The following article presents a compelling proposal: that the newly-created state of Kosovo must be de-Islamized, for its own sake as well as that of its neighbors. The reason for this proposed initiative may come as a surprise to the reader.
Many thanks to our Albanian correspondent Ilia Toli, Ph.D., for the translation:
Kosovo: Referendum for De-Islamization?
By Kastriot Myftaraj
An article on Kosovo published at the Foreign Affairs journal is always interesting, because this is the journal for the Council on Foreign Relations, which is an important think tank with a high impact on the definition of the American foreign policy. In its number for May-June 2010 there appeared an article by Nikolas Gvosdev, entitled “Unfreezing Kosovo: Reconsidering Boundaries in the Balkans”. The author is at least as interesting as the article. Nikolas Gvosdev is a Russian-American, a former editor of the American journal The National Interest. Ever since 2008 he has been a professor at the Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island. The Naval War College is a school for the training of U.S. Marines, and a center for geostrategic studies. Nikolas Gvosdev indeed acts as a Russian lobbyist in the American establishment. He is for a policy of appeasement towards Russia and is even an apologist for the present authoritarian regime in the Kremlin, for which he has coined the term “managed pluralism.” Gvosdev is indeed a Russian lobbyist in the heart of the American strategic establishment. This is a symptom of the illness of the American society today, and would be one more footnote in the list of those identified by Samuel P. Huntington in the book Who Are We: The Challenges to America’s National Identity. (2004)
Gvosdev in his article says that with its sponsoring of Kosovo’s independence the USA has entered a dead end, because Kosovo failed to be recognized by the majority of world’s countries, that Kosovo is a failed state from the economic and institutional viewpoint, and that American support for Kosovo has hampered American collaboration with Serbia. Gvosdev suggests that in order to move forward Washington must end the connection between the independence question and the question of the borders. In other words, the question whether should there be an independent state with Albanian majority in Kosovo must be treated separately from the territorial issues. There are precedents to this approach: After WWI, before their creation, the international community recognized that the independent states of Poland and Armenia should be created. Today the Israel-Palestine peace process began with the assumption that the solution should finalize with the creation of two independent states, though there were no solutions to the territorial issues. Even during the failed Rambouillet negotiations diplomats committed the error of insisting that an independent Kosovo must cover the whole of the province, as defined by Josip Broz Tito. The issue of territorial adjustments must certainly be on the table. The general outlines of a solution are clear: regions with a Serb majority north of the Ibar river must belong to Serbia, with some adjustments made for the important sites of Serb heritage and the enclaves in South Kosovo.
In short, what Gvosdev suggests is the partition of Kosovo, with Serbia taking a part of it and the rest remaining as an independent state of Kosovo. Gvosdev takes no care to disguise his pro-Serb attitude [nor do I! — translator]. He says that it was a mistake to take for granted borders designed by Tito for Kosovo, but does not say that even these borders were at the expense of the Albanians, because they left out of Kosovo the Preševo Valley, which is evident. In a land-for-land agreement with Serbia, this solves only a part of Kosovo’s problems as presented by Gvosdev, citing even a high American official, that “As U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said recently, Kosovo is hampered by ‘high unemployment, low investment rates, and a relatively small economic base.’ The government in Priština requires Western aid to meet its expenses. Meanwhile, Kosovo remains a regional hub for narcotics, weapons, and human trafficking, with corruption a major deterrent to foreign investment.” If Kosovo is partitioned, these problems will remain, their cause being the meager economic base and the diminutive dimensions of the country. Kosovo will be a poor country with circa 9000 square km and over 2,000,000 inhabitants, which will not make it interesting to foreign investors. This will create a vicious circle in which the institutions cannot function, corruption and organized crime cannot be fought because of the poverty, and the poverty cannot be mitigated for lack of foreign investment.
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What are we left with then, if Kosovo is partitioned again? If it is to be partition, as Gvosdev suggests, then there is only one reasonable scenario that solves the issue: partition of Kosovo between Serbia and Albania. If the issue on the table is partition, then negotiations must not be held between Belgrade and Priština, but between Belgrade and Tirana. This would be the optimal solution for the issues at Gvosdev presents. So, 2,000,000 Albanians would be added to a country of 38,000 square km, with a wide sea outlet, where there is already important foreign investment, which would automatically expand to the market in Kosovo. The increase of the Albanian market by 2,000,000 people would push other foreign investors to come to the country. If the partition were between Albania and Serbia, then even Preševo Valley would be on the table, as a compensation for the territory that Serbia would be taking in North Kosovo.
