Saturday, March 15, 2008

No US consideration of Serbian sacrifice

By Wes Johnson, New Europe.
March 10, 2008

Today there seems to be little if any national memory of history to influence the foreign policy of the American super-power – merely what appears to be the most expedient at the moment, whether it conforms to international law and a United Nations organization established to act as a moderating force among nations, or not.

How else to view Washington’s latest project to foist a second Albanian state on the international community: Kosovo, which has been torn out of Serbian territory rich in historic meaning and tradition to a Slav Orthodox Christian people who consider it to be the very heart of their ancient patrimony?

Consider for a moment this small nation, that in World War I, was attacked by Austria, Germany, and then Bulgaria, that fought with the Allies against the Central Powers bravely and brilliantly against overwhelming odds; that at the end of that conflict had lost 1,264,000 people out of a population of 4,529,000 – a quarter of its total.

Then, again in World War II, the Serbians stood with the Allies and formed the backbone of Tito’s Partisan guerrillas. Dozens of German, Italian and Bulgarian divisions were tied down fighting Tito’s forces throughout the war. Including genocide against the Serbians in Bosnia by the Croat Ustashe – and similar depredations by the Albanians in Kosovo who had been formed into a SS unit by the Germans – Yugoslavia lost 1,700,000 people.

During that conflict, Mihailovich and Tito both had collaborated with the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services. Additionally, 512 downed Americans and 84 British and Canadian airmen were sheltered and rescued mainly by Serbian villagers at the grave risk of their own lives.

After Tito broke with Stalin in 1948, Yugoslavia remained Communist; but it insisted on its independence along its road of post-war reconstruction toward achieving socialism. At various times it accepted material support, including even some military assistance, along with financial aid through international loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It was one of the first charter members of the United Nations.

The US had even tolerated Yugoslavia’s leading role in the Non-Aligned Movement knowing that, if it had to, Belgrade would fight the Soviet Union and its satellites.

In NATO circles, a commonly-accepted scenario for the start of World War III had the Soviet Union attempting to overthrow Tito. Much of the Yugoslav National Army’s own planning revolved around that threat possibility. Even as late as 1980, when Tito died, some thought that Moscow might attempt to force the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia into conformity with the Bloc.

It’s true that at the end of World War II Tito suppressed remnants of fascist Albanian groups in Kosovo in months of fighting. He subsequently built up a loyal Albanian Communist party structure that had considerable leeway – rewarding it with provincial autonomy.

In 1974, Kosovo’s autonomy was widened even more by the SFRY’s new constitution – and Albanian leaders began the long process of discriminating openly against its Serb population. Many Serbs moved out as more and more Albanians moved in. By 1981, a year after Tito’s death, students began to protest against conditions at their university and the lack of job opportunity.

When Milosevic attempted to re-integrate Kosovo into Serbia in the late 1980s, the province was financially bankrupt. Its Albanian leadership disadvantaged the Serbs while failing its own people. Oppositionists led by Ibrahim Rugova declared themselves to be a “Republic” of virtual “independence.”

No Americans had even heard of Kosovo except for Senator Robert Dole and a few congressmen who began to rant against Milosevic; fueled, some say, by Albanian “contributions” to their US political campaigns.

Kosovar separatism was indeed repressed!!!

By 1997, armed Albanians were conducting pinprick attacks against Serb police and militia outposts. A year later, the Kosovo Liberation Army was in open revolt and had seized control of almost half of the province. Milosevic, in turn, fended off western criticism and began to roll up the KLA. NATO, ordered by US President Clinton and UK Prime Minister Blair, in effect intervened on behalf of the KLA; and, in a devastating bombing campaign, forced Milosevic to pull his Yugoslav forces out of the province.

What has followed has been years of NATO-UN Mission in Kosovo bureaucratically- administered failure – during which hundreds of Serbs were murdered and some 200,000 left the province for good. For this, and the threat to take up arms again, the Albanians have been rewarded with independence. The UN, the EU, and NATO have been intimidated by the threat of renewed conflict.

So what kind of state might we expect from a poverty-stricken entity known to be a center of narcotics trafficking?

Popular ex-Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj is now on trial at The Hague for war crimes committed during the 1998-99 conflict.

The present Prime Minister, Hisham Thaci (a favorite of ex- US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) has been accused of having ordered the murder of several KLA rivals during that same conflict. He now presides over a country with a 50 percent unemployment rate and rampant corruption.

The US, opportunistically, has called for a donor’s conference to help fund the country’s near empty budget and is turning “supervision” of Kosovo over to the EU It has need for its troops elsewhere.

Many say that an independent Kosovo will set an unfortunate precedent and feed separatist movements around the globe.

The Bosnian Serbs are already saying that they should be permitted to join Serbia. Armenians also point to Kosovo and claim that their ethnically Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan – Nagorno-Karabakh - should be given international recognition. Even Russia, which must feel that Washington has tossed a delayed action cluster bomb into its backyard, might be tempted to support the breakaway tendencies of ethnic-Russians in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, a NATO aspirant and the transit site of a strategic petroleum pipeline out of the Caspian Basin.

However, the fact that Russia recently fought a barely-resolved war to keep Chechnya may stay its hand.

Moscow has not been reluctant to back Serbia on Kosovo and says it will deny it UN membership. Russia also reminded us that it is back in the Balkans by recently signing agreements for Gazprom to purchase Serbia’s NIS Petroleum and Srbijagas natural gas monopolies and to bring its South Stream natural gas pipeline through that country en route to Western Europe. Senior US officials continue to criticize Gazprom’s rapid expansion and have made it clear they consider South Stream to be an unwelcome competitor to the EU’s planned Nabucco pipeline.

Future historians may very well conclude that an important ingredient to the many “Wars of Yugoslavian Succession” was for control of energy avenues from the Caspian out to the west.

The many sacrifices made by Serbians on the battlefields of the past have been forgotten.

Wes Johnson is the author of Balkan Inferno: Betrayal, War, and Intervention 1990-2005.

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