Credit where credit is due, the Obama administration is standing firmly behind Kosovo as the International Court of Justice prepares to render a verdict on the "legality" of the tiny nation's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.
Kosovo Prime Minister Hasim Thaci met Wednesday with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other adminsitration officials to discuss the upcoming decision, which comes nearly two years after the U.N. General Assembly referred the case to the ICJ at Serbia's behest.
Kosovo declared independence from Belgrade in February 2008, after nearly nine years of U.N. receivership that followed NATO's 1999 military intervention against the forces of then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
"The vice president reaffirmed the United States' full support for an independent, democratic, whole and multi-ethnic Kosovo whose future lies firmly within European and Euro-Atlantic institutions," the White House said in a statement. "The vice president also reiterated the United States' firm support for Kosovo's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
"I think the critical part from our perspective is that we don't expect that it will change the political situation," said one of the officials. "We believe that the legal outcome will, in fact, affirm that the declaration is in accordance with international law. And it will remove obstacles and doubts that may have been raised about that question."
Sixty-nine nations have recognized Kosovo's independence. Prominent among those who have not is Russia, traditional protector of Serbia, who was very unhappy with the decision. To get back at the US and NATO, Putin cynically declared the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia independent in the aftermath of their aggression two years ago while thousands of Russian troops occupied those territories in defiance of UN resolutions.
Kosovo is no bargain as a state. It is infiltrated by the Albanian mafia and there is still constant tension in some areas between ethnic Serbs and Kosovoans. But they have a darn sight better chance in working those problems out as an independent state than they do as a ward of the UN. And that's why whatever the ICJ decides, it will matter little as far as the reality on the ground.