Bombings – incompatible with humanitarian concerns

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 60 – March 24, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“NATO’s unwise, counterproductive and non-legal bombing of sovereign Yugoslavia is justified by President Bill Clinton, EU and other Western leaders and media with reference to humanitarian concerns. Supposedly air strikes serve to stop ethnic cleansing, future massacres, refugee flows, and prevent innocent children and women from being killed. Diplomatically expressed, this comes from the marketing department. Bombings will produce what it purports to prevent,” says Dr. Jan Oberg, TFF’s director, right after the bombing campaign has started. According to Oberg, this argument lacks credibility for the following reasons:

 

NO VIOLENCE-PREVENTION

Why did the West do absolutely nothing before this crisis became violent? There were many opportunities for a negotiated solutions. TFF, for instance, has suggested a variety of options since 1992 that could have prevented violence and the killing we’ve seen the last year. In no other conflict has there been so many early warnings and so little preventive diplomacy. Kosovo’s catastrophe was among the most predictable of all. It is intellectual nonsense that ‘everything else has been tried and NATO bombings was the only option left.’

 

HUMANITARIAN WORK MADE IMPOSSIBLE BY NATO THREATS

The immediate consequence of the threats of NATO air strikes is that OSCE’s Verification mission had to be withdrawn and that almost all humanitarian organizations withdrew to protect their staff. More refugees are now running over the border to Macedonia. With fewer ears and eyes on the ground, its free for all sides – NATO included – to step up the killing.

 

THIS WILL MAKE SERBS AND ALBANIANS HATE EACH OTHER (MORE)

NATO bombings will be perceived as a punishment of Serbs and a clear support to Albanian hardliners. [Read more…]

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Read the military Kosovo Rambouillet agreement !

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 58 – March 18, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“The military provisions in the Kosovo Agreement on the table in Paris has nothing to do with peacekeeping. Neither the civilian nor the military provisions will help bring about peace among Serbs and Albanians. It will further antagonize the 10 million citizens of Yugoslavia and the international community. There is simply nothing in it for the Yugoslavs and that’s why I am deeply afraid that we are likely to see something very bad happen very soon. This whole affair has nothing to do with violence prevention, the appropriate term would be: peace-prevention.

Leading media, commentators, scholars and diplomats join in condemning the Yugoslav side in the Paris talks on Kosovo and thus legitimate subsequent NATO bombing and de facto NATO control over the territory. Who can be so ungrateful, stubborn or scoundrelly to refuse an offer of peace? However, no one asks: what does the Kosovo Agreement in Paris, the “peace” plan, actually contain?

I don’t think this is necessarily deliberate,” says Dr. Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s conflict-mitigation team in ex-Yugoslavia since 1991. “Rather, it proves that professional knowledge about conflict-resolution, negotiation, mediation and peace politics in general is virtually non-existing in the international discourse and media.

When someone presents an economic plan, economists can discuss its pros and cons. When a document is presented as a “peace” plan, everyone takes it for granted as such without even asking: What’s in it? What are the weak and the strong aspects? Why seems one side to say yes and the other no? Will its implementation help the parties to live in peace? What kind of peace, if any?

I have studied the early versions of the Agreement and the version of February 23. The document has undergone remarkable changes over time. My hypothesis is simple: this document has been adapted to be acceptable to the Albanian delegates to such an extent that the Yugoslav side – ready to accept the political parts at an earlier stage – now find the changed document unacceptable both in terms of political and military aspects. Why this change? Because worst case for the international community would be Yugoslavia saying yes and the Albanians saying no.

Did your media tell you that the document does not even mention KLA, the Kosovo (Albanian) Liberation Army? It it called “Other Forces” throughout the Agreement. You may wonder how parties can be held accountable if they are not mentioned by name or actor in the document. Worse, could it be that there is a KLA, or a fraction of it, that is not represented at Paris and will NOT feel bound by this document?”

