Is there no problem a surge can't fix? Michael Chertoff tells the New York Times that the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to build a fence and boost security on the Mexican border aren't just about immigration, they're also to keep Mexico's drug violence on the other side of the border. If it does spill over, they have a plan:
"We completed a contingency plan for border violence, so if we did get a significant spillover, we have a surge — if I may use that word — capability to bring in not only our own assets but even to work with" the Defense Department, Chertoff said in a telephone interview.
Officials of the Homeland Security Department said the plan called for aircraft, armored vehicles and special teams to converge on border trouble spots, with the size of the force depending on the scale of the problem. Military forces would be called upon if civilian agencies like the Border Patrol and local law enforcement were overwhelmed, but the officials said military involvement was considered unlikely.
I'm glad that DHS is paying attention to the unfairly overlooked drug violence in Mexico, but I doubt that U.S. military personnel operating in the southern United States would be any more effective at combating drug traffickers than the 45,000 troops that Mexico has deployed in its own territory. Or, for that matter, the Colombian military's U.S.-funded efforts.
Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Photo: Mike Lutz/DHS via Getty Images
In Azerbaijan's breakaway majority-Armenian province of Nagorno-Karabakh, 700 ethnic-Armenian couples were wed in a mass ceremony on Oct. 16. Anahit Hayrapetyan reports for Eurasianet:
Russian-Armenian businessman Levon Hairapetian, a native of the Karabakh village of Vank, financed the ceremonies. Each couple received a payment of $2,000; newlyweds living in villages received a cow. That financial support will continue with each child born: couples will receive $2,000 for their first child, $3,000 for a second child, and increasing sums up to $100,000 for a seventh child.
The ultimate aim of the event was to stimulate a baby boom in the territory. A 2005 census put Karabakh's predominantly ethnic Armenian population at just over 145,000.
It's certainly a novel nation-building strategy, though I'm not sure a few thousand more babies is really going to turn Nagorno-Karabakh into the next Kosovo. Then again, it is one of the former Soviet Union's more obscure frozen conflicts, so I guess anything that gets a bit of press is at least a small victory.
Check out the rest of Hayrapetyan's photo essay here.
Anahit Hayrapetyan for Eurasianet.
Via Slate, here's a nifty webcam that shows you live images of Russia taken from across the international dateline in Alaska. (Actually it's the Russian island of Big Diomede from the Alaskan Little Diomede):
Dmitry Medvedev stepped up the brewing territorial conflict in the Arctic today by announcing that Russia would formalize its northern border. The competition for energy resources in the Arctic region has been heating up as global warming has made them more accessible.
Under international law, the five countries with Arctic claims -- Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway, and Denmark (Greenland) -- can exploit resources up to 200 miles off their coastlines. The Russians say their continental shelf extends under the North Pole, where they used a miniature submarine to plant the Russian flag last year in a widely reported publicity stunt.
Our first and fundamental task is to turn the Arctic into a resource base for Russia in the 21st century. Using these resources will entirely guarantee Russia's energy security. [...] We must finalize and draft a law on setting the southern border of the Arctic region.... This is our responsibility to future generations."
The folks in Canada, which has a massive Arctic claim as well, aren't taking this very well. Canada was already looking north uneasily after the invasion of Georgia and has been conducting military excercises in the region. Some commentators are now calling for Canada to increase its activity in the Arctic in order to bolster its territorial claim. There is apparently no ban on weapons in the area so it's not hard to imagine things getting out of hand.
As for the United States' own Arctic rights, I can't help thinking that this is an international topic that the governor of Alaska might actually be expected to know about. Maybe Sean Hannity could ask her for us tonight?
The Guardian's Luke Harding has a great piece on the potential for a South Ossetia-type conflict in Ukraine's Crimea region:
Russian-speaking residents say the peninsula, a mass tourist destination in Soviet times, ended up in Ukraine by mistake. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954. Russia affirmed the modern borders of Ukraine in a 1997 friendship treaty. Last April, however, Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister, contemptuously described Ukraine as "not even a real state".
