A New Internationalism? - Black Flag

On Friday 30 July those 'saviours' of the Balkans, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, arrived in Sarajevo to hold a press conference where they revealed their agenda for the 'reconstruction' of the region. Anyone still clinging to the notion that NATO bombarded the people of Yugoslavia out of humanitarian concerns for the Kosovar Albanians will have found little cause to retain such delusions after the Bill & Tony Show laid out their wares.

From Black Flag #218 1999.

Submitted by Fozzie on September 5, 2020

NATO's agenda for the Balkans; "Balkan countries that build democracy and market economies will be embraced by Europe and NATO — but Serbia will stay in the cold until it gets rid of Slobodan Milosevic."

NATO's commitment to a humanitarian agenda always rang hollow. Tony Blair talked of a “new internationalism where the brutal repression of whole ethnic groups will no longer be tolerated". Meanwhile NATO, despite warnings that air strikes would lead to massive displacement of refugees, proeeded with a course of action which left 670,000 Kosovans in Albania and Macedonia, 70,000 in Montenegro and 75,000 outside the region altogether.

When the KLA tried to reach refugees displaced within Kosovo, NATO refused to provide air cover. When Serb gun emplacements shelled refugees it stood back and watched. One could be forgiven for thinking that, far from being an unfortunate consequence of facing down Serb aggression, the mass movement of refugees was a consequence NATO actively embraced.

And if, as is now admitted, the agenda was to secure market economies in the region, and the prospect of a bloody civil war in Kosovo was a clear obstacle to such aims, then indeed it makes sense to engender such displacement. The desired results were the aerial suppression of Milosevic, the weakening of the KLA by a) the dispersal of its communities of support and, b) its disarmament and the filling of the resulting control vacuum by K-For troops to facilitate the restoration of stability on NATO terms.

It is clear enough that the Kosovar Albanians elicited little "moral concern" in Washington or Whitehall when Yugoslav tanks rolled in to deny them a taste of democracy in 1989. In February 1998 the us condemned the KLA as "without any question, a terrorist group." This statement gave Milosevic the green light to step up his ethnic cleansing programme in the region. At the EU General Affairs Council Meeting on 8 December 1998, with Milosevic's brutality a matter of public record, the GAC expressed its concern at the "intensification of military action" but pinned the blame on "increased activity by the RZIA."[/i] Having set the trap, all NATO had to do was wait for Milosevic to blunder in.

At the Rambouillet talks, the sole obstacle to a settlement was Yugoslavia's refusal to sign a deal which would tie them to a process whereby "a purely NATO force was to be given full permission to go any where it wanted in Yugoslavia, immune from any legal process" (New York Times). Rejecting the Rambouillet deal, the Serbian National Assembly called on the OSCE and UN to facilitate a peaceful diplomatic settlement (in terms not dissimilar to those presented by NATO subsequently as a 'victory').

Washington simply gave Milosevic the go-ahead to suppress the KLA, then used his actions as a basis to threaten war in the region. When the Serbs indicated their willingness to negotiate, albeit under duress, they were faced with an ultimatum that abused their national sovereignty to such degree that it was clear to all parties that they could not accept it. War was presented by NATO as a fait accompli, in the clear knowledge that such conflict would lead directly to the displacement and murder of the Kosovar Albanian community.

Not quite the picture the media sold us; "Milosevic's refusal to accept... or even discuss an international peace-keeping plan was what started NATO bombing on March 24", the New York Times tries to have it. The 'war' with Serbia was the end game of a strategy with one clear aim — the entrenchment of European and us capital in the Balkans. As Doug Henwood has observed

"It's no mere detail that Yugoslavia came under the tutelage of the IMF in the early 1950s, and the country borrowed heavily and disastrously. Over the decades, the IMF promoted decentralisation, competition and a weakening of development policies that favoured poorer regions, and the promotion of market principles. In the 1970s, market liberalisation and nationalism went hand in hand; for example, Croatian nationalists demanded to keep their foreign exchange earnings." (Left Business Observer, April 1999).

Peter Gowan, (whose book The Global Gamble, Verso 1999, is one of the most comprehensive investigations of the aims and methods of American expansionism available), comments that

"the Western powers, by their deliberate acts of commission and omission, played a central role in creating the conditions in which barbaric acts were bound to flourish." (New Left Review 234).

Gowan contends that the logic behind the war, lay entirely with the strategic US/European interests of the NATO

"Success would decisively consolidate US leadership in Europe. Success outside the framework of UN Security Council permission would ensure no collective security in Europe by the UN back door of a Russian veto. And it would seal the unity of the alliance against a background where the launch of the Euro - an event potentially of global political significance - could pull it apart."(ibid).

So, with thousands dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, and the infrastructure of Kosovo and Yugoslavia destroyed, NATO has established a Kosovan protectorate on the same basis as that established in Bosnia under the Dayton agreement. The Kosovo Accord, like Dayton is only binding on the Balkan parties to it, not on the international organisations which have appointed themselves to bring 'democracy' to the region. The Dayton Agreement was supposed to allow for a year of supervised transition. In 1997, the transitional international administration prolonged its own jurisdiction indefinitely. The High Representative has the authority to impose economic sanctions at local or regional level on bodies which do not comply with his recommendations. He has the power to curtail or suspend any media network or programme which can be held to contravene "either the spirit or the letter of Dayton." As the Bosnian High Representative himself defines it "if you read Dayton carefully, it gives me the possibility to interpret my own authorities and powers."

David Chandler notes that

"Far from facilitating autonomy, the transformation of the Dayton mandates has led to the creation of a US-run international protectorate in Bosnia. Compared with the vast international bureaucratic-military machine of around 50,000 international troops and administrators, the elected institutions have little capacity for policy making or implementation." (New Leff Review 235).

As for Bosnia, so too, under the terms of the Accord, for Kosovo. In the run up to East Timor's ballot on independence, over 25% of the population were displaced by pro-Indonesian militias. Britain meanwhile has, since May 1997, approved 91 arms licences to Indonesia. Between 1990 and 1994 over one million Kurds were displaced by Turkish repression. Turkey is the single biggest importer of US military hardware, and is the world's largest arms purchaser. So much then, for that "new internationalism where the brutal repression of whole ethnic groups will no longer be tolerated." Still, as Bill Clinton put it on 23rd March,

"if this domestic policy is going to work, we have to be free to pursue it And if we're going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be a key. And if we want people to share our burdens of leadership with all the problems that will inevitably crop up, Europe needs to be our partner. Now, that's what this Kosovo thing is all about... its about our values." (Left Business Observer, April 1999).