Ivo Skoric on Thu, 25 Mar 1999 00:47:17 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> 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 beginning.

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

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

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

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. 
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