It is difficult to avoid the impression that the denouement of the Kosovo political saga is approaching at an accelerated pace. On September 4 an important meeting will be held in Washington, with President Trump’s attendance at some stage strongly suggested. Its purpose is to sort out the finer details of what should soon be unveiled as a “comprehensive and legally binding” settlement between Serbia and its province of Kosovo. Kosovo has been illegally occupied by NATO since 1999 and was spurred on in 2008 to unilaterally proclaim its “independence.”
A few preliminary facts need to be stated before embarking on an analysis of the current maneuverings. Kosovo was forcibly separated by NATO powers from the rest of Serbia in 1999, after NATO’s military aggression on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, at that time consisting of Serbia and Montenegro. For both Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo is a territory of extraordinary cultural and spiritual importance in a sense very much analogous to the significance of the Holy Land to the Jewish people. The three-month NATO assault failed to result in a military defeat for the Yugoslav army and ended, rather, in a stalemate. The Yugoslav army withdrew from Kosovo largely intact, with NATO forces occupying it in their wake, while to bring the conflict to a close the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 recognizing Kosovo as a part of Serbia to be temporarily administered by the UN, assisted by a NATO contingent, until details of its future are sorted out in negotiations between the parties. The resolution guaranteed security to all residents of Kosovo, Albanians, Serbs, and members of other communities. Subsequent negotiations between the parties were fruitless because the “international mediators,” whose identity it is superfluous to specify, were making promises of support for full independence and encouraged the Albanian side to intransigently reject Serbian offers of broad autonomy. The euphemism “independence” for the inherently unviable Albanian Kosovo statelet, of course, actually meant a protectorate under the lordship of the imperial powers which arranged for setting it up in the first place. Indeed, Kosovo’s “constitution” contained until recently the embarrassing provision that the international representative on its territory is the supreme authority in all administrative matters, including interpreting the constitution’s meaning and scope [Article 147]. The provision was abrogated in 2012, four years into “independence,” but there are few illusions about who continues to call the shots in Pristina. That hardly makes for the supreme law of a truly independent land or even, as some would be bold enough to argue, of a protectorate.
Ever since 1999, the Serbian government has been between a rock and a hard place with regard to Kosovo. On the one hand, domestic public opinion is adamant that Kosovo, where some of the most important Serbian religious shrines and historical places are located, is an inalienable part of Serbia and that no effort should be spared to reintegrate it. On the other, pressure from Western “partners” has been ferocious to officially recognize Kosovo’s separation from Serbia, renounce all pretensions to it, and ultimately to establish formal state-to-state relations with Serbia’s historical and spiritual heartland. Membership in the European Union was initially offered to Serbia as a carrot, but it is a reward which for obvious reasons has lost much of its luster lately. It would be a useful analogy to imagine Israel being broken up into Judea and Samaria, and Judea compelled to accept and recognize a Samaria under foreign control as a different and independent country.
Successive Serbian governments, all dominated to one degree or another, by Western agents or Euro-integrationist enthusiasts, undeniably have actively entertained the idea of going along with (to put it blandly) the Western-proposed Kosovo disengagement scheme, at least to the extent that they dared. For sound legal and geopolitical reasons of its own the Russian Federation has made it clear that it will oppose in the UN any alteration to Kosovo’s status or solution to the Kosovo dispute outside the provisions of Resolution 1244, which unequivocally recognizes Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia. Significantly, as if anticipating a breakdown of official resolve in Belgrade, the Russian Foreign Ministry and other competent high-level bodies have lately broadened their Kosovo rhetoric to insist that any solution must not only be consistent with UN Resolution 1244, but also be “acceptable to the Serbian people” (and here).
Returning now to the scheduled Washington conference on Kosovo at the beginning of September, the media activation a few days ago of William Montgomery, former US ambassador to Yugoslavia (2001 – 2004), has caused quite a stir. Montgomery who, since his “retirement” in 2004 has remained in the Balkans as a “private businessman,” has a habit of lecturing the Serbian political elite on what it should do. He is listened to partly because over the years he has assiduously built up for himself the reputation of a non-stereotype American official, receptive to the Serbian point of view. Atypically for a US public figure, in 2008 he voiced scepticism about Kosovo independence (and here) and even expressed comprehension for the “very real plight” of the Serbian community there. In 2010 Montgomery publicly advocated Bosnia’s dissolution, with each entity being allowed to go its separate way. Here is a man who knows how to win brownie points with ordinary Serbs, and he does it by expressing sentiments that, incidentally, also happen to be good for business.