Jan Oberg is puzzled: “As you will see below, the text gives plenty of arguments for FRY President Milosevic to say no thanks, [Read more…]

Insecuring Macedonia

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 59 – March 18, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“NATO’s build-up in Macedonia is incredible, and goes virtually unnoticed – except in that country. The Macedonian Parliament has not even discussed the deployment of more than 12.000 heavily armed troops and NATO bars journalists from investigating what is going on. NATO is now stronger than the country’s own defence. It took the international community, read OSCE, 5 months to get 1500 civilian monitors into Kosovo, but it took only a few weeks to get the military build-up underway in Macedonia.

When does some one investigate how this happened or who pays for this and the NATO build-up around Yugoslavia? Or ask what Macedonian Prime Minister Ljupco Geogievski was promised by U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, when the had breakfast recently in Washington?” – says Jan Oberg, TFF’s director and co-founder who has just visited the country.

“Here is another reasonably relevant question: Since Christopher Hill, the main author of the Kosovo Agreement on the table in Paris and the diplomat who prepared the ground for those talks, is also the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, did he calculate with this involvement of Macedonia and, if so, did he prepare Macedonian decision-makers in advance – or is this build-up something that has just unfolded as the things progressed? Is there any reasons for circumventing normal politeness and democratic decision-making by host-nation?

Why is NATO all over Macedonia, that already troubled and quite fragile state? For two reasons, namely a) to “extract” OSCE verifiers from Kosovo who can’t sit there if NATO decides to bomb Yugoslavia, and b) serve as a base for and reinforcement of the NATO forces stipulated in the Paris Kosovo document. Yugoslavia considers the extraction force a potential aggressor. It was NOT mentioned in the October 1998 agreement between Yugoslav President Milosevic and U.S. ambassador Richard Holbrooke – or so we assume since that agreement has not been made public.

The Yugoslav military and political leadership now perceive Macedonia as hosting forces aimed at aggression on Yugoslav territory – friends of your enemies being your enemies too. German forces are strongly represented and bring heavy equipment, and it is the first time they may get into regular warfare and not peacekeeping. Not surprisingly, Yugoslavs conscious of history will be reminded of last time Germany came to that region (1941).

Should NATO bomb Yugoslavia it can not be excluded that the Yugoslavs will retaliate against NATO troops where they are nearest, namely in Macedonia, e.g. in Kumanovo where, they are co-located with UN Blue Helmets. Thus, paradoxically, countries participating in bombing raids, such as Norway and Denmark, indirectly jeopardize the safety of their own UN peacekeepers in the region – unless they are “extracted” too. Do politicians in these countries not see the connection? [Read more…]

Read the civilian Rambouillet Kosovo agreement !

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 57, March 17, 1999

Originally published here

Serbo-Croatian version

“Read the so-called Kosovo Peace Agreement being discussed these very hours in Paris and you are in for a few surprises,” says TFF director Dr. Jan Oberg. “I do not think that any recognised, sovereign state would accept all the CIVILIAN provisions and the MILITARY implementation on its territory of a plan like this. No state likes to receive “sign or be bombed” ultimatums – particularly not when the said plan implies the de facto end of its status as a sovereign state with territorial integrity.

The standard story with CNN, BBC, and leading papers conveys the impression that the Serbs are just stubborn and stall the peace negotiations, whereas the Albanian side is co-operative, as evidenced by a letter from their delegation leader of March 15. Yugoslavia deserves punishment while Albanians are praised for their “courage to compromise for peace.” That’s virtual reality and virtual truth. Real reality is way more complicated,” says Oberg.

“You must have noticed that no one has raised the simple question: Could there be some reasons why Serbs say no and Albanians indicate that they will say yes? Ask yourself why media and diplomats discuss the game and the blame, not the substance. Did you know,” asks Jan Oberg, “that the document on the table, among other things, decides that: [Read more…]