Saturday, August 13, 2005

KOSOVA: One year later 2000

KOSOVA: One year later

by Michael Karadjis

April 2000

NATO troops entered Serbian territory on March 29 -- with the full cooperation of the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic. Serb and NATO forces jointly searched inside the border zone, allegedly for evidence of Serbian or Albanian military activity.

Serbian collaboration made the European military alliance's target clear: the Albanian guerilla movement which has sprung up in Albanian majority areas inside Serbia but near the Kosova border. On March 17, United States troops raided five Albanian bases, confiscating 200 uniforms, 22 crates of ammunition and other military equipment belonging to the Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medjedja (UCPBM).

NATO's war had aimed to prevent the “nightmare scenario” of Kosovar independence leading to struggles by Albanian minorities in Macedonia, Montenegro and southern Serbia, destabilising NATO's “southern flank”. NATO's actions are a warning to former factions of the disbanded Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) not to attempt to put this into practice.

Belgrade's repression has fomented the UCPBM insurgency. During the Kosova war, 20,000 Albanians were expelled from the region and many houses destroyed; another 6000 have fled Serb army repression since June.Clashes

NATO's attempt to balance the irreconcilable aims of Belgrade and the Kosovar struggle is proving enough of a nightmare without the problem going beyond Kosova.

When Serb forces were forced out of Kosova, France's NATO troops formed an alliance with Serbian paramilitaries to partition the northern city of Mitrovica. By keeping hold of northern Mitrovica, Serbian control was guaranteed over the whole of northern Kosova to the Serbian border -- where the bulk of Kosova's mineral wealth, along with the $5 billion Trepca mining and metallurgy complex, is situated.

Media reports call northern Mitrovica the “Serb zone”, but 80% of the population was Albanian before the war. Tens of thousands of Albanians have been prevented from returning to northern Kosova.

Frequent French-Albanian clashes since June have resulted from French forces' attempts to prevent Albanians from crossing blockaded bridges to return to their homes.

Serbian paramilitaries -- supplemented by continual reinforcements from over the border -- moved to strengthen their position in February. In response to an attack on a Serb bus which left two dead, they brutally expelled another 1000 Albanians who had been precariously holding on in the north; their operations left 10 dead and 34 injured. French forces did nothing to protect the Albanians.One group of Albanians, in an enclave in the north called “Little Bosnia”, resisted by shooting at Serbs burning their houses. French troops fired back at the Albanians, injuring four and killing one. Two French soldiers were also wounded. Human rights monitors and journalists on site insist the dead Albanian was unarmed.

To avoid complete humiliation, NATO has attempted to confiscate weapons from both sides. In a land where everyone owns guns, and both sides fear each other, this was both futile and arrogant -- there are no local armies, so instead NATO searches under people's beds.

French forces have concentrated on disarming the Albanians, particularly in encircled, vulnerable “Little Bosnia”. Meanwhile, NATO sent US troops into the Serb sector -- a move either breathtakingly insensitive or designed to fail. US troops withdrew immediately under a barrage of stones.

The three-way contest also continues in eastern Kosova in the Russian sub-zone of the US zone. In regions across the border from south-east Serbia, where the UCPBM has asserted itself, Serbian forces have carved out enclaves with the aid of Russian troops, in some areas preventing Albanians returning or driving them out.

While cracking down on UCPBM guerillas, US forces are also being confronted in some Serbian enclaves. On April 8, US forces suspended escorts of Serb residents in Sevce, after 11 US troops were injured by stone-throwing Serbs after arresting a man.


A year after NATO launched its war, a picture of chaos emerges. With overwhelming military superiority, it was easy for NATO to bomb Serb civilians and infrastructure to gain a political victory, Milosevic's capitulation.

It has proved more difficult to control the situation on the ground. Much of the talk of NATO fearing a “Vietnam” if it sent in troops was misdirected. In Vietnam, the US fought the local liberation movement. In Kosova, the Serbian army fought the local liberation movement. NATO has now taken over from them in preventing Kosovar self-determination.

By September NATO had dismantled and disarmed the KLA. Protestations by Belgrade and its apologists that this has not been thorough overlook the fact that NATO has achieved more than Belgrade did -- Milosevic's brutal counterinsurgency tactics had caused the KLA to bloom as the Albanians' only defence.

