I just wanted to point out a couple things in a June Telegraph article titled “Serb prime minister’s battle to rehabilitate the ‘Leper’ of Europe

Ivica Dacic, an ex-protege of Slobodan Milosevic, is now spearheading Serbia’s bid to join the European Union, reports Colin Freeman

…trying to make his country part of Europe again - a move that should take a major step forward later this month (JUNE), when Serbia is expected to get the go-ahead to start EU membership talks…Membership is expected between 2015 and 2020 - showing just how far Serbia has slid behind its wartime enemy Croatia, which will become a full member on July 1.

Slid behind?? Right. Nothing whatsoever to do with Serbia being the designated enemy that the West helped Croatia against, then making Croatia our client and absolving it of war crimes to more easily slide it into the EU. Which one would you guess would be on the faster track to membership?

…Mr Dacic signed an historic peace accord with neighbouring Kosovo, where Mr Milosevic was accused of carrying out ethnic cleansing in 1999. Under the EU-brokered deal, Serbia effectively relinquished all political claims to Kosovo, which Serbs have long seen as their original homeland.

This is something I’m seeing increasingly often: journalism is now backtracking, terming the Kosovo “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” as something Milosevic was simply “accused” of. It seems they’re being careful, which may mean that the uncertainty of what happened there has been proven. And has finally reached establishment classes. Thanks in part to the efforts of the handful of people who have been harping on it since 1999. Meanwhile, we’re used to seeing that phrase about Kosovo, “which Serbs see as their original homeland.” Never mind the hundreds of years of texts, by non-Serbs, referencing Kosovo as the Serbian birthplace and Jerusalem. No, it’s all merely a Serbian “claim,” claims modernity.

…As for nationalist opposition to joining the EU - surveys show that a third of Serbs do not approve - he argues that if Serbia’s economic isolation continues, there will be nothing for patriots to be proud of anyway.

“Today, Serbian GDP is 65 per cent of what it was in 1989. For how long should we wait and how deep we should sink?” he asked. “How can a country that is impoverished, humiliated and beaten defend its national interests? On the contrary, we will only be strong if we are internationally respected.”

…William Hague, the Foreign Secretary…[said] much remains to be done - not least in persuading the Serb public that the pain of ceding claims to Kosovo is outweighed by the benefits of EU membership, in terms of billions in aid and access to Europe’s markets. […]

In other words, gee isn’t money more important than history and identity? Just put those two up for sale.

On the earlier point above, regarding the proven uncertainty of what happened in Kosovo, I was impressed by an article this week from Stratfor. Analyst George Friedman seems to have a deeper-than-usual understanding of the Kosovo conflict, and its connection to Putin’s rise. It would have been nice if he’d spoken up when it counted, and when we handful-of-voices could have used the help:


Syria, America and Putin’s Bluff
(Stratfor Geopolitical Weekly, Sept. 9)

…Twenty years ago, the United States had little interest in relations with Russia, and certainly not with resetting them. The Soviet Union had collapsed, the Russian Federation was in ruins and it was not taken seriously by the United States — or anywhere else for that matter. The Russians recall this period with bitterness. In their view, under the guise of teaching the Russians how to create a constitutional democracy and fostering human rights, the United States and Europe had engaged in exploitative business practices and supported non-governmental organizations that wanted to destabilize Russia.

The breaking point came during the Kosovo crisis. Slobodan Milosevic, leader of what was left of Yugoslavia, was a Russian ally. Russia had a historic relationship with Serbia, and it did not want to see Serbia dismembered, with Kosovo made independent. [Note: Russia’s shock and opposition over our Kosovo intentions was a little deeper and bigger than some hackneyed sensibility about Russo-Serb affinity, and Friedman hits on some of the reasons in the next paragraph.]

There were three reasons for this. First, the Russians denied that there was a massacre of Albanians in Kosovo. There had been a massacre by Serbians in Bosnia; the evidence of a massacre in Kosovo was not clear and is still far from clear. Second, the Russians did not want European borders to change. There had been a general agreement that forced changes in borders should not happen in Europe, given its history, and the Russians were concerned that restive parts of the Russian Federation, from Chechnya to Karelia to Pacific Russia, might use the forced separation of Serbia and Kosovo as a precedent for dismembering Russia. In fact, they suspected that was the point of Kosovo. Third, and most important, they felt that an attack without U.N. approval and without Russian support should not be undertaken both under international law and out of respect for Russia.

