By James Bissett
On February 17 Kosovo celebrated the tenth anniversary of its unilateral declaration of independence. The United States-led NATO countries may want to join in the celebrations since it was NATO’s 78-day illegal bombing campaign of Serbia that forcibly separated Kosovo from Serbia and lead to the state’s independence.
Despite the refusal of some of its members — Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Slovakia — the remaining members of the alliance, including Canada, followed the lead of the United States and recognized Kosovo as an independent state. By doing so they were in direct violation of UN Resolution 1244, which had reaffirmed Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo.
After ten years and under heavy pressure from the United States, out of the 193 total membership of the United Nations, 111 members have recognized Kosovo independence. Those that have not done so have refused on the grounds that a simple declaration itself is not sufficient grounds for independence.
There must be evidence of long-term mistreatment and lack of representation in the government, as well as a referendum by the citizens of the country concerned. None of these conditions existed in Kosovo; in fact, the Albanians there enjoyed a high degree of autonomy within the Yugoslav federation.
A further consideration was the fear that recognition would set a dangerous precedent for all those minorities who might follow the example of the Albanians in Kosovo. The thought of several or more of these unilaterally declaring independence is seen to be a serious threat to global security.
The most vocal objection to the recognition of Kosovo independence came, naturally enough, from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who warned that recognition would open a Pandora’s Box and was a violation of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Accords relating to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Russia, a traditional friend of Serbia, suspected there was more in the United States’ insistence of independence for Kosovo than humanitarian concerns.
After the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia was no longer seen as a useful buffer between the West and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Berlin, and later Washington, saw geopolitical advantages in carving the country up into small independent states that would be dependent on their benefactors and easily managed.
The first to be granted independence was Croatia and Slovenia, to be followed by Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro and then Kosovo. Serbia, the largest of the Yugoslav republics, was made into a villain and accused of mistreating the large Albanian population in Kosovo. An armed uprising by the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and subsequent clashes with Serbian security forces, which were accused of committing atrocities, resulted in NATO’s March 1999 military intervention and the bombing of Serbia.
Leading up to and during the bombing, the U.S.-led NATO forces waged a powerful media campaign designed to demonize the Serbian people and their controversial leader Slobodan Milosevic (the “Butcher of the Balkans”). It was falsely claimed that genocide and ruthless ethnic cleansing was taking place in Kosovo. In fact, the number of deaths in the conflict has now been estimated to be approximately 2,000 and the United Nations has agreed that the mass exodus from Kosovo of both Albanians and Serbs began after the bombing started.
The conflict ended and the bombing of Serbia stopped when a United Nations peace settlement was arranged with Milosevic. United Nations Resolution 1244 laid out the terms of the agreement, which among other things, reaffirmed Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo, called for the return of all those displaced by the conflict, the withdrawal of Serbian security forces from Kosovo, and for the territory to be placed under the control of a NATO-led protection force (KFOR).
Immediately after the withdrawal of Serbian forces began the pillaging and murder of the non-Albanians who had not already fled. Serbian and Roma houses and apartments were broken into and the inhabitants either killed or forced to flee. The rampage of killing and lawlessness continued and as late as 2004, when mobs of Albanians destroyed or damaged a further 200 Christian churches and monasteries, some of them heritage structures dating back to the 14th century. All of this horror took place under the watchful eyes of the NATO-led protection force.
Kosovo is a failed state with massive unemployment and crime; corruption is prevalent, with a leadership deeply involved in the drug trade, arms and human smuggling, not to mention allegations about the trafficking of human body parts. By any standard, this is a failed state. Its independence has been a disaster.
Kosovo has been the stepchild of the United States and has been used by NATO to advance the geopolitical aims of the U.S. It was not by accident that one of the first acts of the United States in Kosovo was to build the largest military base there since Vietnam. Furthermore, Kosovo was but one of the first steps to expand NATO eastward. It was during the bombing of Serbia that then U.S. President Bill Clinton announced the addition to NATO of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. Since then, NATO has encircled Russia with NATO member states. As a member of the German Bundestag cynically observed, German Panzers are once again within reach of Leningrad.
U.S. foreign policy in the Balkans and Eastern Europe is driven by the strategic aim of controlling the oil, gas and uranium land routes from resource-rich Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries at the expense of Russia. In doing so it is playing the game of realpolitik and has forsaken the basic principles of the founding fathers, as well as turning NATO into an aggressive military machine directed against Russia.
Like the disaster of Kosovo, this is a policy that can only end in catastrophe.