Why is the US so desirous of independence for Kosovo?
July 19, 2007 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Why is the US so desirous of independence for Kosovo? I'm not against Kosovan indepence (in fact, I rather like the idea), but in my rather cynical view of American motivations, I just don't see what's in it for the USA.

Many of the Albanians from Albania don't like the Albanians from Kosovo (for complicated but heavy reasons) and pleasing Albania wouldn't seem worth much. "Punishment" for Serbian war crimes has some personal appeal for me (refusal to hand over war criminals, plus support from the Serbian government being largely responsible for the brutal death of most of my family), but that hardly seems it. Russia will be pissed off (they are already, just from the suggestion of it) and there wouldn't seem to be much in terms of exportable wealth from Kosovo. I've spent time in Kosovo and I just don't get it. But Condie Rice is out there, trying to make it happen, apparently. Why?
posted by Dee Xtrovert to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Because her boss told her to.

Look, there are all sorts of foreign policy goals set by the Administration that make absolutely no sense. I can imagine that they think that having a homeland will give the Kosovars some protection they don't currently have, at least not without lots of NATO troops standing around with guns, but I don't think it would.

Tweaking Russia is actually a bonus, by the way, since our current policy seems to be to get Russia riled up every so often for no apparent reason.
posted by bshort at 2:32 PM on July 19, 2007

I think the answer is, "Because they think it's the right thing to do." I don't think there's any ulterior motive involved.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:36 PM on July 19, 2007

Well, the contention that there doesn't seem to be much in it for the US is a bit flawed. What's in there in the US is influence. Kosovars are very grateful for American intervention during Clinton's administration and their admiration for their US shows it. They were welcoming Bush with open arms when he came to visit.

Fact is.. the US needs allies and they're easier to find in Eastern (and Southeastern) Europe than in Western Europe. The US already has Poland's support for building an anti-missile defense system. Also, it has recently been discovered that the US has interrogation/imprisonment centers equivalent to Guanatanamo Bay but much smaller in Poland and Romania.

These perks and priviliges stem from America's previous support of independence of many Eastern European countries from the Soviet Block. Helping Kosovo is another way of letting Eastern Europe now that the US will protect the civil rights of its member countries. The military bases, secret prisons, as well as foreign policy support of Eastern Europe will make the US intervention worthwhile. (Remember how President Bush kept mentioning Poland as an ally in the war against Iraq?)
posted by gregb1007 at 2:38 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Respect for the self-determination of peoples? A desire for stability in the region?

A stable southeast Europe is one less area for the EU, NATO, and the US to worry about, and the sooner Kosovo can be integrated into the economy of the region as a full state, the better for everyone involved; the euro is already the currency used in Albanian and UNMIK-controlled areas. At least 90% of Kosovo is Albanian, and Serbian law hasn't applied in Kosovo since 1999. I really doubt anything less than full independence is practical for any parties concerned, despite the sabre-rattling of the Russians, and given that Serbia won't even turn over its war criminals to the ICC or the ICTY, it's not like they have a lot of respect among the major players other than Russia, despite their claim that they still should control Kosovo.

Montenegro's separation from Serbia earlier this year was mostly amicable and democratic, and while Kosovo's got some serious ghosts in its past, the economy of the region isn't going to improve under Serbian rule, and UNMIK's plans for the province include independence in all but name, because it's politically expedient to do so. They've even made provisions for up to 70,000 refugees in the event that the Kosovar Albanians make a move for independence before UNMIK is ready.

Regardless of history, though - I'm sure both sides of the conflict have blood on their hands - Kosovo has been given the moral advantage in the eyes of UNMIK, the EU, and NATO, and I doubt the US would have anything to gain from not openly supporting the majority's desires for independence and integration into the European economy.
posted by mdonley at 2:49 PM on July 19, 2007

It's actually quite simple. The Serbian government is aligned with Russia, and Russia is interested in the maintenance of a stable, pro-Russian regime there. Independence for Kosovo is a way of undermining Russian influence in the region. Washington has been pursuing an anti-Russian policy of NATO encirclement since the mid-nineties, of which the missile shield in Poland is just the most recent example.
posted by nasreddin at 4:04 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think there's any ulterior motive involved.

