In a prospect essay published during the Kosovo war (Divide and Survive, May 1999), I advocated partition of the region as the only solution to its ethnic hatreds. After everything that had happened, it was simply inconceivable that Serbs and Albanians could ever again live together peacefully. If Nato wanted to preserve even the appearance of a “multi-ethnic Kosovo,” it would have to maintain large numbers of troops there indefinitely.
One year on, the essay’s predictions have come depressingly true. Nato was unable to stop the vengeful Albanians from ethnically cleansing the Serbian minority from nine-tenths of the region. More than 100 Serbs were killed, and two thirds of the Serbian population fled. Across most of Kosovo, the only remaining Serbs are a few monks in monasteries under Nato guard. As with Muslim mosques in the Serbian-controlled areas of Bosnia, most unprotected Serbian orthodox churches have been vandalised.
Nato’s inability to protect the Serbs was not its fault. As General Mike Jackson pointed out, it is impossible to send soldiers with every Serbian grandmother going to do her shopping. And politics dictates that Nato cannot go after the people behind the killings, as this would risk provoking an Albanian revolt against Nato.
As for partition-de facto this has already come about. The only remaining concentration of Serbs is in the far north-west of the region, along the Serbian border, where Serbian refugees huddle and from which the Albanian minority has been ethnically cleansed.
The two populations are now divided along clear-cut geographical lines. Historically speaking, these lines are hardly fair to the Serbs, who made up more than a third of Kosovo’s population a few decades ago. Further, the Serbian enclave does not contain the main Orthodox religious centres of Kosovo. But the Serbian nation bears a heavy burden of responsibility for what has happened in Kosovo; no partition can ever be wholly fair to both sides; and at least the present situation leaves the remaining Serbs with an area in which they can feel safe, while confirming the Albanian majority in its possession of the great bulk of Kosovo.
The problem, of course, is that while this partition is as complete de facto as could be desired, it is completely unrecognised de jure. Formally and legally, Nato remains nailed to the proposition that Kosovo can be turned into a multi-ethnic democracy, and then either re-incorporated into some new,…