Former Yugoslavia in 1990: Why it had a bad prognosis

By Håkan Wiberg

Originally published here

Former Yugoslavia entered a process of dissolution many years ago, which may be far from completed yet. It took violent forms from 1991; events in 2004 in Macedonia and Kosovo indicate that we did hardly see the end here either. Was the dissolution unavoidable? Was war an inescapable consequence?

I shall attempt to translate these issues into manageable research questions, trying to make various postdictions concerning FY around 1990. There are no natural laws in social science, so the questions will deal with probabilities, asking what were the prognoses with highest likelihood at that time point. No empirical facts are drawn on that were not available at that time; confirmed general propositions are used even if they have only found empirical support later than 1990.

 

WAS A DISSOLUTION INESCAPABLE?

The first question is then: how probable was a dissolution, given the characteristics of FY and the circumstances prevailing some fifteen years ago. There is little quantitative research on when and how states dissolve. One relevant classical finding is Richardson’s (1960: 190f.) that the longer two groups lived under common government, the less likely is a civil war. This does not say anything about peaceful dissolutions; but these are historically quite rare, so this finding actually covers the great majority of cases.

The first problem concerning FY is to define its age: from 1918 or from 1945? In the first case, YU of 1990 was older than two thirds of all states; in the second case, it still belonged to the older half. Its prognosis on the basis of this indicator only was therefore about average, meaning that it was definitely less likely to dissolve than to remain. If we use qualitative analyses instead, the first problem is disagreement: some conclude that it was doomed for a number of reasons, others that it was fully viable. How convincing the pro and con arguments are is a subjective matter, or at least contains large subjective elements.

There had indeed been attempts at dissolving it, temporarily successful in 1941-45. Small armed Croatian groups from abroad failed to get much support in 1968 and were quickly suppressed. The Croatian Spring in 1971 had much more support, initially also in the party leadership, which, however, withdrew when public demands rapidly escalated from cultural autonomy to economic autonomy and from there to secession (eventually claiming large parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina); as a bid for dissolution it failed. [Read more…]

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Peacemaking in Kosovo coming to an end – for predictable reasons

With a critique of the International Crisis Group

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 197 – April 29, 2004

Originally published here.

See PressInfo 195 as a background to this PressInfo

This PressInfo in Swedish
This PressInfo in Danish

There is a long-term background and some root causes behind the emerging peace-keeping failure in Kosovo. Media and politicians tend to forget them because they were ignored during the 1990s and do not fit the standardised image of the conflict. In this analysis, TFF’s director who has been engaged in Kosovo since 1991 discusses some of the most important among those causes.

In passing, he also points out how an allegedly “prestigious” NGO such as the International Crisis Group serves as a biased NEGO, a NEar-Governmental Organisation, and continues to offer perspectives and proposals that will make things worse in the Balkans.

It’s the beginning of the end

Slowly but surely – and sadly – the efforts of the international community to create peace in Kosovo/a are coming to an end in spring 2004. The reasons are simple: mediation and conflict-resolution in complex conflicts can not be done the way it was between 1989 and 1999. And you won’t succeed with peace-making the way it was done by the bombings in 1999 and the efforts since then.

Had anyone in the EU and the U.S. had the intellectual will and the political courage to draw conflict-management lessons from the Balkans, we would hardly have experienced the succeeding quagmires called Afghanistan and Iraq where the opportunities for peace and reconciliation are also decaying by the day.

The community’s self-appointed conflict-managers and mediators probably now hope that their “condemnations” of the most recent bout of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in March 2004 will do the trick, prevent Albanian extremists from further attacks and keep the Kosovo calamity away from the headlines. If so, there is a high probability that they are in for nasty surprises.

The truth is simple and wants to get out: the international community hasn’t got the faintest idea about what to do with Kosovo. There are no solutions anymore that will be fair in the eyes of the parties. Any future status will create serious problems in the region and possibly for the international community. To put it crudely – if the international conflict-managers are doctors, their patient is dying because of a bad diagnosis and a seriously failed surgery.

Embarrassing as they are, the reasons are quite simple but remain virtually untold: they would require an ounce of self-criticism in a series of European ministries of foreign affairs, in Washington and Brussels. For the decade 1989-1999 the international community operated on a standardised, one-truth, black-and-white explanation of what the conflict was about. They blamed the Serbs in general and Slobodan Milosevic in particular for the Kosovo conflict. They ignored the complex framework in space and time of which Kosovo was a part: the dissolution mechanisms of former Yugoslavia, the wider context of the Balkans and the restructuring of the world order as well as the transition from the Cold War paradigm to something different.

Like we see in today’s Iraq, there were no limits to the political hubris-cum-ignorance. Both Albanian and Serb citizens were treated as pawns in much larger games and they are realising it now.

Below follows a list of some of the conflict mismanagement and long-term root causes that explain the unfolding dissolution of the peace-making efforts in Kosovo that we are now witnessing. (Numbers do not indicate priority or relative importance.)

Some root causes of the failed peace-making effort in Kosovo

1. Not understanding that the former Yugoslavia fell apart – also – because of a series of structural changes such as the oil crisis of the 1970s, European immigration policies and the end of the Cold War with lost neutrality between two blocks. Furthermore, multinational corporations’ exploitation of low-wage labour in South-East Asia which destroyed Yugoslavia’s industrial base and brought huge unemployment – followed by IMF structural adjustment programmes that further devastated the economy and welfare. The international community itself was a co-producer of the Yugoslav crisis and provided the outer conditions that made ethnic scapegoating possible.

2. Not understanding that the autonomy of Kosovo and Voivodina presupposed the existence of Yugoslavia; Serbia proper could be overruled by the two provinces in its own parliament if and when the other Yugoslav republics had left the balancing act. Thus, the Western policy of advocating and promoting the partition of Yugoslavia could not but create terrible problems, in Kosovo and elsewhere.

