May 6, 2005

Mearsheimer, Bugajski search for solutions to Kosovo crisis

Students in Stuart 101 scrambled for seats in the lecture room to hear John J. Mearsheimer, professor of political science and R. Wendell Holmes Distinguished Service Professor, and Janusz Bugajski, director of the Eastern Europe Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, deliver a lecture entitled "Envisioning Kosovo: Prospects for an Uncertain Future."

The two speakers gave background on the situation in Kosovo, and then presented their proposals for the resolution of the political status of Kosovo, which has been under United Nations mandate since the end of NATO air strikes against targets in Kosovo and Serbia in 1999.

Bugajski emphasized the difficulty in finding a solution that appeases Serbia. "Independence for Kosovo is inevitable, but a roadmap with a final destination must be made soon," Bugajski said. Bugajski speculated that the situation will escalate if the international community does not act soon, given rising frustration from the Albanian population.

"Independence is coming," Mearsheimer agreed. "It's only a matter of time." Mearsheimer recommended independence for Kosovo, with a sliver of the province going to Serbia. "Behind closed doors, most Serbs understand this one [Kosovo]'s gone," said Mearsheimer. "But Kosovo is emotionally important to the Serbs. To get them to accept the settlement we need to give them something. About seven percent in the northeast area [near the Serbian border] is already mostly inhabited by Serbians anyway. It just makes sense as a solution to satisfy both parties."

The speakers mentioned providing Serbia with an incentive to allow Kosovo's independence by an offer that would expedite its membership to the E.U. The speakers discussed the problem of the possibility that the Albanian minority in Macedonia might intensify its campaign for the partitioning of Macedonia, should Kosovo gain its formal independence from Serbia.

Regardless, Bugajski and Mearsheimer both agreed that the U.S. should take action. "Uncle Sam came to rescue before but the question now is how can Uncle Sam get out?" said Mearsheimer. Bugajski recommended that the NATO mission should be maintained with American presence. "The majority of the Albanian population respects American leadership more than European and thus America must make a move," he said.

Pellumb Kelmendi, the lecture's main organizer, has wanted to hold the event since the beginning of the academic year and was pleased to see it finally happen. "This event gave a chance for Mearsheimer and Bugajski to make policy recommendations for what the best final status would be and how that status can be brought about," said Kelmendi.

The event was sponsored by the Chicago Society. "‘Envisioning Kosovo' is a strong conclusion to an active year for Chicago Society," said Dan Michaeli, Chicago Society's Finance Director for this year, and recently elected president of the organization. "This year we held a number of successful and unique events, including ‘Undressing College: The Naked Economics of Student Life' and a lunch with Danielle Allen, dean of the humanities."