Balkan Snafu: The West and Kosovo

By Liaras, Evan; Papakonstantinou, Konstantine | Harvard International Review, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Balkan Snafu: The West and Kosovo


Liaras, Evan, Papakonstantinou, Konstantine, Harvard International Review


As the Balkans errupted in violence once again this past summer, fears that the Dayton agreements had failed to resolve the disputes in the former Yugoslavia were confirmed.

A typical reaction is one of despair--that the Balkans constitute a volatile region inhabited by immature, nationalistic, and antagonistic ethnic groups. This may be partly true, but such talk is mainly a cloak for Western failure. The ongoing crisis in Kosovo attests that the West's approach to Eastern Europe's complicated problems is haphazard and fragmented.

This problem eventually caused a breach in the West itself. The United States proposed that the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) replace Ibrahim Rugova as the leading Albanian negotiator. The United Kingdom and France protested that this would remove the last traces of Albanian moderation, prolonging the crisis. Unwilling to become entangled once again in Yugoslavia, without UN legitimacy and with Russia hostile, the two European powers insisted that the UCK find common ground with their trusted Rugova, so that a diplomatic solution could be found. Once it was understood that there would be no intervention, Italy and Germany rushed to declare that they actually supported one, thus hoping to gain the favor of the Albanians and other enemies of the Serbs. The West made its last effort to show a strong face by organizing an exercise under the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Program in central Albania on August 17. Conducted in a disorganized manner and in the midst of US citizens evacuating Albania after the terrorist attacks in Africa, the exercise only showed that the West was not ready for war. …

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