New International Disorder
Deccan Chronicle, Chennai Thursday 6 March 2008.
The European Union is not quite celebrating a great victory after carving out a separate state from the Serbian province of Kosovo in an American choreographed exercise. And although the EU has appointed a representative, Pieter Feith, in Kosovo, challenged by Belgrade, how many international laws will the European organisation break with the US encouragement before being called to order? There was no element of surprise about Kosovo, a UN protectorate, making a unilateral declaration of independence on February 17. The United States had publicly declared its intention to recognise it. It has a large base there, in the words of the EU human rights envoy a “smaller version of Guantanamo.” Washington did not need much lobbying to get the big boys of Europe, France, Germany and Britain, to sign on. But several members, led by Spain, refused to recognise a province carved out of a nation against its wishes in contravention of the structure of the international order, based on the nation state.
First, the then Yugoslav Federation was “humanitarian intervention” through 11 weeks of bombing by NATO, principally American, aircraft. Now by lopping off Kosovo from Serbia nine years later – again without UN authorisation – the major nations of the West are thumbing their nose at the United Nations. In fact, Resolution 1244 specifically describes Kosovo as a province of Yugoslavia (Serbia being the successor state). And although the province is now inhabited by a 90 per cent majority of Muslim Albanians – some 100,000 Serbs have not fled so far – Muslim nations have been looking at the creation of the new state warily.
There is, of course, the piquant situation of the United Nations having to transfer its authority to the European Union while the world organisation still retains the responsibility under 1244. How soon UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon will succumb to US pressure to commit an illegality remains to be seen. Washington has decided that Kosovo should be the EU’s baby under NATO’s tutelage, irrespective of international and national laws. The small land-locked “nation” of two million people has begun its existence precariously.
Which brings us to the central flaw in the powerful nation’s right to force a nation state into submission through “humanitarian intervention”, or forcefully to carry out a nation’s dismemberment against its will – in both instances without UN authorisation. The international order is based on the equality between states, and although it is recognised in practice that some states are more equal than others – the institution of the veto power in the UN Security Council says so – the international order can only survive if smaller and weaker states feel that they are not liable to be victims of the law of the jungle.
It is universally accepted that the United States remains and will remain for some time to come in a unique position of power. This feeling of being all-powerful was best expressed by President George W. Bush in his first term in his strategic doctrine of 2002 setting out the goal of being the perpetual No. 1 power on the planet and giving itself the authority of unilaterally undertaking pre-emptive strikes against a country of its choice to ensure that no country or group of nations can challenge America.
Following this doctrine, the Bush administration disdainfully spurned the offer of help from NATO in going to war in Afghanistan. And this doctrine, chiselled by President Bush’s neoconservative advisers, took the US to invade Iraq without United Nation’s authorisation. The harsh realities of the real world forced President Bush to make tactical retreats by begging for NATO help in Afghanistan and desperately wooing and bamboozling countries to expand the woeful coalition of the “unwilling” in Iraq.
The important point to remember is that the United States has not given up on its dream of ruling the world. It has had to make tactical changes after it had overreached itself. But it is persevering in its quest for locking in its status as World No. 1 by continuing to retain Russia, most recently through planned elements of a missile defence system on Russia’s doorstep in Poland and the Czech Republic, checkmating China, building new bases in Eastern Europe and overseeing the Balkans through its major base in Kosovo.
As the European Union’s attitude to events in Kosovo has dramatically revealed, this organisation seems to have resigned itself to playing second fiddle to Washington on the world stage. Gone are the days when the EU dreamed of being a major player in its own right, with its own joined military force making its presence felt. The US was sufficiently provoked by European dreams to come down hard on Europe developing its own military instrument of policy.
Jacques Chirac yielded place to Nicolas Sarkozy in France, Gerhard Schroeder to Angela Merkel in Germany – the mood of Europe changed. The fact that anyone can think of Tony Blair, reviled by a majority in his own country for being Bush’s “poodle” as the longer-term president of the European Union under the new mini-constitution is a stark reminder of the distance the EU has travelled. The EU can still cross swords with the US on trade issues but will play a supine role on the world’s political stage – witness its policy towards the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
Russia has made its position loud and clear. By carving a separate state out of Serbia against its wishes, the US and its allies are treading a dangerous path. What then prevents Abkhazia or South Ossetia to leave Georgia or Trans- Dniestr Moldova? Or the Serbs, stitched together with Bosniaks and Croats in Bosnia- Herzegovina under the Dayton accord, rebelling? Or any number of other ethnic movements going their way under American auspices? That this point has registered in Europe and different parts of the world is clear from the vocal opposition of Spain and a few other EU members and from Indonesia and Sri Lanka. China and much of the developing world support the Russian argument Moscow reinforced by sending President Vladimir Putin’s successor, Dmitry Medvedev, to Belgrade.
Instead of standing up and being counted on a principle whose repudiation has grave implications for India, New Delhi has chosen to equivocate. It is time for the Manmohan Singh government to declare its opposition to the forceful creation of a new state and welcome the Serbian foreign minister to New Delhi during his planned Asian tour later this month. Deprived of a part of their country because they belong to a relatively small state on the wrong side of American strategic interests, Serbs’ fury is understandable.
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