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Holbrooke: Kosovo Independence Declaration Could Spark Crisis

Council on Foreign Relations

Interviewee: Richard C. Holbrooke, Vice Chairman, Perseus LLC
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, The Council on Foreign Relations

December 5, 2007

Richard C. Holbrooke, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who helped broker the Dayton Accords ending the Bosnian war, says a lack of Russian cooperation may lead to a “huge diplomatic train wreck” when Kosovo declares its independence. The Russians helped end the fighting in 1999 when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombed Serbia on behalf of the persecuted ethnic Albanian population in its province of Kosovo. Yet, Holbrooke says, Moscow this time has been no help at all, encouraging Serbia’s stubbornness and declining to help work out an arrangement to allow Kosovo a peaceful transition to the independence it has been promised by the international community.

On December 10, the three-man group—U.S. envoy Frank Wisner, Russian representative Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko and EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger—that the United Nations set up last summer to bring about a negotiated solution between Kosovo and Serbia ends its work in failure. It’s widely expected that Kosovo, the autonomous province of Serbia, will soon announce its independence. Do you have any idea when that may happen?

To the best of my knowledge, the Kosovo Albanian leaders, who were elected last month, will make a unilateral declaration of independence about a month or so after December 10.

And they will ask all countries of the world to recognize them, as well as the United Nations?


Now the European Union, at the moment, from what I can tell, has about five member states that are nervous about recognizing an independent Kosovo.

The United States, Britain, France, and Germany have already said they will recognize Kosovo. Most of the EU [European Union], but not all, will recognize them. Some will recognize them on a slightly slower time frame than others. Russia will not recognize them. Other countries will be up for grabs.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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