Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kosovo - is the Cold War Really Over?

With a declaration of independence expected today in Kosovo, it is worth noting how the emergence of the new state is serving the purpose of strengthening American and British interests in the region at the expense of Russia, who are strongly backing Serbia's opposition to any such unilateral declaration.

In one sense, this last twist in the tale of the dismantling of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia is evidence of the growing antagonism between Russia and "the West". Relations have turned sour over a range of issues:
  • the creation of a US missile defense shield in eastern Europe - an act which Moscow has described as "provocative"
  • the increase in Presidential power at the expense of the Russian Parliament and the corresponding reduction in democratic checks and balances on the President
  • numerous instances of press intimidation inside Russia including the murder of several investigative journalists
  • the Litvenenko affair - British authorities seeking the extradition of a former KGB agent to stand trial for the murder of a Russian exile in London
  • tensions over gas and oil supplies from Russia to the west
  • Western support for anti-Russian political movements in the former Soviet Union - most notably in Ukraine and Georgia
  • Alleged incursions of Russian military planes into NATO air space in recent months
Seen against this backdrop, Western support for the new state of Kosovo is a convenient way of supporting democracy while also dealing a blow to Russian influence in the Balkans. The PR value of America and Britain supporting a Muslim-majority democracy will also not have been lost on policy makers in London and Washington.

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