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<nettime> Ethnicizing and Natosevic - the war and the left
Alain Kessi on Mon, 27 Dec 1999 20:03:03 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Ethnicizing and Natosevic - the war and the left

I meant to send this earlier, but when I finished the translation a few
months ago I was temporarily unsubscribed from nettime and syndicate
because I was travelling.


-------- Original Message --------

[sorry for cross-posting to people who are on several lists i felt the
article might be relevant for. a word version is available for nice
print-out if you like.]

i've finally (after a few months) managed to find the time to translate
the article on "the left and the war" that i wrote for com.une.farce in
may. i hope that some discussions may come out of the english
translation as well, especially among balkan-based activists. if
anything seems offensive to people who have lived through the war from
within, be assured that this is not intentional, and is due to the
limitations of my understanding. even if i have lived in sofia for two
years now, it may be that some points are perceived as fatally imbued
with western-european misunderstandings. nevertheless i hope that some
points may encourage discussions on how we could deal with situations in
which complicated loyalties, fears and hopes are at play.




Translated by the author in September 1999. The notes added at
translation time are marked as such. The article was first published on
1 June 1999 in com.une.farce number 2 (99), which can be found at
<http://www.copyriot.com/unefarce>, or directly at
<http://www.copyriot.com/unefarce/no2/kosovo.html>. It was then
reprinted in part in Diskus (Frankfurt), Schwarzer Faden (Grafenau) and
Alaska (Bremen), all three with Germany-wide circulation. If you wish to
reprint it, please mention the original source including the URL, and
let the author know: <kessi {AT} bitex.com>.

Kosov {AT}  / NATO: Economy of the War and of Communication

by Alain Kessi

When I listen to what people say about the war of NATO against
Yugoslavia, and of the Yugoslav regime against the Albanian population
of Kosov {AT} [1], be it on various mailing lists or in personal
conversations with people, it is striking how insecure many seem to
feel. Apparently many activists are having difficulties to remain true
to even the most elementary principles of long-standing leftist
politics, in a time in which a war cannot any longer be interpreted
simply as imperialist/antiimperialist - here the ugly imperialists,
there the brave liberation fighters. It seems to me that it is not those
principles that have to be given up. Just like ever before, people and
the lives they live should come first, before big-time politics. The
point remains to develop, in solidarity, resistance against the attacks
on our autonomy, without making differences among us invisible in the
process. The point is still to see through discursive maneuvers of
distraction and to base our analysis on an understanding of economic and
social mechanisms of power. It is rather the less conscious
characteristics of leftist and autonomist political practice that need

Against ethnicizing!

The reflex of some antiimperialist activists, when they perceive efforts
towards independence as "liberation movements", to consider these
efforts to be legitimate and worthy of support, seems to lead to a dead
end in the case of Kosov {AT} . Perhaps the wish to identify with the enemies
of a cunning and reckless power player like Slobodan Milosevic has led
some, for some time at least, to close their eyes on the racist
tendencies of a KLA (Kosova Liberation Army, also UCK, "Ushtria
Clirimtare e Kosoves"), or at least tendencies towards "ethnic"
separation. Others have preferred to remain silent on this point, in the
general uncertainty of the moment. The former, among them one part of
the editors of the Info International program of Radio LoRa in Zurich,
have at least had the merit to be involved with what was going on in
Kosov {AT}  and to launch discussions about it (making contact with KLA
people in Zurich in the process), at a time at which other media barely
paid any attention to the KLA. When the NATO attacks started and it
became clearer how the KLA put itself unconditionally at the service of
NATO strategies, some of the early advocates of a solidarity with the
KLA used the opportunity to critically reassess their position. Others,
even among those usually very critical of the state and media (I'm
surprised, for instance, about the declaration of an anarchist friend on
an Eastern European mailing list), have flirted with the line of
argument about preventing a "humanitarian catastrophe". This means they
have walked into the trap set up by NATO by creating facts on the ground
and then feigning to offer solutions. I was outright shocked by the
machist and aggressive statements of some European and US-American net
activists (e.g., on the nettime mailing list) as a reaction to e-mail
diaries reporting from a personal point of view on the bombings in
Belgrade, Novi Sad and Kraljevo - although I do see how such personal
accounts can be put to use for propagandist purposes. In any event, I
would like to deal with this by trying to contextualize such accounts,
and not by suppressing them. Maybe out of a feeling of insecurity for
having to argue politically on unusually unfamiliar terrain, some of the
net activists emphatically embrace an anti-Milosevic position that in
its negligent way borders on anti-Serb racism. The fact that on the
other hand a group with a more streamlined political stance, like the
Revolutionärer Aufbau Schweiz (Revolutionary Build-Up Switzerland),
manages to write a leaflet against the NATO war without mentioning even
one word about the refugees fleeing from Milosevic's campaign, should
probably not come as a surprise. This position is just as fatally based
on a simplified understanding of imperialism (in the latter case,
probably adopted for tactical reasons) - once again there is only one
bad guy, even if this time it is not Milosevic but NATO, and implicitly
the Kosov {AT}  Albanians collaborating with NATO. It seems to me that all
these positions are evidence of a weak point in our political praxis. A
more in-depth inquiry into the political developments in Kosov {AT}  that
points out the complexity of economic and power strategic causes of a
social conflict and the willfully forced ethnicizing of the conflict is
something that I have seen bits and pieces of, but usually discussed in
a limited circle of people.

