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Contemptuous
02-23-08, 02:17 PM
Kosovar Independence and the Russian Reaction
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<!--Stratfor Today &raquo; (http://www.strafor.com/analysis)-->February 20, 2008

By George Friedman (STRATFOR)

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Sunday. The United States and many, but not all, European countries recognized it. The Serbian government did not impose an economic blockade on — or take any military action against — Kosovo, although it declared the Albanian leadership of Kosovo traitors to Serbia. The Russians vehemently repeated their objection to an independent Kosovo but did not take any overt action. An informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was announced last week; it will take place in Moscow on Feb. 21. With Kosovo’s declaration, a river was crossed. We will now see whether that river was the Rubicon.

Kosovo’s independence declaration is an important event for two main reasons. First, it potentially creates a precedent that could lead to redrawn borders in Europe and around the world. Second, it puts the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany in the position of challenging what Russia has defined as a fundamental national interest — and this at a time when the Russians have been seeking to assert their power and authority. Taken together, each of these makes this a geopolitically significant event.
Begin with the precedent. Kosovo historically has been part of Serbia; indeed, Serbs consider it the cradle of their country.

Over the course of the 20th century, it has become predominantly Albanian and Muslim (though the Albanian version of Islam is about as secular as one can get). The Serbian Orthodox Christian community has become a minority. During the 1990s, Serbia — then the heart of the now-defunct Yugoslavia — carried out a program of repression against the Albanians. Whether the repression rose to the level of genocide has been debated. In any case, the United States and other members of NATO conducted an air campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 until the Yugoslavians capitulated, allowing the entry of NATO troops into the province of Kosovo. Since then, Kosovo, for all practical purposes, has been a protectorate of a consortium of NATO countries but has formally remained a province of Serbia. After the Kosovo war, wartime Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic died in The Hague in the course of his trial for war crimes; a new leadership took over; and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia itself ultimately dissolved, giving way to a new Republic of Serbia.

The United Nations did not sanction the war in Kosovo. Russian opposition in the U.N. Security Council prevented any U.N. diplomatic cover for the Western military action. Following the war — in a similar process to what happened with regard to Iraq — the Security Council authorized the administration of Kosovo by the occupying powers, but it never clearly authorized independence for Kosovo. The powers administering Kosovo included the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and other European states, organized as the Kosovo Force (KFOR).

While the logic of the situation pointed toward an independent Kosovo, the mechanism envisioned for the province’s independence was a negotiated agreement with Serbia. The general view was that the new government and personalities in Belgrade would be far more interested in the benefits of EU membership than they would be in retaining control of Kosovo. Over nearly a decade, the expectation therefore was that the Serbian government would accede to an independent Kosovo in exchange for being put on a course for EU membership. As frequently happens — and amazes people for reasons we have never understood — nationalism trumped economic interests. The majority of Serbs never accepted secession. The United States and the Europeans, therefore, decided to create an independent Kosovo without Serbian acquiescence. The military and ethnic reality thus was converted into a political reality.

Those recognizing Kosovo’s independence have gone out of their way specifically to argue that this decision in no way constitutes a precedent. They argue that the Serbian oppression of the late 1990s, which necessitated intervention by outside military forces to protect the Kosovars, made returning Kosovo to Serbian rule impossible. The argument therefore goes that Kosovo’s independence must be viewed as an idiosyncratic event related to the behavior of the Serbs, not as a model for the future.

Other European countries, including Spain, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus, have expressly rejected this reasoning. So have Russia and China. Each of these countries has a specific, well-defined area dominated by a specific ethnic minority group. In these countries and others like them, these ethnic groups have demanded, are demanding or potentially will demand autonomy, secession or integration with a neighboring country. Such ethnic groups could claim, and have claimed, oppression by the majority group. And each country facing this scenario fears that if Kosovo can be taken from Serbia, a precedent for secession will be created.

