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Simon Jenkins 
                      Nato prepares to reap the Balkan whirlwind

Copyright, The Times, Wednesday March 21 2001

                       A strange transformation is overtaking Tony Blair’s great Balkan
                       crusade. The opportunistic Anglo-Albanian alliance of 1999 is
                       crumbling fast, to be replaced by its bizarre successor, a new
                       Anglo-Serbian alliance. This bond promises to be longer-lasting,
                       but if I were a Balkan politician I would not hold my breath. Put
                       not your faith in Nato princes. Their whim is as chaff in a storm. 

                       Take our erstwhile friend, Shefket Musliu, a freedom fighter for
                       the army for the liberation of the Albanian population of Presevo,
                       Medvedja and Bujanovac (the UCPMB). His territory had been
                       designated by Nato the Charlie East buffer zone of southern
                       Serbia and thus a no-go area for Serbs. A year ago Mr Musliu
                       would have counted Mr Blair a buddy and been toasted by every
                       hostess across Manhattan. Nato’s Secretary-General, Lord
                       Robertson of Port Ellen, would have called him a Byronic hero
                       and offered to lend him an Apache gunship or two. Bombers and
                       troop carriers would have been at his disposal to crush the hated
                       Serb, as they were for his KLA compatriot, Hashim Thaci, inside

                       So why, Mr Musliu is asking, has Nato suddenly allowed the Serb
                       Army to return to Presevo, under the triumphant banner of
                       General Nebojsa Pavkovic, the notorious ethnic cleanser of
                       Pristina? Why have Serb forces been allowed back into the
                       three-mile-wide northern buffer zone? Why has his war-lordship
                       suddenly turned against the KLA’s surrogates, the National
                       Liberation Army, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia?
                       Whose side is he on? It would be idle these days to seek
                       consistency in Nato’s policy in the Balkans. It lurches from photo
                       opportunity to photo opportunity, depending on who is in town.
                       Mr Blair and the former US President, Bill Clinton, could at least
                       argue that they had other things on their minds. Lord Robertson
                       has less excuse. He is in charge. During the 1999 war, he was the
                       most fanatical supporter of Mr Thaci in ousting the Serbs from
                       Kosovo and letting him seize the initiative from the moderate
                       leaders in the Kosovan capital of Pristina. 

                       Since then the Nato powers have poured money, which means
                       weapons, into the KLA’s ever deeper and more corrupt pockets,
                       enabling it to carry the struggle for Greater Albania into
                       neighbouring Serbia and Macedonia. Nato’s cackhanded aim,
                       declared privately, was to counterbalance any possibility of Serb

                       Nato must now reap this whirlwind. On Monday Lord Robertson
                       called the National Liberation Army that is stirring pro-Albanian
                       civil war in Macedonia a bunch of “localised extremists”. Nato
                       would take any military measures necessary to curb them. A unit
                       of British troops, outside the UN or Nato mandate, is even
                       proposed to “advise the Macedonian Government” on countering
                       the Albanian threat. The unit will be just 20- strong but, like all
                       British deployments of this sort, it will go weighed down with
                       ministerial mission creep. 

                       Lord Robertson is clearly serious. Every student of the Blairite
                       lexicon knows that its two most contemptuous words are local and
                       extremist. Yesterday’s Albanian freedom fighters are today’s
                       localised mischief-makers. Yesterday’s bulwarks against Hitlerian
                       aggression are today’s bloody nuisance. Last year Nato backing
                       for Greater Albania was “crucial to Balkan stability on Europe’s
                       doorstep”. This year it is no longer crucial, indeed it is possibly

                       To Nato, civil war meddling is foreign policy for slow learners.
                       Lord Robertson was Britain’s gung-ho Defence Secretary during
                       the Kosovan adventure. His objective in bombing Serbia, he said,
                       was to halt ethnic cleansing, install multi-ethnic democracy in
                       Kosovo and restore stability to the region. He did not halt ethnic
                       cleansing. He did not install multi-ethnic democracy. Now his third
                       objective has also failed. The region faces unprecedented
                       instability, possibly sucking in Greece and Bulgaria as well as
                       Macedonia. This is precisely what Britain’s interventions in Bosnia
                       and then Kosovo were supposed to forestall. 

