Yes, I know that places can’t be intelligent or stupid, but I loved this response by the acting foreign minister of Nagorno-Karabakh to Kosovo’s latest round of lobbying for recognitions. He said his country would recognize Kosovo if Kosovo recognized Nagorno-Karabakh.


(Please also note that in the first sentence by this Economist writer the word “country” appears in quotes with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh; that’s exactly how the word “country” or “state” should be appearing in all media with reference to Kosovo.)

According to the piece, Kosovo’s “foreign minister” Enver Hoxhaj declined. After all, Kosovo is still in the position of taking orders from Washington, and Washington would never allow Kosovo’s precedent-setting power, which it desperately denies, to be confirmed (and for Russia to indirectly “score a point” on that count). (Which is related, of course, to Russia’s long-put request for a little coherence and consistency via breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia — a little quid pro quo that would have led Russia to grant us our “friendly Islamic state” at Serb expense.)

Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo (Economist, Dec. 28)
States of independence

EARLIER this year Vasily Atajanyan, the acting foreign minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, told me that his “country” would recognise Kosovo if the former Yugoslav province reciprocated. I conveyed this message to Enver Hoxhaj, Kosovo’s foreign minister. He declined to take up his counterpart’s offer, but thought long and hard about how to do so politely.

This little episode speaks volumes for realpolitik in international relations, especially when it comes to small countries.

In Soviet times Nagorno-Karabakh was a mostly Armenian-populated autonomous region in Azerbaijan. In Yugoslav times Kosovo was a mostly Albanian-populated autonomous province of Serbia.

Armenians fought a war against the Azeris in the early 1990s, and the Kosovo Albanians against the Serbs in 1998-99. Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence in 1991…On the face of it there are plenty of similarities between Soviet breakaway statelets like Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo. But there are also many differences. No countries have recognised Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state, but more than 80 have recognised Kosovo. Western countries emphasise that they believe that the Kosovo case is not a precedent for others. [”Because we say so!]

In Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, this argument cuts no ice. Indeed, some have a clear case of “recognition envy”. Marcel Petrosian, a foreign-ministry official, says that Nagorno-Karabakh has “stronger arguments” for independence than Kosovo does.

European and other countries that recognise Kosovo are, he says, practising “double standards.” Mr Atajanyan echoes this. “We see Kosovo as a precedent,” he says. “It is a vivid example of how conflicts like ours can be solved.”

The two conflicts see Armenians and Kosovars arguing in favour of a people’s right to self-determination, and Serbia and Azerbaijan defending the the right of a state to defend its territorial integrity.

There are inconsistencies everywhere you look. Russia, an ally of Serbia, does not acknowledge the independence of Kosovo. But, unlike any Western countries, it recognised the breakaway states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following its war with Georgia in 2008. [IF THAT AIN’T PUTTING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE!] Serbia might like to make common cause with Georgia but does not wish to irritate Russia. Likewise Georgia won’t work with Serbia because of the potential damage to relations with the United States.

Likewise, the Armenians have been forced to fashion shrewd arguments for not recognising Kosovo’s independence in order not to antagonise their Russian patrons. Armenia has not in fact recognised Nagorno-Karabakh, as it reminds American diplomats when they come calling asking for it to recognise Kosovo.

Serbia and Armenia may be on different sides when it comes to territorial integrity. But they have much in common, too. Both are ageing nations with falling populations. Both talk of their respective enemies in the same terms, fearing the respective facts that both Kosovo Albanians and Azeris are young and Muslim, and dominate areas which they consider theirs by historic right.

Hayk Khanumyan, an Armenian journalist and civil-society activist, employs a novel argument. Kosovo, he says, is an “historic region of Serbia” that Albanians have taken. (Albanians, needless to say, would disagree with this analysis. [BECAUSE THEY WANT IT.] But the real comparison is between Kosovo and Nakichevan, a large Azeri exclave separated from Azerbaijan proper by Armenian territory.

Nakichevan, says Mr Khanumyan, was once Armenian. It was lost to the Azeris as Kosovo was lost to Albanians. Nagorno-Karabakh, by contrast, has not been lost and must be defended.

Back to Mr Hoxhaj. His message to Mr Atajanyan is that…”We understand the aspirations of others but we have to be careful,” he adds. “We can’t shape the destiny of other small nations but we have to protect what we have and sometimes doing nothing is better than making a mistake.”

In other words, just as the Armenians sympathise with the Kosovars but don’t want to annoy the Russians, the Kosovars don’t want to irk their Western backers…

Then again, we can’t assume that Armenians sympathize with the “Kosovars.” Like other breakaway regions with a better case for independence (well, let’s say with “a case for independence,” since Kosovo has none), they may well be annoyed by the privileged status and attention that Kosovo gets.

But that’s what they get for not being terrorists. Hopefully they’ve learned their lesson: you won’t get anywhere with us without threats and violence.

At the start of this post I mentioned that Kosovo is still in the position to take orders from Washington. The worry of rational minds, who knew which direction “America’s” Kosovo would ultimately go in since 1999, has been that this would change to a place that’s more Islamic than Washington (if you can find one). And so, just as Turkey has unmistakably showed its true Islamic colors over the past few years, Albanians are suggesting that Turkey take over for America’s Bondsteel, with Albanian-American lobbyists such as Joe DioGuardi reportedly calling Turkey a “loyal ally of Pristina.” Big surprise. Albanians want their old masters back. (And imagine — Orthodox Serbs to have that promised “protection of minority rights” — elusive even with America and EU there — enforced by the Turks):

NOA: US withdrawing soldiers from Kosmet by the end of the year [sic] (Glas Srbije/Voice of Serbia, Jan. 2):

