Sunday, December 16, 2007

Clinton's ticking time bomb in the Balkans

With all the talk about the Neocon's fabulously evil and incompetent foreign policy one might forget that it did not all begin with Dubya and his administration. The first elective war which was fought in blatant and clear violation of international law, the UN charter and even basic decency was the US-lead NATO aggression on Yugoslavia.

It all really began with the joint US-Croatian attack on the UN protection areas in Croatia (in which UNPROFOR forces were secretly ordered to stand down and let the attacking forces enter the UN protection areas) and it ended with the NATO air campaign in support of the KLA in Kosovo.

As usual in such cases, the aggression was described as a 'humanitarian operation' in defense of the Kosovo Albanians. A Serbian police operation against a KLA unit in the village of Racak was re-branded a 'massacre' (the EU investigation which had uncovered the truth about this event was immediately classified as 'secret' and quickly forgotten, just like the UNPROFOR investigation of the Markale bombing in Sarajevo). Finally, the panicked exile of thousands of Kosovo Albanians was deemed a 'genocide' and the full scale bombing of Yugoslavia could be veiled in a pious 'humanitarian' cloak.

That huge air campaign failed miserably, at least in Kosovo proper: only a couple of tanks and APCs were destroyed, but the rest of the Army Corps deployed in Kosovo was left unscathed. The Empire then used its favorite and time-tested method: it expanded its air strikes to the civil infrastructure of Serbia and even Montenegro (the tactic used by Israel in 2006 against Lebanon). But even that did not really do the trick. The Empire then played its strongest card: it promised Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that he could stay in power as long as he agreed to betray his fellow Serbs in Kosovo.

Milosevic, who had already betrayed the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia by supporting a NATO blockade against them and, even more crucially, by ordering the Yugoslav armored units to withdraw when the Croats attacked, could be counted on to also betray the Serbs in Kosovo. The Serb forces withdrew from Kosovo, the Albanian returned, the Serbs fled and the systematic destruction of Orthodox churches and ancient monasteries by KLA goons began under the indifferent eyes of the NATO occupying forces.

Still, the Empire needed one more lie to fully achieve its aims: a promise that a negotiated solution for Kosovo would be found within international law, meaning that Kosovo would not simply be allowed to unilaterally secede from Yugoslavia and declare independence. Milosevic did not care as long as he was allowed to remain in power, and Russia was too busy being sucked dry by the 'oligarchs' and their western patrons. The Empire had won: th KLA thugs, which the Empire used to brand as 'terrorists' only a few years ago, were now presented to the world as respectable politicians.

Predictably, the KLA thugs now in power in Pristina were told that if no negotiated agreement was found with Belgrade they could declare independence and that, regardless of what the UNSC would decide, their independence would be recognized. Unsurprisingly, these negotiations failed and now the KLA is about to declare independence without a UNSC Resolution, but with a vast majority of western countries supporting such a move. Their approach is simple: its not like the Albanians would accept anything else anyway and screw Serbia - who cares about what they have to say!

The problem with this 'easy' solution is that it overlooks a number of important issues.

1) Albanians are not only Serbia's problem. They are also Greece's and Macedonia's problem. Not only that, but the KLA ideology claims that a good chunk of Macedonia should be part of a greater 'historical' Albania. The reality is that an independent Kosovo would can exist as long as the Empire's forces are willing to prop it up. Should the Empire collapse, or its forces be withdrawn, the 'Kosova' statelet would immediately be taken over by its neighbors (I remember having a conversation with a Greek officer who told me: "you know what? the Serbs should send one battalion into Macedonia, we should send another and just get it over with". I can just imagine what he would say about Kosovo). While Greece is more than capable to deal with its Albanian problem, Macedonia is not, and Albanian terrorists and criminal gangs are regularly involved in clashes with the Macedonian police and military forces. A KLA-controlled Kosovo will make this situation infinitely worse.

2) the Serbs will *never* accept an Albanian-controlled Kosovo for the simply reason that Kosovo is the birthplace of the Serbian national identity. It is, in many ways, far more important to teh Serb nation that Belgrade or any other part of Serbia. Having lived under the brutal Ottoman occupation for many centuries the Serbs are used to waiting for a long time if needed before liberating themselves. The Empire thinks about as far as the next election. The Serbs will, if needed, wait for centuries before re-taking Kosovo. Only a person wholly ignorant of the Serb culture and history could think that they would ever accept to be booted out of Kosovo by a joint KLA-NATO occupation.

3) Kosovo is totally landlocked and economically under-developed, even by local standards. As soon as independence is declared, it will come under embargo from Serbia (and possibly, at a later time, from Macedonia and Montenego). Kosovo's only 'economy' will be the one of illegal trade and trafficking (an Albanian long time specialty anyway). The fact that it will be run by former KLA field commanders will only make things worse. Finally, Kosovo's only neighbor who will be generally sympathetic to its independence will be Albania proper - yet another hotbed of crime, corruption and trafficking. It would be laughable to assume that US or European forces could do anything to stop the inevitable descent of Kosovo and Albania even further into state of crime and lawlessness which will affect all its neighbors. Simply put - nobody in the Balkans can afford a KLA run Kosovo which will prove a crime-spreading tumor which will metastasize throughout the Balkans and the rest of Europe.

4) Kosovo's independence will have another dangerous consequence: it will set a precedent. First, it will show that international law doesn't matter any more. Second, it will lead the way for a number of other national and ethnic groups aspiring for their own state. All these groups will now need is a single powerful patron. Paradoxically, a lot of client states of the USA in the former Soviet Union are likely to suffer from this: Georgia, the Ukraine, Moldavia, Azerbaijan and many others are already involved in armed struggles against their own separatist groups. All Moscow will need to do is recognize them "as the USA did with Kosovo" and they will be able to secede and there will be exactly nothing which Washington will be able to do to help its distressed clients. More insidiously, Moscow will also be able to only *threaten* to recognized such states in order to pressure the former allies of the USA to bring them into Russia's sphere of influence (this is the scenario which I find most likely, in particular in Georgia).

The situation is Kosovo is nothing short of a complete disaster, and it is about the become worse. Under Clinton the Empire was already lead by clueless, ignorant and narrow-minded politicians whose only concern at the time was to look good politically, to show some muscle, and to beat up what they perceived as Russia's ally in the region (keep in mind that at the same time when the West supported Albanian terrorists in Kosovo it also supported them in Chechnia). As usual, such illiterate policies will result in many forms of blowback, not only in the Balkans but far beyond.

I do not predict that anything truly dramatic will happen right after Kosovo declares its independence. NATO forces will be on high alert, the Albanians on their best behavior, and the Balkan countries will be quiet. TV crews will report scenes of elation in Pristina, and some will even report from the small Serb controlled enclaves. Belgrade will protest, and so will Moscow. There will be a lot of back-slapping in Brussels and Washington. And then everybody will forget about this statelet and turn to other, more important, issues. Then, and only slowly and gradually, will the tumor created by the Empire begin to spread throughout the Balkans and the first instances of blowback begin to strike back at the Empire.