PAUL B. STARES: Okay, why don't we get started? Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations, and thank you all for joining us today. I'm Paul Stares, director of the Center for Preventive Action here at the council who is hosting this event along with the European Studies Program at the council, directed by Charlie Kupchan. A primary goal of the Center for Preventive Action is to raise public awareness of potential conflicts and to stimulate public debate about how to avert violence. And it is for this reason that we have launched a new series of public events on the theme of potential flashpoints around the world.
Now, the focus of today's meeting is Kosovo which is widely expected to declare independence from Serbia in the coming weeks or months. This has prompted, as many of you know, much speculation about the consequences for peace, not only within Kosovo but for the region and even beyond the region to the caucuses in particular. And we thought it would be interesting to organize a public panel, distinguished experts, on the issue to look at the consequences of Kosovo declaring independence and how we might manage the implications of those consequences. And we're looking at it much like a stone being thrown in a millpond and looking at the ripple effect outward from Kosovo.
Now, we have a terrific set of speakers here today, and we've very appreciative of that. We're going to begin first with Dr. Daniel Serwer who is vice president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a former colleague of mine and director of its Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations, a long-time Balkans hand, played a major role in prior negotiations relating to the Balkans. Dan will focus on the immediate implications of a declaration of independence in Kosovo and Kosovo's relations with Serbia and what measures can be taken to avert potential violence.
He will be followed by Janusz Bugajski who is director of the New European Democracies Project at CSIS where he is also a senior fellow in the Europe Program there. Janusz will look at the larger implications for the region, Bosnia, Macedonia and, again, what measures can be taken to avert or preempt the worst-case scenarios that people have been talking about.
Following Janusz will be Dmitri Simes, president of The Nixon Center and publisher of The National Interest. And we're very pleased you're here, Dmitri. Dmitri will assess Russia's role in this issue, how it can engage constructively on the issue of Kosovo's independence to prevent more friction that has already been evident and looking at the potential implications of Kosovo's independence for other areas, particularly the periphery of Russia.
Finally, we will hear from Charlie Kupchan, professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University and senior fellow here at the Council. Charlie will look at the consequences for U.S. relations with the EU, with the U.N. and with Russia in general.
Each will speak for 10 minutes -- I'm going to be fairly strict on that. I'll remind you if you're going over. And then we'll open it up for Q&A from the floor. Just a reminder, the discussion is on the record, and I ask you that anybody with cell phones or other personal electronic devices please turn them off now. Please do that.
So Dan, we're going to start with you first. And basically, give us your assessment of how you think this is going to play out in the coming weeks and months, assuming that Kosovo does declare independence, as is widely assumed, and trying to anticipate Serbia's likely response. And there's already been some hints of potential countermeasures by Serbia. Alexander Simich, the adviser to Prime Minister Kostunica, recently made some veiled threats about use of force to defend Serbia's sovereignty. And are we prepared for this? What can we do more to possibly preempt violence? And have we essentially done enough? So if you can touch on those issues in your presentation, that would be great.
DANIEL P. SERWER: Well, thank you, Paul.
Let me just start by saying that whatever's going to happen in the next few weeks and even months, it's not going to be the best scenario. The best scenario was clearly a Security Council resolution agreed by Belgrade and Pristina. It's not going to happen, apparently. It's not going to happen not only because Russia threatens a veto but because the United States and the European Union, fearing that veto, are afraid to bring it to a vote in the Security Council. And frankly, I think if they did bring it to a vote in the Security Council, I think it would give the Russians and the Serbs something to think about. But they're not going to do that, because the EU fears that the veto would disable it from deploying the post-independence international presence.
I'm going to assume in my remarks, though, that understanding that the best scenario isn't going to happen, that something fairly good will happen. That is that this will not be what is referred to as a UDI, a unilateral declaration of independence, but will be a CDI, a coordinated declaration of independence, and one in which there's a very clear quid pro quo.
Pristina, Washington, Brussels have to do the main coordination. And it has to be visible that this is not being done by Pristina on its own. Pristina has no need to declare independence. They did it once before. They are basically independent. What they need is recognition of sovereignty. And the only way of getting that is by a clearly coordinated effort, and a coordinated effort in which the quid pro quo is you get recognition, but you must implement the Ahtisaari plan under international supervision. This is not a good deal for the Albanians.
The Ahtisaari plan was supposed to be implemented under a Security Council resolution which would have meant Serbian recognition of a sovereign Kosovo. That isn't going to happen, and the Albanians are now being asked to implement the Ahtisaari plan without one of the most important factors for stability in the region, which is recognition and cooperation from Serbia. Nevertheless, they haven't got much choice, for a variety of reasons. This is the way it's going to have to be, and they have accepted that.
So what I would envisage is some sort of announcement in January that they will declare independence later in the spring after the transition period provided for in the Ahtisaari plan. And I would anticipate that in response, Washington and most of the EU, in face the EU minus only a few countries, will indicate that they're prepared to recognize, and all of them will be prepared to deploy an international presence.
That's about as good as it can get. Hopefully all of this will happen with Resolution 1244 still in place. Resolution 1244 clearly provides for a political decision on Kosovo's status. And nothing in that resolution or in any other resolution has deprived the United States or European countries of their sovereign rights to recognize another sovereign state. And that's important to realize that when people say well, you can't do this, you can't do this, this 1244. The answer is 1244 foresees a final status process, and no one in Washington ever gave up the right to recognize another sovereign state, certainly didn't give it up to the Security Council.
Now to use the few minutes I have remaining, I'll look at Pristina and Mitrovica, Belgrade, Presovo. Pristina needs quick clarity about what's going to happen as soon as the government is formed. Moderate politicians are clearly out on a limb. They've promised things that if they don't deliver, frankly, I think they'll be swept away, not in elections but by violence. And that violence -- there are bad people in Kosovo, and some of them would like to see the backs of every last Serb who lives there. So delay which is what Moscow and Belgrade are trying to cause leads to disaster for the Kosovo Serbs and should be avoided.
Is NATO ready to protect the Kosovo Serbs? I've asked people in NATO, and everybody says yes, yes, yes. Details are difficult to come by. They have deployed a German reserve battalion that's going to be replaced by Italians in January. There are British, Austrian and Slovakian troops waiting in the wings. I frankly think that NATO will do better this time than it did in 2004.
But I want to underline that, you know, the people who rioted in 2004 on both sides -- because after all, the rioting started on the Serb side, it ended with Albanian advantage and more Albanians killed than Serbs killed, because NATO shoots back -- and it's important to recognize the people learned from that experience. I don't think anybody's going to be attacking NATO this time around. I think they would focus on Serbs and on the U.N., because it's the U.N. that stands in the way of sovereignty. But I think that can be contained as long as we don't ask the politicians in power in Pristina at the time -- and we don't know exactly who that will be but likely Hashim Thaci -- as long as we don't ask them to wait too long.
Mitrovica is a real problem. U.N. hasn't done anything to reintegrate Mitrovica with the south. I don't think you can expect the new international presence to do it quickly. But I do hope that the NATO presence can be used to assert NATO authority if not U.N. authority in a way that will prevent any serious disturbance and will prevent a political act of secession. If there's a political act of secession, frankly, that complicates life a good deal more, and it will be a problem. We can talk about that more later.
