There’s always the watershed moment. That moment that guarantees war in the future and it becomes just a matter of time before it happens. No war is ever caused by the obvious act that triggers it. The Sarajevo bullet fired on June 28, 1914 didn’t cause World War I. Hitler invading Poland on September 1, 1939 didn’t cause World War II. Because wars are about taking care of “unfinished business”, we are faced with the prospect of a third world war. If that comes, the independence of Kosovo will be the watershed moment. Pandora’s box, despite all the warnings issued, has been opened in the Balkans. Whatever may happen to trigger that war if it comes, its precursor will be found in the establishment of the Republic of Kosova as the worlds “newest nation”, of that I am sure. It is now up to the leaders of the great powers to make sure that this destiny is never fulfilled. In the coming months, beginning in April of 2008, the leaders will be meeting and talking things over. They will be negotiating and planning and compromising. They will be drawing lines in the sand. They will be making decisions that will affect the future of all their minions. In doing so in these modern times, these leaders cannot, and must not, ignore history, for it is the most reliable predictor of the future. What’s past is never past. Especially in the Balkans.
“Should anything serious happen in the Balkans, and the Serbs follow a policy we do not like, we shall simply strangle Serbia,” declared Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph I to the German ambassador in Vienna in January of 1901. Thus, an empire of 50 million people was threatening a state of little more than 3 million. Now, more than 100 years later, the European Union (EU) is issuing the same warnings to Serbia should she follow a policy it does not like with regards to Kosovo. Her sacred Kosovo.
Isolation, or worse, the EU warns, whether implicitly or directly, will be her fate and since more than 50 percent of Serbia’s trade at the present time is with the countries of the EU, she would be economically strangled. Economic strangulation is not the only prospect that faces Serbia should she exercise her right over territory that was legally hers. Military consequences would loom, just as they always have.
Military consequences are the common denominator in the watershed moments that lead to war.
Watershed moment number one: 130 years ago the Congress of Berlin was held in the summer of 1878. The great powers of Austria, Germany and Great Britain didn’t like the Treaty of San Stefano that had been forged in March of that year following Russia’s victorious war with Turkey. Turkey’s Ottoman Empire had enjoyed ruling over its minions for centuries, and this was the empire that in 1878 controlled the Balkans. The San Stefano Treaty would have effectively ended the control of the Ottoman Empire over the Balkans and increased Russian influence over that area. Because this was unacceptable to the British, the Germans, and the Austrians, they demanded a revision of the agreement, threatening to use military force if necessary. Russia was not prepared for another war. As a result, the Congress of Berlin was convened.
This Congress that commenced in Berlin on June 13, 1878 was attended by the major European powers of the time. Germany, Austria-Hungary and Great Britain proposed that Autria-Hungary should occupy the provinces of Bosnia-Hercegovina, making it clear that Serbia must not be allowed to lay claim to those provinces which had been under Turkish occupation for centuries. All had vested interests in not allowing Serbia to lay claim to anything that was rightfully hers and to prevent Serbs scattered throughout the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires to unite. At this meeting in Berlin the British prime minister, Disraeli, issued the following warning: “If the Congress leaves the two provinces in the same state of affairs in which they are at the moment, one would witness the appearance of the domination of the Slav race, a race which is little disposed to do justice to others.”
This was the prime minister of a country which would only some years later form the first concentration camp in history into which they would haul 120,000 women and children of Boer farmers, of which 20,000 would die of neglect and hunger. This concentration camp was established in South Africa, however it would later be copied by the Austro-Hungarians who would haul 150,000 Serbs into such a camp. From the British and the Austrians, Adolf Hitler would learn how to handle those who were “undesirable.”
At this Congress of 1878, with the Treaty of Berlin, Austria-Hungary was given the mandate to occupy Bosnia and Hercegovina. Russia, intimidated by the western nations, was not able to do anything about it. Austria-Hungary would follow through by annexing the two provinces in 1908, and Russia, who had engaged in yet another war, this time a destructive one with Japan in 1904, was again in no position to help the Serbs, her Slav brothers in the Balkans. With that annexation the hatred between the Germanic (Teutonic) and Slav races intensified. It was just a matter of time before the great, all consuming war that the great powers had already made plans for, would come to fruition.
