THE RUSSIAN CARD
By Vojislava Vignjevic
Serbia's political life now paralyzed by the same matrix of
nationalistic ideology developed and applied for 15 years testifies of a thorough
restoration of Milosevic's regime by the incumbent authorities. Now, in late April, we
still do not have a new government, a parliamentary speaker or the Constitutional Court.
But we do have the budget illegaly imposed by the outgoing (technical) Kostunica's cabinet
and a one-year suspension of SAA negotiations with the European Union. And we do have
Kosovo as "an integral part" of the state that has no authority over it, the
Kosovo that will be "defended" in spite of world powers and their attempts to
snatch it. So, the "costliest" Serbian word is once again exploited and
mythologized by the political elite that actually resists accession to the European Union.
Those who are verbally in favor or this process such as President Boris Tadic and his
Democratic Party cohabitate with the opponents of Serbia's Europeanization - Premier
Vojislav Kostunica and his Democratic Party of Serbia.
The vicious Kosovo circle has marginalized all other issues crucial for
this frustrated state without defined borders but with a precisely defined model for
"not letting Kosovo go" - the same model of iron hug used not so long ago in the
attempt to keep ex-Yugoslav republics under Serbia's domination. Though history and the
life itself proved the project futile, the final act of ex-Yugoslavia's dissolution that
begun in Kosovo employs the same Kosovo and its "unbreakable historical-religious
ties with Serbia" for domestic manipulation. The trump card of this Memorandum
strategy and hazardous political game is the Russian card. Having chanted his umpteenth
mantra about the failure of Ahtisaari's plan as "Serbia's first and foremost national
interest" and triumphantly "revealed" that Ahtisaari's plan had been
"voted down" by the UN Security Council, Vojislav Kostunica practically
announced Russian veto without waiting for Russia itself to decidedly uphold such stand.
In other words, Kostunica expects the US and Russia to confront over Kosovo. But that's
nothing new - the Milosevic regime used to bank on disagreement between world powers, and
between EU member-states, and even predict that NATO would disintegrate after the 1999
According to the well-informed observers of Serb-Kosovo developments,
the US and Russia will be negotiating far from the public eye to find a solution to the
adopted of a new Security Council resolution on Kosovo, based on Martti Ahtisaari plan.
For the time being, Russian diplomacy opposes another resolution and argues that the
existing one (1244) has not been fully implemented yet. This is why Russia insisted on a
Security Council fact-finding mission to Kosovo. Russia's diplomatic actions are primarily
seen as buying time and postponement of the settlement. However, according to diplomatic
circles, Moscow's confrontation with the US and the EU will not exceed reasonable limits.
Now that Russia's suggestion about the fact-finding mission has been
accepted it is becoming more and more obvious that this would be the maximum it can
achieve at this point and that, despite Serbia's high expectations, Russia would not
exercise its right to veto. The Moscow-based Komesarant daily wrote, "The media under
Vojislav Kostunica's control try to convince the Serbs that the Russian veto is to be
taken for sure and that Russia would not allow Kosovo's secession. Such propaganda
bypasses the realities that Serbia actually lost Kosovo long ago. Everything is not about
the safeguard of Kosovo under Belgrade's control but about finding a formula for avoiding
destabilization and saving face for the international community and Serbia." On the
other hand, UN diplomats have been announcing that the resolution will be so worded as not
to be outvoted in the Security Council.
The Serbian Premier's statement that Serbia's "strong argumentation
annulled Ahtisaari plan" is obviously unrealistic. The problem with the Serbian elite
is that it would not accept the realities - thus, by questioning Ahtisaari's competence it
"decided" in advance that he would be replaced by someone "more
suitable." In turn, the West sent Belgrade a clear-cut message that it would not back
a new round of negotiations or some new international representative. The Security Council
session that officially opened the debate on Kosovo was seen as a good step forward. All
members of the Security Council will agree that Ahtisaari plan figures as the best offer
and the optimal solution for everyone in the region, say the observers in the UN. And
their assessment is diametrically opposite to Kostunica's prognosis. Otherwise Kosovo
Premier Agim Cheku would not have expressed his pleasure with the support Ahtisaari plan
got from the majority of the Security Council members, and would not have spoken highly of
the stance taken by China, which announced its support to whatever the EU decides.
To end with, let's see two characteristic stands coming from Europe.
Jeff Hunn, British minister for Europe, said, "The developments in 1999 - continued
repression by the Milosevic regime and attempts to expel the Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo
- created a new political reality. That meant that any return to Belgrade's rule was
hardly possible. The uncertainty about the status issue still blocs the economic and
political progress in Kosovo. Finding of a viable solution is crucial not only for the
future of Kosovo but of the entire region. Ahtisaari plan is a reflection of negotiations
and detailed discussions that lasted for over one year, and establishes a balance between
the aspirations of the majority in Kosovo and long-term guarantees for protection of the
rights of non-Albanian communities, the Kosovo Serbs in particular. The Kosovo government
must accept continued and comprehensive international supervision, and the Serbian
government must accept the loss of Kosovo."
For his part, Joshka Fischer, Germany's ex-foreign minister, said,
"The fate of Kosovo is interwoven in the fate of the EU. A strong and stable Kosovo
will necessitate a strong and united Europe. Should Europe disunite over the issue that is
in its geographic heart - and in the heart of its interests - its credibility of a foreign
policy factor in the questions beyond its borders would be dramatically impaired. And only
united Europe can make Russia join a harmonized Balkan policy.Kosovo's reintegration into
Serbia is not possible. When the conflict ended in June 1999 Serbia had no control
whatsoever over Kosovo. Legitimate Kosovo institutions for the management of domestic
affairs were established under the UN administration. With such institutions, the people
in Kosovo are looking forward to more self-government. Unfortunately, Belgrade ignores
those realities. Serbia, in fact, has not developed an exit strategy for integration of
two million people in Kosovo into its political structures and public life."
Both statements unambiguously mirror the realities. However, no one in
Serbia is ready to accept them. And possibly that's the catch when it comes to forming a
new government - who will be the one to accept the Kosovo realities as Serbia's premier.
Tadic and Kostunica alike insist on the so-called territorial integrity of Serbia and its
inalienable right to 15 percent of its territory. The only voice of reason one could
expect in the parliament is that of Cedomir Jovanovic's Liberal Democratic Party