NATO Looks for Nearest Exit

The situation in the Balkans is changing from day to day, even from hour to hour. From the beginning of the conflict Socialist Appeal has followed all the twists and turns in the war and the diplomatic and propaganda manoeuvres that accompany it. We here publish an analysis of the recent developments.

The situation in the Balkans is changing from day to day, even from hour to hour. From the beginning of the conflict Socialist Appeal has followed all the twists and turns in the war and the diplomatic and propaganda manoeuvres that accompany it. Just before the first of May we produced a lengthy statement, a summary of which was published in the May issue of the journal. Since then events have moved rapidly. We here publish an analysis of the recent developments together with the full text of our May Day statement, which, in our view, retains its full validity.

War: "This is wrong. It is evil We must repudiate it, and that is what we intend to do."

Peace: "We can have a bombing pause, if it's clear that it will be in aid of that larger purpose."

Neither war nor peace: "We need to continue to aggressively support our air campaign and aggressively support any diplomatic initiative."

(President Clinton speaking to US forces in Germany, 6th of May 1999.)

NATO is in a mess. After seven weeks of bombing, not a single one of its objectives has been achieved. Even that Crown Prince of Liars Jaimie Shea is forced to admit this, and NATO admits only what it cannot possibly deny. Milosevic remains firmly in place. Kosovo has almost been emptied of Albanians. Despite all the claims made in past weeks, the Yugoslav forces remain entrenched in Kosovo. NATO is staring defeat in the face. In place of the confident, smiling front which he put on at the start of the conflict, President Clinton now reveals the sorry spectacle of a man who is out of his depth and thrashing about in the water, hoping not to drown. His confusion was placed on public display in his first visit to US troops in the front line (well, in Germany, at least) where he showed all the decision and sense of direction of an octopus in a garage.

At the Spangdahlem air base, the President of the world's mightiest power appeared before his audience dressed in a leather bomber jacket - a little inappropriate for a man with Bill Clinton's military record, some may have thought, but then, as we have seen, retired pacifists always make the most belligerent warmongers when given half a chance. With the Stars and Stripes for a background, he said that NATO would continue to hit Serbia "hard, where it hurts", and condemned the Milosevic government as a regime of "concentration camps, murder and rape". He talked of a fight to the finish, and warned that the USA could put troops into Kosovo "in six hours" - if Milosevic capitulates.

However, since the Yugoslav President shows no sign of obliging just yet, the current incumbent of the White House must cover his bare backside by pleading for peace and a negotiated settlement - a settlement which already bears no relation whatsoever to the Rambouillet agreement. In fact, while noisily beating his chest in public, Clinton was secretly looking for a way to "get out from under" with the minimum possible loss of face. After all the public rhetoric designed to demonise the Serbs in general and Milosevic in particular, it comes as a surprise to see the eagerness of the Americans at this late stage not only to talk with this "regime of concentration camps, murder and rape", but even to offer it every assurance that it can stay in power. When asked whether any deal could be struck that left President Milosevic in office, Clinton replied - somewhat sheepishly - in the affirmative. No wonder the Americans were not amused by Tony Blair's ravings about pursuing the war "until Milosevic stands down"!

Bombing has failed

With Tony Blair beating the war drum and Clinton doing a passable imitation of Hamlet ("To be or not to be?"), for the last few weeks NATO has been toying with the idea of a ground war. This was the only option open to them if they were going to salvage something from the mess. Given the extreme obtuseness of the American and British leaders, it is still possible that they could stumble into a ground war. But the probability is now weighted against this. The sending of Apache helicopters has immediately confirmed what we have always maintained - that a ground war in Kosovo would signify a heavy loss of life, especially of the US and British troops who would make up the bulk of the invading force (for that is what it would be). Even before they have been sent into action, two of them have crashed. This is a serious warning of what can be expected in conditions of real fighting in terrain that is perfectly suited to guerrilla warfare. The low-flying Apache helicopters would be sitting targets for the kind of hand-held missiles that played havoc with Soviet helicopters in Afghanistan.

Clinton's tendency to retreat reflects a growing awareness in the US establishment that - as we pointed out from the first day - a war in Kosovo would be a nightmare. NATO is now split wide open over the question of continuing the war. George Robertson, Britain's not very bright Minister of Defence, continues to echo the Blair line, not realising that Washington is now anxious to jump ship. He insists that the bombing will continue "until all NATO's demands are met." The trouble is that NATO's demands are changing by the day, if not by the hour. Washington would like to make its European allies responsible for continuing the war, but these are getting less and less enthusiastic about the conflict as it drags on with no end in sight. The much-vaunted leadership of the United States has proved disastrous from day one. The Americans blundered into a war for which they were clearly not prepared, believing that Milosevic would immediately capitulate. now they say that an intervention on the ground can only take place

when the Yugoslav army has been sufficiently "degraded" (i.e. pulverised) to render effective resistance impossible. This idea is just as insane as the earlier one.

