P r e s s I n f o # 42 August 17, 1998
The Kosovo War No Prevention Failure, All Had An Interest In It
"Look at what happens in Kosovo and you would like to believe that all good
powers worked for PREVENTION of this tragedy but that, unfortunately,
tragedies happen. Governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental
organisations are already overloaded with ongoing conflicts and
catastrophes; budgets are tight etc. Admittedly these are very complex
problems; and like all diseases cannot be prevented, we can't expect all
wars to be prevented.
According to this theory, if things go wrong it is the parties' fault and
if they go well it is thanks to the international community and a few
shuttling envoys or diplomats. World media naively corroborate this theory:
We watch how diplomats, envoys, and delegations fly around, hold press
conferences, meet their kin in palaces or make solemn declarations if they
don't issue threats. In short, do all they can to stop wars and force
people to negotiation tables, don't they?
Well, no outbreak of violence on earth was more predictable than the one in
Kosovo. There has been more early warnings about this conflict than about
any other, but there was no early listening and no early action. There was
neither the required conflict-management competence nor political will to
We live in an increasingly interdependent world; we are told that hardly
anything belongs to the internal affairs of states. The other side of that
coin is that Kosovo was and is our problem. If we believe in this theory we
must ask: when will honest people, including politicians, begin to openly
and self-critically discuss why they fail again and again to avert even the
most predictable wars? Is it human folly, institutional immaturity, are
diplomats just not appropriately trained in violence prevention and
conflict-resolution, or what?
I am afraid there is another more accurate but less pleasant explanation,"
says TFF director Jan Oberg after his recent mission to Belgrade, Prishtina
and Skopje where he had more than 50 conversations with heads of states,
party leaders, intellectuals, media people and NGOs.
"This other explanation it is less apologetic, more cynical. It simply
assumes that things like Kosovo happens because it is in the INTEREST of
powerful actors that it happens. Preventive measures is merely a cover-up
for such less noble interests. I can't avoid the feeling that in the case
of Kosovo many central actors had an interests in this war.
The Yugoslav government has insisted for years that Kosovo-Albanians are
not only separatists but also terrorists, that Dr. Rugova's leadership
based on pragmatic non-violence was just a facade. It reminds us of periods
in the 1970s, 1980s and now 1990s to prove it's point. And now there is an
Albanian Army and its spokesman repeatedly talk about total independence
and unification towards a Greater Albania. "There you see," Yugoslav
president Milosevic can argue, "we were right and you people in the
international community were fooled by the Albanians. We now just preserve
the integrity and sovereignty of Yugoslavia like you would if you had a
similar movement on your territory."
The Yugoslav/Serbian opposition which - like the government - has
absolutely no idea about what to do with Kosovo can blame Milosevic: "There
you see, Milosevic took no initiatives to start negotiations, he just won
time. Now he has proved that he could not solve it as an internal affair,
so now we have more foreign diplomats running around here than ever! He
will be even more powerful by winning the war in Kosovo and no one dare
start reforms or demonstrate in the streets of Belgrade while this happens.
Our economy will be even worse but that's what everybody expect anyhow; the
people are in apathy of all these years of economic deprivation and
isolation from the international community. In the shadow of Kosovo, the
regime now also tramples on the freedom and independence of the judiciary,
the universities and media. Milosevic knows the international community
won't support secession through violence, and he needs crisis to keep
himself in power. And the international community needs him for Dayton and
to keep separatism elsewhere at bay."
President Rugova of the self-proclaimed independent state of Kosova who
favours nonviolence, might tell you this: "There you see, since 1989 we
have warned the international community that we could not keep the
population behind the nonviolent line if we did not get some help to
achieve some results, either by NATO presence or bombings or by forcing
Belgrade to negotiate with us. But no one really did anything to help us to
achieve our human rights not to get out of this police state."
The Albanian opposition may see it this way: "There you see, Rugova never
listened to us. He didn't allow the assembly of our elected parliament, he
increasingly marginalised all other leaders and controlled the press.
Presumably he has always been in collusion with Milosevic. He is not a
dictator but his strategy yielded nothing; he promised an independent
Kosova but where is it? We in the opposition knew that it had to end in
violence, the only thing Belgrade understands."
