Sunday, February 24, 2008
The Real Story Behind Kosovo's Independence
By JEREMY SCAHILL
News Flash: The Bush administration acknowledges there is a such thing as international law.
But, predictably, it is not being invoked to address the US prison camps at Guantanamo, the wide use of torture, the invasion and occupation of sovereign countries, the extraordinary rendition program. No, it is being thrown out forcefully as a condemnation of the Serbian government in the wake of Thursday's attack by protesters on the US embassy in Belgrade following the Bush administration's swift recognition of the declaration of independence by the southern Serbian province of Kosovo. Some 1,000 protesters broke away from a largely non-violent mass demonstration in downtown Belgrade and targeted the embassy. Some protesters actually made it into the compound, setting a fire and tearing down the American flag.
"I'm outraged by the mob attack against the U.S. embassy in Belgrade," fumed Zalmay Khalilzad,the US Ambassador to the United Nations. "The embassy is sovereign US territory. The government of Serbia has a responsibility under international law to protect diplomatic facilities, particularly embassies." His comments were echoed by a virtual who's who of the Bill Clinton administration. People like Jamie Rubin, then-Secretary of State Madeiline Albright's deputy, one of the main architects of US policy toward Serbia. "It is sovereign territory of the United States under international law," Rubin declared. "For Serbia to allow these protesters to break windows, break into the American Embassy, is a pretty dramatic sign." Hillary Clinton, whose husband orchestrated and ran the 78-day NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, said, "I would be moving very aggressively to hold the Serbian government responsible with their security forces to protect our embassy. Under international law they should be doing that."
There are two major issues here. One is the situation in Kosovo itself (which we'll get to in a moment), but the other is the attack on the US embassy. Yes, the Serbian government had an obligation to prevent the embassy from being torched and ransacked. If there was complicity by the Serbian police or authorities in allowing it to be attacked, that is a serious issue. But the US has little moral authority not just in invoking international law (which it only does when it benefits Washington's agenda) but in invoking international law when speaking about attacks on embassies in Belgrade.
Perhaps the greatest crime against any embassy in the history of Yugoslavia was committed not by evil Serb protesters, but by the United States military.
On May 7, 1999, at the height of the 78 day US-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the US bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese citizens, two of them journalists, and wounding 20 others. The Clinton administration later said that the bombing was the result of faulty maps provided by the CIA (Sound familiar?). Beijing rejected that explanation and alleged it was deliberate. Eventually, under strong pressure from China, the US apologized and paid $28 million in compensation to the victims' families. If the US was serious about international law and the protection of embassies, those responsible for that bombing would have been tried at the Hague along with other alleged war criminals. But "war criminal" is a designation for the losers of US-fueled wars, not bombers sent by Washington to drop humanitarian munitions on "sovereign territory."
Beyond the obvious hypocrisy of the US condemnations of Serbia and the sudden admission that international law exists, the Kosovo story is an important one in the context of the current election campaign in the United States. Perhaps more than any other international conflict, Yugoslavia was the defining foreign policy of President Bill Clinton's time in power. Under his rule, the nation of Yugoslavia was destroyed, dismantled and chopped into ethnically pure para-states. President Bush's immediate recognition of Kosovo as an independent nation was the icing on the cake of destruction of Yugoslavia and one which was enthusiastically embraced by Hillary Clinton. "I've supported the independence of Kosovo because I think it is imperative that in the heart of Europe we continue to promote independence and democracy," Clinton said at the recent Democratic debate in Austin, Texas.
A few days before the attack on the US embassy in Belgrade, Clinton released a Molotov cocktail statement praising the declaration of independence. In it, she referred to Kosovo by the Albanian "Kosova" and said independence "will allow the people of Kosova to finally live in their own democratic state. It will allow Kosova and Serbia to finally put a difficult chapter in their history behind them and to move forward." She added, "I want to underscore the need to avoid any violence or provocations in the days and weeks ahead." As seasoned observers of Serbian politics know, there were few things the US could have done to add fuel to the rage in Serbia over the declaration of independence -- "provocations" if you will -- than to have a political leader named Clinton issue a statement praising independence and using the Albanian name for Kosovo.
On the campaign trail, the Clinton camp has held up Kosovo as a successful model for how to conduct US foreign policy and Clinton criticized Bush for taking "so long for us to reach this historic juncture."
Perhaps a little of that history is in order. If Kosovo is her idea of solid US foreign policy, it speaks volumes to what kind of president she would be. The reality is that there are striking similarities between the Clinton approach to Kosovo and the Bush approach to Iraq.
On March 24, 1999, President Bill Clinton began an 11-week bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. Like Bush with Iraq, Clinton had no UN mandate (he used NATO) and his so-called "diplomacy" to avert the possibility of bombing leading up to the attacks was insincere and a set-up from the jump. Just like Bush with Iraq.
A month before the bombing began, the Clinton administration issued an ultimatum to President Slobodan Milosevic, which he had to either accept unconditionally or face bombing. Known as the Rambouillet accord, it was a document that no sovereign country would have accepted. It contained a provision that would have guaranteed US and NATO forces "free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout" all of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo. It also sought to immunize those occupation forces "from any form of arrest, investigation, or detention by the authorities in [Yugoslavia]," as well as grant the occupiers "the use of airports, roads, rails and ports without payment." Additionally, Milosevic was told he would have to "grant all telecommunications services, including broadcast services, needed for the Operation, as determined by NATO." Similar to Bush's Iraq plan years later, Rambouillet mandated that the economy of Kosovo "shall function in accordance with free market principles."
What Milosevic was actually asked to sign is never discussed. That it would have effectively meant the end of the sovereignty of the nation was a non-story. The dominant narrative for the past nine years, repeated this week by William Cohen, Clinton's defense secretary at the time of the bombing, is this: "We tried to achieve a peaceful resolution of what was taking place in Kosovo. And Slobodan Milosevic refused." Refused peace? More like he unwisely refused one of Don Corleone's famous offers. Washington knew he would reject it, but had to give the appearance of diplomacy for international "legitimacy."
So the humanitarian bombs rained down on Serbia. Among the missions: the bombing of the studios of Radio Television Serbia where an airstrike killed 16 media workers; the cluster bombing of a Nis marketplace, shredding human beings into meat; the deliberate targeting of a civilian passenger train; the use of depleted uranium munitions; and the targeting of petrochemical plants, causing toxic chemical waste to pour into the Danube River. Also, the bombing of Albanian refugees, ostensibly the people being protected by the U.S.
Similar to Bush's allegations about Iraqi WMDs in the lead up to the US invasion, in 1999 Clinton administration officials also delivered stunning allegations about the level of brutality present in Kosovo as part of the propaganda campaign. "We've now seen about 100,000 military-aged men missing ....They may have been murdered," Cohen said five weeks into the bombing. He said that up to 4,600 Kosovo men had been executed, adding, "I suspect it's far higher than that." Those numbers were flat out false. Eventually the estimates were scaled back dramatically, as Justin Raimondo pointed out recently in his column on Antiwar.com, from 100,000 to 50,000 to 10,000 and "at that point the War Party stopped talking numbers altogether and just celebrated the glorious victory of 'humanitarian intervention.'" As it turned out "there was no 'genocide' -- the International Tribunal itself reported that just over 2,000 bodies were recovered from postwar Kosovo, including Serbs, Roma, and Kosovars, all victims of the vicious civil war in which we intervened on the side of the latter. The whole fantastic story of another 'holocaust' in the middle of Europe was a fraud," according to Raimondo.