Precisely because the imperialist powers fear a “Vietnam”, they are reluctant to launch an all-out war against remnants of a guerilla movement solidly based among the Kosovar population, the prescription of Belgrade's supporters.Meanwhile, the destruction wrought by NATO and Belgrade has left a legacy of chaos which the UN administration is incapable of dealing with. Revenge attacks by traumatised Albanians returning to destroyed homes and mass graves have driven half the local Serb population from Kosova. Those remaining have gathered in enclaves which serve Belgrade's aim of partitioning off the valuable areas.

These revenge attacks have been overwhelmingly spontaneous actions. For example, the presence of thousands of refugees in the east Kosova town of Gniljane has led to intensified attacks on Serbs there. This cycle then continues as expelled Serbs from Gniljane intensify the expulsion of Albanians from southern Serbia.

The KLA was confined to barracks by NATO even before being dissolved; blaming it for not preventing these attacks is hardly reasonable. Former KLA leaders like Hashim Thaci have vigorously condemned these attacks but have pointed out that the UN and NATO have allowed them no chance to prevent them.The foreign colonial administration has no hope of controlling the situation -- only allowing the Kosovars to rule themselves, with their own state structures, could bring order into the chaos.

But for the UN and NATO, that sounds like a step towards Kosovar independence, so attempts by Albanians to set up state structures are either unrecognised or disbanded under the banner of “stopping the KLA from taking power”.

This vacuum of state authority, combined with the catastrophic legacy, has caused a generalised state of crime and violence.

The great majority of victims are now Albanians. The wave of revenge attacks against minorities has subsided. Crime syndicates operate throughout the region, often with bases in neighbouring Albania, still suffering from the collapse of its own state structures following the failed 1997 revolution.

Protecting Serbs?

In refusing to empower the Kosovars and continuing to block Kosovar independence, the NATO regime claims to be protecting the Serb minority from an Albanian regime. Yet this policy has neither protected Serbs from Albanian revenge nor protected Albanians in regions controlled by Serbian forces.The argument is self-defeating. Kosovars fought for independence for years; following last year's genocide, it is impossible for them to imagine living in “Yugoslavia” again.

Yet NATO leaders continue to insist that, while having “substantial self-rule” (which has so far been blocked), Kosova must remain in Yugoslavia; independence has been totally ruled out. This, and the local Serb leadership's arrogant rejection of Kosovar self-rule, entrenches the ethnic radicalisation of Kosovars.

A transitional period may be necessary -- full and immediate rule by the Kosovars may have been worse for minorities. However, the NATO regime is not a transition to Kosovar self-determination, but a block to it.

An unambiguous NATO declaration that Kosova will never be returned to Yugoslavia and that the Kosovars have the right to self-determination would help soothe the Kosovars' fears and blunt ethnic radicalisation. Their fears are real: NATO quite deliberately did not target the Serbian army last year -- a grand total of 13 tanks were destroyed.

The UN should let the Albanians set up their own state structures in preparation for independence; during the transition, reconstruction and confidence-building measures could help smooth inter-ethnic hatred and hence create the basis for minority rights for Serbs to be real.

Furthermore, if the Kosovar Albanian leadership were ceded their legitimate right to rule, they could then be legitimately judged on whether or not they were preventing anti-minority violence.


However, this is not the goal of the imperialist rulers of Kosova. NATO's declared goal of establishing a “multi-ethnic Kosova” is nothing but doublespeak for Kosova remaining in Yugoslavia.

By partitioning the north, France is acting as the advance guard of Western strategy, but others are following. On April 5, Karl Lamers, foreign policy spokesperson of the German opposition Christian Democratic Union, advocated the partition of Kosova as part of Germany's own exit strategy.

Partition offers a solution by keeping the two sides apart so that imperialist soldiers don't suffer casualties; it also offers the basis for an agreement with Russia, by allowing its Belgrade ally to strengthen control over the mineral-rich north. And this loss of its most valuable assets may even prevent the Albanian part of Kosova attaining independence, forcing it to remain in “Yugoslavia”.However, the US launched the war to cement its leadership over NATO and NATO's continued dominance in Europe, using “humanitarian” goals to justify the brutal operation. To leave a new partition too quickly may be politically difficult to explain, particularly given this is election year for Clinton's team.

This dilemma may be relieved after the “Eurocorps” takes control of Kosova operations on April 18. The “Eurocorps” is a Europe-based military brigade, which France and Germany consider the nucleus of a future European force independent of NATO. The US has long opposed this development.However if, after NATO has carried out its “noble humanitarian mission”, the Eurocorps steps in and presides over a partition, this may serve as both a US exit strategy and a propaganda point against its European rivals. Such is the makings of great powers' foreign policy.

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