Belgrade -- Belgrade has kept us on a short leash by threatening that if we do this, if we allow Kosovo to become independent, the radicals will come to power in Belgrade. Two points -- the radicals are in power in Belgrade, they have been in power for several years voting with the majority and taking their positions in state-owned industries, getting a lot of the benefits of patronage without having any responsibility. And from my perspective and having been somebody who once enforced a prohibition on a party coming to power -- I was in Italy for a good number of years during the efforts to prevent the communist party from coming to power -- I can guarantee you that the distortions that come from that kind of diplomacy are dreadful and last for many, many years.
The radical party is the largest party in Serbia. It has governed a number of Serbian cities. It has played by the democratic rules of the game. I find their ideology and their behavior odious. I see no reason whatsoever if a democratic system in Serbia brings them to power that they shouldn't come to power, and they will come to power in due course. It doesn't matter much whether the announcement of Kosovo's intention to declare independence comes before or after those elections. I think these elections are lost to the reformists in Belgrade, and I think that's just something we have to accept. You know, democracy requires the real potential for alternation in power, and the radicals represent the majority view on national issues in Serbia.
But we need some things from Belgrade. And some of the things we need are that we need them to clamp down on provocation. President Tadic has already promised that. We'll see if he can deliver it. He's not been able to deliver a lot in recent years. We need them to not embargo Kosovo, though if they do, I mean, there has to be consequences for their relations with the U.S. and the EU. They threaten to break relations with Washington if we recognize an independent Kosovo. You know, frankly, they need us more than we need them. We need to react to that calmly and not in anger and to simply shrug our shoulders and walk away if need be.
Appeasement has simply not worked with Belgrade. We have given them the Ahtisaari plan which is a plan for protection of Serbs in Kosovo and really nothing more. We have given them partnership for peace for free without Mladic going to the Hague. We have given the inertia, we in the broad sense. The Europeans have given them the negotiation and initialing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement. I hear often from people in Serbia that, you know, why are we so down on them? Why do we kick them around so much? I don't know of a country that normalized its relations with the United States as quickly as Serbia did after the fall of Milosevic. And it seems to me that the time has come for us to end the policy which has essentially bought us nothing. We have gotten nothing for the concessions that we've made so far to Serbia.
Let me finish, because I can feel Paul getting nervous here. I'm the first speaker. If I go over, what the hell happens after that? (Laughter.)
Presovo, frankly, is the least of their problems. I think Serbia has a good handle on what's going on there. And I don't think that the Albanians will play that card immediately unless there's a declaration of independence in Mitrovica. Bottom line -- the quicker, the more decisive, the less ambiguous, the better.
STARES: Thanks so much, Dan. That was terrific.
We now turn to Janusz to move on to the next concentric circle from Kosovo. And the assessments of the impacts seem to be fairly mixed. The Economist today, for instance, dismissed the notion that it could be a reversion to Balkan-style conflict of the 1990s. Others, though, have spoken quite darkly about implications for Bosnian integration. And so give us your assessment of the next ring, if you will.
JANUSZ BUGAJSKI: Sure. Thank you very much, Paul. And it's a pleasure, as always, to be here. I will try and cover the questions you ask.
But let me raise two initial points, one of which I think Dan has already raised, which is very important to reiterate. It's not the declaration of independence. We keep hearing it's a declaration of independence is key. It's the recognition of Kosovo's independence that's key. That's why I completely agree with him that the process will be coordinated. I think sensible voices prevail in Pristina. And I think they've committed to working together with the United States and the EU on the plan, not looking at a timetable but a process. There's a sort of process to go through in terms of legislation, government formation and so on and so forth.
Secondly, let me say that independence of Kosovo will go a long way to resolving what we keep hearing is the Albanian question or the Albanian questions in the Balkans. And the reason for that, I think, is because a lot of the ambiguity will now be removed. In other words, if Kosovo is a state, it has set borders, it signs border treaties with its neighbors, it revokes any claims to neighboring territories, I personally think that will settle relations with each of its neighbors, between Pristina and each of its neighbors. And it will de-legitimize those militants amongst the Albanian community who actually thrive on ambiguity, because they feel that provoking conflict could give them legitimacy in terms of new borders. In other words, changing the borders around Kosovo.
So that said, let me address two key elements in the equation that I think need to be very carefully monitored during and after this process of independence. And of course, they need to be acted upon. First of all -- Dan's already mentioned in the immediate vicinity, but I want to look more broadly -- the reaction of the Serbian government to international recognition. And it's a question we cannot fully answer. I mean, we hear all sorts of threats, promises, pledges, a lot of breast beating, some of which, of course, is machismo, some of which we'll see whether it materializes.
For example, will Serbia cut off ties with countries that recognize Kosovo, particularly those in its immediate neighborhood, with Macedonia, potentially with Montenegro, with Albania, with Bulgaria, with Romania and so forth? Will it boycott multinational institutions in which Kosovo and those countries that recognize Kosovo are included? That's another question that we need to look at. Will it impose some form of sanctions? And I know people on the ground in Pristina and elsewhere are looking at the likelihood of Serbia imposing some kind of sanctions, cutting off border trade, cutting off energy supplies and so forth. Those we have to be prepared for, at least in the interim.
Second and I think equally importantly -- and I wouldn't have said this to the same degree a year ago, and, unfortunately, our administration probably didn't pay enough attention to this -- and that's the reaction of the Kremlin to Kosovo's recognition, not only the reaction vis-a-vis the United States but the reaction in the region. Will the Putin regime, as a result, become even more emboldened. In many respects for Russia, it's a win-win situation. In other words, if Kosovo is recognized, they can say this is a precedent. If it's not recognized, will they then claim that the U.S. and the EU are acting illegally, unilaterally against the international order, against the integrity of states? I bet you they will. But the question is, what next? How will they seek to justify a response to that policy? And what indeed will their policy be?
Will it, for example, encourage Serbia to provoke conflicts elsewhere in the Balkans; Bosnia/Herzegovina, I think, is the best example here. Will it try to make Russian talk about it? Will it try to make life as difficult as possible for NATO? Russia, I thin, prefers to have a frozen conflict in Kosovo. With a frozen conflict, it can expand its influence, it can prevent the emergence of a new state that will be pro-Western, pro-NATO, pro-American. This is precisely what Russia, I think, is looking for. And will it act on this alleged precedent? Dmitri hopefully will look at this question. Will it act on an alleged precedent, vis-a-vis Moldova and Georgia with the frozen conflicts that Russia has promoted there?
So let me -- that said, let me briefly sketch the worst-case scenarios, because I think it's always worth bearing these in mind. And then I'll make a few points why I don't think they will materialize. And I'll look at three countries extremely briefly -- Bosnia -- (audio difficulty).
First of all Bosnia. I think both Belgrade and Moscow may seek to justify their dommsday predictions which we've heard incessantly over the past few weeks of precedents and destabilization in the region. So if Kosovo is recognized as independent, they may try to stir the situation in Bosnia to their advantage. For instance, officials from the Republika Srpska may withdraw from the pan Bosnian institutions. They'll hold the referendum in independence. They'll declare independence. And they'll petition to join Serbia similar, by the way, to the precedents that Russia has already set in Transdniestria, South Ossetia and in Abkhazia together with its proxies.
SR, a Serbian republic, Republika Srpska, may try to seize Brcko. This is a thin sliver of land linking up the two parts of the Serbian entity in Bosnia so that the new state, as they claim, is not divided. And they may even seek to provoke a military reaction by Sarajevo to justify Belgrade's and Moscow's direct assistance in defense of allegedly endangered Serbian interests.