The Serbs were determined to shake off the Austro-Hungarian stranglehold over their people just as they had finally shaken off the Turkish. They wanted nothing more than any other peoples of the world had striven for. But that was unacceptable to the powers that ruled Europe. When the Serbs rebelled in the summer of 1914, Austria-Hungary exploited the perfect excuse to begin the war they wanted and the Serbs would be the convenient scapegoat.
World War One began with Austria attacking Serbia with the full verbal and written promise of Germany that she would defend Austria if Russia attacked her. The Germans felt comfortable giving that promise because they were thoroughly convinced that Austria would smash Serbia quickly before Russia or anyone else could react. But it didn’t happen that way. Russia did react this time and so did others. Four years of war was the result, the likes of which had never been seen by the world before. This war would change everything, literally everything.
As a result of that war, empires and dynasties were swept away, splitting into new countries, and there would come to be many more of them than there were in 1914. Many of these would harbor a grudge against the great powers of Europe who had colonized them previously. Some of these grudges would manifest themselves into the separatist, illegal and terrorist activity that we are now dealing with at the beginning of the 21st century and which are likely to haunt us for years to come. Out of that activity, new, artificial countries are being created, regardless of whether they are viable or self-sustainable. Nation building under such circumstances does not bode well for peaceful coexistence in the world.
Watershed moment number two: The entire decade of the 1930s was one instance of appeasement after another with which the great powers enabled Adolf Hitler to throw the world into the Second World War, a war the likes of which the world had never seen, once again. This one would be even more destructive than the first. If one had to pick a single moment, mine would be Hitler’s invasion of the Rhineland in 1936. France did not react, nor did the other European powers. Hitler, who could have been stopped dead in his tracks permanently, because the German army was still weak at that time, learned to his amusement that Germany, once a beaten land, was now well on her way to fulfilling her destiny with the help of the very European nations she intended to conquer. The other European powers, namely Britain and France, did not act, though they were militarily powerful enough to do so. Only a few years later, they would have no choice but to act and at such a cost.
Serbs would be drawn into that war for they had the audacity to stand up the Nazis on March 27, 1941. They rejected a pact with Hitler and Hitler responded with a bombing campaign that commenced on April 6th and a subsequent invasion, occupation, and dismemberment of Yugoslavia. Why does this sound so familiar? Because it is.
We have now come to what I believe is watershed moment number three. A Pandora’s box has been opened in Kosovo even though many warnings, for many different reasons, were issued prior to Kosovo’s declaration of independence on February 17, 2008. Just as Zeus warned Pandora not to open the box but she did anyway, the leaders of nations were warned not to encourage Kosovo to break from Serbia, but some did anyway. Though only a little time has passed since then, I suspect that regrets are being harbored. Are we now only to wait for the consequences to manifest themselves? No, we must not wait. We cannot naively hope that any tensions that have resulted from the establishment of the Albanian Moslem “Republic of Kosova” will pass with time.
It is up to the leaders to now be true leaders and to reverse the mistake they have made. They must.
Here are just some points of the many points that should be considered by anyone evaluating the current situation in the Balkans to see their way forward.
Regardless of what phony ‘”humanitarian” pretenses are used to justify military action, a primary reason for war is economic. One essential element of the drive to the First World War was the Berlin-Baghdad rail line, which the German Kaiser dreamed about to expand his empire. This essential rail line was to go through the German-friendly countries of Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey, but 175 miles of it was to run through Serbia which was not under Germany’s sphere of influences and alliances. Serbia either had to be made friendly or be conquered. Hitler intended to fulfill the Kaiser’s dream as part of his agenda for conquering the world in the 20th Century. He would come awfully close to succeeding.
Today, it is not the Berlin-Baghdad rail line but the oil and gas lines that go through Serbian territory which are being coveted, not just by the Europeans, but by the United States as well. One is to come through southern Europe and Serbia and is to be controlled by the Western Powers, and the other one is to come from the northeast and Russia through Serbia and is to be controlled by Russia. Russia has already established a plan for reserves in Bachka (a province in northern Serbia) and Russia’s new president, Dmitry Medvedev, has been in Belgrade to firm up the plan. It appears that the western nations, particularly the United States, have established an independent Kosovo for the same purpose.
