Post-Milosevic dilemmas – and an imagined way out

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 103 – October 25, 2000

Originally published here.

 

Based on the analysis in PressInfo 102, here follow some examples of the cul-de-sac created by the Milosevic/West symbiosis:

 

Kosovo options

1. Declare it an integral part of Serbia/Yugoslavia.

If so, it can’t be excluded that hardline Albanians would begin to attack KFOR, UN, OSCE, and NGO staff. The risk of losing lives would scare the West, the US in particular. The Albanians are perfectly right in interpreting US and other Western actions the last years as a policy of strong support to their struggle for Kosova as an independent state. The KPC could quickly become KLA again. And if Serbs and other chased-out people came back to Kosovo we would see much more violence.

 

2. Declare Kosovo an independent state.

That is incompatible with UN SC resolution 1244. More important, no democratic government can be elected in Belgrade on “let’s give Kosovo away forever.” If a democratic government actually did so after having been elected, the people, the Army, the police, paramilitaries – or whoever – would likely attempt to turn over that government and we would be back to a Milosevic-like situation, a stalemate. Neither could attempts to militarily re-take Kosovo be excluded. People knew that Kosovo was lost to a large extent because of Milosevic’ arrogant policies, but it does NOT mean that they think it should be permanently lost under a democratic government. Furthermore, Albanians in Montenegro and Macedonia would ask: if Kosovo-Albanians can achieve independence, why not us?

 

3. Declare Kosovo a protectorate for decades ahead or just make no decision concerning its future status.

Would also go against SC resolution 1244. No government is willing to pay for the international presence in Kosovo the next 10-20 years which is what would be required; the UN and others are already strapped for funds. Donor conference promises have never materialized – money never being a problem for war, but certainly always for peace. A protectorate would also sour relations and make cooperation impossible with Belgrade and, thus, be an impediment to Balkan stability as well as to the promotion of Western economic and strategic long-term interests.

Only some Western support for Kosovo had to do with sympathy for the Kosovo-Albanians and solidarity with their genuine suffering under the Milosevic regime. (No humanitarian assistance was planned by the West when it stated that it knew Milosevic planned to cleanse the entire province. Kosovo could be used within a much larger policy framework related to the Balkan’s strategic role, containment of Russia, access to and control of oil pipelines from the Caucasus and the expansion of NATO and of German influence in the East and South East of Europe. And it became part of a growing conflict between the United States and the EU, too.

Western policies were shaped by the West’s relations with Milosevic/Serbia who was standing in the way of the realization of such interests. In short, the Albanians have been courted and taken for a ride in a game in which Kosovo was one piece in a much larger puzzle. Milosevic in Belgrade was a treasure to the Albanian leadership who could mobilize sympathy in the West and did it marvelously (and refused to negotiate with moderate leaders in Belgrade the whole time). With him gone this strategy has fallen apart – and the honeymoon with the West is already history – as everyone knows who has talked with internationals in the province. Thus the numbing in today’s Kosovo: “we do not care what happens in a neighbouring state.”

Sad as it may be for the many who gave their physical and political lives for it, reality is catching up with the Kosova project. The early 1990s ideal of that independent state – non-violent, neutral and with open borders, brought about by civil uprising and a non-violent, parallel and democratic society – was killed by Albanian and Western hardliners. KLA, allegedly supported by the German intelligence service (BND), CIA, State Department and possibly others, killed that idea and said that they would never succeed by non-violent struggle – only to witness a couple of years later that non-violence was THE means to topple Milosevic. But in Serbia! – not where it had originally started, in Kosova.

Furthermore, had the Albanians participated in the elections in the 1990s – I was among those asked by ministers and advisers to then prime minister Milan Panic and president Dobrica Cosic to try to persuade them – chances are that you would have seen Milosevic saying farewell on the screen about 6 or 7 years ago. But – true – they needed Milosevic, like did the West.

