Several U.S. policies for Macedonia make up one de-stabilisation policy

A prelude to military intervention?

PressInfo # 122

 June 10, 2001 


By Jan Oberg, TFF director


These days I am reminded of my conversation in the early 1990s with the first representative of the United States to independent Macedonia. Two things came out clearly: no matter the question I asked him he said that the policies of the United States aimed at stability; second, if he had any knowledge about the Balkans in general and Macedonia in particular he kept it to himself. Today, we should not be surprised if stability, the post-Cold War buzz-word, in reality means instability or de-stabilisation.


Various U.S. policies: we both support and condemn the Albanians!

On June 4, in Washington Post, retired Ambassador William G. Walker, condemned the Macedonian government for treating the Albanians as second-class citizens and, when it comes to its military response to fighting the Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA), compares it with Milosevic. He advocates a stronger high-level U.S. involvement by hosting a Dayton-like conference (not a word about the EU) and insists that NLA shall participate as it is a legitimate actor with popular support.

Further, he believes that a recent agreement brokered by American Ambassador Robert Frowick, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office for the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, between the two main Albanian parties and the NLA should be welcomed. (Incidentally it was signed outside Macedonia, close to Prizren in Kosovo, and behind the back of the Macedonian political leadership and, thus, Frowick was considered persona non grata). The EU's reaction to it indicates a deep rift with the U.S.

So, who is William Walker? A former persona non grata in Yugoslavia where he headed OSCE's Kosovo Verifiers' Mission, KVM, negotiated in October 1998 between U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and President Milosevic. It is public knowledge that his mission had a substantial CIA component and that his verdict on the spot in Racak that Milosevic was behind that massacre lacked every evidence at the time. Today he is an honorary board member of National Albanian American Council's "Hands of Hope Campaign." To give you the flavour of the group: one of its honorary co-chairs is Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel who, over the years, have delivered more factually incorrect and propagandistic statements on Kosovo than most. You will find his views on Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia at

But there are other American policy-makers. Listen to State Department's Mr. Boucher on June 6. He calls NLA in Macedonia "extremists" and "insurgents" - - much like Lord Robertson of NATO always calls these NATO/KFOR- and US-supported insurgents "thugs"! Boucher talks in terms of "ethnic Albanian violence" and states that "we have never seen a role for them [NLA/terrorists] in the political negotiations." He adds that NLA proves "every day that they are not interested in addressing real concerns and needs of the Albanian community."

In contrast to Mr. Frowick's private diplomacy with NLA and to Walker's embrace of them as legitimate, Mr. Boucher sides with the Macedonian government. It has, he says, taken the right path "the path of inter-ethnic dialogue, to address the concerns of all citizens of Macedonia together with a continuation of their measured response to extremist provocations." He sees no contradiction between dialogue and military response.

Then he is asked what he thinks about William Walker's article in Washington Post and answers: "Yes, that doesn't make sense at all. Anyway he is a former colleague."

To complete the picture, Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld visits the region and lauds the American presence and the NATO/KFOR forces in Kosovo, conveniently forgetting that they and his country's bombing are the main causes of the de-stabilisation of Macedonia. He expresses his support for the Macedonian state and its National Unity Government and condemns the violence of the (U.S.-armed and -trained) UCK/NLA!



Broader perspectives

As mentioned in earlier TFF PressInfos, it is common knowledge that CIA and the American firm Military Professional Resources Inc, MPRI, are among those who have made UCK/KLA possible. After officially having been disarmed and dissolved in September 1999, KLA/UCK must have been permitted to pass through the American NATO/KFOR sector in Kosovo to conduct military activities in Southern Serbia (under the name UCPMB) and now in Macedonia (NLA/UCK/ONA).

In other words, without the active help of at least one branch of the American foreign policy establishment, the present fighting in Macedonia would hardly have been possible. No matter how much people like Walker emphasise internal ethnic problems in Macedonia, it remains an indisputable fact that the militarisation of local tension, which was made possible by NATO's disgraceful terror bombing of Yugoslavia and the subsequent occupation of Kosovo, is the work of foreign actors. The rhetoric about human rights is just a facade.

The U.S. Bondsteel Base in Kosovo, the largest built by the United States since Vietnam, signals a considerable strategic interest in the triangle made up of the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus, the oil fields of the latter becoming increasingly important. Huge oil pipelines will go through the Balkans, as do Transport Corridors 8 and 10, and all of it is, of course, part of a game way beyond human rights, humanitarian concerns, democratisation, tolerance and civil society empowerment.

It is also quite easy to see Kosovo and Macedonia in the light of NATO expansionism, present and future. It relates to three world order goals: containment of Russia; US/NATO marginalisation of the UN and OSCE as peacekeeping organisations, and a long-term development of a Second Cold War. The main building block of the latter is the systematic antagonisation of the Chinese, the Russians and others who do not obey a U.S.-centred world order.

