Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sale of Kosovo behind Serbia's aggression 1998

Sale of Kosovo behind Serbia's aggression

By Michael Karadjis


Serbian troops in the occupied region of Kosovo are carrying out ethnic cleansing on a scale not seen since the war in Bosnia. Villages have been bombed by helicopters, fighter planes and heavy artillery or completely burnt, whole families have been massacred and up to 85,000 people driven from their homes. More than 11,000 have crossed into Albania, many dying along the way.
In what the western media calls “the Serbian province of Kosovo”, the Albanian population has been carrying out a “Ghandian” resistance, including setting up alternative government institutions to the brutal occupation by the Serbian army and ultra-right militia. This occupation, begun in 1989, and the subsequent abolition of the autonomy Kosovo had in Communist Yugoslavia, was the first attack on the Yugoslav constitution by the nationalist regime of Slobodan Milosevic, which culminated in the federation’s destruction by “Greater Serbia”.
However, why did the latest, most massive wave of ethnic cleansing occur just after the visit to Belgrade in mid-May of US special envoy in the Balkans, Richard Holbrooke?
Holbrooke pressured Milosevic and Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the “parallel” Kosovan parliament, to come to the negotiating table, even though the conditions set by the Albanian side -- third-party involvement, cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of Serbian special forces -- had not been met.
“Unfortunately, experience teaches us that where Holbrooke passes, democracy usually does not flourish”, said Ognjen Pribicevic and other speakers at a recent discussion at the Belgrade Media Centre.
Serb/western alliance
Holbrooke is no stranger to the region. He was behind the Dayton Accord in 1995, which legitimised the ethnic partition of Bosnia, giving half the UN member state to an ethnically cleansed “Bosnian Serb Republic”.
It was not entirely coincidental that virtually the minute Holbrooke finished his 17 hours in Belgrade, Milosevic launched a three-pronged attack on oppositional voices: the suppression of broadcasting rights of nearly all electronic media, the ending of the Tito-era autonomy of the universities and the illegal replacement of the federal government and appointment of Momir Bulatovic, a Milosevic man who was recently crushed in Montenegro's election, as federal prime minister, against the recommendations of Montenegro's government.
Holbrooke got what he wanted, publicity about the US “creating peace talks”, while Milosevic was assured of the west dropping its sanctions threats and of western silence about the strengthening of his dictatorship. It also bought time for Milosevic so that, under the cover of the “negotiations”, he could get on with much more vigorous ethnic cleansing.
Whatever happened at the Milosevic-Holbrooke meeting, it is clear that, tactical differences between the Serbian regime and the main western powers aside, they are in fundamental agreement on two points: that the solution to Kosovo must be found within “Yugoslavia” (the name used by Serbia and Montenegro), despite the express wishes of virtually every Albanian resident, and that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) must be defeated.
The western powers could live with the dreadful repression and apartheid there, and are only threatening intervention now that there is a serious challenge from the local Albanian population. In recent months, the KLA has grown from small groups of dedicated fighters to a highly organised, mass-based people's army, with the support of the bulk of Albanians inside and outside Kosovo. Estimates of armed fighters range up to about 30,000, controlling 30-40% of the territory.
Such a revolutionary force, outside the control of local states or imperialist powers, threatens the “stability” of the region. Only last year, a revolutionary uprising threatened the progress of capitalist restoration in Albania itself, and a similar eruption in neighbouring Macedonia, with its large Albanian minority, could bring regional countries in, including NATO allies Greece and Turkey. Western powers appear to be taking a “harder” line on the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo than they did in Bosnia because the repercussions of a mass refugee exodus (let alone the prospect of a revolutionary resistance) could be much wider.
Early in the offensive, US State Department spokesperson James Jolly claimed the increased presence of the Serbian army on the Albanian border was “legal and legitimate”, while Holbrooke spoke of his fears of a “Ho Chi Minh Trail” for arms from Albania to Kosovo. These concerns are behind the current western threats to intervene.