Albanian sources have provided “confirmation” of such intentions. On March 3, 2008, Shqiptar Oseku issued the following commentary:
“… Albania and its seaport in Vlore are the final destination of a giant oil pipeline, which will transport the Caspian oil from the Caucasus to the West. This project, which is being carried out by the US company, AMBO [Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria Oil], began in 1993 and the final contracts were signed in 2008. According to the US Department of Energy, this is the most important US project in Southeastern Europe in the 21st century.” Source: BBC Monitoring Europe (Political) - March 5, 2008, Text of report by Pristina-based weekly Self-Determination Movement website, on 3 March, 2008.
The Americans have participated in establishing an illegal state in the Balkans to serve their own purposes. Artificially creating such a state sets a precedent, and not a positive one. Other ethnic and national groups are watching and learning.
Are the Americans going to support these other groups when they start asking for or demanding their own independent states? Or are the Americans going to let that be a European or Asian or Canadian or Middle Eastern problem? Kosovo, argued the American policymakers, was and is a “unique” case that required special consideration. We will see how many other groups will come to see themselves as having a “unique case for special consideration” and just how that’s going to be dealt with.
Serbia has been one of the most loyal American allies in all of Europe and the Balkans. This fact has clearly not been considered, but it should have been. America cannot afford to lose Christian allies now. Especially now. And especially not in that part of the world.
Serbs have an incredible capacity and willingness to forgive. The more they forgive, however, the less they forget.
Serbs have sacrificed much to uphold the Christian faith. Serbia sacrificed virtually her entire army, a force of some 70,000 in trying to prevent the Ottoman Moslems and Islam from penetrating into Europe. She lost that battle on the fields of Kosovo in 1389, but that remains a sacred ground to this day as it should be to anyone who wants to see Christianity prevail over Islam.
Islam, like Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity all have faithful followers who uphold their respective faiths to the detriment of no one. For Christians, it is their inherent responsibility and duty to uphold their faith, just as it is for the others. This cannot be accomplished by dismembering nations who are home to that faith. To give the sacred Christian land of Kosovo over to Islam runs counterproductive to the war on terror.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has admonished the Serbs about holding on to 1389. She has declared that it’s “time to move on”. Well, Condi, Kosovo has definitely moved on. What used to be a bastion of Christianity in the heart of Europe is now a Narco-Terrorist state, a bastion of narcotics smuggling and other sordid criminal activity which is seeping beyond Kosovo’s borders and becoming everyone else’s problem. Just ask the Belgian’s, Condi. They know firsthand what the Albanian mafia and Kosovo is all about these days.
For such “cultural” manifestations, the Albanian Kosovars have been rewarded with their very own den of iniquity. Lawlessness prevails in Kosovo now, just as lawlessness prevailed on establishing it as an independent state.
Serbs have sacrificed a great deal in pursuing a democratic way of life. To sustain them through their sacrifices, Serbs held on dearly to their Christian faith, erecting many beautiful orthodox churches and monasteries. Some of these stood as testimony to that dedication for over 800 years in Kosovo. Many of these have now been ravaged or destroyed by the Albanian Moslems of Kosovo, the very same Kosovars that have been rewarded instead of punished for their deeds.
There is a misconception about the Albanians in Kosovo. There were many Albanians in Kosovo prior to World War Two. While there were also Christian Orthodox Albanians who established a home there, the majority of the Albanian population in Kosovo was Moslem. These hardly ever created a problem for the Serbs or their Christian faith. But this would change.
What the modern day Albanians have been attempting to “finish” over the course of these last couple of decades in Kosovo, with the full support of NATO and prominent American politicians, is a fascist program that Benito Mussolini began in 1941 during World War II but that in essence was initiated years earlier.
On November 27, 1918 the United States State Department was informed by Thomas Page, U.S. Ambassador to Italy 1913-1919, that the British Foreign Office favored the creation of a "Greater Albania" in order to block Serbian advances to the Adriatic. Years later, Mussolini had the same idea. On June 25, 1941 Mussolini proclaimed the annexation of Kosovo, the cradle of the Serbian nation, “Serbia’s Jerusalem,” to Albania. The first concern of the Albanians, led by their notables, tribal chiefs, and the so-called "Kosovo Committee" was to get rid of the Serbs and Montenegrins in their midst. Serbs were promptly murdered or expelled, and their property was looted. The Albanians would ally themselves with the Nazis as well as with the Italian fascists.
Before World War II, Serbs comprised 50 percent of the population of Kosovo. By war’s end they had been reduced to 25 percent of the population. Still later, as of 1989, they were reduced yet further, to only 10 percent of the population of Kosovo. Thus, the Albanian Kosovars were successful in their ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Serbian sacred land.
