A Bad Wind Blows In The Balkans

Posted on Mon 03/30/2009 by


By MJMotley

In the barrage of bad news cascading across the globe, one might have missed the trouble brewing in the Balkans .The Balkans seem poised for armed confrontation once again. The Kosovars seem insistent on picking a fight for sovereignty, but oblivious to the fact that their protectors are no longer in a position to back up their bluster. History may again place the Balkans in the position of being a catalyst of consequences far beyond their own importance.

Central to the issue at hand is UN security council resolution 1244 as reported by the, Guardian.co.UK . A thumbnail sketch is as follows:

Belgrade, in accordance with the legalese of the resolution is accurate. With Kosovo still under “International Supervision”, “It is obvious to everyone today that 13 months after the illegal UDI, Kosovo is no state.”

The Kosovars seem determined to declare sovereignty, thus shedding their current UN protectorate status and settling the matter between the Serbs and themselves. Also that the Bosnian/Croat relations are deteriorating.

Kosovo lacks any international support for its position having only 56 of 192 UN member states even bothering to establish formal ties. Worse, nearly ¼ of EU members decline to recognize their existence.

That whatever the argument between Serbia & Kosovo, about whose criminal activity is rampant in the disputed territory, that it’s there is uncontested. The right answer is probably both. This fairly guarantees that heavily armed competing interests are in close proximity

A possible eruption of hostilities flaring up in the Balkans again would not occur in a vacuum. As in the 90’s external events would bear heavily on how it would play out, and much has transpired since, that would alter the reactions of the international community. Of the community, the four that would come into play would seem to remain essentially the same, the EU, the US, Russia and the Jihadists who settled in the region in the aftermath of the last conflict.

The economic conditions among the former Soviet block nations are more fragile than their European counterparts to the west. The economic collapse in this region is accompanied by political upheaval as demonstrated in the Czech Republic and Latvia. The destabilizing effects of the economic meltdown, when enhanced by territorial and ethnic grievances, could quickly degenerate into catastrophe in the Balkans:

EU- In the current financial turmoil EU membership is less a “carrot” than it once was in restraining the region. The EU militarily is even less capable than in the 90’s, so the EU “stick” still doesn’t exist. This bodes ill, in that the EU is slated to take over responsibility of peacekeeping operations in the Balkans from the UN this year.

Russia- With Medvedev’s increasing independence and his shepherding of a new anti-corruption law through the Duma, Putin may feel pressure to reassert himself. To date, he has established himself as a protector of Russian dignity through nationalism and regaining the Soviet’s sphere of influence. We have seen this most clearly with his actions regarding: Georgia , Ukraine & Kyrgyzstan . Coming to the aid of Russia’s traditional allies the Serbs would dovetail nicely, and might provide the distraction he needs from events at home.

America- With the margin of America’s perceived military dominance waning and her forces stretched thin by numerous deployments, her appetite for another Balkan intervention is doubtful. 

This, with the EU’s impotence, and Putin’s recent success in S. Ossetia make an ideal environment for his getting involved as described above.

The Jihadists- The ongoing Islamic doctrine, once an area is settled by Islam it belongs to Islam, is in full effect. Think the Netherlands.

With the stage thus set, should the Kosovars formalize their break from Serbia, what are the potential hazards of old Balkan grievances reigniting?

With the Americans overcommitted and the Obama administration’s disdain for cowboy diplomacy it would greatly deter the EU from meaningful action. It is also highly dubious they could do so without American military support. Therefore leaving the incendiary locals, the Russians and whatever Jihadists up for a road trip, to settle the matter.

American unwillingness and European impotency would render any promises of protection made by them as hollow, and thus make NATO essentially irrelevant.

Putin’s grasp on Russia could be reestablished, and Russia’s confrontational posture towards the west further entrenched.

The Jihadists proclivity to show up wherever there is blood to be spilled, making it into a civilizational conflict in effort to expand their beachhead in southern Europe.

Whatever happens, a bad-wind blows in the Balkans.