President Bill Clinton and some NATO allies went to war nevertheless. After two months of airstrikes that achieved little, they reached out to the Russians to help settle the conflict. The Russian emissary reached an agreement that accepted the informal separation of Kosovo from Serbia [as they’re calling it now, but it was nothing of the sort — it was an agreement to allow the UN to rule Kosovo for a while] but would deploy Russian peacekeepers along with the U.S. and European ones, their mission being to protect the Serbians in Kosovo. The cease-fire was called, but the part about Russian peacekeepers was never fully implemented.

Russia felt it deserved more deference on Kosovo, but it couldn’t have expected much more given its weak geopolitical position at the time. However, the incident served as a catalyst for Russia’s leadership to try to halt the country’s decline and regain its respect. Kosovo was one of the many reasons that Vladimir Putin became president, and with him, the full power of the intelligence services he rose from were restored to their former pre-eminence.

Western Encroachment

The United States has supported, financially and otherwise, the proliferation of human rights groups in the former Soviet Union. When many former Soviet countries experienced revolutions in the 1990s that created governments that were somewhat more democratic but certainly more pro-Western and pro-American, Russia saw the West closing in. The turning point came in Ukraine, where the Orange Revolution generated what seemed to Putin a pro-Western government in 2004. Ukraine was the one country that, if it joined NATO, would make Russia indefensible and would control many of its pipelines to Europe.

In Putin’s view, the non-governmental organizations helped engineer this, and he claimed that U.S. and British intelligence services funded those organizations. To Putin, the actions in Ukraine indicated that the United States in particular was committed to extending the collapse of the Soviet Union to a collapse of the Russian Federation. Kosovo was an insult from his point of view. The Orange Revolution was an attack on basic Russian interests.

Putin began a process of suppressing all dissent in Russia, both from foreign-supported non-governmental organizations and from purely domestic groups. He saw Russia as under attack, and he saw these groups as subversive organizations. There was an argument to be made for this. But the truth was that Russia was returning to its historical roots as an authoritarian government, with the state controlling the direction of the economy and where dissent is treated as if it were meant to destroy the state. Even though much of this reaction could be understood given the failures and disasters since 1991, it created a conflict with the United States. The United States kept pressing on the human rights issue, and the Russians became more repressive in response.

Then came the second act of Kosovo. In 2008, the Europeans decided [Oh? It was “the Europeans”? And they just suddenly decided to make Kosovo fully independent? None of it originated in Washington or anything?] The Russians asked that this not happen and said that the change had little practical meaning anyway. From the Russian point of view, there was no reason to taunt Russia with this action. The Europeans were indifferent. [In which case, what would you call the Americans? Desperate, perhaps.]

The Russians found an opportunity to respond to the slight later that year in Georgia. Precisely how the Russo-Georgian war began is another story, but it resulted in Russian tanks entering a U.S. client state, defeating its army and remaining there until they were ready to leave. With the Americans bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, no intervention was possible. The Russians took this as an opportunity to deliver two messages to Kiev and other former Soviet states. First, Russia, conventional wisdom aside, could and would use military power when it chose. Second, he invited Ukraine and other countries to consider what an American guarantee meant.

U.S.-Russian relations never really recovered. From the U.S. point of view, the Russo-Georgia war was naked aggression. [At least that’s what we called it; not necessarily our ‘point of view.’] From the Russian point of view, it was simply the Russian version of Kosovo, in fact gentler in that it left Georgia proper intact. The United States became more cautious in funding non-governmental organizations. The Russians became more repressive by the year in their treatment of dissident groups.

The United States had often accused the Russians of violating human rights, but with Snowden, the Russians were in a position where they protected the man who had revealed what many saw as a massive violation of human rights. It humiliated the Americans in terms of their own lax security and furthermore weakened the ability of the United States to reproach Russia for human rights violations.

Obama was furious with Russia’s involvement in the Snowden case and cancelled a summit with Putin. But now…Washington may be in a position to deal a setback to a Russia client state, and by extension, Moscow itself.

…[I]f we are to understand the U.S.-Russian crisis over Syria, it makes sense to consider the crisis [within] the arc of recent history from Kosovo in 1999 to Georgia in 2008 to where we are today.

