Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation
Certainly, this move, made shortly before the final Bush-Putin meeting in Sochi, may create more tensions in US-Russian relations.
While the U.S. Administration sincerely wants to provide security for the Balkans, including Kosovo and Serbia, the situation is currently, literally, explosive. The announcement may be a reaction to the Serb protests in which a Ukrainian peacekeeper died recently and a signal to Belgrade not to escalate an already volatile situation.
Firstly, the region is full of weapons, and the last thing it needs is more arms.
Secondly, it would be tragic if Serbia's allies start receiving military assistance in response to Kosovo receiving supplies - this could lead to an unnecessary escalation.
Finally, announcing the measure before the NATO summit raises questions about the reaction from NATO members and partners, including those who did not recognize Kosovo's independence. It does not look like the Administration has consulted all its allies and partners, and it is not clear why.
We should also remember that in the past the Administration has unfortunately made blunders dealing with formerly violent or terrorist organizations, such as supporting a Middle East Road Map with Yasser Arafat, while the latter was presiding over a war of terror against Israel, or pushing for "democratic" elections in Palestinian territories, which brought Hamas to power.
Of course, Kosovo is different. I can only hope that there is still enough common sense to prevent an unnecessary escalation, something which neither the Kosovans and the Serbs, nor the Americans and the Russians, want or need.
Jatras, James G. Director of the American Council for Kosovo
Q. Do you think that US military supplies to Kosovo
will violate international law?
1. U.S. military assistance to Kosovo clearly is in violation of
international law. A comprehensive arms embargo was imposed on all of
the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, in 1998 under
Resolution 1160, Article 8. Resolution 1244 (1999), which currently
governs the status of Kosovo, exempts (Article 16) from the embargo the
international peacekeeping force deployed in Kosovo pursuant to
Resolution 1244. While the overall embargo against Yugoslavia (now
Serbia) no longer is in effect, giving weapons to any entity other than
UN peacekeepers in Kosovo, which remains under the authority of
Resolution 1244, legally remains in force. And of course there is no
language at all in Resolution 1244 permitting a Kosovo army. In more
general terms, because Kosovo legally is still part of Serbia -- despite
recognition by the US and some other countries in violation of
Resolution 1244, the UN Charter, and the Helsinki Final Act - US
military assistance violates Serbia's territorial integrity by arming a
hostile separatist and terrorist organization on Serbian territory.
That organization is the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which,
though required to be disbanded under Resolution 1244 (Article 9(b)),
still remains intact and well-armed, and dominates the Albanian
administration in Pristina.
Q. Do you think that military supplies to Kosovo could destabilize the
situation in the Balkans?
2. This US action is dangerously destabilizing. The critical "red
lines" on the ground today in Kosovo are whether the UN and NATO will
attempt to force Kosovo's Serbs to submit to the "authority" of the
illegitimate organs of the proclaimed independent state of Kosovo, and
whether Serbia will acquiesce to the creation of a supposed "border"
through its territory. While the KLA-dominated regime is well-armed, it
is not capable of imposing its will on either point. Arming the KLA
points to a design of crossing both red lines, certainly with NATO's
assistance. Washington's assumption, based on Serbia's response thus
far, is that the Kosovo Serbs can be placed under control and a "border"
enforced without too much of a reaction from Belgrade. This would be a
serious miscalculation with tragic results for all concerned.
U.S. State Department
Q. What is your reaction to criticism of the Administration's decision to provide military assistance to Kosovo?
- The President's March 19 determination under Section 503 of the Foreign Assistance Act that Kosovo is eligible to receive U.S. defense articles and defense services is a routine part of establishing bilateral relations with the new country. The U.S. has similar arrangements with Serbia and many other countries.
- U.S. defense cooperation with Kosovo can assist with developing a transparent and professional security establishment in the new nation. We anticipate assistance in line with the spirit of the Ahtisaari Plan for Kosovo's independence, which calls for a functioning Ministry of Defense and a small, lightly equipped force under strict civilian control with the ability to participate in civil-military affairs and humanitarian relief efforts.
- In September 2001, the UN Security Council terminated the arms embargo that was in effect against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including at that time Kosovo. The provision of such articles would not be contrary to any Security Council resolution.
Q. What kind of items and services will you provide?
- It is premature to discuss specifics. The Presidential Determination establishes Kosovo's eligibility to receive assistance. It is a separate process to then develop specific programs.
- Nations around the world -- and many in the Balkans -- have benefited from the types of programs the Determination allows us to develop.