Serbia may recognize the Republika Srpska but may hold off on annexation. It may seek even to draw Croatia into the fray by again raising the prospect of a division of Bosnia, stirring this idea amongst some of the radial Croats in Herzegovina of a third entity in Bosnia. Russia, of course, will not necessarily recognize SR's independence, but it may warn the West against any intervention. It may be satisfied to have manufactured in the Republika Srpska another frozen conflict in the middle of the Balkans that will prevent the consolidation of the Bosnian state, Bosnia's progress towards NATO, it will reinforce their claims that they are defenders of Slavic interests, Serbia interests, orthodox interests and so forth.
Secondly -- and I'll come back to this why I think what we can do to prevent this happening. Secondly, Macedonia -- I think I'll dismiss Macedonia and Montenegro much more quickly. I think Serbian and Russian services may seek to destabilize Macedonia in order to prove that there is a conspiracy for a greater Albania. They cannot do that in the case of Bosnia because there's no Albanian population in Bosnia, and that Moscow and Belgrade are actually defending Europe from radical Islamists and terrorist penetration. This is a line we keep hearing from different spokesmen and media propaganda in both Belgrade and in Moscow.
For instance, tensions in northwest Macedonia may be ratcheted up, appeals made to Macedonian-Slavic solidarity against the Albanian menace. However, I do believe that the chances of unsettling Macedonia are mitigated by several factors. One, a greater willingness for interasic political collaboration if Kosovo is recognized as independent by Skoplje. And I think Skoplje won't be first but I think it will move fairly quickly to do that. Secondly, the small size of the Serbian minority in Macedonia -- Belgrade cannot claim an endangered Serbian minority in this region. Thirdly, Belgrade's conflicts with the Macedonian government, which are ongoing, particularly on the church question, church authority between the Serbian and Macedonian orthodox churches. As well as, I think very importantly, the desire of both communities in Macedonia absolute clarity on this in terms of membership of NATO whatever their differences in Macedonia. That's one issue I think they do agree on.
Montenegro -- and I'll dismiss Montenegro very quickly. But it's good to paint that scenario. Kosovo's independence may trigger the Serbian question in Montenegro where Belgrade's resentment against Montenegro's independence, particularly the Kostunica government, has simmered for over a year since Montenegro restored its independence. Belgrade may pressure Podgorica not to recognize Kosovo and/or to recognize the Republika Srpska in Bosnia or threaten unrest amongst the Serbian minority or, as they would claim, Serbian majority. Radical Serb militias may seek to provoke the Albanian minority in Montenegro, use Montenegro to stage attacks into Kosovo and seek even to bring down the current government in Podgorica, which is a coalition government.
Some in the north of the country, northern part of Montenegro, may even press for autonomy or partition in imitation of the Republika Srpska, which raises a sentient question -- I'm not going to go into that in too much detail, because you have additional elements there.
But, anyway, I think the opportunities for unsettling Montenegro are also mitigated by several factors. There are no autonomous regions in Montenegro. There's a largely mixed population center. And in fact, it's a very divided society in terms of identity, which means, actually, even within families and communities, there's some difference of opinion whether they are Serb or Montenegrin. That's probably to their benefit in this case in terms of the division of the country. Also, Montenegro's path to EU through the SCA process I think has reinvigorated -- we'll see, but I hope it has reinvigorated -- the reform process and I think along with that the U.S. commitment to Montenegro's security, independence, integrity and so forth.
Right -- these -- very, very quickly. I promise this will be very quick. I know I might be running over my time. What could we do? What can we do to preempt the worst from happening? Okay, let me start with the easiest ones first. Macedonia -- important, I think, to have a very prompt border treaty between Pristina and Skoplje upon independence; a firm commitment with NATO assistance and EU police assistance, Pristina's commitment to fighting cross-border criminal and cross-border militia pan Albanianist elements; Macedonia's NATO invitation at the Bucharest summit in April I think is going to be extremely important; and possibly, again depending on how the situation develops, a NATO rather than a U.N. monitoring mission along Macedonia's border in Kosovo. In other words, a NATO version of -- (inaudible) -- which we had in the '90s.
Secondly, Montenegro -- (audio difficulty) -- border treaty -- (audio difficulty) -- Pristina -- (audio difficulty) -- territories. I think some kind of NATO presence in Montenegro particularly along the borders I think would help. (audio difficulty) -- Montenegro's security services to combat any militia activities, open-door policy for NATO membership stated at the April summit in Bucharest.
Bosnia -- much more tricky, but I think the recent agreement with the Lajcak plan for streamlining government I think is helpful. I think we may need to, at some point, restrain Sarajevo from overreacting to some declarations from the Republika Srpska side. There may be those in the government on the other side in the Serbska side who may want to provoke some overreaction, and maybe Belgrade would want to. Working very closely with the high representative Miroslav Lajcak; in other words, both the U.S. and the EU have to give their absolute stated commitment and assistance to his role in trying to make Bosnia a more functioning state. And of course, a warning, a clear warning, to Belgrade that any interference -- and some of this has already happened after Kostunica's recent statement, I think this needs to be reinforced -- any interference in Bosnia's internal affairs will be condemned and will be preempted.
In the bigger picture, let me just say this, because I think there is a bigger picture. I think it's time for Washington and Brussels to pursue a common and more effective policy towards Russia. I think appeasement and compromise simply does not work, particularly when you're dealing with issues that are critical for European security. Kosovo is critical for a part of Europe, part of the wider Europe, as are issues such as NATO enlargement, defense of member states from Russian pressure, as in the Baltic states. I think this is a time for the United States and for the European Union to stand up and be counted. I think the Kremlin oligarchy does not respect weakness and may only take a step back when it sees transatlantic unity, determination and joint action. I think Kosovo is for them a pawn. It's not strategically important, it's tactically important. It's a pawn, I think, in a bigger chess game or maybe what they would like to see as a game of dominoes. And this is where we have to stand up and make sure that piece does not fall. Thank you.
STARES: Thank you, Janusz. I'm beginning to think that the metaphor we had of the pebble being dropped in the millpond was the wrong one, and that we should be thinking of a Rubik's Cube given the complexities and different permutations.
But let's turn now to Dmitri. Janusz has already raised many of the questions relating to Russia's role here and given his own views of what we could do with regard to Russia.
DMITRI K. SIMES: I think that Janusz ended on a very important and on a very impressive note. And I think that he's absolutely right that if the West moves quickly to recognize Kosovo independence, Moscow is going to interpret this exactly as Janusz has suggested, as a decision to ignore Russian perspective as to harden European and American policy toward Russia, to have a change of what some may call appeasement policy, others would call any attempt to have serious negotiations with Russia. How would Russia respond? Well, a key European leader intimately familiar with thinking of the Russian leadership, stated that it's inconceivable that Russia would enter into a conflict with major European powers over Serbia. He was right for two years. His name was Kaiser Wilhelm. He made this prediction in 1912. It lasted through 1914.
You have to understand Russian perspective on Serbia and on this whole conflict in Kosovo. I was in Moscow recently twice in October and November. And I had a small dinner with a group of leading Russian officials and media commentators. And because it was a private dinner, I am not at liberty to quote people. But let me just say that one of them who is normally described as one of five top Russian leaders said that for them there were two red lines with the United States. One was a unilateral U.S. and/or U.S.-Israeli attack on Iran. And another would be the independence of Kosovo recognized by the United States and the West. He said if this happened, we would have to decide that some things fundamentally have changed in the Russian relationship with Washington and Brussels. He said we are not willing, but we are ready.
