Wednesday, March 25, 2009

From Kosovo To Kandahar

It must have seemed like the perfect political visit to have to carry out. Spanish defence minister Carme Chacón stood before the Spanish troops stationed in Kosovo and told them that they had fulfilled their mission and would soon be on their way home. From that moment onwards things went badly wrong, as both NATO and the US government made it clear that they weren't happy with Spain's decision to pull its troops out. It's all been a bit of a setback for Chacón, seen by many as the main candidate to succeed Zapatero when he goes, and for ZP himself just as he is about to sit down with Obama and reform the world economy.

At the heart of the whole issue is the refusal by the Spanish government to recognise the independence of Kosovo, making it perhaps even stranger that they have kept their troops there over a year since independence was declared. There is something distinctly odd about serving in a peacekeeping mission in a country that you don't even recognise. Chacon, on her journey to make the announcement, avoided any contact with the local authorities by flying into a military airport and then being whisked by helicopter directly to the Spanish base. Tom over at has written about the fears the Kosovo example provokes in Spain about threats to the unity of the country, although if you look at it from all sides there is little in this case to please nationalists of any variety.

Spain is not the only country pulling troops out of Kosovo, the UK has been quietly reducing its contingent for some time; without anyone really noticing. As Zapatero's government has rushed into damage limitation mode, it appears that the withdrawal from Kosovo will now be done so slowly that hardly anyone will notice the difference, apart from the soldiers who thought for a couple of days that they were on their way home. If I was in their place I would stick to directing the traffic in Pristina, because the outcome of the messy handling of this issue is likely to be a commitment to send more Spanish soldiers to places that are much less tranquil than Kosovo currently is.

Candidate number one for the appeasement of the US and NATO could well involve an increased Spanish presence in Afghanistan, as NATO extends its search for a reason to exist into the frontier lands of Pakistan. With increasingly disastrous results. At the same time Spain is playing a greater role in the force supposedly combatting piracy off the coast of Somalia. Happily, they can combine this task with that of ensuring that Western fishing fleets continue to pillage waters where fishing quotas will never be applied. Then you read that many of the Somali pirates used to be fishermen themselves, until the big boys with the big boats pushed them out of the way.

There is clearly no thought of doing anything about Somalia itself, or the rest of Africa for that matter. I was reading this evening about how the economic crisis is making the failure to meet the millennium goals even more evident. Obviously, it would be ridiculous to spend the extra 7-8 billion dollars needed to guarantee a minimum of 6 years education for children around the world when much more than that can be well spent on guaranteeing the right of bankers to carry on receiving their bonuses for disastrous performance. Far sadder than the inept handling of the Kosovo incident is what such cases reveal about the priorities of our governments.

1 comment:

Katie said...

hear, hear! what a sad situation we've got on our hands these days.