NATO's propaganda machine keeps on churning out its daily bulletins, which convince fewer and fewer people. They claim that the bombing has destroyed one fifth of the Yugoslav army's tanks and heavy artillery in Kosovo. But, even if one accepts this estimate, that would still leave four-fifths intact - a formidable force by any reckoning. They paint a picture of demoralised Serbian soldiers, hiding in bunkers, too afraid to emerge in daylight for fear of instant death by bombing, and thus presumably ready to surrender to the first passing NATO patrol. If this war were not such a serious business, one might feel inclined to laugh.

The "smart bombs" have shown just how intelligent they are by blowing up the Chinese embassy, killing Kosovar refugees on their tractors and Serb men and women in a market. They even succeeded in bombing a "target" in another country - Bulgaria - whose government is supposed to be granting NATO the use of its air space. This is the balance-sheet of bombing from a great height in order to avoid casualties - or at least NATO ones, since Bulgarians, Chinese, Serbs and Kosovars appear to be fair game.

We repeat what we wrote at the beginning of the bombing campaign, and which is now clear to everyone: that a bombing campaign without the commitment of ground troops was doomed to failure in advance. The enthusiasm in Washington for the war has cooled off to the degree that this self-evident truth has been carved on their noses. In our May Day statement we wrote: "Once they start thinking about it, they may have second thoughts. But so far they have thought nothing out. From the beginning they have made one blunder after another. Thus far, Milosevic has made better calculations than Clinton and Blair. But sooner or later reality will begin to dawn on even the thickest heads. Trotsky once remarked: "When all else fails, one must start to think!" Clinton himself is always likely to backslide when faced with a serious challenge. The likelihood of numerous American fatalities may give him pause for thought at the eleventh hour." This has come to pass even more quickly than we expected.

The show of unity so painstakingly put together on the occasion of NATO's birthday is looking shakier with every day the war goes on. Without doubt, the bombing of the Chinese embassy - which has predictably stirred up a mass of anti-US demonstrations in China - will deal a heavy blow to NATO's inner cohesion. Behind the scenes the alarm bells will be ringing, not only in Athens and Rome, but also in Paris and Berlin. Like a man who ends up singing an out-of-tune solo when the rest of the choir has fallen into an embarrassed silence, Blair will be isolated, as his "good friends" in Washington scramble for the nearest exit.

The Financial Times (7/5/99) comments sceptically: "But the allies did not produce evidence to substantiate its claims of increasingly poor morale among Serbian forces, beyond what it claimed to be hearing from its own secret intelligence reports. [The value of such "intelligence" may be gauged from the fact that the CIA told Clinton that Milosevic would surrender after a few days of bombing]

"Nigel Vinson of the Royal United Services Institute said the Yugoslav army had trained for 50 years to fight a defensive campaign against a superior force, using tactics of concealment, dispersal and deception. This was precisely what it was doing."

"An air campaign alone could not prevent it from replacing lost men and vehicles, he said, The results so far raised the question of whether Nato could hope to achieve its goals while ruling out a ground offensive and the supply of arms to the KLA." (my emphasis)

The military backwoodsmen (British, of course!) are still game for a fight - in words at least. Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Jackson, the British commander in charge of NATO forces in Macedonia, is warning that the onset of winter begins in October, so they should think in terms of "bringing this conflict to a resolution before then." If NATO intends to change the policy on the use of ground troops and send them into Kosovo without a peace agreement signed by Belgrade, "we haven't got very long, it seems to me, if such a change of strategy is decided upon."

But the decision does not depend on Sir Michael, but on the 19 NATO governments. The prospect of a bloody conflict on the ground has concentrated their minds wonderfully. Recently the US House of Representatives refused to pass a motion in favour of the war. This is a warning to Clinton that Congress is already having second thoughts. And not only them. Contrary to the views of the British commander, General Klaus Neumann, the German chairman of NATO's Military Committee, admitted that, if there was no peace deal, the bombing campaign might last for "months." And the fate of the refugees in the meantime, facing the prospect of a Balkan winter in tents? Senior NATO diplomatic sources have made it quite plain that the "driving force" behind NATO's military planning was not the refugees. As always, the latter are considered disposable for everything except NATO's propaganda campaign.

