Kosovo: The End of Yugoslavia's Disintegration or The Spark of New Conflict?

Reuben W. Hills Conference Room
  • Elez Biberaj,
  • Obrad Kesic

Mr. Biberaj and Mr. Kesic both examine the issue of Kosovan independence from different persepectives. Mr. Biberaj explains why he believes that supervised independence is the only way forward. Mr. Kesic, on the other hand, expresses concern at how this decision is being made.


Mr. Biberaj argues that if Kosovo is not to remain part of Serbia, then it has only two options. The first is a continuation of the status quo, which Mr. Biberaj feels is untenable. The second is supervised independence. Mr. Biberaj believes that this is a defining moment for the Balkans, and the region needs to move on from this issue. He argues that danger of renewed violence is exaggerated primarily because there is now a different situation and NATO peacekeeping forces are on the ground. Although a transition will not be easy, Mr. Biberaj feels that it will be manageable due to the widespread support this move has from the US and many European states. In addition, Mr. Biberaj argues that Russia and Serbia are powerless to do anything about the move.

What is crucial, however, is that Kosovo must rapidly look to the challenges ahead. Its government, which will be a coalition, must reach out to the Serb community, create a secure environment, and battle corruption and economic difficulties. Although Mr. Biberaj argues military confrontation must not be ruled out, to him, the general situation is relatively stable. Addressing religion, Mr. Biberaj explains that Serbian Islamists are self-assured and moderate and do not pose a serious threat in Serbia and Kosovo. Most importantly, Mr. Biberaj stresses that this is perhaps the last opportunity to peacefully solve this Albanian-Serb conflict without partitioning Serbia. He explains that the Serbs will eventually learn to live with Kosovo’s independence but also emphasizes the US must stay until “business is finished.”

Citing the withdrawal of troops in particular, Mr. Kesic argues, on the other hand , that Kosovo is an example of failed US diplomacy. It was taken for granted that Russia and Serbia would reluctantly accept the US and European states’ approach to the Kosovan problem, and the issue was dealt with too much as a vacuum, not taking into account neighboring players. Moreover, Mr. Kesic feels that the whole process has left Serbia no reason to trust the US and the European states involved. NATO has not fulfilled its promise of protecting minorities, the US is still not satisfied with Serbia even after it has gotten rid of Milosevic, and Kosovo is being treated as an exception to the territorial integrity principle employed for dividing up former Yugoslavia. Mr. Kesic argues that if the decision of Kosovan independence is made through continuing this same diplomatic process then instability will follow. Furthermore, supervised independence with protection by NATO is a selective interpretation of a UN resolution. Mr. Kesic believes such interpretations create chaos, make bypassing diplomacy the norm, and undermine UN peacekeeping efforts. In addition, what is the point of establishing democracy in Serbia if the international community treats it in the same humiliating way as it did Serbia’s previous regime? To Mr. Kesic, we must also continue to take seriously issues that could lead to war, such as tensions between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo itself. Finally, Mr. Kesic concludes by arguing that the EU’s common foreign policy is really what is being “put on the line.”


Elez Biberaj is a 27-year veteran of the Voice of America. As division director, he brings to bear considerable radio and television broadcasting experience and Eurasian market knowledge in planning, directing, and developing VOA's multimedia programming in Russian, Ukrainian, Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Greek, Macedonian, and Serbian. Dr. Biberaj joined VOA's Albanian Service as an international radio broadcaster in 1980. From 1982 to 1986, he worked in the Press Division of the former U.S. Information Agency as a senior writer/editor, specializing in Soviet and East European Affairs. Dr. Biberaj returned to VOA as Albanian Service Chief in 1986, and, for the next 18 years helped transform the service into one of VOA's most successful broadcasting units. For over a decade, he served in dual capacity as chief of the Albanian Service and director of European Division writers and researchers. In the latter capacity, he directed the work of division writers and researchers, developed broad strategies for providing program material and research, and assigned coverage of events and topics of importance to Eastern Europe, and edited program material for use by division services.

Dr. Biberaj was named the Eurasia Division's managing editor in 2004, became acting director the following year, and was appointed division director in December 2006. In his Eurasia Division managerial positions, Dr. Biberaj helped develop new programming strategies that enabled language services to take advantage of new technologies, improve existing programming formats, and better meet audience demands in a highly competitive media environment. His expertise and knowledge of Eurasian affairs and of U.S. foreign policy objectives have been recognized inside and outside of VOA. On many occasions, he has been invited by the State Department, the National Security Council, and other U.S. government agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations to participate in policy planning exercises, conferences, and panel discussions. He has also appeared on television outlets such as CNN, ABC, Fox, NBC, and CBC to comment on Balkan affairs.

Dr. Biberaj has written widely on the horrors of communist rule in Albania, the long struggle of Albanians in former Yugoslavia for human and national rights, and the daunting challenges that Albania has faced in its transition from communism to democracy. Elez Biberaj has a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University. He has authored three books on Albanian affairs and contributed chapters to several others. He has also published articles in Encyclopedia Britannica, Conflict Studies, Problems of Communism, Survey, The World Today, East European Quarterly, The Wall Street Journal/Europe, etc.

Obrad Kesic is a Senior Partner with TSM Global Consultants, LLC. Mr. Kesic is also currently working with the Balkan countries on behalf of the Congressional National Prayer Breakfast. Over the last decade, Mr. Kesic has been working with the governments and with nongovernmental organizations in South Eastern Europe. Mr. Kesic also serves as a consultant on Balkan affairs for various US and international organizations and agencies. Mr. Kesic has provided analysis and briefings for US government agencies and officials, including The Department of State, The Department of Defense and the United States Information Agency. Mr. Kesic also provides frequent commentary and analysis for the US and international media, including for National Public Radio, CNN International, BBC, Voice of America, USA Today, and Monitor Radio. Mr. Kesic has authored dozens of articles and essays on Balkan affairs and on US policy toward the Balkan states. He is a frequent speaker to community, professional and scholarly groups. Mr. Kesic is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the private company, SuperDrive, Inc.