3. Turning a blind eye to the strong Kosovo-Albanian nationalism and exclusivity; they profited politically from having an arrogant strongman in Belgrade who repressed their basic human rights – for which reason they never supported the opposition in Serbia. When the international community talked about human rights, Kosovo-Albanian leaders meant independence. Ask yourself why what happened in Kosovo did not happen in Voivodina, the other autonomous province.

4.The short-sightedness of teasing Milosevic by supporting an independent Kosovo – like supporting the independence of Montenegro – and dropping that policy as soon as Milosevic left the stage. Go to Podgorica today and you will be overwhelmed by the disappointment with the EU and the Americans; the Montenegrin too have realised how they were treated as pawns.
 
5. The policy of treating equally repressed minorities differently depending on their nationality; the Serb minority in Croatia never got any serious attention from the West; politically the EU and militarily the U.S. helped Tudjman drive a quarter of a million Croatian Serbs out in 1995. With few exceptions, they are still refugees in Serbia.

6. Instead of providing real support to the pragmatic non-violent policies of Dr. Rugova – the only one of its kind in former Yugoslavia – Western countries, Germany and the US in particular, armed Kosovo-Albanian extremists from 1993 and created the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, of about 20,000 well-equipped soldiers. This was what, in 1998, turned the Kosovo situation into a real war. For a short while the US had formally defined KLA as a terror organisation but later used it as NATO’s ally on the ground during the bombing. Thus a conflict that could have been mediated years before with diplomatic means, became militarised.5. The policy of treating equally repressed minorities differently depending on their nationality; the Serb minority in Croatia never got any serious attention from the West; politically the EU and militarily the U.S. helped Tudjman drive a quarter of a million Croatian Serbs out in 1995. With few exceptions, they are still refugees in Serbia.

7. In spite of all warnings in the 1990s, the international community never even suggested a serious, comprehensive negotiation process for Kosovo. The Rambouillet “negotiations” were a fraud; the Serbs and Albanians never met face-to-face there. The introduction of the military appendix that would have allowed NATO free access to every corner of Serbia was a Maffia-like “offer” any responsible European statesman would have to refuse.

8. The international community got various missions into Kosovo. The latest, negotiated between Milosevic and Richard Holbrooke, was the OSCE ‘Verification’ Mission of 2000 people. Unfortunately, Western governments were neither able nor willing to get enough qualified people on the ground in time, so 70% of them mysteriously had military backgrounds and about 100 were allegedly CIA – not so surprising given that the head of mission was William Walker. Since OSCE failed in that mission, the usual fallback argument had to be used: it was all Milosevic’ fault. Truth is that he let them into the province (at the same time as he was accused of intending to drive out every Albanian) and kept his side of the agreement.

9. By the bombing and the diplomacy surrounding it, the Albanians could not but get the impression that the international community, Washington in particular, were granting them their independent state (without consulting Belgrade the loser). Today five years later, they have very good reasons to feel cheated. This of course does not explain Albanian ethnic cleansing or make it acceptable – as argued by the “prestigious” International Crisis Group which functions as an NEGO, NEar-Governmental Organisation*. The author met Americans and others in Kosovo right after the de facto occupation who did not know (or no longer perceived) Kosovo was a part of Serbia and repeatedly called it “this county” with a wry smile.

10. Completely ignoring the human dimension of conflicts. Billions of dollars have poured into Kosovo since 1999; hundreds of government and non-governmental organisations have promoted courses in media, human rights, empowerment and other civil society measures. The only things nobody dared touch were history, hatred, cultural differences, reconciliation, forgiveness, truth commissions and that sort of thing. The naive belief was that if the international community simply put up history’s largest international peace-making mission in a tiny province, the locals will greet them with flowers and those who didn’t would soon be convinced about the inherent goodness of the international mission. They made the same mistake four years later in Iraq.

11. After the bombing the international community monitored – but did nothing to prevent – the reverse ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians, some 200,000 who are still in Serbia and Macedonia, including the always ignored Romas. They were not helped to get back as were the Albanians fleeing the 13-months of war in Kosovo and the NATO’s bombs (the war and the bombings were much more important as causes for fleeing than was the manufactured nonsense about Milosevic already implementing an so-called “Horseshoe Plan” aiming to get rid of no less than all 1,5 million Albanians living in Kosovo).

This happened under the very eyes of 43,000 NATO soldiers and thousands of OSCE, UN and EU staff as well as Western NGOs in Kosovo. The world was told – also by the International Crisis Group – that it should be seen as a psychological reaction to the earlier repression of their side. So, Western endorsed ethnic cleansing continued over the years; the latest but hardly last round we saw in March 2004. This time it was “explained” by two arguments; a story that went through the world’s media about Serbs chasing Albanian kids into a river so they drowned; no retraction were printed when the story turned out to be untrue. The other argument was that the Albanian “criminals” and “mobs” (it wasn’t political!) were “frustrated” over the status issue and the socio-economic situation in the province.

12. The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was officially disarmed and closed down, being replaced by the Kosovo Protection Corps that would, we were told, have only civilian tasks. It leader was Agim Ceku, an Albanian general central in developing the KLA from 1993 while also serving under Croatian president Tudjman and being instrumental in driving out Serbs from Croatia in Operations Storm and Flash. This was yet another fraud by factors in the international community. The Serb forces did leave, but the Kosovo-Albanian army was, for all practical purposes, preserved. Only the naive could believe that the Americans, who are able to bomb Afghanistan to rubble and occupy Iraq, together with other NATO-KFOR forces were unable to prevent KLA from ravaging the region?

Some should wonder today how it was possible for KLA to destabilise and conduct war outside Kosovo, first in Southern Serbia and then in Macedonia? Isn’t it strange also how a disarmed people had weapons to kill Serbs and internationals as well as moderate Albanians and cause very serious destruction of homes and quite solid Orthodox churches throughout Kosovo in March 2004?

13. Like in Iraq, the occupying powers dismissed virtually every competent person who knew how to operate and repair the infrastructure, water, electricity, the health sector, schools, even if they had not taken part in Milosevic’ repressive policies. In consequence, nothing worked at a time when the Kosovo-Albanians had good reasons to believe that things would finally begin to work properly in their republic that had been liberated with a little help from their friends.

