With Milosevic gone, what shall the West do?

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 102 – October 23, 2000

Originally published here.

 

The Milosevic-West symbiosis

In handling the Balkan crisis the last ten years, the United States and European countries could have chosen a pro-active policy based on conflict analysis and a fair, principled implementation. They could have avoided today’s intellectual, political and moral cul-de-sac and avoided the bombing last year. They would not be de facto protectors of Bosnia and occupiers of Kosovo/a.

Most Western actors grossly underestimated the complexities of the Balkans, they were occupied with the end of the Cold War, they chose to perceive it all in simplified black-and-white terms. They never acted to only help the parties solve their problems, but were guided by their own more or less nationalist, competing interests in the Balkans. And then, above all, there was the “Milosevic factor.”

The West is cosmologically burdened with a tendency to write simplifying, fail-safe recipes for the solution of extremely complex economic, constitutional, historical and structural conflicts: one issue, two parties, decide who is good and who is bad, elevate yourself to judge and solve the conflict by punishing the culprit rather than attack the root cause of the problems that stands between the opponents and the structure around them that made them quarrel.

The name of the game was Milosevic. More than any other single factor the love/hate relationship between him and the West has determined the course of Western conflict-(mis)management this last decade. He was the bad guy par excellence; he was also a man who could – and did – deliver when he had put his signature on a deal; he was the actor who could be blamed for anything that went wrong whether in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo or Serbia itself.

When the West recognized that it had lost a decade of perfectly possible violence-prevention in the case of Kosovo and the man also continued to stand up against pressure – and not, in that situation, without support from the citizens of Yugoslavia – it began calling him, for the first time, “cruel dictator.” [Read more…]

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Read the military Kosovo Rambouillet agreement !

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 58 – March 18, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the civilian Rambouillet Kosovo agreement !

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 57, March 17, 1999

Originally published here

Serbo-Croatian version

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

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

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