Mass resistance to U.S. NATO role
Published Feb 28, 2008 10:25 PM
In the final analysis, history is never decided by resolutions, laws or
It is decided by explosive mass movements that churn up from below in response
to intolerable conditions and outrageous events.
On Feb. 24 hundreds gathered in front of the White house to
oppose the latest U.S. attack on Serbia, organized by the STOP (Stop
Terrorizing Orthodox Peoples) Coalition. Major protest demonstrations
were held in Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria;
Athens, Greece; Vicenza, Italy; Montreal and Toronto; Cleveland and
Chicago. This week demonstrations will continue, including a major
demonstration in front of the U.N. on March 2 from 2 to 4 p.m.
WW photo: Sara Flounders
An angry and enormous demonstration—estimates range from a half million
to well over a million people—in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, on Feb.
21 has changed the terms of the debate about Kosovo.
Following this colossal outpouring in opposition to Washington’s theft of
the Serbian province of Kosovo, thousands of people in Belgrade stormed the
U.S. Embassy and set fires in it. The British, German, Croatian, Belgian and
Turkish embassies were also attacked. Western franchises, including 10
McDonalds plus Nike stores and 50 other outlets, along with bank windows, were
targeted by angry youths. There were nights of running street battles with riot
Thousands demonstrated at border crossings between Serbia proper and Kosovo.
Two border crossings were destroyed, one by fire, the other in an explosion.
All these actions sent a sharp message—that the U.S. decision to
establish a direct colony in Kosovo by recognizing its
“independence” would be challenged by an explosive movement that
has gone much further than just the official Serbian government statement of
An article in the New York Times of Feb. 25 worried that Washington may have
underestimated the Serbian response. It said that policy makers in Washington
and Brussels fear that the angry opposition may be “destabilizing for the
entire region.” Entitled “Serbian Rage in Kosovo: Last Gasp or
First Breath?” the article reflected many other news commentaries:
“The world is waiting to see whether the riots on Thursday were the final
spasm of anger in Serbia or the first tremor in a new Balkan
Of course, it is the danger of a new Balkan earthquake that U.S. corporate
It certainly appears that the U.S. government has once again underestimated
opposition to its criminal policies. Washington had considered that its
long-announced decision to recognize a new mini-state in the Balkans could not
be opposed. It was considered a fait accompli.
Although Kosovo might for a time lack official U.N. endorsement, it was thought
that quick recognition by the U.S. and European Union, along with funding and
continued stationing of international forces, would overwhelm Serbian
Washington is so used to having its arrogant way and violating international
agreements—even the terms that the U.S. itself dictated on NATO
expansion, borders and national sovereignty—that it is shocked to find
Certainly many politicians in Serbia, anxious for Serbia to join the EU, were
not disposed to make more than a symbolic opposition. But the angry response of
the entire Serbian population has changed the very ground under this latest
imperialist land grab.
Struggle heating up
EU staff and other forces are now withdrawing from the northern part of Kosovo,
around the town of Mitrovica, which has been divided between areas that are
either majority ethnic Serbs or majority ethnic Albanians. Other national
groupings also live in Kosovo. All have been historically oppressed, recently
by Western European and U.S. imperialists, earlier by feudal empires.
At the bridge over the Ibar River in Mitrovica, there has been a weeklong
standoff between the Kosovo Police Service, a multi-ethnic force, and U.N.
police. The KPS police have refused to serve under the new Kosovo-declared
state. Dozens of busloads of protesters have come to the border of the province
to support rallies against Kosovo’s separation.
Meanwhile U.S./NATO forces, called KFOR, have moved to seal the border with
armored vehicles and tanks to halt an influx of potential protesters.
Once again the challenge in Europe to the crushing backward drag of U.S.
imperialism, whose threats and pressures have undone numerous socialist states,
including Yugoslavia, has come from the Serbian mass movement.
Solidarity demonstrations all across Europe, Canada and the U.S. were held on
Feb. 24, and were to continue through the week.