The Spanish have Basque separatists. Romania and Slovakia each contain large numbers of Hungarians concentrated in certain areas. The Cypriots — backed by the Greeks — are worried that the Turkish region of Cyprus, which already is under a separate government, might proclaim formal independence. The Chinese are concerned about potential separatist movements in Muslim Xinjiang and, above all, fear potential Taiwanese independence. And the Russians are concerned about independence movements in Chechnya and elsewhere. All of these countries see the Kosovo decision as setting a precedent, and they therefore oppose it.

Europe is a case in point. Prior to World War II, Europe’s borders constantly remained in violent flux. One of the principles of a stable Europe has been the inviolability of borders from outside interference, as well as the principle that borders cannot be redefined except with mutual agreement. This principle repeatedly was reinforced by international consensus, most notably at Yalta in 1945 and Helsinki in 1973.

Thus, the Czech Republic and Slovakia could agree to separate, and the Soviet Union could dissolve itself into its component republics, but the Germans cannot demand the return of Silesia from Poland; outsiders cannot demand a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland; and the Russians cannot be forced to give up Chechnya. The principle that outside powers can’t redefine boundaries, and that secessionist movements can’t create new nations unilaterally, has been a pillar of European stability.

The critics of Kosovo’s independence believe that larger powers can’t redraw the boundaries of smaller ones without recourse to the United Nations. They view the claim that Yugoslavia’s crimes in Kosovo justify doing so as unreasonable; Yugoslavia has dissolved, and the Serbian state is run by different people. The Russians view the major European powers and the Americans as arrogating rights that international law does not grant them, and they see the West as setting itself up as judge and jury without right of appeal.

This debate is not trivial. But there is a more immediate geopolitical issue that we have discussed before: the Russian response. The Russians have turned Kosovo into a significant issue. Moscow has objected to Kosovo’s independence on all of the diplomatic and legal grounds discussed. But behind that is a significant challenge to Russia’s strategic position. Russia wants to be seen as a great power and the dominant power in the former Soviet Union (FSU). Serbia is a Russian ally. Russia is trying to convince countries in the FSU, such as Ukraine, that looking to the West for help is futile because Russian power can block Western power. It wants to make the Russian return to great power status seem irresistible.

The decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence in the face of Russian opposition undermines Russian credibility. That is doubly the case because Russia can make a credible argument that the Western decision flies in the face of international law — and certainly of the conventions that have governed Europe for decades. Moscow also is asking for something that would not be difficult for the Americans and Europeans to give. The resources being devoted to Kosovo are not going to decline dramatically because of independence. Putting off independence until the last possible moment — which is to say forever, considering the utter inability of Kosovo to care for itself — thus certainly would have been something the West could have done with little effort.

But it didn’t. The reason for this is unclear. It does not appear that anyone was intent on challenging the Russians. The Kosovo situation was embedded in a process in which the endgame was going to be independence, and all of the military force and the bureaucratic inertia of the European Union was committed to this process. Russian displeasure was noted, but in the end, it was not taken seriously. This was simply because no one believed the Russians could or would do anything about Kosovar independence beyond issuing impotent protestations. Simply put, the nations that decided to recognize Kosovo were aware of Russian objections but viewed Moscow as they did in 1999: a weak power whose wishes are heard but discarded as irrelevant. Serbia was an ally of Russia. Russia intervened diplomatically on its behalf. Russia was ignored.

If Russia simply walks away from this, its growing reputation as a great power will be badly hurt in the one arena that matters to Moscow the most: the FSU. A Europe that dismisses Russian power is one that has little compunction about working with the Americans to whittle away at Russian power in Russia’s own backyard. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko — who, in many ways, is more anti-Western than Russian President Vladimir Putin and is highly critical of Putin as well — has said it is too late to “sing songs” about Kosovo. He maintains that the time to stop the partition of Kosovo was in 1999, in effect arguing that Putin’s attempts to stop it were ineffective because it was a lost cause. Translation: Putin and Russia are not the powers they pretend to be.