14. For about a decade everybody thought that sanctions was a great tool to put pressure on Milosevic but it only impoverished the people and trading partners such as Macedonia and, worse, created or boosted a Mafia economy everywhere. That Mafia is very influential in today’s Serbia and no less in today’s Kosovo. Sanctions and the black economy, combined with imposed privatization policies, created a class society with enormous poverty among ordinary citizens. The International Crisis Group, of course, does not see the absurdity of its own argument that we must – again – understand that the Kosovo Albanians do bad things because their economic situation is so poor. It never justifies Serb politics in those terms and conveniently leaves unmentioned the Albanian trafficking and prostitution, the cigarette smuggling, Kosovo’s several hundred money-laundering petrol stations, the drug trade from Afghanistan (where Western policies have brought back opium production) and Kosovo’s relation to the European underworld. Lack of money would be about the last thing that could explain why Albanian extremists commit ethnic cleansing!

15. The handover problem. The international missions in Kosovo are in the same dilemma as the US-led occupation in Baghdad. They want to hand over everything as quickly as possible to the locals – but also secure that they do what we want them to. The buzz word in Iraq is “sovereignty,” in Kosovo “independence” before which we heard all the other hollow marketing words: liberation, democracy, human rights – hollow because the occupiers do not show even the simplest respect for the locals or for their own Western “standards.” It is not far fetched, therefore, to predict that there will soon be a resistance movement in Kosovo too.

16. Oil, gas and military bases. Realpolitik is more about material matters and strategic positioning. This is where the huge American bases in Kosovo, Bulgaria and Romania as well as the 14 bases in Iraq enter the picture. See details in PressInfo 195. This is where the larger strategic game emerges: the triangle between the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia with its resources, transport corridors, gas and oil pipelines – and long-term strategic battle between the over-militarised, but crumbling West and the rest of the world. The Albanians are waking up to the reality that the West, the US in particular, did not come to Kosovo for the sake of their human rights or their independence unless, that is, it suits larger strategic plans.

17. The counterproductive treatment of Serbia. After Milosevic’s delivery to the Hague, the West never got its act together; conveniently, therefore, it blames Serbia for not getting its act together. If you put yourself into the situation in Serbia, it’s been one long political harassment ever since. The list is indeed long if you want to see it: totally inadequate assistance for reconstruction after the devastating bombing and psycho-political humiliation; extreme conditionality on aid and loans; broken promises of aid if delivering Milosevic; only negative views on one of the few political leaders with clean hands, Mr. Kostunica; no willingness to help set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission proposed by him; continuously harping on the co-operation with ICTY in the Hague in ways not required of politicians in Sarajevo, Zagreb or Pristina; ignoring the fact that Serbia has Europe’s largest refugee problem of about 500,000 to 600,000 Serbs from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo; blatant interference in the country’s internal affairs; no understanding that Serbia feels deprived of Kosovo and collectively punished because of one leader’s brutality and stupidity.

In addition, the country has all the problems of the East European societies in transition and is required to fulfil extremely demanding requirements on the way to a EU membership that may become true a decade or more into the future.

And then there are those who act surprised that right-wing, populist parties such as Seselj’s Radical Party gains are gaining increased support! The International Crisis Group of course proposes more of this type of misguided policy in its March 2004 report on Serbia. Thus, the West is missing a great opportunity to achieve reconciliation and co-operation with one of the most important countries in that part of the world that wants to orient itself towards the West but is constantly rebuffed and humiliated.

Truth is that Serbia is losing Kosovo and knows it. If the West misses the opportunity to offer Serbia an attractive political and economic deal concerning Kosovo and the future of Serbia proper, it stands to lose both Serbia and Kosovo – and the people in both places will lose even more. In the worst of cases it could lead to renewed fighting and breakdown, also in Bosnia.

18. The naive belief that Kosovo-Albanians are seriously interested in EU integration and in joining the globalising market economy. They are not. They are interested in an independent Kosova and in the fate of Albanians in Montenegro, Macedonia and perhaps in developing not a greater Albania but a greater Kosova. And why not? Kosovo-Albanian leaders tend to see themselves as the historical, philosophical and intellectual centre of the Albanian nation. Anything less than an independent Kosova is unacceptable; and let’s not forget that their leaders have told the young generation the last fifteen years that Kosova was already independent. The importance of the difference between de jure and de facto was lost upon themselves in the heat of the struggle and certainly among those between, say, 5 and 20 years of age.

Time is running out for the old political elites, the new ones are impatient, and fifteen years of self-deceptive policies by EU countries and the US are, predictably, finally catching up. There are limits to how many games you can play simultaneously, how often you can change policies, how much unprincipled politics you can amass in one place and how much you can fool the locals in the world’s conflicts, be it in Iraq or Kosovo. There will be a boomerang effect one day.

It may be painful to recognise the conflict mismanagement and the peace-making failure given all the prestige and resources devoted to Kosovo. But it will be more painful to more people if it all breaks down. Early warning does not apply to upcoming conflicts only; it should also apply to failed peace-making. But early warning and violence prevention remains a dream in this world. What we see in Kosovo now could have been avoided if dealt with in civil, political terms some 10-15 years ago by honest brokers. That, it seems to me, is the ultimate tragedy of the Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular.

* Throught this PressInfo we are criticising ICG, the International Crisis Group.