The "facts on the ground" for which Slobodan Milosevic, Hans-Dietrich
Genscher, the KLA leadership (but also Ibrahim Rugova in his own more
discreet ways) have, each for their own reasons, worked hard for years,
are widely accepted. These "facts" consist in the perception that the
conflict stems from age-old "ethnic" feuds and is so much ingrained in
people that it is impossible to live together. In view of the crushing
weight of "history", even from a leftist point of view the only thing to
do then is to call for the "ethnic" separation - perceived as the only
way to defuse the smoldering conflict - to be achieved by peaceful means
through negotiations. This procedure has been demonstrated in the case
of Bosnia in which the Dayton Agreement was reached under US
sponsorship. But - it was not possible to implement the "ethnic"
separation agreed upon there without violent relocations and massacres,
since the people would not let themselves be moved without resistance.
"Srebrenica" was in this sense a prerequisite for the implementation of
Dayton - part of the plan, so to speak.

It seems vital to me to break out of the discourse about an "ethnic"
conflict. To achieve this, we must concentrate our efforts on the one
hand on laying bare the (economic and power-strategic) causes of the
conflict. A central aspect herein is the high indebtedness of Yugoslavia
and especially Serbia after decades of preferential access to
international credit lines, due to the privileged position of Yugoslavia
during the "Cold War". The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) policy of
debt collection thereby leads to an intensification of the strategies of
exploitation of the Yugoslav government, which in its turn gives rise to
social struggles against this exploitation. The second part of our
efforts must concentrate on exposing the mechanisms of ethnicizing, and
thus the strategies for diverting the attention from those causes. Of
course this is easier done in a (Western European) context in which the
people have a certain distance to the events, than in the circle of
those who are already exposed to an attack defined in "ethnic", i.e.,
racist terms and immediately need to react to it and develop strategies
of survival against this attack. But even in Yugoslavia, in the context
of war, some people manage to consistently speak of the conflict in such
a way as to expose the absurdity of the logic of war. In (Ex-)
Yugoslavia there is a long tradition of resistance against "ethnic"
dividing lines imposed by the governments. From the „Women in Black" and
conscientious objectors' initiatives, e-mail lists like the anarchist
ex-yu-a-lista and attack[2] all the way to various feminist groups. This
is whom we must refer to when we want to build up solidarity with people
in Yugoslavia. Such solidarity is possible and does not require taking a
stand for one or the other parties to the war. In the case of Kosov {AT}  it
is slightly more difficult than in Bosnia to refer to existing projects
and contacts, since the networking between Kosov {AT}  Albanians and other
people in Yugoslavia is less developed. For instance, there does not
seem, in Kosov {AT} , to be an anarchist movement visible to the outside -
and the anarchist movement is an important pillar of anti-national
politics in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. There are nevertheless contacts,
be it in feminist circles, in the peace movement or in other contexts.
Together with the people from these contexts I see the possibility to
develop a common anti-national, "leftist" position.

It would be especially interesting to develop, in a common process, an
understanding of how the attractiveness of various nationalist
discourses, myths and loyalties is constructed for people in
Switzerland, in Germany and in Yugoslavia. How can existing certainties
that currently contribute to the front-building and legitimization for
NATO, the KLA and/or Milosevic, be undermined? Some ideas in this
direction can be gleaned from the "Materialien für einen neuen
Antiimperialismus"[3] Nr. 6 (Materials for a New Antiimperialism). This
is a discussion I would like to have with people from Yugoslavia, and in
the process I want to take the fears and hopes of those people
seriously. I think it is easy to point to the danger of various
legitimizing constructions, but it is much harder to debate those
questions with people who have appropriated these legitimizing
constructions (often in incomplete and fragmentary ways) under the
pressure of bombs and/or massacres. Since these legitimizing
constructions are part of a strategy of survival, we must also try, in a
collective process among radical/emancipatory activists, to develop new
strategies of survival or point out existing alternatives. This process
not only applies to Yugoslavia and the front-building there. In mixed
(East-West) e-mail fora like nettime or syndicate, we also find a
dynamic of front-building that we need to understand and undermine.