The editorial of The Economist of May 8th, significantly entitled "Making the best of a bungled war," stated the real position:

"So far, the West's war against Serbia has been a shambles. The humanitarian catastrophe it was designed to avert has merely been intensified. Nearly a million people, over half of Kosovo's population, have been driven from their homes; thousands are missing, perhaps dead, Serbia's military machine looks defiantly intact; barely a score of its 1,300-odd tanks have been destroyed. Dazzled by technology and obsessed with avoiding casualties, the allies seem to be unable to hurt, let alone destroy, Serbia's army."

Opposition grows

In Greece the massive opposition to the bombing campaign was combined with 55% of the population declaring their opposition to Milosevic, 35% saying they would be prepared to accept Kosovo Albanian refugees in their homes and 65% being prepared to send humanitarian aid for the refugees. These figures show a very healthy attitude on the part of the Greek population and provide the basis for putting forward an internationalist position against the war.

Since the beginning of the bombing campaign there have been daily demonstrations, statements, concerts, rallies, etc. against the war all over the country including the most remote and small villages. At least 10 mass demonstrations have been organised with tens of thousands of people participating in the last 40 days. The Greek TUC even organised a 4-hour work stoppage against the war some ten days ago. The Greek Railway Workers Union has declared publicly that in case of NATO sending ground troops into Yugoslavia they would prevent any military convoys from using the railway lines in Greece (the leadership of this union is in the hands of PASOK trade unionists who belong to the right-wing of the party, the so-called ‘renovators’!).

Opposition to NATO’s campaign has been specially strong in the harbour city of Salonika which has been used as a base for NATO operations. Several NATO convoys going into Macedonia (or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as it is officially called) have been physically stopped by angry demonstrators. In the latest incident, last week anti-war demonstrators changed the military traffic signs and redirected a NATO convoy which was going to Macedonia into a fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of Salonika where the convoy was attacked with tomatoes and other vegetables by a group of demonstrators. After successfully blocking the use of the port for three days, NATO convoys had to resort to leaving Salonika in the early hours to avoid being stopped.

In another incident which shows the strength of the anti-NATO feeling the leader of the county council of Xania, in Crete, where the important US base of Suba is located, declared that he could not be made responsible for the "physical well-being of the US soldiers". When the US ambassador in Athens protested against this statement he was declared persona non-grata by the county council.

A number of sailors of a Greek ship which was going to join NATO’s fleet made public their opposition to the war and declared that they would not participate, and even an army officer joined them on religious grounds. Under the threat of strong reprisals they finally were forced to join their ship. Only one of the sailors and the officer stayed firm. The office has been given a sentence of 3 years imprisonment (but because of the strong pressure of public opinion the sentence has been suspended).

The position of PASOK in these conditions has been very cautious. They participate in the war effort but publicly make all sorts of noises against it and in favour of a diplomatic solution. This is no accident. The mood in Greece is such that if NATO was to send ground troops into Yugoslavia they could face a mass revolt in Greece, especially over the use of the Salonika port. The government, which has managed to present itself as having a ‘neutral’ position, would be in serious difficulties.

There has been a dramatic increase in European unease. After all the bragging talk at the outset, confidence in American leadership in NATO has been shaken. It is a case of "every man for himself" Rome, Paris and Bonn are all separately looking around for some kind of a deal. In fact, the interests of the different NATO countries are far from identical. A continuation of the war would inevitably bring out all the hidden contradictions. In Germany the war has caused an internal crisis in the Greens which threatens the future of the coalition government. But there are other, far deeper, reasons why Germany is unenthusiastic about the war. Because of its position in Europe and its interests in Eastern Europe, Germany is particularly concerned about Russia’s reactions. That is why it is busy negotiating with the Russians and Chinese independently of NATO.

The big winner, paradoxically, has been Russia, a country that got money, respect, and the position of honest broker. The most extraordinary outcome of Bill Clinton’s Kosovo adventure was that it turned Boris Yeltsin into a statesman, with his representative, Chernomyrdin, taken more seriously in Bonn and Rome than Clinton’s Strobe Talbott. As one bemused foreign observer pointed out: when Boris Yeltsin begins to look like a serious and sober statesman, you know something has gone badly wrong with American policy!

What NATO demanded

The demands placed upon Yugoslavia by NATO are absolutely astounding in their insolence. The US. began by attempting to dictate terms to the Belgrade government, drafting a document now called the Rambouillet Accords. It gathered around itself its NATO allies, and demanded that all sides agreed to those Accords. What did they consist of?

The Rambouillet agreement provided for the military occupation, not just of Kosovo, but of the whole of Yugoslavia. Such a demand could not be agreed to by any government of any sovereign state. Moreover, it was couched in terms that would make it as onerous and humiliating as possible for Yugoslavia. Chapter seven, Article ten, for example, gives NATO the right to shoot down any military aircraft, not only over Kosovo, but also 25 kilometres from the boundaries of Kosovo into the rest of Serbia. It also refers (Chapter 7b) to the presence of NATO maritime units, whereas Kosovo is land-locked. So this can only refer to the river Danube, very far from Kosovo.

