“Aggressive” Balkans solutions

Nebojsa Malic, July 14, 2004

Last Thursday’s issue of NIN, the foremost Serbian news weekly, carried an interview with Morton Abramowitz, the eminence grise of the Washington foreign policy establishment and founder of the International Crisis Group. Abramowitz has been one of the leaders of the interventionist camp in the Balkans, even to the point of actually advising the KLA delegation at the farcical Rambouillet talks in 1999.
The interview reveals that Abramowitz, and the establishment he represents, live in a dream world not unlike the one inhabited by the Bush regime – with one important difference: they favor the Democrats. So, here is what Abramowitz had to say…

(all emphasis mine)
On Kosovo Albanian politicians:
“Their ability to cooperate is almost nonexistent, except when it comes to the independence of Kosovo. About that, they do not argue. This is why the West must establish a dynamic towards realizing that plan, because the Kosovars [sic] aren’t capable of doing it themselves.”
On multi-ethnic Kosovo:
“We all want a multi-ethnic state in Kosovo because that is the politically correct position. [...] Unfortunately, the problem is that Serbs do not believe in Kosovo as a state. So, if you are considering a multi-ethnic Kosovo in which Serbs are safe and Albanians run the show, that is feasible, but it is far from what we call a functioning state. … [There can be no functional state] while the status of that state is unresolved. So long as Serbs believe in the return of Serbian authority to Kosovo, there will be no progress.”
On Serbia’s plans to enter the EU:
“EU membership is certainly a vital decision and goal for Balkans countries, especially for Serbia which first has to make a choice. If it wants to be a part of the EU, Serbia must give up Kosovo.
On U.S. and the Balkans:
“America, of course, has strong interests in the Balkans and Washington very much cares about successfully finishing everything that has been done in the Balkans so far. [...] In case of Kerry’s victory, Dick [sic] Holbrooke would be one of the main candidates for Secretary of State, which would probably result in a much more active role of the U.S. in the Balkans. Other candidates are [Senator Joseph] Biden and [Sandy] Berger. In any case, Holbrooke has the most personal interest in the Balkans and actual success in the region. I speculate, but I think that with Holbrooke as Secretary of State, the U.S. would seek the resolution of the Balkans situation much more aggressively. [...] With a new administration and someone like Holbrooke, who is deeply interested in the region, the possibility of accelerating Kosovo’s independence is much greater.”
On Greater Albania:
“There are strong elements among the Albanians who will demand the unification of Albanian territories, but I think the West can control that and prevent it from happening. I am convinced that the U.S. believes the independence of Kosovo is inevitable, while the creation of Greater Albania can be prevented.”
On Bosnia:
“You will not get the [Bosnian] Serb Republic. Why? Because Bosnia is a result of the Dayton agreement which we have to honor, and this question will not be opened. That would mean our approval of ethnic cleansing and everything we fought against. Bosnia is a quasi-state, I agree. [But] the Serb republic is a horrible creation of Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic… Everyone knows that Dayton legitimized status quo and created the Serb Republic because we stopped the Croats from expelling all the Serbs from Bosnia. And that was humane of us. Were it not for Dayton, the Serb Republic would not have existed, and all the Bosnian Serbs would have been in Serbia now. We could not allow half a million [sic!] Serbs to be expelled.”
No context for Kosovo:
“All that can happen is that Serbs and Kosovars [sic] agree on the partition of Kosovo. If you don’t succeed in that, there will be a united, independent Kosovo. Those are the only practical solutions.[...] The only thing on the table is Kosovo and how it might be partitioned. [...] What you will get for letting Kosovo go is membership in the EU, better life, growth and prosperity. [...] As I said, setting the Balkans in order would require some delicate and hard compromises that can only be achieved of all the countries involved have a clear goal at the end of the road.”

To sum it up: questions of law, sovereignty and self-determination (especially when it comes to Serbs) are irrelevant to the Empire, which Abramowitz hopes will return to its “aggressive” policies in the Balkans if Kerry wins and Holbrooke returns. The sacred issue of practicality demands that Serbs surrender both their self-determination and their sovereignty for an empty promise of better life in the EU (into which, though I did not note it here, Abramowitz cautions they would enter only after completely submitting to the ICTY’s demands for “war criminals,” surrender of Kosovo notwithstanding).
But his line about the “humane” effort of the Empire to save the Bosnian Serbs from extinction that befell their western brethren is by far the most cynical and demented argument presented here. It is as if he assumes no one read Holbrooke’s memoir, in which Croatia is identified as Empire’s “junkyard dog,” armed and supported for the explicit purpose of countering Serbian claims; why should the Serbs be grateful to America for leashing its attack dogs, instead of angry that they were unleashed to begin with?
It may be easy to dismiss the interview as a rant of a professional Serbophobe; but the terrible truth is, Abramowitz is extremely influential among the people who make U.S. foreign policy, and scores of those people share his beliefs and agendas. If Kerry wins, which Abramowitz obviously wishes for, they will be back in control of the Imperial war machine. What would happen then is not hard to predict. Abramowitz said it himself: a “more aggressive” search for solutions. Like the 1999 bombing, perhaps?

[Addendum, 8 November 2004: Perhaps the most important thought in the entire interview, which I failed to note in the original July entry, was Abramowitz's dismissal of logic as irrelevant: “My answer is that there is no entirely rational answer… you seek perfect reasoning, which does not correspond to reality on the ground.” But reality on the ground is a product of Imperial intervention, which if Abramowitz is right, lacked any sort of guiding principle except power.]




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