It’s simply time that the media look into the background of organisations that, sailing under the flag of convenience of prestigious independent NGO, actually play a semi-governmental, Western/US-biased role. Go to ICG’s website and you will see who is behind it. Among the ICG board members we find:

Morton Abramowitz
Abramowitz helped Zbigniew Brzezinski open intelligence co-operation with China, helped deliver Stinger missiles to the Afghan mujahedin, became president of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and helped formulate the new world order with the US as its only superpower and was the eminence grise for Madeleine Albright and acted as adviser to the Kosovo Albanians in Rambouillet.
Various about him here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6539-2004Mar18.html
http://www.tcf.org/4L/4LMain.asp?SubjectID=1&TopicID=0&ArticleID=469
http://www.roadtosurfdom.com/surfdomarchives/002125.php
http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com/ch_essay.htm

Kenneth Adelman
Well-known security policy hawk, affiliated with the Project for a New American Century, PNAC, and believed that huge stores of WMD would be found in Iraq. More about him here:
http://rightweb.irc-online.org/ind/adelman_k/adelman_k.php

Richard Allen
Formerly associated with Nixon and Reagan; a Hoover fellow since 1983, he is currently a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee. More:
http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/bios/allen.html

Louise Arbour
Former chief prosecutor of ICTY, she indicted Milosevic, by no political coincidence, while the bombing of Yugoslavia happened; newly appointed head of the UNHCHR.
http://www.un.org/icty/pressreal/p404-e.htm
http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/arbour/

Wesley Clark
Here is how he explains on his website that he saved 1,5 million Kosovo-Albanians: “From 1997 through May of 2000, General Clark was NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Commander in Chief of the United States European Command. In this position, General Clark commanded Operation Allied Force, NATO’s first major combat action, which saved 1,5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.” Tried to become the next president of the United States
http://www.draftwesleyclark.com/Biography.htm

William Shawcross
Writer and broadcaster, wrote “In all, some 200,000 people died in the Balkans on Europe’s watch. It was America that stopped that. In 2001, it was only America that could have liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban. The results in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan are not perfect. But all those areas are better off than they were, and only the U.S. could have made those changes. Tony Blair understands that; many other European leaders do not.” More here:
http://www.williamshawcross.com/first_page.html

Stephen Solarz
Former U.S. congressman, hard-line views on how to solve the Balkan problems and isolate Serbia further; like Adelman affiliated with PNAC. More about him here:
http://www.refugeesinternational.org/cgi-bin/ri/article?arc=00033
http://www.newamericancentury.org/kosovomilosevicsep98.htm
http://www.apcoworldwide.com/content/bios/solarz.cfm

Among other security hard-liners on the ICG board could be mentioned Zbigniew Brzezinski and George Soros.

And in all fairness there are also non-hawks such as Oscar Arias Sanchez, Emma Bonino, Marika Fahlen, Mohamed Sahnoun, Salim A. Salim, Thorvald Stoltenberg, Shirley Williams as well as Martti Ahtisaari (chairman) and Gareth Evans, (President and CEO).
But they don’t seem to have any balancing influence on the reports of the ICG.

Finally, go here and see how ICG is funded – and draw your own conclusions about its independence given that 19 Western governments and their allies and some ten major US foundations plus mainly US citizens fund its work.

The continued reverse ethnic cleansing in Kosovo

Too embarrassing for the international community

 

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 195 – March 29, 2004

Originally published here.

 

Time to give Reality Show politics a reality check

Back to Square One. A few days before the 5th Anniversary of the war against what was then called Yugoslavia, ethnic cleansing again reared its ugly head in the Balkans. Carl Bildt, most knowledgeable and clear-sighted former diplomat in the region, said that we saw five years of international policy go up in flames. Bildt is right in substance but his time perspective is too short; it is 15 years of Western conflict (mis)management policies that has gone up in flames.

And indeed, some have reasons to try to play down this catastrophe and its consequences: the international so-called community and its allies, the Albanian leadership in Kosovo.

When Milosevic and extremists on the Serb side committed crimes there in the 1990s, they were pointed out as the perpetrators, often before anyone had checked the events and circumstances. Whenever extremists on the Albanian side have committed crimes since 1999, it goes virtually unnoticed and unpunished and is described as “inter-ethnic” or “ethnically-motivated” violence that must – for the sake of appearances – be condemned.

The UN’s chief of mission, Harri Holkeri, called it mob violence and criminal activity in an misguided attempt to de-politicise the events. Then follows the mantras and the “shoulds” – the local parties should work for a multi-ethnic Kosovo, work closely with KFOR and UNMIK, respect Resolution 1244, work to realise (European) Standards before Status and should see to it that such bad things don’t happen again.

This is the remarkably inept and evasive political response of the UN Security Council President of March 18, the EU’s European Council of March 26, the US and of the governments in Europe. There are reasons to believe that the situation is much worse and ominous than we are told, both inside Kosovo and for the international community that has taken responsibility for the province.

In fairness, NATO commander Admiral Gregory Johnson called the spade a spade. He stated that the bloody clashes was “ethnic cleansing,” that it was “orchestrated” and added, most appropriately, that he knew that “Kosovars are better than this.”

 

From honeymoon to divorce

It seems that the international community is now facing a situation quite similar to the one Milosevic was facing: being seen by hardline Kosovo-Albanians (i.e. not by everyone) as an occupier that must be forced out to permit the emergence of the independent state of Kosova. The international community has no better solution when violence flares up but to send more troops, as did Milosevic. [Read more…]

A decade too late – Kosovo talks begin

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 192 – October 14, 2003

Originally published here.

 

On October 14, 2003, in Vienna, high-level Kosovo-Albanians and Serbs from Belgrade met face-to-face. It was a historical meeting in more than one sense. It provides an opportunity for anyone concerned about conflict-management and peace-building to reflect on its philosophy, methods and politics. Did the international so-called community do the right thing? Is there adequate institutional learning? Are there parallels between Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq that we should discuss self-critically rather than simply blame the parties?

 

Dialogue is fine but the 1999 bombing hardened everybody

It is the first time since NATO’s war on Yugoslavia in 1999 that Serbs and Albanians meet this way. Indeed, with a few exceptions, it’s the first attempt at real negotiations since it all began in the late 1980s. Like in Iraq, the main parties were prevented from meeting. As time has passed hard-liners have taken over the scene and now they won’t really talk.

Being the clear victims of Milosevic’ repressive policies, the Albanians rightly felt that they had the support of the West and would be rewarded by sticking to a maximalist position; thus no compromise about the goal of complete independence.

