The great nation of Serbia has a long and proud history and her people have played a critical role in European affairs over the last century. Many are convinced, as am I, that the ferocity of Serbian resistance to German occupying forces in 1941 resulted in the delay of Operation Barbarossa. This ensured that German troops did not reach Moscow due to the fierce Russian winter. Had the Serbs not put up such a fight and provoked Hitler into sending extra troops – thus delaying Operation Barbarossa – it could be argued that the second world war would have taken a different course altogether.
The Serbian people played a key role during the Cold War in refusing to be tied to the Warsaw Pact. Their brave resistance to Soviet oppression gave great hope to the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe that they could break free from Soviet rule – a moment that would not come for another 40 years.
Yugoslavia played the role of a vital bridge between East and West during the very difficult times of the Cold War and, through her actions, peace was maintained.
There is no doubt that Serbia was weakened by the disastrous leadership of Slobodan Milosevic. Her once proud industrial and military base now lies in ruins as a result of the catastrophic decisions taken by the former dictator. Serbia has simply not possessed the clout or the influence to resist the demands asked of it by the European Union in recent times. Some of the demands of the EU have been totally unrealistic and overbearing – especially compared with the requirements asked of Bosnia and Croatia (who are themselves partly responsible for the long standing suffering of the Serbian people).
Serbia’s only true friend in the UN Security Council is Russia which has insisted that Kosovo should only become independent with the support and agreement of Belgrade. It is disturbing that the Prime Minister of Kosovo has suggested recently that it may be time to sidestep the UN. Mr Ceku said: "We have to stop pretending that the UN Security Council has an answer to every question".
Western powers – in particular the USA – are taking advantage of her weakness by pushing for immediate independence for Kosovo. The Americans are, belatedly, trying desperately to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. Washington believes that supporting independence for Kosovo will demonstrate to the Muslim world that the US is even handed and the guarantor of Muslim rights in Europe. The Americans should realise that such thinking belongs in cloud cuckoo land. Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars and suffering serious collateral damage in the Kosovo conflict, the Muslim world does not see this intervention as being of any significance at all. They take it for granted and do not acknowledge the sacrifices made to ensure that Muslims in Bosnia are protected. I would be very surprised if Muslim newspapers and commentators hailed the independence of Kosovo as a great achievement by the West; instead it will be seen as just another little gain to be pocketed.
Tony Blair was undoubtedly changed by the Kosovo conflict. Who can forget the cheering crowds that greeted him on his visit to an Albanian refugee camp? In Blair’s eyes, this justified the conflict but the subsequent attitude of Western leaders has demonstrated a total lack of understanding of Kosovo’s culture and sensitivities.
The US and European powers are trying to force through the UN Security Council a Resolution which would grant Kosovo independence – this is wrong and must be challenged. Despite the peace which has endured for some years now there are still major problems in the province which prevent it from being able to manage itself. Corruption is high and there is very little in the way of law and order. Independence would make this vital province of just 2 million people unstable. It would become liable to infiltration from terrorist organisations that are more desperate than ever before to exploit an unstable Muslim enclave in Europe from which to operate.
We owe it to our Serb friends to fight their cause and help them to retain this vital and integral part of their country. It is the spiritual home of Serbia and rightfully belongs to them. If we allow Kosovo to become independent it will cause major problems for the long term peace and stability of the region. If the history of the 20th century has taught us anything, it should be that without peace and stability in the Balkans, there can be no lasting security for Europe.