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    Is Kosovo Russia's test?

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    MOSCOW. (Lev Dzugayev, member of the RIA Novosti Expert Council) - On March 13, 2007 The Washington Post carried an article entitled "Russia's Test in Kosovo."

    It could be ignored if not for the author -- Richard Holbrooke, who will be one of the candidates to the Secretary of State's position in the event of a Democratic victory. He has analyzed approaches to the Kosovo problem, which may throw light on the expected trends in the development of the world's most urgent issues, such as U.S. and NATO relations with Russia.

    "In the end, the Serbs will have to face the truth: Kosovo is gone from Serbia forever..." he writes. He goes on to say that "Serbia's future - and it could be bright - lies within the European Union, if it can get past its own paralyzing historical myths." Does the author want the Serbs to forget their more than 600 years of history?

    The Kosovo problem is inseparable from the events in former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union's disintegration. It is clear why the author concentrates on Russia, accusing it of jeopardizing European stability. Mr. Holbrooke writes: "There is no doubt that President Vladimir Putin, emboldened by America's difficulties and the effectiveness of his energy diplomacy (which sometimes looks like blackmail), is seeking to regain ground lost in the decade after the Soviet Union's collapse..."

    One might think that Mr. Holbrooke's colleagues have honored their promises not to expand NATO eastward in response to Moscow's consent to Germany's reunification and the Warsaw Pact's disbandment. During the difficult 1990s, Holbrooke's colleagues told the Russian leaders that they would not get $24 billion as a stabilization fund if they did not follow their recommendations.

    I'm sure if it were not for this and many other things, there would be no apprehensions about Putin's energy diplomacy. It is only natural that he wants to use the market situation in the country's interests. His concern over the situation in world affairs should be perceived as just that. But Mr. Holbrooke disagrees. UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari drafted a stage-by-stage plan for Kosovo's independence, which he will present to the UN Security Council on March 26, but "Putin says Russia will not support anything that the Serbs oppose." Mr. Holbrooke does not mind that the plan contradicts UN Resolution 1244 on territorial integrity, but he blames Moscow for "encouraging exactly the wrong tendencies within Serbia."

    Accusing Russia of not "working to avoid violence in Kosovo," he insists on what he calls a "simple message:" "If Russia blocks the Ahtisaari plan, the chaos that follows will be Moscow's responsibility and will affect other aspects of Russia's relationships with the West."

    Since Mr. Holbrooke is a person who always says things for a reason, it makes sense to pay attention to the following passage: "If Moscow vetoes or delays the Ahtisaari plan, the Kosovar Albanians will declare independence unilaterally. Some countries, including the United States and many Muslim states, would probably recognize them... Bloodshed would return to the Balkans. NATO, which is pledged to keep peace in Kosovo, could find itself back in battle in Europe." As we can see, the question has already been resolved without the Serbs. After all that was said about the initiators of events in former Yugoslavia, such statements can only be described as cynical.

    Pursuing national interests is commendable but should be done with caution. Otherwise we will open Pandora's box - some will think, as it was in the Gulf of Tonkin, that their country is under attack, and would throw napalm at a sovereign country; others may suspect that Cuba is a threat to U.S. national security, and will occupy Grenada; still others will blame Iraq for producing weapons of mass destruction, and the country will be plunged into chaos. We will not build any trust if we label those who commit atrocities against innocent civilians and blow up their homes as terrorists in some cases and insurgents in others. For the same reason, we will not enhance security and stability if we support national self-determination or follow the principle of territorial integrity proceeding from our own interests.

    Mr. Holbrooke claims that "Kosovo is a unique case and sets no precedent for separatist movements elsewhere." This idea is beyond criticism. Regardless of anything, the so-called frozen conflicts on post-Soviet territory will obviously follow in Kosovo's wake.

    Incidentally, opening the discussion of the Fifth Eurasian Media Forum's topic "Fire in the suburbs - multiculturalism, nationalism & immigration - role of the state & responsibility of the media," Mr. Holbrooke declared that ethnic conflicts of our time were provoked by criminal political leaders. It would be interesting to know whether he lists among these Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first president of Georgia, whose policy of "provincial fascism," as Eduard Shevardnadze, his successor, put it, led to bloodshed in South Ossetia, or Mr. Shevardnadze himself who unleashed a war in Abkhazia? What does he think of Mikhail Saakashvili whose "peacemaking" efforts destroyed in the summer of 2004 the trust that was being restored between Georgians and Ossetians by such a painstaking effort? The first one was canonized in modern Georgia, and some streets bear his name; the second is friends with Mr. Baker and Mr. Genscher; and the third is a fighter for the Euro-Atlantic version of democracy and justice. Logic suggests an obvious answer, and these cases look no less unique than Kosovo. Russia has much to think about, and Kosovo is indeed a major test for it.

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

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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