Nationalist Crimean MPs now liken Crimea to Kosovo - the former Serbian province largely recognised as independent by the west this year. According to Leonid Grach, a pro-Russian communist MP, Crimea will declare itself independent should Yushchenko press ahead with his plans for Ukraine to join Nato.
"If Yushchenko declares that Russia is the enemy, Crimea won't accept it," Grach said. "It means that Ukraine will break up. In Crimea there will be a war - maybe even a world war." Ukraine should renounce Nato, agree a friendship and cooperation treaty with Russia, and prolong the lease for Russia's Black Sea fleet, Grach said.
I had been skeptical that Russia had the same capacity to undermine the Ukrainian state as it did with fractured Georgia, but after Ukraine's governing coalition collapsed today over disagreement as to whether to condemn the Russian invasion of Georgia, it's starting to seem less far-fetched.
Russia's campaign to win international recognition for the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia isn't going as well as they may have hoped. So far only Nicaragua, of all places, has signed on. Belarus and Venezuela were both staunch supporters of Russia during the war with Georgia but haven't yet indicated that they intend to recognize the two regions. Moscow will push its case at a meeting of seven former-Soviet republics today in Moscow.
If you're keeping score for the "new cold war" at home, that's Kosovo: 46, South Ossetia and Abkhazia: 2.
That was quick.
Soon there will be no North or South Ossetia — there will be a united Alania as part of Russia," [Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Tarzan] Kokoiti said, using another name for Ossetia.
"We will live in one united Russian state," he said.
Only this morning, the New York Times ran a feature on Ossetian nationalists imagining a future as the Andorra or Liechtenstein of the Caucasus. Oh well.
|Abkhazian flag||South Ossetian flag|
Russia's State Duma unanimously approved a resolution today to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the breakaway regions of Georgia, as independent states. This move has been hinted at for months but obviously, as RIA-Novosti observes, "the Georgian-Russian conflict has dramatically changed the position of the self-proclaimed republics."
President Medvedev still has to approve the resolution, but it's not too early to consider the implications of Russia's recognition. This development seems to be the best indication so far that the dreaded Kosovo effect -- the emboldening of separatist movements around the world in the wake of Kosovo's recognition -- was more than just hype. This was exactly what the Georgians had in mind when they decided not to recognize Kosovo last winter.
While U.N. membership for the two new states is about as likely as Putin and Saakashvili taking a fishing trip this fall, it will be interesting to see if any countries follow Russia's lead and recognize them. Recognition has historically had much more to do with politics than international law and it's quite possible that countries hoping to curry favor with the Russians --Belarus and Venezuela come to mind -- might set up ties with the de facto states. Analyst Paul Goble believes 15 to 20 countries might join in, hardly an international consensus but still enough to avoid a "Cyprus scenario" where the states would be recognized by only one other country.
This month's events have given some other frozen conflict participants pause as well. Medvedev was leaning pretty hard on Moldova's president this weekend, urging him not to repeat the "Georgian mistake" by trying to retake control of the quasi-independent Transnistria region, which is tepidly supported by Russia. The Moldovans seem to have gotten the message and I wouldn't be surprised if Moscow continued to use the former Soviet Union's separatist movements for political leverage. (Crimea, perhaps?)
Let the recognition wars begin.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said today, in no uncertain terms, that Georgia will lose South Ossetia. He also extended this forecast to the separatist enclave of Abkhazia, saying that it was "unlikely Ossetians and Abkhazians will ever be able to live together with Georgia in one state."
In fact, South Ossetia and Abkhazia have enjoyed de facto independence from Georgia for well over a decade, although international recognition has not followed. There are ethnic, religious and cultural differences between the two regions and Tbilisi that make unification impossible, even if the international community recognizes them as one country. Put bluntly, South Ossetians and Abkhazians hate Georgians and vice versa.
