Kosovo: U.S., NATO Oppose Autonomy for Ethnic Albanians

By GERRY FOLEY

It has become clear that the Serbian Stalinist demagogue Slobodan Milosevic has launched a full-scale war against the Albanian people of Kosovo. This is now his third major attempt, after the invasions of Croatia and Bosnia, to consolidate Serbian chauvinist rule by ethnic cleansing.

Massive Serbian military forces were sent into Kosovo almost immediately after the first small scale actions by Albanian nationalist guerrillas. They slaughtered whole families and destroyed many homes, leaving a number of towns in ruins.

In an article in the June 9 issue of the Italian left daily Il Manifesto, a reporter noted that refugees she talked to in Northern Albania claimed that they had no knowledge of any Kosovar guerrilla army, that in their area the resistance to the Serbian attacks was mounted by hastily organized local self- defense forces.

Already it is estimated that around 100,000 Albanians have been forced to flee their homes by Milosevic’s forces, that is, about 5 percent of the total Albanian population. About 15,000 have fled into the desperately poor northern part of Albania.

Furthermore, according to the accounts of Albanian refugees, the forces attacking the Albanian population are not simply the rump Yugoslav army and police but also fascist-like paramilitary organizations. The June 22 issue of Nasa Borba, the main opposition newspaper in Serbia, reported:

“Refugees interviewed in Albania say that the Yugoslav army and the federal and Serbian police are participating in the operations, along with Arkan’s Tigers and Seselj’s paramilitary forces. Their actions are being directed against the civilian population.”

The “Tigers” are a private militia organized by a Serbian fascist. It gained a horrific reputation in Bosnia. Seselj is the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, which identifies with the prerevolutionary Serbian racist right.

The Radicals are in a coalition with Milosevic, in which they increasingly set the tone. In the recent elections in Montenegro, the Radicals threw themselves so completely into the unsuccessful campaign of Milosevic’s local ally, Momir Bulatovic, that they virtually disappeared as a separate party.

Despite the Radicals’ support, however, Bulatovic was overwhelming defeated, and the relationship between the Montenegrin and the Serbian and “Yugoslav” governments has become highly conflictive.

Defections from Yugoslav army

The June 22 issue of Nasa Borba printed a letter from a Montenegrin soldier who deserted from the Yugoslav army along with a group of comrades rather than go to fight in Kosovo. They fled to their home republic, expecting the Montenegrin government to protect them.

In the former autonomous region of Vojevodina, where a large Hungarian minority is concentrated, leaders of opposition political parties have come out against police from their region being used in Kosovo.

Even in pure Serbian areas, reportedly, more and more members of the security forces are trying to avoid being sent to Kosovo. The June 8 issue of the Belgrade opposition daily Nasa Borba reported a story published by another local paper, the Dnevni Telegraf, that 363 policeman in the Serbian capital had resigned out of fear of being sent into the fighting.

Parents of soldiers have begun protesting against the use their sons in the war against the Albanian Kosovars in both Belgrade and Nis, another important Serbian city. These demonstrations have already become an issue in Serbia, with the military issuing statements warning the parents against “letting themselves be manipulated politically.”

The parents’ protests and other political signs point to defeat for Milosevic in Kosovo. Demonstrations by parents of soldiers were one of the factors, for example, that forced the Serbian chauvinist regime to abandon its attempt to occupy Slovenia militarily in 1991.

A combination of determination by the Slovenes, a people as few in number as the Kosovars, and political opposition in Serbia defeated the chauvinist regime in Belgrade at the height of its power. Now, Serbia has been ruined by long years of disastrous wars for the sake of expansionism and ethnic cleansing.

The New York Times armchair military experts have been opining that the Kosovars have no chance of defeating the Serbian army. They chose to disregard the fact that national liberation forces have rarely been able to inflict an outright military defeat on occupying armies, but they have won politically again and again by inflicting unbearable costs on the governments commanding these forces.

