Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Kosovo and the Russians

Sadly it seems that the West has now "lost" Russia. Putin's shameful sham election strongly points to a slide to new authoritarianism and the trend over the past few years of his Presidency suggest that he will establish a strong "new authoritarian" block with the Chinese out East.

Russia has also been stridently opposed to the Ahtisaari proposed settlement in Kosovo which would lead to a "supervised independence" under the UN. Frankly it has undermined any possibility of a shared future for Kosovar Albanians and Serbs in the province through it's strident support of the unsustainable Serbian position which would only consider "autonomy" within Serbia for the province.

Far from preparing Serbs in Mitrovica and other parts of northern Kosovo to accept the need to fight for a shared future with equal rights under the law, Putin has helped to stoke continued mistrust between the two communities (during my time in Mitrovica as a trainer the Serb participants were anxious about crossing over the bridge from Northern Mitrovica due to security concerns) and helped to create a climate where renewed violence is a real possibility this month.

To then discover that Putin has decided to dispatch an 11-ship aircraft carrier group to the Mediterranean suggests that Putin is prepared to back the Serbian intransigent position with force. Why else should they be there?

I enjoyed my time in Prishtina and Mitrovica in Kosovo working with both communities and genuinely hope that they will be able to avoid violence and create a shared future where ALL citizens are able to participate in society and the legacy of hatred is laid to rest.

Russian macho politics does not help and Putin needs to be stood up to by the West, both for his sham election (which requires diplomatic sanctions of some kind) and regrettably it is increasingly looking like we will need to do so militarily as well.

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