Kosovo Is Starting to Look a Lot Like Korea

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Kosovo, like Korea, is starting to shape up as a permanent military mission for the U.S. and its allies. Tuesday's outbreak of violence in the divided city of Mitrovice, in which four French peacekeepers and a number of Serb and Albanian civilians were wounded in a series of grenade attacks, underlines the fact that stability remains elusive even eight months after the NATO-led peacekeepers first arrived. The violence in the city close to the Serbian border came a day after the U.N. administrator for the province, Bernard Kouchner, urged the Security Council to provide more money and to begin a debate over the meaning of the "substantial autonomy" for Kosovo to which the international community is committed. "Kosovo is no longer a part of Yugoslavia even if it remains so legally," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "But even NATO opposes formal independence, which would lead to Kosovo becoming part of a 'Greater Albania' and would likely bring renewed instability throughout the region. The obvious solution is for it to remain a U.N. protectorate, although that would require substantial financial and military commitments from the West."

Belgrade, of course, has hardly given up its claim on Kosovo, and is believed to be arming and organizing the Serbs of Mitrovice in their clashes with local ethnic Albanians. "Milosevic may also be gambling that NATO will eventually tire of its financial and military obligations in Kosovo, and seek a quick exit," says Dowell. "Already it's clear that a lot of the money that was promised for rebuilding Kosovo at the height of last year's conflict has simply not been delivered." Kouchner and his supporters argue that unless money is plowed into infrastructure and government institutions, such as police, the province will always be in thrall of extremists. But even if it's reluctant to pay up, NATO is unlikely to abandon Kosovo to Milosevic. Still, says Dowell, "it'll be much cheaper to make a substantial investment now rather than simply allowing Kosovo to slide, which will cost the West a lot more in the long run."