That is not something that Putin in particular can easily tolerate. Russian grand strategy calls for Russia to base its economy on the export of primary commodities. To succeed at this, Russia must align its production and exports with those of other FSU countries. For reasons of both national security and economics, being the regional hegemon in the FSU is crucial to Russia’s strategy and to Putin’s personal credibility. He is giving up the presidency on the assumption that his personal power will remain intact. That assumption is based on his effectiveness and decisiveness. The way he deals with the West — and the way the West deals with him — is a measure of his personal power. Being completely disregarded by the West will cost him.

He needs to react.

The Russians are therefore hosting an “informal” CIS summit in Moscow on Friday. This is not the first such summit, by any means, and one was supposed to be held before this but was postponed. On Feb. 11, however, after it became clear that Kosovo would declare independence, the decision to hold the summit was announced. If Putin has a response to the West on Kosovo, it should reveal itself at the summit.

There are three basic strategies the Russians can pursue. One is to try to create a coalition of CIS countries to aid Serbia. This is complex in that Serbia may have no appetite for this move, and the other CIS countries may not even symbolically want to play.

The second option is opening the wider issue of altering borders. This could be aimed at sticking it to the Europeans by backing Serbian secessionist efforts in bifurcated Bosnia-Herzegovina. It also could involve announcing Russia’s plans to annex Russian-friendly separatist regions on its borders — most notably the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and perhaps even eastern Ukraine and the Crimea. (Annexation would be preferred over recognizing independence, since it would reduce the chances of Russia’s own separatist regions agitating for secession.) Russia thus would argue that Kosovo’s independence opens the door for Russia to shift its borders, too. That would make the summit exciting, particularly with regard to the Georgians, who are allied with the United States and at odds with Russia on Abkhazia and other issues.

The third option involves creating problems for the West elsewhere. An Iranian delegation will be attending the summit as “observers.” That creates the option for Russia to signal to Washington that the price it will pay for Kosovo will be extracted elsewhere. Apart from increased Russian support for Iran — which would complicate matters in Iraq for Washington — there are issues concerning Azerbaijan, which is sandwiched between Russia and Iran. In the course of discussions with Iranians, the Russians could create problems for Azerbaijan. The Russians also could increase pressure on the Baltic states, which recognized Kosovo and whose NATO membership is a challenge to the Russians. During the Cold War, the Russians were masters of linkage. They responded not where they were weak but where the West was weak. There are many venues for that.

What is the hardest to believe — but is, of course, possible — is that Putin simply will allow the Kosovo issue to pass. He clearly knew this was coming. He maintained vocal opposition to it beforehand and reiterated his opposition afterward. The more he talks and the less he does, the weaker he appears to be. He personally can’t afford that, and neither can Russia. He had opportunities to cut his losses before Kosovo’s independence was declared. He didn’t. That means either he has blundered badly or he has something on his mind. Our experience with Putin is that the latter is more likely, and this suddenly called summit may be where we see his plans play out.

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Fresh violence in Kosovo Serb protests http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/.element/img/2.0/global/story_tools/txt_minus_dn_.gif http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/.element/img/2.0/global/story_tools/txt_plus_dn.gif


<!--endclickprintexclude--><!--startclickprintexclude--><!--endclickprintexclude-->(CNN) -- Kosovo's breakaway from Serbia provoked fresh unrest Friday as U.N. police were attacked by ethnic Serb demonstrators in northern Kosovo a day after angry demonstrations in the Serbian capital Belgrade left one person dead.
<!--startclickprintexclude--><!-- PURGE: /2008/WORLD/europe/02/22/serbia.kosovo/art.kosovobridge.ap.jpg --><!-- KEEP -->http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/WORLD/europe/02/22/serbia.kosovo/art.kosovobridge.ap.jpg Serbs throw a firecracker towards police guarding a bridge in the ethnically divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica.