Don't kid yourself -- politics is all about ulterior motives. Especially at the global level.
posted by randomstriker at 4:19 PM on July 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

Mdonley is right on in terms of description (though I'm not sure that support for self-determination or European stability underlie the recent policy stance). I would just add that support for independence has only come about VERY gradually and only because all of the other options have been exhausted. For example, final status recommendations were withheld in the hope that Serbia's elections would yield a more liberal coalition, but that did not happen. No Serbian politician can even consider independence given the political climate. After so many years of de facto, NATO enforced independence, few alternatives remain for Kosovo. Russia and Serbia have been aligned since well before the current policy change in Washington. One can't explain change with a constant. Would that it were that simple.
posted by B-squared at 4:20 PM on July 19, 2007

Combine mdonley and nasreddin's answers and you see that the US can't lose, given our current perspectives on Russia. It allows the US the moral high ground, makes our allies happier, self-justifies defense spending, lends greater support to domestic ethanol production, and costs the US very little money, relatively speaking, for it to stand behind independence for Kosovo and against Serbian and hence Russian control. And those are the simplest benefits.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 4:37 PM on July 19, 2007

Well for once we'd actually be helping Muslims...
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 5:30 PM on July 19, 2007

I think the answer is, "Because they think it's the right thing to do." I don't think there's any ulterior motive involved.

I think you couldn't be less correct.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:59 PM on July 19, 2007

I've heard sucking up to Islam as an answer, usually phrased in just about those terms.

Another suspect is the trans-Balkan oil pipeline.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:23 PM on July 19, 2007

There are actually lots of trans-Balkan pipelines in the works, none of which seem to pass through Kosovo.

I know this because I saw this AWESOME map (PDF) from Le Monde Diplomatique of oil pipelines from the former USSR to the West. It's the best map I've seen in a while of any kind. They've got a superb atlas of issue maps in English here.
posted by mdonley at 9:22 PM on July 19, 2007

Russia, yes, regional allies, yes, constrain Serbian ambitions, somewhat. The major reason, though, is NATO.

You will recall during the 90s that much of the delay in formulating a response to the breakup of Yugoslavia was that Europe didn't have a common regional defense strategy. The existing strategy for the common defense was almost entirely Cold War based and placed Europe in a difficult position in the middle of any potential conflict, and as a result there was a tremendous deadweight of caution built into the system. Without the USSR, NATO looked obsolete, and certainly would be greatly changed. There were concerns that Europe was looking at greater transnational integration (true) and military cooperation (mostly theoretical) with things like EURRF, and that these could tilt Europe away from the Trans-Atlantic Alliance in ways that weren't good for the US in the long run, no matter how "friendly" we remained.

The Clinton administration's rationale for the entire Balkan intervention was humanitarian on the one hand, but highly conscious of the need for NATO to have a new mission on the other. By remaining in Kosovo, the US ensures that NATO is heavily invested in regional security and the EU will have little incentive to create alternatives, where the US doesn't sit at the table.
posted by dhartung at 12:18 AM on July 20, 2007

The US military has built a very large base named Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. I'm sure they'd like to keep it for themselves, and that's more likely if Kosovo gains full independence.

You might find this article on US military bases around the world interesting (it also mentions camp Bondsteel).
posted by syzygy at 4:01 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are actually lots of trans-Balkan pipelines in the works, none of which seem to pass through Kosovo.

What?! Has anyone told the administration this?

Excellent map, btw, and thanks for the link. One line does go through Albania, and there's them as think the two could merge in due course. Plays into the Be Nice to Muslims schtick. (I never said the rationale was rational. Much of America's post-war diplomacy is not really rational. Pre-war either, for that matter.)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:14 PM on July 20, 2007

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