For many the very hypocrisy of the U.S. position alerted them to its having a
more sinister motive than wanting to grant independence to Kosovo. After all,
the U.S. has refused to allow the independence of Puerto Rico despite more than
100 years of struggle, yet it was the first country to recognize Kosovo’s
independence from Serbia—on the very day that the unilateral declaration
Both Russia and China, which hold veto power on the U.N. Security Council, made
it clear that they would not allow the U.N. to endorse the forcible theft of
Kosovo from Serbia. They expressed grave concern about the dangerous precedent
it set in further fracturing nation states around the world that are targeted
by imperialist intervention.
The unilateral declaration was a direct violation of the U.N. Charter, other
international law and even the terms of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244,
drafted by the U.S. after 78 days of bombing Serbia in 1999. Despite the lack
of U.N. approval, the U.S., Germany, France and Britain recklessly went ahead
with the recognition of Kosovo.
Opposed to the recognition are Serbia, Russia, China, Spain, Greece, Venezuela,
Bolivia, Portugal, Slovakia, Malta, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Sri Lanka and
Armenia. A number of other countries have not yet made a decision, despite
intense U.S. pressure.
President Hugo Chávez said Venezuela would join other countries in
condemning the declaration. “This cannot be accepted. It’s a very
dangerous precedent for the entire world,” he said.
Bolivia also refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence. President Evo
Morales compared Kosovo separatists to the leaders of four eastern
resource-rich Bolivian states who have U.S. encouragement in demanding greater
autonomy, in an effort to fracture and halt progressive changes coming from the
On Feb. 22, Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said on state-run Vesti-24
television that Kosovo’s split from Serbia was the result of an
“imperialistic American effort to divide and rule.”
Rogozin made an ominous warning that could hardly be ignored. He said that the
Russian military might get involved if all the EU nations recognize Kosovo as
independent with U.N. agreement. If that happens, Russia “will proceed
from the assumption that to be respected, we have to use brute military
On Feb. 24 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Belgrade with current
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, who is Vladimir Putin’s likely
successor as president. They came to make Russia’s position clear.
Medvedev said, “It is unacceptable that for the first time in the
post-war history, a country which is a member of the United Nations has been
divided in violation of all principles used in resolving territorial
“We proceed from the understanding that Serbia is a single state with its
jurisdiction spanning its entire territory and we will stick to this principled
stance in the future.
“It is absolutely obvious that the crisis that has happened and is the
responsibility of those who have made the illegal decision will unfortunately
have long-term consequences for peace on the European continent.”
Medvedev signed an agreement to build a section of South Stream gas pipeline
through Serbia. The line will carry Russian gas through the Balkans to the
Mediterranean Sea. A business agreement between Serbia’s national oil
company, NIS, and OAO Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, was also
Kosovo is not independent
It is essential to explain again and again when discussing this issue of U.S.
recognition of Kosovo’s “independence” that Kosovo has not
gained a shred of self-determination or even minimal self-rule, even on
Unless this is continually explained and repeated, many political activists who
defend self-determination for oppressed nations might naively support
“independence” for Kosovo.
The plan under which Kosovo becomes “independent” establishes an
old-style colonial structure in its rawest form. Kosovo will actually be run by
an appointed High Representative and by administrative bodies appointed by the
U.S., the EU and NATO—the U.S.-commanded military alliance.
Imperialist administrators will have direct control over all aspects of foreign
and domestic policy. They have control over the departments of Customs,
Taxation, Treasury and Banking. They control foreign policy, security, police,
judiciary, all courts and prisons. These appointed Western officials can
overrule any measure, annul any law, and remove anyone from office in
Several possible schemes are at the root of this latest flagrant U.S. violation
of international law. Separating Kosovo from Serbia further fractures the
entire region. This has been U.S. policy toward the Balkans, Eastern Europe and
the former Soviet Republics since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. As
weak, divided, warring mini-states, their opposition to U.S. corporate
domination becomes more difficult.
The recognition of Kosovo also divides and frays relations in the EU Washington
is certainly not opposed to sowing dissension among forces that are both allies
and imperialist competitors. The U.S. has fractured the EU over this, because
one-third of its 27 members are against this move.