You have to understand a Russian perspective on this situation. And this perspective, unfortunately, is not understood at all in Washington and is being dismissed as inherently wrong because it happens to be Russian perspective, Putin is an imperialist, Putin is anti-democratic. Putin may be anti-democratic. As a matter of fact, I don't think that what is happening in Russia can be called democracy by any standard I am familiar with.
But you know what? Powers which are not democratic also have interests. And sometimes we even respect their interests like in the case, for instance, of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait in the past. And these powers, particularly if they consider themselves serious powers, they do not like when their perspectives are being totally ignored.
Let me start with the legal part of the matter. I read in the 1244 Resolution -- I have it with me if somebody wants to look at it -- I do not know how one can challenge the Russian position that this resolution does not give any right for Kosovo to become independent without another U.S. Security Council vote. I also do not know how this resolution can be interpreted in any other way as suggesting that the presence of NATO force in Kosovo is based on that resolution which says that there is still territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and substantial autonomy for Kosovo. In my view, this was not just some kind of special resolution. It was a compromise between NATO, Serbia and, yes, Russia after NATO attack on Serbia, Milosevic was still in power, and we made a deal with Milosevic which accepted substantial autonomy for Kosovo and Yugoslav sovereignty. Now there is a democratic government in Serbia and what was good for us in the case of an arrangement with Milosevic does not seem to be good anymore when we're dealing with a democratic government in Belgrade.
Please don't misunderstand me. I do not mean to suggest that the Russians are great guardians of international law and that -- well, how to put it? They never go around this lull when it is their interest. Nor am I suggesting that there is no way for, per se, Moscow to be flexible in their interpretations of international law, even 1244. But the starting point in Russian position is that this is a resolution which provides legal basis for the situation and somebody is telling them that this resolution of international law should be ignored.
Point number two -- I talked to Yugoslav officials, I talked to Russian officials and Serbian officials, of course, and they show no evidence that the Russians were encouraging Belgrade to be more inflexible on the Kosovo independence matter. I want to be careful with my language. You may argue that the very fact that Russia promised to veto any U.N. resolution unless Serbia accepts Kosovo independence, you may say that this is an act of encouragement. In that sense, you may say that the United States is always encouraging Israel, because we threatened to veto any anti-Israeli resolution in the U.N. Security Council. But from everything I heard from the Serbs and the Russians, Moscow was and remains willing to accept the independence of Kosovo if Belgrade would only say so.
Number three -- Russia does not accept the notion that Kosovo is a matter which should be resolved between Brussels and Washington. They agree that this is a European matter, that they happen to believe that they're part of Europe and that their opinion is also relevant, particularly if they support a country like Serbia which has a long tradition of association with Russia.
You also have to remember something about the so-called -- Janusz mentioned them -- frozen conflicts on Russian periphery. Russia also, like it was mentioned in the case of Kosovo, Russia does not need anything to be done about independence of Abkhazia or South Ossetia. They're already de facto independent. They are de facto independent. What Russia needs to do is to decide how to handle these frozen conflicts which, at a certain point, have to be unfrozen. And one way they can be unfrozen is by gradually improving Russian relations with Georgia and reintegrating these territories into Georgia. Or another way is to have a further confrontation between Russia and Georgia and gradually integrating those territories into Russia.
Unlike Kosovo Albanians, the Abkhazians do not international recognition. The same is true of South Ossetians. They want to be a part of Russia. So if Russia essentially gives them a wink that from now on Russia is prepared to integrate them, that is sufficient. Nobody else's permission is needed.
Russia, so far, was playing what I would call a double game. On one hand, most citizens of this enclave with Russian citizenship, Russia provides them with Russian passports for foreign travel. Russia has strong economic arrangements with these territories. But at the same time, Russia was taking a position that they are an integral part of Georgia, and Russia is not challenging Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity. That is not a position universally popular in Russia and certainly not a position which is popular in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And make no mistake, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, they are very much influenced by Russia, but they are not entirely Russian puppets.
As a matter of fact, Russia wanted one man to become president of Abkhazia and another man was elected. Putin knows, how take -- how to put it mildly -- shortcuts from democratic procedures, but he's very sensitive to the Russian public opinion. He does not want to go against public consensus. And it would be very difficult for Russia, as Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov said, were upset not to treat Kosovo as a precedent, because Abkhazia, South Ossetia would certainly treat it as a precedent. You can be sure that politicians there would make new declarations of independence, would again appeal to Russia for assistance. And then a lot is going to depend on Mr. Saakashvili. Or if Saakashvili is not elected, whoever would replace him.
Now, one disability for Georgia would be essentially to accept that Abkhazia and South Ossetia would gradually be reintegrated with Russia, thatindeed, whether somebody says it or not, Kosovo became a precedent, and that Georgia should apply for later but making clear that Abkhazia and South Ossetia would not become Georgia's territories anymore. And then, you know, there is a quid pro quo. You don't necessarily have to negotiate this quid pro quo with Moscow, but there is a de facto quid pro quo. The Russians would not interfere in the Balkans. They would have to swallow humiliation over Kosovo. But they would get what is much more important for them in the caucuses, Putin would look as a winner and, well, the United States would have to reduce dramatically our ambitions in the caucuses. That's one scenario.
We can say that Kosovo was not a precedent, but it would in fact become a precedent. And incidentally, I heard, at least a year ago, some hints from Russian officials that they would be prepared to be flexible on Kosovo if there was some quid pro quo on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. So that is one possible outcome.
Another outcome will decide not to try to control Mr. Saakashvili or whomever succeeds him, that there would be military operations by Georgians against Abkhazia in particularly South Ossetia. And then let me make a prediction of what is going to happen. It's not a worst-case scenario. I'm pretty sure it would happen. The first thing that would happen would be that two Russian divisions, armored division tank division and also air force units, including six air force heavy helicopter regiments, are going to be moved into the -- (inaudible) -- area, Northern Caucasian military district. Such plans already exist, and the names of those units were provided to me by a senior Russian military official, and he explained that to be able to proceed with this plan is one reason they decided to walk away from the (CFA ?). That it was not just a declaration of displeasure with Western arms control practices, that they needed to do something like that to deal with Georgia, because nobody in Moscow believes that South Ossetia forces would be able to resist American armed and trained Georgian units.
So the assumption is that Saakashvili can achieve quick success on the ground, then you would see so-called Russian volunteers which would not be entirely volunteers, but it would be internal ministry units. Internal ministry forces are controlled by local republics, meaning Dagestan, meaning Ingushetia and South Ossetia. You would see them moving in there. They probably would not have an easy time with Georgian forces. And then you may see an engagement of Russian air force and Russian armored units. Now, if you think that after that the U.S. relationship with Russia, if you think that after that EU relationship with Russia is going to be the same, if you think that it would not have an impact on the Russian position on Iran, well, then you know something I do not know.
Mr. Putin never talked publicly about linkage, but this linkage clearly exists. Two days ago, there was a full conversation -- and I will stop there -- between Mr. Lavrov and Dr. Rice. The conversation was about two issues -- Kosovo and Iran. Nobody talked about linkage, but everybody understands that it exists. And all I am going to tell you is that we either -- in the case of Kosovo independence recognized by the West -- that we either would have to recognize a de facto quid pro quo in the caucuses or where we are in a new era in international relations, at least as far as Western relationship with Russia is concerned.