How we speak about the war

In attempting to delegitimize the war to all sides, it seems to me that
in a first step it is not so much "historical reality" that counts and
should be researched in full detail in order to oppose "facts" to the
"propaganda". Maybe it is more important, for now, to look at the
tactical question of assessing the effect of a given discourse. The
reason I say this is not that I find a historical understanding useless
or unimportant, but because in my view propaganda can be pursued with
quite correct and confirmed "facts" - for instance, a war can be
legitimized using massacres that have actually taken place. It would
seem dangerous to me, for instance, to put much emphasis on the
probability that a massacre like the one in Racak was a fake. A
discussion on this may be interesting only in the context of
investigating the requirements of a media war. A discussion that could
probably lay bare the motives for inventing a massacre. It seems
difficult to avoid, however, that the emphatic denial of this or other
massacres contribute to the discourse of those who generally deny the
very existence of massacres and in this way attempt to paint one of the
parties to the war as the "Good" or at least the "Innocent".

Many of the arguments that can be given against the war turn out not to
be unproblematic in one way or other. A widely used line of argument
compares the Yugoslav policies towards Kosov {AT}  Albanians to the attacks
by the Turkish state on the life and identity of Kurds that have been
going on for many years. It asks why NATO is not bombing Turkey, if it
considers Human Rights so important. In its outrage about different sets
of standards being applied to Turkey and Yugoslavia, this comparison
takes the humanimilitarist legitimizing construction of NATO seriously.
By pointing out that Turkey is not being bombed, the alleged motive of a
humanitarian intervention is at once questioned and reaffirmed.
Nevertheless I think that Kurdistan can be brought into the discussion
in a different context, without legitimizing the motives given for the
NATO attacks. We can do this by emphasizing the interests of Turkey as a
NATO state to be perceived by the world public as being on the side of
the "Good Guys" - on the side of those who enforce Human Rights. Among
other things, the news coverage of the NATO bombings diverts the
attention of the public from the gigantic campaign of repression the
Turkish state is currently waging against Kurds with increased

Similarly, claiming that NATO, through its "autonomous decision" to
attack Yugoslavia, has booted out the UN and OSCE - the "legitimate
actors" of the search for a "peaceful solution" - and thus broken
international law, bears some danger. I do not only speak of the fact
that it may sound strange if from an autonomist, radical leftist
position one speaks in defense of structures that belong to the realm of
big politics. Pragmatically, maybe one could take it that these
institutions act as an opposite pole to NATO, and aim to strengthen them
against powerful NATO. It is, however, only true to a limited extent
that the UN/OSCE are an opposite pole to NATO. This became clear, among
other things, from the espionage work done by the OSCE observers in
preparation for the NATO attacks.[4] On the one hand, the UN elite's
interests give rise to a strategy of "survival", of retaining its power
in view of the NATO attacks started without regard to UN competence in
the matter. Thus in a first phase Kofi Annan condemned the single-handed
approach of NATO. But while the NATO leadership aims at making
Yugoslavia (with or without Milosevic in power) submit to its will, at
the same time it follows a strategy of first showing the UN managers who
is the master and reducing their options, before courting them with
offers for a renewed participation in the process - at NATO's
conditions. Kofi Annan at least seems to be playing along already. In
this way the transnational institutions legitimize one another - despite
power games among each other. They are reminiscent of the good old
interplay between the good-cop-bad-cop duo of police interrogations,
inspiring confidence and fear all at once. In the new NATO strategic
concept that has recently been presented to the public, a possible
future relation between UN and NATO is formulated - the UN should once
and for all give the go-ahead for NATO interventions outside NATO

Also, speaking of the incompetence of the decision-makers or referring
to the sexual life of one of them contributes to legitimizing the war by
depoliticizing the events, turning them into a spectacle and ignoring
the existing interests. It is probable that a strategy of escalation
might not remain under the full control even of the escalating
strategists over the complete course of events, and some of the
consequences of the NATO attacks may be unwanted and maybe even
unexpected. But one thing is certain - it is not the failure of
diplomacy that has led to NATO attacks, but the success of the
escalation diplomacy. The now famous Annex B of the Kosovo Interim
Agreement[5] of Rambouillet, signed by the Kosov {AT}  Albanian leadership
under the pressure and propaganda efforts of the US diplomacy, was meant
to turn all of Rest-Yugoslavia into a NATO protectorate. It was
definitely not out of diplomatic incompetence that it was conceived such
that the Yugoslav leadership would under no circumstances be able to
sign it.