The agreement gives NATO troops unprecedented access to the country with no legal controls: "3. The Parties recognise the need for expeditious departure and entry for NATO personnel. Such personnel shall be exempt from passport and visa regulations." Moreover, NATO personnel would be placed, effectively, above the law: "6a. NATO shall be immune from all legal process, whether civil, administrative, or criminal."

They were to have the run of the whole country - not just Kosovo:

"8. NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, manoeuvre, billet, and utilisation of any areas or facilities as required for support, trading and operations."

As the peak of insolence, they demanded control of the mass media:

"15. The Parties shall grant all telecommunications services, including broadcast services, needed for the Operation, as determined by NATO free of cost."

And, last but by no means least, Article 11 specifies that:

"The economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles."

After the collapse of the USSR Washington has abrogated to itself the right to dictate to the every country in the world what economic policies it must pursue. Through the IMF and the World Bank it forces the Third World to privatise and adopt the so-called free market policies. But with the inevitable onset of a world slump, a heavy price will be paid by all these countries. The fate of the market in Albania was only a warning of what to expect. Now they wish to push Yugoslavia down the same rocky road to disaster!

After accepting these outrageous terms, not a single shred of Yugoslav national sovereignty would remain. It was therefore completely out of the question for Belgrade to accept. No government in the world could have accepted such terms, unless it had been already brought to its knees by a devastating defeat in war.

Despite this, the Americans had to lean heavily on the Albanian Kosovars to accept the Rambouillet agreement, which they did in the end, though reluctantly because they wanted to settle for nothing less than full independence. But when the Yugoslavs said that they would not sign, the Americans immediately warned that, unless the Serbs agreed to the Accords, precisely as stated with no further negotiation, NATO would begin a bombing campaign against them. This blatant bullying amounts to the policy of: "Do as we say, or we'll bomb you". It is the modern equivalent of gunboat diplomacy - a throwback to the methods of British imperialism in its hey-day.

Clinton was completely taken in by the reports of the CIA which claimed that Belgrade would capitulate after a few days of bombing. It did not. Now, the USA, faced with the prospect of having to launch a ground war against Serbia, for which most of its allies have little stomach, and finding that it lacks sufficient air power to crush Serb resistance, Washington has evidently decided that discretion is the better part of valour.

And what they will get

Unable to inflict a decisive defeat upon Belgrade, out of a spirit of petty and spiteful revenge, the USA is mercilessly pounding Yugoslavia. This bombing no longer has any military role. Gone is any pretence at selective targets. The US airforce is bombing everything that moves - residential areas, refugee columns, Chinese embassy or Greek consulates - who cares? The main thing is to vent the spleen and frustration of the world's mightiest power on an enemy that stubbornly refuses to bend the knee. The aim is to flatten Yugoslavia, to ruin it utterly, to reduce it to rubble, before finally signing a peace treaty in which Washington's failure will be writ large for all to see.

There will have to be a cease-fire prior to the implementation of any agreement. Kosovo will remain firmly inside Yugoslavia and Belgrade will continue to control it. While the army may be withdrawn, Serbian police will retain some sort of presence. This will not be welcome news to the KLA, which is making a lot of noise, demanding the continuation of the war. The KLA imagined that they would get a privileged position with Washington by doing the dirty work. Now they will be unceremoniously dispensed with. Having built up the hopes of the Kosovars, the Americans will drop them like a hot brick. Of course, in order to cover their backside, the Americans will have to find some face-saving formula to convince the world that this humiliating defeat is after all, a great victory! Having spent the past two months trying to prove that black is white, this will not be a very difficult task for the likes of Jamie Shea.

A recent report by STRATFOR suggested the form this compromise may take: "A lightly armed international peacekeeping force will be permitted into Kosovo. Some NATO members will send forces, several non-NATO members, including Russia, will also send forces. The command structure of the force will remain deliberately vague. It will be agreed that Albanians will be able to return to their homes in Kosovo in stages. Many will refuse to go, hoping to be resettled elsewhere. Others will return. Yet others will try to return but will find it impossible. An ineffective peacekeeping force will remain in place for a very long time, with an unclear mission." (The world after Kosovo, STRATFOR Global Intelligence Update, 3/5/99)

The terms which Bill Clinton now seems prepared to offer Belgrade could have been offered to the Serbs long ago, and a lot of deaths and damage could thereby have been avoided. With one important exception, most of the terms could be accepted by Belgrade. Milosevic has already stated that they would be prepared to accept a cease-fire, autonomy for Kosovo and the return of the refugees. Belgrade would also accept the presence of an international "peace force" but unarmed (or with only side-arms for self-defence) and under UN control. Of course, this is only the opening shot in a lengthy process of horse-trading. In the end, Belgrade will have to accept the presence of some NATO troops, but the British and Americans will have to be a minority, surrounded by Greeks, Italians, Russians, Ukrainians and probably Chinese, under UN control.

