SEVEN YEARS AFTER US-LED WAR ON YUGOSLAVIA: DEADLOCKS CONTINUE AT KOSOVO FINAL STATUS TALKS
By Tony Robson

World Socialist Web Site, MI
April 1 2006

This is the conclusion of a two-part article on Kosovo. Part One was
published on March 31.

The attitude taken by the US and EU toward ethnic cleansing depends on
who is conducting it and whether it furthers their strategic interests
at the time. While Serbia has been threatened with economic sanctions,
the representatives of the US and EU have extended a welcoming hand
to the war criminals of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army).

As part of the post-conflict arrangements in 1999, the KLA was
officially disbanded. However, the KLA has remained a force in the
land ever since and this in no small part due to the connections it
had established with its powerful backers, particularly the US.

Head of the negotiating team for the Kosovo Albanians was to have been
President Ibrahim Rugova .The latter, and his party, the Democratic
League of Kosovo (LDK), were historically associated with a non-violent
campaign for secession. In every provisional election since 1999,
it has been the main secessionist party, far outpolling the two
political offshoots of the KLA-the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK)
and the Alliance for the Future Kosovo (AAK).

Since Rugova's death from lung cancer in January, the main beneficiary
has been the KLA. No sooner had the status talks begun, than former KLA
commander in chief Agim Ceku was appointed prime minister. The AAK,
a junior partner in a coalition government with the LDK, installed
Ceku, at the expense of AAK deputy chairman Bajram Kosumi, who had
been a KLA supporter but not an active combatant.

Reuters referred to the external pressure behind the decision:
"Kosumi has been criticised for ineptness by other members of
Kosovo's ruling ethnic Albanian coalition and Western mentor states
shepherding the UN-run Serbian province through talks that could
lead to its independence later this year.... He [Ceku] is seen as
a political heavyweight more in the mould of Kosumi's predecessor
Ramush Haradinaj, another former guerilla commander who resigned a
year ago to stand trial at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague."

Ceku served in the Croatian army and was a key planner in Operation
Storm, a military offensive in the Krajina region of Croatia in 1995
that resulted in the expulsion of some 150,000 Serbs, the largest
single act of ethnic cleansing to date in the Balkans. The incident
became so notorious that even The Hague tribunal indicted former
Croatian general Ante Gotovina for his part in this war crime. But
while the latter has been in custody awaiting trial, Ceku has enjoyed
complete immunity.

Ceku was made head of the KLA as it was reconfigured by the US to act
as proxy land army for the NATO aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia in
1999. After the conflict, he was appointed head of the newly-created
Kosovo Protection Corp (KPC), effectively an embryonic national army,
supported and supplied by the UN. Over the past seven years KPC
officers have been involved in attacks on Serb civilians. Belgrade
has an Interpol arrest warrant for war crimes carried out by Ceku. He
was apprehended twice, in Hungary and Slovenia, but released after
the intervention of EU and UN diplomats.

Ceku is the second former KLA commander to have assumed the position
of prime minister since 1999. The first, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned in
March 2005 in order to stand trial for war crimes in The Hague. He
faces 37 counts of murder, rape, persecution, inhumane acts and
unlawful detention in Kosovo during 1998. Nevertheless, he has been
permitted into the province and to participate in politics while
awaiting trial.

According to Tim Juddah, writing in The Observer: "The move to lift
the ban on politics for Haradinaj has been spearheaded by the UN
mission in Kosovo and supported by diplomats there.... What is clear
is that since his release the UN and diplomats in Kosovo have courted
Haradinaj in a way unprecedented for a man indicted for murder and
ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia. On 26 September, for example,
a huge party was held at Pristina's Hotel Grand to celebrate the
wedding of Haradinaj's brother. Among the guests were Larry Rossin,
the deputy head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK),
plus other senior officials and diplomats."

Material interests

The Kosovo separatists have positioned themselves as middlemen,
offering up the province's resources for exploitation by major
transnationals. Kosovo has the second largest coal reserves in Europe
and rich deposits of lead, zinc, gold, silver and petroleum. Ethem
Ceku, Agim's cousin and member of the AAK, is energy and mining
minister.