Being the largest people whose minorities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo never really felt any solidarity from the Western conflict-managers, the Serbs felt misunderstood, treated without fairness and they were humiliated by the bombings. Why should they not fight adamantly for the Kosovo province that they consider their cradle? In addition, the Serbs as a people – and the Kosovo Serbs in particular – have lost more than any other due to the policies of their own leadership. [Read more…]

The politics of strength: Humanitarian intervention, pretexts and the alternatives

By Johan Galtung

Written January 2002

1.  The issue: humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia
We cannot stand by, watching a government committing serious crimes against humanity, even genocide, on its own population.

Certainly not! The doctrine of national sovereignty “within recognized borders”, like the doctrine of patria potesta giving the pater familias a carte blanche for terrorism within the walls of a recognized home, are cultural crimes against humanity, drawing artificial borders for human solidarity, delivering the subjects to the dominio of whoever are the tyrants.  The Roman law construct relating owners to whatever can be owned paved the way for such institutionalized crimes against humanity as slavery and colonialism. The problem arises when “whatever can be owned” includes human beings, for almost any definition of “ownership”.  The individual ownership takes precedence over the communal.

Humanitarian intervention, in all such cases, coming to the assistance of human beings in distress, is a human duty, flowing from norms of solidarity with human beings anywhere, regardless of artificial borders.  Of course, if action under that heading is done for such selfish goals as access to raw materials or to establish military bases, it should be better known as conquest.  But abuse is no excuse for doing nothing. Two wrongs do not make one right. [Read more…]

Macedonia 2002 – 2003: Assessing the risk of violence

By Jan Oberg

Written in 2001

 

1. Introduction

This report offers a framework and some tools for analysing the conflicts in Macedonia and the larger conflict formation of which it is a part. The purpose of the analysis is to assess the risks of violence and war in the country in the near future and the long-term.

 

1.1 Early warning and preventive initiatives

Early warning studies are meaningful only if combined with early listening and early action. Numerous organisations, among them Amnesty International and the Transnational Foundation, have repeatedly pointed out from the early 1990s that there would be war in Kosovo if no actors in the international community undertook mitigating, mediating and negotiating efforts. In Kosovo, there was minimal early listening and no early action to deal with the conflicts and their resolution. The conflict grew more serious and became militarised; due to the absence of early listening and action, NATO’s bombing in 1999 was promoted as the only solution, in spite of the fact that it caused even more human suffering and did not lead to a sustainable peace in the region a good three years later.

 

1.2 Theory and empirical work – diagnosis, prognosis and therapy

 Nothing is as practical as a good theory. Without thinking about it, we use theories and make assumptions when we drive a car or cook a meal. This report includes bits and pieces of general theory and some concepts to help readers understand this conflict as well as other conflicts. If the analysis increases the understanding of complex conflicts in general and those pertaining to Macedonia in particular, it will have served two of its major purposes. Without comprehensive ‘diagnosis’, we can neither produce a reasonable ‘prognosis’ nor hope to provide adequate ‘treatment’ or ‘therapy.’

A doctor uses knowledge of medicine and theories about the causes and symptoms of diseases and combines that with theories and concepts when examining a patient. In this report, we do much the same; we diagnose a ‘patient’ as suffering from serious conflicts and violence and explore the possibility that the disease may not have been completely cured and may reoccur. We also look into what is required for the patient to recover completely.

Only on the basis of both theory and empirical analysis can we hope to assess the risk of violence and war in complex systems. And only by adding constructive thinking can we hope to prevent violence and help people and societies move towards peace.

 

1.3 Causes of war and causes of peace

One particularly important, underlying assumption throughout this report is [Read more…]

What will happen in Macedonia?

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 126 – September 7, 2001

Originally published here.

 

NATO will not leave Macedonia

NATO people emphasise that Operation Essential Harvest in Macedonia is a very limited mission; it will only be in Macedonia for one month and only to collect 3,300 weapons. It is not monitoring, it is not peace-keeping and it is not peace-enforcement. And, as we have shown in PressInfo 125 it is not a disarmament mission. It’s a “collect-not-too-many weapons” mission.

When NATO’s mission approaches its termination, there is likely to be an intensive media effort to emphasise that the KLA/NLA kept its promise and handed in 3,300 weapons. It will be heralded by NATO and the EU as a major step in the direction of peace by that side. However, following the logic of this whole affair it is a quite reasonable hypothesis that both parties will spend the time productively to acquire new weapons. Because:

a) The Macedonians and the government have no reason whatsoever to trust that NATO will help it against future KLA/NLA military activity. Western countries have threatened sanctions against Macedonia in case it defended itself too strongly and they have prevented others, e.g. Ukraine, from delivering weapons. They have supplied KLA/NLA with weapons and trained it since 1993. In addition, Western agencies and mercenary companies work with them and both in Kosovo and in Macedonia the international community has sided politically with the KLA/NLA, no matter that its spin doctors would like us to believe otherwise .

b) If 3,300 is all or most of the weapons held by the Albanian militarists, why should they disarm themselves voluntarily only to wave good-bye to the only force that they feel could protect them in the event of continued military activity by Macedonian army and police and even paramilitaries? Beyond doubt, the government sees it as its right and duty to get back the 10-15% of the country’s territories effectively controlled by KLA/NLA – one way or another.

c) Things usually do not go according to plan. The architects behind the Dayton Agreement talked about one year for IFOR as the time it would take to solve the major problems of Bosnia-Hercegovina. In Croatia, there are still enough problems and animosity to prevent nine-tenths of those chased out since 1991 from returning.

