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THE DANGER OF A WIDER WAR AND THE CHANCE FOR A WIDER PEACE - Robin Blackburn, New Left Review

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http://www.newleftreview.com/kosovo.html

THE DANGER OF A WIDER WAR AND THE CHANCE FOR A WIDER PEACE

	Those who went to war have torn up the Helsinki agreements and 
	the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), 
	with the clear intention of denying Russia a say in the crisis.

	By Robin Blackburn

Kosovan Albanians and Serbian civilians have already paid a sad 
price for the limited war between NATO and Yugoslavia. Because 
NATO has not achieved its objectives and has actually made the 
situation in Kosovo much worse, there is now a lively danger of a 
wider war. Any move to a land war will be pregnant with further 
disaster. While a multitude have been forced from their homes, 
hundreds of thousands remain, to be used as human shields by the 
Serbian forces. NATO commanders know the huge difficulties of 
landing a significant force in Kosovo and therefore will be strongly 
tempted to move against Belgrade directly from their bases in 
Bosnia and Hungary and with the help of allied local forces. 
However it is done, a military plunge into Serbia could detonate the 
political minefields in Macedonia, Bosnia and Montenegro. If 
Hungary, Rumania or Croatia are given any role then territories 
such as Vojvodina and Moldavia could be dragged in. Perhaps 
these dangers are so manifest that NATO will contrive to avoid 
them. The most acute danger in a wider war stems from its 
implications for Russia and the Ukraine.

When former President Mikhail Gorbachev visited Kings College, 
Cambridge, in March 1999, he expressed astonishment that the 
West was prepared to follow up the expansion of NATO by making 
a bonfire of all the international accords and organisations that had 
been put in place to safeguard peace and human rights. Those who 
went to war have simply torn up the Helsinki agreements and the 
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and 
have done so with the clear intention of denying Russia a say in the 
crisis, notwithstanding the obvious contribution which the Russian 
government could make to a settlement. Those who heard 
Gorbachev, and had the opportunity to speak with him, could not 
fail to be impressed by the alarm of someone whose words should 
be weighed both because of his extraordinary historical role and 
because, with Primakov now the premier, he is once again in touch 
with government opinion. What follows is strongly coloured by my 
own reaction to Gorbachev's warnings in Cambridge, given just 
prior to the bombing.

All branches of the Russian government have warned that a NATO 
invasion will create, at best, a new cold war, with unending 
instability and the final burial of both nuclear and conventional 
disarmament. At worst it will create the flashpoints of new hot 
wars. If NATO occupies most or all of former Yugoslavia with the 
help of its new Eastern European members, the military 
encirclement of Russia will be complete. The prospects for 
conventional forces reduction or missile destruction will be wiped 
out. All parties will then focus on such new borderlands as the 
Ukraine, where there is already support for a defence agreement 
with Russia; indeed the ingredients for a civil war, or for pre-
emptive coups, between pro and anti-Western forces are already in 
place.

Have the NATO leaders forgotten about Russia's possession of 
3,500 intercontinental ballistic missiles, with their nuclear 
warheads? Does the fragility of the political order in Russia need to 
be pointed out to them? Have they failed to notice that Russia and 
China are exploring economic and military co-operation? For 
whatever reason, most Western political pundits do not care to talk 
about such matters, but it would be absurd to suppose that 
Pentagon or State Department strategists do not register their over-
riding importance. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, with 
encouragement from Senator Jessie Helms, has certainly managed 
to focus on such issues even if the US President and Congress have 
had other matters on their mind. When justifying the size of the US 
and Western military budget, complicated formulas are put forward 
about the need to confront two major regional crises at the same 
time; thinly-veiled hints make it clear that the Western 
establishment is designed to be able to confront and contain Russia 
and China, and that with Kosovo, the strategy of containment has 
moved from diplomacy to fait accompli and unilateral military 
initiatives.

It was at US insistence that Russia was cut out of the process that 
led to the war. The NATO political directorate, won to the view 
that the best way to deal with the Russian threat is by encircling 
that country with military bases, client states and NATO 
protectorates, preferred this further expansion of NATO to Russian 
good offices in its tussle with Milosevic. This crassly provocative 
posture no doubt has its opponents in NATO counsels but they 
tamely follow where the US and Britain lead, sending out pathetic 
little signals of concern as the military juggernaut heads for the 
abyss.

