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ISSUE 121 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2008

Kosovo suberts authority

By Alexander Titkov
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 11, 2008

In response to the Feb. 29 article "Kosovo Demands Liberty," I was a bit disappointed (but not surprised) by the impressionability presented in the commentary as well as the willingness to jump onto the independence and freedom bandwagon as it heads off to plunder new frontiers.

Now, I'm not a hemp-wearing, unshaven misinterpreter of Zen nor am I an economically and socially delusional conservative who thinks that happiness is a warm gun, but I do believe in attempting to objectively present both sides of an issue with some time invested into the subject matter. Only by framing such words as "freedom" and "independence" within the relevant history and present day context can we fairly assess this situation in Kosovo. After all, should we not aspire to objectivity in journalism, lest we fall into the abyss of Goebbelsian propaganda?

The history of Serbia and the Balkan states is a complex and violent one. The Serbian people have served as the buffer zone between invading Ottoman Turks and Europe since the late 14th century, making Kosovo a territory of early battlegrounds. Historically and religiously, Serbia and its people consider Kosovo to be the heartland of their country. This area is sacred and dear to the Serbian people, so it is no surprise that they are revolting and rioting in reaction to Kosovo's recent declaration of independence. We must recognize that these reactions are more than "mindless mob anger" but are deeply rooted sentiments forged over many generations.

During World War II, the Serbian people revolted against a regime that had signed a pact with the Nazis, leading to Nazi invasion and the establishment of a fascist puppet state. The Nazis proceeded to set up an Albanian secret service division which was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Serbians as well as the displacement of many Serbians from Kosovo. These displaced people were replaced by Albanians in hopes of creating a greater Albanian state. Incidentally, Albania was already a state.

If we compare the ethnic ratio between Serbians and Albanians over the last 140 years, we find that in 1871 the ratio was 64:32 in favor of Serbians.By 2008, Serbians composed merely 5 percent of the population in Kosovo. This disparity intensified in the 1990's, when Serbia took measures under Milosevic to prevent Kosovo's secession, leading to the Albanian counter in creating the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The KLA was recognized as a terrorist organization by the CIA only a few years before U.S. and NATO forces bombed Serbia under President Bill Clinton. In the days after the end of bombings (when the U.S. had determined that a sufficient number of civilian deaths had occurred to quell rebellion and the media tired of "The Crisis in Kosovo"), the KLA continued to terrorize Serbians in Kosovo and were never brought to trial.

Kosovo's independence is illegal under U.N. Resolution 1244, which establishes the "principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia" (then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). Also, the 1975 Final Helsinki Act's preamble states that the Commision for Security and Cooperation in Europe guarantees "sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty, inviolability of frontiers and territorial integrity of States."

The argument that more states are in favor of Kosovo's independence is shortsighted. How can one weigh the importance of states like Albania, Afghanistan and Turkey against the opposition from Russia, China and Spain?

The Serbian people are more than frustrated; they are outraged and rightly so. The illegal arrogation of 15 percent of a nation's land mass without the general population's vote would be enough to initiate unrest in any nation. It would be the equivalent of external countries acknowledging an independent state in Texas or California due to the high percentage of Latin Americans residing in the area.

The nations opposed to Kosovo's independence are not simply worried about setting a precedent with regards to their own regional disputes, but are seeking an overall balance between nations. Only a few days ago, this precedent encouraged another ethnic group in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. As a result, tensions between ethnic Armenians and the Azerbaijan government have mounted. Undoubtedly, the resolution of this conflict will involve the U.N. and the invested countries of Russia, Turkey and the United States, thus emphasizing that these other smaller countries are mere pawns in a larger scheme.

One should not be shocked or appalled by opposition towards matters such as Kosovo's self-declared independence. Claiming anti-Kosovo independence Facebook groups as "anti-freedom" would be a rather incorrect interpretation. Rather, they should be seen as a proper or expected response, a protest to an illegal action based on legal grounds in reaction to a tumultuous situation. We should question why nations such as ours have jumped to admit this independence in such haste. Surely there is more than Kosovo's independence on our government's agenda. We could also deduce that a certain president is scrambling to put something in his portfolio containing the words "free states" and "speedy democracy" to conclude an otherwise pitiful eight years in office. Finally and most importantly, we should question the U.N. effectiveness as a governing body. If these nations cannot live up to the resolutions they declare, who are we to turn to for global peace?

Alexander Titkov '08 is from Eden Prairie, Minn. He majors in Russian area studies with concentrations in German studies and exercise science.

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