And there are other problems: the West has set up the Bondsteel base and filled it with listening equipment pointing toward the Balkans, Middle East and the Caucasus (if I am wrong, tell us what you use it for, please). The international missions have taken over hundreds of buildings for their missions, used another country’s facilities, taken over Mitrovica – allegedly Europe’s biggest concentration of mineral resources – and driven out Yugoslav citizens who were born in Kosovo. And NATO has destroyed parts of the province and strewn mines and bombs all over the place, the US refusing to say where. How will the Yugoslav state and people and the citizens of Kosovo, be compensated now?

It is a relevant question precisely because president Clinton said that the West was not at war with the people – and all Western leaders echoed him.

 

Montenegro

For a variety of reasons, it is hard to believe that Montenegro’s leadership would have obtained political, financial, intelligence and other support – including training of its army-like police – from the West if it wasn’t for the Milosevic factor. It is a public secret only to some in the West that economic corruption is rooted at the highest level in that republic, that it has been cooperating with the Italian and Serbian Mafia all the time.

It is also fairly obvious that, although there is a strong wish to become independent, the main reason given by all was “the dictator in Belgrade.” Public opinion behind independence is no way near the minimum 70% or so it would have to be for such a move not to set in motion scattered violence or even civil war.

So, will the West be able to politely tell Montenegro that “we never really supported YOU but we used you in our struggle to get rid of Milosevic.” Of course, there may be a referendum and “the will of the people will democratically decide” – as if the media and social institutions were of such a nature anywhere in the Balkans that truly democratic elections/referendums could be held. But whatever the result, it will sour Western relations with either Montenegro, with Serbia or with both.

 

Croatia

The West decided that President Tudjman’s Croatia was its friend as opposed to Milosevic or the Serbs in Croatia. The number two person at the US Embassy in Zagreb told me frankly years ago that “the US will never treat Croats and Serbs according to the same principles” – and with that he meant the people. Thus the completely different treatment by the US – and the EU – of the repressed Serbs in Croatia and the repressed Albanians in Kosovo.

The United States and Germany, in different ways, made it militarily possible for Croatia to drive out a quarter of a million legitimate Croat citizens of Serb origin from Krajina and Slavonia in the “Storm” and “Flash” operations. (One of the leading generals being Agim Ceku, the leader of KLA and now leader of the Kosovo Protection Force and close liaison of the Western missions in Kosovo).

Milosevic came in handy, having promised the West and his friend Franjo Tudjman in advance not to do anything. (It has not prevented many in the West from continuing to call Milosevic a nationalist which is about the only thing he never was as he gladly sacrificed Serbs if it would serve his own power and survival). He told me in June 1995 that he considered Tudjman the only real (other) politician in former Yugoslavia…

Later followed Partnership for Peace and many Western promises to Croatia. But while Croatia is certainly an important player and has an interesting 1100 kilometer Adriatic coastline, who in the West would choose Croatia as its main ally if it could have Serbia/Yugoslavia with 2,5 times more people? Of course, it can try to have both – but it is no wonder if Croatia, with the demise of Milosevic, feels uneasy about its role as most-favoured in the Balkans.

 

Bosnia

It looks like good timing that the last war-time president, Alija Izetbegovic, resigned just a couple of weeks after Milosevic fell from power. Although he, like Tudjman, could have been indicted years ago, the West chose not to, presumably thinking: we can’t put them in the same category with Milosevic because they are our friends and, in addition, the three signed the Dayton agreement. So, by now all three Dayton guarantors are gone. Funnily, none of them were representative of the more than 4 million people living in Bosnia-Hercegovina (a point missed by virtually everyone) at the time of signing the agreement. If something is called a PEACE agreement, no one needs to read it, criticize it intellectually or question the motives or ethics behind!

Be this as it may, in post-Milosevic situation this fact remains: lacking every complex analysis of the root causes of the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina (and around it), the Dayton process does not work and will not work. It will require decades of an international presence to not erupt again in violence – and that agreement will have to be changed rather fundamentally. And then there is still the unsolved issue of Brcko looming.