By the end of the year USA will withdraw their troops from Kosmet, as part of the measures of saving among the armed forces, writes the NOA agency from Tirana, as quoted by the Serbian national TV. The Albanian agency communicates that the announcement of US soldiers withdrawing from the Bondsteel base near Urosevac could be the alarm for possible instability in Kosmet. President of the American-Albanian Citizen league Joe Diogardi and [a] few more Albanian lobbyists had talks on that issue with President of the Armed Forces Board in the US Congress House of Representatives Buck McKeon and insisted that the decision be postponed until the situation in northern Kosmet is solved. NOA underlines that Bondsteel has become a financial burden on USA, so the new military budget and strategy envisage its extinguishing. The Albanian lobbyists in USA wish that the Americans turn the base over to Turkey, for which they believe is a loyal ally of Pristina. In relation [to] that base, several controversies are mentioned, like the Council of Europe report from 2005, which describes Bondsteel as the smaller version of Guantanamo, as allegedly it hosted murky activities regarding the persons suspected of radical Islam.

In response to reports of U.S. troops leaving Kosovo, KFOR issued a clarification — or perhaps made an adjustment to its plans after concerns were voiced that it was too soon:

“U.S. troops won’t leave Kosovo in 2012” (Jan. 4)

U.S. KFOR troops Commander Colonel Jeffrey Liethen has stated that the U.S. troops will not withdraw from Kosovo in 2012.

He told Uroševac-based TV Tema that the current U.S. contingent would remain in Kosovo until September 2012 and that a new contingent would replace the current troops and remain in Kosovo until June 2013.

“This is what I know for sure,” Liethen stressed.

He said that it was natural that the U.S. troops would leave Kosovo at some point and that he understood that Kosovo citizens were upset because their hopes were tied to the U.S.

Commenting on the claims that the number of U.S. troops coming from Turkey to Kosovo was increasing, the U.S. commander stressed that this was not true.

“The people who will take over the responsibility from me are from South Carolina and they will be the 16th contingent of the U.S. KFOR in Kosovo,” Liethen said.

There are currently 1,447 U.S. soldiers in Kosovo. They are stationed in Camp Bondsteel and Camp Nothing Hill near Leposavić.

Media have been reporting that the U.S. troops will withdraw from Kosovo and that it is possible that Turkish soldiers would replace them at Camp Bondsteel.

Here were some of those other reports, just to have it on record:

Report: U.S. soldiers are to withdraw from Kosovo (DiePresse.com, Jan. 3, translated from German)

The U.S. government wants to save and retrieve their soldiers. That would also mean the closure of U.S. base Bondsteel…This was reported by the newspaper “Kosova Sot” on Tuesday.

Kosovar politicians would not comment on the message first. Other media reported…referring to American sources, the U.S. and the NATO allies would leave 6,000 soldiers in Kosovo - to ensure security and freedom of movement in the country.

Kosovo Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi [told] “Kosova Sot”…there is “nothing official yet.” He conceded, however: “We would hope that the U.S. troops to stay here.”

[A] gradual KFOR withdrawal plan was active. This was however suspended indefinitely.

Kosovo: The Americans plan to close the base Bondsteel - Albanian rebels lobby (TASR, Jan. 3, translated from Slovak)

U.S. troops will soon leave Kosovo, despite the loud protests of the Albanian lobby in the U.S., which claims that such a move could spark a new instability in the region…

In Kosovo [is] closing large U.S. base Bondsteel….The United States planned for the end of this year [to] withdraw its troops from Kosovo in accordance with the general austerity measures in the U.S. Army.

These reports were met with some opposition [by] politicians and analysts, said
the Albanian Agency NOA…

President of the Albanian-American Civil League Diogardi Joe and several other Albanian lobbyists on this issue discussed with U.S. Congressman McKeon Buck….

League leaders insist on the fact that the withdrawal of U.S. troops was postponed pending resolution of the situation mostly inhabited by Serbs in northern Kosovo - U.S. troops, according to them is “the only real obstacle to Serbia’s expansionist goals.” … Albanian lobbyists in the U.S. would like to [see] Bondsteel handed [to] the Turks, who are “staunch allies” of Kosovo.

So the Albanians want us to make good on delivering the entirety of the demanded turf and sealing the Serbs’ coffin, and then the Turks can take over.

SERBIA’s expansionist goals,” they say as they chop off 15% of that country, along with 30-some percent of Macedonia, plus make moves on southern Serbia, Montenegro and Greece.

Bondsteel is more than a military outpost (Slovenian Dnevnik, Jan. 4)

It turns out I’d been sent (thank you, Anna) the actual DioGuardi item on Bondsteel closing and the prospects of Turkey taking over. So here is the relevant part, quoted from the primary source, the Albanian-American Civic League:

AACL Meeting with Congressman Buck McKeon,Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee

On December 12, 2011, Albanian American Civic League President Joe DioGuardi, Balkan Affairs Adviser Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, and some members of the Executive Committee of the AACL’s Board of Directors met with Congressman Buck McKeon (R-CA) in Manhattan. The purpose of the meeting was to brief Congressman McKeon…about the escalating conflict in northern Kosova [sic] and the need to resolve the conflict before the projected departure of US troops from Camp Bondsteel occurs.

The following presentation was made by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi on behalf of the Civic League in support of maintaining US leadership at Camp Bondsteel:

We are all aware of the fact that cuts will be made in the defense budget and that this will include the closing of some of America’s military bases at home and abroad. For the past year, it has been rumored that Camp Bondsteel…will be put under Turkish command. Since Turkey is a strong ally of Kosova [sic], in theory removing US troops from Camp Bondsteel would make sense. However, in practice, I would argue that it is premature for the United States to signal its departure from Kosova, since it is the only real impediment to Serbia’s expansionist aims. […]