Russia and the problem of Kosovo and Metohija
La Russie et le problème du Kosovo et Metohija
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Nearly ten years since the 1999 NATO military intervention against Serbia and the establishment of UN administration, Kosovo and Metohija has resurfaced as a topical issue in international politics, separating the positions of the USA and Russia, and becoming a precedent in international relations, possibly with far-reaching consequences not only for the future of the western Balkans but also for many territorial disputes worldwide. Russia has only recently pulled herself out of the years-long Chechnya crisis, and facing similar problems in her 'new neighborhood' (Abkhazia, South Ossetia Transdniestria), is among the countries that might be affected by this precedent. Secondly, with her bad experience in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Russia has become sensitive not only to any disturbance in the balance of power in the Balkans but also to any change to the existing international order. Moscow has not forgotten that during the 1990s many Westerners saw Serbia as a 'metaphor for Ru...ssia' and that the NATO interventions against the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1995) and against Serbia (1999) revealed Russia's weakness, sending her the message to give up her interests in the Balkans and Europe. Thirdly, diverging American and Russian policies on Kosovo and Metohija coincide with their strained relations over the deployment of an antimissile 'shield' in Poland and the Czech Republic, the war in Iraq, policy towards Iran and other issues currently at the top of the list of international problems. Fourthly, meanwhile Russia has managed to recover from the disintegration of the USSR and to consolidate her economic and political power in Europe and the world, owing above all to oil and gas exports, but also to the export of industrial products (military in particular). The precedent that an independent Kosovo and Metohija would constitute in international relations is therefore a test of Russia's role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. She has found herself in the role of the defender of the fundamental principles of international law such as the inviolability of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the UN members.