Austin Bay

Over the last eight years, the United Nations and European Union have played a careful diplomatic game regarding Kosovo's final status. The Serbs, however, aren't stupid and can read the diplomatic body language. That wiggling semaphore suggests the European Union will recommend Kosovar independence -- though likely an independence with limitations. What that might look like in political and organizational terms remains intentionally vague. There is also talk of "autonomy" within a "democratic Serbia," though Albanian Kosovars (who now control Kosovo) reject this option. Still, a democratic Serbia does exist, and Serbia just conducted a clean, honest election.

Last year, the European Union and United Nations said a decision on Kosovo would take place shortly after the Serbian elections. Now, the United States says all parties should take "more time." Certainly, Serbia's reform parties have earned the opportunity to form a government and establish its bona fides without the disruption of a U.N. decision.

"More time" also gives European politicians time to coax Russia.

The Russians have objected to Kosovar independence from Serbia, and Russia wields a U.N. Security Council veto, which could block a pro-independence U.N. policy. Kosovo's government has approached Moscow on its own, trying to assure the Kremlin that Kosovar independence won't set a precedent for other independence and separatist movements in Europe. That's a tough sell, but Moscow might agree in return for future political considerations. What might those include? Concessions regarding the status of ethnic Russians in Ukraine and Transdniestr are possibilities.

Advocates of partition in Iraq should approach "the Yugoslav analogy" with extreme caution. Syria, Iran and Turkey thoroughly oppose an independent Kurdistan, carved from Iraq. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait oppose an independent Shia Arab state in southern Iraq. Both do provide rough analogs to Serbian and Russian opposition to Kosovar independence. However, the Middle East's dysfunctional neighborhood lacks a European Union -- a stable, supra-national "reuniter" that rewards peace and democracy with economic and political benefits. The missing "Middle Eastern EU" is a major difference.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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