Saturday, August 13, 2005

The G8 Declaration and the Shifting Agendas of NATO and Belgrade 1999

The G8 Declaration and the Shifting Agendas of NATO and Belgrade 1999

By Michael Karadjis

The May 6 agreement of the G8 countries (the major imperialist countries plus Russia) underlines that NATO's terror bombing of Serbia has nothing to do with helping the oppressed Kosovar Albanians.

The genocide unleashed by the Slobodan Milosevic regime since the bombing began, and the uprooting of two-thirds of the Albanian population, have made the demand for independence for Kosova inescapable. Yet the “great powers” have again ruled this out, declaring that while Kosova will have “substantial self-government”, this must take “full account of” the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia.

The G8 statement calls for an end to violence and repression in Kosova and the withdrawal of “military police and paramilitary forces”. However, indications are that the Yugoslav army will be permitted to continue to play a role, particularly in sealing Kosova's borders with Macedonia and Albania, and in overall security, as outlined in the Rambouillet agreement.

That agreement calls for the “demilitarisation of the UCK [Kosova Liberation Army (KLA)]”. The KLA refuses to give up on independence. In a statement released the same day as the G8 declaration, the KLA said, “After all that has happened, we cannot discuss any more the disarming of the KLA”. It noted, “Recognition of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia over Kosova does not guarantee peace and stability in the region.”

KLA leader Jakup Krasniqi added that in an independent Kosova, the Serb minority would receive the same treatment as “every other minority in democratic Europe”. This is a welcome, if belated, commitment. The KLA, with the notable exception of its former political leader Adem Demaci, who resigned in March over opposition to Rambouillet and NATO, has had little to say on this crucial question.


The Milosevic regime is preparing its population for a deal. On May 9, Milosevic announced a “partial withdrawal” from Kosova due to the “victory” over the KLA, and so that when “UN forces” arrive, the Yugoslav army can return to levels “before NATO aggression began”.

The regime's newspaper Politika reprinted the G8 declaration on its front page, and the official newsagency Tanjug declared it a positive step. Serbian media have begun relegating news of bomb damage to late in their broadcasts.Russia is acting as an intermediary between NATO and Milosevic. Other important roles are being played by the German and Italian governments, both openly nervous about the NATO operation, and moderate Kosovan leader Ibrahim Rugova, who was until recently under house arrest. The agreement is being sold to Belgrade through the removal of any reference to a NATO force overseeing the agreement in Kosova.

Rather, the formula is the deployment of “effective international civil and security presences, endorsed and adopted by the United Nations, capable of guaranteeing common objectives”. This force will include considerable numbers of Russian and Ukrainian troops, which Serbia considers to be allies. There is little doubt that considerable NATO forces will be included, although Serbia is still demanding that these come only from NATO countries not directly involved in the war.The imperialist powers and Milosevic agree that Kosova must remain part of Serbia, that some autonomy be allowed, that the KLA must be disarmed and that there will be a foreign security presence.

Before the war, Belgrade and NATO already agreed on the first three points; on the last, NATO demanded a foreign presence under its own control while Milosevic would concede only to unarmed foreign monitors under UN auspices. Is it possible that two months of terror -- “NATO in the sky, Milosevic on the ground” as Serbian oppositionists have summed it up -- took place to bridge such a small difference? The answer is yes, but not only.

The continuation of the war is related to maintaining the credibility of both sides; hence the way the deal is phrased is important. The question now is how many more Serb and Kosovar Albanian lives must be lost before a formula is found to rescue NATO's credibility and maintain Milosevic in power.

Milosevic has no problem with an imperialist force which he knows will disarm the KLA and keep Kosova within Serbia. Imperialist governments had no problem with Serbian regime's repression in Kosova until the Kosovar people resorted to armed struggle and threatened to destabilise the region.

Other agendas

Why couldn't they reach the agreement they are looking at now through negotiations? Because there were other agendas.

At the recent 50th anniversary NATO summit, in the shadow of the war against Yugoslavia, Washington was able to win some of its key long-term goals in the post-Cold War era.

The first was to reorient NATO as a force which can carry out “out of area” actions, i.e. interventions in countries outside NATO. This is a fundamental change in the NATO charter, which was in theory an alliance to “defend” member states from “Soviet aggression”.

While Yugoslavia was the first “out of area” NATO operation, the US aims to extend the precedent to the Middle East. Indeed, the US has continued to bomb Iraq right through the war, a fact all but hidden by the international media.

The second goal was to rid itself of the restrictions the United Nations puts on its actions. Its disdain for the UN is shown by the billions it owes to the organisation. However, on this it has long been opposed by Russia and China, and also by major European powers like France and Germany, and in the past even Britain, which do not want to see the US have such unrestricted power. The new NATO provides Washington a nominally multilateral military force that it can control without being subject to the veto of other countries, as is the case in the UN Security Council.

