Kosovo Watch

What should be done about Kosovo? What options do the United States and the other key players have? TNI editor Nick Gvosdev gives his take on the controversy.

When former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Russian president Vladimir Putin both agree on a critical issue facing the international community, one takes notice.

At the end of October, Bolton told the Voice of America:

"I hope that the United States will not recognize a unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence, although I think that things are currently moving in that direction, and I am afraid that it could cause more damage than it can bring good in the Balkans. Such a decision, which would be taken under threat of violence, would actually represent a way to reward bad behavior. The issue of Kosovo should be solved by two parties at the negotiation table. I understand that strong positions are taken regarding the issue by both sides-Albanian and Serbian. These are and will be tough negotiations in order to reach a solution which would satisfy both parties, but this is much better than to impose a solution on one side or the other, based on a wrong understanding of the situation."

Then, the first head of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia-certainly someone that cannot be accused of acting out of pro-Serbian sentiment-proposed, instead of full independence for the province, a confederal solution. He noted:

"By means of a binding UN Security Council resolution, Kosovo could be granted full and exclusive authority over its citizens and territory, as well as limited capacity for action on the international scene. It could be authorized to enter into trade agreements as well as agreements concerning individuals (for example, admission and circulation of foreigners, or extradition), plus the right to seek admission to the UN (which does not require full sovereignty and independence).

"Kosovo would thus gain some essential trappings of statehood. However, a decision-making body consisting of delegates from Kosovo, Serbia, and the European Union would be given full authority over major foreign policy issues (for example, alliances and relations with international economic institutions), defence, borders (in case Kosovo wished to join with Albania), and the treatment of Kosovo's Serbian minority. As a result, Kosovo and Serbia would constitute two distinct international subjects, bound by a confederation hinging on a common decision-making body."

Meanwhile, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who in Lisbon came out strongly against any recognition of a unilaterally-declared independent state for Kosovo, repeated his position in Athens at the end of October in a press conference with his Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis:

"We need to seek a mutually acceptable, or as far as possible acceptable solution on the problem of Kosovo. You can never sort out problems in the Balkans unilaterally. There has to be some sort of consensus, some sort of agreement and Kosovo is no exception to that particular rule."

Bakoyannis also restated the Greek position on Kosovo-"A viable solution, a solution of stability, exhausting every possibility for negotiations, with a single European stance, without unilateral actions, and with the strongest possible international legitimacy, just as the legitimacy provided by UN Security Council resolutions."

The argument that there can be "no debate" over what to do about Kosovo does not hold water-and there is a whole variety of options at our disposal. There is no need for the United States or any other party to be locked in to one course of action.

Nikolas K. Gvosdev is editor of The National Interest.