The key question moving forward, then, is not Georgia's role in the two regions, but Russia's. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assured us in the Financial Times Tuesday that "Russia has no intention of annexing or occupying any part of Georgia and has again affirmed its respect for its sovereignty."
But in Russia's eyes, respect for the Georgian sovereignty still makes Abkhazia and South Ossetia fair game. Lavrov also notes that the majority of South Ossetia's people are Russian citizens, glossing over the fact that Moscow has been conveniently issuing South Ossetians Russian passports for years, making direct intervention in the region a necessity to "protect Russian citizens."
Seasoned Russia hand Strobe Talbott worries that the Kremlin might attempt to "Balkanize" the Caucasus, bringing the surrounding territories under Russian control in the same manner that Slobodan Milosevic tried to reunite the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s:
If [Lavrov] has given the world a glimpse of the Russian endgame, it's dangerous in its own right and in the precedent it would set. South Ossetia and Abkhazia might be set up as supposedly independent countries ("just like Kosovo," the Russians would say) -- but would in fact be satrapies of Russia."
Here's a little-noticed story suggesting that, despite the Russo-Georgian war, the international system is alive and well.
Claimed by both Nigeria and Cameroon, the Bakassi peninsula has a local population that considers itself Nigerian, but is believed to hold rich oil and gas deposits. You might think such a situtation is a recipe for disaster.
Not so. Nigeria has just officially ceded Bakassi to Cameroon, honoring a 2002 ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and bringing a peaceful close to a decades-long despute. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the transfer as "a model for negotiated settlements of border disputes," and Nigerian officials cited the importance of international law in reaching the settlement:
The gains made in adhering to the rule of law may outweigh the painful losses of ancestral homes," said the head of the Nigerian delegation, Attorney General Mike Aondoakaa.
The agreement isn't perfect. Some analysts expressed concern that armed groups opposed to the handover will sow violence to further delay the deal.
Still, in an age when nationalism and natural resources seem to trump all, it's an encouraging sign. Hopefully, Nigeria's move will further legitimize the international legal system, which has seen its rulings recently ignored by the United States and Sudan. Now Georgia, too, is seeking the ICJ's assistance to remedy its conflict with Russia. Unfortunately, I'd expect it to be easier for Russia to ignore the ICJ than it was for Nigeria.
The Arctic oil rush is going to be messy. Need proof? Look no further than this new map from researchers at Durham University -- the first of its kind to delineate countries' current territorial claims and predict where disputes may arise in the future.
The U.S. Geological Survey last month revealed that as much as a fifth of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves may be in the Arctic, with perhaps as many as 90 billion barrels of oil, enough to meet current global demand for nearly three years at current rates. Heads-up to the six countries with territorial rights: Iceland, U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark. Get ready for the scramble.
(Hat tip: Popular Science)
Yesterday, a shorn and shaven Radovan Karadzic faced his first day in court at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The Karadzic arrest has been hailed as a pivotal turning point in Serbia's path to EU cooperation and accession. But although Karadzic was captured in Serbia, his crimes were in creating the ethnically divided state that is Bosnia. And in Bosnia today, the story remains less than comforting.
In a compelling call for a revitalization of international efforts in the still-fractured country, Paddy Ashdown, former head of the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, explains:
Bosnia's predominantly Serb entity, Republika Srpska, Karadzic's creation, has seen the vacuum where will and policy should be. Its premier, Milorad Dodik, is now aggressively reversing a decade of reforms. He has set up the parallel institutions and sent delegations to Montenegro to find out how they broke away….
Meanwhile, in European capitals the growing view goes like this. We invested 13 years of hard work and huge resource in Bosnia. Now it is stable and peaceful and we are rather tired. Kosovo has proved it is possible to divide a country. What matter if Bosnia becomes another Cyprus?…
This is folly of a very dangerous order. What happens to the Muslim populations who have moved back to Republika Srpska, even to Srebrenica, if they are handed back to an exclusively Serb-dominated regime? What happens to Bosnia's shining star, the multi-ethnic, markedly successful sub-entity of Brcko, hemmed in by Republika Srpska? Is it to be handed over, too? I do not believe Bosnia is likely to go back to conflict; most of its people are just too war-weary. But the one event that could change that calculation in favour of blood would be to return to the old Karadzic/Milosevic plan to divide Bosnia.