If a deal is worked out on some such lines, this would represent a clear victory for Yugoslavia, and a severe humiliation for NATO. As someone expressed it: "If you or I were in a boxing ring with Mike Tyson and, by some miracle, lasted three rounds, everyone would consider you had won, even if you were then knocked out." Actually, the situation in which NATO now finds itself is even worse than that since the Yugoslavs, despite the terrible battering they have suffered, are far from being knocked out. And therein lies the problem for NATO. Faced with the threat of a bloody and protracted war, the USA will be finally compelled to reach a compromise and sell it to world public opinion as best they can.

Such a deal will provide no serious or long-lasting solution to the problems of Kosovo, any more than the Dayton Agreement solved anything for Bosnia. It will only stoke the fires of future conflicts, wars and ethnic hatred to the detriment of all the peoples.

Economic crisis

The root cause of the crisis on the Balkans is fundamentally economic and social. The former Yugoslavia was engulfed by a catastrophic economic crisis towards the end of the eighties. In 1987 unemployment had reached the staggering level of 1,200,000 (out of a working population of 6.5 million!). 53% of the population was living below the minimum poverty level. Its foreign debt had shot up from $5 billion to $20 billion in just five years. The uneven development of the country had created a situation where unemployment in Slovenia, in the North, was a mere 1.3%, while in the poorest province, Kosovo, in the South, it had reached the level of 30%.

Yet only a decade earlier Yugoslavia was going through what the Financial Times described as "Yugoslavia’s boom years of the 1970s". On the basis of economic development it had been possible to achieve a forty year long period in which all the peoples of Yugoslavia were able to live together peacefully. But once the crisis of the economy set in all the nightmares of the past began once more to loom large.

The leadership of the old Yugoslav League of Communists (the Communist Party) proved incapable of solving the economic crisis and thus each national bureaucracy, Croatian, Serb, Bosnian, Slovene, etc., moved along the road of nationalism. If we bear in mind the fact that nationalism was able to thrive on the basis of millions of Yugoslavs being thrown into extreme poverty then we have to ask ourselves how is the wanton destruction of the economy of Serbia going to solve the problem.

At the moment Yugoslavia is taking the direction of a war economy, with measures of planning and centralisation. They really have no other alternative. This will achieve results in the short term. But after the war it is likely that the movement in the direction of capitalism will be resumed, not only because of the pressures from the IMF, but because Milosevic and the ruling clique are all in favour of capitalism - as long as the wealth is in their hands and no-one else's. The losers, as always, will be the working people of Yugoslavia.

Tomislav Banovic, President of the Serbian Confederation of Trade Unions, the official and most representative union organisation in Serbia, recently gave a devastating picture of the effects of the bombings in an interview with the Italian newspaper, ‘il Manifesto’ (1.5.99). "They are bombing everything, factories, hospitals, schools, bridges, roads, power supplies, the abbeys that are a Unesco heritage, the TV stations. And they also hit highly polluting factories such as the oil refinery of Pancevo, and they contaminate the land with depleted uranium which is used to make these powerful bombs...

"I have here the latest list, but this has to be updated on an hourly basis: yesterday for example they destroyed the nickel processing plant near Pristina. It is the list of the 35 major engineering factories destroyed by the NATO bombing raids: if you include all the surrounding plants that receive and supply parts from these factories then we calculate that this has led to a further 155,000 unemployed, which together with their families means that a total of 605,000 who no longer have a means of maintaining themselves. To these engineering factories we have to add all the other centres of production and those connected to the services and infrastructure, from chemical plants to the railways, which brings us to a total of 600,000 people who have lost their jobs in a 40 day bombing campaign. This has had a knock-on effect in other sectors, which brings the total of people who have lost their jobs to about one million, and this has to be added to the one million who were unemployed before the bombing. This i

s our humanitarian catastrophe, practically almost half the working population without a job... How strange: while the European countries promise their workers more jobs, here they help in destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs...

"To destroy the factories means striking a blow at multiethnic interests. The bulk of the workforce at the nickel processing plant near Pristina was ethnic Kosovar Albanian. The refugees will return, they must all return to Kosovo, but where will they work if the factories have been destroyed by the bombing raids?"

