Ghosts of Kosovo

The latest flare-up in the Balkans is more smoke than fire, but crises like it may still come back to haunt us

Dimitar Dilko / AFP / Getty

Kosovars hold flags as they celebrate the independence of Kosovo in the capital Pristina on February 17, 2008

On Feb. 17, after almost a decade of legal limbo and two years of unsuccessful international mediation, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. The U.S. moved swiftly to recognize the new country, and nearly 2 million ethnic Albanians celebrated their long-awaited freedom, dancing in city streets, releasing fireworks and waving flags. Having bristled under Serbian rule and then U.N. administration, Kosovars were elated by the prospect of at last controlling their own affairs.

The Serbs weren't quite so thrilled. On Feb. 21, some 200,000 protested in Belgrade, chanting "Kosovo is Serbia" and holding placards that read, RUSSIA, HELP. Rioters set the...

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