Balkans: Russia Draws a Red Line in Kosovo


September 15, 2007: Ethnic agitation for "autonomy" in Bosnia is once again increasing. In late August a group of Bosnian Serbs questioned the "legality" of transferring "local power" in the Republika Srpska to the Bosnian federal government. The Bosnian Serbs' immediate goal is to stop the federalization of all police forces; the long term goal is to increase the Republika Srpska's autonomy or ultimately merge the Serb "statelet" with Serbia. The Bosnian Serbs are also encouraging Bosnian Croats to form their own "autonomous republic" within Bosnia. The increasingly aggressive political action by the Bosnian Serbs is why the Bosnian Moslems accuse them of being "the greatest source of instability" in Bosnia. The political infighting is why the European Union intends to keep a EUFOR peacekeeping force deployed in Bosnia for the foreseeable future.

September 11, 2007: Montenegro has increased the pay of its military by 30 percent. The pay increase is part of a "professionalization" program. The Montenegrin Army is down to some 2,400 personnel. That means Montenegro is relying on "troop quality." Keeping good soldiers in a professional force means paying them "competitive" salaries.

September 10, 2007: A senior Macedonian police commander was killed in a firefight near the village of Vaksince (northeastern Macedonia). The area is a predominantly Macedonia-Albanian area. Two other Macedonian security officers were wounded in the firefight. The policemen fought with a group of "gunmen." The Macedonian government provided no information about the group. The entire area is regarded as "sensitive" by the Macedonian government.

September 9, 2007: Ahmed Ali Hamad, a citizen of Bahrain who fought in the Bosnian war, told UN investigators that Al Qaeda wanted "to establish a European base" in Bosnia. The Bosnian government convicted Hamad on a terrorism charge and he is currently serving a prison sentence in Bosnia. Hamad has told UN investigators that "Mujahadeen" fighters operated under the command of Abd al-Aziz, whom Hamad called "a close associate of Osama bin Laden."

September 5, 2007: The Bosnian parliament ratified the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). CEFTA is a "half-step" to joining the European Union. Bosnia applied for admission to CEFTA in December 2006.

September 3, 2007: The Russian government said that Kosovo is one of Russia's two "red line" issues in Europe. The Russian foreign ministry defined "red line" as an issue where Russian national security or the world order is threatened. Moscow also considers the U.S.-NATO European missile-defense shield to be a "red line" issue. Would Russia really go to war over Kosovo on Serbia's behalf? No, but it would veto a UN resolution, and this rhetoric is designed to have a major political effect. Russia's bellicose language echoes a Serbian statement in late August when the Serbian government said that if Kosovo declares "unilateral independence", Serbia would "inflict some damage in return." The Serbian statement did not indicate what kind of "damage" it would seek to inflict. But the tough language was a political signal, and Russian is reinforcing the Serb message. What Russia really wants the UN and Europe to accept is a partition of Kosovo. Officially Serbia opposes partition and so does Kosovo, but diplomats know Serbia has also floated the possibility of partition - meaning Serbia thinks partition is the best deal it can get.




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