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Kosovo Should be Free

By Denebola
Published: March 2008

By Bill Humphrey

On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. The United States and other nations recognized the republic the following day. This declaration was long overdue.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair persuaded US President Bill Clinton to bring the full weight of NATO down on former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic as the first move in the Blair Doctrine of “Humanitarian Intervention in 1999. After 11 weeks, Serbia surrendered and NATO forces have occupied Kosovo ever since.
Effectively, Kosovo has been separate from Serbia for nine years, but the Serbian government has held the line at everything but actual independence. Full autonomy without official independence was even an option, but the pride of Serbian nationalists was too great to let Kosovo go.
Even after the official declaration came, Spain also refused to recognize Kosovo on the grounds that it would encourage Basque separatism. This development troubles Kosovo because it may prevent the European Union (EU) from taking over Kosovar security from NATO.
The Economist further undermines the anti-independence arguments provided by Russia. Transdniestria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia are all also breakaway states in the former Soviet Union, but the US and EU refuse to recognize them for reasons that are not hypocritical.
Firstly, these states broke away using violent force of arms, and did so to try to protect the existing local elite. Kosovo separated from Serbia after ethnic cleansing by Serbs hostile to the majority Albanians.
Secondly, these other states are generally trying to break away to join Russia. Kosovo seeks independence only for its own sake. Finally, these other nations have no sponsors that can provide them with the wherewithal to set up functioning democracies and model nations.  It is clear that nobody can even use the excuse that there is western hypocrisy and self-gain involved in helping Kosovo toward independence.
One of the few other places in the world that might “deserve independence is Iraqi Kurdistan, only because it has a functioning, autonomous government and a real democracy, as well as the requisite ethno-linguistic separation. When Saddam Hussein attempted ethnic cleansing of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, US, UN, and NATO air power provided protection for the region and allowed it to develop a sense of independence and a functioning democracy.
This raises a key difference with Kosovo, which had been autonomous and largely democratic. Serbia was willing to grant everything except official independence to Kosovo, simply as a matter of stubborn discontent after western intervention. In a particularly exceptionalist move, Serbia simultaneously worked to make Kosovar independence illegal under international law, while The Union of Serbia & Montenegro made it legal for Montenegro – another ethnically distinct area – to hold an independence referendum after a certain span of time.
In mid-2006, Montenegro voted to secede, and the Serbian government grumbled and accepted with little resistance. Kosovo has been trying for longer and with more reason, given their history of oppression by Serbia. Forcing Kosovo to stay any longer would likely breed extremism and terrorism.
But despite all the whining and fist-pounding from Russia, Spain, Georgia, and other nations, as well as the foolish actions of Serbian rioters, nothing is going to change the reality on the ground after the all-important US recognition. In the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, it is stated that “The Republic of Kosovo is an independent, sovereign, democratic, unique and indivisible state.
It took too long, but Kosovo’s full and official independence is a well-deserved status.
The world welcomes another democracy to its ranks.

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