We will understand nothing of what goes on in Macedonia if we focus on that in isolation. Regrettably, most media still do and engage in war reporting instead of conflict analysis.


Confusion as a strategy

Is the United States of America really that confused? Given George W. Bush's foreign policy record so far, such a hypothesis can not be entirely excluded. But it is dangerous when the right and the left hand of the most powerful actor on earth are not co-ordinated.

Well, perhaps that's exactly what they are if we employ a little political imagination. Perhaps the apparent confusion is a strategy? Perhaps stability means de-stabilisation - - like peace often means war. Over time, Western policies have been uniquely unfriendly and disrespectful of the sovereignty and survival needs of Macedonia. Just remember a decade of economic sanctions without compensation, the shameful diplomacy to get the successful United Nations missions out of the place, misuse of the country as one huge military base for NATO's bombings and forcing Macedonia to become a refugee camp. Now clear interference in its domestic affairs by American diplomats in international missions, such as Frowick in OSCE.

Macedonia is a fragile state, nothing like, say, Croatia or Yugoslavia. Its structure and position in the Balkans, its identity as a state, is less solid. The country has no strong leadership but a lot of corruption; a series of weak governments leaving problems unsolved throughout the 1990s have now reached a state of paralysis. A war here could, in the worst of cases, spell the end of what is today called Macedonia.

By instigating long-term, low-level warfare inside Macedonia, her instability can be further increased. William Walker may well be retired but his opinions in Washington Post may not be his alone. He argues that should the Macedonian government try to win militarily it would commit a "similar miscalculation" as Milosevic since that would only drive more recruits into the ranks of the NLA! One must ask whether he actually implies that Macedonia could be bombed, like Milosevic, if it tried?

NATO, the EU and State Department seem to agree that the Macedonian government should not declare a state of war. The message of the Swedish EU chair Ms. Lindh, of Mr. Solana and all others has been: be tolerant, remain 'measured,' don't overdo it. Because of their role as politico-military midwifes of the Albanian national armies and aspirations, they profess to be "worried" that less militant Albanians who are still members of the Macedonian government would leave, which would mean further erosion of its multi-ethnicity and increased polarisation.

Well, perhaps they should have thought of that before, for instance at the time when they handled the Kosovo crisis and began bombing? It's a bit late to find out now that everything is related to everything else in the Balkans. The classical, but completely ignored, expert warning was that whatever was done with Kosovo would have effects elsewhere.

TFF and the present author never advocate violent solutions. There are no violent ways to real stability and peace in Macedonia. This does not prevent us from asking whether there is one single Western state that would not fight back or would accept that type of advice from abroad to keep it "measured" when step-by-step parts of its territory is seized by military means? When an increasing number of its citizens are killed by what is at least to some extent foreign actors based across an international border?

By sending many and different signals you keep people busy guessing what you are up to you and you attract a lot of attention. The EU and little Macedonia know that the U.S. is still the main player in the region and that it doesn't exactly mind this Godfather-like role. There may be certain offers floated behind the scenes these days and in the future that are not meant to be refused.


What is the interest in de-stabilising Macedonia?

1. Divide et impera

Why could a de-stabilised Macedonia be in the interest of the United States? One reason is the classical 'divide et impera,' -- divide and rule. When Macedonia's leadership becomes sufficiently bewildered and fearful or lose control, the West can offer its assistance: peacekeeping (bases), loans and political control. It can install a government of its liking (and it would probably like one different from the present).


2. Leverage and obedience

There is a promise of Macedonia in NATO and of future EU membership if it obeys orders from the West and does not seek alternative ways (or importing non-Western arms). Until Macedonia has been 'developed,' the case remains however the opposite: NATO in Macedonia and very little economic assistance from the EU.


3. Military punishment and intervention

Should Macedonia disobey and try instead to assert itself, should it declare war and attempt to drive out the NLA, it could well set the scene in flames. Somebody - - and do not expect it to be the United Nations - - will then feel obliged to shoulder the white man's civilising burden and intervene. Is it far-fetched to see a kind of repetition of NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia? Hardly more so than the bombing would seem in, say, 1997.

One only has to imagine that the NLA (is helped to) step up its activities. With the Albanians leaving the government, with intensified polarisation throughout society, local para-military clashes and killings, and an increasingly hard-line Macedonianness coming to the surface, the United States and others might see it fit to bomb Macedonia and/or station troops. Nothing like Yugoslavia which was a much tougher opponent, but enough to subdue and take over.


4. The widening dispute between the EU and the U.S.

By calibrating a permanent instability, the United States can also continue its conflict with the EU. The EU can not yet do anything militarily but is working hard to get a Rapid Deployment Force established. Of course the United States enjoy to demonstrate just how much it can still dictate developments in the EU's own backyard: see, it will take some time before you become a super power!