Following the NATO invasion of Kosovo in June of 1999, the US and its allies stood by as the Albanian mafia and gangs of criminals and paramilitaries spread out across the province and systematically cleansed Kosovo of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Romas and other ethnic minorities. They burned down houses, businesses and churches and implemented a shocking campaign to forcibly expel non-Albanians from the province. Meanwhile, the US worked closely with the Kosovo Liberation Army and backed the rise of war criminals to the highest levels of power in Kosovo. Today, Kosovo has become a hub for human trafficking, organized crime and narcosmuggling. In short, it is a mafia state. Is this the "democracy" Hillary Clinton speaks of "promoting" in "the heart" of Europe?
It didn't take long for the US to begin construction of a massive US military base, Camp Bondsteel, which conveniently is located in an area of tremendous geopolitical interest to Washington. (Among its most bizarre facilities, Bondsteel now offers classes at the Laura Bush education center, as well as massages from Thai women and all the multinational junk food you could (n)ever wish for). In November 2005, Alvaro Gil-Robles, the human rights envoy of the Council of Europe, described Bondsteel as a "smaller version of Guantanamo." Oh, and Bondsteel was constructed by former Halliburton subsidiary KBR.
Herein lies an interesting point. The Serbian government is largely oriented toward Europe, not the US. The country's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, is a conservative isolationist who is not enthusiastic about a US military base on Serbian soil any more than Cuba is about Gitmo. He charged that, in recognizing Kosovo, Washington was "ready to unscrupulously and violently jeopardize international order for the sake of its own military interests." To the would-be independent Kosovo government, however, Bondsteel is no problem.
Russia and a few other nations are fighting the recognition of Kosovo as an independent nation, but that is unlikely to succeed. Still, this action will undoubtedly reverberate for years to come. "We have in Serbia a situation in which the U.S. has forced an action --the proclamation of independence by the Kosovo Albanians -- that is in clear violation of the most fundamental principles of international law after World War II," argues Robert Hayden, Director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. "Borders cannot be changed by force and without consent -- that principle was actually the main stated reason for the 1991 U.S. attack on Iraq."
And this brings us full circle. International law matters only when it is convenient for the US. So too are the cries for "humanitarian interventions." And despite the extremism of the Bush administration, this is hardly a uniquely Republican phenomenon. In a just world, there would be a humanitarian intervention against the US occupation of Iraq -- with its indiscriminate killings of civilians, torture chambers and widespread human rights violations. There certainly would have been such an intervention during the bipartisan slaughter, through bombs and sanctions, of Iraq's people over the past 18 years. But that's what you get when the cops and judges and prosecutors are the criminals. US policy has always operated on a worthy victim, unworthy victim system that is almost never primarily about saving the victims. Humanitarianism is the publicly offered justification for the action, seldom, if ever, the primary motivation. With Iraq, Bush wheeled out the humanitarian justification for the occupation--Saddam's brutality -- only after the WMD lies were thoroughly debunked. In Yugoslavia, Clinton used it right out of the gates. In both cases, it rang insincere.
If you are a victim who happens to share a common geography with US interests, international law is on your side as long as it is convenient. If not, well, tough. The UN is just a debate club anyway. Just ask the tens of thousands of Kurds who were slaughtered by Turkey with weapons sold to them by the Clinton administration during the 1990s. Or the Palestinians who live under the brutality of Israel's occupation. In some cases, the "victims" allegedly being protected by the US actually get bombed themselves, as was the case with President Clinton's "humanitarian" bombings of the north and south of Iraq once every three days in the late 1990s.
In the bigger picture, the Bush administration's quick recognition of an independent Kosovo has given us a powerful reminder of a fact that is too often overlooked these days: empire is bipartisan, as are the tactics and rhetoric and bombs used to defend and expand it.
Jeremy Scahill is author of The New York Times-bestseller "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.". He can be reached at jeremy(AT)democracynow.org
This article was originally published by Alternet.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Vladimir Putin's message to the world: Russia is back
Speech at Expanded Meeting of the State Council on Russia’s Development Strategy through to 2020
February 8, 2008
The Kremlin, Moscow
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN:
Citizens of Russia,
As I come to the end of this second term in office as President of the Russian Federation I think that I should speak about what has been accomplished over these last years and set out our long-term vision of the future.
As you well remember, the country was in a very difficult situation eight years ago. We had gone through a default and people had seen their savings devalued. Terrorists unleashed a large-scale civil war before our very eyes, insolently invading Dagestan and blowing up homes in Russian cities.
But the people responded with neither despair nor fear. On the contrary, our people closed ranks and drew together. Not only our military but society itself rose up to defend Russia, to defend our territorial integrity. Doctors and teachers who had not been paid for months loyally performed their duties. Workers, engineers and businesspeople all continued their work, trying to haul the economy out of its state of stagnation and collapse.
People had a clear and sincere desire to make the state stronger and change the state of affairs in the country. Today, I would like once again to thank everyone who gave us their trust and support back then. I have always felt and seen this support very tangibly and without it we would not have been able to accomplish a thing.
It was the will of the people and their direct participation in Russia’s destiny that was the decisive force that enabled us to accomplish what we have over these last eight years.
* * *
I would like to take a closer look at the state the country was in during the second half of the 1990s and the beginning of this decade.
I remind you that the terrorists’ invasion of Dagestan was a direct consequence of Chechnya having essentially separated from Russia. We faced a situation where outside forces with an interest in weakening Russia and perhaps even bringing about its collapse were openly inciting the separatists.
In Chechnya itself a regime of terror was unleashed on the population, which saw civilians and religious authorities killed, a slave trade of which the local people were also victims, and hostage-taking. Emissaries from Al Qaeda oversaw terrorist training camps. The self-proclaimed ‘Congress of the Peoples of Ichkeria and Dagestan’ declared the goal of establishing a fundamentalist caliphate from the Black Sea to the Caspian.
Absolutely open preparations were going on to carry out aggression against Russia and seize its age-old territories.
What could we respond with?
Our armed forces were demoralised and not prepared for combat. Military servicemen received a pittance, which even then was not always paid on time. Equipment was becoming outdated at an alarming rate. Our defence industry, meanwhile, was choked by debts and its human resources and production base were shrinking.
Russia itself had become a ‘patchwork’ of territories. The majority of regions had laws that contradicted the Russian Constitution. Violations in some cases were simply flagrant. There were regions, for example, that defined their status as that of a ‘sovereign state associated with the Russian Federation’. Legal provisions were drawn up to justify the territorial claims regions held against each other. Let me remind you that there are more than 2,000 such disputed territories, and if we ever let ourselves be drawn into this carve-up in the future it would prove endless and would destroy the country. Just think: back then, you could be a citizen of one of the Russian regions but not be a citizen of Russia!
State power was ineffective. This was evident in the weakened state institutions and disregard for the law. Russian media outlets often acted in the interests of particular corporate groups, carrying out their economic and political orders.
A large part of the economy was in the hands of oligarchs or openly criminal organisations. Agriculture was in a state of serious crisis.
The country’s finances were exhausted and we were almost completely dependent on foreign borrowing. This was what ultimately led to the 1998 default, which ruined many businesses and fuelled poverty and unemployment.
Inflation ate away at people’s already low incomes. Inflation in 1999 was running at 36.5 percent. The beginning of 1999 also saw the peak of wage, pension and benefit arrears (some benefits were not being paid at all). Companies had wage arrears of up to two years.
Real incomes were only 40 percent of what they were in 1991, and pensions were even lower. The result was that almost a third of our population had incomes below the subsistence minimum.
What this means is that a third of our population had been left completely destitute.
The difficult economic and social situation and the loss of many reference values had dealt a severe psychological blow to our society. Social ills, corruption and crime all strengthened their hold. The demographic crisis also worsened. The birth rate fell and the death rate rose.
Wealthy Russia had become a land of impoverished people.
It was in these conditions that we began to draft and implement our plan, our plan to extract Russia from this systemic crisis. Above all, we began work on restoring constitutional order, restoring people’s basic social guarantees, and strengthening the state institutions.
