By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The assaults on the Kosovo Albanians have greatly increased following the NATO air attacks on Yugoslavia. This dramatically poses two urgent questions: First, what are the limits of air power? And second, if the purpose of the air attacks was to prevent the massive killing and exiling of Albanians, what do NATO and the U.S. do now?
It is essential to remember, when there are repeated calls to stop the bombing and resume diplomacy, that during the last diplomatic talks Serbian repression in Kosovo actually increased; the universities were gutted of their autonomy, and the independent press was all but eliminated with savage fines. Milosevic has shown that he can negotiate forever, while continuing his nationalist aggression. It was the failure of the last round of negotiations under such circumstances that brought the West to the policy of bombing.
So what now? Does the Clinton administration back down, permitting a genocidal massacre to continue to unfold? Or do the U.S. and NATO get into a ground war as the only way to provide a measure of protection for the Albanian civilians in Kosovo? And if they do wage a ground war against the Yugoslav army and its auxiliaries — a costly and therefore domestically unpopular ground war — how do they avoid becoming de facto allies of the KLA and its nationalist hard men?
The KLA’s stated aim is, at minimum, the complete independence of Kosovo — something that the West Europeans, the U.S. and most especially the countries on Kosovo’s borders see as hugely destabilizing for the entire Balkan region. An independent Kosovo is a nightmare for neighboring Macedonia, with its own Albanian minority of between 30 and 35 percent. Then there is the 10 percent Albanian minority in Montenegro. As for Albania proper, it may be in a shambles, with a lower living standard than the Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia enjoy, but it is nonetheless home to more than half the entire Albanian population of some 6 million. That alone makes it attractive to romantic ethnic nationalists, and ethnic nationalism never has a strong affinity for political realism. Albanian unity, or the dream of Great Albania, is a nightmare not only for neighboring states, but also for all who worry about stability in the Balkans.
What follow from all this are four policy conclusions. Beginning with the long-range goals: First, Washington must finally accept that Milosevic’s ham-fisted regime remains the single greatest destabilizing factor in the region, and must concomitantly shift its commitment to the democratic opposition in Yugoslavia.
Second, given the proclivities of both the KLA and the Serbian forces, no peace settlement in Kosovo is possible without the presence of ground troops to enforce it. These should be NATO forces, but should also include Russian troops as a way to try to heal the breach between NATO and Russia.
Third, no real negotiations are possible, however, without a complete cease-fire by the Serb armed forces in Kosovo and their withdrawal from the province. The refugees must be allowed immediate return. If the Serb leaders have any sense at all, they will realize that only NATO troops can, after all this carnage, provide protection for the Serbian minority and disarm the KLA. And the KLA needs to be substantially disarmed — not least, to permit some kind of normal political life for those Kosovo Albanians who are not necessarily members of the KLA. Absent that, the men with guns will rule.
And fourth — here I come to the hardest part — should those who want to see a just peace in former Yugoslavia call for an immediate stop to the NATO air attacks? My answer — and it is doubly hard, since I have relatives, friends and comrades with whom I have worked for decades still living there — is that the bombing should be stopped only by a Serbian agreement to a cease-fire in Kosovo, and by the withdrawal of their armed forces. NATO ground forces may well be required to secure these goals and to create (or re-create) a safe haven for Kosovar Albanians in Kosovo. Otherwise, the massive killing and the exiling of Kosovo’s majority population will only continue. (And to those who argue that the U.S. did not intervene in Rwanda and Burundi to stop the genocidal massacres there, my response is: It should have — and it still has the opportunity to stop such massacres in Kosovo.)
Kosovo today presents us with no easy or palatable options. But should NATO stop the bombing without first having secured a cease-fire and a Serbian withdrawal, Milosevic wins — and we will witness one of the most massive and brutal ethnic cleansings since World War II.Bogdan Denitch is director of the Institute for Transitions to Democracy, a human-rights organization operating in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia since 1990, and author ofEthnic Nationalism: The Tragic Death of Yugoslavia and numerous other works.