Wednesday, November 28, 2007

“TRAIN WRECK”: U.S. Policy Knowingly Sets Course for Diplomatic Collision Over Kosovo

State Department Pushes Throttle Despite Clear Warnings

Renewed Violence Likely – But, Hey, Let’s Do It Anyway!

Editorial Comment from the American Council for Kosovo – You would think that anyone generally regarded as a skilled American diplomat, looking ahead to a looming confrontation among the major world powers, would be interested in finding a way to avert it. You would think that with U.S. forces stretched thin in so many places, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan, such an American diplomat would not seek to trigger violence in a region that, if not entirely quiet, at least has not been sufficiently unstable as to require the deployment of additional American forces. You would think that with America engaged in a global struggle with jihad terrorism, any competent diplomat would want to make extra sure the U.S. took no action that would strengthen terrorist and organized crime elements.

If that was what you thought, then meet former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke.

Writing in the Washington Post, Ambassador Holbrooke as much as says that an Albanian Muslim unilateral declaration of independence will lead to renewed violence in the Balkans – not just in Kosovo but possibly spilling over into Bosnia. (Anyone remember Bosnia?) Yet, applauding such a declaration as “long overdue,” his answer is to “beef up” the American and NATO presence in advance of the violence his recommended course would in fact trigger.

Perhaps even worse, Ambassador Holbrooke himself describes as a “train wreck” the inevitable confrontation U.S. recognition of an illegal and forcible attempt to separate the province from Serbia would provoke with Russia. (In a strange inversion of the truth, Ambassador Holbrooke blames Russia for the collision that would occur – because Moscow refuses to go along with an action that violates every accepted principle of the international system – not his friends at the State Department for insisting on it.) Meanwhile, Serbia’s reaction to any illegal and forcible attempt to grab any of its territory should not lightly be dismissed. “No one should have any doubt that we will annul any unilateral act, and treat unilateral independence as a null, void and non-binding phenomenon,” said Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, after once again offering a deaf Albanian delegation the widest autonomy enjoyed by any ethnic or religious minority anywhere in the world; but, he said, “Serbia will not let an inch of its territory be taken away.”

It remains to be seen if the Bush Administration will proceed with eyes wide shut down the path Ambassador Holbrooke has marked. (And one can’t help asking: What’s he doing calling the shots for the Bush Administration, anyway?) But if they do, they can’t say they weren’t warned.

James George Jatras

Director, American Council for Kosovo

Other news worthy of note:

1. In November 21, 2007 Wall Street Journal letter-to-the-editor, “Mr. Ceku’s Disorderly House,” James George Jatras wrote: For the sake of brevity, let us focus on just one [assertion]: Mr. Ceku's suggestion that Kosovo, under his U.N.-supervised administration, has "put our structures in place and our house in order." This month's report by the European Commission tells a very different story: "Due to a lack of clear political will to fight corruption, and to insufficient legislative and implementing measures, corruption is still widespread," the report said. "Civil servants are still vulnerable to political interference, corrupt practices and nepotism" and "Kosovo's public administration remains weak and inefficient," the report added. Furthermore, "the composition of the government anti-corruption council does not sufficiently guarantee its impartiality," and "little progress can be reported in the area of organized crime and combating of trafficking in human beings." War crime trials are being "hampered by the unwillingness of the local population to testify" and "there is still no specific legislation on witness protection in place," according to the report. "Civil society organizations remain weak" and "awareness of women's rights in society is low." If this is the "house" Mr. Ceku claims "is in order" in advance of what he hopes will be conferral of independence, one shudders to think what disorder would look like. To be sure, Mr. Ceku makes use of the usual dodge that Kosovo's progress is limited by the absence of "clarity on our future status," namely independence. But Taiwan, by contrast, has gone without such clarity for over half a century and is nothing like the disaster over which Mr. Ceku presides. Instead of falling for his fairy tales about Kosovo's fitness for sovereignty the international community needs to open its eyes to the reality of this corrupt, criminal, and nonviable entity. Granting independence to Kosovo, which would mean handing de jure power to those responsible for this state of affairs, can only turn a disaster into a catastrophe.