Our guiding principle was that Russia’s recovery could not be carried out at the expense of the people and at a cost of even further difficulties in their lives. People had already gone through too many hardships and trials in the 1990s.
Through considerable effort we succeeded in ending the war in the North Caucasus. Separatism retreated and although terrorism remains an acute threat, we dealt it a decisive and crushing blow. Chechnya is now a full-fledged region within the Russian Federation. It has held democratic parliamentary and presidential elections and has adopted a regional constitution. Its economy and social sector are developing today.
We have re-established a common legal space in the country. Regional laws have been brought into line with federal legislation, which in its turn has undergone serious development, including the systematisation of laws and the adoption of a whole series of codes.
Not only have we once more become a united country, but throughout these years we have worked purposefully to develop federal relations.
We have established a clear delimitation of powers between the federal, regional and local authorities. At the same time, we have transferred a large part of the responsibilities for social and economic development to the regional and local authorities and have ensured the corresponding financial and material base. This represents a substantial decentralisation of power. I know that there is still much to do, but we are now working in the right direction.
We have strengthened the material base and the real independence of the courts.
Throughout this period we have worked consistently on putting in place a stable and effective political system.
We have rid the country of the harmful practice that saw state decisions taken under pressure from commodities and financial monopolies, media magnates, foreign political circles and shameless populists, a practice that was not only detrimental to our national interests but that cynically ignored the basic needs of millions of people.
Now we can state with assurance that the time when people’s political rights were ignored is over.
We are doing everything possible to ensure that our citizens can exercise their rights in full through an effective system of responsible and honest government.
Finally, Russia has returned to the world stage as a strong state, a country that others heed and that can stand up for itself.
We have built up a substantial foreign policy capital that is now contributing to our country’s development and working to protect the interests of our people and our national business.
I would like to quote a few figures. Over these last eight years total investment in the Russian economy has grown not by percentage points but has risen seven-fold. During the preceding period, annual net capital outflow was from $10 billion and up to $25 billion. But in 2007, we had record capital inflow of $82.3 billion.
Stock market capitalisation has undergone a fantastic 22-fold increase compared to 1999. In 2006, this indicator put us ahead of Mexico, India, Brazil and even South Korea, which has been showing very rapid growth. The stock market was worth $60 billion at the end of 1999, but by the end of 2007, it had risen to $1.330 trillion.
Russia’s foreign trade turnover has increased more then five-fold. More than 6 million Russian citizens go abroad every year.
All of these figures are evidence that Russia has entered a new era as a modern state that is open to the outside world, and open too to business and fair competition.
We have now completely restored the level of social and economic development that was lost in the 1990s. People’s real incomes now exceed their pre-reform levels. The economy is growing steadily.
Last year, we had our best GDP growth result yet – 8.1 percent. According to the figures for 2007 (according to international experts’ data), Russia is ahead of G8 countries such as Italy and France in terms of GDP as calculated on a purchasing parity basis, and is now one of the world’s seven biggest economies.
We have begun major projects in the energy sector, transport infrastructure, machine-building and housing construction. We are carrying out structural reform in the aircraft manufacturing and shipbuilding sectors. We have attracted substantial investment to the car industry and railway equipment sector.
We have established state corporations with big financial and organisational possibilities in the economic sectors most sensitive for the state. The situation is also improving in agriculture.
Our children will no longer have to pay our old debts. The state foreign debt has shrunk to 3 percent of GDP – one of the lowest ratios in the world.
We have built up substantial financial reserves that protect our country from external crises and guarantee that we will be able to meet our social commitments in the future.
Overall, we have established macroeconomic stability and ensured our country’s financial independence. As a result, Russia has witnessed a real investment and consumer boom over these last two years.
Real incomes have undergone a 2.5-fold increase over these last eight years and pensions have risen by almost the same amount. I am well aware of the inflation situation and the rising prices, but I repeat that real incomes have risen 2.5-fold. Unemployment and the level of poverty have undergone a more than two-fold decrease.
We have checked the falling birth rate and rising death rate. As you recall, we drafted a demographic programme not long ago. Many doubted that the state investments this programme called for would be of any use. Today I am happy to say that they have been of use. The birth rate grew faster last year than at time in the last 25 years, and more children were born in the country than were born over the last 15 years.
Positive changes are taking place in education, science and healthcare. The state has once again begun paying attention to national cultural issues.
New opportunities have opened up for developing professional and mass sports in the country. The selection of Sochi to host the 2014 Winter Olympics is confirmation not only of our sports and economic achievements but also of Russia’s growing international influence.
Our biggest achievement is the stability that enables us to make our plans, calmly go about our work and start our families. People once more have confidence that life will continue to change for the better.
I repeat that we have achieved all of this together. All of this is the fruit of our daily labour, this important work that has changed the lives of our citizens and changed our country itself, a country of which we are deservedly proud.
We have indeed accomplished much over these last eight years and still … Still we cannot rest on our laurels and become complacent. We need to take an objective and realistic look at the situation and take a resolutely self-critical approach.
We now have the task of effectively using the experience and resources we have built up to move on to a new stage in our country’s development.
We have drawn up a budget and approved a concrete development plan for the period through to 2010. Now we need to look beyond this horizon – look at least 10 years ahead. This is why we are here today to discuss the long-term strategy that will take us through to 2020. This is a most important choice for our society, the choice of direction our country’s future development will take.
Although we have had some successes over these last years we have still not yet succeeded in breaking away from the inertia of development based on energy resources and commodities. There is nothing wrong with developing the energy sector and increasing commodities production, on the contrary, developing a modern energy sector, the best in the world, and creating high-technology enterprises in the mining and natural resources processing sectors are among our unquestionable priorities.
But even with the economic situation in our favour at the moment, we are still only making fragmentary attempts to modernise our economy. This inevitably increases our dependence on imported goods and technology and reinforces our role as a commodities base for the world economy. In the future, this could lead to us lagging behind the world’s big economic powers and could push us out from among the world leaders.
If we continue on this road we will not make the necessary progress in raising living standards. Moreover, we will not be able to ensure our country’s security or its normal development. We would be placing its very existence under threat. I say this without any exaggeration.
The only real alternative to this scenario is to follow a path of innovative development based on one of our biggest competitive advantages – realisation of our human potential. We need to make full and effective use of people’s knowledge and skills so as to continuously improve technology, improve our economic results and raise the quality of life in our society in general.
But I want to make it absolutely clear that the pace of innovative development must be substantially faster than it is today.
Yes, this is the more complicated road. It is a more ambitious undertaking and it requires the state, the business community and the whole of society to make the utmost effort, but we really do not have a choice.
What choice can there be between the opportunity to become a leader in economic and social development, a leader in ensuring our national security, and the threat of losing our economic standing, losing our security and ultimately even losing our sovereignty?
Russia must become the country offering the best life, and I am sure that we can achieve this goal, not by sacrificing the present for some radiant future, but by working day by day to improve people’s lives.
The transition to an innovative development path calls above all for large-scale investment in human capital.
Human development is the main goal and essential condition for progress in modern society. This is our absolute national priority now and in the future.
Russia’s future and our success depend on people’s education and health and their desire to improve themselves and make use of their skills and talents. I am not saying this because presidential elections are just around the corner. This is not a campaign slogan. This is vital for our country’s development. Russia’s future depends on our citizens’ enthusiasm for innovation and on the fruit of the labours of each and every individual.
Developing the national education system is a key part of global competition and one of the most important values in life. Russia has everything: a wealth of traditions and the immense potential needed to make our education system, from schools to universities, one of the best in the world.