But minus those few returnees and that one "shining star," Bosnia is divided, functioning largely as two separate, ethnically split states. Yes, it's a sad fact -- one that U.N. peacekeepers allowed to materialize between 1992 and 1995, and one that any international efforts will be hard pressed to undo.
It's no wonder the celebration over Karadzic's arrest in Bosnia has been short-lived. For as Bosnian novelist Aleksandar Hemon concludes in an excellent NYT op-ed, "Justice is good, but a peaceful life would have been much better."
RAFAH - EGYPT CROSSING, GAZA STRIP - JULY 01: Palestinians try to pass a child over the gate of the Rafah border crossing to Egypt on July 1, 2008 in the southern Gaza Strip. Egypt opened the border crossing with Rafah on Tuesday for three days for the limited passage of people such as Palestinians stranded in Egypt and Gazans seeking medical treatment abroad.
Stuart Hill, the owner of a small island off the coast of Scotland, declares he is no longer under British rule:
I have recently become the owner of a tiny island off Papa Stour, which itself (for the benefit of non-Shetlanders) is a small island off the west coast of Shetland. I am returning to the Nordic tradition by re-naming it Forvik Island – Island of the Bay of Sheep. On 21st June 2008, Forvik, by my Declaration of Dependence, reverted to Shetland’s true constitutional position – that of a Crown Dependency. Other Crown Dependencies include The Isle of Man and The Channel Islands.
Forvik Island, or Forvik for short, recognises neither the British Government, nor the European Union as its superior. Because of Shetland’s unique history, there can have been no legal basis for Shetland to have been involved with either. It recognises Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I of Scotland and II of the United Kingdom as head of state.
Hill is also inviting others to apply for citizenship. If you are not a resident of the Shetland Islands, you can become an "honorary citizen of Forvik" by forking over one Forvik gulde, a currency tied to the daily market price of gold at a rate of 13 percent. Honorary citizens get a share of the profits from land sales (the island is 2.5 acres in size) as well as "duty-free activities, company registrations, vehicle registrations and other activities."
I wonder if was inspired by our primer on "How to Start Your Own Country in Four Easy Steps."
(Hat tip: Reason)
The smaller the renegade province, the bigger the pawn -- at least so it seems in the world of post-communist geostrategic positioning. Just as the dust has begun to settle around the Kosovo independence issue, Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia now find themselves front and center in the separatist question lime light.
In recent months,
With Moscow-Tbilisi tensions running high, let’s take a look at what Abkhazia and
According to this week’s Tuesday Map of Georgia’s environmental and security issues from the IDMC (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre), the two rebel provinces come complete with two refugee camps (orange triangles), two nuclear waste sites (yellow markers), and one “large aging Soviet industrial complex still generating pollution” (red circle).
Abkhazia does have a beautiful coast -- so beautiful, in fact, that the most famous Georgian of them all incorporated it into
All in all, I can see why neither
Is Georgia teetering on the brink of civil war? Or will the status of the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain an ambiguous frozen conflict? Either way, Russia wins.
On Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry ratcheted up the pressure on Georgia by establishing legal ties with the two republics, which have been quasi-independent entities since the early 1990s. Georgia's leaders are predictably apoplectic over what they see as a Russian annexation of one third of their territory. Putin claims he wants to take steps to improve relations with Georgia and has instructed his government to lift trade restrictions between the countries. These overtures haven't gone over that well either, though. The United States and European Union strongly criticized Russia's meddling in the breakaway regions, but the Georgians probably sense that Western onlookers aren't prepared to do much to back up their words.