I rather like the tactical move of those who claim there is a secret
agreement between Milosevic and NATO representatives. There is no need
for this to be real, and the claim is not all that serious. The real
importance of it is to point out that Milosevic is one of the main
beneficiaries of the NATO attacks, and that NATO, the KLA and Milosevic
need each other for legitimizing each other's war strategies, and that
all three parties are united in a patriarchal-lifedestroying showdown
against the Serbian and Albanian population. Sprayers in Belgrade said
it in a nutshell. "Slobo, du Clinton!"[6], Boris Buden of Bastard/Arkzin
quotes a Belgrade graffito. Beyond the general interest in imposing the
logic of war, a common interest between the Yugoslav leadership and the
transnational power structures, symbolized by William Clinton, can be
traced to their division of labor in pressing added value out of the
majority of the Yugoslav population - with the aim of collecting the

The interests involved in this war

Quite possibly it may be a fundamentally unsatisfactory endeavor to
inquire into the motives of "big politics" behind the escalation of the
conflict in Kosov {AT} . None of the personalities involved is likely to
share their innermost thoughts with us. What then could be the aim of
juggling with assumptions and circumstantial evidence? Any
interpretation of events carries with it traces of its intention. Mine
is to explore a discourse that does not refer to "ethnic" criteria but
considers ethnicizing as a power strategy, as a vehicle for more
material interests. The criminological search for a motive may bear the
danger of ending in conspiracy theories. I think that I can (maybe)
elude this by considering the interests (motives) of the various parties
of "big politics" involved as heterogeneous and, for instance, seeing
NATO not as a block but exploring the dynamic and the interaction
between the politics of the USA, Germany and others.

This dynamic stems from the fact that said powers have some common
interests indeed, but those interests can be too similar - in the sense
of a competition for spheres of influence. A strong motive for the USA,
but also for the Netherlands and England, is maintaining NATO as a
hegemonic military power. For the USA the main interest is to perpetuate
the US role as the protector of the European post-war order. For the
Netherlands and England the presence of the USA is desirable for
counterbalancing German or rather German-French dominance in EU
structures. Germany and even more so France do indeed have an interest
in the continued existence of NATO, but not as a hegemonic power that
restricts them in their power-strategic options. In their view, NATO
should be cut back to an alliance among others, alongside EUropean
structures that allow EUrope under the leadership of Germany and France
a certain autonomy from US-American interests.

In order to save a NATO that has become quite useless after the Cold
War, NATO needs a war in which it can prove that it is needed. This,
however, does not yet explain why this war is waged against Yugoslavia.
In this the motives of the various powers probably differ. An
interesting point - only in the German discussion, along with that in
Austria and in German-language areas of Switzerland, is Germany
perceived and described as an imperialist power pushing towards the
south-east. The investment policy of Germany since 1989 has been better
known for its orientation towards Russian markets and for a relative
disinterest in the Balkans. Is the emphasis on German imperialist
efforts by some activists in Germany shaped by an anti-German[7]
overrated perception of "oneself" (all bad things come from Germany)? Or
is rather a lack of information about the ins and outs of the German
foreign policy in other languages responsible for the omissions
regarding Germany in discussions outside the German-language area? Some
indications (the tip of an iceberg?) of German interests and power games
do exist. Most widely known are the diplomatic initiatives of
Hans-Dietrich Genscher in favor of the international recognition of the
independence of Slovenia and Croatia that provided (unintentionally?)
substantial help to Milosevic's strategy of clinging to power, based on
ethnicizing social questions. Already in the first phase of dislocating
the Yugoslav state structure by means of war the demonizing of Serbs was
accompanied by common interests of the German foreign and the Yugoslav
domestic politics - much like today between NATO and the Yugoslav
central government. A point which received less attention than
Genscher's Yugoslavia politics but has nevertheless found its way into
non-German media is some evidence that the KLA has been supported, in an
early phase, by the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND - Federal
Information Service) and other German secret services, and was armed by
German institutions against the will of the US-American CIA.[8]

In any event, the escalation strategy in its final phase seems to have
taken place under US leadership. It may be difficult to find out whether
the US government was pushed to take over by the facts created on the
ground by German efforts towards an escalation, in order to avert an
excessive EUropean autonomy, or whether the USA took steps towards
making a diplomatic solution impossible due to its own interests in the
disintegration of what was left of Yugoslavia. In any case, the US
government came to the conclusion that a war under NATO/US leadership
worked more effectively towards maintaining its influence than
diplomatic attempts at defusing the war preparations pushed ahead by
German and Yugoslav policies.