The education system should encompass the most up-to-date knowledge and technology. In the coming years we will need to make the transition to a new generation of education standards that meet the needs of the modern innovative economy. The Education Ministry is working now on these standards. I would like discussion on these standards to take place in society as a whole. What we need are modern standards.
The education sector should serve as the base for expanding scientific work. Science, in its turn, has substantial educational potential. We need to provide assistance to talented young people actively engaged in research work, help them to integrate successfully into the scientific and innovative environment.
We are in third place in the world for the number of scientists and we are one of the world leaders for state spending on science, but we are still a long way from the lead in terms of results. This is a direct consequence of insufficient interaction between scientific and educational organisations, the state and the business community, and insufficient private investment in science.
The state must encourage the business community to invest in research and development. The increasing state resources invested in science must be used as effectively as possible and concentrated on fundamental and cutting-edge areas of research, above all in areas that are crucial for our national security and our people’s health.
One in every two men in our country does not live to see the age of 60 today. This is a disgrace. Our population is declining with every passing year.
I think that we will succeed in stabilising the population over the coming 3-4 years, although some of our experts, including in the Government, forecast that this would be possible only in 10-12 years time.
We need to do everything in our power to bring about a more than 1.5-fold reduction in the death rate, and to raise the average life expectancy to 75 years by 2020.
This calls for serious systemic change to the way our healthcare system is organised. It also calls for modernisation of our healthcare facilities and a quality improvement in human resources in the healthcare sector.
We need to create the conditions that will give people the possibility and the desire to look after their own health through disease prevention and getting involved in physical culture and sport.
Of course, we also need an effective family support policy. The important decisions and new measures we have taken lay the foundations for this policy. One of our most important tasks is that of building housing and putting in place the conditions that will enable people to find independent solutions to their housing issues.
We must also remember that economic growth and rising incomes will create increased demand for education and healthcare services. For these sectors to be able to meet growing public demand, the main criteria for financing must be the quality and amount of services they provide.
We need to make more active use of tax mechanisms to encourage investment in developing human capital. This requires us to exempt from taxation as much as possible companies’ and citizens’ spending on education, medical insurance, and co-financed pension schemes.
We need to ensure that all of our country’s citizens, using their knowledge and skills, and with the state’s help where needed, have the possibility of receiving quality education, looking after their health, buying a home and receiving a decent income, attaining the living standards of the middle class, in other words. I think that the middle class should make up at least 60 percent and perhaps even 70 percent of our society by 2020.
We need to begin closing the income gap right now. The 15-fold income gap that we currently have is unacceptable. But this does not mean that there should not be incentives for professional and creative self-realisation. We do not want a system that pulls everyone down to the lowest common denominator.
Russia must become the leader in terms of possibilities for career growth and opportunities for people to raise their own social and material status over the course of their lives. Russia must be the leader in encouraging talent and success.
All who want to work should have the chance of earning a decent wage, and the chance too to save enough money to maintain their standard of living after retirement.
At the same time, it is very important that today’s pensioners and disabled people, who do not have such opportunities, receive decent pensions and benefits.
Finally, while on the subject of high living standards, we must also not forget about personal and public security in the broadest sense, security that ensures reliable protection of people’s lives and property, a safe and clean environment, safety in the transport and housing and utilities sectors and effective prevention of man-made disasters.
Of course, in our work to develop human capital we should also draw on the wealth of Russian culture and on its unique achievements and traditions.
All of this together constitutes a society that offers real and equal opportunities, a society without poverty, a society that guarantees the safety of all its citizens. Creating this society should be our goal and I am sure that we succeed in our objective.
We face new and even more complicated economic policy issues today.
The Russian economy’s biggest problem today is that it is extremely ineffective. Labour productivity in Russia remains very low. We have the same labour costs as in the most developed countries but the return is several times lower. This situation is all the more dangerous when global competition is increasing and the cost of qualified labour and energy resources is also on the rise.
Carrying out innovative development will enable us to substantially increase labour productivity. The main sectors of the Russian economy need to achieve at least a four-fold increase in labour productivity over the next 12 years.
In our work to make our economy radically more effective we also need to put in place incentives and conditions for progress in a whole number of different directions. This calls above all for the creation of a national innovative system based on all of the different state and private institutions supporting innovation.
This also calls for strengthening and expanding our natural advantages. We need to develop the basic sectors of our economy, including natural resources processing, and we need to make use of our energy, transport and agricultural potential.
This calls for large-scale modernisation of production facilities in all economic sectors. This requires a completely new quality of business management and completely new technology, above all machines and equipment. In most cases, the best technology is energy effective and energy conserving technology, economical and environmentally friendly technology.
One of the most important areas is that of developing new sectors that are able to compete globally, above all the high technology sectors that are leaders in the ‘knowledge economy’, in aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding and energy. This also requires us to develop information, medical and other new technology.
We must continue our work to build new and modernise existing roads, railway stations, ports, airports, electricity stations and communications systems.
It is essential to develop the financial infrastructure and bring it up to a level that meets the economy’s growing demands. Ultimately, Russia must become one of the world’s financial centres. Given our gold and foreign currency reserves (which stood at a little over $484 billion a few days ago), this would be a natural development. Incidentally, silly rumours are going round that the rouble is going to be re-denominated. This is complete nonsense. In the current situation it would be foolish and impossible.
Overall, we need to develop market institutions and competitive environment that will motivate companies to cut costs, modernise production and respond flexibly to consumer demand.
We need to create thousands of jobs for highly qualified workers, jobs that make use of people’s intellectual potential.
At the same time, the state must be active in helping people to change profession, find employment or start up their own business. This depends directly on establishing an effective system of ongoing learning and professional training and re-training. It also depends on creating a comfortable environment for small businesses. At the moment, small businesses work in very difficult conditions. It is awful what federal bodies in the regions with the support of regional and local authorities do. One can not start one’s business for months. People have to give bribes in every controlling institution – fire prevention, environmental services, medical permissions – you need to go to all of them, and it’s just terrible.
I will repeat, in our work in these various specific areas of social and economic policy we need to concentrate our efforts on resolving three key problems.
First: give everyone equal opportunities.
Second: create the motivation for innovative behaviour.
Third: radically increase the economy’s effectiveness, above all through raising labour productivity.
If we succeed in achieving these objectives Russia will join the ranks of the world’s technological leaders.
Clearly, achieving these goals places new demands on public administration. The state needs to set clear development objectives and establish a goal-oriented system. Real results in building an innovative society should be the main evaluation criteria for the state’s overall performance.
But the state system today is weighed down by bureaucracy and corruption and does not have the motivation for positive change, much less dynamic development.
We need to do away with the excessive administrative pressure on the economy that has become one of the biggest brakes on development.
We need to establish competitive conditions for attracting the best and the brightest into the civil service, and make them more accountable to society.
One of the biggest problems in state management today is the excessive centralisation. The Government takes months and even years to take even the most elementary decisions. Formally speaking, everything is carried out correctly, according to the rules, but this is a case when the whole procedure, the order itself, lead to an absurd.
The Government should be the centre for coming up with the ideology and the strategic plans. It should approve federal programmes with clearly defined objectives, evaluation criteria and amounts of resources required, but it should not get involved in all the particularities and get bogged down in all the minute details.
The ministries should really manage the resources entrusted to them and independently issue the legal acts necessary for this work, as indeed was the initial plan of administrative reform.
The hallmarks of tomorrow’s public administration system should be independence and responsibility, dynamic movement forward, adherence to the country’s general development principles, effective resource use, bold and original decisions, support for initiative and innovation, a healthy flow of human resources, competence and broad horizons.
This approach should be the foundation not only for the state administration system but for the entire public sector and for all enterprises under the control of the state and local authorities.
The public sector employs around 25 million people (more than a third of the total workforce). This sector receives trillions of roubles in state investment and current state expenditure. We must therefore work in constant and purposeful fashion to improve performance in the public sector, which forms the backbone of the state as a whole.
