As the Russian government strongly condemns Kosovo’s declaration of independence, Russia’s independent media voices are reacting with ambivalence to the dispute between their country and most of its Western interlocutors. Among reporters who maintain some distance from the Kremlin, the general tone is one of disillusionment with the West and concern about the condition of the international system, rather than full endorsement of the Russian government’s position. On the one hand, there is a widespread sense that intemperate expressions of anger by Russian officials do the country no favors. In “Rogozin Threatens NATO” (Gazeta.ru, Feb. 22), Natalia Kuklina quotes Dmitrii […]

FIDEL’S FAMILY MATTERS — If Fidel Castro had wanted to establish a dynasty he has the sons to do it, although none — as far as is known — holds government or party office. The least visible is oldest son Fidelito, a Moscow-trained physicist now around 58, and totally out of the limelight. Cuban exile circles in Miami say two other siblings, Alexander and Alexis, are both cameramen. Then there’s Alejandro (El Comandante apparently has a thing about Alexander the Great) the computer programmer, Antonio the orthopedic surgeon, and the youngest, Angel, occupation unknown. Fidelito’s mother is Marta Diaz-Balart, whom […]

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A quick followup to John’s post about the deep divisions among EU member states regarding whether or not to recognize Kosovo’s independence. When you take a look at who’s opposed and why, it becomes clear that for Europeans much more than for Americans, the question of national sovereignty vs. ethno-linguistic-sectarian autonomy is not some far-off problem. Spain has got a delicate situation with Catalonia, and a violent Basque separatist movement to deal with. Greece and Cyprus are both keeping a wary eye on Turkish Cypriot claims to legitimacy. Romania and Bulgaria are in a corner of Europe where separatist claims […]

It was easy on Feb. 17, as an American, to celebrate the victory of the underdog. Many Americans, the ones who follow international affairs at all, watched celebrating Kosovo Albanians on the streets of Pristina and New York City with excitement and yes, even some pride. As Kosovars waved gigantic American flags on Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina and stopped traffic in Times Square wearing “Thank You America” jackets, it was natural to smile and think that maybe the United States had done something right for a change. It was also easy on Thursday to watch the burning of the […]

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Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin backed off earlier statements, saying Russian would never use force to solve the problem of Kosovo.It’s always difficult to interpret a quotation taken out of context,even more so once it’s been translated. But my own feeling was thatRogozin had not been threatening the use of force in Kosovo, but ratherobserving that given how Kosovo was handled, Russia could reasonablydraw the conclusion that the only way to make itself respected moregenerally would be through the use of force. Either way, it’sreassuring to see that he was quickly called to order, signalling thatMoscow has no interest in […]

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In non-PKK news out of Turkey this morning, FM Ali Babacan reportedly communicated Turkey’s willingness to involve Russia in the Nabucco pipeline project during his recent visit to Moscow. If it seems like the offer undermines the logic of the enterprise, that’s probably because it does. The Nabucco pipeline was initially conceived as a way to diversify Europe’s sources of natural gas, thereby diminishing its energy dependence on Russia. (See this WPR exclusive for more.) But the project has run into problems finding adequate supplies ever since Russia snagged Kazakhstan’s and Turkmenistan’s reserves. Iran has offered itself as an alternative […]

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FRANCE: THE ‘BANLIEUES’ VOTE FOR THE RIGHT? — Municipal elections are upcoming in France in the next weeks. A front-page headline on the subject in the Feb. 17-18 of the daily Le Monde would undoubtedly shock many readers of traditional English-language new sources. “Municipal Elections,” it reads, “Banlieues on the Right, Downtown on the Left.” Banlieues on the Right? The very word “banlieues” became widely-known to English speakers last year not only on account of the violence with which the outskirts of France’s major urban centers are regularly afflicted, but also because of the supposed hatred of their residents for […]

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Vladimir Putin’s appointment of Dmitri Rogozin as Russia’s envoy to NATO last month raised a few eyebrows; Rogozin is known as a pretty hardline Russian nationalist. So it was kind of reassuring when, before their first official meeting three weeks ago, he presented NATO SecGen Jaap de Hoop Scheffer with a ceremonial tomahawk which he suggested they go bury together. But judging from Rogozin’s remarks yesterday regarding Kosovo, it looks like they didn’t bury the hatchet deep enough: In a video link-up from Brussels Dmitry Rogozin said, “if the European Union works out a common position, or if NATO breaches […]

