Bubbling Balkan Crisis is Back


putin the washington note.GIF
My friend and colleague Anatol Lieven has a thoughtful oped in the Financial Times today, “Balkan Unrest Remains a Recipe for Disaster.”
I feel the need to respond to one bias in his framing, however.
He opens his excellent piece thus:

In their dealings over Kosovo’s independence, the European Union and Russia need to take their points of departure from reality and common responsibility for the stability of the European continent, not from legalism or self-righteousness.
The Russians must recognise that, whether they and the Serbs like it or not, Kosovo will soon become independent and will be recognised as such by the US, the EU and many Muslim states. If this is not granted soon, the Kosovo Albanians will revolt.
By vetoing United Nations recognition and giving moral support to Serbian intransigence, Russia can help keep Kosovo unstable and spread in­stability across the region. In the worst case, it could help produce a war that would destabilise not just the Balkans but Europe and deal a terrible blow to Russia’s relations with the west; but Moscow needs to ask itself how it can be in Russia’s interest to do this and take actions that will drive western Europe closer to the hardline anti-Russian positions in the US.

Lieven is correct to note that there are anti-Putin, anti-Russian hardliners in Washington who want yet more reasons to ignite global conflict and tension — which reinforces the high-fear politics they have become vested in.
But beyond some folks in DC demonizing Putin and a resurgent Russia, there is little evidence that Russia is a priority today on Washington’s foreign policy roster of concerns. As one former senior G.W. Bush administration official said at a Nixon Center gathering, “I can see no evidence that this administration has a strategy towards Russia of any kind.”
And thus I would suggest to Anatol Lieven that Russia thinks it can push its agenda now with little fear of blowback because it senses no serious strategic plan of the United States towards it.
This is one of the reasons I believe that the next President of the United States is going to get the crap kicked out of him or her — far worse than when Khrushchev famously manhandled John F. Kennedy in their early encounters.
Our allies as well as our real and potential foes just don’t know what our genuine priorities are, and what the reality of American power is and isn’t. There is a sense that America is less and less able to secure the objectives it sets for itself internationally.
We are moving into an era of a thousand pin-prick tests of our resolve and global position.
I also find it a bit ironic that the leading, front-page foreign policy issue for the U.S. on September 10, 2001 was Macedonia. Despite the boiling reaction among Arab Muslims to the long term bases then deployed in Saudia Arabia, we were largely nationally ignorant of the dangerous ferment building in the Middle East.
And now while we are focused on the Middle East, we are largely blind to the consequences of a new collision with Russia, and the challenges involved in recognizing an independent Kosovo.
— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “Bubbling Balkan Crisis is Back

  1. Kathleen says:

    Rootin Tootin Putin!!!


  2. Doug says:

    “As one former senior G.W. Bush administration official said at a Nixon Center gathering, ‘I can see no evidence that this administration has a strategy of any kind.'”
    Ok, error fixed.


  3. Carroll says:

    Pointless to say but Hagle not being in this election or among the campaigns at least is a tragedy for our foreign policy. If the next president does not put a Hagel into a foreign policy position then move on…the US is done.
    Which of the following paragraph quotes do you find the scariest?
    1)Ron Pauls to the other candidates at the republican debate:
    “Let me see if I understand this correctly. You people want to go out and borrow millions of dollars from the Chinese communists in order to give the money to the unelected dictator of Pakistan while you’re continuing to kill people in Iraq for the sake of democracy.”
    2) Or the other candidates reaction to it:
    “What was amazing was that you could tell from the faces of the other candidates that they didn’t see anything odd about any of that. ”
    1, 2 or both?


  4. Helena Cobban says:

    Steve, you’re showing your usual excellent strategic judgment here. There are a lot of other v. important international developments, too, that the Bushites (and most of the MSM) have almost completely ignored since 9/11. Including the rise of China (whose T-bill holdings just about cover the cost of the war in Iraq) and the rising importance in global politics of the climate issue. But for various reasons the re-emergence of Russian power may be the first one that hits Washington in the face– and this may happen January 20, 2008… May it therefore become a factor in the election campaign. I sure hope not!


  5. Dan Kervick says:

    Good post Steve. Our children won’t forgive us if we continue to screw up Russia policy.
    By the way, this is yet another reason for a fresh US approach to Iran, and rejection of the Bush policy of trying to build a sort of anti-Iran axis in the Middle East. Given Russia’s developing relationship with Iran, and the global strategic interest in Middle East oil, then if Bush has his way he’ll create a massive fault line in the Middle East which over a relatively short space in time might well evolve into the front line of a new Cold War.
    What we need to work towards is a concentric rings system around that strategic region: a multipolar balance of power among the states in the Middle East along with a cooperative balance of power among the large powers outside the Middle East, who work together to sustain the Middle East balance, and deter themselves from the temptation of adventurism in the region.


  6. Cee says:

    Who didn’t know this was on the menu? Prepare for another Democratic good war using proxy warriors like Hashim Thaci.
    When will we learn?
    Bin Laden and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)
    The role of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as a terrorist organization is amply documented by Congressional transcripts. According to Frank Ciluffo of the Globalized Organized Crime Program, in a testimony presented to the House of Representatives Judicial Committee:
    “What was largely hidden from public view was the fact that the KLA raise part of their funds from the sale of narcotics. Albania and Kosovo lie at the heart of the “Balkan Route” that links the “Golden Crescent” of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the drug markets of Europe. This route is worth an estimated $400 billion a year and handles 80 percent of heroin destined for Europe.” (House Judiciary Committee, 13 December 2000)
    The relationship between the KLA and Osama bin Laden is confirmed by Interpol’s Criminal Intelligence division:
    “The U.S. State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization, indicating that it was financing its operations with money from the international heroin trade and loans from Islamic countries and individuals, among them allegedly Usama bin Laden . Another link to bin Laden is the fact that the brother of a leader in an Egyptian Jihad organization and also a military commander of Usama bin Laden, was leading an elite KLA unit during the Kosovo conflict.” (US Congress, Testimony of Ralf Mutschke of Interpol’s Criminal Intelligence Division, to the House Judicial Committee, 13 December 2000).
    Hashim Thaci had ordered the political assassination of his opponents in Ibrahim Rugova’s nationalist Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) (See November 2000 BBC Report at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1037302.stm ). According to The Boston Globe (2 August 1999)


  7. Kate in Michigan says:

    What you report is hardly surprising, Steve. Have you ever known another administration as incompetent foreign policy-wise as this one?? I just hope these problems are being tracked on the radar of the presidential hopefuls . . . . I think JohnH is absolutely right about what he says about getting new advisers who have a realistic and broader world view. Our new president is really going to have his/her hands full of the debris left by Bush and fiends.


  8. whskyjack says:

    In a fight between between Putin and Hillary, my money is on Hillary.
    Hillary would walk right up to him and grab him by the balls. In that sweet voice of hers point out to him if he wants to keep them he should play nice. She is a tough lady when she has to be. Just ask Newt, I think his are still in her trophy case


  9. JohnH says:

    Steve’s post is an eloquent testimonial to the need to sweep the in-bred, group-thinking foreign policy mafia out. Time to end the domination of the Woodrow Wilson School and SAIS. Time to bring in people with a broader world view, who truly understand the world from the multiple perspectives of foreign nations. The America-centric myth of how the world works is dead.


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