Kosovo's Mark

By Hooper, James | Harvard International Review, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Kosovo's Mark


Hooper, James, Harvard International Review


Nationalism, Democracy, and Power in the Balkans

The war in Kosovo marked a potential turning point for the Balkans. NATO's military defeat of Serbia, the International Criminal Tribunal's indictment of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes, and the commitment of large numbers of NATO troops to peacekeeping in Kosovo reflect new policy realities. The United States and NATO have accepted the responsibility of maintaining a substantial security presence m the region until a democratic government replaces Milosevic's regime, which remains the prime source of regional instability. The end of Milosevic's reign is the only basis for preventing further conflict and creating the conditions that will permit US and NATO troops to withdraw from the region.

Democracy is beginning to catch up with nationalism in the Balkans, and Western allies are emerging in the region. Serbia's democratic forces are more united than they were in the recent past and now have the support of Western democracies. Kosovo is no longer subject to Serbian repression and is trying to establish democratic institutions. Montenegro has made significant progress toward establishing a multiethnic, democratic government and is easing away from its federation with Serbia. Croatia has elected a reform-minded democratic parliament and president, who have begun to dismantle the extreme nationalist policies of the late Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Union. Progress by democratic forces in Croatia will enable the Bosnians to pursue new opportunities for restoration of territorial integrity and national unity within a democratic, multiethnic context.

But the danger of additional Balkan conflicts involving NATO still exists. The violent destruction of Yugoslavia that began nearly ten years ago may not have run its course. Serbian democrats may lack the power to oust Milosevic, who is unlikely to peacefully accept the end of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and may well intervene militarily in Montenegro. Washington will face difficult decisions in attempting to deter looming conflict in Montenegro, to encourage Serbian democratic forces to continue resisting Milosevic, and to deal constructively with the Kosovo Albanians' expectations ofindependence. Dealing with these numerous challenges requires an understanding of how the differing political situations in each region will shape US policy.

Pressure on Serbia

Serbian dictator and indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic is down, but not yet out. He remains president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)--the federation of Serbia and Montenegro--but presides over territory significantly reduced from the original Yugoslavia. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia have successively abandoned a Yugoslavia dominated by anti-democratic Serbia; Kosovo is transitioning toward independence; and Montenegro is turning away from the truncated FRY because of Milosevic's unrelenting hardline anti-Western policies.

The most significant political change in the Balkans during the past year was the decision by the United States and its European allies to cease treating Milosevic as a stabilizing force in the region and instead to seek his isolation from the international community and replacement by democratic forces. This marked a reversal of the policy established after the November 1995 Dayton peace agreement, when the West lifted many of the wartime sanctions against Serbia and intensified meetings with Milosevic to facilitate implementation of the Dayton agreement. In embracing Milosevic, the West counterproductively froze cooperation with opposition Serbian democrats prepared to challenge his rule.

The war in Kosovo convinced NATO that the long-term deployment of its troops would be necessary to counter the threat Milosevic's government poses to Balkan peace and stability. After he was defeated by NATO and indicted by the Tribunal, Serbia's re-energized democratic forces began to receive significant support from Western democracies. …

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