 

A massacre? The government side castigated

As a nuclear alliance, NATO upholds the capability to kill millions of non-NATO people – that is, if it can be done by sophisticated long-range technology. Not so when it comes to peace-keeping and risking the lives of NATO soldiers. Undoubtedly, there are NATO supporters, as well as good-hearted people in NATO-countries, who hope everything will go fine in Macedonia and NATO will withdraw on time. However, that is the least likely scenario of all. [Read more…]

NATO’s number nonsense

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 125 – August 29, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Macedonia in NATO – NATO in Macedonia

Successive Macedonian governments officially argue that the country must become a member of NATO. Macedonia is heading for NATO membership. However, since Macedonia is not yet “mature” enough to be in NATO, NATO will be in Macedonia.

Macedonia has not had, or been allowed to have, an independent national security commission that could investigate various future options for the country. NATO membership is the only idea in Skopje. If there are sceptical security experts and defence intellectuals, they do not seem to speak out. The local NGOs vary in their enthusiasm; however, peace groups, women’s groups, etc who are not only sceptical but downright opposed to it have little influence. What NATO membership will cost, in money terms, in the next, say, twenty years is not analysed and there is no talk of a referendum &endash; but, of course, a lot of talk about democracy.

As they say nowadays in the emerging “democracies” in Eastern Europe: What is there to discuss? It is already in the air, we have no choice! We are told that if we don’t come along, other doors will be closed too!

So NATO membership for Macedonia is a Godfather’s offer you can’t refuse. The same goes, of course, for the deployment these days of NATO’s arms collectors. It’s a great spectacle but NATO will not disarm KLA/UCK/ONA/ANA or whatever acronym we use for the militarist, nationalist Albanians fighting allegedly and mistakenly with weapons to get some more rights.

 

NATO/KFOR’s utter failure as a disarmer in Kosovo

When I was in Macedonia a few weeks ago, I obtained a copy of something called the President’s Plan – officially “Plan and Program for Overcoming the Crisis in the Republic of Macedonia.” The first goal mentioned on page 1 is “to fully disarm and disband the terrorists”(the word used about the Albanians in KLA/NLA).

So this was “disarmament” and not, as it is now stated, “collection” of weapons. There is a world of difference.

We just have to wait a little while for the NATO/KFOR “disarmament” show to be repeated in Macedonia. The 30 days are already serialised by international media, press conferences held, “NATO is pleased and optimistic” with the Albanian deliveries. It’s pure public propaganda! [Read more…]

If the Western press covered this from Macedonia…

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 128 – August 28, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Few citizens can go to conflict regions to develop an understanding and form an opinion. Most of us rely on the dailies, the radio and television. So, the media stand between the events and each of us. What we obtain is not necessarily reality but an image of it, a part of it, some aspects and angles rather than others. In principle, it can hardly be otherwise.

But what if the coverage is systematically biased and what if there is a tendency in what is not covered?

Once again there is a Balkan crisis and once again some of us who have been on the ground for about ten years ask: do we have a free press on which those at home can safely rely?

Here follow some 20 examples of what could have featured prominently in the headlines about Macedonia the last few months. Most citizens are likely not to have heard much about them in the mainstream media and may, therefore, not have thought of these events and their implications:

– the story of Americans working with KLA/NLA and investigate why NATO, in contravention of its mandate in Macedonia, evacuated KLA/NLA soldiers with American advisers and equipment out of Aracinovo…

– why NATO/KFOR and the UN in Kosovo turned a blind eye to KLA/NLA operations in the American sector and the demilitarised zone…

– which governments, agencies, mercenary companies and arms dealers have supplied KLA/NLA with weapons since 1993…

– what kind of misinformation and propaganda campaigns the press itself is the object of by NATO and others, e.g. why it suddenly begins to call Macedonians “Slavs” or “Slav Macedonians,” something they have never been called before. Or why Macedonians are frequently called “nationalists” while you never hear that word about Albanians with guns in their hands…

– the suffering and socio-economic deprivation of Macedonians and not only the Albanians…

– the question of whether EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, the S-G of NATO at the time when it bombed Yugoslavia, and NATO S-G Lord Robertson, then British secretary of defence, are personally responsible for the de-stabilisation of Macedonia…

– why we get no conflict journalism but only war reporting and whether there was any ethnic hatred in Macedonia that could have sparked off a war had Western countries not meddled in the affairs of Macedonia…

– the story of why one of the best missions in the history of the United Nations, UNPREDEP, was forced out of Macedonia in 1999 to allow NATO to (mis)use the country for its own “peaceful” aims…

– why the UN’s Mr. Haekkerup in Pristina, the highest authority in Kosovo, has not been asked why 46,000 NATO/KFOR soldiers in Kosovo did not actually disarm the KLA in spite of the fact that it was stated officially in autumn 1999 that it was disarmed and declared illegal… [Read more…]

Several U.S. policies for Macedonia make up onede-stabilisation policy: A prelude to military intervention?

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 122 – June 10, 2001

Originally published here.

 

These days I am reminded of my conversation in the early 1990s with the first representative of the United States to independent Macedonia. Two things came out clearly: no matter the question I asked him he said that the policies of the United States aimed at stability; second, if he had any knowledge about the Balkans in general and Macedonia in particular he kept it to himself. Today, we should not be surprised if stability, the post-Cold War buzz-word, in reality means instability or de-stabilisation.

 

Various U.S. policies: we both support and condemn the Albanians!

On June 4, in Washington Post, retired Ambassador William G. Walker, condemned the Macedonian government for treating the Albanians as second-class citizens and, when it comes to its military response to fighting the Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA), compares it with Milosevic. He advocates a stronger high-level U.S. involvement by hosting a Dayton-like conference (not a word about the EU) and insists that NLA shall participate as it is a legitimate actor with popular support.

Further, he believes that a recent agreement brokered by American Ambassador Robert Frowick, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office for the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, between the two main Albanian parties and the NLA should be welcomed. (Incidentally it was signed outside Macedonia, close to Prizren in Kosovo, and behind the back of the Macedonian political leadership and, thus, Frowick was considered persona non grata). The EU’s reaction to it indicates a deep rift with the U.S.

