In The New York Times today, Serbia's foreign minister has an op-ed on Kosovo's independence. Here's the key section:
The case against recognition is based not only on the Security Council’s 1999 resolution reaffirming Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo, but also founded on the view that the international system has, as a result of this hostile act by the Kosovo Albanians, become more unstable, more insecure and more unpredictable.
Here’s why. Recognizing the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia legitimizes the doctrine of imposing solutions to ethnic conflicts. It legitimizes the act of unilateral secession by a provincial or other non-state actor. It transforms the right to self-determination into an avowed right to independence. It legitimizes the forced partition of internationally recognized, sovereign states.
It violates the commitment to the peaceful and consensual resolution of disputes in Europe. It supplies any ethnic or religious group that has a grievance against its capital with a playbook on how to achieve its ends. [Italics Mine]
You hear this argument frequently from the Serbian government and its Russian allies: If American and Europe recognize Kosovo, the international community will "legitimize" unilateral secession. But legitimize it with whom? The international community? If Europe does not want some Russian republic to declare independence, it can say as much, and point out Kosovo's particular circumstances. The Serbian and Russian argument seems premised on the idea that once the West recognizes Kosovo, they will have to recognize anyone and everyone who wants their own state. Of course, no one in the West is actually saying this--only the Russians and the Serbs are! So then, who is making it more likely that a breakaway republic is going to declare independence? It's not the Kosovars, and it's not the Americans, either.