[NetBehaviour] Neil Clark : Kosovo a Crisis of The West's Own Making
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Sun Dec 23 19:12:55 CET 2007
December 24, 2007
A crisis of West's own making
by Neil Clark
Powerful Western nations make threats to Serbia.
Despite Western threats for it to accept Kosovan
independence, Belgrade is standing firm. Serbian armed
forces are on standby to reclaim the province by force
if necessary. Russia has promised Serbia its support.
If war does follow, then Serbia will no doubt be
blamed by Western governments for not toeing the line.
But it would be an unfair judgment.
The present crisis in Kosovo has been caused not so
much by Serbian intransigence, but by the West's
policy of intervention in the internal affairs of
sovereign states, which, over the past decade has
caused chaos, not only in the Balkans, but across the
Ten years ago, Kosovo was at relative peace. Albanian
demands for independence from Belgrade were being
channeled through the peaceful Democratic League party
of Ibrahim Rugova, while the small groups of Albanian
paramilitaries that did exist were isolated and had
little public support.
According to a report by Jane's intelligence agency in
1996, the Kosovo Liberation Army, the most extreme of
Albanian paramilitary groups, does not take into
consideration the political or economic importance of
its victims, nor does it seem at all capable of
hurting its enemy.
It has not come close to challenging the region's
balance of military power. As late as November 1997,
the KLA, officially classified by the US as a
terrorist organisation, could, it has been estimated,
call on the services of only 200 men.
Then, in a policy shift whose repercussions we are
witnessing today, the West started to interfere big
time. The US, Germany and Britain increasingly saw the
KLA as a proxy force which could help them achieve
their goal of destabilising and eventually removing
from power the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, which
showed no inclination to join Euro-Atlantic
Over the following year, the KLA underwent a drastic
makeover. The group was taken off the US State
Department's list of terrorist organisations and, as
with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan a decade or so
earlier, became fully fledged freedom fighters.
Large-scale assistance was given to the KLA by Western
security forces. Britain organised secret training
camps in northern Albania. The German secret service
provided uniforms, weapons and instructors.
The Sunday Times in Britain published a report stating
that American intelligence agents admitted they helped
to train the KLA before NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.
Meanwhile, Rugova's Democratic League, which supported
negotiations with Belgrade, was given the cold
When the KLA's campaign of violence, directed not only
against Yugoslav state officials, Serb civilians and
Albanian collaborators who did not support their
extremist agenda, led to a military response from
Belgrade, the British and Americans were ready to hand
out the ultimatums.
During the 79-day NATO bombing of Yugoslavia that
followed, the West made promises of independence to
the KLA which, eight years on, are coming back to
Recognising an independent Kosovo will push Serbia
from the Western orbit as well as creating a real
chance of war. And it will set a precedent: if the
rights of self-determination for Kosovan Albanians are
to be acknowledged, then what about the rights of
self-determination for Serbs in Bosnia, who wish to
Doing a U-turn, and attempting to get independence
postponed, runs the risk of violence from Kosovo's
Albanian majority. It's an almighty mess, but one of
the West's own making.
Had it not intervened in Yugoslav internal affairs 10
years ago, it is likely a peaceful compromise to the
Kosovan problem would eventually have been found
between the government in Belgrade and the Democratic
League. Rugova's goal was independence for Kosovo from
Serbia, but only with the agreement of all parties.
What is certain is that without Western patronage the
KLA would never have grown to the force it eventually
By championing the most hardline force in Kosovo, the
West not only helped precipitate war, but made the
issue of Kosovo much harder to solve.
It is ironic that for supporters of liberal
intervention, Western actions in Kosovo are still seen
to have been a great success. It was at the height of
the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999
that the then British prime minister, Tony Blair, made
his famous speech at Chicago in which he outlined his
doctrine of the international community.
Blair argued that the principle of non-interference in
the affairs of sovereign states - long considered an
important principle of international order - should be
subject to revision. "I say to you: never fall again
for the doctrine of isolationism," Blair pleaded.
But after surveying the global debris of a decade of
Western interference, from the Balkans to Afghanistan
and Iraq, is it any wonder that isolationism and
observing the principle of non-interference in the
affairs of sovereign states again seems so appealing?
Neil Clark, a regular contributor to The Spectator and
The Guardian in Britain, teaches international
relations at Oxford Tutorial College.
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