Although Mussolini and his fascist allies lost the war, communist Josip Broz Tito, who came to power in Yugoslavia at the end of World War Two, would not allow Serbs to return to their homes in Kosovo. However, he would maintain Kosovo within Yugoslavia, stifled further expulsions, and would, with his iron fist, keep secession a moot point.
The Kosovo policy of today has fulfilled the agenda of dictators.
Germany is rising. It has been noted by some observers that the most formidable aspect of the changes happening in Europe is that Germany is growing stronger with every passing day and her economic and military influence has been increasing and has become increasingly far-reaching. Germany’s hands, like they were in the past, are all over the Balkans. Her influence over the Kosovo situation as it has evolved over the years has been underreported. Her continuing influence over the entire region has been underestimated.
It merits repeating. Germany is rising.
The EU is putting too much faith into NATO. Misplaced faith should remind us of that moment in history when in1939 Hitler called his principal generals together to tell them he was ready to attack Poland. His generals warned him that Poland had an agreement with France by which France would come to her aid if she was attacked. Hitler scoffed at the warning. He reminded his generals that he had walked into the Rhineland with just a few battalions of his soldiers and France, with over 100 divisions, stood by without making a move. Rhineland was adjacent to her border and it would have been in the interest of France to counterattack. His soldiers, Hitler told his generals, would have been forced to put their tails between their legs and run back to Germany. But the French didn’t want to fight or die for their border, he reminded them. Did they honestly believe that the French would be willing to go a thousand miles to the east and fight and die for Poland? Regardless of what agreements and assurances had been forged between the French and the Poles should the Germans make aggressive moves, when Hitler attacked Poland there was not a single French soldier anywhere around to fight or die for Poland.
In a recent rebellion in which some Serbs charged and occupied a court building in Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, NATO soldiers were ordered to bring the matter under the control. Some soldiers did as they were ordered, but the contingent of Romanian soldiers refused to follow that order. They did not want to move against the Serbs whom they considered as allied to Romania.
Years earlier, when Hitler’s armies attacked Yugoslavia in April of 1941, Croat soldiers in the Yugoslav army who considered Germany an ally of Croatia deserted and made large breaches in the Yugoslav defense line. The Serbs who stayed to fight the Nazis could not possibly plug up all of the breaches in the defense line and, consequently, could not fight Germans but for a few days. If NATO had existed at that time and responsible for defending Yugoslavia, the same thing would have happened.
Any country that relies on NATO to protect it needs to consider the potential volatility of the loyalty of the individual military forces to that organization.
Regardless of their status in the European Union, the members need to be careful about being too assertive in putting forth “conditions” for membership to non-member states. Holland plans to block the acceptance of Serbia to the EU until General Mladic is delivered to the Hague Tribunal to be tried for war crimes. This hypocrisy should stir our memories as we remember 98 trains full of Jews heading for Auschwitz. They were Dutch Jews. They were not arrested by the Germans, but by the Dutch police. These trains were not escorted to Auschwitz by German conductors, they were escorted by Dutch rail-road men. And these Jews never came back.
It would be huge error in judgment to underestimate Russia at this point in time. Key meetings are being held this first week of April between the leaders of the superpowers and other powerful nations. Such key meetings will continue in the coming months. What the leaders need to keep in mind is that Putin’s Russia is not Yeltsin’s Russia. Russia is now richer and stronger, and this trend is sure to continue. The new president elect, Medvedev, promises to be a formidable Russian leader as well.
Christian Serbia, like Christian Russia, is trying to rise out of its communist ashes and needs support to do so. Serbs have taken note of Putin having spent time in Orthodox Christian churches. Arguably, Serbia’s only true friend among the great powers is Russia. The Russians don’t like what’s been done with Kosovo, and neither does China. Regardless of what their motives are, their displeasure at the way the Kosovo situation has been handled by the United States cannot and must not be dismissed. Though it can be argued to what extent Russia has stepped up in the past to “defend” or “protect” the Serbs, it is a different Russia today. Vladimir Putin and incoming Russian president Medvedev have already shown their intentions with regards to respecting Serbian interests regardless of the Russian motives. They have refused to recognize the independent “Republic of Kosova” as has China, and they have issued reprimands regarding the U.S. breaking international law in doing so.
