Stephen Zunes: Declaration of independence could lead to superpower recognition by retaliation (1 of 2)


Story Transcript

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER: The 1999 UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) guarantees “a commitment of all member states to sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” and reaffirms “the call for substantial autonomy and meaningful self-determination for Kosovo.” Not everyone is interpreting this the same way. Serbia says that Kosovo’s declaration of independence is a flagrant violation of 1244, and Russia calls it a blatant breach of international law. The US representative to the UN said: [text on screen] “The declaration of independence is fully consistent with 1244, and the fact that so many countries had recognized Kosovo on the first day had made it an irreversible fact.” (Zalmay Khalizad, US Ambassador to the UN)

STEPHEN ZUNES, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, UCSF: Well, this is a very dangerous precedent, because if it’s ignoring the UN Security Council resolution, makes it an irreversible fact, what is the point of UN Security Council resolutions? That it is back to the old-fashioned kind of power politics. My interpretation of 1244 is that it does not include independence as an option within that same work. And indeed it seemed to make a lot more sense for Kosovo to enjoy the status of the Iraqi Kurds or the Taiwanese, who even for those of us who believe that morally they have a right to independence, recognize that they essentially had that already, and by making a formal declaration as such and having this kind of recognition by foreign powers can destabilize the region and create a very dangerous precedent, which would very likely cause far more problems than a compromise, a solution might have done. So as you can probably tell, and of course [inaudible] I’m very torn, because I have supported the Kosovo Albanians’ struggle for self-determination for quite a few years now, and yet the manner in which it has done in terms of these legal questions and the nature of the current Kosovo-Albanian leadership and the hypocrisy and double standards of the United States and other western powers, makes this a time that should be one of celebration to one of, frankly, great apprehension.

BASILONE: Does this set a precedent for the US or Russia or anybody to recognize any group as a nation just for their own convenience or national interests?

ZUNES: It could be. I actually was talking to some young Georgian activists, who led the movement against Shevardnadze in that former Soviet republic. You know, these are western-leaning, pro-democratic people, and they are very upset at the independence of Kosovo because they believe that the Russians could retaliate by recognizing South Ossetia, which is an autonomous region within Georgia, where Russia has a lot of influence. I’ve heard similar concerns from elsewhere. This is one of the reasons; of course that Spain has broken with other western European countries, ’cause they obviously have concerns about autonomous regions within their country. So, indeed, this could be a very dangerous precedent. Now, there had been some precedences such as a Bangladesh, when it became independent from Pakistan, and it was soon universally recognized, has been a member-state at the United Nations for a good 35 years now. So it’s possible that this could be a one-time thing, but at the same time, because of these other concerns that I’ve mentioned, it could indeed be a kind of Pandora’s box, it could indeed be something that could lead to other attempts at secession, and recognition, and recognition by retaliation and the like, which could lead to instability and violence and well beyond just the Balkans.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Story Transcript

VOICE OF CARLO BASILONE, PRODUCER: The 1999 UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) guarantees “a commitment of all member states to sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” and reaffirms “the call for substantial autonomy and meaningful self-determination for Kosovo.” Not everyone is interpreting this the same way. Serbia says that Kosovo’s declaration of independence is a flagrant violation of 1244, and Russia calls it a blatant breach of international law. The US representative to the UN said: [text on screen] “The declaration of independence is fully consistent with 1244, and the fact that so many countries had recognized Kosovo on the first day had made it an irreversible fact.” (Zalmay Khalizad, US Ambassador to the UN) STEPHEN ZUNES, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, UCSF: Well, this is a very dangerous precedent, because if it’s ignoring the UN Security Council resolution, makes it an irreversible fact, what is the point of UN Security Council resolutions? That it is back to the old-fashioned kind of power politics. My interpretation of 1244 is that it does not include independence as an option within that same work. And indeed it seemed to make a lot more sense for Kosovo to enjoy the status of the Iraqi Kurds or the Taiwanese, who even for those of us who believe that morally they have a right to independence, recognize that they essentially had that already, and by making a formal declaration as such and having this kind of recognition by foreign powers can destabilize the region and create a very dangerous precedent, which would very likely cause far more problems than a compromise, a solution might have done. So as you can probably tell, and of course [inaudible] I’m very torn, because I have supported the Kosovo Albanians’ struggle for self-determination for quite a few years now, and yet the manner in which it has done in terms of these legal questions and the nature of the current Kosovo-Albanian leadership and the hypocrisy and double standards of the United States and other western powers, makes this a time that should be one of celebration to one of, frankly, great apprehension. BASILONE: Does this set a precedent for the US or Russia or anybody to recognize any group as a nation just for their own convenience or national interests? ZUNES: It could be. I actually was talking to some young Georgian activists, who led the movement against Shevardnadze in that former Soviet republic. You know, these are western-leaning, pro-democratic people, and they are very upset at the independence of Kosovo because they believe that the Russians could retaliate by recognizing South Ossetia, which is an autonomous region within Georgia, where Russia has a lot of influence. I’ve heard similar concerns from elsewhere. This is one of the reasons; of course that Spain has broken with other western European countries, ’cause they obviously have concerns about autonomous regions within their country. So, indeed, this could be a very dangerous precedent. Now, there had been some precedences such as a Bangladesh, when it became independent from Pakistan, and it was soon universally recognized, has been a member-state at the United Nations for a good 35 years now. So it’s possible that this could be a one-time thing, but at the same time, because of these other concerns that I’ve mentioned, it could indeed be a kind of Pandora’s box, it could indeed be something that could lead to other attempts at secession, and recognition, and recognition by retaliation and the like, which could lead to instability and violence and well beyond just the Balkans. DISCLAIMER: Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.