STARES: Thank you, Dmitri. I should add as a footnote that the new presidential nominee for Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, did mention, I think earlier this year in Davov (sp) that Kosovo could not be treated in isolation with these other conflicts. He explicitly drew the linkage with those.
Anyway, we're going to turn now to Charlie playing clean-up. And Charlie, give us your views on U.S. policy here, how it may evolve with the EU and its coming at a particularly sensitive time. So give us your sense of how this is going to play out.
CHARLES A. KUPCHAN: Since I am batting clean-up, let me pick up on a few points that my colleagues have made, and then I'll try to pull these strands together by reflecting on where the U.S.-EU negotiating game is at present and how I see it unfolding. I think it is useful to think about this problem in terms of concentric circles, and that ground zero is obviously Kosovo proper and Serbia.
And I am somewhat less sanguine than Dan that we will get through this without violence. I think there will be violence, and I think that in making that assessment, we ought to think hard about what sorts of preventive deployments and preventive steps we can take now to avoid violence from occurring or at least ensure that it is as contained and limited as possible. And I worry most about three things. One is the situation of the relatively isolated and small enclaves of Serbs that live principally in the central and western part of Kosovo. I'm less worried about the larger concentrations of Serbs that relatively -- I think you'll have safety in numbers.
But for those of you who haven't wandered around the area, there are quite a few enclaves that consist of two, three, four, five families. There are enclaves that exist within predominantly Albanian towns where one, two or three blocks may still be held by Serbs. They are going to be in a very dangerous position in the aftermath or in the lead-up to a declaration of independence. Some of them are already leaving. Some of them are already trying to sell their properties and get out. But it seems to me that if we're going to think hard about this, some of them should be moved before independence. Some of them should be encouraged to leave, because their enclaves are not sustainable. And at a minimum, I think NATO should be out in the streets in force visibly around many of these enclaves, because I think if that protection is not there, spontaneous violence is likely to occur on a somewhat limited basis.
The second thing I worry about are paramilitaries on both sides. We know they exist. We know that they have been training and operating. And I think that whether they come from Serbia proper and cross into Kosovo, whether they are Albanians that are somehow connected to the organized criminal areas, they exist, and NATO needs to, I think, work with the U.N. and with the Albanian leadership to get good intelligence on them and to try to prevent them from operating.
And finally, and most problematically, what do we do about northern Kosovo? And Dan and I have gone back around on this repeatedly, so one more round won't hurt. I'm someone who doesn't favor partition, but I also think that we make a mistake in precluding it. And we may be in a situation some time early next year in which there is a double secession in which Kosovo secedes from Serbia and northern Kosovo secedes from Kosovo. If that is the case, it seems to me it makes more sense to let that happen by design than to let it happen by default because if it happens by default, it's much more likely to lead to violence in Mitrovica and across the intercommunal boundary line, both along the river but also toward Albanian enclaves that continue to live in Mitrovica and northern Kosovo.
Again, I don't have a principal position that we should go ahead and move forward with partition, but I really think that this is probably the most dangerous part of this equation, because if northern Kosovo is not yet part of Kosovo, it has not been integrated, it's hard for me to see how we're going to get that right after a declaration of independence when 90-plus percent of the people who live in Kosovo want nothing to do with the state of which they are a part.
On the knock-on, the second concentric circle, the spillover effects, I really worry principally about one issue, and that's Republika Srpska. And that's because Republika Srpska is directly engaged by Kosovo's declaration of independence, by the sense of grievance and perhaps sense of wanting to recover or compensate that will exist in Serbia and among Serbs living in the Balkans. I don't have much more to add to what Janusz had to say, but if there is an area outside the immediate zone that the United States and the EU ought to focus on, it seems to me it's Republika Srpska. And we already know that there's a lot of difficulty with keeping Bosnia together. A fight exists now about the police force inside Republika Srpska. And it seems to me we ought to do whatever can in advance to make sure that a declaration of independence does not create centrifugal force in that relationship.
On Macedonia, on Montenegro, I really don't think that there's much to worry about. I believe that in many respects, an independent Kosovo is good for Macedonia because what stirs up trouble in the west where the Albanians live tends to come from over the mountains -- agents, paramilitaries, former guerillas in Kosovo who came across and stirred up trouble. If you have a sense of satisfaction, normalcy in Kosovo, I think that will carry over and spread into the Albanian population in Macedonia.
On the Russia question that Dmitri spoke about and here that's -- I mean, the question is obviously what will happen in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And I think there that when one talks about the precedent that is set, obviously it sends a troubling signal. But in my mind, most of the forces that will determine what happens in Moldova or Abkhazia or South Ossetia is a function of the conditions on the ground. Yes, the folks in Sekui (sp) may, the day after a declaration of independence, say look, they declared independence, so we would, too. But they've already declared independence. So now they could say well, we really want to declare independence. But unless there is a change in the situation in Georgia, in Tbilisi or in Moscow, I don't see this having a significant affect on the status of these so-called frozen conflicts, with the one exception that Dmitri spoke about, and that is unless Russia changes its policy.
On Russia, I have to say that I find Russia's position on Kosovo to be the most troubling of all the issues that separate Russia from the West today. And that's because on missile defense, on NATO enlargement, on Georgia, on Ukraine, I can understand where Russia is coming from. We may feel that we should deploy missile defense. We may want Georgia in NATO. But I understand why Russia would not like that. Its interests are directly affected. On Kosovo, I do not believe its interests are directly affected. And as a result of that, I see Russia's position on this issue as a good litmus test for where Russian foreign policy is heading. And if in fact they do take a principled position and recognize Sekui (sp) or recognize South Ossetia, that sends to me a signal that the relationship with Russia is heading south in a very serious way. And if they begin to move troops in the way that Dmitri has suggested, I think we're in a very dangerous game. And my only piece of advice to the U.S. and the EU would be to try to compartmentalize the Kosovo issue and not let it serve as the spark that really does push the U.S. and the Russians into some kind of deeper geopolitical rift.
A final point -- the U.S. and the EU, I think, have thus far handled this issue reasonably well. It has blown up in their face in the sense that this was meant to provide an opportunity for the EU and the U.S. to get out. It's doing exactly the opposite, because there is no agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, and because Russia would veto this in the Security Council. And I think the key here is to make sure we don't do what we did in the early 1990s, which is address the Balkans by the seat of our pants. We ought to lay out a clear set of diplomatic timetables, steps, preventive deployments to try to get this right. I think that's happening. And I think the EU, despite its troubles, is likely to rise to the occasion and deploy the civilian force NATO, to deploy whatever forces are needed to see this through. But I do think we're at a very, very dangerous moment in the Balkans. And that unless we're very careful, we may witness yet another round of bloodshed.
STARES: Great, thank you, Charlie.
And thank you, gentlemen, for just a terrific set of presentations. Much to digest and talk about.
We're now going to turn this open to the audience. And I ask you to wait for the microphone, to say who you are and your affiliation.
QUESTIONER: (Name inaudible) -- with the Center for American Progress.
I'm wondering in terms of preventing Serbia from disrupting services in Kosovo, letting sanctions or causing any other trouble in Kosovo if it were to declare independence, I'm wondering how much leverage the EU has in terms of dangling EU membership. And I know that Serbia says it doesn't care. But I guess some polling does suggest that the people do care, and that they've even, you know, indicated in some polling that they'd rather lose Kosovo than give up the possibility of EU membership.
