council called for an immediate cease-fire and political negotiations, but with
little support from either side. NATO allies then authorized airstrikes against
Serb military targets, but were not prompted to take action because Milosevic
agreed to withdraw troops and accept unarmed international monitors. Following a
number of failed peace talks NATO launched airstrikes on March 24th of this
year. The involvement of NATO in this conflict is unprecedented and raises
questions about why action was not taken under the auspices of the United
Nations rather than NATO. The United Nations has not voted on the use of force
against Yugoslavia because both Russia and China would almost certainly veto
military action. Russia has a traditional alliance with the Serbs, while China
(particularly because of their own political situation and human rights
violations) opposes any international intervention in the domestic affairs of
sovereign nations like Yugoslavia. The crisis in Kosovo is of particular
interest to Russia because it is ultimately a test of the relative weights of
sovereignty and the right to self-determination. As the outlying areas of Russia
are home to a myriad of ethnic groups, the settlement of the situation in Kosovo
will provide a precedent (albeit perhaps a reluctant one) to which future
conflicts might be resolved. Once the governments of the NATO countries decided
it was necessary to intervene in Kosovo, they acted without taking the issue to
the United Nations Security Council because of the certain resistance of China
and Russia. The United States and NATO objectives are to stop the killing and
achieve a durable peace that prevents further repression and provides for
democratic self-government for the Kosovar people. The United States and NATO
have three strong interests at stake in the Kosovo conflict: averting a
humanitarian catastrophe; preserving stability in a key part of Europe; and
maintaining the credibility of NATO. The Serbian’s sustained and accelerating
repression in Kosovo is creating a humanitarian crisis of a staggering
dimension. Serb forces have killed hundreds of ethnic Albanians in an effort
Serbs call “ethnic cleansing”, and displaced an estimated 250,000 by burning
and looting their homes. Currently 40,000 Serbian police and military troops are
positioned in and around Kosovo poised for a military offensive. The instability
in Kosovo directly threatens peace in the Balkans and the stability of Europe,
which could have viable consequences to the United States as well as the rest of
the world. There is no natural boundary to this violence; World War I began in
this same tinderbox. If actions are not taken now to stop the conflict, it will
spread and both the cost and the risk will increase substantially. Continued
fighting in Kosovo has the potential to re-ignite chaos in Albania and
destabilize Macedonia. In addition the conflict could exacerbate rivalries
between Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies. Greece and Turkey have different
ethnic, religious, and political allegiances to the peoples living in Kosovo and
the nations surrounding Yugoslavia. The conflict could draw those countries in
to protect their own national interests. Lastly, so many displaced people
creates a breeding ground for international criminals, drug traffickers and
terrorists. Perhaps the most decisive motive behind NATO’s involvement in
Kosovo is the certain risk of losing credibility through inaction. NATO’s
credible threat of force was solely responsible in originally obtaining
Milosevic’s agreement to a cease-fire and the establishment of OSCE and NATO
verification regimes. This agreement enabled hundreds of thousands of Kosovars
to come down from the hills and temporarily return to their homes. As of today,
Milosevic has not come into compliance with the October agreements and his
repression continues. NATO warned Milosevic that it would respond under such
circumstances. Given the situation, action is required on the part of NATO to
ensure it’s continued credibility. The preference of NATO has been to achieve
these objectives through peaceful means. The international community has been
actively seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict through diplomacy. The
agreement produced at the Rambouillet and Paris talks keeps Kosovo in Serbia,
but gives Kosovars the self-government they deserve, however Milosevic has
refused to sign the agreement. Milosevic has rejected all efforts to achieve a
peaceful solution. Milosevic has been out of compliance with the solemn
commitments to NATO and OSCE since October. Serb forces have consistently and
blatantly violated the cease-fire, moved troops and police out of garrison in
violation of his commitments, refused to cooperate with and continued to impede
the work of the Kosovo Verification Mission and international relief agencies,
and committed atrocities such as the Racak massacre in mid-January. NATO has
outlined three clear objectives in the Kosovo conflict. NATO intends to
demonstrate its seriousness of purpose in order to make clear to Milosevic the
imperative of reversing course. It also must deter Milosevic from launching an
all-out offensive against helpless civilians. Finally, to seriously damage
Milosevic’s military capability to take repressive action against Kosovars.
What is to be done to reconcile both the right to Yugoslav territorial integrity
and the right to self-determination on the part of the Kosovars? There will need
to be two policy prescriptions. Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic has warned
the United States and its allies that any initiation of a ground war would
result in a conflict that would make Vietnam look like nothing. But the
situation would become very different to the one in Southeast Asia. After an
extensive air campaign, new conditions provide an end to NATO air strikes from
the outset, not completion of Serbian withdrawal from Kosovo. From there on in,
armed NATO peacekeepers will administer the safe return of Kosovar refugees. In
this sense, and with the knowledge of human rights violations, the international
community will justly revoke Yugoslavia’s sovereignty. The second policy
prescription is the most difficult. Slobodan Milosevic and his supporters must
be removed from office and new, democratic institutions put in place to ensure
both the maintenance of the Yugoslav state and the wider participation and
self-determination of Kosovars. The second policy prescription’s success
relies upon the Serbian people. A vocal minority will be hateful of the measure.
It will be a matter of harnessing the anti-Milosevic sentiments present during
the protests of 1991 and 1997 to remove him from office. He will not retire
without a struggle. His removal by his own constituents proves the key component
to the success of new democratic institutions. Democratic institutions, in which
the Kosovars, Montenegrins, and Serbians alike may be represented, seem the best
(though not the perfect) solution to opposing sovereignty and self-determination
rights. Much as in Bosnia, a peacekeeping force will be required for years to
attempt to fortify the new constitutional government against what amounts to
over 600 years of distrust between the Serbian and Kosovar parties. This
solution is ideal in the respect that it is a compromise attractive to the
international community. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia
will be maintained. A medium for some safe exercise of self-determination rights
will be provided. No clear preference will be shown between the two, and
international law can continue to operate case-by-case.
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