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Russia will accept any agreement on Kosovo that suits Serbia. The solution must be confirmed by the UN Security Council. Depending on whether you put the conjunction “and” or the conjunction “but” between these two sentences, you will be able to interpret Moscow’s position on the Kosovo issue and negotiations, which have been going on for a decade, somewhat more clearly. And for a full interpretation, it will be necessary to distinguish whether this is one position of Russia, or maybe two.
It is possible that we unnecessarily complicate the meaning of the Russian position on Kosovo, because it has been communicated long enough and at first glance it seems quite clear. But something that today seems like a pure and “principled” position (Russian officials always emphasize this) may sometimes manifest itself in the future as a rather complicated attitude, and even as a major obstacle to successful business.
Staying as a guest at the ceremonial marking of the 60th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade, Sergey Lavrov repeated Russia’s position (or two positions) on what the future agreement regarding Kosovo should look like. It is an obligatory part of every high-level Russian-Serbian meeting, and it would be a real miracle to hear something different from Moscow officials. This position has long been designed by serious and experienced Russian diplomacy, and it satisfies two key conditions to be taken extremely seriously. Firstly, it has been unchanged for years and secondly, in the shortest and most precise way, it reflects the essence of Russia’s interests when it comes to Kosovo, Serbia and the Balkans. We will stay on this second aspect.
Russia is not directly involved in the negotiations on Kosovo and does not show a particular desire to change that. This was clear even when the UN General Assembly gave its consent for the dialogue within the UN framework to be moved under the auspices of the European Union, where it is still taking place today. Russia will not participate until the end of these negotiations, regardless of the fact that such initiatives appear from time to time. There will be no major international conference on Kosovo, to which Moscow would certainly be invited, because without it, such a conference would not make much sense.
Thus, Russia has set itself a comfortable position in which it does not have to work much and can wait for everything to end. It does not have to spend negotiating energy, to organize a dialogue, to appoint envoys, to send diplomatic teams to the Balkans or to Brussels, in short, it does not have to
move a finger as long as the talks last. And hoping that they will last a long time, if possible, and that they will never end.
Russia, in fact, is not interested in what the future agreement on Kosovo will look like. It says that very clearly in the first paragraph from the beginning of the text (we will accept everything that suits Serbia). In that position is its alleged refrain from interfering in the negotiation process, and in fact it is a clear separation from everything that happens in the negotiations, mostly distancing from any responsibility if the dialogue gets stuck, or maybe even fails. If Russia is not interested in something, and it is clear that it is not interested in what it will be written in the future agreement between Belgrade and Pristina with the EU stamp, then what is its interest in dealing with this issue at all?
Moscow’s entire interest in dealing with the Kosovo issue is contained in the second sentence (or Moscow’s second position) from the beginning, which is that the final agreement between Belgrade and Pristina must be in accordance with Resolution 1244 and “certified” in the UN Security Council. It is the only place where today’s Russia has any influence on solving international problems. Nowhere else is Putin’s Russia asked much about international crises, nor is its participation sought. It is largely isolated in the international arena, and on the other hand, it is active only in those zones to which its actual influence reaches, and that is more or less the territory of the former USSR, which it considers its backyard. This was last seen clearly in our backyard during the recent appointment of Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative in BiH. The decision was made despite Russia’s opposition, Schmidt is already working hard, and his appointment will not be certified by the Security Council, as requested by Moscow.
Russia seeks to certify the Kosovo agreement in the Security Council under the guise of form, that is, respect for international law, but the essence is different. It seeks respect for the principle that one decision (Resolution 1244) is in force until a new one is adopted on the same subject. Behind this “legalism” is Russia’s desire to be asked what it thinks about the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, when it is completed and signed. It does not mean anything to it that the two sides have already agreed on everything that concerns these solutions, nor is it interested in what is written in the agreement, the only thing that matters is for Russia to come to a situation to decide whether the agreement will be implemented or not.
When it’s in that position, that is, if that happens, Russia will not even then be very interested in the relations between Belgrade and Pristina. It will be much more interested in those things that it is truly interested in and it will try to get the maximum benefit from this new position. And these issues are thousands of kilometers away from both Belgrade and Pristina and are located mainly in the Caucasus (Abkhazia, South Ossetia) or in Ukraine (Crimea, Donbas) or perhaps in Moldova (Transnistria). There are real Russian interests there, and at those points, Moscow is very interested in what it will be written in possible agreements, and especially how the rest of the world will accept those solutions.
That is why we can imagine that Russia will one day “forget” its first position regarding the Kosovo dialogue (we will accept everything that suits Serbia), and keep only its second part (in accordance with 1244, plus certification in the Security Council). This may be a reality, because these are Moscow’s real priorities and a reflection of its true interests. The priority is not what will be written in a future agreement on Kosovo, but the priority and exclusive interest for that paper to one day come before the Security Council. Even then, the Balkans, Belgrade and Pristina will not be the focus of Russian interest, they will only be an item on the agenda for some other topics that are really important to Russia.

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