But Gvosdev does not want Kosovo to be partitioned between Albania and Serbia, he wants the independent state of Kosovo to remain, so that when conditions are ripe, Serbia may annex it, ethnically cleansing the Albanians. Gvosdev offers an expedient in his paper, which Serbia can use in the future, when he suggests the solution for the places of Serb cultural heritage that remain under the Kosovo state and the Serb-majority townships there:
“One possible model for the latter is the agreement reached between Italy and the Vatican in 1929. For decades, the Catholic Church had not recognized the takeover of Rome by Italy in 1870; the Italian state was similarly uninclined to cede its claim over its capital city. The Lateran Treaty resolved this issue by establishing Vatican City as a neutral but independent state. Additionally, the Vatican received extraterritorial rights over sacred sites in and around Rome and in other parts of Italy. Of course, the Kosovo case is not identical, but the Lateran model could provide guidelines for a sustainable settlement.”
A professor such as Gvosdev is not ignorant; he knowingly and grossly lies, as the Russian-Serb lobbyist that he is. The Lateran Treaty was implemented to guarantee the continuity of the existence of the Holy See as a state, as it was up until 1870, when the territory of the Papal States was annexed by Italy. In the case of Kosovo, Professor Gvosdev demands that this status be given to the Serbian Church. With the Ahtisaari plan, whose points now have been made into laws by the parliament of Kosovo, the Serbian Church earns practically the status of an independent country, as it enjoys sovereignty over vast territories, of the holy places in Kosovo, and in territories around them. Also the Serbian Church of Kosovo has earned other attributes that enable it to behave as a state; among others, tax and customs privileges, and the right to import and export goods with such privileges “for the economic activity that the Serbian Church exercises in Kosovo to sustain itself”. But these provisions are so wide that the Serbian Church has the right to import and export machinery, raw materials, goods, that would make it a center of black market activity and fiscal evasion for the entire Serb community in Kosovo, and probably also for the other communities that would collaborate with it. The Serbian Church in Kosovo is in a very favorable position to do this, because it exercises sovereignty over 42 places, the so-called protected areas, which are found all over Kosovo.
The Serbian Church of Kosovo has a peculiarity preventing it from acquiring the status that the Vatican attained with the Lateran Treaty. The Vatican was not connected with another state, and its center was in Rome, and not in another state. The Serbian Church of Kosovo is part of Serbian Church with its center in Belgrade, and is recognized as such by the Ahtisaari plan. For a similar reason the relations between Kingdom of Italy and Vatican were frozen till the end of WWI. The Holy See, with its center in Rome, was traditionally connected with the Holy Roman Empire, whose successor state was Austria-Hungary. The Italian kingdom, created in 1861, warily watched the special relationship between the Vatican and Vienna. It took the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of WWI to create the conditions for a treaty between Italy and the Vatican. Had the Serbian Church taken the status the Vatican has in Italy, this would just be a state expedient for Serbia inside what remains of Kosovo. The Serbian Church will be a micro-empire, with 42 micro-principalities distributed all around Kosovo, that would declare war on Kosovo. Through such a basis, Serbia would enact scenarios to undo the state of Kosovo, after the example of Israel in Gaza and West Bank. If the Serbian Church of Kosovo keeps the status that it has, scenarios of Islamic terrorist attacks against Serb holy places will be plotted that will bring about the intervention of the Serb army in Kosovo. The more the number of KFOR troops diminishes, the more Serbia will be tempted to do so in the future.
From the Gvosdev paper Albanians of Kosovo must understand the dangers that may come from where they least expect them, from the USA. Kosovo Albanians must learn a lesson from the fact that Serbia is using religion to regain control over Kosovo. Serbia lost Kosovo in the war, but it is earning it in peace, through the Serbian Church. But for Serbia to win this battle in peace, Kosovo must have an Islamic profile, with mosques, waqfs [Islamic trusts], madrassas, and crowds of Muslim believers that pray in on religious holidays. In such circumstances, Kosovo Albanians have one only alternative: to de-Islamize Kosovo. Either Kosovo Albanians will self-de-Islamize, or Islam will strangle them, serving as the loop by which Serbia will strangle them. Many people in Kosovo won’t care about this, because they think that it’s better to go to Jannat strangled by Serbs than to Jannam [Muslim hell — translator] as a denier of Islam. But I hold the belief that the vast majority of Kosovo Albanians don’t think that way. Kosovo Albanians must think about a referendum for the de-Islamization of Kosovo.