In an effort to explore the interests of various powers, it seems
appropriate to me to start out with the observed consequences of the
NATO attacks and to try to imagine who might benefit from those
consequences, who might have accepted them grudgingly and who will
clearly suffer from them. I do not imagine that every single consequence
can be assigned to a willful strategy. But I do think that most of the
consequences were very easy to predict and may therefore, in the view of
one or the other actor and under the given circumstances, have
contributed to making the escalation strategy attractive or, on the
contrary, to raising skepticism about such a strategy.

Among the obvious consequences of the NATO attacks that will, in my
opinion, have to be analyzed in future discussions, are (in no
particular order)

* the political strengthening of Milosevic and the elimination of any
inner-Yugoslav opposition. Specifically, the war, like the wars in
Croatia and Bosnia before it, provides Milosevic with a perfect
explanation why the promises of a better life for the population will
not be realized - it is war, after all. If an issue out of the current
demonizing discourse can be found, it is possible that the reasserted
power position of Milosevic may pave the way for a regional order in
which NATO assigns him the role of a co-guarantor of the regional
stability - at conditions conforming to NATO and IMF plans;

* a massive provocation towards the Russian leadership that can be
interpreted as an attempted revival of the politics of containment
followed by NATO/the US towards the "Soviet" Union during the times of
the Cold War. This may have been part of a scheme to evaluate the
resistance likely to be opposed by the Russian leadership to the ongoing
US policies aimed at directly disputing the sphere of influence of the
Russian government around the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus;

* the liberation of Germany from the military isolation imposed by the
post-war order, by breaking the taboo of a Bundeswehr (the army of
Federal Germany) intervention against Yugoslavia. This may have been the
single greatest motive of German politics to enter into a war against
Yugoslavia within the NATO framework. After this tactical use, NATO has
served its main purpose as a hegemonic power and Germany, together with
France, may further on prefer to cut back NATO to the role of a military
alliance among several others;

* the confirmation of US supremacy, including over EUropean "defense"
policies, through the leading role taken by the US government in the
NATO bombings. This situation could easily swing around to a substantial
loss of US-American power over the EUropean "defense" system, however.
Germany has become more independent by breaking out of the military
isolation and is more susceptible to accept French offers for a military
collaboration in the context of the Western European Union (WEU).
Furthermore there is a danger of NATO being discredited to the extent
that the reasons given for the intervention are in obvious contradiction
to the consequences of the bombings - to the detriment of the US and to
the benefit of the German and French governments;

* the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Kosov {AT} 
Albanians, from Kosov {AT} , with two far-reaching consequences: a massive
migration of refugees to neighboring countries and in more or less
controlled ways[9] to Western European countries as cheap and extremely
dependent labor; the destabilizing of Albania and Macedonia that in
essence turns those two countries into NATO protectorates. In addition,
one can be sure that the massive expulsion of Albanians precipitated by
the NATO bombings was envisaged by NATO strategic planning to serve as
the heart of its own war-mongering discourse of legitimation;

* also in connection with the mass expulsions, the destruction of the
subsistence structures which stood in the way of capital accumulation by
providing an alternative to being exploited at low wages. This time, the
destruction of social structures aimed especially at the Kosov {AT}  Albanian
clans. In the context of the past Yugoslav civil wars such destruction
has been identified as a substantial interest in war for the Yugoslav
leadership under the pressure of IMF programs (see Materialien Nr. 6).
The destruction of subsistence structure is thus in the interest of both
Milosevic and the Western powers;

* at least a temporary weakening of the EUropean economy as compared to
the US-American. This has become visible through the low exchange rate
of the Euro to the US dollar. Presumably, US strategists do not mind
waging a war in EUrope's backyard and imposing the consequences of a
possible destabilization on their greatest economic competitor and