The leaders of the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA/UCK), we may imagine, will
reason somewhat along the same lines but add: "Many of us were political
prisoners and when we came out nobody listened to us. We are now risking
our lives for the liberation of our Kosovan Motherland and we simply don't
listen to politicians anymore, least of all Rugova. Power grows out of our
guns so you better see UCK as the real present and future political power
here in Kosova."
Well, but did the international community not do a lot to prevent war in
Kosovo? I don't think so," continues Jan Oberg.
"The Kosovo issue was never high on the agendas in Hague, in London or in
Geneva; it was not included in Dayton and no other initiatives were taken.
Yugoslavia was recognised as a sovereign state with the Kosovo province
inside but with no modalities. No systematic negotiation effort was ever
tried and is not being tried even now. The best time to have found a
tolerable solution was in 1992-93 when Milan Panic was prime minister; he
had honest, energetic ministers for justice, human rights and education who
did more than any other government before or after to solve this problem -
but they got no support from the West. The Kosovars said 'no thanks' to
dialogue with Panic because their strategy of mobilisation of international
support and intervention stood a better chance with a "bad guy" like
Milosevic in Belgrade than with a "nice guy" there like Panic.
Didn't the international community know that war was brewing in Kosovo? Of
course it did! Look - in and around Kosovo, in Albania, Belgrade and
Macedonia the international community has, for years, had NATO, US troops,
the UN and OSCE missions in Macedonia, a US government office in the centre
of Prishtina, EU monitors, embassies, shuttle diplomats, it has had
intelligence officers from numerous countries and satellites in space which
can monitor movements and see number plates on cars. Are we really to
believe that the build-up of the Kosova Liberation Army, the training of
soldiers and civilians, the acquisition of hundreds of thousands of arms
and tons of ammunition that has gone on - according to Albanian sources -
since 1992-93 was unknown and that the outbreak of war in the region came
as a surprise? None of the diplomats I met who have served in the region
for quite some time denied that all this was well-known. But their
governments back home turned the blind eye to and prevented none of it.
The international community has decided that its interventions and missions
in Macedonia and Albania are successful, albeit not perfect. Period! That
one-time friend of the West, Sali Berisha now runs the uncontrollable
Northern Albania which is the de facto base for KLA/UCK proves it may not
have been such a success. Macedonia is stable and democratic, we've been
told for years irrespective of the fact that all the old problems remain
basically unresolved. UNPREDEP is a marvellous mission but it was stationed
in Macedonia for the wrong reasons - to prevent a completely unlikely
aggression by Serbia into Macedonia.
The international community did not get a mission into Kosovo where it
would have been relevant. Instead, in 1991 it foolishly suspended
Rest-Yugslavia's perfectly legitimate membership of the OSCE after which
Rest-Yugoslavia discontinued OSCE's three missions in Kosovo, Voivodina and
Sandzak. Had they been around until today, the war had hardly happened. So,
whatever the international community would have done recently to "prevent"
the Kosovo war, it would implicitly have recognised that earlier actions
were not such big successes. Or outright failures.
At least some powerful actors saw it to be in their interest NOT to prevent
the present war in Kosovo.
I see quite a few such interests," says TFF's director who has worked with
the Kosovo conflict on both sides since 1992.
First, you make contradictory commitments that satisfies conflicting
governments in the EU/ Contact group and the US. Thus, for years you
support the idea of sovereignty and integrity and reminds everyone that
borders cannot be changed by force. But while you do that you also want to
punish Serbia for its behaviour in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, so you
receive Dr. Rugova in all possible capitals and parliaments and listen to
his maximalist policy of independence for Kosova and support his minimalist
strategy of nonviolence. Since 1991 you do three things that encourage all
Albanians: a) you never dissociate your government from the Kosovo-Albanian
press claims that they have the international community's support for an
independent state (while what you told them was that you supported their
struggle for human rights); b) you never invite a Yugoslav diplomat or
minister to your office to listen to that side of the story, and c) you let
American presidents make various hints that the West will come to rescue
Kosova should Serbia misbehave."
