Kosovo Under the Gun

Oppose the US/NATO Occupation

Revolutionary Worker #1012, June 27, 1999

Troops of the NATO war coalition have now entered Kosovo. Armored columns have seized key towns and roads. The U.S. and its allies in Western Europe have now carved the small province into "zones"--and are systematically imposing their rule there.

U.S. troops entered Kosovo last, allowing their coalition partners to take the risk of casualties--in case the agreement with Yugoslavia broke down and the advancing NATO troops faced hostile fire. The U.S. Marines landed in Greece, after protests there had been suppressed by police, and marched inland past huge graffiti that read, "Welcome Killers."

To the surprise of everyone, it was the Russian troops who entered Kosovo first--moving a tank column of 200 soldiers rapidly from Bosnia to the Slatina airport near Kosovo's capital Pristina. It was a deliberate move to remind the whole world that Russia's ruling class did not intend to be shoved aside by the U.S.--in the Balkans or (by extension) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The U.S. has troops in three countries bordering Yugoslavia: Macedonia, Bosnia, and Albania. Now, the war goals NATO pursued in over seven weeks of relentless bombing will be pursued directly, on the ground in Kosovo, backed by the guns of about 50,000 troops.

NATO's Lying Self-Justifications

As the NATO troops took up their positions in Kosovo, the public "humanitarian" justifications offered for this war were repeatedly exposed on the ground.

NATO waged its war in the name of "preventing ethnic cleansing." Yet NATO's bombing campaign had triggered the first wave of "ethnic cleansing" by intensely inflaming hostilities in Kosovo and creating a climate in which reactionary Serb paramilitaries and police could target and drive out hundreds of thousands of Albanian people. Now, only two months later, the NATO occupation of Kosovo triggered a second desperate exodus of people from this Connecticut-sized province, as Serbs fled in terror from those who had so mercilessly bombed the country.

This chain of ugly events shows that imperialist bombs and troops cannot solve complex problems among the people--and it confirms that solving the problems of the people here was not the purpose of the imperialist attacks in the first place.

NATO's war was also waged in the name of "protecting the rights of Kosovo's Albanians." And yet virtually the whole operation of occupation was planned to prevent the Kosovar Albanians from organizing local self-government--and to stop them from raising the issue of independence from Yugoslavia.

NATO commanders repeatedly announced that they were moving into Kosovo as rapidly as possible, right behind the retreating Yugoslav troops, to prevent the creation of any "power vacuum"--which really meant preventing the establishment of any local power by Albanian Kosovars, and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). NATO openly demanded that Albanian Kosovars disarm and that the KLA's armed groups disband. And the occupiers are increasingly enforcing this "demilitarization" of the KLA at the point of a gun.

The first use of the much-discussed Apache attack helicopters was not against Yugoslav forces, but to threaten and disarm a unit of KLA fighters encountered by U.S. Marines. Similar actions have been carried out by British, French and German troops.

This shows that the NATO occupiers are in Kosovo to enforce stability and to serve the interests of the world's most powerful ruling classes--not to give Kosovo's people any power over their own future.

A third justification of NATO's war has been to "inflict pain on the Milosevic government" of Yugoslavia. But bomb craters and casualties show that the NATO attacks punished the masses of people in Yugoslavia.

NATO estimated that it dropped 20,000 bombs on Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia during this air war. How many dead did each of these bombs leave behind? And where is the "war crimes tribunal" that is counting up those stolen lives?

The air campaign shattered the economic backbone of Yugoslavia--destroying the bridges, passenger trains, highways, electrical plants, water supply systems, refineries and factories. Then, increasingly, NATO's bombs found civilian targets--including with NATO's sinister arsenal of anti-personnel cluster bombs. The targets hit by U.S. bombs included hospitals, schools--even prisons and television stations.

A Spanish F-18 pilot returning from the Balkan war granted an interview with the weekly paper Artículo 20 to expose how the U.S. commanders running the air war ordered deliberate attacks on non-military targets. Captain Adolfo Luis Martin de la Hoz reported that his commanding Spanish colonel who protested these orders was threatened with formal charges. "Once there was a coded order of the North American military," de la Hoz said, "that we should drop anti-personnel bombs over the localities of Pristina and Nis. The Colonel refused it altogether and, a couple of days later, his transfer order came." Captain de la Hoz continued, "The North Americans are committing one of the biggest barbarities that can be committed against humanity."

Hidden by the U.S. Media

Such charges and controversies have been almost completely hidden by the U.S. media coverage of the war and occupation.