Intervention is mainly aimed at placing NATO forces along Albania's border with Kosovo, with the cooperation of a pliant Albanian regime, to prevent arms getting to the KLA. In fact, this is already happening. In exchange for considerable credit from the International Monetary Fund, Albania has agreed to some 100 international police training Albanian government forces to block the supply of arms over the border.
One reason for the spectacular success of the KLA is that last year's uprising in Albania liberated some 700,000 weapons from the regime's armed forces, many ending up in the hands of the KLA.
If western air strikes take place against some Serbian forces, there is little doubt it will be after Milosevic has achieved his strategic aims in Kosovo, as was the case in Bosnia. However, why does the west want to aid Milosevic's strategic aims? And does he have any, or is this just another attempt to regain support at home by whipping up the tired nationalist card?
Milosevic's aims
An ethnically pure Greater Serbia was the slogan of the rising Serbian bourgeoisie as it broke out of Communist Yugoslavia. However, the presence of 2 million Albanians inside its borders, the inability to pacify them, the continued pretense of a “Yugoslav” federation together with ethnically Serb Montenegro, and the remaining unclarity of Serbia's final relation to the “Republika Srbska” half of Bosnia, create a permanent instability and identity problem for the new bourgeois nation.
According to Sonja Biserko, from the Serbian Helsinki Centre, the continued unclarity about borders and what exactly Serbia/Yugoslavia is, is a major block to the completion of Serbia's privatisation campaign.
Milosevic's Serbia began to lead the privatisation drive in the late 1980s, but the break-up of Yugoslavia and years of war, conquest and massive population movements held it back significantly. At the same time, this period allowed an enormous accumulation of “illegal” wealth by the clique around the ruling party through war profiteering. These people now want to further legitimise their wealth by the latest privatisation law, which aims to sell the 75 largest companies. As the Kosovo war goes on, a scramble for posts in state industries about to be privatised is going on to ensure the clique around the party leaders get the lion's share. A stronger dictatorship will mean they can do this without too much fuss.
Last year's sale of Serbian Telecom to Italian and Greek investors was a big step, but further foreign investment is unlikely as long as the situation remains unstable. Further, a “solution” is needed for Kosovo to make sure the privatisation goes ahead in that region as well, where many important industries are based. Almost the entire economy of Kosovo is up for sale, at outrageously low prices. The Albanian majority will be excluded from taking any shares.
According to Rugova, “the Serbian regime has put on sale the major economic facilities of Kosovo, like Trepca, the Electric Company, Feronikl etc., which is just a form of economic pressure on Kosovo and its citizens. We appeal to the international community and the UN to exert pressure on Belgrade to terminate this process. Legitimate institutions of the Republic of Kosovo avail themselves of the opportunity to warn foreign companies that every contract signed with this intention ... will be null and void.”
In the attempt to crush Kosovo to this end, it is not viable to drive out the entire population. However, if the Albanian population can be driven out from the north, the border with Albania, the main cities and all the regions with important industries, a version of the dream of the “father” of modern Serb nationalism, writer Dobrica Cosic, might be achieved. This vision was of the Balkans divided between Greater Serbia, Greater Croatia and Greater Albania. Indeed, beginning the offensive in Drenica, an Albanian “wedge” between eastern and western Kosovo, fits well with such a scenario of territorial division.
If a small remaining part of Kosovo, overcrowded with Albanian refugees, then chooses to declare “independence”, the Albanian masses in their bantustan could continue to be a source of cheap labour. If it joins Albania, Milosevic can tell the imperialist powers, so concerned with preserving “the borders of Yugoslavia”, that it wasn't him that changed the borders. Kosovo could then be colonised by Serb refugees from the previous wars.
The west preferred a different solution -- improving human rights while insisting the whole remain within “Yugoslavia” -- which was far less destabilising than Serbia's risky choice.
However, since future “stability” in the region depends on a strong Serb ruling class which can complete the privatisation process, western leaders aren't blind to the special needs of this class. An imperialist intervention inside Kosovo would have the effect, as in Bosnia, of freezing confrontation lines in favour of the aggressor, delivering Milosevic a victory while allowing him to blame the loss of part of Kosovo to NATO intervention, and allowing western leaders to send more occupation troops to keep stability in the region under the pretext of keeping the peace.

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