With the world's attention elsewhere, unsettling signs of a re-ignition of the Balkan conflict are mounting. Former KLA commander Hashim Thaci was elected prime minister of Kosova on Jan. 9 and vowed: "I assure you that within a few weeks we will declare independence." (Reuters, Jan. 9) One week earlier, a bomb exploded at the offices of a Serb bank, the Komercijalna Banka, in the ethnically mixed southern Kosova town of Dragas, causing considerable damage but no injuries. Kosova's Serbs, backed by Serbia and Russia, pledge to resist any moves towards independence. NATO's 16,000-strong Kosova peacekeeping force is braced for unrest after Serb-Albanian negotiations ended in deadlock late last year. The US and most EU states are expected to recognize an independent Kosova, after Russia blocked its secession at the UN Security Council last year. (Reuters, Jan. 2) In an unlikely twist, New England's Green Mountain State has become at least a minor geopolitical football in the controversy. Russia Today newspaper Jan. 18 tried to stick it to Uncle Sam with a piece cheering on the burgeoning Vermont secessionist movement. Despite its clueless rendering of "secession" as "succession," it makes the point that the Vermont separatists view US support for Kosova's independence as a propaganda tool:
US state eyes independence
The move to independence in Kosovo is being closely monitored by a group thousands of miles away in the United States. For 230 years residents in the U.S. state of Vermont have harboured a desire to secede from the United States.
Vermont separatists are hoping Kosovo will set a precedent they can follow.
The state is known for green mountains, liberal views and the second lowest population in the United States. But thousands living in this small state are pushing for a very big change – to break ties with Washington.
Thomas Naylor is the man behind the movement known as the Second Vermont Republic.
"In our view the United States, the empire, has lost its moral authority. It's engaged in massive illegal activity both at home an abroad. It is unsustainable economically, militarily, politically, environmentally. The titanic is going down," Thomas Naylor says.
Vermont was independent for 14 years before joining the Union in 1791.
Naylor, a retired economics professor and published author says "the US is too large to be run by one central government", which he calls unfixable and corrupt on both sides.
The anti-war and eco-friendly supporters of the Second Vermont Republic created their own flag, manifesto and anthem.
The movement has even attracted attention from secessionists in other states like Virginia, Alaska and Texas, which culminated in a North-South Succession [sic] Summit that took place this week.
Among the topics of discussion was Washington's support for Kosovo's independence.
It's something secession advocate Kirkpatrick Sale is keeping an eye on.
"…Once they are for a secessionist state in Europe, than [sic] they can't be against a secessionist state here in America. How can they oppose Vermont's succession [sic] when they've already agreed to the principal of the right to succession [sic]?" Kirkpatrick Sale wonders.
While principal is one thing, Vermont and Kosovo aren't identical situations.
A decade ago, it was war, ethnic divide, and US and European military intervention that brought Kosovo to where it is today. And while the leaders of Kosovo want independence, Vermont's Governor and state representatives don't support succession [sic].
Attorney Paul Gillies says the move is technically legal, but believes it would be an economic disaster.
Meanwhile, a survey by the State's University found 13 per cent support succession [sic] from the United States. Not an overwhelming majority, but the movement is gaining popularity.
While the future status of Kosovo may be known relatively soon, Vermont secessionists believe their fight will take up to a decade. They vow to stay determined and focused, hoping to create a stand-alone republic that first broke free two centuries ago.
We also note that not all Vermont separatists were pleased with the "North-South Secession Summit" held in Chattanooga in October. The blog Vermont Secession harshly criticizes Thomas Naylor and Kirkpatrick Sale for making common cause with Confederacy-nostalgists and racists.
See also our December 2004 special report, "Free Vermont!?" by Peter Lamborn Wilson.