So, who is William Walker? A former persona non grata in Yugoslavia where he headed OSCE’s Kosovo Verifiers’ Mission, KVM, negotiated in October 1998 between U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and President Milosevic. It is public knowledge that his mission had a substantial CIA component and that his verdict on the spot in Racak that Milosevic was behind that massacre lacked every evidence at the time. Today he is an honorary board member of National Albanian American Council’s “Hands of Hope Campaign.” [Read more…]

Macedonia and the Western press

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 121 – May 21, 2001

Originally published here.

 

PressInfo 118 offers an independent analysis of 11 reasons why Macedonia is at the brink of war. Number 119 deals with the way the United Nations was forced out of Macedonia and not employed in Kosovo at the time when it could have made a difference. In short, there was a hidden agenda. PressInfo 120 deals with how Macedonia is also responsible, and not only a victim, in the process towards its fatal crisis now.

This one deals with insufficient, or deceptive, media coverage, and with Western democracies.

 

Where is the free press?

We have explained that the 43,000 NATO/KFOR “peace”-keepers can not control or seal off the border around the territory it has occupied and is tasked with stabilising and controlling. Has it turned the blind eye to Albanian military activity all the time? This mission is much larger than the UN ever was in former Yugoslav territories and much more heavily armed.

Very few journalists have investigated the good story: how is it possible for KLA which was officially dissolved in September 1999 to keep on fighting (or be the root of fighting) inside both Serbia and Macedonia. Who helped them to do that?

If a UN mission had failed to the same extent, hundreds of journalists, experts and commentators would have renewed the anti-UN chorus of the 1990s: the UN is incompetent, bureaucratic, too expensive and inefficient, it’s too weak. There is no peace to keep! We need more muscle!

Now it is NATO, private American mercenaries, CIA in bed with more or less criminal, hardline elements in the Balkans and no similar (anti-NATO) chorus is heard. One may wonder: who controls the free press?

Will future historians – – like Chalmers Johnson today in “Blowback” – – reveal to us that journalists, NGOs, clergy and Peace Corps volunteers have functioned as cover for CIA and possibly other intelligence agencies and their cloak-and-dagger covert operations, that citizens around the world are targets of psychological warfare?

If you think this is to carry it too far, this is what a former CIA analyst, Melvin Goodman, says [Read more…]

Macedonia – not innocent

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 120 – May 17, 2001

Originally published here.

 

PressInfo 118 offers an independent analysis of 11 reasons why Macedonia is at the brink of war. Number 119 deals with the way the United Nations was forced out of Macedonia and not employed in Kosovo at the time when it could have made a difference. In short, there was a hidden agenda. This one deals mainly with the obvious question:

 

Is Macedonia and its various groups totally innocent?

Of course not! In some respects there is more repression of the Albanians in Macedonia than in Kosovo. Thus, for instance, Pristina University was the centre of learning for Albanians while for almost a decade the issue of higher education for Albanians have been controversial and, since 1997, the Tetovo University considered illegal by the majority. Albanians do not play a role commensurate to the proportion they make up of the population (25 – 40 pct depending on sources); whether this is a relevant criteria is another matter. If you go to the National Museum in Skopje you will not see a trace of Albanian culture. The constitution is ethnic-oriented rather than citizens-oriented.

In spite of all this, it is important to emphasise that the situation in no way justifies armed struggle or the extremist claims on both sides that ‘the others’ understand only weapons. True, it is not a perfect world, but the de facto presence of Albanians in politics, trade, schools and media in today’s Macedonia make the claim that “we are so repressed and nothing else will help so we must take to weapons” one that borders on hysteria or propaganda.

Those in Macedonia who had it in their power to do so never really sustained an honest inter-ethnic dialogue throughout society or at a government level. Informal segregation is practised by both sides in schools, media, clubs, restaurants and residential areas: “We don’t mix with ‘them’ – “we can’t live together but perhaps as neighbours” – “I would never have a boyfriend among them” – are statements visitors have heard repeated year after year. [Read more…]

Macedonia – Victom of Western conflict-mismanagement

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 118 – May 10, 2001

Originally published here.

 

For the umptieth time, the politico-military-media complex tells us that local conflicts are caused solely by locals. The international “community” has no part in it but the noble one of trying to persuade the parties to sit at a negotiation table instead.

This time the stage is Macedonia and the complex has learnt nothing since Croatia.

This PressInfo and PressInfo 119 tell you how this intellectual rubbish covers hidden political agendas instead of expressing the truth. They also reveal why the UN was forced out of Macedonia and that it was prevented from having a common mission in Kosovo and Macedonia which was the only thing that would have made sense in the late 1990s. It is based on my own investigations at the time and published here for the first time.

 

The international “community” – the main cause of war.

Since few seem to be burdened with a political memory stretching just two years back, let’s recapitulate why Macedonia, the land described by that selfsame complex as an “oasis of peace” and a success for “preventive” diplomacy, is now at the brink of war:

 

The potential of the OSCE was never fully utilised

The OSCE Mission in the country has done an impressive job in promoting tolerance and a democratic and tolerant political culture. But it was never given enough resources to really have an impact, and OSCE is now completely marginalised in the new world “order”.

 

Macedonia was forced to side with the West against Yugoslavia.

The Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement to set up an OSCE Verifiers’ Mission in Kosovo (autumn 1998) lead to the deployment of an “Extraction Force” in Macedonia, a force that was seen by Belgrade as a clear breach of the agreement and a threat to Kosovo and Serbia. This forced Macedonia to play an anti-Yugoslavia role that served everybody else but herself. Belgrade from now on saw Macedonia as a target for retaliation if need be.

 

Its territorial integrity and sovereignty was violated.

Earlier Macedonia had been forced to accept NATO violation of its airspace when Wesley Clark wanted to conduct a bombing simulation high enough over Macedonia to be seen by FRY radars and thus signalling potential war. Then President Kiro Gligorov told me that the first time he heard about this simulation was from the evening news! The West did not exactly respect the sovereignty of the newly independent – and fragile – Macedonia. [Read more…]

Kosovo/a independent? Perhaps, but what matters is how

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 106 – December 4, 2000

Originally published here.

