Foreign Policy Research Institute, "DANGEROUS INCOHERENCE IN KOSOVO,"   Michael Radu, October 21, 1998


Michael Radu  is a  Senior  Fellow  at  the  Foreign   Policy Research Institute.


Americans and  many Europeans  are rightly confused over the
Clinton  Administration's   actions  in  Kosovo,  for   those
actions neither amount to any sort of "policy" nor suggest a
willingness on our part to learn from past blunders (Somalia
and Haiti come to mind) and thus avoid repeating them.

Between 1992  and 1995  when Serbia  and her then president,
Slobodan Milosevic,  tried to  create a  Greater  Serbia  by
adding ethnically  Serb territories from Croatia and Bosnia,
Washington condemned  the action  and ultimately  bombed the
Bosnian  Serbs   into  (temporarily)   desisting  from   such
attempts.  American   policy  dictates   that    borders   of
recognized European  states (Croatia's  and Bosnia's) cannot
and should not be changed by force, regardless of the ethnic
composition  of   certain  areas   --  a     wise  principle,
considering  the  alternative:  a  chain  reaction  of   mass
borders revisions  (from Russia's  Caucasus to  Azerbaijan's
Nagorno Karabakh  to Romania's Transylvania). Whether Bosnia
Herzegovina's enforced  and artificial  unity is a realistic
proposition in  the long run is another question.  Secretary
of State  Madeleine Albright  went so  far as to openly (and
unsuccessfully) interfere  in elections  there  --  by  what
might properly  be described  as bribery -- when she implied
this past  summer that aid to the Serbs would be conditioned
upon the  victory of the U.S.-supported candidate during the
Serbia entity's presidential election.

The notion of inviolability of borders, unsatisfactory as it
may be,  not only  remains one  of the  few substantive  and
generally accepted  principles of  what goes  by the name of
international law, but also limits the number of  non-viable
pseudo-states   condemned to  become  international  welfare
recipients  (Bosnia,   Macedonia)  or  lawless  black   holes
(Chechnya).   Furthermore, that  very same  principle helped
justify  the   Gulf  War,  U.S.  support  for  the   Nigerian
government during the Biafra episode,  and opposition to the
Soviet annexation of the Baltic States.

Today,  as   if  walking   in   its    sleep,   the   Clinton
Administration  disregards   common   sense   and    American
tradition by  its misguided  actions in  Kosovo.   Indeed  ,
largely because  of media images of Albanian refugees and an

admittedly well-founded  dislike and  distrust of Milosevic,
American forces  are on the brink of bombing  Serbia because
it resists   a  change of its borders by force. Furthermore,
to claim,  as the  Administration does, that military action
against Serbia  is not  intended  as  support  for  Albanian
secessionism begs  the point: it will help the secessionists
even if  it not intended to do so.

To give  Serbia an  ultimatum requiring  the  withdrawal  of
police and  military forces  from Kosovo  is  tantamount  to
giving the  aggressively secessionist Kosovo Liberation Army
(KLA) a free hand. Such a withdrawal means the de facto loss
of the province. Other key U.S. demands -- negotiations with
the  Albanians   and     heavily   intrusive    on-the-ground
international monitoring  --  only  further  strengthen  the
secessionists' position.    No  international  forces  could
control the  Albanian border  with Kosovo,  and thus prevent
the KLA  from    rearming  itself.    What   passes  for  the
government of Albania has neither the interest nor the means
to do so either.

It is  no secret  that the  KLA aims  to create  a   "Greater
Albania" from territories now within the internationally and
U.S. recognized  borders of  Yugoslavia (Serbia's as well as
Montenegro's), Macedonia,  and probably  Greece. As  for the
Albanian  moderates,   Ibrahim  Rugova's  Kosovo  Democratic
League will  "negotiate" with  Belgrade but  only concerning
the timing  and conditions of  independence.  In addition, a
campaign of selective assassinations by the KLA against  the
few pro-Yugoslav Albanians,  Rugova's people, and the 10% of
the population  that is  neither Albanian  nor Serb  (mostly
Gypsies) --  helped to  make the separatist threat about the
only issue of concern for the Serbian people.

None of  the above facts is unknown to the Administration --
or to the Serbs. Nevertheless, if NATO bombs are intended to
bring about  negotiations that lead directly to autonomy for
Kosovo, as  President Clinton  desires,  what  is  there  to
negotiate if  the Albanians don't seek autonomy in the first
place?   Perhaps  what  the  White  House  really   means  by
"negotiations" is  the postponement  of any  solution  until
President Clinton leaves office.

The position  of the United States  in the Kosovo insurgency
represents an  ironic   reversal of roles vis-a-vis Vietnam.
There, we  could not win in large part due to the safe haven
insurgents had  in North  Vietnam,  itself  protected  by  a
superpower. In  Kosovo the  Serbs cannot  permanently defeat
the KLA  because it has a safe haven -- Albania -- protected
by...us!  Such  a  position  would  make  perfect   sense  if
Washington's  goal    were  a  KLA  victory,  but   it  makes
absolutely no sense if  we are serious about describing  the
KLA as  "terrorist" (as  the State department did) or  about
opposing its  goal --  secession from  Serbia.   Thus we are
prepared to  use military  force in  order to defeat our own
stated political and diplomatic goals.

Equally  serious   and  puzzling  is  the   misconception  in
Washington --  shared by  the White House and the Republican
Congress alike -- that the "problem" in Kosovo is Milosevic.
If only  we could   get  rid of  him, goes  the   inside-the-
Beltway wisdom,  all would be fine. Really? The most popular
politician in  Serbia is  Voijslav Seselj  -- now  a  deputy
Prime Minister.  Unlike Milosevic,   whose only creed is his
own political  survival, Seselj  is  a  true  (if  unsavory)
Serbian nationalist.  No opposition  politician in  Belgrade
supports a NATO attack or an independent Kosovo, and for one
very simple reason  -- virtually no Serbian citizen does so.
Who, then,  are we going to turn to once Milosevic is out of
power? Unlike  the Gulf  War, in  which only  a minority  of
Iraqis supported Saddam Hussein,  an attack on Serbia  would
mean war with the Serbian people, with or without Milosevic.
Is this  something we  want?   Considering the  implications
(the risk  to American  lives, the  creation  of  a  Greater
Albania),  which   the  administration   has  not,   is  this
something we are prepared for?


FPRI BULLETINS OF RELATED INTEREST
Managing Ethnic Conflict, I. William Zartman, September 1998
Who Wants a Greater Albania?, Michael Radu, July 1998
Kosovo Is Not Bosnia, Adam Garfinkle, June 1998
Bosnia: A Summing Up, Robert Strausz-Hupe, February 1998
Bosnia: Less Force, More Risk, Harvey Sicherman, January 1998


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