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:. . The Balkans:. . Kosovo

At the time of this writing, Kosovo is in incredible turmoil. Tens of thousands of its Albanian inhabitants are being driven out of the country every day. Estimates are that 400,000 were "ethnically cleansed" by Serbs in March and April of 1999. Kosovo's neighbors, Macedonia and Albania, are flooded with refugees. NATO has intervened on behalf of the Kosovars and is bombing Serbia in an attempt to force President Milosevic to stop attacking his own population. A huge international relief effort is underway to help the refugees, but still, one can say that a nightmare in humanitarian and military affairs is emerging in and around Kosovo at this time. NATO is intervening to stop genocide in Kosovo and to prevent the conflict from spreading. So far, President Milosevic has firmly maintained his grip on power in rump Yugoslavia, and refugees are continuing to flood out of Kosovo. NATO air strikes have been unable to halt the campaign of forced expulsion and genocide by Serbian military and militia forces. Photo courtesy of UNHCR Media and Public Affairs Unit (R. LeMoyne)

Since Kosovar resistance to Serbian rule has now been broken, with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in headlong retreat with the civilian refugees, much of the region's fate depends on the NATO and eventually UN response to the actions of the Serbian government.

It is unlikely that the Serbs will be allowed to maintain their control over a Kosovo forcibly emptied of hundreds of thousands of Albanians. The strain on neighboring countries, as well as the fear of establishing a bad precedent, will encourage NATO to continue acting decisively. Two other scenarios are more likely. The international community will return the Kosovars to their land and the region will then receive either autonomy (limited home rule) from the Serbian government, or the region will be separated from Serbia. In the latter case, the likelihood is strong that Kosovo would no longer remain an independent state. It would probably carry out enosis, the process of secession and reattachment to the ethnic homeland, and join the neighboring country of Albania, a senario which would no doubt enrage Serbians and leave a major plank of their national program unfulfilled.

The current NATO intervention in Kosovo will be of great interest to diplomats and scholars in the future. It represents the Alliance's first intervention in the internal affairs of a nonmember country. What is more, the Allied bombing campaign on behalf of the Kosovars was carried out without UN approval. These facts make it very different for the combined UN-NATO efforts in Bosnia. Does this represent a de facto redefinition of sovereignty, at least in Europe? Is the power of the UN being eclipsed? Might this interventionist precedent be used to put pressure on other countries, such as Russia and China,  which have separatist-minded regions? Or was NATO simply acting to stop genocide in a place that was accessible to NATO power? Does this mean the world has truly learned a lesson from the World War II Holocaust? Or was the U.S.-led intervention occasioned primarily by the desire to stop this local conflict from becoming a regional one that could involve the NATO allies Greece and Turkey? Photo courtesy of UNHCR Media and Public Affairs Unit (R. LeMoyne)


Why Are There "Ethnic Albanians" in Kosovo?..| Who Are the Serbs?..|..History of Kosovo to 1918..|..Kosovo within Yugoslavia..|..Kosovo and Its Neighbors..|..Issues Affecting the Future of Kosovo..|..Kosovo Today

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