 

The main proposal in the independent international Kosovo Commission’s report is that Kosovo should be given conditional independence. This PressInfo deals with this proposal and a few other aspects of the report.

 

THE FIRST PARAGRAPH

The very first paragraph of the report’s executive statement states: “The origins of the crisis have to be understood in terms of a new wave of nationalism that led to the rise of Milosevic and the official adoption of an extreme Serbian nationalist agenda. The revocation of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989 was followed by a Belgrade policy aimed at changing the ethnic composition of Kosovo and creating an apartheid-like society.”

Here are some simple counter arguments: a) nationalism alone certainly can not explain the conflicts in the region; b) not only the Serbs used nationalism, so did Bosnian Muslim, Croats, Macedonians, Slovenes and Albanians at the time; c) it indicates a poor understanding of Milosevic to say that he was a nationalist; he sold out Serbs and the Serbian ’cause’ repeatedly in order to remain in or increase his personal power; d) there was no official adoption of nationalism; e) Kosovo’s autonomy was not revoked, it was sharply reduced and, for sure, it was done in an offending, authoritarian way; f) there is no evidence that there was an official policy in Belgrade with the aim of changing the ethnic composition of the Kosovo province, but there was a worry over the fact that over the preceding 30 years the Serb proportion of the province’s population had fallen from about 30% to 9%.

 

APARTHEID – REALLY?

The reference to apartheid is misleading. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, apartheid is “(Afrikaans: ‘apartness’) name given by the Afrikaner National Party, in office in Africa since 1948, to the policies that govern relations between the country’s 3,800.000 white inhabitants and its 17,700,000 non-white, mainly black African, inhabitants. It is also used to describe the long-term objective of the territorial separation that is advocated by Afrikaner church and intellectual circles.” Other characteristics of apartheid are mentioned: complete domination of the white minority over the black majority; black Africans were allowed to own land only within the 13 per cent of the territory which were designated native reserves; sexual and marriage relations between blacks and whites illegal; nonwhites were denied the right to vote; and all black Africans were required to obtain a permission before they could enter and remain in urban areas. (15th edition, Vol 1, p 439).

There was nothing even “apartheid-like” in Kosovo. Indeed, its status as autonomous since 1974 speaks against this. It has not been a question of race relations or based on colour, it was not a minority dominating a majority as Kosovo was part of Serbia and of former Yugoslavia in both of which Serbs were the largest nation; Kosovo-Albanians could vote (but boycotted elections), and they were not forced to seek permission to leave reserves. What is true, however, is that Albanian radicals would use the term “apartheid” in conversations with foreign visitors, either as part of their liberation vocabulary or in perfectly understandable despair over their situation. But for the Commission &endash; chaired by South African judge, Richard Goldstone – to make the above statement its basic framework gives reason for concern.

 

THE HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE

And now to the issue of independent Kosova. [Read more…]

Intellectually the Kosovo Commission Report is a turkey and it won’t fly

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 105 – November 23, 2000

Originally published here.

 

We expect soldiers we send to the front to have some military education and training. As patients we hope the doctor has studied medicine. And who would write a constitution for a new state if not professionally educated lawyers?

But not so when it comes to conflict-analysis, mediation or peace-making. In this field it seems that neither specific education, practical experience nor knowledge about the conflicting parties and their cultures is of any importance. The important thing is that you want to do good.

Last year, Prime Minister Goran Persson of Sweden took the initiative to establish an independent international commission tasked with analysing the equally enigmatic and tragic Kosovo conflict and NATO’s bombing as well as outline the lessons to be learnt. He appointed Richard Goldstone, the well-respected South African judge and former chief prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal to chair it together with former Swedish education minister, Carl Tham, as his deputy.

The Swedish government allocated about 1 million dollar for the one-year work of the commission, which also obtained support from the Carnegie Corporation, George Soros, Ford Foundation and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Among its members are Mary Kaldor, Michael Ignatieff, Richard Falk (TFF associate) who represent themselves and not their countries – of which anyhow six are NATO members.

No doubt, it was a noble initiative, with all wishing to do good – although even Sweden never expressed a critical word about the West’s handling of the crisis or of what, at the time, I called NATO’s Balkan bombing blunder. To identify what we must learn from this conflict and the international attempts to handle it is, beyond doubt, one of the most important intellectual, political and moral tasks – for Sweden itself, for the EU, for NATO and for the United States. The problems that caused the violence in the Balkans are far from solved – if at all addressed – and the place with most rapid and positive change today is Serbia whose people took matters in their own hand and put an end to the Milosevic era. Around the world, conflicts similar to that in Kosovo are queuing up, waiting to be diagnosed and treated well or turn into tragedies.

My TFF colleagues and I have, since 1991, worked in Kosovo and Belgrade, with the political leaders on all sides and with civil society organisations. After some 40 missions and 3000+ interviews, we know a bit about the place, the personalities and the problems as well as about the rest of former Yugoslavia with which the Kosovo issue was and remains fundamentally intertwined.

During a number of years I personally functioned as unpaid, goodwill adviser to Dr. Ibrahim Rugova. Under his wise leadership the Kosovo-Albanians was the only people in ex-Yugoslavia who had decided – in contrast to everybody else – to try to achieve their dream about an independent state by means of a) a non-violent struggle, b) the building of a parallel society and c) intensive international diplomatic and media activity. It was a dream, of course, as nationalistic or and exclusionist as any other and was greatly assisted by the bullish arrogance of Milosevic and the repressive forces in the region.

But a simple conflict is about the only thing it was not. So the Commission has ploughed through hundreds of human rights documents and other types of materials and consulted hundreds of experts, politicians and military people involved in the matter – although, however, surprisingly few among those who were close to issue, on the ground. Goldstone and Tham want to do good, for sure, but none of them are conflict analysts or Balkan experts. That could, with a different mandate and more creativity, actually have brought in new aspects or have lead to the creation of more innovative proposals. But it doesn’t. This turkey won’t fly.

One the positive side, [Read more…]