NATO's Balkan intrigues

The Financial Times (27th April) points out that the effects of the bombing on the economy are being felt outside Yugoslavia also. "From the spas of Slovenia to Bulgaria’s beaches, the Kosovo conflict is casting a shadow across the economies of the Balkans." According to the report, Bulgaria has been hit by the closure of the transport routes through Serbia. It has been calculated that gross domestic product in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Croatia could be affected by as much as 1%. Macedonia is particularly affected, as it exported 65% of its output in metal processing to Serbia. Agriculture is also suffering as Bulgaria and Macedonia are having to reroute their exports around Serbia through Romania, where the only remaining bridge on the Danube stands. The waiting time on that bridge is now seven days!

The Bulgarian deputy prime minister says his country is losing anything up to $1.5 million a day in exports, about 10 per cent of the total. And with the bombing of the bridges across the Danube in Serbia, the river has become impassable. This is particularly affecting Romania which relies heavily on the Danube river as a means of transporting its goods to Western Europe. All this is exacerbating the economic crisis which had hit these countries after the financial crash in Russia last year. The social conditions which will ensue will contribute to a further strengthening of nationalist sentiment in the area.

The Kosovo crisis has reawakened all the old hostilities on the Balkans, pitting one government and nation against another, and thereby sowing the seeds of new wars in the future. Not only do we have the revolting role of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in backing NATO, but the equally treacherous role of the so-called socialist government in Tirana and the right wing administrations in Bulgaria and Romania who lost no time in stabbing Yugoslavia in the back in order to further their own interests. The Albanian government was initially enthusiastic about the war - so enthusiastic that it effectively offered NATO to take over the country, just as the ancient Russians were supposed to have invited the Vikings to come and rule over them! They dreamed of establishing a strong base in the Balkans - on American bayonets. Kosovo would be given independence, then, after a decent interval, vote to unite with the Albanian motherland, leading to the formation of Greater Albania. This would, of course, immediately ra

ise the question of the Albanian minorities in Macedonia and Montenegro. But one need not talk about such things in advance! Such were the illusions that the rulers of Albania entertained in secret, if not in public.

Now all these dreams have gone up like a puff of smoke. Tirana, like the Kosovars, has been betrayed by its NATO "allies". "There is a certain nervousness in public opinion," says Prec Zogai, an adviser to the Albanian President. The nervousness is well founded. When the Americans said that the Serb attacks on the Kosovars would mean a revision of the Rambouillet agreement, they had always taken this to mean a toughening of the terms of the agreement. Instead, it is clear that what Clinton is looking for is a way to get out from under - in other words, a climb-down. The terms for the Kosovars will not be better, but worse, than the deal they so reluctantly signed at Rambouillet. The Financial Times lifted the veil on both the war aims of Tirana and the prospect of new upheavals in Albania as a result of the collapse of its aims:

"Artan Hoxha, a former minister of foreign trade and now chairman of the Albanian Institute for Contemporary Studies, warned that if the agreement did not provide sufficient guarantees for the Kosovars, the resulting anger at the present Albanian government could result in violent disorder of the kind seen here several times since the collapse of communism.

"'In the Rambouillet agreement it was said Kosovo would be a protectorate within the Yugoslav federation, but everybody believed it was just a front for the independence of Kosovo,' he said.

"Now they see it seems more likely that something on the model of the Republika Srpska [the semi-autonomous Serb state in Bosnia-Hercegovina] is being prepared for them." (Financial Times, 12/5/99.)

As a matter of fact, this scenario is the best the Kosovars can hope for. In all likelihood, they will have to settle for less. The fate of the Kosovars and the plight of Albania is a stern warning to all small nations that put their hope in imperialism. Down this road, there is nothing to be expected, except betrayal, defeat, ruin and humiliation.

The intrigues of NATO spread far beyond the immediate area of the war. Its agents are everywhere trying - with some success - to bribe and corrupt governments into serving as its hired mercenaries. In the time-honoured tradition of Balkans diplomacy, honour is sold by the kilo, along with soap and pork chops. After the visit of Mr. Blair (or was it before it?), the government of Bucharest rushed to allow NATO to use Romanian air space. Not only that. Defence minister Victor Babiuc issued orders allowing NATO bombers to use Romanian airports, and even closed civilian airports in Timisoara, Caransebes and (possibly) Craiova to Romanian passengers. The foreign affairs minister Andrei Plesu, declared that Romania would observe the oil blockade against Yugoslavia, a neighbouring state with which Romania has no quarrel and with which it signed a friendship treaty in 1996. As we know, friendship is friendship, and business is business!

