How important is Kosovo independence to the West?

Speculation is mounting about the extent to which Western nations are preparing themselves for Kosovo's possible independence in the coming months, sidestepping both Russia and the United Nations.

But the analysis surrounding this speculation fails to ask why western nations are not actually taking the step, as George W. Bush promised in Albania in June, during the first trip ever of an American president to the country.

The main stumbling bloc to Kosovo's independence inside the EU bloc is Germany, which is establishing a new energy partnership with Russia.

Since the North Stream gas pipeline got the go ahead, the Franco-German engine has shown major signs of weakness. This is compounded by the fact that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is building new relations with the US and the UK.

Following a general plan to make France strong and influential in the world, Mr Sarkozy is getting closer to those that matter – the US and its strongest partner in Europe, the UK.

And those two new orientations (Germany with Russia and France with the US and the UK) show we are entering a new era.

New blocs are in the process of being created in the globe with the result that geo-strategic interests and regional influences for future decades are being set.

And with Russia demonstrating its presence on the world stage, the question of what to do with Kosovo has been affected.

It is not the first time that Western nations have been saying that Kosovo's status – currently a breakaway province of Serbia - will be resolved this year.

This promise has been made several times during the last three years.

Why then has the Kosovo status question not been resolved when Washington officials are saying repeatedly: with or without Russia and the UN.

Let me put it another way. Is Kosovo's independence more important than the situation in Georgia, or Ukraine?

Many people who are in favour of Kosovo independence would like to believe so. But it seems not. London and Washington and Paris are unlikely to take up Russian president Vladimir Putin's challenge.

He has said that if they push ahead with Kosovo independence then he will make Russia-linked regions in Georgian and Moldavia independent.

Some scenarios

Perhaps the US and UK have other plans for assuring another several years of the status-quo by designing a new Kosovo government where everybody has a share. The best way of achieving this for the West would be setting up a coalition of political parties (PDK and AAK) which emerged from the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the moderate LDK, of former president Ibrahim Rugova. But this would be tricky.

But as long as the west can keep Kosovo's instability inside its borders, it seems to me that Kosovo's status will not be resolved "soon" as many people suggest.

Another scenario could be that Russia makes a deal with the US and the UK on something elsewhere in exchange for Kosovo independence. But then again Washington and London (and so the whole of the EU) would be tested for real on how important Kosovo's independence is to them.

Russian elections next year could also provide impetus, providing Mr Putin really is out of the picture.

Meanwhile if gas and oil prices were to fall, then a weakened Moscow might need the west and the Kosovo question might just be solved.

But with the situation in Iraq and increasing problems in Afghanistan, the chances of the outgoing US administration and the new one in London taking on another serious international headache and confronting Russia just because of Kosovo's independence, seem very, very low.

Instead, as all of these scenarios suggest, it looks like delays and procrastination will be the order of the day on the Kosovo question.

[Source: By Ekrem Krasniqi, Euobserver, Brussels, 13Sep07]

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The Question of Kosovo
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