Certainly the political and financial resources of the Serbian government are extremely fragile by comparison with those of many imperialist governments that have been forced to withdraw by the losses inflicted by guerrilla forces.

NATO considers use of force

The leaders of these imperialist powers have been saying that they are prepared to intervene militarily in Kosovo to prevent another ethnic cleansing operation, that they now think that they were wrong not to have intervened earlier in Bosnia. They staged a show of force in the air recently near Kosovo supposedly to show their readiness.

But their warnings have been directed to the Kosovar liberation forces as much as to Milosevic, a fact not noted much in the U.S. press but which has not gone unremarked in the Serbian media.

Thus, in its June 20 issue, Nasa Borba reported: “A functionary in Brussels made it clear that NATO is considering the use of military force against the Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) if it tries to take advantage of a withdrawal of the Serbian special forces and the start of serious talks about autonomy for Kosovo for its own objectives. NATO would resort to this also if the UÇK tried to take advantage of any military action of the Atlantic Alliance in Kosovo.”

A United Nations representative in Bosnia was quoted to a similar effect in the June 23 issue of Nasa Borba: “Ren [the UN official] said that the West should not attack only the Serbs and that it had to stop the Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas: “The situation is not so simply that we should just hit the Serbs. We cannot forget that the Kosovo Liberation Army is also committing acts of sabotage.'”

In its June 20 issue, Nasa Borba noted the warning issued by U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin that the United States is opposed to independence for Kosovo and that it demands that the Kosovar leaders be satisfied with “autonomy.”

In this context, it is clear that what the United States and its allies are worried about is not defending the Kosovars from Milosevic’s genocidal campaign but maintaining their idea of stability, that is, their ability to control the political situation in the Balkans. And that stands in the way of self-determination of the peoples.

Ren argued that independence for Kosovo was not necessary and that it would only deepen ethnic hatreds in the Balkans. But even the conservative Kosovar leader, Ibrahim Rugova, who long kept the Kosovars in passivity, now finds it impossible to demand anything less than independence.

According to the June 23 Nasa Borba, Rugova told the German magazine Der Spiegel that he would not accept even a sovereign republic within the Yugoslav federation and would not take anything less than independence. At the same time, he proposed an international “protectorate” over Kosovo.

Rugova knows that after a decade of brutal oppression at the hands of the Serbo-Yugoslav government, which has culminated in a genocidal campaign, there is no way he can sell the idea of remaining in the same state with Serbia to the Kosovar people.

Some Serbian commentators have argued that the UÇK wants something even more “dangerous” than an independent Kosovo, to wit, a “Greater Albania.” But why is that such a “dangerous” concept now in Serbia?

One of the rare principled Serbian left intellectuals, Branko Horvat, showed in his book ,”The Kosovo Question,” published in Serbo-Croat in 1988, that during the common struggle against the Axis occupiers, the Yugoslav Communist Party offered the Albanians the prospect of Albanian national unity within a socialist confederation of the Balkans . This perspective is even more important today after the Serbian Stalinist opposition of the smaller nations in the Yugoslavian union. How can these peoples have any confidence that their national rights will be respected in the framework of a multinational confederation unless they are allowed the right of unifying themselves first?

Of course, changing the borders in the Balkans is no solution to the national conflicts there. But trying to maintain these borders against the will of the oppressed peoples is no solution either.

The only solution is a confederation of all the peoples of the region based on their common economic interest. That requires a rebirth of a multinational socialist movement that can fight for a system in which the interests of working people of all nationalities can prevail. But the prerequisite for that is a principled defense of the right of all oppressed peoples to self- determination.

Obviously, any military intervention by the imperialist powers will not support the right of self-determination but only suppress it. That is the history of the NATO intervention in Bosnia, which has trampled on the rights of the all the nationalities there and only exacerbated national conflicts.

All those who support a democratic solution to the conflicts in the Balkans have to oppose NATO military intervention there.