When the United Nations stormed the courthouse that had been taken by Serbian protestors days before, it marked an historic stand by the UN that could change the course of the fate that bewaits northern Kosovo.
For years during the 1990s, the United Nations stood idly by as the former Yugoslavia disintegrated into chaos, lawlessness and ethnic cleansing. It could be argued that the United Nations unassumingly assisted in this ethnic cleansing campaign by establishing ‘Safe Havens (That weren’t so safe)’ for the Bosnian Muslims, clearing them out of the lands that the Serbs and Croats wanted to declare as their own.
When the Serbs appetite for more land grew, they looked towards the ‘Safe’ havens, and took them right from under the UN’s very ‘observation’ posts.
And then the Bosnian Serbs watched as the UN ethnically cleansed Srebrenica by the truckload, leaving thousands of the Muslims (who were safe) to get slaughtered by the Bosnian Serb army, in the single worst massacre in Europe since World War II.
Now, almost 15 years later, when the World Community decided to recognize an independent Kosovo, a great responsibility came with that bold recognition.
Kosovo is now recognized (by many, but not all) as an independent country, but one with the inability to maintain it’s own peace. Now with UN and NATO troops deployed to the region, which stance should they take to keep Kosovo from becoming a modern day Berlin; with a river rather than a wall dividing East and West? (In the case of Kosovo, North and South).
By re-taking that courthouse, while risking lives and injuries to both UN troops and Serbian protestors, the UN steadfastly exclaimed that they will not stand on the sidelines this time, and watch the violence grow, as the Mitrovica Serbs have probably been counting on.
This time, the Danish, French, Polish and Ukrainian peacekeepers fought back with return fire, stun grenades and tear gas.
UN vehicles exploded after catching fire and dozens were rushed to area hospitals, all in a scene reminiscent of the prequels to the last Balkans War; but this time there was evidence of the UN fighting back.
Beograd whispers into the ears of the Mitrovica Serbs, and the Great Serb Ally, Russia, continues to whisper into the ears of Beograd. With a dissolved government, the Serbian leadership is in a state of flux, but whoever inhabits the government offices of Beograd next, they can rest assured that Russia has their back.
Russia stood idly by during and after the Kosovo war of 1999; their boldest attempt at displaying strength in the region came in the days when the war was over and they invited themselves to take over the Pristina airfield and deply troops to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) on their own terms.
We now have a more relevant Russia than we did a decade ago, and Vladimir Putin continues to assert Russian influence in world politics. This Russia may not be so willing to watch their Slavic brothers be bullied by the Powers of the West; At least without pulling great concessions, maybe in the form of a compromise on the Missile Defense system?
One thing we do know, without stability, Russia’s plans for an oil pipeline to Western Europe become threatened, so maybe they do have an incentive to keep Beograd in line.
Beograd, whether their claims to Kosovo are valid or not, needs to come up with a solid plan for moving forward; and this plan will not materialize before elections in May; when the Serbian people decide whether to return to nationalism or continue on a road to acceptance into the European Union.
As Beograd continues to pull ambassadors from countries that recognize Kosovo, a return to the isolationist times Slobodan Milosevic creeps ever closer, and even moreso with each foreign ambassador that abandons his post on his own accord.
While Milosevic himself seems to be controlling the puppet strings once again, just as he did a decade and a half ago when Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadic savagely ripped through Bosnia, acting on the orders of Beograd.
Regardless of which course of action Serbia decides to take during the next few months, one thing has become evident….The United Nations has decided to not just watch this time, they may actually try to keep the peace, even if doing so means a little bit of tear gas and stun grenades must be utilized.