What’s in a name ?

By Håkan Wiberg

Originally published here.

There are many cases of conflicts where one party (sometimes both) makes demands that appear absurd to an outsider, not least because they will obviously be unacceptable to the other party. The eight points in the Greek position on the name issue of Macedonia looks like a good example.

Sovereign and internally recognized states sometimes change names. “The kingdom of…” becomes “The (people’s democratic, Arab, or whatever) republic of….”. In recent decades, several states changed their names entirely to become Benin, Myanmar, etc.; Cote d´Ivoire even notified the UN that its name was now the same in English, rather than Ivory Coast. When recognition is an issue, one state may refuse to use the name the other state has taken, such as German Democratic Republic (Soviet occupation zone), Republic of China (Taiwan), Israel (the Zionist entity).

Greece, however, seems to be only state that has demanded that an internationally recognised state change its name and makes a vast issue out of it. I can imagine the mixture of outrage and laughter that would result from Great Britain demanding that Ireland change its name to “Southern Ireland” or China asking for Mongolia to become “Northern Mongolia”. [Read more…]

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What lessons to learn? Particularly about the UN and its members?

By Jan Oberg
August 2, 2005

The international community’s conflict-management:
Short status by 2005

This blog explains why, by and large, the security approach – as described in the Prologue – has been a failure. The reasons for judging it a failure are many and pointed out through both the blog and book. They have to do with the paradigm/discourse itself but also with concrete, fatefully counterproductive decisions made throughout the crisis, one tying the hands of decision-makers when approaching the next situation.

Some of the – rather simple – methods and principles we suggest in our writings could have been used irrespective of whether the security or the peace approach had been followed. [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…]

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 – 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…]

The West is in moral trouble if there is an ethnic cleansing plan – and if there isn’t

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 64 – April 25, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“We are told there the West knew already last autumn that President Milosevic had a plan to ethnically cleanse all Albanians from the Kosovo province. However, while it is true that Yugoslav forces have exploited NATO’s bombing campaign to drive out Albanians in a way and to an extent that must be morally condemned, the unproved allegation that there existed a plan tells more about NATO than about President Milosevic – and what it tells is not to the advantage of the former,” says TFF director Jan Oberg. 

“The disgusting expulsion of Albanians from Kosovo can’t be defended. The Yugoslav authorities who carries it out or lets individuals do it, can not defend such human rights violations with reference to NATO’ bombing. Sure, Serbs will see NATO’s destruction of Yugoslavia as work commissioned by Kosovo-Albanians/UCK, but it is anyhow up to Yugoslavia to fight NATO, not to take revenge against those who are innocent civilians.

Having said that, NATO and the West can not be trusted when it seeks to legitimise its Balkan bombing blunder by insisting that it has “evidence” of an ethnic cleansing plan but has still not provided the slightest evidence. Here are some reasons why this is utterly irresponsible and, thus, undermines NATO credibility – and the credibility of a free press that does not ask more critical questions:

First of all, we never heard anybody talk about such a plan before NATO’s bombs started falling. Second, the argument for bombing was related to whether or not Yugoslavia would sign the Rambouillet Dictate. We never heard anybody saying that NATO would bomb Yugoslavia should they carry out an ethnic cleansing plan.

Third, if such a plan was known already during autumn, how could the West invite representatives of a killer regime to Paris? How could the US send ambassador Richard Holbrooke to Belgrade to try to make a last-minute deal with such ‘a serial cleanser’ President?

Fourth – and worst, perhaps of all – if the West knew of such a plan why did it do absolutely NOTHING to plan for the humanitarian emergency it would cause? Why did the West/NATO not actively threaten to prevent it OR initiate bombings much earlier? Isn’t it simply too immoral to know about such a plan and do nothing?

Fifth, if Milosevic, Serbia or Yugoslavia wanted to get rid of all Albanians, why did they choose this particularly awkward moment [Read more…]

Questions before bombing Serbia

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 47 – October 1, 1998

Originally published here

 

“What on earth would be the POLITICAL AIM of bombing Serbia now? Violence has been used by both parties for almost a year. Some 250.000 people may already be displaced, homes and towns torched and destroyed. KLA is defeated and Serbia’s government has declared that the war is over, provided KLA’s military struggle does not resume.

Before the UN Security Council, NATO or other actors in the international ‘community’ decides to carry out air strikes throughout Serbia, it would be wise to ponder a few questions, problems and risks and come up with some answers. I offer some of both in what follows,” says Jan Oberg who, with his TFF colleagues, has conducted analyses and served as a citizen diplomat in the region since 1992.

 

• IF WE BELIEVE NATO MILITARY INTERVENTIONS WOULD STOP THE KILLING, ETHNIC CLEANSING AND MASSACRES, WHY HAS IT NOT HAPPENED LONG AGO?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: 
1) The international “community” is not a community when it comes to managing conflicts. There are too many solid national interests and the EU is divided internally with Germany and the UK being more interventionist than the rest. And they cannot act without the United States. 2) Bombings of Serb facilities will unavoidably be interpreted as a support to (violent) secessionism. Thus, Kurds, Palestinians, Turk Cypriots, people in the Basque province and in Chechenya, to mention some, may be encouraged – and the West doesn’t exactly want that. 3) It can’t be done without ignoring the Russians – but they are on their heels anyhow. 4) Perhaps no bombings is really contemplated; it’s all a game. But then there is a public relation problem vis-a-vis citizens: why do statesmen solemnly declare their moral outrage, threaten tough measures and thereby create expectations worldwide about resolute action – fully well knowing that they won’t do anything? 5) Powerful actors may see it fit to wait and “fail” with preventive diplomacy in order to present military options as “necessary.”

 

• IS THIS COMPATIBLE WITH INTERNATIONAL LAW?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: 
1) It is probably the first time NATO bombs a sovereign, recognised state in support of a movement whose stated aims are complete independence and integration with a neighbouring state. 2) Bombings would [Read more…]