Balkan messiness — Kosovo (it’s still there) is one of the leftovers of former Yugoslavia. Not quite as large as Connecticut, it is perhaps an independent nation. It did in fact declare independence in 2008 and many countries–including Italy–formally recognized this. China, Russia and a few others did not.
The strongest “no” came from Serbia, of which Kosovo was a rebel province. Today it is in substance a protectorate of the European Union, one which unhappily melds two nationalities that have detested one another for centuries: the Serbs and the Albanians. It is a bomb waiting to explode—again.
Now the Russians, apparently not satisfied with the violence in Ukraine, have begun saying they would be pleased to see a largish slice of Kosovo given back to Serbia. The Serbs think that sounds like a wonderful idea and have officially stated that: “The partition (of Kosovo) would be a good solution.”
Vladimir Putin, visiting Belgrade at the end of last year, declared that “Russia continues to see Serbia as its closest collaborator.” His Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, in the meantime has warned Nato not to enlarge its presence in the Balkans, saying this “…would be viewed by Russia as a provocation and so would undermine the security and stability of Europe.” “Of Europe,” he said, not “of the Balkans.”
The only EU reaction so far has been a comment to the effect that it “expects to see the full implementation of the Brussels agreement between Kosovars and Serbs, leading to the normalization of relations between the two countries.” It is hard to believe that there was much trembling in Moscow at these tough words.
Causing trouble in the Balkans costs very little. The propensity of the inhabitants to kill each other “for free” if necessary is well known. From the Russian point of view, a return to chaos in Kosovo would be a further (and cost-effective) demonstration that the EU sphere of influence does not extend much beyond beyond Trieste, where Italy and Croatia share a border.
Quill pens — The GCHQ—Britain’s signals intelligence agency, equivalent to the American NSA—has begun advising British-based multinationals to take away their employees’ smartphones in order to reduce the risk of cybernetic attacks.
The move is coherent with the “return to the past” underway in many large organizations worried about protecting confidential information. Both the Russian and the German intelligence services are understood to have gone back to old-fashioned mechanical typewriters for generating seriously secret documents, while many private and public entities now prefer to avoid email for any but the most routine communications.
A nice sign of all of this can be found in the precautions taken by the Investigative Committee of the German Parliament, the Bundestag, that is looking into American espionage in their country. Those participating in its meetings are required to leave their cell phones sealed in a metal box kept in a small room nearby—where, as a further precaution, recorded classical music is played at full blast to drown out any possibility of capturing a murmured indiscretion.
Testicular politics — It is inevitable that Italian commentators will soon have a great deal to say about the British politician Nigel Farage and his UKIP independence party–anti-EU, anti-State, possibly xenophobic and above all “too popular”—because its policies seem to resemble those of Italy’s two eurosceptic parties: the Northern League and the Five Stars Movement. As a result, we believe it may be important to inform readers of Mr. Farage’s most interesting personal characteristic: he is monorchid, that is, he has just one testicle.