Whatever happens, it's likely to be good for Putin. If violence breaks out in the republics, it effectively scuttles Georgia's bid to join NATO. If the stalemate persists and Georgia is forced to live with the new arrangement, it demonstrates Russia's ability to impose its will on its neighbors without international consequences. In either scenario, Putin also gets to attack Western hypocrisy over the recognition of Kosovo.
I guess "lame duck" doesn't really translate in Russian.
It’s official: Macedonians are real, at least according to the U.S. State Department.
At a NATO Summit Foreign Press Center briefing yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried was asked by a journalist if his use of the phrase “ethnic Macedonian” during the briefing meant that the U.S. Government has recognized “the so-called ‘Macedonian ethnicity and language."' (briefing video here, skip to 37:15)
As if Macedonia didn't have enough identity issues already, "so-called” comes in reference to the Bulgarian assertian that Macedonian, the language, is nothing more than a Bulgarian dialect written in a Serbian script.
But Fried would hear none of it:
I don't think it is so-called. Macedonian language exists. Macedonian people exist. We teach Macedonian at the Foreign Service Institute… There is also the historic Macedonian province, which is different from the country. And it's important. It's quite clear that the government in Skopje, what we Americans call the Government of Macedonia, has no claims. We recognize the difference between the historic territory of Macedonia, which is, of course, much larger than the current country.
By refusing to back down on his use of “
This week’s Tuesday map comes to us from a billboard controversy south of the border.
Created by advertising agency Teran/TBWA and launched a few weeks ago in Mexico, the Absolut billboard ad depicted pre-1848
The campaign was obviously intended for a Mexican audience, as Favio Ucedo, creative director of a top Latino advertising firm, explained:
Many (Americans) aren’t going to understand it. Americans in the East and the North or in the center of the county -- I don’t know if they know much about the history… Probably Americans in Texas and California understand perfectly, and I don’t know how they’d take it.”
But Absolut quickly learned just how some Americans would take it: not well. Although the ad never appeared in the U.S., it was picked up by American media outlets, causing a flurry of complaint from
As of Friday, Absolut’s maker Vin & Spirits had decided to withdraw the apparently offensive advertisement even though it "was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility... [and was] in no way was meant to offend or disparage, nor...advocate an altering of borders..."
As expected, NATO has decided not to extend an invitation to the Republic of Macedonia -- excuse me, I mean "the Former Yugoslav Constitutional Republic of Upper Northwestern Macedonia, Skopje." That's right, Greece stuck to its nationalistic guns on the name issue today, carrying out its threat to block NATO membership if Macedonia didn't agree (and it didn't) to call itself the "Republic of Upper Macedonia," the "Republic of Macedonia, Skopje," or some comparably wordy derivative.
Macedonians didn't take the rejection well. After Greece blocked accession talks, Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski and his delegation walked out of the meeting. Antonio Milososki, Foreign Minister, told reporters:
We are [in Bucharest] today to announce that we are leaving the summit. We feel it necessary to be with our people today.”
Not a bad idea. Their people needed all the comforting they could get. Back at home, Macedonian stocks suffered a record blow, with the Macedonian Bourse Index losing 10.4 percent of its total value after it became clear that the country would not get an invite.
Acceptance into NATO carries great weight for these small, former communist countries. Neighboring President Bamir Topi of Albania, whose country did receive a coveted NATO invitation, proclaimed, "This is the most important decision in the history of Albanian people… With this decision we are definitely separated from Yalta," referring to the 1945 conference of the "Big Three" at which Stalin claimed Albania for the communist bloc.
But NATO membership is more than symbolic for Macedonia, which narrowly missed a Kosovo-style ethnic war in 2001 thanks to an EU/NATO-brokered peace agreement. The country may now decide to pull out of U.N.-led name negotiations entirely, in which case Greece will repeat its power play on the EU front. If Macedonia is knocked off its current EU accession path because of a Macedonian identity issue, the state's large, pro-EU Albanian minority will not be happy. And all we need in the Balkans is one more unhappy ethnic minority.