It is also clear that the state cannot support and does not need such an enormous public sector. These numerous establishments and organisations should be able to work in a market environment and receive payment for their results and not simply for the fact that they exist. Their managers should bear personal responsibility for the quality of management.
We need to make use of the possibilities that exist for bringing private capital into the state sector, whether in industry or in the social sector.
A private company motivated to be effective will often be better manager than a government official who doesn’t always have an idea what is efficient management and what the effect must be.
We also need to simplify the tax system and minimise possibilities for arbitrary interpretation of the law. We need to introduce tax incentives for innovative development. Overall, we need to work towards further reducing the tax burden and setting a single VAT rate that is as low as possible.
We need to continue our work to establish an independent and effective judiciary that unquestionably guarantees entrepreneurs’ rights, including the right to protection from arbitrary action by bureaucrats.
Finally, the state must ensure it has sufficient instruments at its disposal to ensure macroeconomic stability even in an unstable situation on world markets.
The result of this work will be to establish in Russia a competitive and comfortable environment for investment (above all in the high-technology sectors) and for doing business.
Implementation of an effective regional policy is one of the most important areas of modernising state administration.
Today we see increasing social and economic disparity between the different regions, and there are more regions at the bottom of the scale than at the top. The disparity between regions for most of the main parameters is phenomenal, in some cases a dozens-fold gap.
We need to work over these coming years to implement a new stage in regional policy aimed at ensuring not just formal but real equality between the different regions. Each region should have the resources it needs to ensure decent standards of living for its people and carrying out comprehensive development and diversification of its economy.
The development of new social and economic development centres in the Volga region, the Urals, Southern Russia, Siberia and the Far East has an important part to play in this work, as do the creation of a network of innovative regional production centres and the improvement of the transport and energy infrastructure.
I am convinced that only a balanced regional policy will enable us to ensure harmonious development throughout the country as a whole.
The desire of millions of our citizens for individual freedom and social justice is what defines the future of Russia’s political system. The democratic state should become an effective instrument for civil society’s self-organisation.
This is work that will unfold over a period of years, work that will continue with the help of educational activity and the cultivation of a culture of civic spirit. Raising the role of non-governmental organisations, human rights ombudsmen and public councils will contribute to this work, as will the development of a multiparty system in Russia.
Russia’s future political system will be centred on several large political parties that will have to work hard to maintain or affirm their leading positions, be open to change and broaden their dialogue with the voters.
Political parties must not forget their immense responsibility for Russia’s future, for the nation’s unity and for our country’s stable development.
No matter how fierce the political battles and no matter how irreconcilable the differences between parties might be, they are never worth so much as to bring the country to the brink of chaos.
Irresponsible demagogy and attempts to divide society and use foreign help or intervention in domestic political struggles are not only immoral but are illegal. They belittle our people’s dignity and undermine our democratic state.
Finally, Russia’s political system must not only be in accordance with our national political culture but should develop together with it. Then it will be both flexible and stable.
No matter what their differences, all of the different public forces in the country should act in accordance with one simple but essential principle: do nothing that would damage the interests of Russia and its citizens and act only for Russia’s good, act in its national interests and in the interest of the prosperity and security of all its people.
I cannot but say a few words about Russia’s security and defence capability, and also about our foreign policy strategy. They all depend in large part on the level of economic and social development in our country.
It is now clear that the world has entered a new spiral in the arms race. This is does not depend on us and it is not we who began it. The most developed countries, making use of their technological advantages, are spending billions on developing next-generation defensive and offensive weapons systems. Their defence investment is dozens of times higher than ours.
We have complied strictly with our obligations over these last decades and are fulfilling all of our obligations under the international security agreements, including the Conventional Forces in Europe [CFE] Treaty. But our NATO partners have not ratified certain agreements, are not fulfilling their obligations, but nevertheless demand continued unilateral compliance from us. NATO itself is expanding and is bringing its military infrastructure ever closer to our borders. We have closed our bases in Cuba and Vietnam, but what have we got in return? New American bases in Romania and Bulgaria, and a new missile defence system with plans to install components of this system in Poland and the Czech Republic soon it seems.
We are told that these actions are not directed against Russia, but we have received no constructive responses to our completely legitimate concerns.
There has been a lot of talk on these matters, but it is with sorrow in my heart that I am forced say that our partners have been using these discussions as information and diplomatic cover for carrying out their own plans. We have still not seen any real steps to look for a compromise. We are effectively being forced into a situation where we have to take measures in response, where we have no choice but to make the necessary decisions.
Russia has a response to these new challenges and it always will.
Russia will begin production of new types of weapons over these coming years, the quality of which is just as good and in some cases even surpasses those of other countries. At the same time, our spending on these projects will be in keeping with our possibilities and will not be to the detriment of our social and economic development priorities.
The use of new technology also calls for a rethinking of strategy in the way our Armed Forces are organised. After all, new breakthroughs in bio-, nano- and information technology could lead to revolutionary changes in weapons and defence.
Only an army that meets the most modern demands can be entrusted with the deployment, servicing and use of new generation weapons. The human factor is becoming more important than ever. What we need is an innovative army, an army based on the very highest modern standards of professionalism, technical breadth of horizon and competence.
To achieve this, we need to make military service more prestigious, continue to raise wages for servicemen, provide them with better social protection and resolve their housing problems.
Overall, strengthening our national security requires a new strategy for developing the Armed Forces through to 2020, a strategy that takes into account the challenges and threats to our country’s interests today.
Today’s world is not becoming any simpler. On the contrary, it is becoming ever more complicated and tougher. We have seen how the lofty slogans of freedom and an open society are sometimes used to destroy the sovereignty of a country or an entire region. We have seen how, behind a veneer of clamorous rhetoric about free trade and investment, the most developed countries step up their protectionist policies.
A fierce battle for resources is unfolding, and the whiff of gas or oil is behind many conflicts, foreign policy actions and diplomatic demarches.
In this context, it is understandable that the world should be showing growing interest in Russia and in Eurasia in general. God was generous in giving us natural resources. The result is that we are running up against repeats of the old ‘deterrence’ policy more and more often. But what this usually boils down to, essentially, are attempts to impose unfair competition on us and secure access to our resources.
It is essential to remain steadfast and firm in such a situation, to avoid being drawn into costly confrontation or a new arms race that would be destructive for our economy and disastrous for our country’s domestic development.
Our choice is clear. Russia is a reliable partner for the entire international community in resolving global problems. We are interested in mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas – in security, science, energy, and in tackling climate change.
We are interested in being as involved as possible in global and regional integration and in close trade, economic and investment cooperation, in developing high technology and making it a part of our everyday lives. This is all in accordance with our strategic goals. If we want to achieve our national goals we need a peaceful and positive international relations agenda. And we will pursue this course
I stress that we have no intention of trying to take anything away from anyone else. We are a self-sufficient country. And we have no intention either of closing ourselves off from the outside world and living in isolation.
I am certain that an independent, pragmatic and responsible policy will enable Russia to strengthen its international authority as a reliable and honest partner.
Today we are deciding one of the most important issues for Russia’s future – defining its development strategy through to 2020. It is clear that only a consolidated society can fully carry out such a strategy. This means that our long-term references must be clear to everyone and must have the support of our citizens.
I think it is extremely important that our national development plans should be discussed at every level of society and that all society’s institutions should be involved. And there must be some tangible result of these discussions. Ultimately, this process will result in the Government’s approval of a concept for national social and economic development through to 2020 and a concrete action plan in all of the different areas I outlined. We need a step-by-step plan in each of these different areas.
Russia has already proved in the past that it can achieve what others thought impossible. In the post-war years we accomplished industrial development and were the first to enter outer space.