* the destruction of substantial parts of the Yugoslav industry and
infrastructure that have been the target of bombings far more often than
military installations. A reconstruction based on foreign loans will
make Yugoslavia economically dependent for a long time to come and force
it to pay interests. Much like in Kuwait, thanks to its leading role in
the war the US government is likely to position US companies well in the
business of reconstruction. Even as the German diplomacy is trying to
grab the initiative by proposing a "Marshall Plan for the Balkans", it
will be hard for the EU to be more than a junior partner to the US. In
case such a Marshall Plan turns the dependence of Yugoslavia on loans in
a dependence on the "donor countries", this will be just another
opportunity for the latter to implement a redistribution from the bottom
to the top. Tax money will serve to finance the profits of (US and
German) transnationals in Yugoslavia;

* a military-Keynesian solution of parts of the overproduction crisis in
the US, and to a smaller extent in the EU, through the massive use (the
"consumption" paid through taxes) of weapons. This has the side effect
of providing a gigantic live weapons show as a state subsidized
advertising opportunity for transnational arms companies;

* a solution to the question of where the US soldiers thus far stationed
in Germany should go, if they haven't already been transferred to Iraq,
or later to Bosnia. With the de facto NATO protectorates in Macedonia
and Albania and the planned protectorate in Kosov {AT}  (according to Annex B
of the Rambouillet agreement in all of Yugoslavia) there is now
sufficient work for those soldiers otherwise threatened with

* an increased pressure on the state governments of the region to act in
accordance with their candidacy for NATO accession, and test runs for
NATO loyalty. The Bulgarian government for instance was - as Bulgarian
media commented - not asked to provide an air corridor to NATO planes
for any war strategic use, but in order to test the political
willingness of bowing to the will of NATO against the will of the

* the fact that the acceptance for a division or separation of Kosov {AT} ,
and in the medium term maybe of Macedonia, has grown internationally. If
we examine the main argument given for the inalterability of state
borders, namely the fear that other minorities in Europe might follow
the example of the Kosov {AT}  Albanians, we notice that this argument loses
its stringency if the price of their sovereignty becomes so high that
anyone who might fancy to walk in their footsteps would be thoroughly
discouraged. This paves the way for the continuation of the splitting up
of the Balkans according to "ethnic" criteria, or whatever criteria may
suit the economic and geostrategic interests of the Western powers;

* a strengthened KLA leadership. In this context we can expect that
especially the US, after the weakening of Yugoslavia and Macedonia, will
not risk the creation of a Greater Albania under the leadership of the
KLA or other forces. It would therefore not be surprising if the KLA was
used as cannon-fodder and thus wiped out in the war - for instance by
being armed so as to serve as ground troops of NATO and being sent to
fight an overwhelmingly stronger Yugoslav army.[10] Albania is useful
for the US as a submissive and extremely dependent state government. If
however a self-assured Kosov {AT}  Albanian leadership emerges from the war
in full strength and kicks off a dynamic of independence, this does not
lie in the interest of the US government who wants especially to control
trade routes in the region and to that end needs obedient governments.
As opposed to Germany, that has, as we mentioned earlier, supported the
KLA at an early stage and apparently finds such a dynamic more

Yugoslavia as a center of East-West trade

The importance of East-West trade routes stems from the already
mentioned US interests in an enlargement of the US sphere of influence
coinciding with a containment of the Russian influence around the
Caspian Sea and the Caucasus. Thinking one step further, it is also
about the revival of the old silk route all the way to China, with the
important detail that Russia is to be bypassed, but at the same time
alternatives are to be created to the Turkish route in order to take the
edge off Turkey's crucial strategic importance. Since I have not yet
seen these trade strategic reflections expounded in a publicly available
source, and since the US hegemony in the Atlantic Alliance continues
despite all the wounds incurred, I would like to elaborate on this a

An essential reason why the lack of submissiveness and reliability (seen
from a Western-imperialist perspective) of the Yugoslav government was
so annoying was that trade routes that are important for the future pass
through Yugoslavia with practically no alternative and thus depend on
the goodwill of the Yugoslav government. In circles dealing with
investment strategies Yugoslavia is seen as a country that (both before
and after 1989) has misused its geographic position in order to control
trade routes - both the overland route from Bulgaria and Macedonia
through Belgrade to the West and the Danube shipping route. NATO
strategists could have a good laugh about such attempts at monopolizing
if they had ready alternatives. Besides the route going through the
Bosporus, where in the case of oil, for instance, the limits of capacity
have already been reached and substantial ecological danger and logistic
problems are arising, alternatives to the route through Belgrade or the
Danube have not been developed.

