Kosovo: No to NATO Intervention!

The decision of NATO to send troops to Kosovo marks a decisive turning-point. British Defence Secretary George Robertson has announced in parliament that the 4th Armoured Brigade will be sent from Germany to the war-torn province of Yugoslavia. Officially, NATO has not yet approved the intervention. But NATO ministers have already agreed to dispatch up to 30,000 if a peace deal is brokered between the Yugoslav government and the rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). As usual, the imperialists present their actions as a "humanitarian peacekeeping operation". In fact, they are pursuing a dirty game of power politics in which the lives and rights of the peoples are just so much small change. The decision of NATO to send troops to Kosovo marks a decisive turning-point. As we go to print, British Defence Secretary George Robertson announces in parliament that the 4th Armoured Brigade will be sent from Germany to the war-torn province of Yugoslavia. Officially, NATO has not yet approved the intervention. But NATO ministers have already agreed to dispatch up to 30,000 if a peace deal is brokered between the Yugoslav government and the rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

As usual, the imperialists present their actions as a "humanitarian peacekeeping operation". In fact, they are pursuing a dirty game of power politics in which the lives and rights of the peoples are just so much small change.

All socialists stand opposed to the cruel oppression of the Albanian Kosovars who make up about 90 per cent of the province¹s population. Ten years ago the Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic started the problem by arbitrarily abolishing the autonomy of Kosovo. Ever since, the Albanian Kosovars have been treated like pariahs in their own land. Milosevic has sown the winds and is now reaping a whirlwind. The KLA, impatient with the lack of results obtained by moderate leaders like Rugova, have begun a guerrilla war, which has been viciously repressed by the Yugoslav (i.e. Serb) armed forces. Massacre and counter-massacre have plunged the province into a nightmare.

However, the manoeuvrings of NATO and the West are not dictated by sympathy for the sufferings of the Kosovars but by crude self-interest and cold calculation. They are terrified that, if the conflict is not quickly brought to a halt, it can spread to the neighbouring countries and lead to war in the Balkans. If Kosovo succeeds in breaking away from Yugoslavia, it would inevitably tend to fuse with Albania, giving rise to the spectre of Greater Albania. This, in turn, would destabilise Macedonia, a fragile and unstable statelet where Albanians make up about 40 per cent and live in an uneasy co-existence with the Slav majority.

The imperialists are indifferent to the sufferings and deaths of ordinary people (witness their passive complicity in the slaughter in Rwanda) except where their vital interests are concerned. But the break-up of Macedonia would have far-reaching consequences on the Balkans. It would raise the threat of war involving not only Serbia and Albania, but also Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. It would also upset the fragile "peace" in Bosnia and set Serbs, Croats and Moslems at their throats again. Above all, the prospect of war between two NATO members (Greece and Turkey) fills them with horror. It is no accident that the first NATO troops will be sent to Macedonia to reinforce the 2,400 NATO force already there.

The leaders of the KLA lacking any real understanding or perspectives, have looked to the West for help in their struggle for independence. What blindness! The imperialists fear an independent Kosovo every bit as much as Belgrade does. That is why they constantly harp on the need for a negotiated settlement‹i.e., one that would leave Kosovo inside the frontiers of Yugoslavia, albeit with a large (they hope) measure of autonomy. They could never accept an independent Kosovo for the reasons we have stated.

The threat to send troops is not aimed to help the Kosovars but to put pressure on both sides to reach a compromise. But this will be difficult, since every concession Milosevic makes will be seen as too much by the Serb chauvinists, and too little by the KLA. Any move to put pressure on Belgrade by bombing will be fiercely resisted by Russia and France, who are pursuing their own agenda of building points of support in the Balkans. Any deal that is done will be at the expense of the Kosovars who will have to accept the dictates of the imperialists or face the prospect of being attacked themselves.

The US imperialists will send troops, but want its European "partners" to bear the brunt. As always, Washington pulls the strings and London is the first to dance. Tony Blair is trying to show that he is more trigger-happy than his friends in the Pentagon. What this reveals is not toughness, but a pathetic and humiliating dependence on the transatlantic Big Brother.

Socialist Appeal is in favour of the right of the Kosovars to self-determination. But that by no means exhausts the question. Under the concrete circumstances, how can this aim be achieved? The KLA has no real answer. Given the actual correlation of forces, their struggle cannot succeed. On the other hand in the long run it could provoke a devastating war in the Balkans which will be against the interests of all the peoples.

On a capitalist basis the national question in Kosovo has no solution. The only lasting solution to the Kosovo problem lies in the overthrow of the reactionary chauvinist clique in Belgrade and the establishment of a democratic workers' state which will have no interest in oppressing the Kosovars or anyone else. But that is the task of the working people of Yugoslavia themselves and nobody else. Only on the basis of a genuine democratic Socialist Federation can the age-old national hatreds and savagery be finally laid to rest. The involvement of imperialism in the Balkans cannot serve the interests of the Kosovars, or any other oppressed people, but will always play a reactionary role.

The Labour Movement must cut across the fog of lies and hypocritical propaganda and face the real issues and firmly oppose the use of British troops in Kosovo. No foreign intervention in Yugoslavia! A socialist policy is the only answer!