Over these last years, we have confidently come back, we have worked to restore the country after the chaos, economic ruin and breakdown of the old system that we saw in the 1990s.
Furthermore, Russia’s GDP increased by 72 percent over 2000-2007. If we keep up this kind of annual growth of 7.8 percent, we could double our GDP by the end of next year.
But today, we are setting an even more ambitious goal, that of bringing about fundamental change in our lives, the quality of life in our country and in its economy.
Russia is a land of hardworking and educated people who want to be leaders and have always had the thirst for victory in their national character. We have always sought to be free and independent.
Russia has immense national resources and great scientific potential.
Russia has a clear understanding of how it can use these resources to reach the new and ambitious goals we have set.
There is not a single serious reason that should prevent us from reaching our goals. Not one!
I am absolutely convinced that our country will succeed in consolidating its position as one of the world leaders and that our citizens will live decent lives.
Thank you for your attention.
Kosovo: A New Day of Infamy for a New Century
The grotesque charade in Pristina on Sunday, February 17, crowned a decade and a half of U.S. policy in the former Yugoslavia that has been mendacious and iniquitous in equal measure. By encouraging its Albanian clients go ahead with the unilateral proclamation of independence written at the Department of State, the U.S. administration has made a massive leap into the unknown. That leap is potentially on par with Austria’s July 1914 ultimatum to Serbia. The fruits will be equally bitter. While their exact size and taste are hard to predict right now, that in the fullness of time America will come to regret the criminal folly of her current leaders is certain. Their Balkan policy is worse than a crime: It is a mistake.
Having devoted seven News & Views columns to Kosovo over the past year I have little to add to the sordid story of Western deceit, allied with Albanian barbarity, that has culminated in the spectacle in Pristina. Suffice to say that Belgrade vs. Washington, in this particular instance, is the clearest-cut case of “white hats vs. black hats” in today’s world affairs. [ ... ]
“WHO LOST SERBIA?”—That Serbia is lost to the West is now certain. President Boris Tadic’s narrow victory (51 percent) in the second round of the presidential election in Serbia on February 3 was entirely due to his claim that, as an enthusiastically pro-Western reformist, he could obtain less brutal treatment for Serbia from Brussels and Washington than his “ultra-nationalist” opponent.
In Washington Tadic’s victory was hastily interpreted as a sure sign that the Serbs are throwing in the towel, and that, therefore, the scenario for independence should go ahead. (Had Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party won, they would have said that the scenario should be applied post haste because Serbia is irredeemably nationalist and should be taught a lesson.)
Far from indicating Serbia’s readiness to “accept the inevitable” and sling into the vivisection kennel, however, Tadic’s victory was the last chance for the U.S. and the EU to stop the trainwreck. The anger against the U.S. and the EU will translate into the well-deserved electoral demise for Tadic’s Democratic Party (Demokratska stranka, DS) at the next parliamentary election. That election is now imminent in the next few months.
Serbia’s mood was evident in Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica’s somber speech to the nation, broadcast immediately after the proclamation in Pristina. He said that the “unilateral declaration of the fake state of Kosovo represents the final act of a policy initiated in 1999 with NATO aggression.” He accused the United States of a “merciless violation of international order”:
America humiliated and forced Europe Union to discard its basic principles. Europe bowed before America, and it will be held responsible for all the consequences that will arise from Kosovo’s independence.
It is difficult to make forecasts about Belgrade’s forthcoming responses—not least because they are treated as closely guarded secrets—but the following sequence of events is, in my opinion, at least less unlikely than any other:
- The inherent schizophrenia splitting the ruling coalition in Serbia will be subjected to intolerable strains in the next few weeks, primarily over the issue of how to respond to the forthcoming acts of recognition by the United States and leading EU countries. Kostunica favors weighty moves, while Tadic and his ministers will insist on empty gestures—e.g. withdrawing ambassadors from Western capitals—that fall far short of breaking diplomatic relations.
- The resulting election will mark the long-overdue demise of the DS, with its worn out Euro-rhetoric that has yielded zero dividends over the past eight years. The winners will be the Radicals (SRS) and Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS). They will either form a long-overdue coalition, or else Kostunica will try to form a national unity government in which the Radicals will be represented (and from which Tadic and his DS will stay away because their “friends” in Brussels and Washington would never allow them to be in the same room with Nikolic).
- The entity proclaimed in Pristina will be recognized by the United States, by most of the Islamic world—which will find itself aligned, yet again, with America in promoting Islam and fighting Christianity in the Balkans—and by about a half of the European Union’s 27 members. Washington will claim to have the “international community” behind it, but in order to do so many small and weak countries, from Haiti to Tonga to Vanuatu, will be bribed, cajoled, or bullied into recognition.
- “KosovA” will NOT be recognized by Russia, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia (the most populous Muslim country), by most of black Africa, and by at least half-dozen EU member-countries. The non-recognizing countries’ population will exceed by two-to-one that of the Willing. The “international community” will be finally seen for what it is: an empty slogan, an invention of Washingtonian hegemonists and Euro-globalists devoid of substance or authority.
- Kosovo will linger on for a few years, as an expensive albatross costing American and “willing” taxpayers a few billion a year. It will continue developing, not as a functional economy but as a black hole of criminality and Jihad terrorism. The ever-rising and constantly unfulfilled expectations of its unemployable multitudes will eventually turn—Frankenstein’s monster-like—against the entity’s creator. There will be many Ft. Dixes to come, at Camp Bondsteel and at home.
- The precedent of Kosovo will destabilize many countries with restive and separatist-minded minorities, including America’s friends in Turkey (Kurds), Pakistan (Pashtuns), and above all in the ever-dysfunctional Dayton-Bosnia, with no dividend of any kind in the Islamic world as a whole for the United States on the account of its championing the Muslim cause in the Balkans.
The U.S.-led Kosovo policy in the end will prove to be a blessing in disguise for Serbia. Only by NOT joining the European Union will she preserve her identity, her traditions, and her faith. Only by NOT joining the U.S.-hegemonized system of military alliances will she avoid having her youths put in harm’s way for nothing, in some arid, hostile faraway lands. Only by forging an ever-tighter political, economic, and eventually military alliance with Russia will Serbia avoid the clutches of a postmodern “American” empire devoid of a single redeeming feature.
God sometimes acts in mysterious ways, and on this 21st Century Day of Infamy, February 17, we should ask for His mercy and thank Him for his blessings. Kosovo had remained Serbian during those five long centuries of Ottoman darkness, to be liberated in 1912. It is no less Serbian now, the ugly farce in Pristina notwithstanding. It will be tangibly Serbian again when the current experiment in Benevolent Global Hegemony collapses and when the very names of Messrs. Bush, McCain and Clinton are deservedly consigned to the dustheap of history.
Camp Bondsteel - the Empire's base in "independent" Kosovo
The United States agreed to provide a force of approximately 7,000 US personnel as part of the NATO KFOR to help maintain a capable military force in Kosovo and to ensure the safe return of Kosovar refugees. The US supports KFOR by providing the headquarters and troops for one of the four NATO sectors. The US also provides personnel, units and equipment to other components of the KFOR organization.
Camp Bondsteel [CBS] is quite large: 955 acres or 360,000 square meters. If you were to run the outer perimeter, it is about 7 miles. Bondsteel is located on rolling hills and farmland near the city of Ferizaj/Urosevac. There are two dining facilities at Camp Bondsteel: one in North town and one in South town. The food is very well prepared and there are always a variety of main and side dishes to choose from. There are also salad bars, potato bars and multiple dessert offerings. Due to General Order #1, only alcohol-free beer is served, but it is better than nothing! There are set hours for meals, but each dining facility also has a 24-hour section for sandwiches, coffee, fruit, and continental breakfast items.
