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If Trump wants to disarm Russia, he should un-recognize Kosovo

If Trump wants to disarm Russia, he should un-recognize Kosovo
Here is one simple trick US President Donald Trump could pull right now to bolster the rules-based world order, decisively derail Russian criticism of US foreign policy, and stick it to his domestic critics in the process.

All Trump has to do is withdraw the US recognition of ‘Kosovo’, the fake state established as a result of an illegal occupation, following a war that began exactly 20 years ago.

Confused? Unaware? Let me explain. Claiming the government of what was then Yugoslavia was conducting a genocidal campaign against ethnic Albanians in its province of Kosovo (it wasn’t), President Bill Clinton launched what would become a 78-day NATO air campaign to “end human rights abuses” there. What it actually did was displace hundreds of thousands of people – including ethnic Albanians, who even got bombed by NATO on occasion – and turn the province into a NATO protectorate. In 2008, the “Kosovians” declared independence, and have been recognized by around half the UN since then. The other half includes Russia, China, India and – thus far, anyway – Serbia.

Also on rt.com Kosovo: A decade of dependence

But wait, why un-recognize it, then? Wouldn’t that be siding with “adversaries”? Proof of “collusion” with the Kremlin? In a word, no. Correcting this historic mistake would actually disarm the critics of Washington, who currently – and rightly so – point out the US hypocrisy, double standards and selective reasoning.

(Wrong) Message to Russia

In the minds of the architects of the 1999 war, Serbia and Yugoslavia served as a proxy for Russia, a way to send a message to Moscow that “resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform” would not be tolerated by the West. That, by the way, was the argument laid out by John Norris, former aide to the State Department’s topmost Russia hand Strobe Talbott, in a 2005 book, complete with the quote from its preface.

Russia got the message all right: that the West was a duplicitous enemy that could not be trusted. Russian disillusionment with the West can be traced to 1999, and the anger at their government’s surrender to NATO in Yugoslavia, at least to some extent, paved the way for Yeltsin’s surprise resignation and the takeover by one Vladimir Putin.

Putin actually brings up 1999 and Yugoslavia almost every time when he talks about the West, using it as an example of arbitrary and lawless behavior by the US even as Washington talks the talk about the “rules-based world order” supposedly threatened by Russia and China. Speaking of which, Beijing is also nursing a grudge from that war, because its embassy in Belgrade was destroyed by a NATO strike in May 1999. By “mistake,” supposedly.

Also on rt.com Kosovo led to Catalonia. But West won’t admit it

Fast-forward to 2014, when Crimea rebelled against a US-backed government in Kiev and voted to rejoin Russia. When the US howled in protest, Putin merely said that people who seized Kosovo from Serbia in an illegal war had no leg to stand on:

It’s beyond double standards. It’s a kind of baffling, primitive and blatant cynicism. One can’t just twist things to fit his interests, to call something white on one day and black on the next one.

In response, President Barack Obama invented a referendum in Kosovo to justify US actions. Eagle-eyed fact-checkers in the Western media gave him a pass. Don’t you hate when that happens?

Snubbing the Clintons

But wait, there’s more. Back in 2009, Bill Clinton personally unveiled a gilded statue to himself on the central square of the “Kosovian” capital. Three years later, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called independence of Kosovo a “personal” issue to her and her family. A city in Albania actually erected a monument to her in 2016, anticipating her presidential triumph. Emoluments much, anyone?

Senator Bernie Sanders supported the ‘99 war too, prompting one of his senior staffers to resign in protest. Former senator and VP Joe Biden was also a big Kosovo War backer. Meanwhile, Trump was actually critical of the war, if his 1999 interview to Larry King is anything to go by. He hasn’t said much about it since, though.

Also on rt.com Kosovo: An evil little war (almost) all US candidates liked

These days, when Trump talks about “sovereignty” and denounces globalism, Russia responds that maybe the US should respect the sovereignty of others – and brings up Kosovo. Awkward. Meanwhile, both liberal and conservative think-tanks in Washington constantly fret over “Russian malign influence” in the Balkans – specifically Serbia – which always amounts to Moscow simply voicing support for UNSCR 1244 and Serbia’s claim to Kosovo. Frustrating!

Values and principles

Critics of the Trump administration, who accuse him of failing to uphold American values abroad, would have to admit it’s virtuous to stop propping up a place that engages in “endemic government corruption; crimes involving violence or threats of violence against journalists; and attacks against members of ethnic minorities or other marginalized communities” per the State Department’s most recent human rights report.

With all that in mind, it becomes obvious that un-recognizing Kosovo would make US foreign policy great again. In one simple step, Trump can demolish Russia’s argument that Washington is cynically applying double standards, and show that no, the US does believe in rules – “and how about that Crimea now, Putin?”

Of course, this is not going to happen. For all his proclaimed hostility to the Washington “swamp,” Trump has turned over foreign policy to warmongers interested only in perpetuating the American Empire the Clintons established in the 1990s by any means necessary. Whenever Washington talks about lofty principles and universal values, the rest of the world only needs to look at Kosovo – and Iraq, Libya, Syria, and a long train of other “regime changes” and coups – to know that’s a lie.

Nebojsa Malic, for RT

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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