SERWER: The trouble is they didn't vote that way. And the people they elected are talking about not signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement as retaliation for the independence of Kosovo. The people in power clearly have a very different view from the people in the country. And when that happens, you know, either the people in power continue to do what they want to do and pay for it at the next election or they adjust. I see no sign that they're adjusting.
STARES: Michael and --
QUESTIONER: Thank you. I'm Mike Haltzel from Johns Hopkins SAIS and Kissinger McLarty Associates.
Am I on or not?
(Off mike commentary.)
Yeah, okay. First of all, this is a terrific panel. I mean, all four people were just great. And I think we learned a lot. I might just give a few brief comments.
Charlie, you're right. I think there will be violence, unfortunately. But we have to remember that not allowing a coordinated independence to go through is also a policy, and that would be the surest way to have violence. So I mean, I think we have to -- the violence probably will happen in either case, but we shouldn't kid ourselves to think that if we don't recognize there won't be violence.
And I think Dmitri is right. We have to look at the mind-sets. And he eloquently described the Russian mind-set. But you know, there is a Kosovar-Albanian mind-set, too, people who were forced to live under an apartheid regime for 10 years and then had 800,000 people driven abroad and 10,000 people killed. These conditions did not just happen spontaneously out of nowhere. I mean, there were things that occurred in the 1990s, and that's why they are as they are.
Secondly, partition -- there's one wrinkle to it that is not widely known, and that is, namely, that before 1957, the northern part of what's now Kosovo was part of Serbia proper. But Presovo, Medvedja, Bujanovac was part of Kosovo, i.e., the borders were more ethnographically rational. Now, the question is, why couldn't there be a swap? And I mean, I've suggested that to some Serbs and, of course, the answer is obvious if you look at a map that the (aldoput ?) coming south from Belgrade, the railroad line going into Macedonia and from there into Saloniki goes right through the area that would then revert to Kosovo, so that can't happen.
I've suggested even to negotiators that as a last gasp, you might even think of some kind of an internationally guaranteed corridor, but these things haven't worked terribly well in the past, and I understand why it wasn't taken up. But I bring that up to say that --
(Off mike commentary.)
Yeah, okay, fine.
The most important point is Bosnia. The idea that the Republika Srpska could have a referendum is totally unacceptable to the United States of America for the simple reason that in the spring of 1992 before the war was started, a plurality on what's now the territory of the Republika Srpska was Muslim. It was 46 percent Muslim. The only reason a referendum, were it to be held, which it will not be, the only reason that there would be a vote for joining Serbia or independence or God knows what else is because of genocide. And I can tell you right now the U.S. -- if there's one thing that would unite a fractious U.S. Congress, that's it. And I talked to a senior person in the State Department the other night who assured me that on this, the Bush administration would not budge. That's a red line in triplicate.
Well, I'll stop right there. I mean, I have other things to say. But I just might say one last thing that, of course, it's a pseudo precedent. The differences between Kosovo and Abkhazia are legion, but basically the ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia was done by the Abkhaz separatists against the central government. Whereas in Kosovo, it was done by the central government of Belgrade against the people there. And the fact is the Russians played a role in the Abkhaz ethnic cleansing, including air sorties. So I mean, we've seen this movie before. Thank you.
STARES: Thank you, Michael.
Unless there's any particular -- why don't we -- do you want to --
SIMES: Well, if you look at Abkhazia 1992, I think that there were brutalities on both sides. And if you are talking, for instance, about Bosnia, I think it's fair to say that the vast majority of brutalities were committed by the Serbs and that they were the aggressors. You cannot say, in 1992, that the Abkhazians have started that. It was started by, of course, President -- (inaudible) -- who made very clear that he eliminated Abkhaz in -- (inaudible). He did not just send his forces, because he did not have real military forces. He sent his armed militias which were actually, in terms of their moral standard -- (inaudible) -- of Serbian militias. In Bosnia, they have started vicious process of killing innocent civilians. And then, of course, the Abkhaz with the Russian help retaliated.
Really, when you are saying that something is not a precedent, we all have different histories. Pristinas have different history, Israelis have different history. And if we decide in Washington which history, which narrative we are going to choose and then turn into a morality play, I have to say it's going to be a very lousy prescription for policymaking. And it certainly would not prepare us for likely consequences of our decisions.
STARES: Thank you, Dmitri.
SERWER: Paul, can I just say that, underlining the first point Mike made, that the likelihood of violence is much higher if we don't do this. That's the reason for moving ahead now. That's absolutely vital to understand. It's really peace and stability that requires us to move ahead now.
STARES: The gentleman back there, yes.
QUESTIONER: Yes, Bill Jones, Executive Intelligence Review.
I would like to ask any of the speakers comment on this. What is the -- somebody mentioned the Albanian Mafia. I was wondering --
(Off mike commentary.)
You can't hear on that? Okay.
Somebody mentioned earlier the Albanian Mafia, the criminal gangs. I was wondering, is there any connection between any of the political factions in Kosovo and these gangs? And is there really an attempt or would there be an attempt on the part of the Albanians to move against them? Or would it become a center of crime as we've had a problem also in Albania over a longer period of time?
Secondly, given the fact that -- is there also a presence in Kosovo of any of the radical Islamist groups? We know in Bosnia there was a presence, and that's really been under control. But what is the case in Kosovo? Is there a danger of also that kind of flaring up in Central Europe?
And lastly, if there --
STARES: Okay, only --
QUESTIONER: -- if there is violence, given the fact that there probably will be violence if independence is recognized, wouldn't it be necessary to maintain a NATO presence in the area perhaps a longer period of time in order to avoid any outbreaks?
STARES: I'm not sure we can get to all three. But Dan, do you want to take the first?
SERWER: Well, Janusz may want to --
BUGJSKI: I'll jump in --
SERWER: Yeah. On the third point, yes, there is a need to maintain a NATO presence and probably for a substantial amount of time. It's very few troops. They are largely Europeans as they have been throughout most of the last 12 years since the NATO deployment.
So far as the terrorists are concerned, there are very few supposedly Islamic countries -- I've yet to meet many Kosovars who go to mosques to pray -- but there are very few Islamic countries that are less hospitable to Islamic extremists who are anti-U.S. than the country in which on the main street there's, what, a five-story high portrait of President Clinton. They are extremely pro-American.
So far as the Mafia is concerned, I'm no expert on this, but I do remember that when I grumbled about this once in Belgrade to a Serbian deputy prime minister about Albanian Mafias, he said be careful. He said the headquarters is still here.
STARES: Okay, Janusz.
BUGJSKI: Yeah, maybe just to follow up that point. Mafias aren't ethnically based, they're interest based and they're multiethnic. This is the most multiethnic organization, I think, in the region, unless there's competition so patches, but that's not ethnically based -- competition for resources. So I wouldn't ascribe somehow the Mafia is some sort of exclusively Albanian phenomenon. It's a cross-ethnic phenomenon, and it operates much more where there isn't a legitimate government, where there are no legitimate borders, where there's no authority, where there's not sufficient property rights, not sufficient supervision of law and order. And this is what Kosovo lacks. If all those things begin to be implemented, then we begin to engage in a struggle against organized criminals.
STARES: The lady there and then we'll come back over here.
