|Geert Lovink on Wed, 24 Mar 1999 20:56:18 +0100 (CET)|
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|Syndicate: Ivo Skoric: Skies are clearing over Balkans|
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 13:45:57 +0000 From: Ivo Skoric <email@example.com> Subject: Skies are clearing over Balkans Clearing The Skies Over Balkans U.S. Never Did That Before Skies are beginning to clear over the Balkans and as NATO ships are closing in on positions to launch cruise missiles on Yugoslavia, the Yugoslav ambassador to Moscow, brother of Yugoslav president Milosevic, is calling for more talks. Enough has been said, maintains NATO chief Javier Solana. The only acceptable Serbian/Yugoslav action now would be for Milosevic to sign the Rambouillet agreement surrendering the control of Kosovo to NATO troops, which is precisely what British government urges him to do in the last minute effort to stave of the bombing raids. Basically, this is a call for unconditional surrender, which Milosevic cannot accept in the face of Serbian population who oppose it at a 70% rate. Michael O'Hanlon (Brookings Institution) in the op-ed piece in NY Times (3/23) came up with an interesting suggestion of partition of Kosovo in the part that would be held by Albanians and be given autonomy and the part that would be held under Serbian control - as the Bosnia was partitioned in two entities. Of course, we don't know how the parties would react to that proposal since it was never put on the table. Unlike the euphoric reaction Wall Street produced in connection with the Gulf War, raids against Yugoslavia were met with scepticism: DOW fell more than 200 points yesterday and got back up today for barely 2 points, and then start dropping again with the procrastination of the air strikes beginning. The U.S. public is divided on the issue as well, and the mostly see the bombing justifiable only on the moral grounds - to stop the genocide of Kosovo Albanians - and not on the grounds of national security interest as the U.S. administration tries to present it. The Senate approved the raids (58:41) only after Solana gave the order, and with loud protests of about half of Republicans and some Democrats. Senator (R) Kay Bailey-Hutchison, sometimes sound as she is a product of Serbian lobby (to be fair, Dole and Biden sound like they are working hard for the Albanian cause): "U.S. never before went on bombing an independent nation who does not pose a security threat to the U.S.," she said. Well, what was Vietnam, then? "To forcibly remove a standing president is heinous...," she added. Yes, but wasn't it done with Noriega, Allende and Peron before? The argument that the U.S. is behaving somehow different in case of Kosovo is simply wrong. The U.S. believes that it has the right and, moral obligation to police the unruly world, and this belief increased with winning the cold war. Only, now it seems that the cold war may be far from over... Graduated Escalation "Cruise missiles were the silent partner in the high-stakes diplomacy going on last week to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to halt his brutal siege of Kosovo and negotiate with the province's ethnic Albanians. The U.S. has already used its arsenal of air- and sea-launched cruise missiles to turn out Baghdad's lights during the Gulf War, retaliate against terrorists and assassins, and force the Serbs to the peace table in Dayton, Ohio. Now Serbia and Yugoslav President Milosevic are in the cross hairs again. If the massacres of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo do not stop, NATO warns, and Serb troops and special police are not pulled out, the missiles will fly. NATO has put together a plan of action that would begin with a strike by dozens of Tomahawks launched from U.S. warships and submarines that were in the Ionian Sea last week. If not headed off by diplomacy, the attack could begin this week." (Tomahawk Diplomacy - It's a brilliant little machine, but it can't hit everything, and it doesn't do politics; By BRUCE W. NELAN in TIME MAGAZINE, OCTOBER 19, 1998 VOL. 152 NO. 16) 5 months went by since that week passed and the attack still has not begun. Senate Republicans argument that this is an "all of a sudden" decision is, therefore, wrong, too. After all, they are the ones who criticized Clinton for waiting too long to act upon Bosnia. Now they bring up the dreaded issue of "graduated escalation" - a term used to describe the failed U.S. policy in Vietnam. And there they, unfortunately, might be right: months of hazing did not produce favorable results - Milosevic continued to pursue his military strategy against Kosovo Albanians as if the threat of NATO attack did not exist, and when the threat was made more imminent, he proceeded to fortify his positions and brace for the attack. Now, when attack is practically under way, one can't help but to fear that attack is designed only to save NATO's face and not to actually solve the problem, which would require far more of a commitment than throwing a few dozen of Tomahawk missiles ($750,000 a piece), a commitment that Congress might never be ready to approve. Cruise missiles are ideal to hit unmovable targets. They are very precise, and there is virtually no way to defend against them. But Serbian means of destruction - both the ground forces used to demolish Albanian homes and the sophisticated air defense system designed to effectively counter any NATO non-stealth aircraft - are highly moveable, and without clear skies (so that satellites may track the movement), air raids may prove not as efficient as planned. Pentagon announced that it may use the B2 stealth bomber (that carries bombs that work well in all weather conditions). The skies are clearing and hazing continues: CNN Headline News, that Milosevic certainly watches, shows vehicles shuttling (painfully slow) between the guided missiles storage and stealth aircraft hangars at Aviano air-base... For the first time in history we are able to witness the process of an attack. So it is the time to examine pros and cons of possible raids. National Security Interest - what is at stake The Administration argues that if Serbia is allowed to continue its war against Albanian population on Kosovo, the flight of Albanian refugees to neighboring Macedonia (where the Albanians already constitute 40% of population; and so far in past two weeks there were 5000 Kosovo refugees) could severely destabilize that country. Such a scenario