Playing NATO Poker in the Balkans

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If
anyone is wondering what is going on in the Balkans, the answer
is simple: NATO has switched sides. It was not long ago that Lord
George Robertson, NATO’s Secretary General, raged about NATO’s obligation
to attack Yugoslavia to protect the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo.
At the time he was British Minister of Defense. Now at the helm
of NATO, Robertson, a left-wing radical-turned-liberal, is determined
to make sure that, “[t]hese ethnic Albanian armed groups — and others
— know that their time is coming to an end.”

To
this end, in Kosovo, he is allowing the same Yugoslav military that
NATO not long ago vilified as a gang of genocidal Nazis into the
Albanian-populated “buffer zone” on the border of Kosovo; and in
Macedonia he supports that government’s promise to “neutralize and
eliminate” the Albanian rebels.

Not
to worry, though, Lord Robertson assured the NATO allies that the
Yugoslav military — which incidentally is headed by the same General
who led it during what NATO called the "ethnic cleansing"
of Kosovo — would show “moderation and sensitivity” as it moves
back into Kosovo. Which is it, NATO, is the Yugoslav Army "serial
ethnic cleansers" or models of "moderation and sensitivity"?

Indeed,
the NATO Secretary General is speaking in the exact same terms regarding
Macedonia's reaction to the Albanian insurgency as did former Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic when faced with the same insurgency
in his own country — just before he was bombed for it.

Lord
Robertson said Monday that, “The objective is a united Macedonia,
a Macedonia united against those who use violence to try to achieve
political objectives.” Substitute Serbia for Macedonia and you have
the standard Milosevic speech while the Kosovo Liberation Army was
busy attacking Serb police and military forces in attempt to break
Kosovo away from Yugoslavia. It seems, as Orwell would report it,
that NATO is no longer at war with Eurasia after all; NATO is at
war with Eastasia and Eurasia is an ally. Eurasia had always been
an ally.

Meanwhile,
Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski goes further than Milosevic
at his meanest, vowing that his country's policy was to "liquidate
terrorists." This time, however, it is a policy that NATO openly
supports. Said Robertson Monday, "The Macedonian government
has acted with commendable restraint and determined firmness and
they have said they intend to continue with this policy which has
been so successful to date.”

For
those confused about how yesterday’s “freedom fighters” can become
today’s “terrorists,” one lesson is that this is no longer your
father’s NATO. Once the impenetrable defensive line against Communism’s
determined advance, NATO has been adrift since the end of the Cold
War. Seeking a raison d’etre, and in the hands of many who
had spent their early careers opposed to its very existence, NATO
was transformed at the Washington Summit of 1999 into an organization
that no longer merely defends members against attack. There, the
organization declared that it would concern itself with “economic,
social and political difficulties…ethnic and religious rivalries,
territorial disputes, inadequate or failed efforts at reform, the
abuse of human rights, and the dissolution of states.” Now that's
a tall order.

In
this new game of NATO poker, it seems that a West-installed leader
in Serbia trumps a pair of KLA thugs in Kosovo. Therefore a Serbia
headed by Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, who polite voices never
mention made his career attacking Milosevic for not being nationalistic
enough in Bosnia, is a much better ally than that old drug-running
Marxist KLA. The royal flush, of course, will be the hand that allows
the Serbs back into Kosovo to clean up the mess that NATO created
in the first place trying to secure the province for KLA rule, while
giving the green light to Macedonia to do the same. Round and round
we go. Unfortunately for the innocents, that hand will also bring
more suffering for a people who have already had to live through
being "rescued" once by NATO. Perhaps the remaining hope
is that heretofore poker-faced President Bush will call the bluff:
ending U.S. participation in a failed mission and taking a good,
hard look at what NATO has become under Clinton and his left-wing
friends in Europe.

March
30, 2001

McAdams
has monitored elections throughout Central and Eastern Europe with
the British Helsinki Human Rights Group. He is Senior Research Associate
at the Center for Security Policy.

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