A brochure aimed at attracting foreign investment states: "A major
objective of the donor agencies and the Provisional Institutions
of Self Government of Kosovo (PISG) is the development of Kosovo's
private sector economy. Accordingly, UNMIK and the PISG have adopted
a set of laws to ensure an investor friendly environment including:
regulations on foreign direct investment; repatriation of capital;
the purchase of real estates; the registration of businesses and land;
and the establishment of 99-year leaseholds for land formerly used
by SOEs."

Last November, the UN-administered Kosovo Trust Agency sold the
ferro-nickel plant Ferronikeli to the UK-based Alferon, which is
part of the large Eurasian Natural Resources Group. The Trepca
mining complex, once described by the New York Times as one of the
biggest pieces of real estate in the Balkans, valued at $5 billion,
has been turned over to an international consortium, ITT Kosovo Ltd,
a joint venture between US, French and Swedish companies.

Wealthy elements within the Kosovo Albanian emigre community are
seeking Washington's backing through organisations like Alliance for a
New Kosovo. According to the Financial Times, one of the main figures
behind this organisation, Behglet Pacolli, is "possibly the world's
richest Albanian". The newspaper reported: "Following a well-worn
campaign trail, the Kosovo Albanians have put up a large pool of
money, attracted big names among former US officials, brought in a
big ticket think-tank and international lobbying company and marshaled
their supporters in Congress."

Among those enlisted are Samuel Hoskinson, former deputy head of the
US National Intelligence Council, and Frank Carlucci, former defence
secretary and emeritus chairman of the Carlyle Group, a private
investment firm close to the Bush administration. The article said:
"Other former officials suggested the US might have to resort to an
'imposed settlement' if Serbia did not yield from its position of
'more autonomy, less than independence'".

Geographically, Kosovo lies at the centre of a critical pipeline
route for transporting the largely untapped oil and gas resources of
Central Asia to markets in the West. The traditional East-West route
from the landlocked Caspian Sea has been via the Bosphurus Straits.

However, this route has been increasingly unable to cope with demand.

The question of "Bosphurus by-pass routes" is inextricably connected
to the strategy championed by the US of building new pipelines that
circumvent Russia and Iran.

The Balkan peninsula was earmarked for several pipelines but only the
US-registered consortium AMBO (the acronym for the transit countries,
Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia) has reached the construction stage. The
900-km pipeline is expected to carry 750,000 barrels per day once
completed. Oil from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan will be shipped across
the Black Sea to the port of Burgas in Bulgaria, where it will be
pumped across the peninsula via Skopje, Macedonia to the Mediterranean
port of Vlore, Albania. The consortium's CEO is Edward Ferguson,
a former director of Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton,
the energy and defence contractor connected to the US administration.

The AMBO project has advanced in competition with the shorter and
cheaper oil pipeline project from the same starting point in Burgas,
Bulgaria to the Greek port of Alexandropoulos on the Aegean Sea. The
latter is associated with transporting Russian oil to Western markets
and Greece's attempt to challenge Turkey as a major East-West energy
node.

AMBO's development has proceeded hand in glove with its transit states
becoming virtual NATO protectorates. Bulgaria, together with Rumania
and several central European and Baltic states, was admitted into
the alliance in 2004. Albania has participated in joint exercises
with NATO and the latter has been involved in Macedonia.

One of the America's largest overseas military bases since Vietnam,
Camp Bondsteel, was built on 1000 acres of farmland seized in the
US military sector of south east Kosovo. The heavily fortified
complex with bomb shelters and guard towers has an ammunition site
and heliport that can accommodate up to 55 Apache helicopters. It
is located near the Macedonian border on the Kacanik pass way to the
country's capital, Skopje.

The AMBO project was delayed while efforts were concentrated on
completing the Anglo-American BTC (Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan) pipeline, one
of the largest in the world. It carries Caspian oil from Azerbaijan
through Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Since
its completion last May, attention has returned to the Bosphurus
by-pass route.