2. In a November 20, 2007 WorldNetDaily column, “Kosovo and Israel,” Joseph Farah wrote: Let's face it: Americans don't care about Kosovo. So I want to talk about Kosovo today in a way that may help you care. If for no other reason, you should care because your government is about to shape the destiny of this province in Serbia in a way that is, well, immoral, illegal and counterproductive, to say the least. For starters, Kosovo is, and always has been, a part of Serbia. Its population is mostly Muslim and ethnically Albanian, in part due to a campaign of anti-Christian persecution that continues even under the watchful eye of the United Nations and NATO since 1999. Apparently George Bush and Condoleezza Rice believe America can win goodwill with radical Muslims around the world by creating a new state for them in Europe by ripping a province away from the predominantly Christian country of Serbia. Think about this: Globalists like Bush and Rice are at once promoting mergers and integration of sovereign nations into ever larger superstates and, at the same time, breaking apart tiny states like Serbia and Israel into even smaller pieces based on religious identity and ethnic issues. Why, on the one hand, does George Bush see no problem in welcoming tens of millions of Spanish-speaking Mexicans into the U.S. without regard to our laws but insists Arabs who recently moved into land controlled by Jewish Israel should have their own independent state? Is this consistent? Will Bush turn around at some time in the future and apply the same self-determination rules to his own country, creating an independent Spanish-speaking state? Supporters of Israel should be especially concerned about what is taking place in Kosovo. This is proving ground for the New World Order. Do you think the U.S. and the Western world should have the power to break apart sovereign nations that pose no threat whatsoever, carving them up and creating new states out of existing ones? I don't think so.

3. In a November 20, 2007 Boston Globe editorial, “First Kosovo, and then what?,” the editorial page opined: While 20 of the EU's 27 members favor independence for Kosovo, nearly all dread a unilateral declaration. That prospect conjures up memories of Europe's careless acceptance of declarations of independence from Yugoslavia by Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia in the early 1990s. Those acts ushered in horrific wars and crimes against humanity. A unilateral lunge for independence by Kosovo could spur Serbs in Bosnia and Herzogovina - half that country's population - to follow suit. And Kremlin warnings against the imposition of any Kosovo formula not acceptable to Serbia raises the specter of Russian backing for independence movements in Georgia, Moldova, and even Ukraine. This would be a prescription for armed conflict around the periphery of Europe. Some European diplomats also worry about the United Nations carving new countries out of older countries' provinces. They recognize that separatist reflexes persist in regions such as Catalonia and the Basque country. Even the Flemish and Walloon populations of tiny Belgium may want a nationalist divorce. The Kosovo majority's impatience for independence is understandable, particularly since it has been subjected to a corrupt and inefficient UN tutelage. But the European, American, and Russian mediators should keep Serbia and the Kosovars at the negotiating table as long as it takes to hammer out a resolution to which both sides agree. This may mean incorporating the Serbian-populated area of Kosovo into Serbia proper, along with Serbian monasteries and holy sites. It may entail minor population transfers. But whatever the eventual solution, it should be accepted by the two peoples and not imposed by outsiders.

4. In a November 21, 2007 Washington Times Forum, “Jihad can’t break our cold war addiction,” Julia Gorin wrote: Despite al Qaeda and Iran considering it their greatest recent victory, the Balkans remain the most aggressively ignored region in the context of the war on terror — by media, by the blogosphere that is supposed to police the media, and by our politicians — busily feeding off the spoils of our suicidal machinations there. It is popularly thought that this forgotten and convoluted region is insignificant. Most people hardly remember the word “Kosovo” and even members of the conservative (and liberal) intelligentsia furrow their brows when someone is odd enough to bring it up. And yet “insignificant” Kosovo has so far managed to restart the Cold War; to lay the foundation for Europe's next Muslim state; to foist a terrorist neighbor onto Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia; to break international law; to set a precedent for secessionist movements the world over; to reverse the American imperative in the War on Terror and the War on Drugs; and to expand al Qaeda's long-sought European base. In short, it has managed to turn America into a traitor to itself and the Free World it once led. Had the Right grasped the horror of what Bill Clinton's Balkan wars have achieved, and exposed the mainstream media lies that led to them, the Bush policy could have charted a different course there, one consistent with post-September 11, 2001, thinking, and conservatives would be setting the terms of debate today rather than constantly defending their war in Iraq.