As NATO troops move into position, the TV news has presented detailed nightly reports on burned villages and civilian graves in Kosovo. TV cameras avoid filming the NATO bomb craters all over Kosovo--that are the size of swimming pools.

The Norwegian charity organization "Urgent Church Aid" announced on June 18 that it would provide aid to rebuild destroyed kindergartens, schools, and health services facilities in Yugoslavia. This report would be unremarkable except for the fact that, within the U.S. there have been no mainstream media reports that such widespread destruction of "kindergartens, schools and health services" ever took place!

One episode on U.S. news was particularly telling: A reporter described how Albanian refugees came back to their home in Kosovo--only to find it had been "mined" by potentially explosive objects shaped like tin cans. The family had to return to the refugee camps and wait. The suggestion was that Yugoslav soldiers had booby-trapped this house--and the report neglected to mention that such tin-can-shaped explosives are characteristic of the U.S. cluster bombs that were widely used throughout Kosovo.

A Future Imposed by NATO Guns and Bombs

It is estimated that NATO has destroyed $100 billion of economic infrastructure in 78 days of bombing. And the Kosovo mining complex of Trepca--which was an important resource for the region's economy --will now be directly occupied by NATO troops. This has a direct and severe impact on all the countries of the region: Yugoslav transportation, for example, plays a key role in the trade throughout the Balkans, and in the economic links between Greece, Macedonia and the rest of Europe.

One U.S. economist estimated that it would take 41 years--two generations!--for Yugoslavia to rebuild its economy to the pre-1999 level of production without foreign investment. The planners and think tanks of the NATO powers now assume that Yugoslavia's future government will have no choice but accept their plans for the region's future.

The key demand has already been made: The U.S. insists it will decide who heads the government of Yugoslavia. President Clinton's victory speech announced that as long as President Milosevic remains in power "we will provide no support for the reconstruction of Serbia."

"Aid" in a capitalist world is a mechanism for domination and exploitation. It means new loans (which leave a country deep in debt to world banks) and foreign investments (which leave a country's economy organized according to the interests of international imperialists.) This is nothing new for Yugoslavia--which is a capitalist country with long ties to western imperialism. World Bank Chairman James Wolfensohn pointed out on June 18 that Yugoslavia already owed $1.5 billion to the World Bank--in part for loans used to build the country's now-destroyed transportation system. Wolfensohn pointed out, "It will be difficult for the Yugoslavs to pay the same loans twice for the same roads and bridges."

Meanwhile, the U.S. has unleashed political operatives and funds to strengthen and control an "opposition" force to replace the current Yugoslav government. According to several European press accounts, a senior State Department official met secretly in Montenegro with several key Serbian political figures to urge them to unite and remove the current Yugoslav government.

The gangster threats and air attacks were just the start of NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia. Now come the demands for political domination over Yugoslavia in exchange for "aid"--"aid" that, itself, will represent a new deepening of the debt and foreign domination in this region.

Imperialist Rivalries Surface

One of the U.S. government's key goals in this war is to make sure that Europe's major powers--Britain, France and especially Germany--carry out their global moves within a framework dominated by the U.S. The U.S. has a vision of a "new world order" where it is the undisputed superpower--and where new imperialist rivalries and challenges are contained by U.S.-dominated alliances and aggressive U.S.-led "multilateral actions."

The U.S. wanted to develop NATO as the military alliance through which new political and economic order got imposed in Eastern Europe--but under the leadership of the U.S. And, overall, that is what happened during NATO's attack on Yugoslavia. The U.S. lent its airforce to carry out the great bulk of this brutal campaign--to impose a NATO-approved order on the southwestern flank of Europe--and to make sure that Turkey did not get distracted from crucial U.S.-led plans for the control of Caspian oil.

However, on June 3--the very day that Milosevic agreed to NATO's war demands--the European imperialist powers announced that they had reached an agreement about moving in a new direction. The headline in the New York Times read "European Union Vows to Become Military Power." In a meeting in Cologne, the leaders of 15 European countries decided to make the European Union a military power for the first time in its 42-year history--complete with command headquarters, staffs and forces of their own. Their statement said, "The union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military force, the means to decide to use them, and a readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO."

European imperialists have announced, in the aftermath of the Balkan war, that they intend to develop their own arsenals of military satellites, smart bombs, and bomber fleets--so that they would be in a position to unleash threats and attacks on other countries--independently of the U.S.--if they choose.

This plan for European militarization is not what the U.S. has had in mind. And it is a reminder that, among imperialists, collaboration is conditional and temporary, while the workings of the system itself repeatedly brings rivalries and conflicts sharply to the surface.