<!-- /PURGE: /2008/WORLD/europe/02/22/serbia.kosovo/art.kosovobridge.ap.jpg -->
<SCRIPT type=text/javascript _extended="true"> var CNN_ArticleChanger = new CNN_imageChanger('cnnImgChngr','/2008/WORLD/europe/02/22/serbia.kosovo/imgChng/p1-0.init.exclude.html',3,1);//CNN.imageChanger.load('cnnImgChngr','imgChng/p1-0.exclude.html');</SCRIPT><!--endclickprintexclude-->The Associated Press said protesters among a crowd of 5,000 trying to cross a key bridge in the divided city of Mitrovica, hurled empty bottles and stones at the police. It was initially thought that the police retaliated with canisters of tear gas but AP later said this was actually firecrackers fired by protesters.

The demonstrators were waving Serbian flags and chanting "Kosovo is ours!" on what was the fifth day of protests since Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia on Sunday.

The latest incident follows violent outbreaks in Belgrade which culminated in an attack on the U.S. Embassy that left one person dead and dozens injured, earning Serbia a stern rebuke from a senior U.S. diplomat on Friday.

Speaking to CNN, Undersecretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said Serbia had a "fundamental responsibility" to protect U.S. diplomats and citizens, adding that Washington would hold Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and his government "personally responsible" for assaults on U.S. interests.

"What happened yesterday in Belgrade was absolutely reprehensible," said Burns. "This kind of thing should not happen in a civilized country."

Speaking on Thursday, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, said: "Those scenes that we saw are regrettable. The Serbian government has repeated time and time again that any solution to the Kosovo problem -- other than a peaceful and mutually accepted compromise solution -- would lead to instability in the region. Unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears."

Serbian riot police were guarding the U.S. Embassy on Friday, one day after the charred body of a protester was found and dozens of people were reportedly injured in an attack by angry demonstrators.

Serbian TV showed someone trying to set fire to the U.S. flag at the embassy, which was closed and unstaffed when the masked protesters attacked. Riot police fired tear gas and lines of armored vehicles were deployed on the streets before the embassy perimeter was secured.

Belgrade fire officials said the body was found in an "unoccupied area" of one of the embassy buildings near the area reached by the demonstrators.
Thursday's violence was part of a much bigger, peaceful demonstration where up to 150,000 people chanted "Kosovo is Serbia," and vowed to never accept the province's independence.

Addressing the crowd, Kostunica said "Kosovo is Serbia's first name," calling Kosovo's declaration of independence illegal and vowing to do all he could to get it annulled.

The U.S. Embassy's consular section remained closed on Friday as officials were advised to stay at home amid continuing fears over anti-Western protests, according to a statement on the embassy Web site.

The Embassy warned American citizens to avoid areas of demonstration and to exercise "extreme caution."

Kosovo declared independence last Sunday and the United States was among the first countries to offer official recognition of its split from Serbia. http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/.element/img/2.0/mosaic/tabs/video.gif Watch a discussion on the history of tense relations between Serbia and Kosovo » (http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/02/22/serbia.kosovo/index.html#cnnSTCVideo)
Also Friday, Russia -- which has not recognized Kosovo's sovereignty -- said it has not ruled out using force to resolve the dispute over the territory if NATO forces breach the terms of their U.N. mandate.

"If the EU works out a single position or if NATO steps beyond its mandate in Kosovo, these organizations will be in conflict with the U.N., and then I think we will also begin operating under the assumption that in order to be respected, one needs to use force," Moscow's ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said, in comments carried by Russia's Interfax news agency.

A spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry warned that Kosovo's declaration would have a "negative impact."

"What happened in Belgrade yesterday is regrettable. But we would want to draw your attention to the fact that the forces that supported the unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence should have realized the effects of the move," spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told Interfax.

Russia, which has close ties with Serbia, has refused to recognize Kosovo's sovereignty, triggering a terse diplomatic standoff with the U.S. and several EU member states including the UK, France and Germany which have already recognized its independent status.

The U.S. Ambassador to NATO said Washington was "very disappointed" by Russia's position on Kosovo, The Associated Press reported.

"We've been very disappointed by Russia's reaction and we've been concerned about any efforts, whether they are Serb or from elsewhere, to incite violence at this delicate time," said Victoria Nuland.

<!--endclickprintexclude-->NATO has led a 15,000-strong peacekeeping operation -- known as KFOR -- in Kosovo since 1999 under the terms of a U.N. Security Council mandate authorized following a 78-day bombing campaign by the military alliance against Serbia.