Big power conflicts

Kosovo's abundant resources and the Balkan pipeline routes are only
a small part of a bigger picture. Even more is at stake in the wider
inter-imperialist conflicts over the oil- and gas-rich regions further
to the east in the Caspian Sea area and Central Asia. The vacuum
left by the dissolution of the Soviet Union has led to a scramble
for hegemony that contains the seeds of future wars.

US expansionism in the Balkans and Central Asia has been at the direct
expense of Russia and China, but they feel unable to confront the US
at this stage. Recent reports indicate that Russian and China have
told the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice they would probably
abstain on a UN resolution to grant independence to Kosovo.

However, in return, Moscow is pushing for concessions to its interests
and is playing the card of Europe's reliance on its oil and gas
supplies. In an interview for Russian TV on January 30, Russian
President Vladimir Putin asked: "If people believe that Kosovo can
be granted full independence, why then should we deny it to Abkhazia
and South Ossetia?"

This was a reference to two secessionist movements in Georgia. Russia
has troops stationed in Georgia and Armenia, which previously clashed
with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Significantly,
EUobserver.com described Putin's comments as a direct threat to the
BTC pipeline and the European Union's strategy of breaking European
dependence on Russian energy supplies.

The Russian-Ukrainian standoff in January, which led to shortfalls in
gas deliveries further west, was a shock for the EU, which imports half
its gas from Russia. The EU is currently trying to get Moscow to sign
an agreement that would allow EU companies access to Russian pipelines
in order to use them to buy oil and gas directly from Central Asia.

The EUobserver.com web site quoted a senior Organization for Security
and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) diplomat, Bernard Fassier saying:
"If there was a new conflict (in Nagorno-Karabakh) the first target
would be the oil pipeline and oil terminals". It further stated:
"The idea of Kosovan independence as a precedent for other separatist
states is catching on in the South Caucasus, with damaging implications
for EU energy interests."

This comment reflects fears in European capitals that if the aggressive
stance of the US leads to renewed instability in the Caucasus, or to
Russia strengthening its position in the region, it could endanger
their access to oil and gas.

The European members of the Contact Group-Britain, France, Germany and
Italy-have expressed no opposition to declaring Kosovo an independent
state. The EU is also seeking to ensure that it is not excluded from
a division of the spoils of US militarism. It recently endorsed
a referendum on Montenegro's independence, due to take place this
May. The mountainous republic of just 600,000 was the last to remain
within any association with Serbia after the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Once again the involvement of the major powers in the Balkans and
Central Asian regions is stirring up ethnic tensions and threatening
a continued cycle of splintering states under foreign tutelage. For
the masses it means only further social misery and a downward spiral
of culture, with all the backwardness of the past being dredged up.

The self-interested conflicts over Kosovo further expose the fraud that
Western military interventions are ever conducted for "humanitarian"
and "democratic" purposes. In 1999, the Clinton administration
was able to enlist liberals and middle class radicals in building
a constituency for a "moral" use of military force. But the "human
rights" war launched by the Clinton White House and the "war against
terrorism" initiated by the Bush administration four years later have
the same underlying motivating forces. They represent stages in the
policy of exploiting US military power to assert the dominance of
American imperialism in geo-politically strategic regions of the globe.

Against all the liberals and former "lefts" who backed the onslaught
on Serbia, in 1999 the World Socialist Web Site pointed to the
relationship of the Balkans war to the world strategic ambitions of
the US and the other NATO powers. In our Editorial Board statement,
"Why is NATO at war with Yugoslavia? World power, oil and gold,"
we warned:

"The principal significance of Yugoslavia, at this critical juncture,
is that it lies on the Western periphery of a massive swathe of
territory into which the major world powers aim to expand. It is
impossible for the US, Germany, Japan, France, Britain and the other
powers to simply look passively at the opening of this area.

Unfolding is a struggle for access to the region and control over its
raw materials, labor and markets that will far outstrip last century's
'scramble for Africa'".

The sordid horse-trading over the fate of Kosovo and the inflammation
of new tensions across the region are further warnings that even
the threat of a wider conflagration in Central Asia will not inhibit
the US drive to establish its domination of Eurasia and control of
critical energy supplies.

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/apr20 06/kos2-a01.shtml