Setting up a government in Kosovo where the U.S. has full authority to write
the laws and treaties also consolidates the Pentagon’s continued hold on
a major new military base in Kosovo—Camp Bondsteel. It also provides
unlimited access and, most important, a transfer of ownership of the rich
resources of the region, including oil and gas which has just been
A massive new U.S. military base—Halliburton-built Camp
Bondsteel—is the Pentagon anchor in the region. Near the Macedonian
border, it covers more than 1,000 acres and comprises more than 300 buildings.
It overwhelms tiny Kosovo, a province smaller than the state of
The location was chosen for its capacity to expand. There are suggestions that
it could replace the U.S. Air Force base at Aviano in Italy.
Thousands of U.S./NATO troops can be comfortably stationed there. The base can
easily house its 7,000 U.S. military forces, along with thousands of private
contractors. U.S. military personnel leave Bondsteel in helicopters or large
heavily armed convoys.
The camp is located close to vital oil pipelines and energy corridors that are
now under construction, such as the U.S.-sponsored Trans-Balkan oil pipeline
and what is known as energy Corridor 8.
The U.S. began planning the building of Camp Bondsteel long before its bombing
of Yugoslavia in 1999, according to Col. Robert L. McClure, writing in
Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers. Another document,
“U.S. Army Engineers in the Balkans 1995–2002,” is available
online and contains photos and descriptions of the base plans.
At Camp Bondsteel there is the most advanced hospital in Europe, theaters,
restaurants, a water purification plant, laundries and shops along with a mass
of communication satellites, antennae and menacing attack helicopters.
The people who live in the area surrounding the camp suffer from 80 percent
unemployment. Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root pays Kosovo
workers, when it hires them, a meager $1 to $3 per hour. More than 25 percent
of the Albanian Kosovo population has been forced to emigrate abroad in order
to send home remittances to their families.
Under the U.S. occupation, more than 250,000 Serbs, Roma, Turks, Goranies and
other peoples of this rich, multi-ethnic province have been forced out of
Kosovo and are not permitted to return.
Rich resources in Kosovo
U.S. corporations are well aware of the rich resources of Kosovo. There are
extensive mines for lead, zinc, cadmium, lignite, gold and silver at Stari Trg,
along with 17 billion tons of coal reserves. The once state-owned Trepca mining
complex was described by the New York Times of July 8, 1998, as “the most
valuable piece of real estate in the Balkans.” It included warehouses,
smelting plants, refineries, metal treatment sites, freight yards, railroad
lines and power plants. Before the 1999 U.S./NATO bombing, followed by the
occupation of Kosovo, it was the largest uncontested piece of wealth in Eastern
Europe not yet in the hands of U.S. or European capitalists.
And they are still fighting over who will get to exploit it. Since NATO forces
occupied Kosovo, almost this entire mining and refining center has been closed
down. It sits idle while the many nationalities who once worked there have been
Now an even greater source of newly discovered wealth is making Western
corporations anxious to have an uncontested grip on the province.
On Jan. 10 Reuters reported that Swiss-based Manas Petroleum Corp. had
announced that Gustavson Associates LLC’s Resource Evaluation had
identified large prospects of oil and gas reserves in Albania, close to Kosovo.
The assigned estimates of the find are up to 2.987 billion barrels of oil and
3.014 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Clearly U.S. corporations feel they have a big stake in the region. They have
made many backroom deals and secret promises to Germany, France and Britain to
gain their acquiescence.
But this is a good time to remember how ripe for the picking Iraq looked to
Halliburton and Exxon in 2003. It seemed easy to get the compliance of many
countries, even if Washington couldn’t secure a U.N. Security Council
vote despite its lies to that body.
The U.S. is hardly the first empire to underestimate the power of an aroused
mass movement to overturn its plans. Imperialist arrogance and overreach can
lead to serious miscalculations.
People in every struggle for full rights and national sovereignty have an
interest in defending and standing in solidarity with the heroic resistance
that the people of Serbia have shown in the past week. This struggle could open
a new day of resistance to U.S. corporate rule across Eastern Europe and the
Sara Flounders was in Yugoslavia during the 1999 U.S./NATO bombing to
expose these devastating attacks on the civilian population. She is a co-author
and editor of “NATO in the Balkans” and “Hidden Agenda: U.S./NATO Takeover of Yugoslavia,”
available at Leftbooks.com.
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