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 <>
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%

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

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.