U.S. policies for Macedonia make up one de-stabilisation
prelude to military intervention?
By Jan Oberg, TFF
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
policies: we both support and condemn the
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 http://www.house.gov/engel/albanian.htm.
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
What is the
interest in de-stabilising Macedonia?
1. Divide et
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
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
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,
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
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
the academic quarterly "Kosova & Balkan Observer"
in March 2001 (Year 1, Volume 1) at http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/eur/macedonia/dell.htm.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Your ideas for peace in
Macedonia wanted (1999)
A bouquet of peace ideas to
Macedonia...and Kosovo (1999)
© TFF 2001
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