QUESTIONER: Hi. My name is Bridget Adams, and I work at Argus Research.
My question for you is I read recently that Russia and Serbia are coming to an agreement where Russia's going to include Serbia in their South Stream gas pipeline. And apparently, that's supposed to close in about a month. I was just wondering how this changes the dynamics between the relationships between Russia and Serbia. And I've also heard that Serbia almost owes Russia favor, because they want to keep Kosovo, because it's a supposed Mecca of Serbia, and it has all these monuments, et cetera. But bottom line, I was just wondering how you feel the pipeline and all the fact that a Russian firm is taking control of the Serbian oil monopoly is going to change the dynamics of the relationships between the two countries.
STARES: All right, thank you.
SIMES: Well, this agreement is being discussed. I don't think, as you said, it was concluded. You do know that Gazprom is a very important voice in Russia. Mr. Medvedev, future president, is current chairman of Gazprom. So there is more to Russian-Serbian relationship than just ethnic solidarity or matter of principle.
Let me say this. The way I read Mr. Putin is that he is assertive, that he does not accept the West as a moral authority, that he is not impressed when Washington and Brussels speak with the same voice. But he does understand that hostility with the West as a whole, particularly a major escalation of hostility, is not something he should accept casually. I would not want us to miscalculate and to push him too far without a very good reason. But I don't think that he would want to become too assertive in the Balkans. I am much more concerned about what the Russians may do in the caucuses where, as a number of us said, Russia has much greater impact on the ground.
My fear would be if the radicals would come to power or would come to power in Belgrade is they start doing crazy things on the ground and that they would start appealing to Russia for solidarity. My concern is not that Mr. Putin would send Russian troops into Kosovo or, for that matter, into Bosnia. That I would exclude. But my concern is, for instance, that if there would be a growing agitation in the Republika Srpska and NATO would want to use force against it, my concern is that an escalation of tension would persuade Russia not to vote for the extension of the U.N. mandate next year, which may escalate the situation.
STARES: All right. Yes --
QUESTIONER: Bogdan Kipling, Kipling News Service, Chronicle Herald of Halifax, Canada.
My question is, what difference would it have made, if any, had Russian troops been prevented from reaching Kosovo -- the Kosovo airport during the war?
STARES: I think we want to look forward a little more but --
SIMES: Completely agree -- none.
STARES: Okay, Ambassador Polt.
QUESTIONER: My name is Mike Polt. I'm with the German Marshall Fund, and I was, until this August, the U.S. ambassador in Belgrade.
I think Dan has the scenario and the assessment just about 99.999 percent correct.
SERWER: What's wrong? (Laughter.) Should I rejoice the State Department agrees with me?
QUESTIONER: I don't think you should necessarily see it as a compliment coming from the government. But nevertheless, you'll have to make your own judgment on that. The fact of the matter is that this is a situation that is, as others have already mentioned, solvable. And the lack of solution is much more dangerous and much more fraught with consequences and violence than not reaching a conclusion. I am no Russia expert, and I was greatly interested in Dmitri's comments on the seriousness of Russia, which I would argue the United States is taking very seriously and is not in any way making light of Russia's seriousness in dealing with this issue. At the same time, Russia will have to act on its own interests, and it will do so as it sees fit. And in the end result, we will not be able to persuade Russia to turn one way or the other on this or other issues that it feels so strongly committed to.
However, I think it is more than somewhat disingenuous for Russia to argue that its position has been not taken into account in this long, long, multiyear process of trying to deal with the Kosovo issue. After all, the Russians were actively involved in the (contact ?) group. The Russians are part of the current or the just-concluded troika. We have, for a long time, taken Russia's concerns into account and have dealt with them very seriously and done whatever we could to try and see if we could bring Russia into the fold of a common agreement on a solution of the status of Kosovo.
As far as partition is concerned, Charlie, the one main argument against it -- there are many arguments against it, and I would oppose this very strongly -- but one of the main arguments, of course, is that the majority of the Serbians still remaining in Kosovo do not live north of the Ibar River. So therefore, since the enclaves are the ones that are the majority of Serbs still in Kosovo, the cutting off of northern Kosovo would not solve this situation. Nor would I be willing to subscribe to the argument that those few families or the few hundred or the few dozens of Serbs who live in enclaves amongst the Serbs or amongst the Albanians in Kosovo are the ones who have the real problems. If you talk to many of the Serbs living in Kosovo today in the enclaves south of the Ibar, they are the ones who are far more able to find a future together with the Albanian majority in Kosovo than some of the people living north of the river.
STARES: Did you have any --
KUPCHAN: I'll just pick up on this point and tie it back to a previous issue, and that is that, as Dan put it and you just reiterated, this is a move that is being taken not because of some principled position, but because we think, and I think it's right, that we're less likely to have wide-scale violence if we move forward than if we don't. And I agree with what Dmitri said about 1244 and about the absence of a legal framework. But that doesn't bother me, because we're doing this not for principled reasons but because we think this is the best way to get peace and stability. And it's for that reason that I, in the end, leave a question mark next to partition. And I agree completely with you that you've got, you know, 60 percent of the Serbs living south of the Ibar. But it also gets Kosovo off to not a very good start if it has a big chunk of its territory which remains de facto part of Serbia.
STARES: Okay. The gentleman at the back there -- sir.
QUESTIONER: Allan Wendt.
This may not be directly pertinent to the issues you've discussed. But would any of you care to say anything about the economic viability of Kosovo as an independent state? And does it matter one way or the other?
BUGJSKI: Well, let's put it this way. I often hear this term economic viability. In fact, when all the federations were breaking up -- Yugoslav, Soviet and even the Czechoslovak -- are these new countries that emerge viable? Well, they're only viable depending on what position they adopt in the global economy, in the European economy, how attractive they are to investors, how they can transform their economies into modern economies, how well they cooperate with their neighbors. Viability is not a question of state size. It's a question of the niche that that economy has, how it's plugged into the wider system.
I mean, the same thing was said about Montenegro, and it's a population one-third the size of Kosovo. I mean, I think they're probably doing better than they would have done and did do under Yugoslavia.
Kosovo, I think, has several strengths. Even without the resources, you know, I hear a lot about the mineral wealth and so forth. Aside from that, I would say the key resource in Kosovo are young people. I mean, this is a population -- 70 percent of the population are under 30-years old. A lot of them have worked in the West. They've traveled. They're familiar very much with modern economy. They're adaptable. In other words, it's actually a better situation they face than many of the post-communist countries with an aging population that simply could not be retrained, that were used to, you know, the old industries, cradle-to-grave care and so forth. This is a very entrepreneurial population. And what I fear is if they're not gainfully employed that they can be ungainfully employed, and that's a source of instability.
KUPCHAN: There's also the question whether -- I mean, you can reverse it. Is Serbia viable? Serbia's aging very, very rapidly. It has a terrible problem of paying for its own pensions. Without the vitality and demographic vitality of Kosovo, Serbia's in trouble. The Albanian part of the Balkans is a very strong, rapidly growing market. And people in Belgrade should pay attention to that.
STARES: Right. Paul.
QUESTIONER: Thanks very much. Paul Saunders with The Nixon Center.
