During the 1990s, the Balkans were the scene of Europe’s deadliest wars and worst atrocities

since World War II. More recently, the region has been relatively peaceful, but many of its problems have merely been kicked down the road. Now, one of the most dangerous is coming to a head, with a United Nations deadline for resolving Kosovo’s political status.

Getting Kosovo wrong could plunge the Balkans back into turmoil. To avoid that, Serbia and Russia will have to quickly decide that they have more to gain from stability - and good relations with Europe and the United States - than from whipping up old hatreds. Kosovo

has been under international trusteeship since 1999 when NATO went to war to reverse Slobodan Milosevic’s brutal campaign to drive out Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority. While formally Kosovo is still a province of Serbia, there can be no question of returning it to Belgrade’s control.

If Moscow makes good on its threats to veto the compromise, Kosovo’s leaders will almost certainly declare independence. Most Western governments say that they would recognize the new Kosovo. The better approach would be an internationally supervised independence recognized by the United Nations. It is not too late for Moscow to play a more constructive role, and to bring Serbia along. — International Herald Tribune