Soldiers live in SEA (Southeast Asia) Huts. There are about 250 SEA Huts for living quarters and offices. The buildings have five living areas that house up to six soldiers each. Each building has one large bathroom with multiple shower and bathroom stalls. A few buildings have smaller bathroom facilities as well. Female and male sea huts are separate. The beds are comfortable and each room has its own heating/air conditioning unit. Soldiers get their own wall-locker for personal storage, and most opt to purchase a small set of plastic bins for additional storage. You can buy almost anything from the PX to make your living space more comfortable, such as TVs, DVD players, coffee makers and sound systems. Rooms are routinely inspected to make sure they adhere to fire and safety codes. The best way to improve the safety of your room is to purchase an approved surge protector for European voltage, and plug all of your lights and equipment into that. Adaptors are also available so you can plug your 220-compatible devices, like laptops, into the European outlets.
The Bondsteel PX offers soldiers the latest CDs, DVDs, electronics, souvenirs, clothing, uniforms and everything to make your stay in Kosovo comfortable. With two stories of merchandise, the PX draws lots of multinational soldiers from throughout Kosovo. Also located at CBS are Burger King, Anthony’s Pizza and a Cappuccino bar.
There are Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) buildings in North town and South town. The facilities offer billiards, ping-pong, video games, interenet access and a video teleconference room. They also offer movies to check out and watch on several TVs in the MWR facilities. There are a total of three gyms at CBS. Two gyms (north and south) have basketball/volleyball courts, exercise equipment, weight machines and free weights. The third gym is strictly a weight room.
There are two chapels on Bondsteel, North and South, and one on Camp Monteith. All Chapels offer services in several denominations. The Laura Bush education center offers a variety of college courses to suit your needs. Want to learn Albanian, Serbian, or German? Improve your computer skills? The variety of college credit and certificate courses is staggering. There are two colleges represented at US base camps: the University of Maryland and Chicago University. For those with easy access to the Internet, online courses are offered too.
The US sector is in southeast Kosovo. Headquarters for US forces is located at Camp Bondsteel, built on 750 acres of former farmland near Urosevic. Bondsteel has about a 6-mile perimeter. The 1,000-acre camp was built from the ground up on a former field. Basecamps Bondsteel and Monteith were established in June 1999 in Kosovo to be used as staging points for the bulk of US forces stationed in the Multi National Brigade-East. About 4,000 US service members were stationed at Camp Bondsteel in the farm fields near Urosevac, and another 2,000 were at Camp Montieth, near Gnjilane. Both camps are named after medal of honor recipients, Army Staff Sgt. James L. Bondsteel, honored for heroism in Vietnam, and Army 1st Lt. Jimmie W. Montieth Jr, honored for heroism in France during World War II. Camp Able Sentry, located near the Skopje Airport, Macedonia, serves as a point of entry for supplies and personnel into Kosovo. Another 500 Americans support the operation from Camp Able Sentry in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The US contingent is known as Task Force Falcon. There are a number of locations within Kosovo, other than the base camps, at which US soldiers maintain a presence.
US forces entered Kosovo in June 1999 following NATO Operation Allied Force. Since then, military officials worked to rapidly improve service members' quality of life. At the outset, planners wanted to use the lessons learned in Bosnia and convinced decision makers to reach base-camp “end state” as quickly as possible. Because of uncertainty about the Bosnian mission’s duration, when the Army moved across the Sava River into Bosnia in 1995, soldiers were housed first in tents – in the winter! Only years later were they moved to semipermanent Southeast Asia (SEA) huts (a theater-of-operations design that first made its debut in Vietnam) on base camps. Engineer planners knew it was much more cost effective to forego this gradual approach in Kosovo in favor of building end-state SEA huts right away, and operational commanders agreed with this approach.
In contrast to the Bosnia peacekeeping mission where troops lived in tents for many months before moving into hardened structures, DoD decided to erect the SEAhuts from the start. The single-story SEAhut wooden structures were first used in Southeast Asia and then in Bosnia. The military redesigned the SEAhuts specifically for Kosovo. Each wooden structure has a male and a female latrine and six rooms housing six service members each. The huts have heat, hot water, air conditioning, plumbing, electricity and telephones.
Effective force protection is critical for Camp Bondsteel, which is situated on a series of rolling hills with nearby woods on several boundaries. After the 9th Engineer Battalion (Mechanized) used its armored combat earthmovers to create a hasty perimeter, the 94th ECB(H) and Brown & Root Services Corporation jointly completed a 2.5-meter-high earthen berm around the entire perimeter. They removed trees to allow sufficient fields of fire and built nine wooden guard towers around the perimeter. Due to soil, pests, and line-of-sight requirements, the battalion modified the towers by placing each on a concrete pad and adding safer and more accessible entrance ladders. Five of the nine towers were placed on two MILVANS welded together to allow greater visibility. The added elevation enables soldiers to view the area from 18 feet aboveground rather than from the usual eight feet.
Because of the topography and population of the camp, it eventually had two independently serviced life-support areas, with semipermanent wooden buildings known as Davidson-style Southeast Asian huts (SEA huts) (see article). The battalion also created SOCCE huts (modified for the Special Operations Command and Control Element) and officer/senior noncommissioned officer SEA huts that have 10 rooms with separate latrine facilities for each pair of rooms.
The 94th ECB(H) created Camp Bondsteel's road system, which was critical to alleviate blinding dust storms and enable mobility when torrential rains made the clay soil impassable. They built the hardstand for the camp's hospital, created the road to the military and civilian materials yard, and laid a double-base surface of bitumen on the camp's eastern access road. The battalion upgraded the main briefing room and other areas throughout Task Force Falcon's command center. It also created a storage system for confiscated weapons and built floors for 200 tents, so soldiers would be out of the mud while SEA huts were being constructed.
To create life-support areas, the 94th ECB(H) transformed the topography of Camp Bondsteel to maximize use of the ground. The primary earthmoving mission, dubbed Operation Wolverine Mountain after the battalion's mascot, required that more than 150,000 cubic meters of earth be moved and redistributed. That is equivalent to the area of one football field that is 100 feet deep. To save time, the battalion lowered the two major hills in Camp Bondsteel and simultaneously filled the large ravine between them. Combining the efforts of all four organic companies, the battalion worked two shifts totaling 20 hours per day. At times twelve 621B scrapers, eight D7G dozers, three 130G graders, and six vibratory and sheepsfoot compactors operated on the hills. In 30 days, the battalion widened the life-support areas, created areas for the camp's wash rack and more than half of the camp's motor pools, and built a foundation for the northern access road.
Simultaneously, the battalion created the hardstand for the American logistical supply support activity. This 600- by 160-meter area, which required 70,000 cubic meters of earthen cut-and-fill operations, will eventually include a chapel, a morale and welfare tent, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, and a barbershop. Equipment and operators from nine Wolverine platoons worked around the clock to complete the project.
Shortly after site preparation began at Camp Bondsteel, a 36-inch natural-gas pipeline was discovered under the camp – right where we wanted to make a 3-foot cut! It was easier to redesign the camp around the pipeline than dig it out, and that’s why today a “no-construction” strip of land runs northwest to southeast among the SEA huts. The total absence of civilian sewage-treatment facilities in Kosovo forced early diversion of critical horizontal equipment to build sewage lagoons. This project is environmentally critical since there were no sewage-treatment plants in Kosovo, and local people (including those serving military units) emptied raw sewage into streams. The lagoon is a technically challenging mission that requires all four of the 200- by 300-meter areas to have depth deviations from final design grade of no more than 3 inches. Led by the 535th and 568th Engineer Companies (CSE), the first area completed has a maximum deviation of only two inches across its entire 60,000-square-meter area.
