Thursday, February 21, 2008

Belgrade Riots Over Kosovo - U.S. Embassy Set Ablaze

Map of The Balkans
Photo credit:

I think it's safe to say that violence and uncertainty have not been unexpected consequences of Kosovo claiming its independence.

Today we saw the U.S. embassy in Belgrade beseiged by a mob of Serbian protestors and set ablaze after they'd trespassed onto the consular area at the embassy compound, according to U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. The US embassy fire was brought under control about an hour after it began. There is widespread rioting and vandalism throughout the city. Serbian President Boris Tadic [more pro-European than PM Vojislav Kostunica] has appealed for an immediate end to the violence.

UPDATE: According to B92, the incident at the U.S. Embassy has claimed one victim whose identity at this point is unknown. The victim's body was allegedly recovered from the embassy today.

I worry about how far something like this kind of protest, unrest, and volatility could spread and which territories could become destabilized without further intervention. An excerpt from something I'd read last Autumn:

Kosovo had expected the West to continue supporting what it called the inevitability of Kosovar independence. However, that inevitability is now lost in the shuffle of a larger political battle between global power players such as Russia, the European Union and the United States, and Serbia and Kosovo are left with only uncertainty.

All sides fear this uncertainty will turn volatile — and possibly bloody. If an explosion of violence does occur, it will not be contained within Serbia and Kosovo’s borders; it could destabilize the entire Balkan region. Minor incidents of violence and instability have already been seen in Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

- Kosovo: The Fuse on the Balkan Powder Keg, November 16, 2007 [] (subscription req)

Look at what Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is leading his people to believe [speaking at a rally at the Temple of St. Sava in Belgrade today]:

Kostunica promised Serbia would never accept Kosovo's independence in an emotive speech.

"Kosovo is Serbia's first name. Kosovo belongs to Serbia. Kosovo belongs to Serbian people. It has been like this forever and it will be like this forever," said Kostunica.

The rally was also addressed by Tomislav Nikolic of the ultra-nationalist Radical Party.

"Hitler could not take (Kosovo) away, nor will these ones today be able to," said Nikolic, referring to the Western powers supporting Kosovo.

"You, from the United States and the European Union, you caused huge sadness in our hearts," said Nikolic, speaking on behalf of the parliament where his party is the single strongest force.

"We tell you, we were sad for two days, on the third day Serbs burnt checkpoints, on the fourth day we gathered at the biggest rally Serbia has ever seen."

AFP: Rioters set fire to US Belgrade embassy over Kosovo

Hating "Dumb Wars"

Does Barack Obama Think the Late-90s Serbia/Kosovo War was "Dumb"? Will Anyone Ask Him?

"I am not against all wars", declared young Mr. Obama, putative bhakta of Martin Luther King, in the pre-Iraq War speech of 2002 so pivotal to his campaign, "Only dumb wars".

Really? America's Serbian war was, by measures of Washington Wisdom, a 'smart war'. No Americans died in it (Lots of Serbians did, as did some Chinese -- but who's counting them?). Our 'war' ended in about two months: a neat affair, like a summer romance. Did Mr. Obama think that was a smart war or a dumb one? No one in the Press asks, because we are too busy with matters of vital importance, such as whether he stole a line or two from Deval Patrick.

- asks Niranjan Ramakrishnan at