Following Kosovo's declaration of independence last weekend, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said KFOR would "respond swiftly and firmly against anyone who might resort to violence in Kosovo."<!--startclickprintexclude-->
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Last Updated: Friday, 22 February 2008, 13:01 GMT

Russia could use force in Kosovo

<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=203 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD>http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/44444000/jpg/_44444664_cznatoap203body.jpg Czech Nato troops went to prevent further Serb violence

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Russia's ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, has warned that Russia could use military force if the Kosovo independence dispute escalates.

"If the EU develops a unified position or if Nato exceeds its mandate set by the UN, then these organisations will be in conflict with the UN," he said.

In that case Russia would "proceed on the basis that in order to be respected we need to use brute force", he said.
Many EU members have recognised Kosovo, but several oppose recognition.

Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, backs Serbia, which has condemned the independence declaration issued by the Kosovo parliament on 17 February.

On Tuesday members of the Serb minority in Kosovo attacked two border posts staffed by UN personnel and Kosovo police.
The violence led the Nato troops in Kosovo - known as K-For - to reinforce the border with Serbia.

Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians are following a plan drawn up by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari for "supervised independence", which was rejected by Serbia.

Russian media outcry

The EU will soon deploy 2,000 officials to strengthen law and order in Kosovo, which has a population of about two million. Russia argues that the mission has no legal basis.

There has been a furious reaction in some Russian media to Kosovo's declaration of independence.

A commentary in the Vesti Plus analytical programme, on state-run television, called the assassinated former Serbian Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, a Western puppet who had "received a well-deserved bullet".

It said Djindjic had sold national heroes to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

The programme concluded that Serbia - and not only Serbia - must now decide whether to acquiesce in what has happened, or resist.

Slimprofits
02-23-08, 03:25 PM
If Putin and the boys push this thing all the way, drawing European NATO countries in via Washington demands, than they could create some real problems for Washington allies in Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Lithuania, etc.

Honzajs119
02-23-08, 07:38 PM
If Putin and the boys push this thing all the way, drawing European NATO countries in via Washington demands, than they could create some real problems for Washington allies in Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia, Lithuania, etc.

I agree, so it is good that some Central European countries are already NATO members. It provides at least some umbrella from Russia pressure

the Hobbit
02-23-08, 07:46 PM
I imagine that the seperatists in the Soviet Union are watching this with interest. Perhaps the illegal Mexican immigrants in the American South West are thinking along similar lines.

Slimprofits
02-24-08, 01:30 AM
I wonder how someone like a Putin monitors the U.S. presidential election...

Chris
02-24-08, 05:31 AM
what were they smoking in the whitehouse boardroom when they decided to support the creation of a Muslim state in the heart of Europe? The cold war is over and the US should be taking Russian concerns very seriously. Especially, given that Balkan tensions have a history of spilling over into large wars. Absolutely crazy.

Honzajs119
02-24-08, 11:46 AM
Problem is that we in the Central Europe have quite bad historical experiences with Russians during 20th century - they were supporting communists plots after WW2, invasions into sovereign states after that (Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968), situation in Poland in 1981/1982, Berliner Wall...

Contemptuous
02-24-08, 12:07 PM
Problem is that we in the Central Europe have quite bad historical experiences with Russians during 20th century - they were supporting communists plots after WW2, invasions into sovereign states after that (Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968), situation in Poland in 1981/1982, Berliner Wall...

Honzajs119 -

I have an intuition that in 15-20 years the EU will be the (first or second) most powerful economic (and later on, inceasingly also military) Bloc in the world. And I don't think that the US will be among the first two. It will be EU vs. some Asian bloc, or even single country. But the geopolitical map will be greatly changed - changed by a massive US retreat from geopolitical pre-eminence - economic bankruptcy of the US will force a major restructuring of global obligations. And consequently the EU will step forwards for Western interests as resource depletion becomes more critical.

