I’ve been absorbed in business concerns lately and have not been able to even look at much news over the last three weeks… and I completely missed an interesting development: the U.S. and Europeans are having a Kosovo-themed power party and Russia is not invited. To say this is anything other than an intentional and blatant omission is naive. This is the most direct diplomatic snubbing of the Russians in quite some time.
Why should this stick out over other recent events? Why would the U.S. and the Europeans pick Kosovo as the anti-Russian diplomatic weapon of choice? The answer is rather simple and will save you having to read another one of my excessively long and wordy posts: Russia has staked its international diplomatic and military credibility on its ability to influence the final status of Kosovo.
In diplomacy — as opposed to open war — a faction’s perceived power is its total power, end of story. If the Russians can be shown to not be capable of influencing a relatively small issue like the final status of Kosovo — Russia is against Kosovar independence… at least for today, while the Europeans and Americans are not against Kosovar independence (this is distinct from being pro-Kosovar independence, however) — then the status of Russia will be considered weak. If they are considered weak then they are, in fact, weak. Well, until people start pulling guns out, which is always the final play in any political game.
This is of practical importance in the sense that it will leave Russia with only two remaining methods of influence over the Europeans and Americans: energy export embargoes and sneaky, sneaky Soviet-style spy and military posturings.
“But what about the Iran card?”
The Iraq/Iran situation is almost over and recent American foreign policy set in motion by Bush — beginning with the Iraq invasion — juggernauted all practical opposition and trumped every anti-West move all other nations in Asia had elected to take. Great stuff for the U.S., very humiliating stuff for the Russians — and Iranians, for that matter.
“But what about the Ukraine card, isn’t Russia going full-bore over the future of Ukraine?”
Yes, they most certainly are going all-out over the future of Ukraine and this is precisely why the Americans and Europeans decided to act together now to make the Russians look weak on an issue of minor geopolitical significance before any standoff with a Russia of unexplored might over an issue of colossal geopolitical importance such as the future status of Ukraine.
To sum up:
- Why should this stick out over other recent events?
Because it is the opening punch in the engagement phase of the American-Russian fight over Ukraine.
- Why would the U.S. and the Europeans pick Kosovo as the anti-Russian diplomatic weapon of choice?
Because it is a petty issue, perfect to mess around on and not risk too much. For the Americans it is a chance to see if the Europeans are willing to play the American game (or at least the not Russian game) in the opening stages of Cold War II. For the Europeans it is a chance to convince themselves they can actually counter the Russians if they stick together — which they likely won’t be doing for long, however.