Way Down in Kosovo

There should be a flurry of Security Council activity on Kosovo in the next week or two. In March, Martti Ahtisaari, the UN’s top diplomat for the “future status process” of Kosovo recommended the province’s independence from Serbia. Russia, a traditional ally of Serbia, balked at this suggestion and instead recommended that the Security Council send a fact-finding mission to Kosovo–a move some saw as a delaying tactic.

When that mission returned yesterday, American officials reiterated their strong support for Kosovo’s independence. “We hope that Russia understands that Kosovo is going to be independent one way or another,” Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried told Reuters. “It will either be done in a controlled, supervised way that provides for the well-being of the Serbian people, or it will take place in an uncontrolled way and the Kosovo Serbs will suffer the most, which would be terrible.”

Should the debate in the Security Council remain intractably stalled, Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian government may unilaterally declare independence from Serbia. And if Kosovo declares independence without formal UN approval, European Union member states will be divided over whether or not to formally recognize Kosovo. Given that the E.U. ponies up much of the cash to support Kosovo reconstruction, a potential E.U. split could seriously disrupt reconstruction efforts.

So even though the diplomacy is tough, the UN route is really the only option for Kosovo. As Dan Fried remarked, “I see absolutely no advantage to doing this any other way than through a Security Council resolution. I see merely disadvantages. The alternatives are all worse.”