Balkans: Russia Recommends Removals

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April 3,2008: NATO has agreed to let Croatia and Albania join. Macedonia also wanted in, but was blocked by Greece (who is disputing the applicant calling itself "Macedonia", when a province in northern Greece has the same name.) Now Croatia and Albania are protected by the NATO mutual-defense treaty (an attack on one is an attack on all.)

March 31, 2008: The Greco-Turk War (1920-1922) ended with a population exchange. Greeks in Turkish territory went to Greece, Turks in Greek territory went to Turkey. The exchange solved an immediate problem but bitterness remains. Greeks descended from great-grandparents who fled "Ionia" (ancient Greek name for part of Turkey's Aegean coast) still refer to Izmir (Turkey) as Smyrna. Now Russia has now taken up the call for a "population exchange" in Kosovo. The idea has been mentioned before, but not in polite diplomatic circles. A population exchange amounts to "legal ethnic cleansing" though there is a big difference: no murders, just a lot of angry people moving.

Serbs advocate partition and adding the town of Mitrovica to Serbia, but there are a number of Serb villages and neighborhoods scattered throughout Kosovo (like the old Bosnian "pizza pie" of ethnic groups). Partition would abandon these communities.

Russia's former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov raised the idea in mid-March, and since he is a "former leader" that means the suggestion is not official policy but an idea. However, the idea is now "out there" and no longer whispered. Primakov called it a "partition along ethnic lines" with "population transfers." Essentially, the scattered Serb communities in south Kosovo and western Kosovo would move to Mitrovica and then that region would unite with Serbia.

The reports on Primakov's suggestions did not mention Serbia's Presevo valley region which abuts Kosovo. That area is predominantly ethnic Albanian. Would the Serbs let the Presevo Valley join Kosovo? What about Montenegro's Sandjak? Real "partition and exchange" involves in the Balkans could involve a lot of territory. (Austin Bay)

March 30, 3008: Bulgaria announced that it will supports NATO membership for Albania, Macedonia, and Croatia.

March 26, 2008: KFOR warned Kosovar Serbs that peacekeepers will use "all appropriate means" if they are attacked. This does not look like a change in the Rules of Engagement (ROE) in Kosovo. Peacekeepers have had the right to use lethal force if they are attacked by lethal weapons. The KFOR warning is obviously spurred by the riots of March 17 in Mitrovica.

March 25, 2008: The government of Kosovo rejected another Serbian partition proposal. Serbia has floated several partition "ideas" since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence. The Kosovar government says Kosovo is "independent, sovereign, and democratic" and is an "integral territory" (ie, cannot be divided). Well, to tell the truth, it could be divided and at the moment the predominantly Serb areas of Mitrovica (northern Kosovo) are engaged in a small-scale political rebellion.

March 18, 2008: The UN and NATO accused Serbs in Mitrovica of "orchestrating" violence against police and peacekeepers. On March 17 crowds threw rocks and gasoline bombs at KFOR peacekeepers and UNMIK police in Mitrovica, A UN spokesman said that investigators had found that rocks had been stockpiled earlier in the week for use by demonstrators – in other words, it was a planned riot.

 

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