Holbrooke advises "one last, personal effort" with Putin

Richard Holbrooke believes that Kosovo's independence will be recognized "soon after December 10".

Source: B92
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The former Clinton administration envoy to the Balkans said in his column published in the Washington Post that the United States, "and most of the EU countries" will opt to accept a unilateral declaration of independence by the Kosovo Albanians.

This, Holbrooke says, will come as the Contact Group Troika reports to the UN secretary-general on December 10 that it has failed in its attempts to reach a compromise.

"At a most inopportune time, the Balkans are back. On Dec. 10, the U.S.-E.U.-Russian negotiating team tasked with getting the Serbs and Albanians to agree on Kosovo's future status will report to the United Nations that it has failed. A few weeks later Kosovo's government will proclaim that Kosovo is an independent nation - a long overdue event," Holbrooke believes.

As he did several days ago in an interview for a German newspaper, the former diplomat once again dramatically warns that there may be an outbreak of violence in Kosovo that could spread to Bosnia, and advises the U.S. administration to make another effort to prevent this and send more American troops to the province.

Holbrooke believes that the reason why the Kosovo status issue was not settled after the fall of the Milošević regime in 2000, which almost coincided with the Clinton exit – is because the Bush team "hated anything it had inherited from Bill Clinton, even, perhaps especially, his greatest successes."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, Holbrooke believes, "seeks to reassert Russia's role as a regional hegemon," but, short of starting another Cold War.

"Putin was hardly quiet about this; I watched him bluntly warn German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and delegates to the Munich security conference in February that Russia would not agree to any Kosovo settlement that Belgrade opposed."

"There was a vague feeling in Washington and Brussels that Putin was bluffing, and no real planning in case Putin meant it. Not only did he mean it, Putin upped the ante by extending his reach into the Serb portion of Bosnia," the former U.S. Balkans envoy writes.

He accused the Russian president of having used "some of his petrodollars" to turn the Bosnian Serb "mildly pro-Western leader, Milorad Dodik, into a nasty nationalist who began threatening secession."

"The window of opportunity for a soft landing in Kosovo closed in 2004. Still, Bush should make one last, personal effort with Putin. His efforts must be backed by temporary additional troop deployments in the region. It is not too late to prevent violence, but it will take American-led action and time is running out," Holbrooke concludes.

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