Feature

How they see us: The force behind Kosovo’s independence

Thanks to America, Kosovo has finally gained its independence, said Enzo Bettiza in Italy’s La Stampa. Nearly a century after being conquered by Serbian forces, the ethnic-Albanian, Muslim province has proclaimed itself a state. “From this day forward, Ko

Thanks to America, Kosovo has finally gained its independence, said Enzo Bettiza in Italy’s La Stampa. Nearly a century after being conquered by Serbian forces, the ethnic-Albanian, Muslim province has proclaimed itself a state. “From this day forward, Kosovo is proud, independent, and free,” said Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. “Kosovo will never again be ruled by Belgrade. It will be a democratic and multiethnic state.” Even as he spoke, Kosovars were cheering and waving American flags. They knew this day had come only because of American support. In 1999, when Serbian troops were driving ethnic Albanians from their homes, Europe simply dithered. It took President Bill Clinton “to seize the initiative” and force NATO to bomb Serbia into submission. In the Kosovar capital the main road was promptly renamed Clinton Boulevard. Yet American support didn’t end with the Clinton administration. The Bush administration, too, has been a top promoter of Kosovar independence and has urged the Europeans to follow suit.

The Americans aren’t just being altruistic, said Walter Niederberger in Switzerland’s Tages-Anzeiger. As they see it, the security of the entire Balkan region is at stake. Kosovo is the last bit of unfinished business stemming from the long and bloody breakup of Yugoslavia. Once its inde-
pendence has become a fait accompli, the impetus for war in the Balkans will be removed. That’s important to the U.S. because the Balkan region, situated in southeastern Europe, “plays a central role in the transport of oil and gas from the Caucasus to the West.” And let’s not forget the military interests. The U.S. has “a giant military base” in Kosovo—and has found the Kosovars willing to look the other way as that base is used to warehouse terror suspects from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Many believe that the base in Kosovo was one of the “black sites” where the CIA tortured detainees. No wonder the Americans want Kosovo to govern its own affairs.

This U.S. meddling in Europe could easily backfire, said Victor Roncea in Romania’s Ziua. Russia is allying itself with Serbia because the Russians are alarmed by separatist movements. If the Kosovars can simply walk out of Serbia, the Russians fear, it would lead to a “domino effect,” with separatist ethnic minorities inside Russia and across the world declaring their independence. Chechens who want out of Russia are obvious contenders, but so are Romania’s ethnic Hungarians. Instead of “consolidating the Southern European flank” for NATO, Kosovo’s independence could “bring Russia back to the Balkans, this time in a much more threatening position, endangering even the American defense plans, and the ambitious anti-missile shield.”

At least the U.S. took a stand, said Jean-Claude Kiefer in France’s Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace. The European Union can’t make up its mind over Kosovo. Britain, Germany, France, and Italy want to recognize Kosovo’s independence. But E.U. countries with restive ethnic minorities of their own—such as Spain, Cyprus, and Romania—are adamantly opposed. The only thing Europeans can ever agree on is “to call on Washington for help whenever they’re faced with trouble.” That’s what we did in 1999 when the Serbs were menacing Kosovo. If Kosovo’s independence causes trouble down the road, we can be sure that Europe will once again turn to the U.S. to bail it out.

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