The problem of Kosovo, an already complex equation with many unknowns, is getting more vexing by the day.  On February 2, U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveiled his much-anticipated plan for the final status of the southern Serbian province, which has been under NATO-U.N. occupation since Bill Clinton’s war against the Serbs in 1999.  While avoiding the contentious word independence, Ahtisaari presented the framework for a new Albanian state that would have all the key attributes of sovereign statehood.

The period of international supervision envisaged by the plan, as well as a host of “guarantees” for the few remaining Serbs and other non-Albanians in the province, are but a fig leaf that cannot conceal the fact that Ahtisaari’s plan gives everything to the Albanians and nothing to the Serbs.  The promise of a “review” after two years is mendacious: If, on their current church-burning, dope-smuggling form, the KLA terrorists who run Kosovo are deemed worthy of independence, it is preposterous to hope that anyone would dare suggest otherwise two years from now.  If 150 Serbian churches went up in flames, and a quarter-million Serbs and other non-Albanians were ethnically cleansed while tens of thousands of KFOR soldiers and UNMIK policemen were stationed in the province, Ahtisaari’s “guarantees” will be worthless once they all leave and the KLA (under whatever name) takes over.

Ahtisaari’s plan violates the U.N. Charter, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, and Security Council Resolution 1244—all of which recognize Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  It seeks to reward the most egregious violators of standards of civilized behavior in today’s Europe.  It is destabilizing because it helps create a base for jihad in the heart of Europe and sets a dangerous precedent that will be emulated by disenchanted minorities around the world.

Ahtisaari delayed presenting his plan from November 2006, when it was essentially completed, until after the general election in Serbia on January 21.  In doing so, he tried to manipulate Serbia’s electoral process by concealing the utter awfulness of his proposals during the election campaign, which improved the vote for President Boris Tadic’s Democratic Party, which is deemed “pro-Western” and soft on Kosovo.  Even Tadic has rejected Ahtisaari’s proposals, however, calling them completely unacceptable.

On February 15, Serbia’s parliament overwhelmingly rejected the plan.  The government of Prime Minister Kostunica is adamant that it will never allow “the creation of another Albanian state on Serbian territory.”

At the same time, the Albanians are growing restless, and there is escalating violence in the province, some of it directed against the representatives of “the international community” in Pristina.  International administrators and peacekeepers fear that there will be more to come if the Albanians are not granted their fast track to full independence.

Ahtisaari and the main Western proponents of Kosovo’s independence—the United States, Great Britain, and Germany—would like to push the proposal through the U.N. Security Council and impose the “solution” regardless of Serbia’s objections.  They cannot, however, as long as Russia remains firm in her threat to veto any resolution that has not been approved by Belgrade.

Earlier assessments that Moscow was bluffing, and that it would go along with the Western consensus in the end, have been proved wrong.  In fact, in recent weeks, Russia’s position has stiffened.  Moscow will not support any plan that is not accepted by Serbia, President Vladimir Putin declared on February 10.  His defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, warned that granting independence to Kosovo would trigger the disintegration of other states across Eurasia, “sparking a chain reaction and opening up Pandora’s box.”  Konstantin Kosachev, head of the State Duma International Affairs Committee, said that Russia would veto Ahtisaari’s plan if it goes to the Security Council.  Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared that independence for Kosovo would have “the most negative consequences” for the Balkans and Europe and rejected any “imposition” of Ahtisaari’s plan.

Regardless of Russia’s motives—among which the U.S. refusal to accept the validity of the Kosovo precedent for Abkhasia, Ossetia, Karabakh, and Transdnistria figures prominently—Ahtisaari’s current plan stands no chance of gaining acceptance at the U.N. Security Council.  The Albanians and their foreign supporters, however, have their “Plan B”: a unilateral declaration of independence, followed by individual recognition of Kosovo as an independent state by the United States, Britain, the Muslim world, and Serbia’s historical foes in the region (Albania, Croatia, Bulgaria).

The problem with this “Plan B” is that the European Union will not agree to move into Kosovo to replace UNMIK, as envisaged by Ahtisaari’s plan, without a Security Council resolution authorizing the change.  Furthermore, there is no unanimity within the European Union.  Those countries that oppose independence—notably Slovakia and Rumania, but also Spain, Greece, and Cyprus—would oppose any E.U. attempt to grant recognition to Kosovo without U.N. approval.  Given Greece’s ability to delay the recognition of Macedonia in the early 1990’s, it is clear that strong opposition to a political decision even by one weak E.U. member—let alone by a group of four or five—could block any attempt by the Albanians and their friends to repeat the feat of Hans-Dietrich Genscher from Maastricht in December 1991.

There is considerable potential for a rift over Kosovo, not only between Washington and Moscow, but between the United States and the European Union.  Such a rift may come about, either if Europe endorses a revision of Ahtisaari’s plan that would address Belgrade’s and Moscow’s concerns or if Brussels refuses to succumb to the U.S. pressure to circumvent the United Nations altogether.

At a time when America has far more pressing problems elsewhere that demand Russia’s support and Europe’s assistance, it would be absurd to risk tension with either of them—let alone with both—in pursuit of a failed policy inherited from Bill Clinton that serves the interests of a murderous clique of criminals and terrorists.  To that end, the United States must accept that Kosovo’s independence would be bad not only for peace and stability in the region, or justice and common decency in world affairs, but for this country’s interests.