would draw Macedonia and possibly Albania in the war with Serbia, and might involve Greece and Turkey, both NATO members who are often at each others throats. In more real-politik terms: air strikes against Yugoslavia provide the U.S. with valuable opportunity to combat test its new B2 stealth bomber, and the conflagration in the Balkans provides the U.S. to reposition its Europe based 365 thousands men strong armed forces and adjacent hardware (from Germany to Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo). On the other hand by committing the attacks the U.S. risks the relations with China (that announced that act as being against the international law) and Russia: prime minister Yevgeni Primakov turned his plane back to Moscow in mid-flight canceling his visit to Washington to protest the NATO go-ahead. He essentially turned his back on $15 billion of IMF loans designated to buy Russia's compliance with NATO plans. Foreign minister Ivanov issued threats that should NATO go with air raids, Russia will unilaterally lift the arms embargo against Yugoslavia, thus providing Yugoslavia with more sophisticated weaponry to counter NATO. Russian Duma still did not ratify the START II agreement on reduction of nuclear weapons, and for sure it won't ratify it now - thus bringing us back to the cold war era. Leader of Duma's Yabloko block, Yavlinski, called Primakov's decision to turn the plane back - "a gesture of the cold war style." He urges Milosevic to sign, but he also wants to see Russian troops as a part of the peace-making operation in Kosovo. Reuters interviewed people waiting for visas at the American embassy in Moscow: they too oppose the attack. Yeltsin and Clinton talked today for 35 minutes. Nobody said what about they talked. But the NATO air raids scare continued unimpeded with that conversation. Italy, also, is not that happy with NATO using the Aviano base for its F-117 Stealths, that should carry the first-line attack against the Yugoslav mobile air defense system and heavy weaponry used against Kosovo Albanians. They fear that Milosevic may retaliate by SCUD missiles, which he allegedly obtained earlier in nineties. Rome, Vienna and Istambul are in the reach. On top of that Italy is not that happy with U.S. airmen in general since the accident last year in which a low flying American pilot cut the cable car cable killing twenty. Cruise missiles and Stealth fighters may knock down the Yugoslav air defense, SCUDs and eliminate quite a few heavy artillery pieces, but they cannot stop Milosevic in his pursuit against Albanian population on Kosovo. This can be done only by sending in ground forces, and that puts American lives at risk, for what Clinton still does not have the support of Congress and the American people. At this time NATO threats accomplished only straining relations between the U.S. and Chine and the U.S. and Russia, and inside the NATO, which most certainly was not what they were hoped to achieve in terms of defending American national security interest. Moral Obligation - what is at stake So, the air strikes designed to help Kosovo Albanians may eventually turn against them, if they are not followed by NATO ground troops. It is indeed indisputably noble cause to come to defense of 2 million people imperilled by the brutal military offensive aimed to drive them off from their land. The situation in Prishtina is hairy. Air-raid sirens are tested earlier today. Yugoslav troops introduced curfew and checkpoints. The situation in Kosovo countryside is bleak. Yugoslav Army continues to pound places suspected of being KLA-UCK strongholds. There is no reason to believe that Milosevic will abandon that pursuit unless rendered entirely toothless by NATO - which air strikes alone simply cannot accomplish. In fact air-strikes may put many more Albanian lives in jeopardy, should Serbs choose to retaliate in that way: even Albanian political organizations in Prishtina fear that. Only the KLA welcomes the raids, since they have nothing to loose - they gamble that Yugoslav Army may be weakened enough by NATO air strikes which would help them prevail in the struggle for independence. However, they are not entirely happy with NATO ground troops at their stomping grounds, aware of how the international forces successfully took the power over from Alija Izetbegovic. The fact is that this is a gamble, and they may be wrong and end up like Kurds in Iraq: conquered and forgotten. Yugoslavia shut off its borders. Yugoslav Army replaced Montenegrin border patrols along Montenegro-Albanian border, oblivious to Milo Djukanovic (Montenegro's president) protests. It is just question of time when the Army will move against him (and it also might come as retaliation to the strikes). Yugoslav Army continued the draft and indefinitely canceled the release of soldiers who completed their military service. Many young men in Yugoslavia are in hiding. Yugoslavia also shut off all international communications, and seized communications equipment from foreign news (like CNN) and wire services. Milosevic called upon people to defend the country by all possible means. As one of the first signs of retaliatory behavior, Belgrade police shut the independent radio station B92, the US favored media in the region, at 3 a.m., seizing the transmitting equipment (B92 was capable of operating independently of Serbia's power grid and telephone lines) and for the first time during Milosevic reign, my friend Veran Matic, the editor- in-chief of B92 was arrested and taken to a still undisclosed location. B92 opposed the draft and advised young men to hide. At this moment the only result of NATO threats are more vigorous Yugoslav Army attacks against Albanians on Kosovo, closing of western embassies in Belgrade, Yugoslavia's shutting off from the world and shutting down the main independent electronic media in Serbia. Repression and more repression. This certainly was not what NATO wanted to accomplish in terms of its moral obligation, was it? Generally, the best solution would be to simply March into Serbia in the way allies marched into Germany in 1945, take Milosevic down, and create a democratic government paired with generous re-development support. That would solve the problem. The risks and casualties however are to great for the U.S. in 1999 to contemplate such a move. Instead we will continue to witness a series of half measures that will basically result in more prolonged bleeding in the Balkans.