Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Emperor has spoken

This article of mine appears in today's Guardian.

So that's that, then. After a meeting with the Italian prime minister Romano Prodi at the weekend, President Bush announced that it was time to bring the issue of Kosovan independence "to a head". In other words, Kosovo should become independent even without the approval of the UN security council. Now the emperor has spoken, is there really any point discussing the future of the disputed Serbian province any further? Well yes, actually, there is.

What is at stake is not just the illegal seizure from Serbia of the cradle of its national history, and rewarding the campaign of violence by ex-KLA members which has seen an estimated 200,000 Serbs, Roma, Turks and other non-Albanian groups fleeing or being driven from the province since 1999. There is also the question of whether one dangerous and globally lawless state, the US of George Bush, has the right to redraw the map of the world in any way it chooses.

Bush is pressing for "independence" for Kosovo, and the word needs to be in inverted commas as the Kosovo the US has in mind will be no more "independent" than Iraq or Afghanistan - though not out of concern for Kosovan Albanians, or a passionate belief in self-determination. Contrast Washington's stance on Kosovo with its position on the pro-Russian breakaway provinces in Georgia and Moldova, whose claims for statehood they regularly dismiss. Rather, Bush is acting because this is the final stage in what has been called the west's "strategic concept" - the destruction of the genuinely independent and militarily strong state of Yugoslavia and its replacement with a series of weak and divided World Bank-Nato protectorates.

Many will support the independence of Kosovo on simple grounds of self-determination: about 90% of Kosovans desire separation from Serbia. But Kosovo is no simple case. Given the recent history of the area, the minority rights of the non-Albanian population must also be a central concern. And the verdict of the Minority Rights Group that "nowhere is there such a level of fear for so many minorities that they will be harassed simply for who they are...nowhere else in Europe is at such a high risk of ethnic cleansing occurring in the near future - or even a risk of genocide" hardly inspires confidence in the future.

Furthermore, it is difficult to see how the creation of another new state in the Balkans will not destabilise the region further. Albanian separatists both in Montenegro and in Macedonia, where military hostilities took place as recently as 2001, will be encouraged. Serbia will face further disintegration: Albanians in the south of the country are keen to be included in a new Kosovo, while Hungarian demands for self-determination in Vojvodina are also likely to intensify.

Far from being concerned about this fragmentation, Washington encourages it. "Liberating" Kosovo from direct Belgrade control, achieved by the illegal 1999 bombardment of the rump Yugoslavia, has already brought rich pickings for US companies in the shape of the privatisation of socially owned assets.

Even more important, it has enabled the construction of Camp Bondsteel, the US's biggest "from scratch" military base since the Vietnam war, which jealously guards the route of the trans-Balkan Ambo pipeline, and guarantees western control of Caspian Sea oil supplies. The camp, which includes a detention facility used to house those detained during Nato operations in Kosovo, was described by Alvaro Gil-Robles, the human rights envoy of the Council of Europe, as a "smaller version of Guantánamo" following a visit in November 2005. To guarantee US hegemony in the region, it is essential that Kosovo is severed permanently from Serbia - a country which, with its strong historical links to Russia, is never likely to be as obedient a servant as the empire demands.

Since the end of the cold war, Russia has allowed the US to surround it with military bases and, through interference in the electoral process, bring to power governments ready to do its bidding. But the tide is turning. The US's attempt to engineer another "colour-coded" revolution in Belarus backfired spectacularly last year and, buoyed up by oil revenues, an increasingly assertive Russia is challenging the empire's Drang nach Osten. And at last week's G8 summit, President Putin reiterated his support for Serbia and his opposition to Kosovan "independence". Let's hope he keeps his word. For those who believe the best hope for peace and progress for humankind is the derailing of the US juggernaut, it is imperative that on the issue of Kosovo, the bear makes a stand.

13 comments:

maklen said...

Mr. Clark, I read your blog on Kosovo and i was thinking to comment on it. But then I realised that it would be pointless talking to someone who believes Milosevic to be a hero. And congratulations Mr. Clerk you have reached a new milestone in the number of comments in your site: 17. Wow!

Nick said...

Slightly to my surprise (my wife is a Croat) I agree with your contention that an 'independent' Kosovo would be a totally unfair (as well as illegal?) outcome for Serbia. Paranoid and malicious as the Serbs have sometimes been, they do not deserve this.