Ireland's decision to send Dustin the Turkey -- a crass puppet who rides around in a shopping cart -- as its representative to the Eurovision Song Contest was met with mixed reviews by audience members last month. But the Irish aren't the only ones calling this turkey "fowl." Once again, because of the Macedonia name issue, the Greeks are up in arms.
At one point in the turkey's song "Irelande Douze Pointe" ("Ireland Twelve Points," in reference to the maximum points each country can give a contestant), Dustin sings, "Eastern Europe we love you, do you like Irish stew, or goulash as it is to you?" then proceeds to list countries in Eastern Europe one by one, including Macedonia (check here for clearer audio -- the lyrics are pretty great).
Ever since Macedonia's independence in 1991, Athens has argued that the name "Macedonia" is a part of Hellenic cultural heritage and that the former Yugoslav republic expresses territorial claims on northern Greece by using it. Now, thanks to Greek paranoia, rumor has it that Dustin the Turkey will have to join the U.N. in calling the country FRY Macedonia ("The Former Yugoslav Republic of...") in his lyrics.
But the name issue gets far more serious on the security front. Macedonia hopes to be invited to join NATO at the Bucharest Summit this coming Wednesday, but an invitation requires the unanimous support of existing NATO members, including Greece. Despite months of U.N.-supervised negotiations, neither Athens nor Skopje seem capable of coming to an agreement any time soon, spelling trouble for Macedonia's NATO aspirations.
Greece may have Macedonia in a NATO bind, but come May we'll see who gets the last Eurovision laugh. With acts like this as the winning standard, it's really anyone's game.
Last week, Serbia announced it would refrain from placing an embargo on Kosovo, whose economy has already suffered under eight years of undefined status.
Despite the announcement, legal trade between Kosovo and Serbia has dropped by an estimated 50 percent since Feb. 17, a noticeable loss as Serbia has otherwise remained Kosovo's biggest source of imports over the last 8 years.
High on the list of goods in short supply are the tasty, strangely addicting, Serbia-made treat known as the Plazma cookie. Plazma cookies and other goods have reportedly disappeared from Kosovar markets due to strict product label requirements. Since independence, Kosovo has required all products distributed in Kosovo to say "Republic of Kosovo." This is a problem under Serbian law:
A company, Serbian or foreign, can face fines of up to 1.0 million dinars ($19,000) if it mentions Kosovo as a separate territory on labels used on products sold in Serbian stores. Terms allowed are 'UNMIK/Kosovo', referring to the United Nations mission that took over the province in 1999 after NATO expelled Serb forces, 'Kosovo, Serbia' and 'Kosovo/1244', the number of the Security Council resolution that put Kosovo under U.N. administration."
According to Reuters reporters Ivana Sekularac and Shaban Buza, such discrepancies send a message of market uncertainty, curbing trade and regional investment. But Plazma has found a solution. The cookie company has simply opted to list the Kosovo distributor as in
Plazma are one of the most wanted and best-selling Serbian products, people really like them," said Tahir, an employee at a big supermarket in Pristina. "We tried with some similar Italian cookies, but in the end sold only two packs."
Not too surprising -- I bet the Italian cookies don't have quite the same effect.
In an interview today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov linked the ongoing violence in Tibet to the dreaded "Kosovo precedent":
There are grounds to presume that this is not occurring by chance [...] You can see what is happening in China's autonomous region of Tibet, how the separatists there are acting. The Albanians in Macedonia are already demanding a level of autonomy that is a clear step toward independence. Furthermore, events in other areas of the world give us grounds to assume that we are only at the beginning of a very precarious process."
It seems like the sinister implication of Kosovo for the future of the nation-state is fast becoming one of the Russian government's favorite rhetorical devices. Except for when it isn't of course.
