Why the KLA is Shooting at the Peacemakers

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Kosovo’s ethnic-Albanian separatists may no longer have a Serb army to shoot at, so they’re settling for the next best thing –- the Russians. Russian troops came under fire in at least three separate attacks overnight Thursday, leaving one soldier wounded. At least four other incidents were reported around the province in one of the most violent nights since the end of hostilities between the Serbs and NATO. The attacks follow an escalation of violence by returning Kosovar Albanians against Serbs and other minorities, which has seriously jeopardized NATO’s objective of maintaining the territory’s multi-ethnic makeup.

Although it is formally committed to NATO’s peacekeeping arrangements, the Kosovo Liberation Army has never accepted the West’s view that Kosovo should remain a multi-ethnic, fully autonomous province of Yugoslavia. By driving out the remaining Serbs, Kosovar Albanian separatists strengthen the case for independence from Yugoslavia, which would leave it free to join Albania –- a prospect NATO fears would destabilize the region. The KLA had pursued this objective in its guerrilla war against Serbian forces for two years before NATO’s bombing campaign, but the withdrawal of the Serbs and their replacement by the KFOR peacekeeping force made it more difficult to pursue independence by military means. While KLA elements would be unlikely to engage NATO forces, the Russians –- who are considered traditional allies of the Serbs –- make an ideal target for those Kosovars who want to fight on. And even though it’s the Russians who are in the Kosovar separatists' crosshairs, the attacks are a crisis for NATO’s entire peacekeeping operation. After all, the standing orders of the peacekeeping forces allow for a robust response to any attacks, and Moscow is unlikely to take them lying down.