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U.S./NATO want to carve out Kosovo from Serbia

Published Dec 20, 2007 4:58 PM

The ultra-right-wing forces now running Serbia’s Kosovo province plan to announce its secession from Serbia in 2008. The U.S. and most NATO powers support this reactionary move, continuing their strategy of “divide and conquer” in the Balkans. This strategy has pulled Yugoslavia into pieces, leaving the region unstable, divided and now facing new internecine wars.

Employed throughout the 1990s, this strategy succeeded in separating once socialist and united Yugoslavia into a half-dozen capitalist mini-states. It is an error to call these states “independent.” They are weak neo-colonies dominated by the West, pillaged mainly by U.S., Italian, and German-based corporations and banks, and dependent on imperialism.

Now Serbia, once the strongest and most multinational republic in the Yugoslav Federation, is itself threatened by the same reactionary forces that tore apart Yugoslavia.

Who rules Kosovo now? The same people who led the armed gang called UCK by its Albanian initials against Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Former General Hashim Thaci, a UCK head, has been Kosovo’s president since an election in November. This grouping has ultra-right-wing politics appealing to the most reactionary and chauvinist aspects of Kosovar-Albanian nationalism.

Though armed by the U.S. and Germany, the UCK was unable to win serious firefights in Kosovo until the Pentagon stepped in. The U.S. military used its overwhelming air power to carry out a murderous 78-day bombing attack on Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999. U.S. and NATO bombs and rockets destroyed much of the industrial infrastructure in Serbia, also bombing bridges, schools and 147 hospitals.

Under the pressure of this bombing and the threat of an even bloodier invasion, the Yugoslav government agreed in June 1999 to let NATO forces occupy Kosovo. With NATO backing, the UCK set up a corrupt, rightist regime that proceeded in the following eight years to persecute and drive out of the province many of the remaining people of Serb, Jewish, Roma, Egyptian and other nationalities, including the pro-Yugoslav-oriented Albanians. Most of these refugees found a new home inside non-occupied Serbia or Montenegro.

According to the agreement that ended the bombing, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1244, which reaffirmed “the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Yugoslavia, of which Serbia is the successor state. That means that Washington, Berlin, etc., will break international treaties and international law when they recognize Kosovo’s secession.

No liberation, no independence

UCK means “Kosovo Liberation Army,” yet no one was liberated when it came to power. Even Albanian Kosovars who opposed the UCK had to flee the province. Under UCK rule, Kosovo became a center for trafficking in illegal drugs and enslaving women and children through prostitution rings—and a corrupt regime that made the UCK-run enterprises look like minor-league versions of Halliburton and Blackwater.

The Thaci regime is expected to declare “independence” for Kosovo early in 2008. The new entity, however, would be even more dependent on NATO and on Western imperialism than the other new Balkan republics. Its main role will be as a NATO cats-paw in the Balkans and as a transit space for oil and gas pipelines that avoid Russian territory on their way west.

The imperialists already control most of Serbia’s—including Kosovo’s—profitable industries and commerce. This includes Kosovo’s valuable Trepca mines. But a weak and separate Kosovo with a completely dependent regime is a reliable military base where NATO troops can remain indefinitely.

Soon after NATO troops occupied Kosovo in 1999, the U.S. built a major military base there called Camp Bondsteel. There are still 7,000 U.S. troops stationed there among the 16,000 NATO troops still in Kosovo. And now the European Union has decided to send 1,600 more to be there when the Kosovo regime announces it will separate.

As war opponent Michel Collon pointed out before 1999 in his book “Liar’s Poker,” by controlling Kosovo the U.S. gains control over a route for oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia and the Caucasus to Europe that avoids Russian territory.

The Russian government, on the other hand, is the main power opposing Kosovo’s secession. Moscow supports Resolution 1244 and the territorial integrity of Serbia.

Media demonizes Serbs again

With Kosovo in the news again, the corporate media have again gone on a binge demonizing Serbs. They do this even though the current government in Belgrade had the full backing of U.S. secret services and nongovernmental organizations funded by billionaire George Soros when it overthrew the Socialist Party government led by Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000. Among such groups was the right-wing youth group “Otpor” or “Resistance,” which Washington later used to organize reactionary movements in Ukraine, Georgia, and now Venezuela.

Once having deposed Milosevic and the Socialists, the imperialists started pressuring the new Serbian regime—the one they had installed—to keep making further concessions to Western penetration. Separating Kosovo from Serbia would be a painful blow, especially because Serbia has historic monuments and churches in the northern part of the province. Since the start of the occupation in 1999, about 200 medieval Serbian churches have been destroyed by the UCK under NATO watch. If the Kosovo regime makes a unilateral declaration of independence before the Jan. 20 presidential election in Serbia, it could provoke sharp political struggles in Serbia.

The media have been repeating all the same lies that they repeated in 1999 to justify the “humanitarian” bombing of Yugoslavia. The main lie was that Serbia was committing “genocide” of the Albanian Kosovars. In 1999, U.S. and German government spokespeople claimed that Serbs had killed 100,000 Kosovar Albanians and buried them in mass graves.

Expecting to find bodies everywhere, a United Nations team searched occupied Kosovo all summer of 1999 and found a total of 2,108 bodies of all nationalities. Some were killed by NATO bombing and some in the war between the UCK and the Serbian police and military. No massacres. No genocide.

Puerto Rico, Ireland, Basque Country?

The U.S., Britain and France, along with Germany, are expected to give full diplomatic recognition to the Kosovo entity if Thaci declares “independence.” Some European Union members—Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Spain (in this case, because of its own oppression of the Basque Country)—have said they would not recognize it.

One might justifiably ask if Washington will also recognize the independence of Puerto Rico, if London will recognize the northern Irish counties’ right to join the rest of Ireland and if France (and Spain) will recognize self-determination for the Basque Country. There is little doubt the rulers in these capitals would answer, “No.”

There is a difference between the situations just described and that in Kosovo. In Kosovo there are, along with some smaller minority peoples, two major nationalities: Serb and Kosovar-Albanian. Each of these two nationalities is oppressed by imperialism, as are the other nationalities in the former Yugoslavia. The imperialists have been able to use the rightist UCK gang first against Yugoslavia and now Serbia, but neither nationality oppresses or exploits the other the way the imperialists in the U.S., Britain and France oppress and exploit the nationalities in their colonies.

When Tito’s partisan movement drove out the German occupiers in 1945 and set up the Yugoslav Socialist Federation in the Balkans, the new socialist regime passed laws that both protected the interests of all the nationalities in Yugoslavia and tried to hold them together in one state. It succeeded for about 45 years despite historic differences among the nationalities. Then came the counterrevolution in the Eastern Bloc countries and a concerted attack by the imperialists on Yugoslavia.

To break up Yugoslavia, the imperialists have envenomed every difference among the nationalities by supporting the most reactionary parties and groupings in each of the six Yugoslav republics. This included financing those forces that collaborated with the Nazis during the German occupation in World War II. Imperialism has now imposed neo-liberal economic policies on the republics that promote competition and make cooperation impossible.

The only road to real independence from imperialism in the Balkans is to again take up the struggle for a united federation and join it to a struggle for socialism.

The writer helped organize the June 2000 Peoples Tribunal on Yugoslavia in New York and co-edited the book “Hidden Agenda: the U.S. NATO takeover of Yugoslavia” with International Action Center co-director Sara Flounders.