Russia is sure to remain bitter about how that matter of the independence of Albanian Kosovo was handled by the EU and the United States. More importantly, China is in alliance with Russia on this matter and on many other matters. Other large Asian countries support them in this. The Russian part of Europe makes her territorially the largest of the European countries. China is the most populated country in the world. Europe covers between 3 and 4 million square miles of territory, depending on where one draws the eastern border of Europe. Russia covers 6.6 million square miles and Asia covers 17 million. Russian and Chinese natural resources far outstrip those of Western Europe. These figures need to be taken into consideration as a new cold war seems to be developing between the United States and Western Europe on one side and Russia and China on the other, in part over the illegal creation of an artificial, independent state within the borders of an officially recognized legal and viable state. Today’s “Iron Curtain” appears to be falling almost over the same line as the first one. Do we need to be concerned? Yes.
Anyone who presumes now, just as they did then, that Russia is too weak or unwilling to lend real, effective support to Serbia is making a potentially fatal underestimation.
In view of all of the above it seems to me that the smartest next step for the United States to take would be to rescind the recognition of the independent Albanian Moslem Kosovo State in Serbia. There is far more at stake than satisfying the Albanians, that Mussolini and Tito, one a Fascist dictator and the other a communist dictator, brought to Kosovo and their descendants. Most of the Albanians that came to Kosovo before that, and they were a majority, came to Kosovo to improve their standard of living to a better one than one than they had achieved in Albania. They were satisfied with what they achieved. The Albanians of Kosovo today are an entirely different breed.
As of this writing 36 out of the 192 nations who are members of the UN have recognized the “Republic of Kosova” as a nation. Of those 36, 18 are European Union (EU) member states. At the beginning, immediately following Kosovo’s declaration of independence, the recognitions came quickly. The recognitions have slowed down considerably since then and there have been very few recently. What does this slowdown mean? And do the leaders of the nations that gave their instant recognition now harbor any regrets?
Now is the time to be reading between the lines. Statements made by political leaders cannot be dismissed as rhetoric. They could just prove to be harbingers of things to come.
Though he stated that Russia won’t be using force in Kosovo because there is no direct threat to Russia there nor is there a direct threat to Russian national interests, Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, made a chilling prediction and observation one week after Kosovo was declared independent. With regards to future developments in Kosovo and Serbia, he stated that there can only be one forecast, “chaos and disorder.”
“Secondly,” he said, “The international law, the UN, the system of international relations, the rules of respectable military behavior of states will not have authority any more. There will only be one rule from now on: the one who has physical and brutal force, will be strong and will be right.” (Xinhua, Feb. 24, 2008)
Both the United States and Russia need to prove him wrong.
As the representatives of nations meet in Europe and Russia this first week in April 2008 and in the future, to discuss the way forward, the leaders of this wonderful country of ours, the United States of America, need to reconsider some of the steps they have taken that have irritated Russia. Russia, in turn, needs to do the same thing. America should never take a bath in the muddy political waters of Europe. She should take to heart the advice of one of her past great leaders as far as the Balkans are concerned. In April of 1919, at the Peace Conference in Paris, President Woodrow Wilson, stated the following conviction:
“. . .I believe that the interference and the control of the Great Powers must disappear from the Balkans. Up to now, the Balkans have been a pawn in the European game. Constantinople was notorious as a center of intrigue on the part of the Great Powers, which intrigues constituted a serious and continual menace. Balkans themselves were not independent; the Great Powers, and particularly Berlin, decided what was to happen there. For that reason I am opposed to giving a foothold in the Balkans to any European Power. It would be fatal to do so; we must eliminate any cause for intervention of the Great Powers in that region.”
That was good advice then. It’s good advice now. The common denominators of history never seem to change. We’ve come a long way since 1919. We have evolved and progressed. We have progressed to the point that we are now capable of completely destroying ourselves. That’s something for the leaders of nations to think about as they meet.
Now that democratic processes have been established throughout Europe, they need guardians. Democracy cannot be taken for granted. It should never be forgotten that Hitler became the democratically elected leader of Germany in 1933. Who would be better guardians of these democratic processes than a fully democratically oriented United States and Russia. The future of the world, in fact, cries for the alliance of these two superpowers, which have never been at real war with each other.
We have the advantage of hindsight. We can stop history from repeating. We must.