On her Spectator blog, Melanie Phillips asks rhetorically, "Is this crazy, or is this crazy?":
"Russia’s President Putin has warned that recognising Kosovo will rebound very badly upon the countries who have blundered into endorsing it. The fact that this outcome is merely the inevitable consequence of the war so unwisely prosecuted by those countries against Serbia does not soften its deeply alarming implications. Putin is warning only too correctly of the dangers to the west of this development and the supreme folly of endorsing it.
"For once, Putin is on the right side and Britain and America are utterly wrong. That is the measure of this debacle."
You were right the first time, Melanie: this is crazy. Your complaint of "a breach of a country's right to maintain its own integrity" is, ahem, light on the recent history of the region. The author of Kosovo's independence was Russia's ally Slobodan Milosevic. As President of Serbia, Milosevic stripped Kosovo of its autonomy in 1989, thereby denying it the status within the Yugoslav Federation that it had been assured under the 1974 constitution. Serb designs on Kosovo were and remain - whatever euphemisms you care to employ for them - devices for crushing popular demands. Almost literally every single Kosovar Albanian supported separation from Serbia under Milosevic. A survey in 1995 (cited in Ivo H. Daadler and Michael E. O'Hanlon, Winning Ugly: Nato's War to Save Kosovo, 2000, pp. 8-9) found that 43 per cent of Kosovar Albanians favoured joining Albania, while 57 per cent favoured outright independence.
This, incidentally, was the context for what Melanie calls "the war so unwisely prosecuted... against Serbia" - or to put it more accurately, Nato's intervention to rebuff Milosevic's genocidal campaign against Kosovar Albanians. In pursuit of a Greater Serbia, Milosevic had already caused mayhem. By September 1998, some 300,000 people had fled their homes, the great majority of them Kosovar Albanians, in response to Milosevic's scorched-earth policy of destroying entire villages. Nato's intervention prevented a humanitarian catastrophe. Contrary to those who feared that it would reinforce Milosevic's popularity in Serbia, the genocidal butcher fell from power shortly afterwards when one ballot-rigging exercise too many caused his downfall. There are many failures that can be attributed to Western policies in the region in the past decade, and Kosovo is an unhappy and unstable place. But independence and eventual EU membership are the right and inevitable course for Kosovo. I would direct Melanie to a wise judgement by Timothy Garton Ash:
"I do not know the way to draw up a historical balance-sheet that determines whether this result is just. And who, under what circumstances, has the right to self-determination is a conundrum that liberals have spent 160 years failing to resolve. But two things I will assert with confidence. First, the single human being most responsible for this Serbian loss is Slobodan Milosevic - may he rot in hell - aided and abetted by two war criminals still at large, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.... The second thing I assert with confidence is that this will be the least worst outcome, not just for Kosovo but also for Serbia itself."
Amen to that - and, I might add, a sense of historical vindication to the British prime minister who ensured that Milosevic's genocidal aggression was thwarted and a new political arrangement for the region made possible.