But when you write 'the genuinely independent and militarily strong state of Yugoslavia', perhaps you're ignoring the fact that by the late 1980s that state was being coercively transformed by the Serbs into nothing more than a vehicle to be manipulated by them in the cause of the creation of a Greater Serbia - and consequently the destruction of the Yugoslavia you write about. There was by then no possibility of the survival or resurrection of Yugoslavia and it is futile to look back through rose tinted glasses at something already lost.

stuart said...

Mr Clark points out that 90% of Kosovans want independence and then goes on to say they should not have it. Mr Clark is obviously a real democrat! As someone who writes for the Morning Star perhaps he should re-read Lenin on the "Right of Nations to Self-Determination".

Should the minorities in Kosovo have their rights protected - absolutely. Lets not forget why the Albanian minority in Serbia (predominately in what is now Kosovo) wanted independence in the first place, they were systematically oppressed and discriminated against by the Serbian government. If you do that, then national minorities will seek a way out through self determination.

Yugoslavia was not a "strong state" it was an artificial state created by the imperialists at Versaille. Under the stalinists it became a prison house of nations - with national and religious antagonisms only held in check by a dictatorship. When it became unsustainable the country and its antagonisms exploded and of course US and German imperialism sought to benefit and subordinate its constituent parts.

The answer to George Bush's and the EUs imperial ambitions is not, as Mr Clark thinks, to side with Putin and the Serbian government (a simplistic 'my enemies enemy is my friend' approach) but rather fight for an anti-imperialist, anti war alternative.

The national and religious antagonisms in the Balkans can only be overcome by a democratic and socialist alternative - one that fights to put the solidarity of the poor and oppressed, the working people of these countries, ahead of national and religious hatred. Until you have such party and a movement, one that can win the masses on the basis of putting forward an alternative to global capitalism and poverty, the divisions will continue.

Siding with Putin, butcher of Chechnya, because he opposes Bush, is the 'anti-imperialism of fools' a perspective that Mr Clark obviously subscribes to.

king david said...

some of these suckers just don't get it. the empire HAS to be stopped. Period. And if the empire, you know the one that has destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and which wants to do the same to Persia, wants kosovo to be independent that's a good enough reason to oppose it, as neil makes abundantly clear. it really is a case of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' stuart.

Aleks said...

Nick makes some very selective reading of history vis-a-vis Yugoslavia (but considering his wife is croatian (he wouldn't last very long if he didn't agree!).

Under Tito, the Serbs accepted the maxim 'Manja Srbija, veca Jugolsvia' (smaller Serbia, greater Yugoslavia). The levels of autonomy were unprecedented, particularly that afforded to the kosvo albanians since the 1974 constitution.

They ran everything. Riots in 1981 (previously and since), accusations of deliberated poisoning and other hysterical anti-serb propadanda, along with demands for independence.

Plus ca change.

Unfotunately they chose to use this position to intimidate the Serbs to leave. Such news was supressed under Tito, and only after his death did Serbs start to speak up.

It was Europe that split up the albanians in the 1878 Congress of Berlin, not the Serbs. The Albanian goal of reuinting under on flag has never ceased. Not only have they suceeded in removing most of the Serbs, but they've removed over 100,000 gypsies. Now why did they pick on them? Are they all 'collaborators' or is it just opportunism as not even the great while liberals in europe give a shit about them?

The same story was repeated in Croatia and Bosnia. Croatia decided to make the Croatian Serbs second class citizens and forced them to sign 'oaths of loyalty' (which I have seen copies of) to the nexly independent croatian state, had their property taken away and in the villages; visited by the black-shirted neo-ustasa HoS and paramilitaries who initiated the violence in easter slavonia. If the Croats had treated their minorities fairly and not resurrected all the symbols and trappings of the WWII Ustasa state (imagine Germany readopting the swastika and inviting old war criminals back home, amongst others), then there would have been no uprising.

As for Bosnia, the serbs had no wish to live under a moslem fundamentalist and a nazi sympathiser.

The serbs didn't want a 'greater serbia', but just the same rights as everyone else. They were clearly not going to get them under either Tudjman nor Izetbegovic.

Nick should actually read Milosevic's speech where he asks for 'equal treatment for all', not the continued preferential treatment of some, but hey, nobody I know who has an interest in the balkans is likely to change their opinions....

of course, I don't expect to change anybody's opinion, but I have very mixed family in Zagreb, Belgrade, Podgorica and inbetween and know that it was all far more complicated than the black and white most like to present it.

Anonymous said...

[This text repeatedly failed to get past the CiF censor; is it that radical? Anyway....]

Spot on Neil, but it is not down to Russia alone.

