The New York Times published an article yesterday detailing how top former US officials who helped spearhead the Clinton administration’s bombing of Serbia in 1999 are now deeply embedded in lucrative rent-seeking activities with Kosovo’s corrupt semi-government.
Beneficiaries include: former Secretary of State Madeline Albright; GeneralWesley Clark, who led the NATO bombing campaign; James W. Pardew, the Clinton-era special envoy to the Balkans; Mark Tavlarides, legislative director at the Clinton White House’s National Security Council; and countless others not specifically named in the article.
These crafters of US foreign policy now benefit off the unscrupulous state structure their discretionary war helped establish. US aid since the war has been cultivating a “thugocracy.”
Clark “is chairman of Envidity, a Canadian energy company seeking to explore Kosovo’s lignite coal deposits and produce synthetic fuel,” the Times reports. Albright founded Albright Capital Management, which “has been shortlisted in the bidding for a 75 percent share in the state telecommunications company, PTK,” a venture that “is expected to bring in between $400 million and $800 million.” Pardew has had his eyes on PTK too, though, and has “lobbied top Kosovo officials on behalf of a competing consortium, Twelve Hornbeams S.a.r.l /Avicenna Capital LLC.”
So many former American officials have returned to Kosovo for business — in coal and telecommunications, or for lobbying and other lucrative government contracts — that it is hard to keep them from colliding.
Foreign policy experts say the practice of former officials’ returning for business is more common than acknowledged publicly. Privately, former officials concede the possibility of conflicts of interest and even the potential to influence American foreign policy as diplomats who traditionally made careers in public service now rotate more frequently to lucrative jobs in the private sector.
Indeed, it goes beyond the telecom company:
The biggest infrastructure project in Kosovo’s post-Yugoslav history, a 63-mile stretch of highway connecting Pristina to the Albanian border, was awarded in 2010 to Bechtel of San Francisco in a joint venture with a Turkish company, Enka.
At the time, the prime minister estimated the deal at $1 billion.
Bechtel had help getting the contract from Mr. Tavlarides, the legislative director at the National Security Council during the 1999 Kosovo intervention. According to a lobbying report filed with the United States government, Mr. Tavlarides lobbied on behalf of Bechtel in Kosovo on “highway-related issues” while working for Van Scoyoc Associates, a Washington-based lobbying firm.
Mr. Tavlarides now works at the Podesta Group, which signed a $50,000 monthly contract with the Kosovo government on Jan. 1, advising it on communications and strengthening Kosovo’s ties to the United States government. The Podesta Group was co-founded by John Podesta, White House chief of staff in Mr. Clinton’s second term. Mr. Podesta left the firm in 1993. It is still owned by his brother, Anthony.
In an interview with the Times, Clark said it was “insulting” to suggest there’s any conflict of interest. “My business is aboveboard, transparent and helps the Kosovar people,” he said. His business ventures are benefiting from the thuggish administrators in Kosovo as they “privatize” state-corporate entities – and he thinks he’s still doing the humanitarian thing? The Kosovo government, according to the Times, also denies that any of these former US officials are getting special treatment.
But a leaked memo from a meeting between Pardew and Kosovo’s prime minister tells a different story:
The choice of Mr. Pardew as their emissary was “vitally important,” the memo noted, because Kosovo’s elite “know and love him for his role on the ground during the war.”
After the memo became public, Mr. Pardew withdrew from lobbying for the consortium, and he declined to comment.
It’s quite a set up these American statists have: launch a war to become heroes in a secessionist province of Serbia, and then reap endless financial benefits via crony corporatism going on 13 years hence.