On May 28, Kosovo Police’s special forces briefly detained and pummeled mercilessly a Russian diplomat, a staffer of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Mikhail Krasnoshchekov, during an intruding into the territory’s northern Serbian-populated municipalities. On May 31, authorities of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo declared the diplomat persona non-grata.
The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned actions of Kosovo Police and the decision of the self-proclaimed republic’s administration. It said that the incident would have “far-reaching consequences”. Nonetheless, the developing situation poses a serious threat to the Russian prestige and influence in the Balkans and the international scene.
It has happened that, in practice, there are various levels of the adversarial relationships between states.
- The diplomatic level. Rhetoric, statements and expulsion of diplomats. For example, if one international actor expels diplomats of another one, it often faces a mirror image retaliation.
- The economic level. The mirror image retaliation principle works in this field also. If one state employs sanctions, tariffs or other economic warfare measures against another state, the targeted state responds to these actions – symmetrically or asymmetrically.
- The hidden war. It is complicated to divide symmetric and asymmetric measures in the event of war of diversions and provocations. Nonetheless, even in this case, states that defend their interests try to provide an adequate response to actions threatening their interests or citizens.
- The direct aggression with a hard power. An incident of this kind, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, became a pretext for the World War I. In response to the assassination, Austria-Hungary sent an ultimatum to Serbia and, then, declared a war.
In the first half of the 20th century, influential states (actors on the international scene) adhered to a principle of equivalence. In the modern world (the end of the 20th century and the first half of the 21th century), the US and China continue to employ this approach in their actions on the international scene.
In the event of a direct aggression against its citizens employing functions and responsibilities in the framework of the national interests of the US, Washington always provides a superior economic, diplomatic or military response.
China acts in a similar way. In particular, after the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Canada, China arrested two Canadians: businesssman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig.
Russia did not do this in the 1990s when in it de-facto was under a direct control of Western forces. However, even after this, in the recent years, Moscow did not employ this principle in cases when its interests and citizens were targeted.
In 2015, the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 jet near the Turkish-Syrian border. Then, the Russian leadership declared that Ankara “would not get off with tomatoes” meaning that a brief sanctions imposed after the tragedy was only the first step. However, by 2019, no additional steps had been made. Russia and Turkey act, at least publicly, like friendly states. So, the “tomatoes” had appeared to be enough.
In 2018, a Russian IL-20 intelligence plane with 15 personnel aboard was shot down near Syria because of hostile actions by Israel. The Russian Defense Ministry directly blamed Tel Aviv for this and said that Israeli warplanes were acting in a way that led to the tragedy. No direct actions in response to this situation were undertaken. There was a kind of “asymmetric response” – the delivery of S-300 system to Syria. However, this system has never been employed.
On May 28, 2019, Kosvo’s special forces intentionally attacked a Russian diplomat acting in the region as a staffer of the UNMIK. Kosovo representatives claimed that he was near Serbian barricades. However, it was a part of his right as the UNMIK representative to be here. Let’s suppose that Kosovo forces had a right to detain him briefly to check his identity.
Nonetheless, video and photo evidence confirm that Kosovo forces intentionally beat the person advanced in years that was not resisting to the detention. Kosovo troops knew that he was a diplomat, but employed violence because of he was “Russian”. Krasnoshchekov received numerous heavy injuries to the face and head. “Kosovo authorities” intentionally spitted in Russia’s face.
If it was a “mistake” of the performers, Pristina would make an official apology to Russia, and the guilty would be punished. The May 28 event was not the first such incident in the diplomatic practice. An apology is a standard response. Nonetheless, this is not the case. Pristina blamed the Russian diplomat for the situation and declared him a person non-grata. The goal of the action was to demonstrate to the Serbs that they would receive and can receive no real support from Russia. This provocation is intended to demonstrate to the Balkans, Europe and the entire world that the current Russian political leadership has no real will and instruments to impact the situation in the Balkans.
Today is June 1, 2019. So far, Russia has limited its response to formal protests and statements. Moscow responded to a military action (act of violence) against its diplomat in the diplomatic field only. The Serbs, other Balkan nations and all actors on the international scene understand the real meaning and importance of this situation. All is waiting for a Russian response.
In the established situation, Russia would save its face in the event of changing the current language of statements to the language of ultimatums and real actions against both the Kosovo and Albanian leadership.
If Russia sit down under this provocation, its positions on the international scene would be undermined. Russia would lose its image among the Serbs even further, and the “European integration” concept would get an additional momentum.
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