Friday, February 22, 2008

Balkan Tensions Erupt Anew

A border conflict in the Balkans, yet again, is inflaming nationalist passions and dividing the world's major powers.

In a scene reminiscent of past flareups, Serbian anger over the province of Kosovo's declaration of independence spilled into violence in Belgrade, the Serbian capital. The protests, in which a mob ransacked parts of the U.S. embassy, illustrate the perils of the U.S.-led bid to redraw the borders of one of Europe's most unsettled corners.

American and European diplomats said they were alarmed by the violence and worried that the Serbian government might stoke ethnic passions in Kosovo. Yet Western officials also said there was still good reason to believe the unrest won't spark another spasm of armed conflict.


Arman said...

I think the significance of the events in Serbia was overestimated. The day, when the US Embassy in Belgrade was put in fire, from my viewpoint, was the end of the tension rather than its new eruption. I think, the attack on the Embassy of the United States was planned performance (there was found a casket into the embassy, but it was not any of American diplomats, and it seems like it was not any of the heads of the attackers.
In my opinion, the United States agreed to let Serbs to put their Embassy in fire and thus, unleashed the tension. You will not read this in any newspaper; however, I think there were several signs, which support my version. First, the Serb leader was abroad at that day so that he was not responsible for the violence. Next, happily there were no victims among the Embassy employees. In case of sudden attack I think there might be clashes and even victims. Besides, Serb police was absolutely inactive on the day of attack, while on the next day announced that will fire without warning anyone who will try to repeat yesterday’s attack. At least, the reaction of the United States was slack rather than abrupt and severe.
I think it was right decision to fire the Embassy because by doing this they let Serbs to spill their violence as it is always better to control the “spill of violence”, which otherwise may spill somewhere else.

Bee Anne said...

Watching this play out has been very interesting over the past few days. I was excited to hear that the declaration was forthcoming, and also because of the discussions taking place within the EU about forming a force of peacekeepers to go in as well. It also has split the opinions of the EU which is always an interesting dynamic. The eastern European countries are more concerned than the larger western powers in part because they have some of the same ethnic issues as the Serbia-Kosovo issue. They have also been wary of NATO and EU military action in the region, which has definitely been of a sustained nature. In many ways, this microchosm of European ethnic and cultural tensions holds lessons from the past and for the future of the union.

While I am not prepared to agree wholeheartedly with Arman's theory, I will admit I have been surprised by both the rioting and the response in the new nation of Kosovo as well as here at home in the US. I have a friend from Serbia who is not particularly nationalistic, so the stereotype that all Serbs are running through the streets screaming "Kosovo is ours" does not always fit. I would argue that it will work itself out in time, provided no one takes rash action, and that it is a good idea for the international system. Who knows, maybe this new turmoil can turn out to be the first step toward reduced tensions in the Balkans, or at least a new framework for working at alleviating the tensions.

Tina* said...

To my mind, Arman's theory presents an interesting viewpoint that is also supported by plausible arguments.
However, I still do not agree with this perspective, because this discussion does not take into account that it was not only the Embassy of the United States that was put on fire, but also embassies from Western European countries such as Germany have been attacked in Belgrade last Thursday.
According to the German newspaper "Kölnische Rundschau" one person was killed, at least 150 people were injured, among them 35 police officers and some journalists. (cp.
Therefore, I strongly doubt that one of the attacked embassies, which were basically those accepting Kosovo's declaration of independence, agreed upon being attacked. Reactions from the European Union to these outrages have been highly critical and called for a better protection of embassies.
Today, the New York Times reported that nationalist hooligans may have been responsible for the burning of the U.S. Embassy.
Moreover, I don't think that tensions between Serbia and Kosovo are going to ease in the near future, not as long Serbia still receives political and ideological support from a large power like Russia.

Kim said...

The anger about the succession of Kosovo is surprising to me. After Milosevic killed so many ethnic Albanians, why would the people of Kosovo want to be part of Serbia? I’m interested in knowing if the people of Serbia see themselves as separated from what Milosevic did, or if they just don’t think it matters enough for Kosovo to claim independence.
I don’t feel the situation in Russia with Chechnya is the same. Chechen rebels destroyed their credibility when they attacked a theater and a school. With the 2004 Belsan school attack and the 2002 Moscow theater siege, Chechnya lost all chances of receiving support for the international community. Putin should recognize that these situations are very different, but he cannot be seen as supporting separatist movements because Chechnya would ask for independence.

Karen said...

I am studying the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in my United Nations class. My professor and I took the last class to talk about the flare-up between Serbia and Kosovo. Although I find Arman’s theory an interesting one, I don’t feel the same way. I feel that the attack on the U.S. was truly one that was spontaneous, caused because the United States was so quick in backing Kosovo’s declaration of autonomy.

One aspect that has not been as addressed is the international dynamics that are changing because of this recent flare-up. The U.S., Great Britain and Germany backed Kosovo in declaring autonomy. Russia and has declared that they stand behind fellow-ally, Serbia. Russia is and should be nervous about the Serbia-Kosovo situation because it sets a “dangerous” precedent for other “occupied” countries around the world. Russia could stand to lose a lot of land if occupied lands (such as Chechnya) acted in a similar manner as Kosovo, and broke away.

The already strained relations between Russia and the U.S. could become more strained if this conflict is not resolved quickly.

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