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No Choice Now: Canada must support Kosovo independence

Canadian politicians have sat on their hands when it comes to either recognizing or not recognizing Kosovar independence. It's high time they got off those hands, and used them to sign the proper documents to recognize Kosovo as an independent country.

Joseph C. Ben-Ami and Joseph B. Varner - February 27, 2008

As far as strategic diplomacy goes, recognizing Kosovar independence is about as foolish as it gets. The only thing that would be more foolish would be to allow the question of Kosovar independence to cause a significant rift between NATO’s senior partners.

The latest crisis in the Balkans is largely one of the West’s own making.

In 1998, a small-scale ethnic Albanian insurgency in the Serbian province of Kosovo by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)--which had ties to organized crime and Al Qaeda--provoked a counterinsurgency campaign by Serbian regular and paramilitary forces that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians. In the spring of 1999, and after much controversy, NATO intervened militarily, bombing targets in Serbia until the Serb government ended its campaign and accepted an international settlement.

In June of 1999 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244, authorizing the stationing of a NATO-led force in Kosovo (KFOR) to take the place of departing Serbian forces and provide a secure environment for the region's ethnic communities. The UN also created an interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

In 2001, UNMIK promulgated a constitutional framework that allowed Kosovo to establish institutions of self-government and led to Kosovo's first parliamentary election. In January 2006 the international community began negotiations on the future status of Kosovo culminating in last week’s declaration of independence which was promptly recognized by a host of countries including the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Australia.

So far so good, but does Kosovo have the capacity to actually exercise the independence it is laying claim to? The answer is clearly no.

On balance, the NATO and UN missions in Kosovo can only be characterized as failures. Despite the effort of the international community, Kosovo remains a social, economic and political basket-case. Deployed to defend ethnic Albanians from the Serbs, NATO forces remained idle as ethnic Albanians ejected most non-Albanians from the province. Per capita income in Kosovo--approximately $1,600 per year--is the lowest in Europe while unemployment is the highest, as is its infant mortality rate. Kosovo has no army to speak of, an inadequate police force, and a dysfunctional government.

In other words, Kosovo is entirely reliant on the United States and the European Union for aid and development, and NATO for its security. There’s no risk that Kosovo will become a failed state in the future--it has already achieved that ignoble status.