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Vol. 71/No. 27      July 9, 2007

Washington, Moscow clash over Kosova
U.S. rulers manipulate Albanians’ demand for
self-determination to further their ‘war on terror’
(front page)
June 26—Washington and its allies are on a collision course with Moscow and Belgrade over Kosova, an autonomous region in the southern part of former Yugoslavia whose overwhelmingly Albanian population is clamoring for independence. The U.S. rulers are manipulating the Kosovar Albanians’ quest for self-determination to create the conditions for restoring capitalism in that part of the Balkans, tighten the imperialist encirclement of Russia, and further the U.S.-led “war on terrorism.”

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov lambasted U.S. and allied government leaders June 14 for holding secret talks on Kosova. U.S., British, German, Italian, and United Nations representatives had met privately in Paris two days earlier to conduct negotiations on Kosova.

On June 21, these governments circulated a resolution at the UN Security Council outlining their plan for Kosova. Moscow, which had not been invited to the talks in France, rejected it outright.

The U.S.-crafted plan was first presented in February by the UN envoy on Kosova’s status, Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland. It has since been amended twice to try to mute Moscow’ objections, to no avail.  
‘Independence’ under NATO boot
The plan would grant Kosova limited independence—its own flag, anthem, army, and constitution. But its government would be supervised by the European Union (EU) and the 17,000 NATO occupation forces, which include 1,500 U.S. troops, who would stay. So would the 2,000 UN policemen that include some 200 U.S. cops.

The plan has broad bipartisan support in the United States and is backed by all 27 EU member states.

In a June 10 visit to Tirana, Albania’s capital, where he was well received, U.S. president George Bush spoke in favor of the proposal. He implied Washington may recognize an independent Kosova if the Ahtisaari plan falters at the United Nations.

Liberal forces back the proposal too. An editorial in the February 26 New York Times endorsed the Ahtisaari plan and said Kosova’s independence “must be conditional.” In an opinion column in the January 3 Financial Times, Joseph Biden, the Democratic chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote: “Kosovo is not ready for full sovereignty. Even after independence, NATO and the international community will need to provide security guarantees for Kosovo’s minorities and strengthen its economy and institutions.”

Moscow, which has veto power at the UN Security Council, has threatened to veto any proposal that would break Kosova off from Serbia, which considers it its territory.

The Russian rulers are using the dispute to try to maintain some influence in Europe and slow down Russia’s encirclement by the U.S. military, which has accelerated with Washington’s “war on terrorism.” This includes the installation of components of the U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe—allegedly to stop Iranian missiles—and the establishment of U.S. bases in former Soviet republics in Central Asia, such as Uzbekistan, which U.S. forces used in 2001 as a springboard for the invasion of Afghanistan.

Serbia’s parliament overwhelmingly rejected the Ahtisaari plan in February. Serbian premier Vojislav Kostunica said June 25 that the U.S.-led efforts to break Kosova away from Serbia are leading “directly to the worsening of relations” between Belgrade and Washington.

The pro-Belgrade forces are also couching their arguments in the framework of the “war on terror.”

Bishop Artemije, the senior cleric in Kosova of the Serb Orthodox church, which is dominant in Serbia, told the Financial Times last October that an independent Kosova would provide a base for an “extremist Islamic jihad.” Followers of the Wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam and of al-Qaeda would be drawn there, endangering the Balkans, the rest of Europe, and the United States, he claimed.

Most Albanians, who comprise 90 percent of Kosova’s 2 million people, are Muslim.  
Many Kosovars oppose UN plan
Among Kosovar Albanians a majority back the UN plan, according to the big-business media. Thousands, however, have actively opposed it.

“This is a typical colonial situation,” Albin Kurti told the New York Times in a June 9 interview, referring to the NATO/UN occupation of Kosova. “Of course it has modern wrapping, but it remains a colonial situation.”

Kurti is a leader of Vetevendosja, which means “self-determination” in Albanian, a group that has spearheaded recent protests against the Ahtisaari plan. In the 1990s, Kurti helped lead the Independent Students Union at the University of Pristina, which initiated many of the protests at the time for Kosova’s sovereignty and against the repression by the Stalinist regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade.

Vetevendosja has drawn the ire of the imperialist-led occupation forces and their spokespeople. An article in the January 25 Financial Times described the group as a Kosova Albanian “student-based organisation known for slashing the tyres of UN vehicles in protest against continued ‘colonial’ rule.”

A demonstration the group organized February 10 to protest the Ahtisaari plan was attacked by UN police forces who fired tear gas and rubber bullets, killing two people and wounding 82. Stephen Curtis, a former British cop and the commander of the UN police in Kosova, resigned later. A UN report blamed a Romanian police unit for the deaths and injuries, but claimed there was insufficient evidence to charge the cops involved.

