The World from Berlin Kosovo is Russia's Latest Victim

Russia seems to be doing all it can these days to flex its foreign policy muscles. The ethnic Albanians of Kosovo have become the most recent victims of Moscow's posturing against the West, according to German papers. Vladimir Putin has rejected another draft treaty for Kosovar independence, and commentators wonder what Russia wants.

Albanians in Kosovo want independence, but Russia has other ideas.

Albanians in Kosovo want independence, but Russia has other ideas.

Despite months of negotiations, numerous compromises and a handful of draft treaties, the United Nations Security Council is further away from defining a future for Kosovo than ever. Russia on Monday night rejected a new draft resolution on the Serbian province, despite its European-American authors having included a Moscow demand that negotiations continue for another four months. Russia, a close ally of Serbia's, is afraid that the draft would inevitably result in Kosovo's independence.

"Almost the entire text and maybe particularly the annexes are permeated with the concept of the independence of Kosovo," Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN ambassador, said on Tuesday.

Seeking to tighten the international screws on Russia, the European Union on Tuesday said it might withdraw the Kosovo issue from the Security Council if Moscow continues to reject new drafts. The EU is concerned that, with the international community unable to reach agreement, Kosovo might declare independence on its own.

Just what to do with Kosovo has been a huge question mark in Europe since a racially charged war between Serbian forces and ethnic-Albanian guerrillas ended in 1999. A United Nations peacekeeping force has been stationed there ever since. But efforts to negotiate a solution that both Kosovar Albanians, who want independence, and Serbs, who consider the province their heartland, have so far proven fruitless. German commentators on Wednesday examine Russia's Balkan chess game.

Center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday writes:

"Putin and Serbia won't be able to stand in the way of the needs of 90 percent of (Kosovo's) population. And that's why their obstruction is dangerous. It merely stokes emotions that could very quickly ignite into a violent conflict. That doesn't have to mean a new Kosovo war -- a terror attack from desperate nationalists would be enough."

"Russia's strategy of escalation is the result of three considerations: First, Putin sees the world in spheres of influence that stretch all the way to the Balkans. Second, Moscow is concerned about territorial conflicts on its own southern and south-eastern borders … for which an independent Kosovo could be seen as a precedent. And third, Putin is following a broader strategy of confrontation because he wants Russia to regain its place in the world as a foreign policy heavyweight."

Financial daily Handelsblatt likewise takes a closer look at Russia's motives:

"Whether Russia's (obstruction) tactics come out of pure friendship with the Serbs is extremely doubtful, because the new draft resolution, which is largely based on the plan developed by UN special emissary Martti Ahtisaari, calls for the current UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo to come to an end. Security duties would then be taken over by the European Union and NATO. For Moscow, that would mean a further expansion of the West -- an expansion that is to be hindered at all costs."

Center-right daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday takes a broader look, starting from the recent diplomatic tiff between London and Moscow over the Litvinenko murder case:

"Moscow's strict refusal to extradite former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi -- who is the British authorities' main suspect in the murder case -- fits perfectly into Putin's strategy of showing off Russia's return to power to the West. There is a straight line from the threat of using the 'energy weapon' against Ukraine and Georgia, to the Russian position in Iran and Kosovo, to the new tiff over the missile shield and Moscow's freezing of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, to the obstruction strategy when it comes to the Litvinenko investigation."

"The entire picture reminds one of the events from a previous era that the West, under the chapter called 'Cold War,' would love to leave to the historians. But there are more and more indications that Putin isn't afraid of a relapse."

-- Charles Hawley, 11:00 a.m. CET


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