5. In a November 23, 2007 EUobserver comment, “A Baltic Solution to a Balkan Problem,” Peter Sain ley Berry wrote: We are not often given the privilege of seeing into the future. Certainly, if we expect something to turn nasty, we rarely know when that nastiness will begin. Yet we have on the European continent at the present time just such a time bomb with the days and minutes until it goes off quietly ticking away. I wonder that they don't erect a large digital display on the Berlaymont in Brussels; it might help to concentrate minds. I refer, of course, to Kosovo and the deadline of Monday 10 December by which date a determination of that province's final status has to be determined. At the time of writing, we are a mere 18 days away. Legally the province is a part of Serbia but has been under United Nations administration since NATO led troops drove out the Yugoslav army almost a decade ago. The population is overwhelmingly Albanian and in last Sunday's general election, boycotted by the few remaining Kosovo Serbs, the largest number of seats were taken by a party pledged to declare independence unilaterally after 10 December, if an agreed solution has not been found beforehand. Such a unilateral declaration has always been seen as potentially damaging to orderly relations and poses a special problem for the European Union whose members would be split over whether to recognise the new entity in the absence of a UN resolution. It would also split the USA and Russia whose sympathies lie respectively with the Kosovans and the Serbs; Russia wielding a UN veto over any independence proposal, not approved by its Serbian ally.

1. Mr. Ceku’s Disorderly House

By James George Jatras

The Wall Street Journal – November 21, 2007

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119561138717200039.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

The recent column by Agim Ceku ("Kosovo Wants Independence," Nov. 15) presents the critic with what military planners would call a target-rich environment. Virtually every assertion about Kosovo's prospects as an independent state screams out for rebuttal.

For the sake of brevity, let us focus on just one: Mr. Ceku's suggestion that Kosovo, under his U.N.-supervised administration, has "put our structures in place and our house in order." This month's report by the European Commission tells a very different story:

"Due to a lack of clear political will to fight corruption, and to insufficient legislative and implementing measures, corruption is still widespread," the report said. "Civil servants are still vulnerable to political interference, corrupt practices and nepotism" and "Kosovo's public administration remains weak and inefficient," the report added.

Furthermore, "the composition of the government anti-corruption council does not sufficiently guarantee its impartiality," and "little progress can be reported in the area of organized crime and combating of trafficking in human beings."

War crime trials are being "hampered by the unwillingness of the local population to testify" and "there is still no specific legislation on witness protection in place," according to the report. "Civil society organizations remain weak" and "awareness of women's rights in society is low."

If this is the "house" Mr. Ceku claims "is in order" in advance of what he hopes will be conferral of independence, one shudders to think what disorder would look like. To be sure, Mr. Ceku makes use of the usual dodge that Kosovo's progress is limited by the absence of "clarity on our future status," namely independence. But Taiwan, by contrast, has gone without such clarity for over half a century and is nothing like the disaster over which Mr. Ceku presides.

Instead of falling for his fairy tales about Kosovo's fitness for sovereignty the international community needs to open its eyes to the reality of this corrupt, criminal, and nonviable entity. Granting independence to Kosovo, which would mean handing de jure power to those responsible for this state of affairs, can only turn a disaster into a catastrophe.

James George Jatras
Director
American Council for Kosovo
Washington

2. Kosovo and Israel

By Joseph Farah

World Net Daily – November 20, 2007

http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=58770

Let's face it: Americans don't care about Kosovo.

So I want to talk about Kosovo today in a way that may help you care.

If for no other reason, you should care because your government is about to shape the destiny of this province in Serbia in a way that is, well, immoral, illegal and counterproductive, to say the least.

For starters, Kosovo is, and always has been, a part of Serbia. Its population is mostly Muslim and ethnically Albanian, in part due to a campaign of anti-Christian persecution that continues even under the watchful eye of the United Nations and NATO since 1999.

Apparently George Bush and Condoleezza Rice believe America can win goodwill with radical Muslims around the world by creating a new state for them in Europe by ripping a province away from the predominantly Christian country of Serbia.

Think about this: Globalists like Bush and Rice are at once promoting mergers and integration of sovereign nations into ever larger superstates and, at the same time, breaking apart tiny states like Serbia and Israel into even smaller pieces based on religious identity and ethnic issues.

Why, on the one hand, does George Bush see no problem in welcoming tens of millions of Spanish-speaking Mexicans into the U.S. without regard to our laws but insists Arabs who recently moved into land controlled by Jewish Israel should have their own independent state?

Is this consistent?

Will Bush turn around at some time in the future and apply the same self-determination rules to his own country, creating an independent Spanish-speaking state?