From these actions we see clearly the venal actions of the pro-bourgeois governments of Romania and Bulgaria, willing and anxious to prostitute themselves in order to gain admission to NATO and the EU. Unfortunately for them, the price of an admittance ticket to these rich man's clubs is rather higher than what they can afford. Their betrayal of Yugoslavia will not suffice. At best they can expect something akin to the role of semi-colonies of the EU. And by meddling in the Yugoslav conflict, they have opened the door to being dragged into actual hostilities next time round. This was a fatal step to take for these regimes, not one of which is stable. On a capitalist basis they all face a future of economic and social crisis, poverty and despair, lit up only by the fires of future wars.

New World Disorder

The Kosovo crisis represents a turning-point in the history of Europe. The defeat of NATO in Kosovo - for that is what it is - has shown the limits of the power of US imperialism. This has a crucial bearing on the new stage in the colonial revolution that has already begun in Indonesia and will inevitably intensify in the period of crisis that now opens up on a world scale. If the Americans could not intervene with ground troops in Kosovo, how could they contemplate a serious intervention against the Indonesian revolution?

The inability of NATO to defeat little Yugoslavia is the latest in a series of humiliations that reveal the limits of US power in the world. In addition to the intervention in Iraq we have had the interventions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and now Kosovo. All have ended badly, most in humiliation. After eight years, Saddam Hussein continues in power in Iraq. Somalia was an all-out failure. The Haitian invasion displaced the former government but solved nothing. Bosnia, which was supposed to be a short-term intervention, has become a permanent presence. But the most humiliating setback has been suffered in Yugoslavia. The spokesmen for NATO try to put the best possible face on this defeat. But defeat it is, and no amount of spin-doctoring can alter the fact.

The USA and NATO will come out of this significantly weakened. As STRATFOR correctly put it: "The United States will be withdrawing from its aggressive leadership position not solely because it wishes to do so. It will be withdrawing because it has seriously lost the trust of many of its NATO allies. Except for the UK, the rest of NATO has been simply appalled by the US management of the entire affair. The end game is being crafted by Germany, Italy, and Russia because the United States simply locked itself into a position from which it could neither retreat nor go forward."

This crisis has also seriously affected the situation in Russia. Boris Yeltsin was faced with an open crisis, and even overthrow, if the war went ahead. That is why he has been anxiously trying to stitch up a deal, using the services of discredited ex-Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. The Americans were likewise anxious to keep Russia out of the conflict and therefore suddenly forgot about their earlier policy of refusing funds to Moscow. In other words, they resorted to bribery. Russia has so far walked away with $4.5 billion in its pockets. Not that this will last very long under conditions of such terrible collapse. If the leaders of the so-called Communist Party had a genuine Leninist policy, they could have taken power in the last few weeks. Instead, they have tied themselves firmly to the capitalist road. As a result, yet again, Yeltsin has recovered. How long for is another question.

The sudden dismissal of Primakov was the result of the attempt to impeach Yeltsin. By acting in this way, Yeltsin hoped to pre-empt his enemies in the State Duma. But this desperate gambler's throw, far from solving anything, has merely opened a new and convulsive crisis in Russia's political life. In the context of a profound social ferment and disillusionment with market reform, the open split at the top can be the signal for an explosion from below. "Even if the economy were running smoothly, we'd be in for a very hot political year," said Vladimir Petukhov, an analyst with the conservative Institute of Social and National Problems in Moscow. "But here we are skirting the abyss of social explosion and the political elite are moving into an all-out struggle for power. The odds are that our leaders will find a way out by imposing dictatorship."

Thus the Kosovo crisis showed up all the fault-lines that lie beneath the surface in Russia. Not one of the problems has been resolved. At best Yeltsin's rally will be temporary. The present crisis will be followed by others, each more convulsive than the last. There can be no question of reaching a lasting stabilisation on a capitalist basis in Russia. That can only be achieved by the working class taking power into its hands and turning Russia - and the world - in another direction.

The repercussions of these events will exacerbate the contradictions between the different imperialist states - between Europe and America, and also between the rival capitalist regimes of western Europe, with France, Germany and Britain pulling in opposite directions. France looks more towards the Mediterranean, North and Central Africa and the Middle East. Its agricultural interests clash with those of Britain and Germany. In addition, the growing power of Germany - its supposed "friendly neighbour" - is causing ever greater suspicion and resentment in the corridors of the Elyseé palace.

The Yugoslav debacle will have the effect of increasing the internal contradictions within NATO. It may even lead to the break-up of the alliance at a later date. Despite all the talk of unity, each of the member states of NATO will be pursuing its own ends. Germany has always had its own interests in the Balkans and is not interested in a war. Germany has been quietly expanding its spheres of interest in the East, and has a fundamental interest in avoiding a clash with Russia. The narrowly-averted confrontation between NATO and Russia over Kosovo was a shock not only to the German people, but also to the government. Not only did trade unions like the powerful IG Metal come out against the war, but the conflict threatened to split the SPD and the Greens if it continued.

