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Peacemaking in Kosovo
Coming to an End
- for Predictable Reasons

With a critique of the International Crisis Group


PressInfo # 197

 April 29, 2004


Jan Oberg, TFF director

 See PressInfo 195 as a background to this PressInfo

This PressInfo in Swedish
This PressInfo in Danish

There is a long-term background and some root causes behind the emerging peace-keeping failure in Kosovo. Media and politicians tend to forget them because they were ignored during the 1990s and do not fit the standardised image of the conflict. In this analysis, TFF's director who has been engaged in Kosovo since 1991 discusses some of the most important among those causes.

In passing, he also points out how an allegedly "prestigious" NGO such as the International Crisis Group serves as a biased NEGO, a NEar-Governmental Organisation, and continues to offer perspectives and proposals that will make things worse in the Balkans.



It's the beginning of the end

Slowly but surely - and sadly - the efforts of the international community to create peace in Kosovo/a are coming to an end in spring 2004. The reasons are simple: mediation and conflict-resolution in complex conflicts can not be done the way it was between 1989 and 1999. And you won't succeed with peace-making the way it was done by the bombings in 1999 and the efforts since then.

Had anyone in the EU and the U.S. had the intellectual will and the political courage to draw conflict-management lessons from the Balkans, we would hardly have experienced the succeeding quagmires called Afghanistan and Iraq where the opportunities for peace and reconciliation are also decaying by the day.

The community's self-appointed conflict-managers and mediators probably now hope that their "condemnations" of the most recent bout of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in March 2004 will do the trick, prevent Albanian extremists from further attacks and keep the Kosovo calamity away from the headlines. If so, there is a high probability that they are in for nasty surprises.

The truth is simple and wants to get out: the international community hasn't got the faintest idea about what to do with Kosovo. There are no solutions anymore that will be fair in the eyes of the parties. Any future status will create serious problems in the region and possibly for the international community. To put it crudely - if the international conflict-managers are doctors, their patient is dying because of a bad diagnosis and a seriously failed surgery.

Embarrassing as they are, the reasons are quite simple but remain virtually untold: they would require an ounce of self-criticism in a series of European ministries of foreign affairs, in Washington and Brussels. For the decade 1989-1999 the international community operated on a standardised, one-truth, black-and-white explanation of what the conflict was about. They blamed the Serbs in general and Slobodan Milosevic in particular for the Kosovo conflict. They ignored the complex framework in space and time of which Kosovo was a part: the dissolution mechanisms of former Yugoslavia, the wider context of the Balkans and the restructuring of the world order as well as the transition from the Cold War paradigm to something different.

Like we see in today's Iraq, there were no limits to the political hubris-cum-ignorance. Both Albanian and Serb citizens were treated as pawns in much larger games and they are realising it now.

Below follows a list of some of the conflict mismanagement and long-term root causes that explain the unfolding dissolution of the peace-making efforts in Kosovo that we are now witnessing. (Numbers do not indicate priority or relative importance.)


Some root causes of the failed peace-making effort in Kosovo

1. Not understanding that the former Yugoslavia fell apart - also - because of a series of structural changes such as the oil crisis of the 1970s, European immigration policies and the end of the Cold War with lost neutrality between two blocks. Furthermore, multinational corporations' exploitation of low-wage labour in South-East Asia which destroyed Yugoslavia's industrial base and brought huge unemployment - followed by IMF structural adjustment programmes that further devastated the economy and welfare. The international community itself was a co-producer of the Yugoslav crisis and provided the outer conditions that made ethnic scapegoating possible.


2. Not understanding that the autonomy of Kosovo and Voivodina presupposed the existence of Yugoslavia; Serbia proper could be overruled by the two provinces in its own parliament if and when the other Yugoslav republics had left the balancing act. Thus, the Western policy of advocating and promoting the partition of Yugoslavia could not but create terrible problems, in Kosovo and elsewhere.


3. Turning a blind eye to the strong Kosovo-Albanian nationalism and exclusivity; they profited politically from having an arrogant strongman in Belgrade who repressed their basic human rights - for which reason they never supported the opposition in Serbia. When the international community talked about human rights, Kosovo-Albanian leaders meant independence. Ask yourself why what happened in Kosovo did not happen in Voivodina, the other autonomous province.

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4. The short-sightedness of teasing Milosevic by supporting an independent Kosovo - like supporting the independence of Montenegro - and dropping that policy as soon as Milosevic left the stage. Go to Podgorica today and you will be overwhelmed by the disappointment with the EU and the Americans; the Montenegrin too have realised how they were treated as pawns.