I can imagine also that tensions between economic Blocs will be much, much higher than today in 15 years, due to the transition through global resource depletion. EU will consequently be much more "monolithic" (and German political pre-eminence in Europe will be much stronger!). This is a mixture of good and bad things - but generally, mostly bad things, as resource depletion degrades quality of life for everyone and political tendencies become more "monolithic" to deal with the social stresses of a world starving for energy and loss of resources.

Honzajs119
02-24-08, 01:07 PM
Honzajs119 -

I have an intuition that in 15-20 years the EU will be the (first or second) most powerful economic (and later on, inceasingly also military) Bloc in the world. And I don't think that the US will be among the first two.

It is nice future, BUT I think it will be hard for EU to achieve. It will be hard way to get there. A lot of people are used to state guarantees, subsidies, etc.

First, a lot of socialism have to be removed from EU countries - e.g. France agriculture etc. More than in US.

Second, due to current age structure, a lot more immigrants will be needed what will even increase tension which already exists. Also disadvantage compared to US.

Third, significant changes in labor market are necessary. It is almost impossible to fire someone under current legislation in most of EU countries (Germany, France, Czechia...)

Forth, majority of pensions are covered by Pay As You Go system, own savings in private pension schemes ale very small in relation to PAYG system.

c1ue
02-25-08, 11:27 AM
I just wanted to add 2 cents on the Russia/Kosovo situation.

I think this whole affair has been horribly handled on all sides:

1) The EU plumping for the creation of a Muslim state in its area - very bad precedent.

I can't wait for parts of France, Germany, or even England to do so. It will take a generation, but it will happen.

2) Russia screwed up too: if Russia had chosen to ally with Turkey, for example, in opposition to the creation of a Muslim state, it is likely the result would have been different.

Rather, Putin tried to go it alone and failed.

metalman
02-25-08, 12:47 PM
I just wanted to add 2 cents on the Russia/Kosovo situation.

I think this whole affair has been horribly handled on all sides:

1) The EU plumping for the creation of a Muslim state in its area - very bad precedent.

I can't wait for parts of France, Germany, or even England to do so. It will take a generation, but it will happen.

2) Russia screwed up too: if Russia had chosen to ally with Turkey, for example, in opposition to the creation of a Muslim state, it is likely the result would have been different.

Rather, Putin tried to go it alone and failed.

so how big is this mess gonna get? seems like it never really went away.

Contemptuous
02-25-08, 01:04 PM
The STRATFOR article hinted it could go all the way down to a (armed) standoff between UN troops (unfortunate Czech UN peacekeepers caught in the middle on this detail) and a deployed Russian force "protecting the rights" of the Serbian minority, who are rioting (picture arson at various embassies or consulates for starters) in the meantime to disrupt the secession from Serbia.

Sounds a bit incredible, but then again, these are the Balkans, and the region is very good at serving up such quagmires. When you suddenly interject Russian forces into the picture the "risk of escalation" ratchets up a surprisingly large notch. Lots of risk of "losing face" on all sides makes it dangerous thereafter as it would become very much a NATO > Russia standoff. The key is whether we ever see Russian troops actually moved down there. I personally doubt it, but if we did, that would set the stage for "high tensions".

STRATFOR was arguing Putin will lose a lot of face (lose a lot of critical political capital as he moves toward retirement from Presidency) if he climbs down from this.

c1ue
02-25-08, 07:51 PM
I don't have a clue - the key in my mind is how much this Kosovo deal was or was not backed by the main Euro powers.

I suspect it was more of a UN thing as the UN is the entity giving passports to everyone, but then again what happened to the UN Security council?

Ultimately this will determine how hard Putin pushes; Russia needs Europe and vice versa.

metalman
02-25-08, 08:05 PM
I don't have a clue - the key in my mind is how much this Kosovo deal was or was not backed by the main Euro powers.

I suspect it was more of a UN thing as the UN is the entity giving passports to everyone, but then again what happened to the UN Security council?

Ultimately this will determine how hard Putin pushes; Russia needs Europe and vice versa.

but isn't putin the president of germany? :eek:

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