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I’m not sure the day that Serb rioters storm the US embassy in Belgrade is the best time to announce that NATO might very well pocket three more of Serbia’s neighbors: The Pentagon believes that Macedonia, Albania and Croatia meet the criteria for NATO membership and will support their bids at the Alliance’s summit in Bucharest, a senior US official said. “As regards NATO enlargement, the Pentagon believes that military criteria are certainly met. Six weeks before the summit in Bucharest, we will . . . to ensure that these three countries become members of the Alliance,” said Daniel Fata, […]

WARSAW, Poland — Minutes before a 6 p.m. deadline on Feb. 12, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin resolved the latest dispute between the two countries over natural gas debts — averting a shutoff of supplies to Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine now have the opportunity to create a more transparent and direct system of energy trading. What are the implications of this latest dispute for EU-Russian energy relations? On Feb. 7, Gazprom had presented Ukraine with an ultimatum — pay a past due bill of $1.5 billion, or Russian gas supplies would be cut off. As part […]

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Whether or not the Nabucco pipeline will ever be built (see today’s WPR exclusive for more) remains to beseen. One thing’s for sure, though. If it does end up happening, Francewon’t be seeing any of the profits. After the French parliament passeda resolution criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide in 2006,Turkey retaliated by stonewalling Gaz de France’s participation in theNabucco project. Nicolas Sarkozy’s opposition to Turkish EU membershipdidn’t help matters. German power giant RWE was ultimately selected tobe the pipeline’s sixth partner earlier this month. So what’s France’s deputy Trade Minister Herve Novelli doing this week in Ankara?Here’s a hint: […]

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The BBC reports that KFOR troops have temporarily closed two border crossings on Kosovo’s northern border, effectively sealing it off from Serbia. The move comes a day after a coordinated attack on the posts by Serbian militants, who used bulldozers and explosives to destroy them: The attacks on the crossings and the Nato response put the international community on a collision course with both Kosovo Serbs and the Serbian government, our correspondent says. He says that what is emerging on the ground is a second Kosovo. The report was unclear whether the Serbian militants came from the Serb or Kosovar […]

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Two major stories, two major symbols: Fidel Castro and Kosovo. I think it’s obvious how Castro’s retirement represents the disappearance of the last vestiges of the 20th century. Sure, there’s still N. Korea, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could qualify as well. But the least you can say about the latter two is that, while anchored in the geopolitical realities of the last century, they still managed to evolve in recent years. Kim Jong-Il has a warhead, after all, the Palestinians have an Authority, and an optimist might still hold out hope that there’s a way forward on both fronts. Castro […]

Kosovo’s Feb. 17 declaration of independence places the Russian government in an awkward position. Neither Moscow’s nor Belgrade’s pre-declaration threats prevented Pristina’s parliament from voting 109-0 in favor of severing ties with Serbia. Actually implementing the threatened retaliatory measures, however, could easily backfire and seriously damage Russian interests. Most NATO governments likewise decided to back Kosovo’s independence despite Russian warnings that Moscow might respond by promoting the independence of other separatist regions in Europe. For months, Western governments have argued that, given the deep divisions separating the parties involved in the Kosovo status negotiations, delaying action would not improve the […]

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo, the separatist province of Serbia, is making nervous preparations for adeclaration of independence on Sunday: “Independence is ready,” says a government poster. Sunday is thought the most likely delcaration day because it is followed by a national holiday in the United States to mark President’s Day. This timing could stop Russia, which opposes independence, from immediately calling an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council in New York, which it would have to do within an unofficial three-hour time limit. Such immediate high-level opposition could easily fuel disorder and violence, with the Albanian majority eager to […]

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Michael Martens, reporting from Pristina in Tuesday’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, writes the following on the International Civilian Office (ICO) with which the EU is hoping to replace the current U.N. Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK): It will be the task of the office to oversee the implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan for Kosovo independence, even if Western diplomats are attempting to minimize the significance of the ICO: the time of the international protectorate is supposed to be past and, according to the official interpretation in Brussels, the Kosovars are supposed to govern alone. In fact, however, the head of the ICO […]

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Wired’s Danger Room has the scoop and links galore. As Danger Room notes, a key question is: Will China view this as a response to their January 2007 anti-satellite test? A related question: How might this affect recent joint Russian and Chinese efforts to restrict the deployment of weapons in space. WPR contributor Richard Weitz recently examined those Russian-Chinese initiatives. Here’s an excerpt: The publication of an unclassified version of the new U.S. National Space Policy in October 2006 evoked deep concern in Moscow and Beijing. Although the policy acknowledges the value of international cooperation in space and the right […]

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