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Today, the United States, Britain, France, and several other European countries
Today, the United States, Britain, France, and several other European countries are trying to persuade the world that only Kosovo's independence can bring stability to the region. Nobody thinks that Europe will encounter grave problems in the near future.

Supporters of Kosovo's independence believe that Serbia should accept it because Albanians form the majority of its population; in the last 20 years they have not parted with arms and have long been causing problems for Serbs.

But the Kosovo issue is rooted in a clash of interests between the Albanian majority, which would like to set up its own national state on the Balkans by uniting with Albania, and the Republic of Serbia, which is upholding its territorial integrity.

This is not a religious conflict. Albanians have a very strong sense of national identity. Being an Albanian overrides everything else - one's home, job, or religion. All Albanians are supposed to move to their main goal, which is set out in the Program of the League of Prizren (1878) - unite all lands with an Albanian majority. This is a sacred document for all Albanians, and they deduct a certain percentage of their earnings toward reaching this goal. This fund is used to buy weapons, train militants, and bribe politicians.

Albanians in Macedonia, southern Serbia, and Montenegro will follow the Kosovars, and Europe may see the emergence of several Albanian states after a new wave of armed conflicts. They will turn into hotbeds of tension if Kosovo and Metohija are declared independent.

Moreover, Europe will see a parade of sovereignties - no self-proclaimed state will consider Kosovo a unique case. The Security Council will be flooded with requests from territories which will also want to secede from multi-ethnic or multi-religious countries.

Recognition of Kosovo's independence will also encourage others to adopt the Albanian-style terrorist methods - murders and forced evacuation of the non-Albanian population, burning of houses, and detonation of Christian cultural monuments. Today, the whole world is fighting against terrorism, but why not in Kosovo?

Europe should remember that this territory with an unemployed majority is the center of drug trafficking and transit (up to 80% of Afghan heroin arrives in Europe via Kosovo), money laundering, trade in weapons and slaves. It was first necessary to eliminate crime there, and then to think about its independence. If the Europeans had adopted this approach, they would never even thought about its cessation from Serbia.

Now many analysts are saying that everything has been tried and tested in Kosovo, and there is simply no other solution. But this is not so. In order to stop manipulation with international law and prevent the fragmentation of the territory of any country, the world community should work out universal criteria for recognizing the independence of a territory.

Such criteria may include the level of democracy, absence of genocide, armed or terrorist actions, potential for independent development, and, finally, the results of a referendum. If such criteria existed, the Kosovo leaders would know in advance that they cannot claim independence because their land does not meet most of them. But such criteria do not exist. This is why there is no unity in the Security Council or the European Union, and most countries are pondering over this situation.

RIA Novosti has analyzed the case, and it has transpired that five countries will not recognize Kosovo's independence without a relevant UN resolution, 16 states will never do so, and another 17 are not rushing to make a decision. Thirty countries have already recognized it or declared their readiness to do so. It is clear that the advocates of Kosovo's independence do not have an advantage (30 versus 38), and much credit for this goes to Russia.

Some Western media are trying to prove that Russia has lost on all Balkan fronts. But this is absolutely wrong and here is why:

Russia has done much since it said a resolute no to Kosovo's cessation in the Security Council a year ago. Its consistent policy has started to yield results, and a 17 year-old period when international law did not work is coming to an end. Russia has convinced several other countries of the need to revive international law and put an end to the violation of rights, a policy that has dominated the efforts to settle the Balkan crisis since the early 1990s.

Today, many analysts are saying that the UN will not survive the Kosovo crisis and that its days are numbered. But I think that owing to Russia, the UN is overcoming a grave illness that gripped it in mid-1990s. Its symptoms were obvious - the UN was following in the U.S. wake in settling very complicated ethnic issues; it always insisted on consensus even if a decision was clearly unfair; it pursued a policy of double standards toward Serbia, and allowed NATO to actively interfere in Balkan affairs without its resolutions.

Many politicians have been trying to convince us that UN principles do not work, and it is necessary to replace the UN with a new security system. Bur disputes in the UN are a good thing. We should start listening to each other. UN principles are not bad - we simply forgot that they exist.

Yelena Guskova (Ph. D.) heads the Balkans Crisis Center at the Institute of Slavic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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