Kosovo's Crazy Quilt in Danger of Getting Crazier

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Kosovo’s armed peace may be turning into a bigger headache for NATO than the war was –- because this time, the alliance doesn’t know who to support. U.S. troops overnight Wednesday rushed to the rescue of their Russian comrades in the village of Dobrcane, firing over the heads of a crowd of ethnic-Albanians pelting the Russians with rocks. It was one of three clashes overnight between peacekeepers and supporters of the Kosovo Liberation Army, incidents which have become an almost daily occurrence as returning refugees seek vengeance on the province’s remaining Serbs and Russian peacekeepers, and the KLA presses its claim for political power and independence.

KFOR commander General Sir Michael Jackson said last weekend that the KLA leadership was not fully in control of its "hard-liners." But this may have simply been a polite warning -– observers agree that KLA leader Hashem Thaci, despite political support from Washington, is himself one of the movement’s leading hard-liners. The ethnic cleansing of the province’s remaining Serbs and the violence against peacekeepers would be unlikely without at least the tacit support of the KLA. And that’s a problem for NATO, which insists on a multiethnic Kosovo, and opposes independence. But it’s not only a problem of principle: Both Belgrade and Moscow have warned that they won’t tolerate the KLA running riot in the province, and if NATO won’t stop it, they’ll do it themselves. As if to underline the point, Russian peacekeepers last week briefly detained KLA military chief Agim Ceku over the issue of his personnel wearing uniforms and carrying side-arms. NATO can ill-afford a confrontation with the KLA, but it may be even less inclined to allow the Russians to get into one.