Supporters of Israel should be especially concerned about what is taking place in Kosovo. This is proving ground for the New World Order. Do you think the U.S. and the Western world should have the power to break apart sovereign nations that pose no threat whatsoever, carving them up and creating new states out of existing ones?

I don't think so.

It's a power grab. And it is wrong. Where does this stop? If the New World Order crowd gets away with it in Kosovo, as soon as next month, will Israel even need to agree to future land grabs by world powers? Serbia doesn't agree.

I want to go on record right now: I object to my government's participation in this fraud, this meddling, this unlawful intrusion into the affairs of a sovereign nation posing no threat to its neighbors.

By the way, this is going to be done over the strong objection of Russia – a long-time, historic ally of Serbia.

I thought Bush was interested in improving relations with his buddy, Vladimir Putin. Why is he sticking his finger in his eye over a piece of real estate that means nothing to the interests of the United States? Why is he siding with radical Islamists against pro-Western Christians in the Balkans?

Let me explain, again, in case the Bush administration has missed my many previous explanations of why this policy will come back to haunt the U.S.

The Islamist world Bush seeks to mollify and appease with this strategy will not recognize this effort as an act of goodwill. It will see it as a retreat by the West. It will see it as a victory for its cause and its tactics – namely terrorism. That's how jihadists see concessions of any kind. Once they have Kosovo, their demands for more territory will increase.

Already, even under NATO-U.N. control, Kosovo resembles a jihadist state. The Saudis are building fabulous new mosques. Ancient churches are being torn down. Armed militias roam the countryside intimidating the minority population of Christians.

If anyone should be able to recognize the danger of U.S. meddling in Kosovo, it is supporters of Israel. What's happening in Europe is a warning shot of what is to come in the Middle East.

I know it's off your radar screen. I know you feel like you have more important things to worry about. I know the fix is in. But it's time for Americans to stand up and scream about what their government has been doing, is doing and is about to do in Serbia with Kosovo.

Time is running out.

3. First Kosovo, and then what?

Boston Globe – November 20, 2007

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2007/11/20/first_kosovo_and_then_what/

EUROPE STILL has a Balkans problem. This is the message to take away from the victory of former guerrilla leader Hashim Thaci's party in Saturday's parliamentary elections in Kosovo - balloting that was boycotted by the 10 percent of Kosovo's population who are Serbs.

The UN-supervised region is officially part of Serbia. But ever since NATO went to war in 1999 to force Slobodan Milosevic to end his ethnic cleansing of Albanian villages in Kosovo, the region's Albanian majority have set their sights on separation from Serbia. Recently, American, Russian, and European mediators have been trying to craft a formula for autonomy or phased independence that would be acceptable both to Serbia and the Albanian Kosovar government.

The mediators are due to report to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by that date, and Thaci has threatened to declare independence unilaterally if they do not recommend independence for Kosovo. But any such unilateral action could set off instability across the Balkans and beyond.

While 20 of the EU's 27 members favor independence for Kosovo, nearly all dread a unilateral declaration. That prospect conjures up memories of Europe's careless acceptance of declarations of independence from Yugoslavia by Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia in the early 1990s. Those acts ushered in horrific wars and crimes against humanity.

A unilateral lunge for independence by Kosovo could spur Serbs in Bosnia and Herzogovina - half that country's population - to follow suit. And Kremlin warnings against the imposition of any Kosovo formula not acceptable to Serbia raises the specter of Russian backing for independence movements in Georgia, Moldova, and even Ukraine. This would be a prescription for armed conflict around the periphery of Europe.

Some European diplomats also worry about the United Nations carving new countries out of older countries' provinces. They recognize that separatist reflexes persist in regions such as Catalonia and the Basque country. Even the Flemish and Walloon populations of tiny Belgium may want a nationalist divorce.

The Kosovo majority's impatience for independence is understandable, particularly since it has been subjected to a corrupt and inefficient UN tutelage. But the European, American, and Russian mediators should keep Serbia and the Kosovars at the negotiating table as long as it takes to hammer out a resolution to which both sides agree.

This may mean incorporating the Serbian-populated area of Kosovo into Serbia proper, along with Serbian monasteries and holy sites. It may entail minor population transfers. But whatever the eventual solution, it should be accepted by the two peoples and not imposed by outsiders.