(Hat tip: Robert Amsterdam)
Tensions in Kosovo between minority Serbs and U.N. peacekeepers turned violent Monday when a peaceful protest in the Serbian controlled northern half of Kosovska Mitrovica got ugly (think Molotov cocktail ugly). The clash left one U.N. police officer dead and more than 130 people injured. And despite today's calls for an end to the violence from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, riots have only continued.
You may be wondering: Why is it so important for Kosovo to keep this little town within its newly declared borders? Ask an Albanian Kosovar, and he'll tell you it's not. Mitrovica is a sad little town, once ravaged by war and now home to a bunch of scared, isolated Serbs. And the same can be said for many small towns situated between Kosovo's northern border with Serbia and the Ibar River.
So why not just let them go? After all, if Albanian-majority Kosovo can just leave Serbia, why can't Serb-majority Mitrovica leave Kosovo in turn?
Because, for the last eight years, the West has toed the "partition is not an option" line, and with good reason. In a region already teeming with disputed boundaries drawn around ethnically cleansed communities (fruits of the wars of the 1990s), partition could only make things worse.
Looking at Kosovo alone, partition would be tough. More than half of Kosovo's Serbs live south of the Ibar. To only partition the northern enclaves would only half address the issue, and even moderate partitioning would indirectly legitimize the population swapping that turned so bloody back in 1999. Regionally speaking, partition would also only add fuel to separatist flames, sending the wrong message to Serbs in Bosnia's Repulika Srpska and Albanians in Macedonia.
So even as the U.N. withdraws its forces from the north, the West will keep up its "no partition" mantra. Good thing, too. The last thing Europe needs right now is a precedent for the creation of endless mini ethnic states.
A senior EU official has told reporters that Russia may be preparing to recognize Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia:
There is a growing preoccupation and anxiety that Russia may be paving the way for recognition of Abkhazia," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said while reaffirming EU support for Georgia's borders.
"Georgia's territorial integrity has always been clearly supported by the EU... this is absolutely clear," she told a news conference before EU foreign ministers were due to discuss Georgia at their monthly meeting in Brussels.
"We will be discussing Georgia and... what can we do in order to support more strongly Georgia in a difficult situation."
Russia took a first step toward recognition last week when it lifted trade restrictions with the territory. It's hard to see this as anything but cynical "Kosovo payback" against Georgia's allies -- the United States and the EU -- that can only further destabalize an already volatile region. But since Abkhazia has been de facto independent since the early '90s and meets most of international law's minimum criteria for sovereignty, it will be interesting to see how Brussels and Washington will make the case that it is less deserving of statehood than Kosovo. We may be witnessing a return to the politically motivated recognition battles of the Cold War era.
The Russians may also be playing with fire by stirring up latent nationalism in the Caucasus -- a policy that they may come to regret down the road.
As many as 16 soldiers died Tuesday in a clash between
We have been buying military machinery, airplanes and ammunition to be ready to liberate the occupied territories, and we are ready to do this.”
Indeed, tensions have been escalating for a while -- in November, Azerbaijan's defense minister said the chances of war were "close to 100 percent." Nonetheless, A
Aliyev's speech came in part as a reaction to Kosovo's recent declaration of independence. Azerbaijan staunchly opposes independence for Kosovo, fearing that Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh could see international recognition of Kosovo as a green light for its own full independence. U.S. officials may repeat the refrain that "Kosovo does not constitute any precedent whatsoever," but clearly, plenty of other countries and regions see it as exactly that.
Give Björk points for chutzpah. At the end of her song, "Declare Independence," the iconoclastic Icelandic pop singer shouted, "Tibet! Tibet!" The incident would be unremarkable were she not in Shanghai at the time. Naturally, her outburst wasn't reported in China's rigidly state-controlled press, but it has stirred up nationalist anger online. And it made the closing moments of her concert a little awkward:
The atmosphere was very strange, uncomfortable compared to the rest of the concert," said audience member Stephen Gow, a British teacher who lives in Shanghai. People didn't boo, Gow said, but they left the Shanghai International Gymnastic Center hurriedly.
