Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Kosovo betrayed: What NATO is really up to 1998

Kosovo betrayed: What NATO is really up to

By Michael Karadjis


Just who is kidding whom about Kosovo? NATO is ready to bomb Serbia ``to force it to back down''. US special envoy Richard Holbrooke holds hours of talks with Serbian ruler Slobodan Milosevic, and comes out saying that Milosevic has ``backed down'' under the threat of force.
In fact, Milosevic has agreed to a US peace plan that was devised several weeks ago, and which was so blatantly pro-Serb that the entire spectrum of Kosovo Albanian leaders rejected it out of hand.
One of the Albanian negotiators, Shkelzen Maliqi, claimed the US plan ``legalises acts of Serb violence, and it demands from the Albanians to subject themselves to a destructive destiny, to accept humiliation and the situation created by violence''. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) likewise rejected the US plan.
The plan gives limited self-administration to Albanian majority areas in Kosovo within the Republic of Serbia, but considerably less autonomy than that enjoyed by Kosovo in Communist Yugoslavia before it was suppressed by Milosevic's regime in 1989.
For example, in the old system, Kosovan autonomy included representation at the federal Yugoslav level, recognising the fact that, after Serbs and Croats, the Albanians were the next largest national group in Yugoslavia. The current plan gives them no such thing, even though Montenegro, which is ethnically Serb, has full republic status within the fiction of ``federal Yugoslavia''.
The reality would most likely be a series of ethnic Albanian ghettos.
Albanians claim that ``it is absurd to negotiate about rights and institutions that the citizens of Kosovo once enjoyed and which were then abolished by force and unlawfully'', according to Kosovan journalist Arben Krasniqi.
The Albanian masses and every political current among their leadership reject anything short of complete independence. Years of monstrous oppression, open apartheid and now seven months of genocide have erased any illusions in ``autonomy'' within this kind of Serbia or Yugoslavia.
The minimum some may accept would be full republic status, equal to Serbia and Montenegro, within Yugoslavia. What the US offers them is less than they've ever had.
Diplomatic theatre
Milosevic loves it, but needed it to appear that limited concessions were being forced by the west, rather than by Albanian victories. The theatre of western pressure ``forced'' Milosevic to accept his own plan!
Milosevic has always rejected any return to the situation prior to 1989, but he needs to stabilise his southern colony. Given that the ethnic cleansing of the whole Albanian population would be impossible, he required some kind of deal that gave the Albanians less than before.
Whether NATO was serious about air strikes is hard to tell; it is certainly clear that previous threats throughout the year were not.
However, the situation was getting out of hand, and something needed to give. In the past seven months, Serb occupation forces and fascist militia have driven 300,000 Albanians from their homes, killed up to 1500 people, according to the Pristina Committee for Human Rights, and completely destroyed 400 villages.
These hundreds of thousands of refugees, and the likelihood that many will freeze to death in the coming Balkan winter, prompted NATO to appear serious.
There are already 300,000 Kosovan refugees in western Europe who have fled in the last 10 years. Europe does not want any more, and neither does it want the embarrassment of them dying en masse an hour's flight from major European capitals.
However, as Steve Pratt, director of CARE Australia's relief mission in Yugoslavia, put it, ``I cannot see how bombing the Serbs is going to help displaced ethnic Albanians. What is most needed is blankets and food and shelter.''
Pratt is right, but one other thing is urgently needed by the Albanians: arms.
In all the discussions of how Kosovo is such a difficult problem to solve, the obvious question rarely arises: why should the Albanians, who are 90% of the population, not be able to defeat the occupation forces themselves, and hence protect relief workers and supplies and lead their own people back to their homes and villages, all without NATO?
The answer is that this population does not have the arms to fight the occupation forces, which have one of the most powerful armies in Europe, largely due to decades of NATO viewing Yugoslavia as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.
One of the first moves by NATO when the current crackdown began in March was to increase surveillance along the Macedonian and Albanian borders of Kosovo to prevent arms reaching the KLA.