4. FORUM: Jihad can't break our Cold War addiction

By Julia Gorin

Washington Times Forum – November 21, 2007

http://washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071121/COMMENTARY/111210003/1012&template=printart


It appears to many American observers that Moscow has been gravitating toward Cold War behavior without any rationale. This would certainly be puzzling behavior, given that, as some astute observers have pointed out, this is a Russia that recalled the Red Army from everywhere outside Russian borders, a Russia that allowed its satellite states to be thrown out of power, a Russia that recently embraced freedom and capitalism and let us show them how to do it

But soon after, the U.S. did something to sabotage, and ultimately reverse, this progress, making Russia legitimately wary of U.S. “interests” and leading it — and other nations — to conclude America is capable of being as mischievous as Russia. We bombed Europe. Specifically Serbia, for the crime of launching a counteroffensive against a terrorist insurgency in Kosovo whose aim was to snatch 15 percent of the country's land. And now the United States supports severing Kosovo from Serbia via a precedent-setting unilateral declaration of independence next month by the province's terrorist masters — over Moscow's logical objections. One of those terrorist masters, Agim Ceku — the province's “prime minister” — made the terrorist case in last week's Wall Street Journal.

To this day, almost no one grasps the significance of the damage the 1999 intervention single-handedly did to American standing and American credibility, when the United States turned NATO into an aggressive body, attacking a sovereign nation fighting none other than Islamic-financed separatists within its borders.

The current puzzlement at Russia's behavior harkens to a job interview I had the following year for a PR-writing position for a group called the Conference of Presidents of Major American-Jewish Organizations. Interviewing me was the executive vice president, a man named Malcolm Hoenlein. After discovering I was from Russia — and even recognizing my family name from the Refusenik lists he and other Jewish activists in the 1970s kept for clandestine visitations behind the Iron Curtain — he told me of a recent trip the and some other giants of organized Jewry took to Moscow. They were on a mission to impress upon the Russian government U.S. concerns about the selling off of Russia's military weaponry to the highest bidder.

Mr. Hoenlein said he and his colleagues were blindsided by the chilly and condescending reception they got from Moscow. “They laughed at us,” he told me. “They said, 'Why should we do what you Americans tell us?' The way we were treated — it was as if it was 20 years ago.”

I thought for a moment, then asked whether he thought it could have something to do with our recent actions in Yugoslavia (which, incidentally, were carried out while telling the Russians to take it easy on their own rebels, the Chechens). Mr. Hoenlein looked at me as if I had two heads: “What does that have to do with anything?” he snapped indignantly. But at that moment the phone rang, and afterward the subject was dropped.

Despite al Qaeda and Iran considering it their greatest recent victory, the Balkans remain the most aggressively ignored region in the context of the war on terror — by media, by the blogosphere that is supposed to police the media, and by our politicians — busily feeding off the spoils of our suicidal machinations there.

It is popularly thought that this forgotten and convoluted region is insignificant. Most people hardly remember the word “Kosovo” and even members of the conservative (and liberal) intelligentsia furrow their brows when someone is odd enough to bring it up.

And yet “insignificant” Kosovo has so far managed to restart the Cold War; to lay the foundation for Europe's next Muslim state; to foist a terrorist neighbor onto Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia; to break international law; to set a precedent for secessionist movements the world over; to reverse the American imperative in the War on Terror and the War on Drugs; and to expand al Qaeda's long-sought European base.

In short, it has managed to turn America into a traitor to itself and the Free World it once led.

Had the Right grasped the horror of what Bill Clinton's Balkan wars have achieved, and exposed the mainstream media lies that led to them, the Bush policy could have charted a different course there, one consistent with post-September 11, 2001, thinking, and conservatives would be setting the terms of debate today rather than constantly defending their war in Iraq.

Had even one A-list blog bothered to investigate and shine a light on that debacle — which will yet prove itself to be the nexus of the free world's demise — there never would have been even any talk of a Clinton candidacy for 2008.

5. [Comment] A Baltic solution to a Balkan problem

By Peter Sain ley Berry

EUobserver – November 23, 2007

http://euobserver.com/9/25203/?print=1

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - We are not often given the privilege of seeing into the future. Certainly, if we expect something to turn nasty, we rarely know when that nastiness will begin. Yet we have on the European continent at the present time just such a time bomb with the days and minutes until it goes off quietly ticking away. I wonder that they don't erect a large digital display on the Berlaymont in Brussels; it might help to concentrate minds.

I refer, of course, to Kosovo and the deadline of Monday 10 December by which date a determination of that province's final status has to be determined. At the time of writing, we are a mere 18 days away.

