Previewing Kosovo


Dan Georgakas

The

only constant in American and NATO policy in the Balkans has been the breakup of

a socialist, multi-ethnic state into a series of small, capitalist-oriented

states based on narrowly defined religious/ethnic identity. Given that pattern,

it is not surprising that the mini-states are usually ruled by extremely

nationalist parties and that the dissolved Yugoslavia has become a de facto

Serbia ruled by its own tyrant. Great power denials to the contrary, the next

stage in the Balkan scenario appears to be the creation of a second Albanian

state in what is now Kosovo. 

The

usual scenario for the establishment of such states is to create conditions

“on the ground” that “practical” people ultimately legitimate through

international bodies. What this means in Kosovo is a constant demonization of

the Serbs (who most certainly are not without guilt) so that a multi-ethnic

Kosovo becomes unimaginable. Not widely covered in the American press is that

the old Kosovo Liberation Army which was to disarm has reconstituted itself as

the Kosovo Protection Corps and the Democratic Party of Kosovo. These groups not

only seek to drive out all Serbs from Albanian zones, they appear to have been

striking out against other Albanian political forces.

In

May, Adan Zerka, a prominent member of the Democratic Reform Party was murdered

by coordinated gunfire at his home. In his comments after the murder, party

leader Soko Cusa reiterated that his party remains an advocate of a

“multi-ethnic Kosovo with equality for all.” In July there was an armed

attack on Ramush Haradinaj, a former KLA leader who is now leader of The

Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, a rival of the Democratic Reform Group..

Haradinaj had to be flown to Germany for treatment.  Under constant

pressure are followers of Ibrahim Rugova, long-time advocate of ethnic

reconciliation. What is critical in these three cases and others is that NATO

forces are either unwilling or unable to offer protection. Arms continue to pass

into Kosovo through the Albanian regions of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of

Macedonia, and Kosovo increasingly is divided along ethnic lines. If the current

dynamic continues, the former KLA will purge the political stage of all

opponents and be in a position to declare an independent state.

Like

so much of what happens in the Balkans, such an entity is likely to far worsen

rather than help to solve problems in the region. At least 30% of the population

of neighboring Macedonia is Albanian. This minority is mainly located on the

border with Kosovo but extends to the capital Skopjec. Albanians in Macedonia

have raised the same issues once raised in Kosovo. Although the central

government of Macedonia appears to be making a good faith attempt to function as

a multi-ethnic entity, an Albanian Kosovo would certainly feed secession

sentiment and bring the viability of Macedonia into question. Should Macedonia

crumble, the negative scenarios are too numerous to detail but would involve the

possible redrawing of several national borders and the chaos that always

creates.

The

long-stated claim of the group now leading the Albanian community in Kosovo has

been that Kosovo is the true Albanian homeland to which Albanian proper should

be attached. Attempts to realize those claims would be certain to rouse the

entire region and intensify the already enormous refugee problems in Italy,

Greece, Montenegro, and elsewhere. To be sure, all right-wing ethnic movements

in the Balkans have maps based on the time their ethnic group was at its maximum

power. Unlike most of these groups, however, there appears to be significant

momentum to push the Albanian nationalist envelope as fast as possible with

either an unwary or compliant NATO taking no actions.

Worse

case scenarios, of course, need not emerge. What is so distressing about the

Balkans is that the United States appears to recognize only the divisive

traditions of the region which are consequently depicted as endemic and

intractable. Feeling no solutions are possible, there is no diplomatic will to

resist the militarists. But the region has alternative traditions of a

cooperative and multi-national nature. Even at the present time, some of the

Balkan states have overcome traditional enmities to a remarkable extent.

Rather

than nurturing these positive traditions or at least curtailing the most rabid

nationalists elements, the United States has repeatedly opted for client

right-wing regimes in the same way it opted for the right-wing Latin American

dictators throughout the cold war.  Motivated by the desire to minimize

Russian influence in the area and to secure desired oil pipeline routes, the US

demonizes one group of chauvinists while lauding others as freedom fighters.

This policy, similar to that followed in Afghanistan not so long ago, has fueled

and perhaps ignited volatile Balkan feuds. The present momentum of events in

Kosovo strongly suggests there will be a new round of murderous ethnic conflict,

challenged borders,  and hapless refugees.

 

Dan

Georgakas teaches international relations courses at New York University.

 

 

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