Still, it should not be neglected that the empathetic Mr. Montgomery does not pursue only the noble dictates of his own independent judgment, but has also loyally served as a conduit of some higher interests. In 1999 and 2000, from his Budapest command post, Montgomery was in charge of funnelling logistical support, including millions in cash, for the implementation of the then Otpor (currently in Belarus, Canvas, but same difference) color revolution coup in Yugoslavia, which brought to power in Belgrade a coterie of Western-controlled and dependent politicians. Predictably, in 2001 the new government he was covertly helpful in installing had no objections to welcoming him as a diplomat to the country he had just subverted.
So as Serbia faces what is being shaping up as a climactic moment in the two-decade campaign to wrench out its spiritual and historical heart – Kosovo, what is the sage advice that ex-US ambassador-turned-friend William Montgomery has to offer to Serbs?
In the style of a seasoned political hustler, it is that “time is running out” and that the Serbian delegation must not miss this extraordinary and probably final opportunity to capitulate with honor. Raising tensions, Montgomery the US political pundit warns the Serbs not to disdain whatever crumbs are offered to them in September because “President Trump is likely to lose and his successor Joe Biden favors Kosovo and the Albanians.” If exchange of territory is to be part of the “deal,” Montgomery urges, “speed is of the essence” and he expects the “Israeli scenario” as in the normalization of relations between Israel and UAE to be re-enacted. In that case, Montgomery argues, Trump will most likely push for immediate implementation because – and here anyone with even a superficial knowledge of American politics will surely agree with him – all President Trump really wants “is the photo-op of Serbian and Kosovo leaders shaking hands and announcing that they have reached an agreement.” For Trump, he added quite correctly, such an outcome would be a huge political victory just before the November elections.
But while the political benefits to Trump might be beyond dispute, it surely is not the mandate of the Serbian delegation to (God forbid!) try to influence American elections, especially not by being rushed (or sweet-talked) into a deal that does not pass muster from the standpoint of their own country’s national interest. Montgomery’s “friendly advice” notwithstanding, the key to the Kosovo conundrum is entirely in Serbia’s hands. Legally and morally, Kosovo is part of its national territory and outcomes secured by force and in contravention of international law cannot change that situation. Nor is the status of the NATO-occupied statelet altered by corruptly obtained “diplomatic recognitions” by Vanuatu or Tuvalu, any more than similarly induced “recognitions” will ever make Guaido the legitimate President of Venezuela. The imperialist core of the self-proclaimed “international community” understands that perfectly, and that is why they seek to engineer Serbia’s consent for their shameful rapine.
As we approach the scheduled Washington Kosovo photo-op, things seem to be shaping up roughly along the lines urged by Serbia’s new friend and political advisor, ex-Ambassador William Montgomery. What offers are circulating behind the scenes, what deals are being discussed confidentially, and who this time round may turn out to be Serbia’s Dr. Emil Hácha, remains to be seen. Some important pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are already falling in place. Serbia’s pesky constitution contains a preamble which proclaims Kosovo an integral and inalienable part of Serbia. Until now, that was considered an insuperable obstacle to the legalization of the country’s dismemberment, no matter by whom such a “deal” might be signed. In the June parliamentary elections, however, the governing coalition awarded itself a dubious over seventy percent majority in parliament, which by sheer coincidence is more than sufficient to satisfy the two-thirds majority required for the constitution to be amended by a loyal show of hands. Why have none of the self-appointed guardians of the rule of law and European values reacted to the unpersuasive result of the recent balloting? If the French magazine Le Point is to be trusted, it is because “the West believes that the current leadership is capable of bringing lasting peace to the heart of Europe.”
“But how?” Le Point’s editors ask in seeming wonderment. “By recognizing Kosovo,” they calmly answer their own rhetorical question.
Perhaps Moscow is not wide off the mark when it insists that any Kosovo outcome that it could recognize, besides satisfying UN Security Council Resolution 1244, must also be acceptable to the Serbian people.