Legally the province is a part of Serbia but has been under United Nations administration since NATO led troops drove out the Yugoslav army almost a decade ago. The population is overwhelmingly Albanian and in last Sunday's general election, boycotted by the few remaining Kosovo Serbs, the largest number of seats were taken by a party pledged to declare independence unilaterally after 10 December, if an agreed solution has not been found beforehand.

Such a unilateral declaration has always been seen as potentially damaging to orderly relations and poses a special problem for the European Union whose members would be split over whether to recognise the new entity in the absence of a UN resolution.

It would also split the USA and Russia whose sympathies lie respectively with the Kosovans and the Serbs; Russia wielding a UN veto over any independence proposal, not approved by its Serbian ally.

So much is known and indeed has been discussed many times as talks over UN envoy Marti Ahtisaari's plans for the province to have supervised independence have ground on.

Now a spectacle far more hideous than a mere diplomatic split threatens to raise its ugly head. It is no exaggeration to say that the spectre of war is again hanging over the Balkans.

The fear is that a unilateral declaration of independence could prompt a new invasion of Kosovo by Serbia with the immediate objective of securing those Serb communities in Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok,and Leposavic on the Kosovo side of the border and leading to a de facto partitioning of the province.

This would be resisted of course, both by the UN's NATO led peacekeeping forces - KFOR - and certainly by the Kosovans. In recent days the UN administration has dispatched KFOR forces to the Kosovo-Serb border, effectually closing it off to possible incursions.

Inexorably we could be dragged into conflict again. And not just in Kosovo. For even a minor skirmish would threaten to destabilise the fragile status quo among the Serb communities in neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina, at least some of whom are still attached to the idea of a greater Serbia and not entirely comfortable in their Bosnian republic.

It would not take much for them to come to the aid of the Kosovo Serbs and perhaps to try a little border alteration of their own between Bosnia and Serbia. Even Macedonia is still not completely stable with recent clashes between police and armed Albanians. By Christmas a swathe of the Balkans could be alight.

That we can even be contemplating such a scenario in the heart of the European continent in the first decade of the twenty-first century and among nations whose future membership of the great European partnership is all but assured, is remarkable to say the least. That we can be contemplating such a scenario without the most strenuous efforts being made to avert the crisis in the capitals of the Union is almost unbelievable.

Far from being at the heart of the European continent, enveloped by the Union itself on three sides and by the sea on the fourth, the Balkans is too often treated as some distant and far away region of which we know little and care less. A problem for the UN, perhaps, or NATO, and one to which we contribute certainly, but not as a major EU problem for which we take the prime responsibility in finding a solution.

Well, that needs to change quickly if we are not to have another red stain on our proud European map.

Of course solutions are being advanced - various kinds of independence along the ‘now you see it now you don't' lines are proposed for Kosovo. The latest is to suggest that the province takes on a similar status to the Baltic Aland Islands, which belong to Finland but are, for all practical purposes, independent, neutral, and demilitarised. Their people speak Swedish to which country they are geographically and socially proximate.

Such solutions might have worked had not the Kosovans been encouraged first by the Ahtisaari plan and then by the United States and certain EU members who let it be known that independence was their preferred solution. Their strong indications to the effect that they would recognise an independent Kosovo, regardless of any UN resolution, have of course led the Kosovans to believe they have nothing to lose by taking a hard line.

Moreover, with a new electoral mandate (albeit on a low turnout of 43 per cent) behind him, Mr Hashim Thaci, the former Kosovo guerilla leader, is unlikely to back down now. Meanwhile the clock ticks away the minutes to potential disaster.

It is difficult to see what can be done, but a start might be for the EU and the USA to declare - as Russia does - that they would not recognise an illegal independence, unilaterally declared by the Kosovans, without a UN resolution. That at least would be a signal that the international community had re-adopted the principle of international law as a means of settling inter-state disputes.

This would send a clear signal to the Kosovans that although they might declare independence, no advantage, indeed considerable disadvantage, would result from such a declaration.

If the Kosovans could be made to understand this, just possibly they could be persuaded to join a Baltic cruise to the Aland Islands and to study ways in which they could enjoy the benefits of self-government without having their own seat at the UN. And just possibly we could continue to be able to say that the last conflict on mainland Europe took place in the 20th century.

The author is editor of EuropaWorld

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