Foreign Policy Blogs

The Insiders' Views of Kosovo's Independence

On February 17, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Although Kosovo acted without UN approval, it quickly gained the recognition of major Western powers, namely the United States and Europe's major powers, while Serbia, Russia, China and over a dozen other countries claimed the declaration was invalid.

While Kosovo is now acting as an independent nation, challenges abound: ethnic partitioning (120,000 Serbs still reside in Kosovo), potential violence, Russia's disapproving glare, writing a constitution, etc.

Last week the Foreign Policy Association hosted Frank Wisner, a career diplomat who has served as the Special Representative of the Secretary of State to the Kosovo Status Talks since 2005 to discuss the significance of the declaration of independence and the way forward.

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Wisner spoke about the need for Protecting Kosovo's independence by a NATO force, which has keeping the peace in Kosovo for the past nine years.

Wisner also spoke of the diplomatic accomplishments he felt he and his international counterparts achieved in Kosovo: “I was proud finally to be part of American diplomacy dring better than 2 years in which we set our minds on re-tying bonds of communications, common action, comon reflection with our European friends, and forging common diplomacy. It was that diplomacy that carried us together throughout the negotiation and throughout Kosovo's independence.” 

In February, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) interviewed Winser in a piece titled “Russian Opposition to Kosovo Independence "Unbelievably Regrettable,'” though he conceded that declaration of independence by Kosovo would carry both "positive and not so positive" repercussions.

In this excerpt Wisner describes a positive result of Kosovo's independence:

“I think the key positive one is that an issue that has hung over all of us over the course of the 1990s‚ the repression of Kosovo by the Belgrade government, ending in a violent expulsion of nearly half the population, many thousands of deaths, and destruction of property‚ a situation that produced an unbridgeable gap between the Albanian Kosovar community and the [Serbs]‚ will be over. In a sense, that's what history says. If you engage in actions of huge brutality, there is a consequence. Now, the right thing will be done.”

Charles A. Kupchan, a professor of international relations at Georgetown University professor and former member of the State Department's Policy Planning staff, also recognizes that Kosovo's independence brings both pluses and minuses.

In 2005 Kupchan argued in favor of independence for Kosovo in an article for the Foreign Affairs. In Kupchan's March 2008 update of this argument he remarks:

“It is unfortunate that Kosovo's independence from Serbia constitutes partition along ethnic lines and that it occurred without the legitimacy of a UN blessing. Serbia has admittedly suffered a painful amputation; keeping the country on the path to integration into the Euro-Atlantic community will be no easy task.

But the United States and its European partners were right to guide Kosovo to independence–even if they must now contain the fallout. In the long run, helping the Balkans absorb the jolt of a unilateral secession will leave the region far better off than if Kosovo had remained a ticking time bomb within Serbia.”



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.