Thirdly, through the '90s the US has had to continue to demonstrate the continued need for NATO in the face of moves by European powers, principally France and Germany, to set up a Europe-only security apparatus. NATO, which Washington controls, ties Europe to US global interests in the context of increasing economic rivalry between the European Union and the US. Any course in Yugoslavia less than a full-scale war would have encouraged the view that Europe can look after its affairs without the US and its far superior armed forces.As Bill Clinton explained on March 23, the day before launching the war, a strong US-European partnership “is what this Kosovo thing is all about”.

Another major event coincided with the NATO summit and the Kosova war: the arrival of the euro currency, a major attempt to unite and strengthen European imperialism against its US rival.


While demonstrating that it is in charge, the US also aims to have Russia as its junior partner in Europe, due to its enormous diplomatic and military weight. While the ignoring of Russia and the UN in launching of the NATO attack was aimed at demonstrating this junior role, it was not an aggressive move against Russia.

Russia is more an IMF colony than an economic rival. If anything, a US goal has been to head off the dangerous possibility of a regional deal between Franco-German imperialism and Russia, leaving the US out of Europe.

The US wants to give Russia a policing role around its frontiers. When Boris Yeltsin announced a Russian version of the “Monroe Doctrine” in 1994, there were few complaints from Washington; when Moscow demonstrated what it meant with the vicious war in Chechnya, it received Western acquiescence. The inclusion of Russian troops in the NATO-led force in Bosnia following the Dayton accords in 1995 cemented this junior partnership.This is why the US is now pushing strongly for a Russian role as intermediary with Serbia.

On May 7, Clinton described the Bosnia operation as a model for Kosova -- interesting, given that in Bosnia NATO enforces an ethnic partition.

Ethnic cleansing

Claims that the US campaign has “failed” because it has strengthened Milosevic and allowed the escalation of ethnic cleansing in Kosova miss the point. Washington has always preferred to deal with Milosevic rather than his Serbian opponents.

Following the start of the attack, NATO chief Wesley Clark admitted, “The military authorities fully anticipated the vicious approach that Milosevic would adopt, as well as the terrible efficiency with which he would carry it out”. He also explicitly stated that air strikes were not intended to stop this.

The US and other Western leaders' interest in the southern Balkans is in restoring stability; the major threat to that was the KLA and its fight for an independent Kosova.

As the Economist explained last year, “The [Serbian] operations which began in central Kosovo in late July were quietly condoned by western governments”. If Milosevic's thugs expel more Albanians than expected while destroying the KLA, so be it; it is no accident that NATO has concentrated on blasting Serb civilians rather than aiding Albanian resistance in Kosova.

The Milosevic regime had precisely this in mind when it rejected the Rambouillet plan in March. While autonomy enforced by foreign forces was in Milosevic's interests, there was an important problem: there were still too many Albanians. War provided a pretext for expelling the Kosovar population while the Serbian opposition would be too busy ducking NATO bombs to protest.

The long-term Serbian nationalist aim of partitioning Kosova has been achieved, in whatever form it takes. Clearly, large numbers of refugees will not return, and the horrors of the last six weeks will make it almost impossible for Serbs and Kosovar Albanians to live together.

As a result, the aspects of the Rambouillet plan which point to ethnic cantons will now advantage Serb chauvinists to a greater degree than before the war. Those Albanians who do return will be a defeated and traumatised group whose civic organisations have been destroyed and their capital, Pristina, obliterated.

Of course, the Belgrade regime does not want its economic assets -- from which the Serbian ruling class has grown rich -- destroyed to achieve these objectives. That is where the last point of the G8 statement -- “A comprehensive approach to the economic development and stabilisation of the crisis region” -- comes in.Since the far more massive US bombing war on Iraq in 1991, draconian sanctions have killed another 1.5 million people. The aim has been to cripple a strong Arab nationalist state. This has left a bleeding wound in the Middle East.

The West does not want that in Europe. Reconstruction money will be a bonanza for Western construction companies.It will also be a boon for the Serbian ruling class. While much of the industrial stock being destroyed remained in quasi-state hands because few wanted to buy it, the Serbian ruling class has accumulated much of its private wealth in areas of high liquidity -- construction, export-import, banking and services -- and is thus well positioned to do well out of reconstruction contracts.

Among Serbia's biggest capitalists are the Karic brothers. Their wealth has been built in Kosova since Milosevic abolished the province's autonomy and introduced market “reforms”. The Karics are close to Milosevic. One brother, Bogoljub, a minister without portfolio in the Serbian government, made an immediate positive reaction to the G8 statement. Another brother, Dragomir, has just held talks with a US member of Congress, Kurt Weldon, in Vienna. Of course, the Serbian and Kosovar Albanian working people will pay, considering the austerity conditions that will be attached to any Western “aid” or IMF/World Bank loans.

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