Kurti, however, was arrested and accused of leading a march “that led to the deaths of persons and injury of 82 others,” according to the Times. The student leader was imprisoned for four months and was reportedly released June 7. He was then placed under house arrest while awaiting trial.

Protests continued after Kurti’s incarceration. On March 3, for example, several thousand Albanians marched through Pristina to protest the U.S.-crafted plan, saying it does not amount to independence, the Associated Press reported.

Kurti told the Times the UN plan would leave Washington and its European allies with too much power, noting it would allow a figure appointed by the occupation forces to intervene in Kosova’s police and courts.

His remarks reflect the opinions of at least a substantial minority of Albanians in Kosova. His statements, and the treatment of Kurti and his supporters by the occupation troops, show the deceit in U.S. government claims that NATO intervened in Kosova to stop the “ethnic cleansing” by the Milosevic regime and establish “democracy.”  
How Washington intervened
Kosova was an autonomous region of Serbia until 1989, when the Milosevic regime revoked its status and imposed a state of emergency that lasted for a decade.

Albanians in Kosova won national rights, including recognition of their language and culture, as a result of the Yugoslav revolution, which abolished capitalism and established nationalized property relations in industry and on the land in the 1940s.

Due to its Stalinist misleadership, however, the revolution degenerated, undermining the initial gains workers and farmers had made. This included the reversal of affirmative action measures adopted in the early years, aimed at closing the gap between the least developed areas of Yugoslavia, like Kosova, and other republics. When the worldwide capitalist crisis in the mid-1970s affected Yugoslavia, for example, the results were different from region to region. By the mid-1980s, while countrywide joblessness was 14 percent, it had jumped to 50 percent in Kosova.

During that period, ruling bureaucrats in Serbia, Croatia, and other former Yugoslav republics began to fight to keep as much land and resources as they could under their control in order to maintain their privileges. The wars that ensued—fueled by imperialist intervention, which included in its goals the restoration of capitalism in the country—led to Yugoslavia’s breakup. (For more see “10 years since imperialist intervention in Bosnia” in the Dec. 26, 2005, Militant, and “How U.S. imperialism, allies fueled the Yugoslav war” in the Jan. 9, 2006, issue.)

To justify their course and blunt working-class resistance, competing bureaucrats in various Yugoslav republics used nationalist demagogy. Among the main culprits was the Milosevic regime in Belgrade. Milosevic launched his nationalist tirades against Albanians in Pristina, in order to get support for crushing a 1988 miners’ strike in Kosova and to push back demands to end anti-Albanian discrimination.

As protests against police repression and for self-determination picked up by the end of the 1990s, the Milosevic regime resorted to genocidal measures. During Belgrade’s “ethnic cleansing” drive in 1999, up to 12,000 people, mostly Albanians, were killed and 1 million were temporarily expelled from Kosova.

Working people in Serbia toppled the hated Milosevic regime in a popular rebellion a year later.  
NATO foments ethnic hatred
Washington and other imperialist powers bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days in 1999 and then sent in troops under the banner of protecting the persecuted Albanians. In the last seven years, however, the NATO forces have both blocked self-rule and fomented animosity between Albanians and the Serb minority, most of whom live in isolated enclaves.

In 2004, for example, there were “ethnic cleansing”-type attacks in which more than 30 Serbs were killed and 3,600 were driven out of Kosova, while NATO “peacekeepers” stood by.

In some areas, segregation has become worse than under Milosevic. In Mitrovica, for example, a mining town, all of the 300 Serb families on the south side have been forced to the city’s northern part. The south is now predominantly inhabited by Albanians. In the north, the 3,000 Albanians and Bosniaks that remain live in enclaves isolated from the 17,000 Serbs. Mitrovica is now divided along the Ibar River.

In May 2005, NATO soldiers from Norway in Kosova produced a spoof music video, set to the Beach Boys tune “Kokomo.” The clip shows Norwegian troops dancing in combat gear in fields and military bases there and singing: “Down in Kosovo, we’ll kick some ass and then we’ll see how it goes, and then we really don’t know. Good luck Kosovo… . It’s Europe and NATO, why the hell do we go?” These and other insulting lyrics, including jabs at “Serbian bad guys,” caused indignation in the region and a diplomatic spat between the governments of Serbia and Norway.

An article in an upcoming issue will describe the origins of the fight for self-determination in Kosova, including interviews Kurti and other student leaders gave to the Militant in the 1990s.  
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