5. The honeymoon with the Albanians is over

Given Western policies since 1998, the Albanians in Kosovo have all reason to expect that the West will deliver them an independent Kosova. However, that has become much less attractive (as has an independent Montenegro) for the West after the toppling of Milosevic who always served as the main navigation point for the West. The international "community" had no complex understanding of the Balkans or a strategy for a post-Milosevic era. However, to keep the Albanian hard-liners from turning against NATO and the West in Kosovo, something new must be offered instead.

If you think all this is to carry it a bit far, read "The Fork in the Road," by Christopher Dell, chief of mission, U.S. Office Pristina, originally published in

the academic quarterly "Kosova & Balkan Observer" in March 2001 (Year 1, Volume 1) at

Dell tells how the United States has become disappointed with the Albanians for whom it has done so much and how they are no different from Milosevic when it comes to ethnic cleansing. Kosovo has long been in deep crisis; KFOR has done its utmost to prevent UCK/KLA and NLA but these "illegitimate" forces continue their short-term policies for personal gains. He condemns their violence and the way in which they are "using the crisis in Macedonia" as well as NLA's "hijacking of the Albanian parties there. Of course there is not a word about how this turning point came about after the old US-UCK honeymoon, not a word about the conspicuous complicity in all this of the United States itself.


6. Greater Kosova?

One way to make Kosovo-Albanians accept non-independence for the foreseeable future is to open the prospect of a larger Kosova (not Greater Albania). It is easier to use Macedonia than Serbia/Yugoslavia for that. After ten years of blaming Yugoslavia and the Serbs for virtually everything, it is now dawning upon many, at least unofficially, that this basic interpretative framework of the 1990s was the construction of intellectual dwarfs and has landed the West itself in prison in Pristina.


7. Attempting rapprochement with Yugoslavia

Because of the changes toward democracy in Yugoslavia, the West is probably now recognising that it can not just take away Kosovo and declare it independent for good.

Western advocacy of the independence of Kosova was only "fun" when Milosevic was around. Many in the West somewhat belatedly realise that Serbia is the main player. It is the most multi-ethnic country, its level of culture and education and its market of some 10 million is by far the most attractive in the region. With the new principled and moderate leadership of Vojeslav Kostunica and with the people's own liberation from Milosevic' authoritarian rule, Serbia suddenly looks like a better investment object and a most attractive ally for the future. And thus the tacit backing of the Albanian UCPMB forces in Southern Serbia stopped and a viable settlement could be reached.


Is there a grand design or is it just confusion?

Finally, a word of caution and of self-reflection. Some may see all this as an "anti-American" interpretation, as a "conspiracy" theory. Some may argue that analyses like this grossly overestimate the capacity of American foreign policy makers. The answer depends on how one interprets American foreign policy of the past and on how one believes its present decision-makers perceive the future. What looks as contradictory and as a confusing mixture of policies and signals may well turn out to be just that.

The point is that U.S. foreign policy should be discussed, evaluated and criticised much more than is presently the case. Experts, diplomats, leaders of smaller states and the media should not just repeat what is stated by officials in front of cameras and microphones. The role of this lone super power is too important for such "parrot" attitudes.

When it comes to a small country like Macedonia, it may make little difference whether what is done to it is actually the result of a grand strategy or of utter confusion. Given the way the world works, neither is likely to do it any good.


Macedonia at a turning point

One may assume that the Macedonian leadership is perfectly aware that there are Walkers out there who will cast it in the role of Milosevic if it steps up its military response to the Western-backed insurgents. So, damn you if you defend your country, and damn you if you don't.

What must worry any observer now is that it is unlikely that the Western definition of a measured response will remain identical with the Macedonian government's definition. The West can always seek to increase the pressure directly or through the UCK/NLA, even to the level where its propaganda machine brand the Macedonian government as a replica of Milosevic that aims to expel all Albanians from Macedonia.

It goes without saying that Macedonia's people and some kind of leadership that can be trusted by all citizens must now come together. By people I mean the 98 per cent good-hearted, peaceful Albanians, Macedonians, Serbs, Turks, Roma, Muslims etc. who, though they may not love each other, also do NOT hate each other, who do NOT want war and who do NOT want Macedonia to be destroyed.

For sure, they have some problems with each other and with welfare, employment, basic needs, education etc., but I strongly believe they are together in seeing Macedonia as their common country and that they are better off in that than in any other foreign design after a war. If given many more opportunities to come together and work together, Macedonians and Albanians may get along quite well, and whatever stereotypes that remain about the "other" ethnic collectivity will diminish. With violent struggle on Macedonia's territory, such windows of opportunity close a little day by day.

It is time for Macedonia to pull together against Western manipulation, and it is the moderate majority that can do it. In fact, it's the only one that can.

It is never too late to struggle for peace and decency. Pressinfo 123 will present some modest proposals in that constructive direction.


This is what TFF wrote about preventing war in Macedonia. Read also PressInfo 118-121

Your ideas for peace in Macedonia wanted (1999)

A bouquet of peace ideas to Macedonia...and Kosovo (1999)



 © TFF 2001


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