5. The policy of treating equally repressed minorities differently depending on their nationality; the Serb minority in Croatia never got any serious attention from the West; politically the EU and militarily the U.S. helped Tudjman drive a quarter of a million Croatian Serbs out in 1995. With few exceptions, they are still refugees in Serbia.


6. Instead of providing real support to the pragmatic non-violent policies of Dr. Rugova - the only one of its kind in former Yugoslavia - Western countries, Germany and the US in particular, armed Kosovo-Albanian extremists from 1993 and created the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, of about 20,000 well-equipped soldiers. This was what, in 1998, turned the Kosovo situation into a real war. For a short while the US had formally defined KLA as a terror organisation but later used it as NATO's ally on the ground during the bombing. Thus a conflict that could have been mediated years before with diplomatic means, became militarised.


7. In spite of all warnings in the 1990s, the international community never even suggested a serious, comprehensive negotiation process for Kosovo. The Rambouillet "negotiations" were a fraud; the Serbs and Albanians never met face-to-face there. The introduction of the military appendix that would have allowed NATO free access to every corner of Serbia was a Maffia-like "offer" any responsible European statesman would have to refuse.


8. The international community got various missions into Kosovo. The latest, negotiated between Milosevic and Richard Holbrooke, was the OSCE 'Verification' Mission of 2000 people. Unfortunately, Western governments were neither able nor willing to get enough qualified people on the ground in time, so 70% of them mysteriously had military backgrounds and about 100 were allegedly CIA - not so surprising given that the head of mission was William Walker. Since OSCE failed in that mission, the usual fallback argument had to be used: it was all Milosevic' fault. Truth is that he let them into the province (at the same time as he was accused of intending to drive out every Albanian) and kept his side of the agreement.


9. By the bombing and the diplomacy surrounding it, the Albanians could not but get the impression that the international community, Washington in particular, were granting them their independent state (without consulting Belgrade the loser). Today five years later, they have very good reasons to feel cheated. This of course does not explain Albanian ethnic cleansing or make it acceptable - as argued by the "prestigious" International Crisis Group which functions as an NEGO, NEar-Governmental Organisation*. The author met Americans and others in Kosovo right after the de facto occupation who did not know (or no longer perceived) Kosovo was a part of Serbia and repeatedly called it "this county" with a wry smile.


10. Completely ignoring the human dimension of conflicts. Billions of dollars have poured into Kosovo since 1999; hundreds of government and non-governmental organisations have promoted courses in media, human rights, empowerment and other civil society measures. The only things nobody dared touch were history, hatred, cultural differences, reconciliation, forgiveness, truth commissions and that sort of thing. The naive belief was that if the international community simply put up history's largest international peace-making mission in a tiny province, the locals will greet them with flowers and those who didn't would soon be convinced about the inherent goodness of the international mission. They made the same mistake four years later in Iraq.


11. After the bombing the international community monitored - but did nothing to prevent - the reverse ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians, some 200,000 who are still in Serbia and Macedonia, including the always ignored Romas. They were not helped to get back as were the Albanians fleeing the 13-months of war in Kosovo and the NATO's bombs (the war and the bombings were much more important as causes for fleeing than was the manufactured nonsense about Milosevic already implementing an so-called "Horseshoe Plan" aiming to get rid of no less than all 1,5 million Albanians living in Kosovo).

This happened under the very eyes of 43,000 NATO soldiers and thousands of OSCE, UN and EU staff as well as Western NGOs in Kosovo. The world was told - also by the International Crisis Group - that it should be seen as a psychological reaction to the earlier repression of their side. So, Western endorsed ethnic cleansing continued over the years; the latest but hardly last round we saw in March 2004. This time it was "explained" by two arguments; a story that went through the world's media about Serbs chasing Albanian kids into a river so they drowned; no retraction were printed when the story turned out to be untrue. The other argument was that the Albanian "criminals" and "mobs" (it wasn't political!) were "frustrated" over the status issue and the socio-economic situation in the province.


12. The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, was officially disarmed and closed down, being replaced by the Kosovo Protection Corps that would, we were told, have only civilian tasks. It leader was Agim Ceku, an Albanian general central in developing the KLA from 1993 while also serving under Croatian president Tudjman and being instrumental in driving out Serbs from Croatia in Operations Storm and Flash. This was yet another fraud by factors in the international community. The Serb forces did leave, but the Kosovo-Albanian army was, for all practical purposes, preserved. Only the naive could believe that the Americans, who are able to bomb Afghanistan to rubble and occupy Iraq, together with other NATO-KFOR forces were unable to prevent KLA from ravaging the region?