                       In Montenegro, a Serbia weakened by Nato may yet be unable to
                       resist local separatism. A bloodbath here would be truly awful.
                       Will Nato, which has done so much to encourage Montenegran
                       separatism from Belgrade, now intervene to stop it? In western
                       Bosnia, the Croats are cutting loose from Sarajevo and running to
                       join Greater Croatia. This will leave Bosnia as a mostly Muslim
                       statelet, under an army of occupation of thousands of UN
                       personnel. Will Lord Robertson regard these Croats as “localised
                       extremists”? Will he threaten to bomb Zagreb if it continues to
                       encourage territorial expansionism? Most serious of all is the
                       looming civil war in Macedonia, hard not to regard as a direct
                       consequence of Nato support for Albanian nationalism in Kosovo.
                       Despite reverses in recent elections, the KLA has been allowed to
                       become an arrogant regional bully-boy, bloated with Western aid
                       and from trafficking in drugs and asylum-seekers. The
                       organisation, with its roots in separatist terrorism, has long been
                       the vanguard of Greater Albania. This land is intended to embrace
                       not just Albania and Kosovo but bordering areas of Serbia, such
                       as the Presevo Valley, and of Macedonia. A third of the
                       Macedonian population claims Albanian descent. If regional
                       stability was truly Nato’s concern, backing these Albanians against
                       their Slav neighbours was always stupid. 

                       Of course Macedonia is not like Kosovo. Lord Robertson will
                       protest that in Kosovo Nato sought to re-establish the rights of the
                       local Albanian majority, which were being monstrously abused by
                       the central Government of Yugoslavia. In Macedonia, the
                       Albanian majority is not being abused, at least not in Lord
                       Robertson’s view. So it was OK to bomb Belgrade in 1999, but
                       not the Macedonian capital of Skopje in 2001. Kosovo has good
                       Albanians, Macedonia has bad ones. That is the joy of dabbling in
                       other people’s conflicts. You can treat right and wrong as black
                       and white. One gets a million dollars, the other gets cluster bombs.

                       Nato is now playing with fire. These Albanians know from
                       experience how to win friends in the West. They terrorise the
                       ruling power and provoke it into retaliatory suppression and
                       atrocity. They raise the tempo of this atrocity until it is noticed by
                       the Western media, which is the catalyst to panicking politicians
                       into “something must be done”. Then they sit tight and await the
                       bombs and aid. Already the Albanian publicity machine in
                       Macedonia’s Tetovo is depicting the local Albanians as victims of
                       a Fascist Slav regime. Albanian class sizes are 50, they cry, as
                       against 30 for native Macedonians. Give us arms. We must kill

                       This has proved too crude even for Lord Robertson. He is finally
                       doing what was inevitable from the moment he first went to the
                       Balkans. He has had to acknowledge the reality of Serb power.
                       He has allowed the Yugoslav Army back into the border regions
                       round Kosovo and Macedonia. He will eventually have to permit
                       Yugoslav troops to do what he has failed to do, which is defend
                       Serb enclaves and historic sites within Kosovo. Meanwhile, having
                       supported the KLA to the hilt, he now feels he must support the
                       (pro-Serb) Skopje Government against the KLA’s proxies in
                       northern Macedonia. 

                       This madcap adventure thus approaches its denouement. Nato’s
                       intervention will have partitioned the whole of former Yugoslavia
                       on ethnic lines. It will have left a patchwork of insecure statelets as
                       mafia fiefdoms or UN colonies (or both). Not content with this,
                       the most powerful military force in the world will find itself having
                       supported every side in a series of petty civil wars, which seem
                       destined to roll everlastingly round the Balkans. Slobodan
                       Milosevic was not the destabiliser of this region. That title belongs
                       to Nato. 

                       Rather than leave local civil conflicts to burn themselves out, Nato
                       and its cheerleaders on the British Left are still pouring guns,
                       money and threats of “decisive action” into this theatre. I
                       sometimes think that Lord Robertson will not stop until the
                       Balkans are ablaze from the Adriatic to Istanbul. The only hope is
                       that President Bush has more sense. His Secretary of State, Colin
                       Powell, said last week: “We went in together and we will come
                       out together.” 

                       Tomorrow, please. 


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