However, the current trade policies of the Western powers, and
especially of the US, build upon the notion that a multitude of
alternatives should be opened in order to reduce dependencies. If it had
been possible to develop these alternatives earlier the Yugoslav
government would have been missing an essential trump card and would
have been much more exposed to Western attempts at intimidation and
threats of embargo. Then, the "Yugoslav nut" might possibly have been
cracked without a war. Even if for the NATO countries there was a whole
set of other reasons for escalating towards a war, the probability that
sufficient support for the war might have been assured would have been
substantially lower. The development in good time of alternative trade
routes was hindered both by diverging priorities among Western powers
and mutually incompatible transport policies of the Balkan countries,
combined with a lack of funds for infrastructure investment. In order
for foreign investment to flow, the unwritten trade rules of the Balkan
countries, which are not understandable to Western businesspeople, had
to be abolished. The difficulties of understanding stemmed mainly from
the fact that these rules were much too awkward for effectively imposing
Western profit interests. Through the policies of "development" banks
like the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (EBRD) those rules were substituted by a business system of
Western type that favors Western companies and essentially excludes the
local firms.

The conditions for the development of trade routes are given by the
interplay between local/regional interests and the requirements of
interregional trade. The transport connections between Bulgaria and
Romania, for instance, which would provide a way to bypass Belgrade on
the way to the north-west, remain poor - only a single bridge far in the
East and a few ferries, for a border of no less than five hundred
kilometers. As long as the Bulgarian government insists on building the
new bridge in Vidin, 20 kilometers from the Yugoslav border, the
Romanian government will never agree. The latter has no interest in
developing trade over the Bulgarian-Romanian border, since the master
plan of Romanian transport politics is aimed at developing East-West
trade from the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta to Hungary and
onwards. The construction of a new bridge over the Danube would open
Constanta to the competition of the Bulgarian ports of Varna and Burgas.
Hence the interest of Western powers - in this case not so much the US
as Germany and Austria - in alternative routes and flexibility will be
realized only if the Romanian government can be offered sufficient
compensation. The war of NATO against Yugoslavia now offers a coercive
environment in which the Romanian government may be brought to agree to
a bridge, as long as its location ensures that the traffic through
Romania - and not only through a small corner in the west between
Bulgaria and Hungary - is developed. Furthermore a bridge further away
from the Yugoslav border could satisfy the needs of two trade routes,
namely - besides the one mentioned - a south-north route from Turkey and
Greece whose inclusion in such a project would make it interregionally
more attractive and would make the investments more profitable.

For the United States another overland route is of much higher
geostrategic importance - corridor VIII. This corridor runs from the
Black Sea through Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania to the Mediterranean
and is part of the transport political priorities of all three of these
countries. The aim of US politics is to bring it under the control of
international institutions and its advisors. This foreign interest suits
the three Balkan countries to the extent that they are hoping it will
help them break out of a transport political isolation - Albania is
completely isolated towards the east, Macedonia is connected only
towards the north and the south, and Bulgaria is too dependent on
Yugoslavia to the west. In contrast to some of the other EUropean
corridors, corridor VIII does not play a significant role on an
intra-EUropean level (its "integrative force" is low for EUrope, say
analysts who are close to investment circles). The corridor VIII
receives its full strategic significance only when it is seen as part of
an outreaching route leading to the Caspian Sea and further on to China.
For the USA this corridor is therefore of outstanding importance, and
the weakened governments of Albania and Macedonia (a significant
consequence of the war moves of NATO) come just in time as forcibly
obedient servants of US politics. Besides this, Bulgaria is not known
for its affirmed independence from Western institutions, since it has
been made dependent through Western loans and through the tactical
promise that it will catch up to a Western standard of living by joining
NATO and the EU.[11] 

A trade corridor running through easily controlled countries offers the
US the opportunity to reduce its dependency on current trade routes
through Turkey and Greece and to get a tighter grip on its two NATO
partners. On an economic level, the direct winner would be Italy, which
would profit from the fact that Albania, through which the goods would
transit and reach the Mediterranean, does not itself have the necessary
infrastructure to serve as a distribution center for goods and raw
materials arriving from the East.