Some should wonder today how it was possible for KLA to destabilise and conduct war outside Kosovo, first in Southern Serbia and then in Macedonia? Isn't it strange also how a disarmed people had weapons to kill Serbs and internationals as well as moderate Albanians and cause very serious destruction of homes and quite solid Orthodox churches throughout Kosovo in March 2004?


13. Like in Iraq, the occupying powers dismissed virtually every competent person who knew how to operate and repair the infrastructure, water, electricity, the health sector, schools, even if they had not taken part in Milosevic' repressive policies. In consequence, nothing worked at a time when the Kosovo-Albanians had good reasons to believe that things would finally begin to work properly in their republic that had been liberated with a little help from their friends.


14. For about a decade everybody thought that sanctions was a great tool to put pressure on Milosevic but it only impoverished the people and trading partners such as Macedonia and, worse, created or boosted a Mafia economy everywhere. That Mafia is very influential in today's Serbia and no less in today's Kosovo. Sanctions and the black economy, combined with imposed privatization policies, created a class society with enormous poverty among ordinary citizens. The International Crisis Group, of course, does not see the absurdity of its own argument that we must - again - understand that the Kosovo Albanians do bad things because their economic situation is so poor. It never justifies Serb politics in those terms and conveniently leaves unmentioned the Albanian trafficking and prostitution, the cigarette smuggling, Kosovo's several hundred money-laundering petrol stations, the drug trade from Afghanistan (where Western policies have brought back opium production) and Kosovo's relation to the European underworld. Lack of money would be about the last thing that could explain why Albanian extremists commit ethnic cleansing!


15. The handover problem. The international missions in Kosovo are in the same dilemma as the US-led occupation in Baghdad. They want to hand over everything as quickly as possible to the locals - but also secure that they do what we want them to. The buzz word in Iraq is "sovereignty," in Kosovo "independence" before which we heard all the other hollow marketing words: liberation, democracy, human rights - hollow because the occupiers do not show even the simplest respect for the locals or for their own Western "standards." It is not far fetched, therefore, to predict that there will soon be a resistance movement in Kosovo too.


16. Oil, gas and military bases. Realpolitik is more about material matters and strategic positioning. This is where the huge American bases in Kosovo, Bulgaria and Romania as well as the 14 bases in Iraq enter the picture. See details in PressInfo 195. This is where the larger strategic game emerges: the triangle between the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia with its resources, transport corridors, gas and oil pipelines - and long-term strategic battle between the over-militarised, but crumbling West and the rest of the world. The Albanians are waking up to the reality that the West, the US in particular, did not come to Kosovo for the sake of their human rights or their independence unless, that is, it suits larger strategic plans.


17. The counterproductive treatment of Serbia. After Milosevic's delivery to the Hague, the West never got its act together; conveniently, therefore, it blames Serbia for not getting its act together. If you put yourself into the situation in Serbia, it's been one long political harassment ever since. The list is indeed long if you want to see it: totally inadequate assistance for reconstruction after the devastating bombing and psycho-political humiliation; extreme conditionality on aid and loans; broken promises of aid if delivering Milosevic; only negative views on one of the few political leaders with clean hands, Mr. Kostunica; no willingness to help set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission proposed by him; continuously harping on the co-operation with ICTY in the Hague in ways not required of politicians in Sarajevo, Zagreb or Pristina; ignoring the fact that Serbia has Europe's largest refugee problem of about 500,000 to 600,000 Serbs from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo; blatant interference in the country's internal affairs; no understanding that Serbia feels deprived of Kosovo and collectively punished because of one leader's brutality and stupidity.

In addition, the country has all the problems of the East European societies in transition and is required to fulfil extremely demanding requirements on the way to a EU membership that may become true a decade or more into the future.

And then there are those who act surprised that right-wing, populist parties such as Seselj's Radical Party gains are gaining increased support! The International Crisis Group of course proposes more of this type of misguided policy in its March 2004 report on Serbia. Thus, the West is missing a great opportunity to achieve reconciliation and co-operation with one of the most important countries in that part of the world that wants to orient itself towards the West but is constantly rebuffed and humiliated.