Russia's Military Move

The most startling example of imperialist rivalry pressing to the surface were the actions of the Russia imperialists during the occupation of Kosovo. While NATO was announcing "We are in control"--Russian troops suddenly showed up in Kosovo's capital first, and before the eyes of the world pressed Russia's demands for their own "zone" within Kosovo.

The Russian ruling class has been more and more deeply disturbed by the escalating reorganization of Eastern Europe and Central Asia that has been carried out by the U.S. and its NATO allies.

In December 1998, the U.S. bombed Iraq for four days--with complete indifference to the Russian government's strenuous objections.

Then early this year, just as NATO prepared to attack Yugoslavia, the U.S.-led war alliance brought three former Soviet allies--Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary--into NATO.

Three former Soviet republics--Georgia, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan--recently pulled out of the Russian-dominated Confederation of Independent States (CIS). During the recent NATO gala celebrations in Washington, they joined with Ukraine and Moldova to form GUAAM--an alliance aimed at strengthening their ties to the Western imperialists. Russia's foreign minister asked, "How should we understand the fact that this new regional organization has been created in Washington during a NATO summit?"

Meanwhile, the U.S. has been pressing forward with its plans for an oil pipeline through Turkey to the Mediterranean that would end Russian control of key Caspian oil reserves.

The western assurances made to Gorbachev in the late 1980s--that NATO would not take over Eastern Europe as the Soviets withdrew their troops--have long since been bypassed by aggressive European and U.S. penetration of the Russian imperialists' former empire. The current Russian government--which is heavily dependent on Western loans for day-to-day survival--has gained itself a reputation in Russia as a regime that has allowed Russian imperialism to be picked clean--while Russia itself sinks more and more deeply into economic disarray.

Kosovo was the place where the Russian government decided to make a public, symbolic stand--and flash its remaining military card. They sent 200 soldiers with tanks to occupy Kosovo's capital first, and to blockade roads to the Slatina Airport--forcing British invaders into several days of embarrassing standoff.

The U.S. and NATO allowed the Russian imperialists to make their symbolic move--arguing that the Russian troops would sooner or later have to take their place within (and under) the NATO command. NATO forces insisted that the Russian imperialists would not be given their own zone, since that would inevitably have become a joint "Serbian-Russian" zone. This would mean a partitioning of Kosovo and a loss of NATO control over the whole province.

The Russian encampment at the Pristina airport was simply surrounded, and sealed off, while NATO's troops carried out their occupation of the rest of Kosovo. Meanwhile, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria all refused overflight rights to Russian transport aircraft--driving home the point, once again, that the former Soviet empire is being systematically stripped away from Russia.

On June 18, a Russian NATO agreement was announced in which the roughly 4,000 Russian troops would be divided among three different zones controlled by NATO countries. There will be no Russian zone, no partitioning of Kosovo, and Russian troops will be under NATO "tactical command." For appearances, Russian commanders have been promised "a larger say" in how the occupation of Kosovo is carried out.

The U.S. imperialists suggest that this latest arrangement could become a framework for a larger agreement with Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, "The significance of this agreement goes beyond Kosovo, as important as that is."

In fact, NATO has had its way in Kosovo, causing new public humiliation for the Yeltsin government--it is not the kind of future arrangement that the Russian imperialists have in mind. The real contradictions between Russian and U.S. imperialist interests will not be easily papered over. The global reorganizations carried out by the U.S. and the European Union in both Eastern Europe and Central Asia are directly opposed to Russian imperialist interests. And the conflict that erupted in the Pristina airport will inevitably produce new eruption--both internationally and within the Russian ruling class--in the period ahead.

More to Come

A cold and ruthless occupation force--led by the U.S.--has now taken up position within Yugoslavia itself, occupying the southern province of Kosovo. Armed force on the ground now seeks to press forward the demands of the air war.

Once again, the Balkans have proven to be a region in Europe where imperialist powers and their armed forces are drawn in, step by step. These imperialist powers have kept the people of this region divided--they have inflamed hostilities and armed opposing sides.

The U.S.-led imperialists are working feverishly to find and create local political forces that serve their interests and accept their plans for the region--and they will seek to impose those forces on the people of Kosovo and the larger Yugoslav republic.

National sovereignty of everyone in this region has been trampled. Yugoslavia has been turned into a target, while the neighboring countries have become imperialist staging grounds. The Albanian people of Kosovo have been treated like pawns, and are now being told to keep quiet and do as the soldiers tell them.

None of this is in the interests of the people of the world. People everywhere need to expose and oppose the criminal actions that the U.S.-led NATO's occupiers are carrying out.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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