The rigorous exclusion of Russia is especially notable since Javier 
Solana, the NATO Secretary General, declared in a speech on 23 
June 1998 that it was essential that 'Russia must be on board' if the 
West was to tackle the critical issue of Kosovo. (The text of this 
speech will be found on the website Kosova.newsroom.) At this 
time it was obvious to Solana that Russia should be involved both 
because that would maximise the chances of a successful settlement 
and because to leave Russia out would be a colossal strategic snub. 
Yet, a little while later, at US insistence and with the advent of a 
new government in Moscow following the financial collapse of last 
August, Russia was kept out of the Rambouillet talks and 
implementation was to be under tight NATO control.

The security force proposed for Kosovo at Rambouillet was to be 
NATO-led and to have the right of inspection throughout the 
territory of the Yugoslav Federation. If the OSCE or the UN or the 
Contact Group had organised the negotiations then it is highly 
likely that NATO would have had no formal role, and that the 
proposed security force would have included large numbers of 
Russian troops and neutral troops. It is obvious that a security force 
composed in this way would have been far more likely to have been 
acceptable to Belgrade and consequently to have secured 
withdrawal of all or most of the Serbian security forces from 
Kosovo. The peaceful withdrawal of these forces can only be 
achieved with the agreement of the existing Yugoslav government 
of Slobodan Milosevic and, if we are realistic, we also know that he 
will only authorise such a withdrawal under heavy pressure and 
with some face-saving formula. If Russia was truly 'on board', as it 
should have been from the beginning, then this would greatly 
increase the pressure on Milosevic to settle. The most obvious face-
saving formula would embrace a transitional status for Kosovo 
which left it within the Yugoslav Federation until such time as the 
restoration of peaceful conditions enabled the people of Kosovo to 
vote on its future status. In the meantime, moderate numbers of 
Federal Yugoslav Army units could be stationed, side by side with 
the international security force, at symbolic border points, and in 
the vicinity of the main Orthodox monasteries and churches.

The peoples of Europe are divided about this disastrous limited war 
and opposition to any reckless and perilous wider war is growing. 
Public opinion in the NATO countries has to be further alerted to 
the dangers of the war already engaged, with its logic of 
uncontrolled spread and its capacity for sowing the seeds of new 
and wider conflicts. While hostilities continue there remains the 
likelihood that incidents will occur which will prompt and legitimate 
a stampede to military escalation. Accordingly, the bombing 
offensive should be halted and negotiations should immediately 
begin. Such negotiations must now include, as they should have 
from the beginning, the government of Russia. Only this will allow 
the huge wrong done to the people of Kosovo to be addressed in a 
way that minimises further destruction and loss of life.

The principles enunciated by the Organisation for Security and 
Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the United 
Nations furnish the appropriate basis for conducting such 
negotiations. They do so because past and present Yugoslav 
governments have subscribed to them, as have the NATO powers. 
These bodies have been established by arduous international 
agreement, and subsequently ratified by parliaments and assemblies, 
for the very purpose of regulating relations between states and 
monitoring their observance of human and civil rights. When the 
new Yugoslav Federation was established it vociferously insisted 
that it assumed all the international obligations of the old 
Federation.

The international organisations referred to are far from perfect and 
their mode of operation is open to improvement. Both in principle 
and in practice, the Western powers, as important member states, 
have every opportunity to obtain improvements to the operating 
principles of these organisations. In the past they have used their 
influence to block the emergence of more effective systems for 
making and executing decisions, notably Russian proposals for an 
OSCE secretariat and Security Council. Since the OSCE and UN 
do include Russia then it would be able to participate in both 
negotiation and implementation of any agreement. Such 
participation would still boost the chances of a settlement as well as 
beginning to contain the threat of a new cold war.