US policy-making will naturally pay heed to the issue of how to perpetuate and further US hegemony.

In the context of Europe, US actions and posture are consistent with a strategy to ensure that Europe remains politically dysfunctional, divided, fearful of Russia, and reliant on the US as military protector.

With Russia's natural place being in partnership with Europe, added to its critical role as energy supplier, its cultural and political compatibility and drift towards Europe, and its abandonment of any Imperial ambition, the policy makers in the USA reacted with alarm, and set out to wreck the warming of relations and the building of ties, which threatened to make the USA and NATO an irrelevance here.

This is why we have
* divisive statements about 'old and new Europe', and the playing off of countries against each other
* provocative missile shield proposals for Poland and Czech to provoke Russia to show teeth
* the reckless and illegal rush to recognize Kosovo, to foment troubles and division in Europe, and to provoke some Russian reaction, to be portrayed as its 'underlying aggressive and unreliable nature',
* demonisation of Russia in the (compliant) UK press, and the probable framing of the Russian state with the Litvienko murder. It seems that western unity requires near-enemies!

To perpetuate Empire, the USA must divide and rule. It needs to be the only perceived superpower guarantor of western values and unity, and convey that the world is a dangerous place, with every other superpower supposedly holding a knife behind its back. To trick Russia into bellicose behaviour, she must be provoked with new missile emplacements, insulted with delinquent hostility by a willing former eastern bloc, and most especially, to constantly shovel outrageous injustices onto the one country capable of rousing Russian sympathy – Serbia.

That is why Kosovan independence is so important to Bush. That is why Bush is cavalier about a bust up with Putin over Albanians, but cannot give a damn about Darfurians, Amazonian Indians, Turkish Kurds or the Karen of Burma. That is why we have authors like Ian Williams in our newspapers every week, going on about Kosovan independence; the UK media makes space for these views, irrespective of whether the witless journalist realises how he is being used.

People may die over these policies, which will also make toilet-paper out of International Law. If Europe doesn’t open its eyes, then the Yanks will indeed continue to own us.

Whatever is motivating US actions vis-a-vis Kosovo, it is nothing to do with concern for the citizens of that region (the US is unconcerned even with health care provision for its own citizens); rather it is that perennial and logical motivation, the pursuit of its own interests.

Russia needs to defy Kosovan independence, and Europe should unite behind her.

Nick said...

My reading of Yugoslav history isn't exactly selective (and my wife is broad minded enough not to attempt to kill or divorce me when our views differ, I assure you); rather it's based on incomplete knowledge - but still quite a lot of it gained over a number of years' direct experience.

I don't exactly agree with your interpretation, which seems - to me at least - perhaps tending towards being a little paranoid in the way I mentioned in my earlier post, but I wish neither the Kosovans of Serb origin or those of Albanian origin any ill will. I simply doubt the morality and legality of the push by an outside state to decide the future of a sovereign country.

And actually, Aleks, I HAVE changed my opinions concerning the Balkans over the years, as I have travelled through parts of the area and seen for myself the effects and results of the wars that have occurred since 1990. I'm not such a dogmatist as you might care to imagine (even though I am married to a Croat!). But I admit that some of the changes in my thinking aren't always as favourable to the Serb view of the world as you might hope.

Oh, and I have read that speech Aleks, but it has little bearing on the content of my earlier post.

Nikola said...

stuart said...
Mr Clark points out that 90% of Kosovans want independence and then goes on to say they should not have it. Mr Clark is obviously a real democrat!


Kosovo is a province, so on what basis can they be allowed to vote for independance? I don't hear the EU whining about indpendance for Basques or Ossetians. If Yorkshire was majority Islamic one day, would they be allowed to vote on indpendance?

Blackbird said...

As Andy Wilcoxson said, and I paraphrase, the Kosovo Albanians regarded Kosovo autonomy as ALBANIAN autonomy, no matter who else lived there, and they have put their own ethnicity above everything else, including the welfare of the state they live in. Is this democracy? And, as Andy also pointed out so succinctly, the right to self-determination does not necessarily support civilization (again, I paraphrase). I think that these are very important observations and they point out how self-serving the Kosovo Albanians' ambitions are. Maybe the only option that Serbs have is to stop being so tolerant and start serving their own interests -- finally. They have been falsely painted as such, so they have nothing to lose by becoming such; the time is here, no -- it's overdue. Serbs need to stop expecting that the truth will out because the propaganda machine is a monster that has devoured it.

nimn2003 said...