I recently stumbled onto a 2011 article by a Daniel Hamilton writing for TheCommentator.com, and again was impressed by his non-ignorance of what had happened with Kosovo, though his confusion on one aspect is indeed ignorant. Still, his voice would have been helpful when it counted:

Constitutional Crisis Proves Just How Far Kosovo Has to Go (The Commentator, April 12, 2011)

The West took a big gamble in pushing for an independent Kosovo. Building a stable democracy is proving far harder than many had hoped, and the country’s political scene is looking increasingly squalid

Last Friday morning, the Assembly of Kosovo elected Atifete Jahjaga as the country’s third president since September. The election of Jahjaga to the largely ceremonial presidency follows two weeks of intensive political manoeuvring after a Constitutional Court ruling invalidating on procedural grounds the election of the previous president, Behgjet Pacolli….

For her part, Jahjaga, a woman police commander with practically no political experience, received the support of 80 of the 120 deputies – the two thirds majority required in order for her nomination to be valid. [Notice how tidy that two-thirds figure is; it has something to do with the American ambassador’s threat to the lawmakers, as Hamilton actually points out further down.]

Kosovo has been praised for bringing this impasse to a (reasonably) speedy resolution, but the process which resulted in Jahjaga’s election is in reality yet another indication of the continuing inability of Kosovo to run anything even remotely resembling a stable, sovereign democracy.

Indeed, the only real winners from this week’s events are likely to be the ultra-nationalist Vetevendosje – or ‘Self Determination’ – movement led by former political prisoner Albin Kurti. Vetevendosje, which secured 13 percent of the vote and 14 seats in the National Assembly at the December election. Kurti staunchly opposes any form of negotiations with Serbia and wants an end to the continued presence of international institutions in Kosovo. He has also long advocated a union between Kosovo and Albania, an act which was explicitly forbidden in the writing of the country’s constitution in order to protect the rights of minority Serb, Turkish, Roma and Gorani communities.

While mainstream politicians have sought to pigeonhole Kurti as a dangerous radical – which is precisely what he is – the process surrounding Jahjaga’s election only lends credence to his argument that the country is nothing more than a puppet of the British and American governments.

In the days following his removal from office, Pacolli, a Swiss-based billionaire who is widely reviled in Kosovo for his business links to pro-Serb Russia, had indicated strongly that he wished to see his name submitted to the National Assembly again for a renewed presidential bid.

In “changing his mind”, he was refreshingly honest in explaining his reasons for not going through with it - US Ambassador Christopher Dell told him to accept Jahjaga’s nomination or risk Kosovo “losing American support”.

[Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Gee, that’s believable after a decade-and-a-half of toiling for the Albanians. And: As if America has that option. Imagine: Threatening the threateners who got us this deep in the first place.]

…In one sense, the public frustration that the nationalists draw on is understandable. Kosovans are right to be concerned at the ineffective and sclerotic nature of the European Union’s Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) – a body whose tentacles reach into every area of public life in the province.

Not only has it failed to give a proper hearing to the deeply worrying allegations endorsed in a Council of Europe report in January regarding Prime Minister Thaci’s involvement in international organ trafficking, it has also neglected to tackle the institutionalised corruption which exists at all levels of government.

While the province is indeed no longer controlled by Serbia, many Kosovan Albanians privately opine that rule from Belgrade was preferable to rule by the mafia.

…All in all, the international community now has some difficult decisions to make about Kosovo…One running sore which must be addressed by the international community is the future of the majority-Serb areas north of the River Ibar.

While the Ahtisaari Peace Plan refuses to countenance any alterations to Kosovo’s borders, the Serbs in these areas must be granted the same right of self-determination as ethnic Albanians south of the river.

A territorial division, at the Ibar, would end the ludicrous situation in which an international land border is enforced (at tremendous cost) between Serbia and Kosovo Serbs. Such a division would also be beneficial to Albanians, giving them full control over the country, as opposed to seeking to impose their will on a Serb population which has no interest in being part of their newly-independent state.

Everyone has an interest in seeing Kosovo succeed as a stable and lawful state, including neighbouring Serbia which wishes to see an end to organised crime on its borders as well as to unrest in the ethnic Albanian stronghold of the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia.