The Dayton Deal had no conception of peace, reconciliation or forgiveness, no social or human dimension, no democratic anchoring among the people. It was a top-down deal made on the basis of colonial-style drawing of lines on a map – major powers in collusion with neighbours doing to some 4 million citizens what they pleased. It came in the aftermath of a war released first of all because of the German/EU premature recognition of Croatia and Slovenia after which, for structural and historical reasons and because of Greater Croatia too, there was no way Bosnia could be kept out of war as Izetbegovic had miraculously managed until then.

Worth remembering today, the agreement came after the United States had persuaded Izetbegovic to withdraw his signature from the agreement about the future of Bosnia signed by Muslims, Croats and Serbs in Lisbon BEFORE the war began and it came in consequence of the incredibly unwise international recognition of independent Bosnia on April 6 and 7, 1992 which ignored that Bosnia’s Serbs – one-third of the people – had, with a few thousand exceptions, boycotted the referendum.

 

Time for a new beginning based on self-criticism?

In summary, the demise of Milosevic could also become the day of reckoning for the West. It could be an opportunity for self-criticism. There are quite a few accumulated consequences of a decade of lost violence-prevention and counterproductive policies guided not by a genuine wish to help solve Balkan problems but to do politics as usual, play games and focus on persons rather than on underlying problem. Yes, Milosevic was also a problem – a huge one – but he was not alone in that and he became possible and lasted for so long ALSO because of Western policies.

While it was a tremendous relief that Milosevic got out of the way and it happened by a largely non-violent uprising – the question is: can we also finally get rid of the type of Western conflict mis-management created by the symbiosis between him and the West?

Can we finally turn to generously helping all those who suffer and have suffered for far too long ALSO because of these Milosevic-obsessed Western policies? Could we finally hope that the West dares see itself as what it is: a contemporary and historical participant in the conflicts with interests in the region and larger strategic goals and not an impartial, altruistic, mediating peacemaker who, with respect and through dialogue, has attempted to help the Balkan peoples find viable ways to live peacefully together?

 

An imagined Balkan Peace and Democracy Declaration

Imagine for a while that all the groups and leaders in the Balkans came together and decided to do just two things:

a) renounced forever the possibility of using violence and signed a non-violence pact with each other and, thereby, reduced mutual threats and their need for a a costly arms-build and any NATO “protection,”and:

b) developed a platform with mechanisms for the peaceful solution to their remaining problems, such as mutual consultation councils, an all-Balkan confidence-building conference à la OSCE for Europe from 1975, bilateral and multi-lateral negotiations, truth and reconciliation commissions as well as things like the promotion of free travel, study and trade and investment among themselves. Where there are conflicts about border lines, they would let referendums be the instrument – a democratic instrument never advocated by the West anywhere – to solve the disputes.

Having agreed on this much, they would also send a “Balkan Peace and Democracy Declaration” to the world in which something like the following paragraphs would appear:

“We will find out what we need from each other and assess how much we can do ourselves to solve our problems and go forward to some kind of normal situation. Then we will tell you how we think you can best help us from the outside. Until then, please keep a low profile. Except for pure humanitarian and purely technical assistance with a view to reduce suffering this coming winter, we would like a moratorium on foreign interference however well-meaning.

We need to decide and take steps to shape a democratic future by ourselves. It is our right; we are more than 20 million people and we used to be friends. By democracy and sovereignty we imply that each of us – and where possible, several of us together – decide what kind of political, economic, financial, social, security and cultural systems and interactions we think suit each of us and the region best. When we inform you about these our priorities and decisions, we hope you in the West and others elsewhere will respect our own processes and help us only by giving us the types of assistance we think we need.”

If you can’t imagine something like this – and if you think the West would be very concerned by such a message from the Balkans – you have it in a nutshell why things has gone wrong the last ten years. In the Balkans as well as in the West. Because, after all, what would be more natural.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: