March 17, 2001

Replaying NATO's Greatest Hits

Let us stipulate the following: If NATO – the greatest military force in the world – wished to stop the ethnic Albanian insurgency in Southern Serbia and Macedonia it would do so. If the KLA believed for one moment that its insurgencies were likely to push NATO into abandoning Kosovo it would wind them up. The conclusion is inevitable: The KLA launched the two insurgencies in the full certainty that they would enjoy tacit, if not explicit, NATO – and that, of course, means United States – support. Let us further stipulate the following: The objective of the KLA is to detach chunks of Serbia and Macedonia and to attach them to a future state of Greater Albania. NATO leaders furthermore know this to be the case. Another conclusion is inevitable. Greater Albania is very much in conformity with US plans for the Balkans.

Therefore we must assume that the KLA will not call off its insurgencies, and that agreements promising "ceasefires" are not be worth the paper they are written on. From what we have stipulated above, we deduce that NATO knows full well that these "agreements" are not be worth the paper they are written on. Therefore the "ceasefire" earlier this week between the Belgrade regime and the Albanian guerrillas, brokered by NATO, which would allow the Yugoslav armed forces into the 3-mile wide buffer zone between Kosovo and Serbia proper, is clearly a fraud. And NATO knows it to be a fraud. The KLA has not the slightest intention of permitting Belgrade to re-establish its authority in Southern Serbia.

Indeed, the Albanian guerrillas are not even pretending to take it seriously. Having signed a "ceasefire" agreement, they immediately announced that they could not guarantee the safety of any Serb soldier entering the buffer zone. Presevo Valley terrorist "chief of staff," Shefket Musliu, declared: "I and my commanders cannot accept responsibility for spontaneous actions of local Albanian elements in Sector C of the Ground Safety Zone." NATO furthermore imposed all manner of restrictions on the Yugoslav armed forces entering the zone, thereby condemning them to almost certain failure. Tanks and armored cars were out. Helicopters were out. All air support for ground troops were out. Villages were out of bounds. Mines were out. Rocket launchers were out. There was to be no shelling without NATO’s consent. "We have demanded that they do not occupy houses, do not enter villages, do not receive backing from armored cars or use rocket launchers and antitank weapons," declared a smug Lieutenant General Carlo Cabigiosu, commander of KFOR.

The ostensible purpose of the deployment of the Yugoslav troops is to block off "escape routes" of Albanian guerrillas into Kosovo. This is a strange task. The KLA terrorists are coming across the border from NATO-occupied Kosovo. One would have thought responsibility for preventing their entry into Macedonia or the Presevo Valley was NATO’s and NATO’s alone. According to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which had authorized NATO’s seizure of Kosovo, the "responsibilities of the international security presence to be deployed and acting in Kosovo will include:

(a) Deterring renewed hostilities, maintaining and where necessary enforcing a ceasefire...(b) Demilitarizing the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups...(d) Ensuring public safety and order until the international civil presence can take responsibility for this task...(g) Conducting border monitoring duties as required." In other words, NATO has massively failed to live up to almost every single one of its obligations. Yet this does not stop the United States from endlessly demanding that Belgrade live up to its obligations to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal.

NATO’s strategy, as always, is to shift responsibility for its failures on to Belgrade. Before last October’s coup, NATO blamed every calamity on Slobodan Milosevic. Now that Milosevic is no longer there, the new Yugoslav regime is to be set up for a fall. All too eagerly Belgrade is marching into NATO’s trap. The Yugoslav military deployment is bound to fail. There are two scenarios and only one conclusion. First scenario: NATO will impose so many constraints on the Yugoslav armed forces that they will be unable to get to grips with the KLA insurgency. After a couple of months, NATO will declare that Yugoslavia had "failed" and that only solution was possible. Reluctantly, KFOR must itself take over Southern Serbia and Macedonia. Second scenario: The Yugoslav forces begin to get on top of the situation. Immediately the cry of "humanitarian abuses" goes up. The KLA will stage massive flights of Albanian refugees across the border into Kosovo, and "anguished" Albanians will stage riots in Kosovska-Mitrovica. Again NATO will declare that Yugoslavia had "failed" and that KFOR has to take over.

This, of course, is precisely the KLA strategy. Concern about Albanians shooting at NATO soldiers is ludicrous. KLA and NATO march in lockstep. The KLA wants to run Greater Albania. NATO is there to facilitate its creation. The media will cheer on NATO’s expanded mission in the Balkans. We must bear any burden, we will be told, to make the world safe for "peace" and "stability." According to Robert Curis, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, the George Soros-funded outfit always on hand to advocate military intervention on behalf noble goals, the current fighting is "a threat to the stability of the Balkans and therefore to all of Europe." Once the stakes are this high – nothing less than the "stability" of "all of Europe" – only NATO can be trusted to get the job done.

NATO began preparing to expand its mission in the Balkans quite some time ago. In early 1999, at Rambouillet, the United States had demanded that NATO be given free access to all of Serbia. Milosevic said no and thereby precipitated the NATO onslaught. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 also failed to deliver what the US wanted. As soon as the Americans arrived in Kosovo, however, they began to arm and train KLA fighters to take over Southern Serbia. According to a recent article in the Observer, the "CIA encouraged former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters to launch a rebellion in southern Serbia in an effort to undermine the then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic." A European KFOR commander told the Observer reporter: "The CIA has been allowed to run riot in Kosovo with a private army designed to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic. Now he’s gone the US State Department seems incapable of reining in its bastard army." This, of course, is an absurd misreading of what really took place. The purpose was not primarily to "overthrow" Milosevic, but to take over Serbia. This was to happen either by the reduction of Serbia to US satellite-status or by gradual US military takeover. The notion that the US State Department is unable to rein in "its bastard army" is laughable. Interestingly, the Observer story echoes a recent BBC report: "The BBC’s Nik Gowing in Davos has been shown evidence by foreign diplomatic sources that the guerrillas now have several hundred fighters in the 5km-deep military exclusion zone on the boundary between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia. The sources said that: Certain NATO-led KFOR forces were not preventing the guerrillas taking mortars and other weapons into the exclusion zone. The guerrilla units had been able to hold exercises there, including live-firing of weapons, despite the fact that KFOR patrols the zone. Western special forces were still training the guerrillas, as a result of decisions taken before the change of government in Yugoslavia." Again, the European sources cited are being disingenuous. The United States could bring the KLA to heel any time it wanted. One has to assume that Washington policymakers read newspapers and would therefore be aware of the fact that Milosevic was no longer in power in Belgrade. Perhaps they just simply did not know what the telephone code for Kosovo was.

What we are seeing now is an eerie replay of the sinister events of 1998. It was then that the United States began training and arming the KLA even as officials were condemning it in public as a "terrorist" organization. It was then that the United States was forcing Serbia, under threat of bombs, to sign one "ceasefire" agreement after another, each one of which would then be exploited by the KLA to strengthen its position in Kosovo. US support for the KLA, incidentally, was in flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1160, passed on March 31, 1998, which had condemned "all acts of terrorism by the Kosovo Liberation Army or any other group or individual and all external support for terrorist activity in Kosovo, including finance, arms and training."

In October 1998, facing imminent US air strikes, President Slobodan Milosevic signed an agreement with US envoy Richard Holbrooke, promising to withdraw Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo. This deal imposed obligations exclusively on Yugoslavia. The Albanians had not had to sign anything, and were therefore free to continue to provoke the Serbs, confident that any act of Serb retaliation would be reported in the US media as typical Serb barbarity. It was a fatal surrender of sovereignty. Yugoslavia had been forced to agree not to suppress an armed insurrection within its own borders. It would be a matter of time before the Serbs would be confronted by even more humiliating demands.

As soon as Yugoslavia began withdrawing its forces from Kosovo, the KLA moved swiftly to take over positions previously held by the Serbs. The most sinister feature of the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement was the establishment of the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The ostensible purpose of the KVM was to monitor Yugoslavia’s compliance with the agreement. Its real purpose was to lay the groundwork for the subsequent NATO attack. The KVM was largely a CIA operation. Its chief was former US Ambassador to El Salvador, William G. Walker, a specialist in covert warfare and propaganda. Walker maintained close links to the KLA. He elicited from them critical information about Yugoslav defenses. As for the KLA, here is how Roland Keith, a former field office director of KVM, described their methods: "Upon my arrival the war increasingly evolved into a mid-intensity conflict as ambushes, the encroachment of critical lines of communication and the [KLA] kidnapping of security forces resulted in a significant increase in government casualties which in turn led to major Yugoslavian reprisal security operations…. The situation was clearly that KLA provocations…were clear violations of the previous October’s agreement."

KLA provocations, on the one hand, and CIA manipulation of US public opinion, on the other hand, culminated in the notorious deceit of Racak in January 1999. Walker had declared to the media of the world, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, that KLA fighters killed in a firefight with Yugoslav police had been Albanian civilians murdered in cold blood. Subsequent forensic investigations confirmed the Yugoslav version of events: No one had been shot at close range. The dead had lost their lives in battle. Yet this alleged "massacre" served to fuel the media hysteria leading up to NATO’s March 1999 murderous onslaught.

The US media, needless to say, maintained their usual discreet silence when questions about the US Government’s deceitful conduct came up. A year ago, the Sunday Times of London reported: "American intelligence agents have admitted they helped to train the Kosovo Liberation Army before NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia…. Central Intelligence Agency officers were ceasefire monitors in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, developing ties with the KLA and giving American military training manuals and field advice on fighting the Yugoslav army and Serbian police. When the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which coordinated the monitoring, left Kosovo a week before airstrikes began…many of its satellite telephones and global positioning systems were secretly handed to the KLA, ensuring that guerrilla commanders could stay in touch with NATO and Washington. Several KLA leaders had the mobile phone number of General Wesley Clark, the NATO commander." Amazing stuff. Nothing about any of this found its way into the US media. That the United States was behind what is taking place currently in the Presevo Valley was obvious to the Sunday Times reporters a year ago: "The KLA has admitted its long-standing links with American and European intelligence organizations. Shaban Shala, a KLA commander now involved in attempts to destabilize majority Albanian villages beyond Kosovo’s border in Serbia proper, claimed he had met British, American and Swiss agents in northern Albania in 1996."

By now, United States involvement with the KLA is so flagrant and outrageous that even that master of the inconsequential turn of phrase, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica has now taken to accusing NATO of "direct collaboration" with the KLA in Southern Serbia. KFOR, Kostunica says, had "enabled and in some way supported or was helping the terrorists." "Flights of KFOR helicopters," he went on, "have been traced that gave he impression of being used as a sort of logistics support to the terrorists rather than surveilling [sic] them." Given these facts then, why would Kostunica want to cooperate with NATO? Would it not make more sense for him to publicize NATO’s mendacity? And to challenge NATO to live up to its obligations and seal the Kosovo border? But then the Belgrade regime is bought and paid for. Its orders now are that it should be the fall guy, the one to blame for the continued turmoil in the Balkans.

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George Szamuely was born in Budapest, Hungary, educated in England, and has worked as an editorial writer for The Times (London), The Spectator (London), and the Times Literary Supplement (London). In America, he has been equally busy: as an associate at the Manhattan Institute, editor at Freedom House, film critic for Insight, research consultant at the Hudson Institute, and as a weekly columnist for the New York Press. Szamuely has contributed to innumerable publications including Commentary, American Spectator, National Review, the Wall Street Journal, National Interest, American Scholar, Orbis, Daily Telegraph, the Times of London, the Sunday Telegraph, and The New Criterion.

Go to George Szamuely's latest column from the New York Press.

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