If Kosovo is to be a truly independent state, its leaders must be allowed to make its own mistakes rather than being micro-managed by external forces. Without Kosovo being given that chance, it is not inconceivable that public opinion in Europe’s youngest country could be transformed from a staunchly pro-Western position to one favouring isolationism and Albanian nationalism. Such a situation would be a disaster for all concerned.

Daniel Hamilton is Director of the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch and an expert on the Balkans. He writes in a personal capacity.

I forwarded the piece to Nebojsa Malic when I discovered it earlier this year, saying, “His bio at the bottom says ‘Balkans expert,’ but I’ve never heard of him before and he seems to be different from the usual brand of Balkans “experts.” In any case, why has he been experting in silence all this time? And how does he know as much as he seems to about the true Kosovo picture (even the way the Jahjaga ‘election’ went down), enough to be fair to Serbs wanting a land partition?”

Nebojsa’s take was trenchant:

I have trouble with [Hamilton’s] approach because he’s criticizing all these things as appalling, without realizing that the system was SET UP THAT WAY. In other words, “Kosova” is working as intended. It’s supposed to be a mafia pseudo-state. It’s supposed to be a step to Greater Albania. Eulex is supposed to be covering for the KLA. And any effort to make the Albanians clean up their act for their own good (and so they could be proper foot soldiers of the West) ignores the Albanians’ own mentality, values, interests and plans - which I assure you do exist. That’s the problem with imperialism, that it treats people as things.

Look at the last point: if we don’t help them, they’ll turn extremists! I’ve heard that before - from Stephen Suleyman Ahmad Schwartz.

Worthless.

It was a point Nebojsa made in a Feb. 16th article titled “Still a Lie: Serbia and ‘Kosovo,’ Five Years Later”:

In November last year, as Albanians from Kosovo and Macedonia joined the celebrations of Albania’s independence centennial, the German weekly Der Spiegel published an insider testimonial about Kosovo:

“The so-called EULEX mission, with a staff of roughly 2,500, has cost more than €1 billion ($1.3 billion) since 2008. Nevertheless, a recent report by the European Court of Auditors finds that there have been hardly any successes.”

Similar sentiments can be found in a recent article in France’s daily Le Monde, which asked: “is the EU turning a blind eye to corruption and organized crime?”

Both the French and the German reporters are remarkably naive. The function of EULEX was never to alter the Albanian society, where “law and order” largely revolves around a medieval concept of vendetta. Rather, its purpose was to replace the status-neutral UN mission with a presence directly controlled by Brussels and Washington, openly supportive of “independence.” It has done precisely that. Hence the praise from Washington for “progress” in the very fields the Europeans shyly point out as failures.

And that’s without a single word mentioning the murderous bigotry against non-Albanians in the self-proclaimed state.

The “Kosovian” black hole and the treason of Belgrade are not glitches in the system, but features. The system, as designed by the Empire, is working as intended. Yet Washington and Brussels are counting on the Serbs never figuring it out, and even if they do, being absolutely powerless to do anything about it.

Legend says this was precisely the attitude of Ottoman lords in February 1804, right before a major Serb uprising started the century-long struggle that eventually ended the Ottoman Empire. The [Serbian state] holiday which prompted Foggy Bottom’s “congratulations” marks the day that rebellion began.

Ignorance, you see, cuts both ways.

Closing with a flashback to 2007, in which a Wall St. Journal section titled “The Informed Reader” cites an Oct. 15, 2007 New Yorker article that touches on at least one of the above themes:

Kosovo’s Future May Be Decided Violently
THE NEW YORKER—OCT. 15

…It [the NATO action] also allowed criminal networks to build Kosovo into a smuggling hub between Europe and Central Asia. The so-called gray economy is apparently funding a construction boom that goes unrecognized in official statistics, which record only high unemployment and little growth. Mr. Finnegan says the gray economy is probably as large as the official one…

The U.S. worries that pro-independence Kosovo Albanians could turn to Muslim terrorist organizations if they continue to be disappointed, yet it fears that a unilateral declaration of independence would inflame the region. [Notice that they decided inflaming the region was less dangerous than disappointing Albanians.] Meanwhile, Serbians and their Russian allies depict the Albanian Kosovars as criminals trying to set up a headquarters for Muslim terrorists…

Actually, reality depicts it that way. Though I wouldn’t use the word “trying” to set up a headquarters for Muslim terrorists. It’s simply going to be the natural result.