Kosovo Conflict

The Kosovo conflict proved to be another setback in relations both in the domestic and international level - Kosovo Conflict introduction. Scholars in the realm of international relations, interpret these in different ideals based on the theories each school advocates. By carefully applying each theory, scholars can have alternatives in explaining the occurrence of the conflict and probable solutions to limit its escalation.

Neoliberalism and two-level game analysis seek to show varied interpretation of the Kosovo crisis. On one hand, Game theory seeks to show the dynamics of the processes and negotiations that paved the way for the choices made by each party in the conflict. Each moves remains to be an important component in the reactions of the other actor. On the other hand, liberalism seeks to promote the capability of an institution (NATO) to promote compliance and deterrence based on the principles in which it was established.

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            Neo-Liberal institutionalism revolves around the issue of cooperation under the anarchical scenario in the international arena. “Neoliberal theory posits that formal institutions can make international cooperation easier to attain then in their absence.” (Kay, p.62) It seeks to explore the actions of states through the lens of institutions. “Neoliberal theory looks to state behavior in formal international institutions as evidence that, in an interdependent world, states will seek efficiency in managing collective problems presented by international anarchy.” (Kay, p.62)

            Game theory in general seeks to show different actions and decisions made by states concerning an issue. “It is interested in tracing how human beings reason in order to obtain the goals they prefer.” (Sterling-Folker, p.93) The same tenet circumvents the two-level game analysis. The theory of Robert Putnam focuses on the way a state participates in both the local and international processes. The theory elaborates on “the interactive process that occurs when a national leader finds himself negotiating international agreements simultaneously: the international negotiation (level 1), wherein the leader tries to reach an agreement with other leaders; and a domestic negotiation (level 2), wherein the leader tries to get the agreement be accepted by the legislation.” (Boukhars, 2001) Thus, the theory revolves around the concept of bargaining, negotiations and decisions that will foster a “win” scenario in both levels.

Different Views in Conflict

            One way to distinguish and differentiate the two (2) theories is by the way each one defines conflict. For Neo-Liberal Institutionalism, the concept of conflict is created when states begin to cheat and become uncooperative. “In sum, neoliberals find that anarchy impedes cooperation through its generation of uncertainty in states about the compliance of partners.” (Grieco, 1988 p.502) In addition, another possibility for conflict is the failure of institutions to address the needs of its members in achieving their individual gains via cooperating. “Clearly, such institutions can change incentives for countries affected by them, and can in turn affect the strategic choices governments make in their own self-interest.” (Axelrod and Keohane, 1985, p.252)

            Applying this case to the Kosovo issue, the question revolves around the capabilities of an institution (NATO) to promote its principles and norms in the area it seeks to protect. “Instability and humanitarian crisis in Kosovo directly threatened NATO’s “New Strategic Concept” approved in the midst of the war at its 1999 Washington summit.” (Kay, p.64) Such actions prompted NATO to address the problem by using force. “After repeated failures to reach an accord to protect Kosovars, NATO forces began a sustained bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.” (FlashPoints, p.1)

            Comparing this to two-level game analysis, the idea of conflict revolves around the failure of states to meet the objectives of both the domestic and international realm. It is through here that the challenge of meeting each desired outcome can provide a win scenario for both the local and international level. “This simultaneous game at both levels tends to slide the negotiators of both camps into an imbroglio where they have to conciliate intense domestic pressure with international pulls and pushes.” (Boukhars, 2001) Failure to negotiate and bargain effectively in both areas will only create conflict for the state in pursuant of its individual gains.

             Decision-making is one important aspect of any game theory approach. Applying this to the Kosovo case, there seems to be a problem in the domestic realm in terms of its actors that catapulted the scene into the international community due to violence practiced by the Serbs against the Kosovars. “This simultaneous game at both levels tends to slide the negotiators of both camps into an imbroglio where they have to conciliate intense domestic pressure with international pulls and pushes.”The Serbian response has been an aggressive pogrom of genocide, or “ethnic cleansing”, designed to purge Serbia of the ethnic-Albanians, terrorizing them to flee to other safe havens in neighboring countries.” (Flashpoints, p.1)

It is through here that we see actions taken by the state (Serbia) in pursuing its objectives in the domestic level. “In 1989, Milosevic revoked Kosovo’s autonomy, encouraging forcible Serb repression of the Albanian majority ever since.” (Albert and Shalom, p.1) This created varied responses in reaction to the attacks by NATO. The disparity between the proper application of domestic actions and international agenda’s paved the way for conflict and later violence.

