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Commentary Last Updated: Apr 17th, 2007 - 01:31:01

Russian opposition should not defer Kosovo�s independence
By Memli Krasniqi
Online Journal Guest Writer

Apr 17, 2007, 01:29

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PRISTINA, Kosovo -- Once again, Kosovo appears glaringly on the radars of international news. Eight years after the US-led intervention in this Balkans province, a solution to its political status seems to be very close.

Following over a year of negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia representatives, UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari has finally presented his proposals for the future of Kosovo, calling for an internationally supervised independence for the region, with strong guarantees for minority rights and privileges. The proposed solution seems only realistic, considering that Kosovo needs independence to move ahead, as the eight years of political status quo have impeded its further development. Most importantly, Albanians who make up 90 percent of Kosovo�s population, for many years have resolutely voiced their will for a sovereign state and have shown reasonable patience in achieving their goal.

The international community, including US, EU, UN and NATO has fully backed the Ahtisaari proposals and has called for a swift resolution to the Kosovo status. Only Russia has vocally expressed scepticism, arguing against deadlines and insisting that granting independence to Kosovo may create a precedent for other disputed territories throughout the world, primarily in the former Soviet states. Repeatedly, they have joined ranks with their traditional ally, Serbia, in warning that Kosovo�s independence may denote a breach of international law.

Earlier this year, the opposition to Kosovo�s independence has been also mentioned by Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the context of his disagreement with what he deemed as the unilateral approach to international politics by the US. Russian diplomats have threatened to use a veto in the UN Security Council, where the Ahtisaari proposals need to be approved through a new resolution. This Russian stance is in line with their recently stated foreign policy goals in not just implementing, but also shaping the international agenda. Such behaviour has prompted some analysts to talk of a new Cold War, although ultimately what Russia may seek is merely a genuine acknowledgement of their worthy involvement in solving world problems.

Russia had also opposed the intervention in Kosovo in 1999, prompting NATO air strikes over Yugoslavia without UN approval. Nevertheless, it had thereafter backed a UN resolution that established the international civil and military administration of Kosovo that is still in place today. Tough talk on the side, it is likely that in the end Russia will do the same again, and will not remain the only one disputing a just solution to Kosovo�s final status.

The fairness and logic of granting independence to Kosovo have been questioned before and on the same grounds as Russia: precedence, international law, unilateralism. But be they from the academic or diplomatic circles, those arguments have always presented a narrow viewpoint to the problem.

Conflicts may have similar features, but eventually they are all unique, with different origins, developments and conclusions. The Kosovo conflict was also historically and substantially different from other conflicts, so Kosovo�s independence cannot become a precedent for other disputed territories. The US and the EU have repeatedly stated that Kosovo is a sui generis case and whatever the final solution to its status, it cannot be copied for other disputes.

On the other hand, the international law should not be deemed as a dogmatic article to be preserved and interpreted rigidly forever. If it is meant to serve international order and justice, it should then adapt and develop jointly with the humanity and not remain hostage to the UN documents of the Cold War era. The recent �Responsibility to Protect� doctrine serves as a case in point, while the humanitarian intervention in Kosovo serves as a reminder that international law is not necessarily appropriate to solve every problem in the world, and especially when there is a degree of urgency involved, as is the case with Kosovo today.

Finally, seeing Kosovo�s independence as an American or Western unilateral enforcement is a failure to appreciate the fact that such �enforcement� will finally right a historical wrong and restore the lives of millions, who only after the NATO intervention, for the first time in their lives felt at home in their own region. After all, doing the right thing unilaterally should not be subject to the approval of Russia or anybody else.

Regardless of the high-level international political interplay, Kosovo today is nothing like the one we remember from eight years ago, when the only news coming out from there was that of shelling, fighting, refugees and atrocities. Kosovo has progressed substantially during the years under U.N. administration and NATO protection. Albanian refugees have returned, destroyed homes have been rebuilt, democratically elected institutions have been set up and the economy is recovering. Many positive steps have been taken in establishing a tolerant environment and cooperation between Albanians and Serbs, so the future looks promising.

Eight years ago Kosovo was subject to a violent Serbian military and police crackdown that left thousands dead and about a million refugees dispersed inside and outside of Kosovo. At present, it is an emerging democracy with the potential of becoming a functioning state in the once troublesome Balkans. It is the U.S.-led humanitarian intervention of the NATO alliance that made this possible. Had the world appeased the brutal politics of Slobodan Milosevic, today Kosovo might have remained ethnically cleansed of Albanians and in a persisting guerrilla war. Fortunately, the civilized world didn�t overlook the gross violations of human rights and it rightfully acted to protect civilians from a discriminatory and hostile regime.

NATO�s bombing campaign not only saved countless civilian lives, but sent a message to dictators worldwide that if they employ excessive violence to quench legitimate popular demands, the democratic world will not stand by and watch but it will act to protect justice and human rights. In this imperfect world of ours, such action cannot be taken in every instance, but the Kosovo intervention is an example that should inspire similar responses wherever and whenever it is possible. The humanitarian intervention in Kosovo had brought freedom to the long-suffering Kosovar people and finally granting them their deserved independence now will bring them much-needed hope, perspective and determination to move forward, making Kosovo a genuine success story for the international community. For sure, an independent Kosovo will always remain a testament to the democratic world�s unmatched vigilance, compassion and humanitarianism.

Memli Krasniqi is president of the Democratic Youth of Kosova, and he is a member of the presidency of the main opposition Democratic Party of Kosova.

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