Second, wars like this are in the interest of those who profiteer from the
trade in arms, drugs, prostitutes, looted war property, cigarettes, oil
etc., the smugglers, the mafia, the security services, mercenary companies,
private consultancy firms and paramilitary formations - which do the dirty
job for democratic government. They are promoted and protected by
politicians who have come to power through a) Western-endorsed free and
fair, democratic elections, b) privatisation of the social(ist) property
created up till 1989 by employees everywhere, and c) simple
war-profiteering. Thus the Eastern European as well as the Caucasian
environment now breeds one politico-economic-military-bureaucratic-criminal
- PEMBC - complex after the other. They have the real power while many with
formal titles are either powerless or incompetent as politicians.
Third, you deliberately wait to intervene until violence and chaos reign.
Then you can present Mr. Holbrooke, Christopher Hill - or some other
presumed miracle-maker - the EU, the Contact Group or NATO as saviours and
peacemakers and argue: "There you see, you proved you could not manage your
own problems, we have to manage them for you." When that role is
established, you can much more easily dictate the terms of a negotiation as
well as an outcome that fits your longterm strategic, political and
economic interests in the region. All, of course, is done in the name of
peace, democratisation, privatisation, marketisation and human rights. So,
the more the international community "fails" to prevent violence in
non-vital countries, the more it can control and gain in them later.
Four, you use the opportunity to present NATO as the eminent new
'peacekeeper' - and keep the UN in the shadow. There are threats of NATO
bombings or intervention, there are exercises and statements about who
could be taught a lesson, if...So, it looks like "we do something, we won't
accept a new Bosnia" - and similar nonsense. This serves to hide earlier
conflict-management fiascoes to citizens in Europe and the US. These
threats, in clear support for the Albanians and UCK/KLA comes three years
after the same countries helped Croatia to ethnically cleanse its territory
of 250 000 perfectly legitimate Serbs citizens of that republic. Not very
credible or moral, but who remembers?
True, it costs a little more with all these troops, missions, military aid,
exercises, training programs, humanitarian aid and economic aid for
reconstruction, but it establishes the international community - the US in
particular - as masters for long enough to bring these "failed states"
under the control that is essential to transforming them into submissive
allies in the larger process of globalisation and world order
transformation. And they are expected to be grateful to the West.
Concretely in Kosovo: this way of handling the conflict serves to
strengthen Milosevic in the short run and weaken him in the long run. Iraq
seems increasingly to be State Department's model in Serbia, and the EU has
no ideas and no common policy for the region. Some kind of partition of
Kosovo will create even more internal conflicts among Albanians in Kosovo,
Albania and Macedonia - thus easier to control by the West in decades to
come. Germany will advance diplomatically, economically and little by
little also militarily; the whole region is already a DM zone and Germany
has replaced Serbia as Macedonia's largest trading partner. The US will
provide the overall framework a la Dayton and then the strategic,
NATO-oriented impetus, the training of police, security and military of
these "failed" but resurrected states as it has done from Croatia down
through half of Bosnia to Albania and Macedonia. No wonder that US
diplomats head almost all international missions in the region now.
In short, Kosovo or rather Serbia/Yugoslavia is now the centre of the
globalisation and world order restructuring. The modes of operation differ
but it is part of the same transformation that we have seen in Mexico,
South Korea, Indonesia, Somalia, the Great Lakes, Croatia, Bosnia and Iraq.
It is implies a power struggle between the US/NATO and a Balkanized,
loud-shouting but paralysed EU.
Who pays the price? Innocent citizens-turned-refugees and 90% of the other
ordinary citizens in these lands, many of whom lack the education or
political consciousness to see through the games played over an above their
heads. Next, civil society, co-existence and human community. And, third,
moral values and the ideas of democracy, trust and - peace.
You may find my view cynical but I am convinced that only by being cynical
in the analysis can we be truly humane and work to help those who suffer
from all these double standards and power games," concludes Jan Oberg.
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Dr. Jan Oberg
Director, head of the TFF Conflict-Mitigation team
to the Balkans and Georgia
T F F
Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
Vegagatan 25, S - 224 57 Lund, Sweden
Phone +46-46-145909 (0900-1100)