Western hostility to the KLA and its goal of independence has been blatant. NATO's backdowns after the last three or four bluffs about air strikes have been explained by its not wanting to shift the military balance in favour of the KLA. According to the US News and World Report in July, one option being discussed by NATO was to ``bomb 'em both''.
However, bombing the Albanian liberation forces would have been difficult to explain. It seems that NATO therefore reconsidered, giving Milosevic longer to complete the crushing of the KLA.
It is hardly surprising that NATO has only appeared serious about doing something since Milosevic announced that the KLA had been defeated and most Serb objectives had been accomplished. Western intervention would thus freeze the battlelines, to the overwhelming advantage of the Serb occupation forces, as also occurred in Bosnia in 1995.
Geoff Kitney, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, summed up the position of the major western powers: ``... the Serb authorities did have a legitimate internal security problem to deal with. Albanian separatists ... began a campaign of violence against the Serb authorities several years ago, one that was becoming more and more brutal ... Milosevic has a legitimate claim to maintaining security in the region.''
For the imperialist powers, the Serbian occupation of Kosovo is an ``internal'' security issue. Milosevic has a ``legitimate'' right to crush opposition to his foreign occupation.
Kosovo had a high degree of autonomy, with its own government and federal representation, in Communist Yugoslavia. After Milosevic took power in 1987 and began pushing World Bank-dictated economic reforms and political centralisation, he abolished Kosovo's autonomy, sent in the army, instituted apartheid and destroyed the Yugoslav constitution. There was nothing ``legitimate'' about any of this.
For the west, however, self-determination is a problem. Struggles by Irish, Basques, Corsicans and others in western Europe threaten the ``stability'' of major European states based on national oppression. Hence there is a fundamental solidarity with Milosevic, however embarrassing his methods.
Furthermore, an armed mass movement would be outside western control. It could invigorate last year's revolutionary uprising in Albania, and probably lead to the fall of Milosevic -- and the CIA has claimed there is no reasonable alternative to him.
Moreover, there appear to be elements in the KLA with a leftist or Marxist background. Western leaders still worry about the ``nightmare scenario'' of instability in Kosovo spreading south to Macedonia with its Albanian minority and bringing in NATO allies Greece and Turkey on different sides.
For this reason, western control is an important issue. Revealingly, during the genocide against Bosnia's Muslims, when British defence secretary Malcolm Rifkind was asked why Britain considered lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia ``the worst possible option'', he replied, ``Because it would mean we lost control''.
`Muslim threat'
And of course the Albanians are largely Muslims, like most Bosnian victims. As a French diplomat pointed out during the Bosnia war, Europe wanted to prevent the emergence of a Muslim state in Europe: “Our interests are closer to the Serbs' than you think. We worry more about the Muslims than the Serbs.”
The idea that Bosnia or Kosovo would become a “radical Muslim threat” to Europe was fanciful nonsense, but Muslims as a legitimate part of multi-ethnic states, with their own state power, would undermine the growing racism of “fortress Europe” and its policy of excluding vast numbers of economic refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, also largely Muslim.
Of course, arms for the Albanians are not a solution by themselves. There need to be serious negotiations, including about the rights of the Serb minority in any future Kosovan state.
But the reason endless negotiations have never got anywhere, or else end up giving the oppressor the best possible deal, is that those with massive quantities of heavy weapons feel no pressure to negotiate with a defenceless population.
If the local resistance had the arms to turn Kosovo into Serbia's Vietnam, it would increase the present tendency of the bulk of Serbia's youth to resist conscription or desert. Despite the propaganda about Kosovo being Serbia's “Jerusalem”, most Serbs would rather flee the country than be sent to Kosovo.
On the other hand, western military occupation to “control” the region, while inflaming Serb nationalism, would block arms getting through to the KLA and entrench Serbian occupation, as the US plan makes clear.
NATO's creeping occupation of the region, from Macedonia in 1994 to Bosnia in 1995 and now possibly Kosovo, has been justified by the threat of Serb expansionism, but in each case it has carried through a deal with Milosevic to guarantee a more sustainable victory to Greater Serbia.

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