(Associate Analyst in the International Security Research & Intelligence Agency and a South Eastern European Editor in the World Security Network Foundation)
The latest developments on the 17th of February proved once more that the world political environment passes yet another milestone, albeit going backwards towards the era of Empires and feudalism, rather than progressing into an era of peace and security.
Europe in particular fought tens of bitter wars and conflicts in order to become the harbor of stability in Eurasia. Starting from the Treaty of Augsburg in 1555 (cuius regio cius religio) and the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, Europe managed finally in 1945 through the signing of the UN Chapter and the Helsinki Final Act in 1975; to confirm the sovereignty of the nation state and the absolute denial for border changes. As it can well be understood this no longer holds, and the International Law becomes a piece of paper on which anyone can interpret what he wishes for, leading the world closer to another war that will ultimately lead to the destruction of the human life as we know it.
The reasons for such a dramatic decision of historical proportions, is not really known, even though the most logical assumption seems to be around the USA-Russian rivalry. Moreover the sentimental approach of many aspects of the international relations by certain members of the State Dept. elite might have played its role. It would not be improbable to predict that the humankind’s historical path correlates with the pessimistic approach by the great German philosopher and historian Oswald Spengler. In his famous work “The decline of the West”, published in 1918 he outlines his version of the future that has an outstanding value judging by the present situation. The prediction towards a feudal conflict-driven world community of the 21st century is a revealing one, along with the end of the West as a moral and cultural authority. By year 2100 the planet will resemble more of the Mad Max film, rather than a highly advanced technological global village. In that sense 2008 might well be a standing point on which we might look back in time to know when everything “Officially” started.
The current government of the still-illegally declared independent Kosovo is heavily influenced by the organized crime groups, maintained links with the global Jihadi movement and strives to administer a small land which is actually controlled by the UN, NATO, EU and the individual interests lead by the strongest countries. On top of that, a high level of poverty coupled with unemployment and a high birth rate, provides a wider angle of what will probably happen in Pristina in a few years from now.
The secessionist movements all over the planet are not going to accept the suis generic approach that has been hasty declared by the Washington officials. International politics are not a fixed term bank bond, but a fluid contradictory reality that interprets each event according to the interests of its own members. Since International Law and its basis the sovereignty of the nation state no longer exists, everything is possible in the short & long-term.
For instance Turkey, a government that rushed to recognize the illegal government in Pristina, is also staging a wide range anti-guerilla attack in its South-Eastern borders against the Kurdish PKK fighters. Apart from the already well-known phrase “Double Standards”, the antitheses of supporting a notion that can ultimately destroy ones country seems to have escaped from the mindset of Ankara’s military-diplomatic apparatus. In order to gain short-term negligible political gains, they have mined their own nation state; since none knows quite exactly what the future holds and how might global interests in the energy field behave in just a few years from know. The Kurdish movement strikes a similarity with the Albanian one. Mountaineer nations both, having minorities in neighboring states, supporting their actions through a series of contraband activities and becoming often a strategic tool of grand powers, when meddling in two of the most important hubs of Eurasia: Balkans & the Middle East.
Cyprus on the other hand, the small sun-soaked island in the midst of the Eastern Mediterranean, forms its strategy based in principles and norms, thus saving its face and interests. The division of the island is not quite the same problem with Kosovo, since it was actually invaded by Turkey; even though Nicosia behaves in an ideal European way, shaming European capitals that have become the former only in name.
The issue of “Greater-great Albania” has been thoroughly discussed in Serbianna, and the predictions made in the past seem to become more of a mundane reality. Albania as a nation state is weak due to economic & social problems along with the existence of stronger neighbors all around it. What is worrying for the future security of the region is the temptation by inexperienced diplomats residing almost exclusively in the USA, to use the Albanian minorities as a Trojan horse so as to confront either Russian influence or interrupt any European (German-French) plans to acquire stronger economic and political clout in the region. For the time being the present Bush Administration seems to lack such strategy, assuming rightly that the main interests of the country are based in the Middle East and the South East Asia. The next American President whoever (s)he may be, he is going to be more influenced by the existence of a well-formed Washington lobby that will push for further American involvement in the Balkans through the use of Albanian minorities. In such an unfortunate case, the coming bloodshed in the Balkans will make the Bosnia war look like a skirmish between street rioters.
The Russian advance in Europe through the Balkans is a probable indicator of the anxiety that gripped Washington. In a summary the most important points of Moscow’s interest in the region (or rather the wider Southeastern European one) is as follows: In Bulgaria the Russians (Atomstroy Export Company) managed to sign the deals with the South Stream and the B-A pipelines. Moreover they agreed to construct a new thermonuclear station in Belene and the country is heavily depended on Russian energy in general. In Hungary has acquired many stocks in gas companies and invests substantial amounts in the real estate. Montenegro is awash with Russian capital in the estate and tourist sector Serbia sold its national energy company and participates in the South Stream project (Northern Axis). The country is also leaning to Moscow due to the developments in Kosovo as well.
In Slovakia the gas distribution network company SPP (one of the largest in Europe), belongs to Gazprom (49%) In Austria Gazprom recently 50% share of a similar distribution network, thus creating a natural gas web across Central Europe. Note that 35% of the largest German one belongs to Russian company and the 10% of the EADS Corporation.
Greece participates in the B-A & South Stream pipelines and made substantial procurements of Russian weaponry over the past few years. Cyprus is also one of the prime destinations of Russian investments.
Turkey imports 75% of its natural gas from Gazprom and receives 10% of its tourists from CIS countries. Large Turkish construction companies invest heavily in Russia also.
The above is just a small outline of the recent Russian initiatives or footholds in the market. Probably that is one of the main reasons of the American response for supporting a hasty Kosovo recognition, even though in a globalized world it is difficult to pursue political aims without taking into consideration the economic aspect of it. In a few words, Russia can easily retaliate in other fronts using its method of linking events, as it was reported in a recent Stratfor report. Moreover the ability of Moscow to influence the oil & gas production might have significant negativities towards Europe and USA apart from other lesser obvious culminations in the murky world of secret operations and provocations.
In short this is a conflict that no reasonable and good willing individual or country would like to happen. Kosovo becomes a focal symbolic emblem of a new age, even though it could well become a bargaining point on which the major powers would agree on principles and format strategies towards the issues that inflict the world, starting from the environment to terrorism, poverty, and the quest for a better future of the humans in and out of this planet.
The future will certainly tell which direction the Balkans will follow, and the present day culminations are pessimist enough to leave any space for a carefree analysis of the events. A trend to watch is for certain the decadence of the moral respect towards international bodies and the rise of extremist groups of all kinds in the Balkans. The latest is surely an issue regularly pointed out and for certain it will remain so, unless a political miracle equivalent to the Biblical manna solves these problems in the future and provides progress, peace and security for the traumatized Balkan Peninsula.