Truth is that Serbia is losing Kosovo and knows it. If the West misses the opportunity to offer Serbia an attractive political and economic deal concerning Kosovo and the future of Serbia proper, it stands to lose both Serbia and Kosovo - and the people in both places will lose even more. In the worst of cases it could lead to renewed fighting and breakdown, also in Bosnia.


18. The naive belief that Kosovo-Albanians are seriously interested in EU integration and in joining the globalising market economy. They are not. They are interested in an independent Kosova and in the fate of Albanians in Montenegro, Macedonia and perhaps in developing not a greater Albania but a greater Kosova. And why not? Kosovo-Albanian leaders tend to see themselves as the historical, philosophical and intellectual centre of the Albanian nation. Anything less than an independent Kosova is unacceptable; and let's not forget that their leaders have told the young generation the last fifteen years that Kosova was already independent. The importance of the difference between de jure and de facto was lost upon themselves in the heat of the struggle and certainly among those between, say, 5 and 20 years of age.


Time is running out for the old political elites, the new ones are impatient, and fifteen years of self-deceptive policies by EU countries and the US are, predictably, finally catching up. There are limits to how many games you can play simultaneously, how often you can change policies, how much unprincipled politics you can amass in one place and how much you can fool the locals in the world's conflicts, be it in Iraq or Kosovo. There will be a boomerang effect one day.

It may be painful to recognise the conflict mismanagement and the peace-making failure given all the prestige and resources devoted to Kosovo. But it will be more painful to more people if it all breaks down. Early warning does not apply to upcoming conflicts only; it should also apply to failed peace-making. But early warning and violence prevention remains a dream in this world. What we see in Kosovo now could have been avoided if dealt with in civil, political terms some 10-15 years ago by honest brokers. That, it seems to me, is the ultimate tragedy of the Balkans in general and Kosovo in particular.


* Throught this PressInfo we are criticising ICG, the International Crisis Group.

It's simply time that the media look into the background of organisations that, sailing under the flag of convenience of prestigious independent NGO, actually play a semi-governmental, Western/US-biased role. Go to ICG's website and you will see who is behind it. Among the ICG board members we find:


Morton Abramowitz
Abramowitz helped Zbigniew Brzezinski open intelligence co-operation with China, helped deliver Stinger missiles to the Afghan mujahedin, became president of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and helped formulate the new world order with the US as its only superpower and was the eminence grise for Madeleine Albright and acted as adviser to the Kosovo Albanians in Rambouillet.
Various about him here:


Kenneth Adelman
Well-known security policy hawk, affiliated with the Project for a New American Century, PNAC, and believed that huge stores of WMD would be found in Iraq. More about him here:


Richard Allen
Formerly associated with Nixon and Reagan; a Hoover fellow since 1983, he is currently a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee. More:


Louise Arbour
Former chief prosecutor of ICTY, she indicted Milosevic, by no political coincidence, while the bombing of Yugoslavia happened; newly appointed head of the UNHCHR.


Wesley Clark
Here is how he explains on his website that he saved 1,5 million Kosovo-Albanians: "From 1997 through May of 2000, General Clark was NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Commander in Chief of the United States European Command. In this position, General Clark commanded Operation Allied Force, NATO's first major combat action, which saved 1,5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo." Tried to become the next president of the United States


William Shawcross
Writer and broadcaster, wrote "In all, some 200,000 people died in the Balkans on Europe's watch. It was America that stopped that. In 2001, it was only America that could have liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban. The results in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan are not perfect. But all those areas are better off than they were, and only the U.S. could have made those changes. Tony Blair understands that; many other European leaders do not." More here:


Stephen Solarz
Former U.S. congressman, hard-line views on how to solve the Balkan problems and isolate Serbia further; like Adelman affiliated with PNAC. More about him here:


Among other security hard-liners on the ICG board could be mentioned Zbigniew Brzezinski and George Soros.


And in all fairness there are also non-hawks such as Oscar Arias Sanchez, Emma Bonino, Marika Fahlen, Mohamed Sahnoun, Salim A. Salim, Thorvald Stoltenberg, Shirley Williams as well as Martti Ahtisaari (chairman) and Gareth Evans, (President and CEO).
But they don't seem to have any balancing influence on the reports of the ICG.


Finally, go here and see how ICG is funded - and draw your own conclusions about its independence given that 19 Western governments and their allies and some ten major US foundations plus mainly US citizens fund its work.


© TFF and the author 2004



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