Misguided motives led to the chaos in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

April 5, 2000 – on CNN Interactive

(CNN) — The conflicts that led to war and dissolution of the former Yugoslavia took shape in the 1970s and early 1980s, and their origins are much older. The paradox is that the international community’s self-appointed “conflict managers” have not treated the Balkan conflicts as conflicts.

Instead, they have wielded power and practiced Realpolitik disguised as peacemaking and humanitarianism.

The international community — a euphemism for a handful of top leaders – has historically been an integral party to the conflicts, not an impartial mediator. A policy of disinterested conflict analysis, mediation and conflict resolution would require different analyses, means and institutions (with just a minimum of training).

The leaders of the republics of the former Yugoslavia all did their best to destroy the federation from within. Today’s situation, however, is equally the result of the international community’s failed conflict management in four cases – Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo.

None of the peace agreements work as expected. The regions are more polarized and ethnically cleansed than before. Democracy is formal and imposed, not genuine. The countries are not armed simply for defense, they are militarized.

War criminals are still at large. Refugees have not returned in any significant numbers (except to Kosovo). The deeply human dimensions of tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation and societal regeneration have hardly begun. No commissions on truth or history have been established.

Money – always plentiful for military purposes – is conspicuously lacking for the prevention of civilian violence and for postwar development. Integration into the EU may not take place for a long time yet.

Finally, and fatally, the U.N. missions to these countries have been thrown out, substituted with more expensive and heavy-handed missions, or discontinued prematurely. 


The Kosovo operation failed three ways

Failed violence prevention. There were more early warnings about Kosovo than about any other conflict in the world. Our organization, TFF, published “Preventing War in Kosovo” in 1992. But Kosovo’s problems never made the international agenda.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had a mission in the province, suspended Yugoslavia’s membership
in 1992 after Belgrade refused to accommodate the mission.

Kosovo was not part of the Dayton negotiations. Neither was there any other planned effort at dialogue, trust building, reconciliation or negotiation, except what non-government organizations could do. The international community recognized Yugoslavia in 1996 with Kosovo inside it.

Failed peacemaking. The Kosovo Albanians under their elected leader Ibrahim Rugova (to whom TFF’s team served as goodwill adviser,
(1992-1996) advocated pragmatic non-violence. Neither Belgrade nor Western diplomats understood the potential of this.

Belgrade turned Kosovo into something like a police state, declared it an internal affair and did nothing to solve the conflict. Prime Minister Milan Panic’s government was the exception (1992-93), and presumably was the best moment for international mediation. The West ignored it. Rugova resisted. A few diplomats tried but were ignored back home.

Western actors continued to ignore all civilian peace efforts, clandestinely gave weapons to the Kosovo Liberation Army (as they did to similar groups in Croatia and Bosnia), marginalized Rugova, and favored absurd black-and-white images of what always was, and is, a pretty grayish conflict.

Neither could they get an OSCE mission with 2,000 “verifiers” in place nor could they make it work for peace.

Then came the parodic “negotiations” in Rambouillet and threats about bombing. The West had cornered itself: Bombs had to fall to save face, not to solve any problem.

NATO’s bombing blunder predictably converted a limited ethnic cleansing-cum-war into a massive exodus of refugees into Albania and Macedonia. The refugees fortunately came back soon after the bombing ended. In contrast, 800,000 to 900,000 Serbs ethnically cleansed from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo have not received help to return.

Failed postwar peace building. NATO, the U.N. and OSCE, and several hundred non-governmental organizations, now populate Kosovo. Under their eyes, about 250,000 Serbs, Romas, Turks, Gorani, Bosnians, Croats and Jews have been ethnically cleansed from Kosovo by the very ethnic Albanian leadership with whom the West intimately cooperates.

These various efforts undermine U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, which set up a civil administration of the province. Kosovo is not treated as a legal part of Yugoslavia. Belgrade is not consulted. Property and resources are taken over. The Kosovo Liberation Army has not been disarmed; it has only changed uniforms and become the Kosovo Protection Force (KPF) with the same leaders. Yugoslavia is prevented from monitoring its borders.

In short, it is an occupation.

Most of the staffers with the various missions have no experience with Kosovo before NATO’s bombing campaign. Or they have been assigned tasks for which they have no professional training.

KFOR’s 45,000 soldiers — more than Belgrade ever had in the province — have been unable to stop ethnic cleansing and restore law and order.
Because of the war, the weapons trade, the sanctions and the internationals, the Mafia is stronger than ever.

No one in any of the missions works directly and full-time with such concepts as forgiveness, reconciliation, tolerance, peace. Nor is anyone trained and educated in such approaches. The U.N. Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) receives only a fraction of what it needs, and seems unable to fill municipal and other positions.

The U.N. and KFOR have so antagonized even the most conciliatory Serbs that they have left the governing Transitional Council. In principle, there are four governments: Yugoslavia/Serbia, the U.N., the one under Rugova, and that of Hacim Thaci, who heads the Kosovo Protection Force. In addition, missions compete to take the credit — or to pass the buck.

Worst perhaps, there is no peace agreement. Hardworking mission members — and donor countries — do not know whether they contribute to an independent Kosovo, re-integration into Serbia or to something else. After the local war and the bombing, all workable solutions imaginable in the 1990s are now defunct.


Kosovo – a pawn

The West deliberately leaves the 9 million people of Serbia out of the postwar perspective (as do the media). Given the destruction it wrought on the country, such indifference is unethical. It is also evidence that humanitarian concerns do not guide Realpolitik.

Add to all this the West’s refusal to compensate Yugoslavia’s trading partners that paid for our sanctions: There may well be a Stability Pact, but there will be no stability.

Slowly but surely it will dawn upon the deceived citizens of the West that the Balkans constitute an exploitable pawn in a larger game related to other moves – NATO expansion, containment of Russia, the Caspian Sea oil discoveries, and the military-industrial complex. Kosovo is one brick in a new Cold War wall farther east.

It was a Western “civilizing” mission. Nations must accept free markets, NATO’s doctrine, EU militarization, selective human rights for the chosen people, and democracy in the form of “free” elections. We must accept NATO, not the U.N. or OSCE, as the only peacemaker under the only superpower.

We are supposed to believe there is no alternative to all this and to bombing. In the long run, this sort of intellectual poverty threatens to make us look like the “ugly West” in the eyes of all other cultures.

The Danish traveling journalist, Franz von Jessen, wrote that the Balkans have always been the change big powers used in their transactions. That was in 1913.

The recent Balkan tragedies compel us to ask whether our moral and intellectual growth has matched our technological and material growth. The absence of self-criticism in the West is ominous.

The Transnational Foundation’s conflict mitigation team has worked with conflict analysis, mediation and peace education in all parts of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. Between 1992 and 1996 it mediated a written dialogue between the Belgrade government and
the Kosovo Albanian leadership around an international draft treaty aimed to promote a secure environment, relative demilitarization, trust, negotiation. The treaty would been implemented under the guidance of a civilian U.N. (or OSCE) authority cooperating with relevant non-governmental organizations and local parties. The document was called “Memorandum of Understanding between the U.N. and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia concerning a U.N. Temporary Authority for a Negotiated Settlement in Kosovo,” 1996, available from TFF.

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 )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: