Kosovo, Taiwan, Israel: Join the Dots
Under the current Cold War climate, that's really not a good idea. Deliberately orchestrating recognition of Kosovo before the UNSC can meet - and Russia veto - is going to be seen as a big provocation in Moscow. That's not good. We've already got guys getting poisoned with polonium, energy cut-offs and Tupolevs making incursions into sovereign airspace... all getting a bit Tom Clancy for my liking.
What's worse, possibly Beijing will object too. Kosovo's recognition by the US and EU nations may set a precedent for Taiwan, which is set to hold its own referendum on a UN bid in March. If Kosovo can secede and be recognised, Taipei will say, then why can't we? Thus the schism in the UNSC will widen further, undoing much of the good work that's been done in recent years.
Though the prospects of Serbian and Russian tanks rolling in are remote, what may occur could be a re-run of Israel's declaration of independence back in 1948. Just as the Palestinians took up arms and ended up a displaced people, so too could the 200,000-odd Kosovar Serbians. Just as the Arab countries failed to recognise Israel, so too may a number of black sheep within the 'international system'.
An insidious problem that could last for decades may be in the offing. And who's going to manage it? The EU - which can't even come up with a unanimous position on Kosovan independence, let alone deploy a peacekeeping force that can cope when things go bad. Yes, they've been handling Bosnia, but this may heat up.
The biggest contradiction in the UN charter is its respect for both self-determination and sovereignty. If things kick off this month, then there's going to be some grave implications. Better that the situation was managed differently - it's still not too late for compromise.
Critics of the plan to declare independence, which follows the failure of Serbia and the Kosovo-Albania leaders to negotiate terms for separation, have already warned of the risk that Kosovo's Serbian population, concentrated in northern Mitrovica, would respond by declaring their own independence, setting the stage for violent confrontation.
The renewed Serbian warning comes as Kosovo's leaders struggled to calm rising 'independence fever', fearful that wild celebrations from the ethnic Albanian majority could spark violent clashes with scared and furious Serbs.
Kosovo is expected to proclaim itself the world's newest state next Sunday or Monday, allowing European Union foreign ministers meeting on Monday to give the green light to a 2,000-strong mission to oversee the running of the ethnically divided region.
While Washington and most EU members will quickly welcome independent Kosovo into the world, Tadic's grim predictions of spiralling instability in the Balkans, still scarred by a bloody decade that ended with Nato bombing Serb troops out of Kosovo in 1999, will gain credence if the region's long-awaited independence celebrations give way to ethnic violence.
Kosovo's parliament is expected to meet next weekend and Hashim Thaci, the former separatist rebel who is now Kosovo's Prime Minister, or President Fatmir Sejdiu is likely to announce independence on Sunday or Monday morning, preventing Russia from immediately responding through the Security Council, six hours behind in New York.
By the time Russia can muster an emergency meeting of the council, the US and major EU nations will have drawn its diplomatic sting by recognising the sovereignty of Kosovo's two million citizens. 'We have the confirmation from some 100 states which say they are ready to recognise Kosovo's independence immediately after we declare it,' Thaci insisted last week after Serbia said that it expected a declaration on 17 February.