Will Moscow stun the world over Kosovo?

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin) - Kosovo received its new Constitution as scheduled - on June 15. By June 17 its president, Fatmir Sejdiu, had already signed about 50 laws, sealing his position as the head of state and Kosovo's status as an independent formation.

Several days before, it was announced that the UN mission in Kosovo would be closed and that most of its functions (and hence, premises, infrastructure, communications and local personnel) would be transferred to the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX Kosovo) and to the Kosovo government. It seems that the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, will soon leave Kosovo altogether, largely owing to the efforts of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The UN may keep a small office in Kosovo's Serbian-controlled northern regions. But the local Serbs have already said that they do not care about the new Constitution or Kosovo's independence. They have formed a firm minority group after Kosovo proclaimed independence on February 17. Protected by their own unity and the proximity of the Serbian border, they have already said that they will have their own, parallel authorities, and will not obey the Pristina government or parliament. Their compatriots in Kosovo's Albanian-dominated central and southern regions will have a harder life.

Almost at the same time, the NATO defense ministers declared at their meeting in Brussels that they have finally agreed on helping the Kosovo government set up its own, some 3,000-strong security forces. They will replace the Kosovo Protection Corps and will be equipped with NATO weapons.

NATO made this decision on the day Pristina and Belgrade received notifications on the downgrading of the UN mission in Kosovo. Ban Ki-moon diplomatically described it as the "reconfiguration of the international civilian presence in Kosovo." The direction of this reconfiguration was specified rather clearly - as further steps toward reaching practical agreements which would allow the European Union (EU) "to prepare a future civilian role in the broader Rule of Law area (police, justice, and customs)." In other words, this was a statement on the transfer of UN functions to the EU.

Incidentally, the UN secretary general has the right to disband or change the format of the UN mission after consulting with Security Council members. He has not done this so far. Meanwhile, the UN has not cancelled its Resolution 1244 on UNMIK and NATO's KFOR military mission. The same resolution does not say a word about the EU.

By and large, there is nothing bad about the transfer of functions. It could only be welcomed. If the EU wants to assume the burden of maintaining peace in Kosovo, let it do so. After all, every side will gain when the UN stops funding the mission. The lion's share of its budget is wasted on such peacemaking and stabilization operations. Moreover, UNMIK was engaged in markedly pro-Albanian peacemaking, and it would even be a disgrace to continue paying for this mission.

The problem for Russia is bigger and much more unpleasant. It seems that it has again been excluded from major decision-making in the UN. What's worse, this was done by the UN secretary general, who did not even bother to conceal in his letter what it was all about. It is clear that Brussels' instructions to its mission will have nothing to do with Resolution 1244.

The developments around Kosovo suggest many questions, each worse than the last. All of them are addressed to Russia. It is obvious that in the Kosovo confrontation our interests have again clashed with those of the West, but it is not clear whether such adamant defense of Serbia's integrity gained anything for Russia. It continued even when it became clear that the new Serbian government would not cling to Kosovo at all costs, and that this part of its territory had been cut off once and for all. Emotion in protecting international legal standards and national justice is justified, but it has to be buttressed by something more important than statements in the UN and NATO.

All Russians, starting from the president and foreign minister and ending with the man-in-the-street, have said more than once that we have our own response to the West's obvious neglect of the basics of international law and the role of the UN, and that we "won't weep in the corner like schoolboys." But so far this response has been extremely vague.

Withdrawal from the CIS sanctions against Abkhazia or the recent sending of a railroad battalion to the republic are hardly cases in point. We will still help Abkhazia with food. This is our duty, because the majority of its citizens have Russian passports. Maybe, though, Moscow has something up its sleeve that will stun the whole world.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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