I have a question for Janusz and also for Charlie. I was in London and Berlin last month for some transatlantic discussions of Russia. And it made me wonder a little bit in connection with some of the prescriptions you had, Janusz, in terms of confronting Moscow. How far are the Europeans really willing to go along with the United States in taking that kind of an approach? We had a little debate at the meetings I was involved in in London and Berlin on that point. And there were a number of Europeans who felt actually that precisely as Russia's behavior becomes worse and more problematic, many of the Western European governments would be less likely to be willing to confront Moscow. You know, maybe the Lithuanians or the Estonians, you know, would be lining up behind the United States. But who else?
BUGJSKI: Yeah, actually up to a point I agree with you. I was in Brussels last week, and I heard two particularly disturbing things about EU policy or potential policy towards Russia. One concerns Belarus. In other words, a possibility that there could be a coup d'etat engineered by Moscow and our claim we bring in a democrat. Are we going to oppose the overthrow of Lukashenko? Will we act if there isn't a democratic process?
The other disturbing thing, and I think much more disturbing, is the notion that if Russia escalates in various areas of threatens to escalate in various areas, the EU is much more likely to back down on a particular issue. And I think that is disturbing. I think whether that's the gist of EU policy, I don't know. I think two or three years ago, I would have been even more worried actually with Schroder and Chirac. I think with Sarkozy and Merkel that there is a little bit more stiffening of the spine than there was before, still not enough. There's not as much as I'd like to see.
Let's put it this way. In terms of EU-Russia, U.S.-Russia, we have entered an era of confrontation. This is a new era. This is no longer the post-Cold War era. This is the post-post-Cold War era. It's a new era where Russia is not only expressing its interests, it's pursuing its interests. And those interests, I believe, are expansionist. Its interests in the Balkans are expansionist interests. They're tactical vis-a-vis Kosovo, but they actually counter precisely what the EU interests would be, which is to have this area which both the European Union and the United States have invested so much over the past 15 years to bring this area into the European mainstream and into the European Union. Russia is opposed to that, whether by keeping Kosovo as a frozen conflict, by creating a bridge head through its economic Czechist capitalism, in Serbia keeping Serbia outside of NATO, making life difficult for NATO. In all these respects, we do face a confrontation. And unfortunately, it's still up to us to stiffen European Union's spine. It's not as stiff and it's not as united as it should be.
And of course, this reform treaty which has now been agreed is going to take time to pass, that may eventually start changing things in terms of the non-necessity of consensus in terms of policy. But you know I wouldn't hold my breath on this.
KUPCHAN: Yeah, I'd add that one of the main reasons that the timetable kept slipping over the course of 2007 was because the EU was going a little bit wobbly because of the Russia factor. And they wanted to buy time for negotiations to proceed within the EU to get as many countries onboard for recognition as possible. And they've more or less succeeded. There was a report a couple of days ago that said there's only now one holdout, and that was Cyprus. I think that's overly optimistic. There are probably somewhere between three and five countries that are not onboard for recognition.
But in general, I think the EU has been able to maintain near-unanimity on this topic and that it is ready to move in lockstep with the United States. The big question is, you know, if things go south with Russia, what is likely to be the response? And I think part of the answer is there's a timing issue here. There will be recognition, and then the Russians may respond, so it's a bit too late. But I think you're right to point out that if things do get very tense, that the EU will begin to have second thoughts, particularly on questions of energy relations.
STARES: Great. Well, we have --
SIMES: If I could make one very quick point. If we take a tough position on Russia, as Janusz recommends, we should remember that there is likely to be a Russian-Iranian economic agreement. We should forget about any U.N. role in pressure on Iran. You should expect Putin moving closer to Iran than perhaps Venezuela. And you will see the Russians inciting the Chinese against the United States. And the Chinese would not go all the way, but they may go some of the way, because they have their own ambitions and their own grievances.
All I am calling for is to think strategically, what the world is going to be like if we take approach. Russia is not essential our approach to international politics. And to not encouraging a counter coalition against American superpower, that is essential.
BUGJSKI: Good blackmail.
STARES: We have time for a couple more questions before calling a halt.
Any takers there?
SIMES: Well, what is blackmail for one person, for another person is simply telling the facts as I see them. And I think it's very unhelpful to have a debate, Janusz, in those terms -- very unhelpful.
BUGJSKI: A debate in which terms? I don't understand. Well, I'm saying Russia's engaged in blackmail, not you. (Laughter.)
SIMES: I don't think that Russia is engaging in blackmail. Russia actually is not saying that they would do it. It's my prediction that they're likely to do it.
BUGJSKI: Okay. If they do it, then it is blackmail.
STARES: Last question.
QUESTIONER: Alan Latisma (sp), Voice of America.
We can predict what Macedonia will do in case Kosovo declares independence and what Albania will do. We still cannot predict what other neighbors can do, particularly Montenegro and Bosnia. What would four of you, as wise men, would advise to government in Podgorica and government in Sarajevo specifically to do in case Kosovo declares independence?
STARES: Who wants to start? Dan.
SERWER: Well, I think my bottom line was the quicker, the more decisive, the less ambiguous, the better. And that means that recognition by the neighbors is important. And the more who do it quickly, the better.
BUGJSKI: Agreed. But I do think Montenegro is going to be a little bit behind. Montenegro is torn, because on the one hand, the government, in a way, is thankful to the Albanian population who voted for independence. That took really Montenegro over the threshold. On the other hand, they have a large Serbian or Serbist, Serbian identity population that they don't want to unnecessarily provoke by going out on the limb early and recognizing independence. So I think they will be -- probably once the bulk of the European Union recognizes it, I think Montenegro would be somewhere in that pack.
And the other on Bosnia, I cannot predict that one. That's a more difficult one. I'll have to think about that.
STARES: Dmitri or --
SIMES: I am not an expert on the Balkans. (Laughter.)
KUPCHAN: I'll just make a closing comment on the exchange between Dmitri and Janusz. In general, I think Putin's bark has been much worse than his bite. And therefore, I would not move toward a confrontational position with Russia on the Kosovo issue on the basis of where they are now. If however they respond by doing the sorts of things that Dmitri's suggested, recognizing Abkhazia, moving troops into the caucuses, then I think it's not just a bark, it's a bite. And I would see that as a tangible shift in the relationship and in the direction that is much more confrontational. Where Janusz is today, to call the policy expansionist in the Balkans, is, I think, putting the cart before the horse.
SERWER: Paul, can I add one quick word? Dmitri said earlier that his friends in Moscow said that they'll do whatever Belgrade wants. This is ridiculous that Russia will do whatever Serbia wants. Is this a superpower or a great power defending its own interests?
SIMES: That's not what I said. I said that Russia could be persuaded to be a little flexible. But they did not see reason to do it so far.
You know, friends, I remember this kind of a debate several years ago. It was about Iraq, and we were told that those who were talking about unintended consequences, they were defeatists, they were supporters of appeasement, and they were not prepared for the United States to occupy high moral ground, and we were told about how bad was Saddam Hussein. Well, you know what? I think that in retrospect, those people who raise those kind of questions, they were not defeatists. They were intellectually honest. And that's the ground I think that more of us should occupy today, not see the world as we want to see it, but to think seriously about how the global chess game is going to be affected by our actions, not just in the Balkans but elsewhere.
STARES: Okay. With that warning or admonition, thank you, Dmitri.
I began cautiously optimistic that this would be managed fairly well and left feeling less persuaded that things are going to work out as hoped. And I have an awful feeling we're going to be back in this room in a few week's time debating the consequences of all this.
But anyway, I want to thank you all, gentlemen, for a terrific presentation.
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