L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

19 February 2008 Blog Home : February 2008 : Permalink

Who Will Be Hoist With The Kosovo Petard?

A petard, as eny fule kno, was a rennaissence era blasting charge or bomb used to blow up walls and gates during siege warfare and as Shakespeare pointed out there is something highly satisfying about seeing the process sabotaged:
For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard; and 't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon: O, 'tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
Kosovo, the new born country, is certainly a potentially explosive situation. And its current independence was engineered by a variety of folks all of whom are, I suspect, going to regret it.

To begin with there are the nations and groups who supported the Serbs in the 1990s Balkan wars. Serbia itself, and particularly the Serbian nationalists, are seeing the end result of stirring up a poisonous brew of nationalism when you don't have many friends. Basically you get your arse kicked and then some. I think the Kosovar government is probably an unpleaseant bunch of crooks, who - if you changed their skin colour - would fit in perfectly in most of Africa and not a few nations in Latin America or Arabia. Normally the international community would not have anything to do with such folks when they are not in government, as they weren't before the Kosovo war ten years ago. The community did get involved on their side because the Serbian government in Kosovo was clearly doing its best to ethnically cleanse the region of about 90% of its population. The fact that the serbian 10% is now being ethnically cleansed in turn is pretty much covered by "what goes around comes around" or "as a man sews so let him reap".

The friends of Serbia (primarily Russia, Greece and China) are in worse state. If Kosovo can unilaterally declare independence then so can various regions of Russia (Chechnya for example) or China (Tibet say) and states in all but name such as Taiwan. For the despotic rulers of these countries the loss of face involved if this happens could be fatal. And the wars that may break out to stop them may also be fatal if it turns out that the region involved is not a push over. This particularly relates to China if it tries to stop Taiwan. Not only will Taiwan resist - probably in conjunction with the US and possibly with the assistance of Japan - but the Chinese economy itself will take a major hit. Even assuming the Taiwanese haven't decided to destroy Chinese infrastructure and ports as part of their defence (and that would be a major part of my defensive plan) the fact is that Taiwanese companies are some of the more successful investors and intermediaries between China and the external world. If their country and head offices have just been destroyed they are not going to be doing much investing, exporting, or intermediating. Russia may not have anything like Taiwan to worry about - the Chechens appear to have been pretty much bombed into the stoneage - but they do have a major diplomatic consistency problem. Russia has been supporting a number of separatist movements in neighbouring countries (Georgia in particular) and the logic of it protesting Kosovar independence while promoting Abkazain independence is challenging. Greece probably isn't so affected except to the extent that Kosovo puts the Greeks in Cyprus further on the diplomatic defensive.

Then there are the various members of the international community. The UN and EU diplomats have demonstrated, yet again, that diplomacy and negotiations are not in fact an answer to some problems. Indeed negotiations and the whole structure of transition agreements are all shown to be pretty silly. I expect this to mean that in future people will pay even less attention to these morons except as useful idiots and potential human shields or targets if things go pearshaped.

Then there is the EU itself and its various member states. Some nations (Spain for example) clearly have a major problem accepting that a province can declare independence because of what it implies for Spains restless Northern provinces of Catalonia and the Basque country. Other nations and governments may also be harbouring reservations. What if Scotland decides to secede from the UK? or Flanders from Belgium? What about a possible partition of Italy say? Indeed what about nations withdrawing from the EU itself? It isn't completely inconceivable that England (or the UK) would elect some sufficiently Euroskeptic conservatives that they decide to unilaterally quit the bits of the EU they don't want to pay for or even just quit the whole thing. An England that decided to quit the EU and set up as an offshore financial haven for Euro investors would make a fortune. I can't see the EU actually managing to invade or blockade England and economic sanctions would hurt the EU far more than the UK (see Taiwan/China above).

Then there are the arab and muslim nations who are keen to welcome another muslim nation into the fold. As with Russia and China a number of Muslim nations have unhappy minorities who might want to secede (the non-malay bits of Malaysia for example). And of course the Kossovars may align with Iraq in gatherings as a pro-US group which may upset things. Certainly unless Saudi Arabia has managed to do a lot more proseletizing that I think it has the Kossovar version of Islam is rather less radical than the average so Kossovo may not help strengthen the voice of Islam in the way they may hope.

The only question in my mind is which group of people are hurt first by the consequences of Kossovar independance. As far as I can see the only really unaffected nation is the Great Satan - the USA. No wonder George W Bush was so happy to welcome Kossovar independence.