Camp Bondsteel has an improved detention facility, with a 250 by 350 foot temporary structure composed of tents with plywood sidewalls and floors, electricity, heat, and lights. The project also includes a separate shower point and security measures - perimeter fencing, triple-standard concertina wire, locking gates, and an upgraded guard tower. The facility replaced an interim holding cell at Bondsteel and provides space for persons detained in incidents throughout the US sector in Kosovo.
In August 1999 the 9th Combat Engineer Battalion (Mechanized) at Camp Bondsteel altered the southwest perimeter at Camp Bondsteel to make room for the new helicopter landing zone. Engineers reworked triple-standard concertina wire to pull it out farther from the area targeted for landings. To make this change to the perimeter, engineers first had to cut down several trees both to make room and to afford proper line of sight from the guard tower. They worked with Civil Affairs to coordinate the tree removal with local villagers whose property adjoins the area.
In August 1999 the helicopter landing area used since Camp Bondsteel opened moved from the command operations area to a site on the post's south perimeter. Five new helipads made of AM2 aluminum matting handled helicopter landings for a few months until an expanded aviation area was completed with 52 helipads. The 94th Engineer Battalion also completed separate areas for landing sling loads and Chinooks (CH47s). The vacated landing site allowed engineers to expand the main access road and prepare the ground for erecting four clamshells, which are temporary frame-and-fabric structures. The plan was to transition all aircraft from Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia, to Camp Bondsteel as a home base.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica addresses the Serbian nation about Kosovo
“Dear citizens of Serbia,
Today, on February 17, a phoney state of Kosovo has been declared in the part of Serbia’s territory that is under military control of NATO. This unprecedented lawlessness came as a result of destructive, cruel and immoral policy of force implemented by the US. This act informs the whole world that America puts force over the UN Charter and is ready to self-willingly, unscrupulously and violently jeopardise international order for the sake of its own military interests.
Putting violence over the principles of international law, the US used blind force and humiliated and forced the EU to break the principles that the very EU is based on. America forced Europe to follow it in unprecedented violence demonstrated against Serbia. Europe has bent its head today and that is why it will be responsible for far-reaching consequences that this violence will have on the European and world order. This act has above all humiliated the EU, not Serbia. Serbia rejected to be humiliated, respecting firmly the law and rejecting to obey force.
The unilateral proclamation of phoney state under the patronage of the US and the EU represents the final act of policy of force that started with aggression and insane bombardment of Serbia and then continued with the arrival of NATO troops in Kosovo-Metohija. Never before has the truth been clearer on the reason for Serbia being savagely destroyed with NATO bombs like it is clear today, on February 17. The real foundations of the phoney state of Kosovo are the bombs that NATO used to destroy Serbia. This is why real truth needs to be told that behind this phoney state are military interests of NATO, which is also confirmed in Annex 11 of Ahtisaari’s plan. Only in that way could this phoney state be created, and it will for ever remain phoney even if the Western countries sacrifice the whole world order and risk peace for its recognition.
The President of the US, who is responsible for this violence, and his European followers, will be written with black letters in Serbian history books, but also in the history of international law and world order that international law guarantees.
We well know how dangerous, cruel and blind the policy of force implemented by the US is. But knowing that, Serbia has resolutely and once and for all annulled all decisions on the unilateral independence as well as all future acts pertaining from this illegal act. Serbia has also annulled the decision of the EU to illegally send its mission to the province, which was made as a result of Europe’s lack of power. With this decision, the Serbian government established the basis of Serbian state and national programme for Kosovo-Metohija following February 17.
Citizens of Serbia, the phoney state of an independent Kosovo in Serbia’s territory does not and will never exist for Serbia. For Serbia, all Serbs and all citizens in the province who respect our state are Serbian citizens enjoying full rights. That is why it is important that laws and institutions of the Republic of Serbia are valid for them. As of today, we must show greater concern and solidarity with our people in Kosovo-Metohija. All ministries have been directed to work and provide considerably better living conditions, help create new jobs and launch investments in the province. The state of Serbia will take greatest possible care about its each and every citizen in Kosovo-Metohija. And our ministers are with their people in the province today.
We warn that since the arrival of NATO troops in Kosovo-Metohija, many Serbs have been killed and exiled, whereas numerous houses, ancient monasteries and churches have been burnt down. Since NATO came, too much evil and violence has been imposed upon Serbs. That is why new innocent victims, new exiles and new destructions in Kosovo must not happen by any means. There was too much violence against Serbs and those who took on responsibility for security in the province must absolutely fulfil their obligations.
I wish to once again repeat that Serbia is an old state, that the Serbian nation is an old European nation. Through our centuries-long state-building history as nation, we experienced the evils that foreign force can impose. But in our history, we got assured even more of the force of law and justice and the values of freedom. Law, justice and freedom will guide us until we get the province of Kosovo-Metohija back to where it belongs, the constitutional order of Serbia. And while the policy of force thinks it has triumphed today by creating a phoney state, millions of Serbs are thinking already of the day of freedom that must come. No one has ever managed to prevent the Serbian people come to its freedom. All that we cannot do today, new and better generations than us will do tomorrow. Kosovo is Serbia and it must always be like that.
Citizens of Serbia, we must show to the whole world together that we oppose the breaking up of our state and that we do not accept violent creation of the phoney state in our territory. By opposing the policy of violence that is implemented on Serbia, we must be united and give our say as support to our compatriots and citizens in Kosovo-Metohija. The government and parliamentary parties will organise together peaceful protests across Serbia as well as the first big protest in Belgrade. In these protests, our dignity must be above force against we are fighting. We shall leave force to violators, who, by using it, disgraced themselves for all times; we shall show the power of law and justice and we shall show how much we love and respect freedom and free Serbia with our Kosovo-Metohija. As long as the Serbian people exist, Kosovo remains Serbia.”
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Director of National Intelligence says Syria or Hezbollah faction might be involved in Mughniyah assassination
Ok, I know all the caveats which one should be aware of when quoting somebody like Mike McConnell and I agree with all of them. Yes, this might be a way of blaming Syria in order to further divide the anti-US countries and forces in the Middle-East. Still, this might also be the professional opinion of a Director of National Intelligence whose analysts are crying to high heaven that the 'official' version makes no sense at all. Whatever may be the case here, I am sure that more and more people with experience in intelligence operations will speak up and raise the issue of Syria's role.
Serbia's historical leaders on the secession of Kosovo
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE CROWN COUNCIL REGARDING
THE DECLARATION OF AN ALBANIAN STATE ON THE TERRITORY OF SERBIA
The 17th of February 2008 is a date which will live in infamy!
On that day Europe had diminished its own morale, embarassed its own history and shown that it carries within its organism the virus of its own downfall! On that day America gave up on Washington, Lincoln, and Wilson.
It is not only the denied defeat of us Serbs, it is a defeat of an idea of a world without violence, of a unified Europe, of a society of equality, law, legality, and justice!
It is a defeat of the idea of democracy! It is a defeat of the universally accepted rules of international law.
The part of the project of Mussolini and Hitler has finally been accomplished, in the territory of Serbia!
For that, we need not blame the Albanians, but those that have supported them, recognised them, encouraged them, and financed them! It is them whom we should acknowledge for their endurance in their hatred against the Serbs, for their dedication to the goals they had tried to accomplish in both world wars that they had fought and lost.
The world has, once again, started approaching its downfall in the territory of Serbia. We are not happy to know that tomorrow the fate of Serbia and Serbs, on whose misfortune they have worked so hard and so united, many will see this happen in their own country, in their own home.
Kosovo remains to be our history and destiny, but it is their future!
Today we feel ashamed for them, leaving them to feel ashamed for themselves tomorrow!
We pray to God of justice for the life and health of our citizens living in Kosovo and Metohija.