Kosovo declares Independence

Review & Outlook : The Birth of Kosovo February 18, 2008

When Slovenia declared independence in 1991, Belgrade sent in tanks. When Croatia and Bosnia did the same, the Serbs started wars that left a quarter million dead. So Serbia’s resort to violent rhetoric in response to Kosovo’s declaration of independence yesterday counts as a kind of Balkan progress.

The newborn isn’t out of danger, with Serbia and Russia wishing Kosovo ill. But the presence of NATO troops, and expected swift recognition by the U.S. and major European powers, ought to calm nerves and end the last territorial dispute in the Balkans. By taking the lead during the 1999 aerial war that forced Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic cleansers from Kosovo and now on independence, the U.S. is shepherding one more Muslim nation to freedom—not that it will get credit for it in the Islamic world.

The proliferation of small states since the fall of communism has made Europe more stable and democratic, from Estonia to Macedonia. A sovereign Kosovo, which follows the entry of even tinier Montenegro into the club of nations, can be a force for good in the region and in the wider Europe. Though lawyers may quibble, Kosovo differs in no way from the other stand-alone parts of Yugoslavia that won their freedom after 1991, and are now better off for it. Serbian lobbyists portray the Kosovars as Muslim terrorists, but that strains credulity, given their moderate and secular practice of Islam (and Christianity) and their stated commitment to democracy.

Kosovar leaders say they want their country to join the European Union and NATO, which would open their borders to free trade and bring them into European security structures. The Kosovar Albanians also seem aware that their new state will be judged on their protection of minority Serbs and willingness to make up with former enemies. International oversight and scrutiny can help ensure these promises are kept. Western chaperones will also have to watch the fragile multiethnic constructs in nearby Bosnia and Macedonia, where separatists may try to use Kosovo independence to push for a breakup.

Russia has called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to revoke the independence declaration. With no troops or permanent interests on the ground, however, Moscow may be happy merely to score political points against the West—and then, as usual, abandon the Serbs to their fate… (Wall Street Journal)

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