At any peace conference convoked by the OSCE, Council of 
Europe or UN, it would be possible to insist on the presence of 
representatives of the people of Kosovo, including the party of 
Ibrahim Rugova, the KLA and representatives of minority groups. 
The KLA might well demand full and immediate self-determination 
for the people of Kosovo. While the KLA should have every right 
to put its point of view, the Conference would not be bound to 
accept it. Given the extensive bombing of Kosovo and the terror 
campaign conducted there by Serbian forces, an immediate vote on 
the future of this territory is not possible anyway. The immediate 
priority should be a withdrawal of Serb forces and their 
replacement by an internationally-sanctioned security force. 
Bearing, as they do, the heavy responsibility for having unilaterally 
unleashed a highly destructive war, the main NATO powers should 
now be expected to establish a generous fund for the economic 
rehabilitation and development of the region as a whole, something 
they should have undertaken in 1990. Such a programme would 
anyway be essential to the maintenance of the peace.

Both the UN and the OSCE have been involved in the peaceful 
and/or negotiated resolution of difficult cases of national 
oppression, decolonisation and conflict containment in the past. 
While their record is uneven, unilateral action by NATO over 
Kosovo has already been disastrous and promises further and 
greater dangers. Indeed NATO's resort to force, and spurning of all 
the international agreements set up with great solemnity to deal 
with such situations, is clearly at odds with the ostensible aims of 
the operation and is seen by most sections of Russian opinion, 
including pro-Western liberals, as part of a strategy for establishing 
a Western military chain around Russia. For this added reason, 
Russia's formal involvement in the peace process must be an 
indispensable element in addressing the new and dangerous 
situation created by the NATO action.

It is surely likely that the overwhelming majority of people in 
Europe would applaud a peaceful settlement and the utilisation to 
this end of existing international bodies that have an inclusive 
character. Well-informed liberals and socialists will, however, have 
their own reservations about the propensity of the great and little 
powers involved to pursue their own state interests in a narrow and 
self-serving way, and that most countries contain bellicose 
propensities. Many will understand that the governments of either 
Russia or the NATO countries should never be trusted to act on 
their own in a principled, pacific and altruistic fashion. Indeed, it is 
for that very reason that they should favour the method of 
international negotiation and agreement since it partially neutralises 
such tendencies, and obliges participants to justify themselves in 
terms of international norms and public opinion. We should not 
forget or discount the appalling role of Serb security forces in 
Kosovo or much of former Yugoslavia, nor of Russian forces in 
Chechnya, nor of Turkish forces in Kurdish areas, nor of US-
backed and advised military regimes in Central America. We should 
press for a world where the special military units responsible for 
such actions are disbanded. But, faced by the Kosovo crisis, we 
cannot ignore the reality that NATO military power acts as a 
potential check on Serbia and that Russian military capacity acts as 
a check on NATO. Without endorsing either military establishment, 
we should be able to see the merit of pressing for a pacific 
accommodation between them.

And, without giving any blank cheque to the KLA, we can see that 
it offers a means of self-defence to the major national group in 
Kosovo and that its armed methods have drawn away support from 
the pacific parties which have previously won elections there. In 
any settlement there should also be a role for the Yugoslav armed 
forces, though not for the paramilitaries and police battalions which 
were specially created to carry out the lawless terror and ethnic 
cleansing which the regular army found distasteful. If it is true that 
only an agreement can produce a peaceful Serbian withdrawal from 
Kosovo then the co-operation of the Yugoslav armed forces will be 
essential to this. Those who wish for peace in the Balkans and in 
Europe cannot simply wish away the various bodies of armed men 
that are in contention but must rather seek to disengage them in the 
most effective way possible.

The immediate cessation of hostilities, and opening of negotiations, 
under the auspices of the OSCE or UN, offers by far the best 
chance of a peaceful settlement. If that peace is to be secure or 
lasting, Russia must be a party to it and its provisions should be 
endorsed by the government of Premier Primakov as well as the 
administration of President Yeltsin. This offers not only the best 
hope for the Kosovans but also the best chance of avoiding a new 
cold war, a cold war that could be even less stable than its 
predecessor.


Robin Blackburn is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at King's 
College, Cambridge, and editor of New Left Review, whose next 
issue contains a special feature on the war, with contributions by 
Tariq Ali, Slavoj Zizek, Peter Gowan and Edward Said. (Price 5 
from 6 Meard St, London, W1V 3HR.) 




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