Britain has revealed itself in this conflict as a second-rate power and a helpless satellite of the United States. The ridiculous posturing and bragging of Tony Blair fools no-one concerning the humiliating nature of this dependency. However, behind the scenes, the relations between London and Washington are not so rosy as Blair would like to make out. Although Britain is useful to the Americans as a reliable ally in Europe, they are under no illusions as to Britain's real position as an unimportant island off the coast of Europe, where the real power is Germany. The USA would far prefer to deal direct with the Germans, but rightly discerns that they have interests of their own which do not necessarily coincide with America's.

War means profit!

Someone once remarked to Lenin that war is terrible. "Yes", said Lenin - "Terribly profitable." Even before the gunfire has died down in Kosovo, the vultures are already beginning to circle overhead. Big western monopolies are hungry for markets and profits in the Balkans. A recent article in the Morning Star exposed the intrigues of the big monopolies who are preparing to enrich themselves over the crucified body of Yugoslavia. Blood and tears will once again be coined into gold and silver.

The NATO anniversary celebrations were themselves funded by corporate chief executives who pay £150,000 to sit on a host committee that includes Ameritech, Daimler Chrysler, Boeing, Ford Motors, General Motors, Honeywell, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Nixtel, SBC Communications, TRW and United Technologies. These big companies get handsome profits from the sale of weapons, air conditioners, lifts, and phones to the new members of NATO in Eastern Europe. Thus, Polish taxpayers will pay $20 million each for Lockheed Martin's F-16s, while the government of Poland cuts spending on welfare. The total bill for modernising NATO forces in Eastern Europe is calculated at $22 billion.

There is an old German saying: "Money does not smell." These big companies are not fussy about where they sell their wares or where their profits come from. A recent article in US Today (15th April) wrote that: "The defence equipment of the US, such as the satellite-guided smart bombs, has stolen the international limelight (sic!) as NATO air forces pound Serbian forces. That could mean increased foreign interest in US military equipment."

This is how the capitalists see war. They are not concerned with the sufferings of ordinary men, women and children. The plight of the Kosovar refugees is a matter of complete indifference, as is the deaths caused by their bombs, shells and bullets. This is all very regrettable, no doubt, but excellent for business! No wonder the big monopolies were prepared to spend £5 million on NATO's anniversary celebration.

Capitalism on a world scale has entered into a new and convulsive period - a period characterised by crises, wars, revolution and counter-revolution on a world scale. The Kosovo crisis at the end of the 20th century has served notice on Europe of the frightful cost of maintaining the capitalist system in the period of its decay - a system which sets one nation at the throat of another at the behest of profit, markets and spheres of interest. In the long run, the whole of Europe is threatened with the disease of Balkanisation.

And yet this is not inevitable. The workers of all the countries of the Balkans have no interest in fighting fratricidal wars. Before the break up of Yugoslavia the workers did move as a class. The Serb, Croatian, Bosnian, Kosovar workers all took part in a wave of strikes and demonstrations which brought them together against the government of Yugoslavia, the government of bureaucrats. When the first war between Croatia and the Yugoslav government started the first reaction of workers across Yugoslavia was that they did not want to kill their brothers. We saw this again in Sarajevo where the masses made a last desperate attempt to stop the descent into barbarism that was being organised by the nationalist on all sides. But the workers were leaderless and were thus unable to provide an alternative to the crisis the country was facing.

So long as the workers of the Balkans remain leaderless then more disasters will be forthcoming, more barbarism and war will be the fate of the peoples of this part of Europe. But the workers remain the only force in society, organised in their trade unions that can offer a way out. Tomislav Banovic, the leader of the Serb trade unions quoted above, has pointed out that, "Our trade union confederation appeals to the workers of the world to stop the NATO bombings... This trade union confederation is multiethnic, it represents 27 different nationalities... I want to make an appeal to the workers of Europe against all forms of nationalism, which has been mainly responsible for this destruction. We must work towards multi-ethnic coexistence. In spite of the hatred and the war in Kosovo this is still possible."

These words undoubtedly represent the genuine aspirations of the workers of Yugoslavia. This is where we must begin to build up the genuine forces for a socialist transformation of society. The workers across the Balkans need to take control of their own destiny by taking over control of the economy and running it in their own interests. That is why only the socialist transformation of society can offer a way out on the basis of a Socialist Federation of the Balkans as the first step to the creation of the Socialist United States of Europe.

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