The corridor VIII does not run directly through Kosov {AT} , even if the most
likely route runs as close as 20 kilometers from the Macedonian border
to Kosov {AT} . The war of NATO against Yugoslavia can certainly not be
explained exclusively from the fact that the US have an interest in
controlling trade routes and playing one route against the other. Such
an aim would never have found the approval of the NATO partner
countries. Notably in matters of the development of trade routes, the
interests of Germany and the United States diverge substantially. What
they do have in common is that Yugoslavia is to be bypassed if possible.
For the US - to the south towards the Mediterranean. For Germany - to
the north. Nevertheless, for parts of the US establishment the corridor
VIII, in addition to the search for a legitimation of NATO as police
unit, is likely to have been an important part of their strategic
thinking. And more generally, the powerful position of the Yugoslav
government stemming from its control over the trade routes developed so
far was certainly on the agenda of German and other strategizing


The reflections on a possible radical leftist approach to the war of
NATO against Yugoslavia and that of the Yugoslav leadership against the
Kosov {AT}  Albanians and on possible ways to revive arguments based on
economic and social power interests that were presented in this article
are sketchy, incomplete and not sufficiently well thought-out to give us
the tools to act. In fact, they are meant rather as food for thought and
action, as a possible starting point for further discussions and the
search for appropriate forms of action and communication. I would be
happy if readers who are interested in participating in such a process
contacted me.[12]


1 The spelling Kosov {AT}  is chosen in the tradition of the gender-neutral
Spanish spelling which combines the alternatives "a" and "o" into the  {AT} 
sign. This provides a way of avoiding having to choose between the
partisan spellings Kosovo (the Serb neuter stemming from the historical,
nationalistically tainted name of the place "Kosovo Polje", which
translates to "Field of the Blackbirds") and Kosova (its variant used in
Albanian language).

2 Both e-mail lists can be subscribed to by sending e-mail to
<majordomo {AT} zamir.net> with the command "subscribe ex-yu-a-lista" or
"subscribe attack", respectively, in the body of the e-mail. Most of the
contributions are in "the language we speak", as Yugoslavs sometimes
call the South-Slavic language that has by now received separate names
according to nationalist interests, and sometimes also in English.

3 Ethnisierung des Sozialen - Die Transformation der jugoslawischen
Gesellschaft im Medium des Krieges. Materialien für einen neuen
Antiimperialismus Nr. 6, Berlin/Göttingen 1993. (Ethnicizing the social
fabric - The transformation of the Yugoslav society in the medium of
war. Materials for a new Anti-Imperialism)

4 Marcel Noir: "Unser Mann in der OSZE". (Our man in OSCE) In: Jungle
World, 14 April 1999.

5 Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo,
Rambouillet, France - 23 February 1999. And especially its Appendix B:
Status of Multi-National Military Implementation Force. Available on the
Web at <http://www.law.pitt.edu/kosovo.htm>.

6 Boris Buden: "The official Bastard (ARKZIN)-statement on the war in
Yugoslavia - Saving Private Havel", 20 April 1999.

7 The anti-Germans are a faction of the German left that has had the
merit to reintroduce important historical questions (especially the
relation to historical Nazism) into the political discussion but
sometimes tends to take Germany and its importance too seriously in an
almost narcissistic sense.

8 Roger Faligot: "How Germany backed KLA". In: The European, 21
September 1998.

9 Note added at translation: As shown by Helmut Dietrich, another effect
of the war is that through the presence of NATO troops in Albania and
Macedonia where most of the refugees transited made it possible to
successfully isolate the refugees and prevent them from making contact
with people who could help them pass the borders into Italy and on to
Switzerland and Germany. An even tighter control was made possible by
the fact that the refugee camps are under NATO supervision. Cf. Helmut
Dietrich, "Europäische Flüchtlingspolitik und der NATO-Krieg - Die
Zerschlagung der Fluchtwege aus dem Balkan nach Westeuropa" (European
Refugee Politics and the NATO war - The dismantling of flight routes
from the Balkans to Western Europe), Widerspruch No. 37 (July 1999),
Zurich, Switzerland.

10 Note added at translation: Although as predicted here, soon after the
publication of this article an outright anti-KLA propaganda started in
the world media, it seems that the position of the KFOR (Kosovo Force)
command towards the KLA structures is more ambiguous than I had
supposed, and the KLA leadership is given the opportunity to ascertain
its power and - as Bulgarian media surmise and KLA officers openly admit
- position themselves for the next round of the struggle for a Greater
Albania. We had better keep an eye on developments in Macedonia.

11 In the context of NATO interests in corridor VIII it may be
interesting to note that Salomon Passi, the chairman of the Atlantic
Clubs in Sofia, an association which de facto represents the interests
of NATO, has served as an intermediate in the negotiations for an
infrastructure deal between a US-American company and the port
authorities of Burgas.

12 My e-mail address: <kessi {AT} bitex.com>; Tel/Fax: +359-2-980 96 52.

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