Macedonian Turnabout:
Divide et impera
John Laughland
The Spectator

The Arabs used to have a saying about the British, the grim truth of which Albanians would now do well to heed in their dealings with the West in general: "It is better to be an enemy of the British than their friend. If you are their enemy, they might try to buy you; but if you are their friend, they will most definitely sell you." After only a few weeks of television pictures showing Macedonian soldiers lobbing mortars into a hill, Western policy has swung gracefully though 180 degrees. Two years ago, the Albanians were the West’s greatest friends in the Balkans; now they have been dumped.

While the Albanian insurgency in Western Macedonia and Southern Serbia is an exact carbon copy of that waged in Kosovo from January 1998 onwards, the West’s reaction is the very mirror image of what it was before. Whereas in 1998 and 1999, the Albanian rebels were depicted as innocent victims, fighters from the same army are now "extremists" who must be isolated and crushed. Although the Albanians in Macedonia and Serbia presumably have the same right to autonomy from their Slav Christian overlords as their neighbours in Kosovo, the thousands of Albanians who have fled the fighting in Tetovo recently are ignored and dropped down the memory hole: unlike the refugees in 1998, they no longer fit Nato’s script. There has not been a swifter renversement des alliances since 1984, when Oceania suddenly announced that that it was not after all at war with Eurasia but with Eastasia instead.

Although in gestation for some months, the change in policy was formally announced by the Secretary-General of Nato in Washington on 8th March. Lord Robertson said, "These ethnic Albanian armed groups – and others – know that their time is coming to an end." He meant that any aspirations Albanians entertained for Kosovar independence were to be crushed. Nato has announced the opening of its "Yugoslavia office" in the Kosovo capital Pristina, not Belgrade, in order to underline its commitment to keeping Kosovo within Yugoslavia, while the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia – ever Nato’s faithful poodle – has announced investigations into crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army against Serbs. CNN has even changed its maps of the region to show Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia. On Tuesday, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, used language worthy of Milosevic when he called the insurgents "terrorists" who had to be isolated and with whom it would be "a big mistake" to negotiate. This is precisely the opposite of what he and the rest of the international community was telling Serbia to do in 1998 and early 1999.

In a truly hallucinatory statement, George Robertson added that the Yugoslav army, whose re-entry into the Albanian-populated buffer zone around Kosovo Nato had just authorised, would show "moderation and sensitivity". I must have blinked in the nanosecond during which the Yugoslav army switched from being a band of genocidal Nazis to a group of sensitive and moderate peacekeepers. This transformation is all the more impressive since its Chief of Staff, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, is the same man who commanded the army during the so-called "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo in 1999. The language of the new government in Belgrade towards Albanian insurgents is also the same as that of its predecessor: the new Serbian prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, has categorically ruled out any peace negotiations with "Albanian terrorists," while one of his defence ministers, General Momcilo Perisic – a veteran from the Bosnian war who attacks Milosevic for conceding too much to the West – has threatened to deal with the Albanian insurgency in Southern Serbia "in a matter of hours."

Nato’s pretence that its opposite approach to Macedonia is justified because that country is a democracy, whereas Serbia under Milosevic was not, is little more than a sick joke. In nearly a decade of election observing, I have never witnessed such grotesque election fraud as in Macedonia. The present Macedonian president, Boris Trajkovski, was brought to power last November by unbelievable levels of cheating, especially in the Albanian populated Western part of the country. If the Albanians there really wanted independence, why did they not vote for the Albanian nationalist candidate last November? Instead, the real reason for our new anti-Albanian policy is that the West has succeeded in installing a compliant regime in Belgrade.

With their usual nose for the way the wind is blowing, our media have swung in effortlessly behind the new party line. The same pleureuses in the Financial Times who sobbed at the suffering of Albanians in 1998 and 1999 now warn of "the dangers of Albanian nationalism; in the pro-bombing and anti-racist Guardian, we read that "a Bulgarian sociologist" has shown that "Albanians" demonstrate "impulsiveness, lack of objectivity and limited concern for the welfare of others"; for the Sunday Times, the Kosovo Liberation Army is no longer a valiant group of amateur freedom-fighters but instead a brutal band of drug-runners, pimps and racketeers, funded by a Mafioso diaspora bent on creating a Greater Albania; The Observer now informs us that Tetovo University in Western Macedonia, for years the very emblem of the Albanians’ struggle for cultural rights, is "a centre for young Albanian radicals." Among all this, the silence is deafening from those historians who could always be relied upon in the past to produce books showing the ancient historical justification for the rights of Balkan Muslims to statehood. Is Tetovo: A Short History about to roll off the press? I doubt it.

As ever when trying to make sense of these confusing events, the right question is: cui bono? The West has certain geo-strategic goals in the Balkans, including the desire to build an oil pipeline to carry Caspian oil from the Black Sea to the Adriatic, through Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania and bypassing the Bosphorus. General Jackson, the former Kfor commander, has openly stated that, "We will be here in Macedonia for a long time, guaranteeing the security of energy corridors."

Divide et impera has always been a handy rule of thumb in such situations, while a little provocation which invites a response is one of the oldest tricks in the book. The more chaos there is in the Balkans, the more our compliant media demand intervention. More troops for Macedonia means fewer in Kosovo. Who can fill the gap? Now that Belgrade is back in the Western fold, there is no reason why the Serbs should not be part of the new "regional security structures" for which Prime Minister Djindjic called recently in Berlin, and which are in any case a key part of the EU’s plans for a Balkan "Stability Pact" The end-game, in other words, should be obvious: Yugoslav troops will be back in Kosovo quicker than you can say George Robertson and the new euro-Serbia will become the West’s favourite Ordnungsmacht in the Balkans – at least until the next turn in Nato’s wheel of fortune, that is.

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