Björk appears to use the song as a neo-Wilsonian Mad-Lib. Last month, she dedicated it to Kosovo, and in the video for it, she wears an outfit bearing the flags of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, both Danish territory.
Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis said today that his country will block
So what’s wrong with “
Speaking between rounds of negotiations between Skopje and
I want to be very clear on this. The intransigence of our neighbor is dashing its ambitions to join NATO and the European Union. If there is no settlement, the neighboring country cannot aspire to join NATO. Our position 'no solution-no invite' is clear."
On Tuesday, U.N. envoy Matthew Nimetz proposed five name alternatives: Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, Democratic Republic of Macedonia, Independent Republic of Macedonia, New Republic of Macedonia and
Clearly, these choices were not satisfactory to Macedonians because riots broke out on Wednesday over the prospect of tampering with the country’s constitutional name. With Greece still hung up on a name from the third century B.C., Serbia's 1389 claim to Kosovo suddenly seems more reasonable.
Last year, FP's "Top 10 Stories You Missed" highlighted an issue that hadn't yet gotten a lot of attention in the press -- the fact that nearly half of the 700 miles of fence being built along the U.S.-Mexico border was actually slated to be "virtual" fence. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have said they prefer virtual to more conventional fencing. But it might be time for both campaigns to go back to the drawing board. After evaluating a virtual fence pilot project, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has thrown cold water on the notion that such fences can be relied upon to secure the border any time soon:
The pilot virtual fence included nine mobile towers, radar, cameras, and vehicles retrofitted with laptops and satellite phones or handheld devices. They were to be linked to a near-real-time, maplike projection of the frontier that agents could use to track targets and direct law enforcement resources. GAO investigators said that [the virtual fence] could not process large amounts of sensor data. The resulting delays made it hard for operators in a Tucson command center 65 miles to the north to lock cameras on targets. Radar systems were also triggered inadvertently by rain and other environmental factors. Cameras had trouble resolving images at five kilometers when they were expected to work at twice that distance...."
The initial phase of the virtual fence -- covering approximately 100 miles near Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas -- was supposed to be completed by the end of 2008. But the GAO now estimates that it will take until the end of 2011 to complete that initial 100 miles of virtual fence. That means it will take until nearly the end of the next president's first term to deploy a virtual fence along a tiny 100-mile stretch of the border. After that, friends, there's just 1,900 miles to go. I figure we can get the whole thing "virtually secured" sometime around the turn of the century.
Listening to the Democrats talk about using science to secure the southern border is like listening to Republicans talk about using technology to solve climate change. Technology, we are assured, will solve all of America's problems without us having to make any real changes. Sadly, in both cases, that's just cover for not having a real policy to address the problem.
During the chaos, one
The video, posted on Youtube as "Kosovo for sneakers," has been a huge hit among Serbian speakers. With more than a million views before it was taken down and resubmitted, it has drawn thousands of comments from Serbs angry at the behavior demonstrated in downtown
The video has also spurred on a series of mock Kosovo/Nike ads such as this one that is making the e-mail rounds:
The top reads "Kosovo is
Serbs may have a rocky future ahead of them, but at least they haven't lost their sense of humor.
Since Kosovo declared independence last week, secessionist fever has gripped disgruntled regions from Somaliland to Scotland, and possibly even Montana. With all these pseudostates pushing to get their sovereignty on, who's to say when a place actually becomes a country? No less an international legal scholar than Frank Zappa once said, "You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer." It's a bit more complicated than that, but Frank was right that the criteria for independence are not always clear.
If you're planning on starting a state of your own, you'll want to check out FP's new online guide, "How to Start Your Own Country in Four Easy Steps." These easy-to-follow instructions will make declaring independence, getting international recognition, and applying for U.N. membership a breeze. Whether you're a freedom fighter or just an aspiring kleptocrat, it's a must read. Just follow my simple rules and you'll be sipping your national brew on the presidential jet in no time.
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