by Upstate NY
Tue Dec 18th, 2007 at 07:28:40 PM EST
Here's a scary article from Stratfor, a rather respected American Think Tank/Research Institute.
NOTE: scroll down to access this article on Stratfor. Can only be accessed from Google.
The key passage:
If the United States and some European powers can create an independent Kosovo without regard to Russian wishes, Putin's prestige in Russia and the psychological foundations of his grand strategy will suffer a huge blow. If Kosovo is granted independence outside the context of the United Nations, where Russia has veto power, he will be facing the same crisis Yeltsin did. If he repeats Yeltsin's capitulation, he will face substantial consequences. Putin and the Russians repeatedly have warned that they wouldn't accept independence for Kosovo, and that such an act would lead to an uncontrollable crisis. Thus far, the Western powers involved appear to have dismissed this. In our view, they shouldn't. It is not so much what Putin wants as the consequences for Putin if he does not act. He cannot afford to acquiesce. He will create a crisis.
The basic idea here is that the whole world is expecting the Russians to abandon the Serbs instantly, but no one is asking the question, what if they don't?
Putin has two levers. One is economic. The natural gas flowing to Europe, particularly to Germany, is critical for the Europeans. Putin has a large war chest saved from high energy prices. He can live without exports longer than the Germans can live without imports. It is assumed that he wouldn't carry out this cutoff. This assumption does not take into account how important the Kosovo issue is to the Russians.
The second option is what we might call the "light military" option. Assume that Putin would send a battalion or two of troops by air to Belgrade, load them onto trucks and send them toward Pristina, claiming this as Russia's right under agreements made in 1999. Assume a squadron of Russian aircraft would be sent to Belgrade as well. A Russian naval squadron, including the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, already is headed to the Mediterranean. Obviously, this is not a force that could impose anything on NATO. But would the Germans, for example, be prepared to open fire on these troops?
If that happened, there are other areas of interest to Russia and the West where Russia could exert decisive military power, such as the Baltic states. If Russian troops were to enter the Baltics, would NATO rush reinforcements there to fight them? The Russian light military threat in Kosovo is that any action there could lead to a Russian reaction elsewhere.
All of these so-called "levers" seem pretty far-fetched to me. I have trouble seeing Russia confront the EU and US in such a manner.
But what if I'm wrong?
Suddenly the idea that Russia may scare a few people at the UN comes into play. Then what? Allow the Albanians to dangle? It would be much easier to imagine the EU and US allowing the Albanians to dangle until they take the bait than to risk such a huge confrontation.
Or, someone might actually give in eventually and cut a deal. A real deal.