To Vitamin - you know who you are ;-)

I tried many times to post a blog on the Guardian Cif (Comments are Free - but Posting is censored) about this issue.

It seems that raising the truth about the covert involvement of the West in the former Yugoslavia is a no-no. Strange, as I have been repeating this message ad nauseum for years. But today it appears to be too sensitive for publication.

Re. the article:
I take issue only on one point - albeit a central one. I am not sure that the USA set out to destabalise Yugoslavia, I think this was the mission of certain elements within the EU - principal among them Germany. Instead I think that the USA simple exploited the existing situation for its own commercial advantages.

Yugoslavia was in difficulties in the 1980's. The province of KiM was soaking up millions (some estimates are in the BILLIONS) of Euros in grants, aid, tax allocations etc. However, rather than this being used to develop quality of life for the residents - a majority were Albanian by this time - it was wasted, or stolen by the Albanian 'politicians' and gangsters.

They subsequently blamed the Serbs for their destitution (a recurring themem in Albanian history) and set about to cleanse Serbs form KiM to try and establish an ethnically pure state.

These are simple facts - as the war in the Balkans became a reality, thre Serbs lost the first battle - the control of the 'news' media. The West has fed its citizens these lies ever since.

In Kosovo the 'reason' for the NATO attack was the ethnic cleansing of Albanians. It never happened. Whole populations fled AFTER the bombing started, not before. The casualty lists of 100,000 dead Albanians was quickly reduced to 10,000. Bodies found?? 4,000 of ALL ethnic groups. But still the westen media present the serbs as agressors. They were trying to retain control of their own country which was being usurped by the KLA a dsignated terrorist organisation funded and training by the USA and certain EU countrioes. These KLA killers were responsible for the murder of hundreds of Roma, Goran, Serbs and Ashanti. One of their more vicious leaders is Agim Ceku, he is now the Prime Minister of the kosovo 'Government in waiting'.

These are the people that Bush wants to reward. Ask yourself WHY? Then follow the money.

Neil Clark said...

nhimh: I quite agree with you about the pernicious role of Germany and the EU in destabilising Yugoslavia which is why I referred to the 'west's strategic concept'.
Germany - and in particular Herr Genscher instigated the break-up, but after Slovenia and Croatia broke-away, it was the US which then played the dominant role, especially in regards to Bosnia and Kosovo.

Steven said...

Ok, let's just clarify a few points. Kosovo's autonomy was granted under the 1974 constitution. Were Serbs given a say in the matter? Was it subject to popular vote? No. So what is so sacred about such an ordained "autonomy"?

Secondly, America took the side of Bosnian Muslims and Albanians because it was a cheap way of countering the accusation that American foreign policy is anti-Muslim. Serbs paid the price. If you don't believe me, then read the words of Representative Tom Lantos who said recently that jihadists should take note that America is committed to establishing an independent Muslim nation in Europe.

Thirdly, if Albanians have the right to secede, then Bosnian Serbs should have equal right to secede from the failed state of Bosnia.

Russian said...

Thank you.

Thank for "The Emperor has spoken".

Thanks for the truth.

In Russia, we read translation of your text into a site www.inosmi.ru

Читая переводы из американских, британских, немецких, французских газет, я порой удивляюсь насколько узко и однобоко рассматриваются авторами статей многие проблемы.
В России пресса тоже порой очень предвзято и однобоко смотрит на вопросы внешней политики и в особенности на вопросы отношений с США и Великобританией.
Но в последнее время западная пресса упорно рисует Россию в чёрных и кровавых тонах. Нас обвиняют чуть ли не в попытках вновь установить контроль над странами Восточной Европы. Хотя живя в России нам очевидно, что это абсурд.
Югославия, Сербия, всегда была "сестрой" России. Я был в Белграде и разговаривал с людьми. Они не понимают, почему США и запад в целом, упорно пытаются перекроить их страну по своему усмотрению, хотя сербы готовы к вполне здравым и разумным компромиссам. Западная пресса изображает сербов кровавыми животными, а албанцев невинными ангелами, страдающими под гнётом оккупантов. Хотя всем, кто бывал в Косово и видел, сербов выгнанных из своих домов, разрушенные церкви, сожженные сербские монастыри, очевидно - проблема Косова далеко не так однозначна, как её принято изображать в западной прессе.
Поэтому ОГРОМНОЕ СПАСИБО ВАМ, господин Neil Clark за трезвый, спокойный и объективный взгляд на этот вопрос.

С уважением, Maxim.
vraguvorot@yandex.ru