Mechanisms for changes

            The violence may have been prevented if states and international actors acted accordingly with regards to the issue. The two theories presents alternatives in which conflict can be prevented and create an environment for individual gains. The two theories will try to explain alternatives and mechanisms for changes in Kosovo.

            For Neo-Liberal Institutionalism, institutions and the role of cooperation is given importance. “Neoliberals claim that, contrary to realism and in accordance with traditional liberal views, institutions can help states work together.” (Grieco, 1988, p.492-493) In achieving this, institutions must be actively promoting the following: (1) constant communication between states, (2) compliance, (3) efficient monitoring, and (4) effective sanctioning. “The decision to multilateralize its Kosovo policy via the formal institutional procedures of NATO best explains whey there is no use of force in fall 1998.” (Kay, p. 64)

            Neoliberal’s will argue that there may be insufficient communications between Serbs and institutions (NATO & UN) that created a room for disagreement. Also, Neoliberal’s seek to argue that in terms of objectives given to Serbia, little compliance was made by the state to limit down the offensives against Kosovars. There is a tendency that “given the diverse ethnic and religious make-up of surrounding states and the prospect that these states would become involved to protect various ethnic groups in the zone of conflict.” (FlashPoints, p.1)

            Monitoring is also another factor that Neoliberals assert concerning the issue in Kosovo. There must be a prompt response to this issue so as to prevent further damages. Such issue prompted institutions particularly the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to come up with an appropriate humanitarian action to alleviate the violence happening domestically. This in turn results in the last factor that Neoliberal’s argue about. Sanctioning occurred when NATO bombed Serbia to leave a message of complying with the standards and norms set by the international institutions. Sanctioning according to the theory seeks to “focus on the ability of governments to focus retaliation or reward on particular targets, and the incentives that exist for members of a group to punish defectors.” (Axelrod and Keohane, 1985 p.236)

            On the other hand, the two-level game analysis seeks to create a harmonious environment for both the domestic and international policies provided by the state. Compared to Neoliberals, such analysis focuses on the dynamics of how such idea can be attained – bargaining and negotiating. States must actively create mechanisms and ways for both the local and international realm. “By analyzing the international negotiations from the perspective of one country through win-sets, Putnam argued that it is possible to estimate the impact of the domestic politics on the success of the international negotiation.” (Boukhars, p.1)

            It is through this that negotiators must create active mechanisms that will enable compromise and agreement between the two levels given the pressures of the international game and the actors involved in the local scenario. Choices here are vital for every level as actors try to achieve their gains. “The international level is comprised of sovereign states seeking to negotiate a treaty that best maximizes their own ability to satisfy domestic pressures, while minimizing the adverse consequences of foreign developments.” (Boukhars, p.1)

            To conclude, Neoliberals seek to adhere to the formal functions and capabilities of institutions in fostering cooperation between states. The formation of norms and standards makes possible the avenues for compliance. The two-level game analysis on the other hand seek to showcase every moves, decisions, and alternatives both the actors of the state and the international arena can contribute in pursuing their individual gains.


Albert, M. & Shalom, S. (n.d.) The Kosovo/NATO Conflict: Questions and Answers. Retrieved

March 13, 2008 from http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/kosovoqa.htm

Axelrod, R. & Keohane, R. (1985) Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy: Strategies and

Institutions in World Politics. 38 no.1 Retrieved March 13, 2008 from http://links.jstor.org /sici?sici=0043-8871%28198510%2938%3A1%3c226%3AACUASA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A

Boukhars, A. (2001) A Two-level Game Analysis of the Complexities of Interstate Rivalry in the

Maghreb. Retrieved March 13, 2008 from http://www.ciaonet.org/access/boa02/

FlashPoints. (n.d.) Kosovo-Serbia. Retrieved March 13, 2008 from,


Grieco, J.M. (1988) Anarchy and the Limits of Cooperation: A Realist Critique of the Newest

Liberal Institutionalism in International Organization. 42 no. 3 Retrieved March 13, 2008 from, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici= 0020-8183%28198822%2942%3A3%3C485%3AAATLOC%3E2.0CO%3B2-Z

Sterling-Folker, J. (2005) Chapter 4: Game Theory Approaches in Making Sense of International

Relations Theory. (United States; Lynne Rienner Publishers) pp. 93-109

Sterling Folker, J. (2005) Chapter 3: Liberal Approaches in Making Sense of International

Relations Theory. (United States; Lynne Rienner Publishers) pp. 55 – 70

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