As President George W. Bush arrived in Europe to the sneers and jeers of the Europeans, coverage of his trip was dominated by a focus on the irrelevant: Star Wars missile defense (we're going ahead with it, whether they like it or not), America's position on the anti-technology, anti-Western Kyoto treaty (none of the European nations have signed it, either) and Bush's dogged persistence in defending the death penalty (it's not cool to kill a mass murderer, but you can be a mass-murderer as long as your victims are Serbs). Reality, however, broke through to the surface in at least one media outlet. . .
The [London] Telegraph's take on the story was headlined: "Bush is upstaged by Balkan crisis." "US officials," the Telegraph informs us, "had wanted to keep it off the agenda," but by the time Bush stepped off the tarmac in Spain events had already overtaken them. Macedonia is unraveling fast: it may be only a matter of days before the Albanian ultra-nationalist fighters of the "National Liberation Army" – essentially our old friends, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) – fight their way into Skopje, the Macedonian capital. The wolves unleashed by NATO's war on Yugoslavia – armed, trained, and legitimized by their Western sponsors – are hunting fresh game, and all the pious declarations of the NATO leaders will not take them off the scent of newly-spilled blood. Eternally ravenous, the NLA insurgents fighting for a Greater Albania might be likened to a politicized version of the AIDS virus: once they are allowed to invade, and get inside the victim, their progress is pitiless and inexorable. What's more, both the virus and the NLA utilize the same tactics: the body's very defenses are turned against it, and the constitutional and legal system that protects citizens from force and fraud (the immune system) enables the invaders in their aggression, not only failing to defend the country but disarming it. . .
In the case of AIDS, the process of sabotaging the body's internal defense mechanism is accomplished by a method that remains unknown to science. But the history of how the Western powers have sought to undermine and essentially neutralize Macedonia's internal defense mechanism is being described on a daily basis in the headlines. "They need to get on with it," a senior Western diplomat said. "We need to see more progress." Progress, in this context, means progress in caving in to the Albanians' endless demands and basically dismantling Macedonia. The West has opposed, from the beginning, every attempt by the Macedonians to defend themselves, even successfully lobbying against the Macedonian government officially declaring the country to be in a state of war. NATO Secretary Lord Robertson, in one of his many trips to Skopje, urged the government to "hold its fire and implement a peace plan unveiled by President Boris Trajkovski last week" – and dictated, word for word, by the NATO powers and the US.
As Macedonians, fearful for their lives and their liberty, implore their government to do something – and are refused when they offer to organize themselves into self-defense units – a chorus is rising from the ranks of the War Party in the West: NATO must intervene! This is the favorite method by which governments everywhere have succeeded in expanding their sphere of influence: create a problem, and then "solve" it – creating an even bigger and more intractable problem in the process. It is a full employment program for government officials, weapons-makers, and their amen corner in the media, and a recipe for perpetual war in the name of "peace."
French Prime Minister Chirac was the most vocal, declaring at the NATO meeting in Brussels that "We must not preclude any form of action" in response to the Macedonian crisis, and Tony Blair dutifully chimed in. Along with Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Richard Holbrooke, the NLA took up the call for NATO troops to roll in and complete their conquest of the Balkans: "With the presence of NATO it would be possible to reach the agreement for the transformation and demilitarization of the NLA," said the Albanian nationalists' "peace plan," which furthermore demanded "NATO intervention in the whole territory of Macedonia, as a guarantee for...reaching a lasting peace."
Before we go any further, let's get one thing clear: the NLA could not operate in Macedonia without at least the passive cooperation of NATO, which has tens of thousands of troops stationed in Kosovo – and that, after all, is where the "rebels" are coming from. The apparent political and diplomatic unity of Chirac, Blair, and the NLA is just a reflection of their ongoing military alliance on the ground in the Balkans. It was the Western intelligence agencies, after all, that armed, trained, and unleashed the KLA on the Yugoslavs: when the same sequence of events occurs next door, in Macedonia, you don't have to be a "conspiracy theorist" to take the view that history is repeating itself.
Bush kept up the pretense of American reluctance to get involved, but the Europeans pricked up their ears when he burbled that "NATO must play a more visible and active role" to counter the Albanian insurgency. This would seem to not rule out intervention in principle. If the "political settlement" Bush says he favors refuses to jell – that is, if the Macedonians refuse to cave – we could see a NATO occupation of the country, including the presence of at least the several hundred American soldiers who are already there. Bush also took the opportunity to reiterate the obvious, that he would not keep his campaign promise to get US troops out of the Balkans, although, as the Telegraph is careful to say, he "made clear that he wanted to reduce the US deployment rather than increase it." In other words: go ahead, you guys, and make a meal out of Macedonia. Just leave us out of it. But it remains to be seen just how much the Americans will stay out of it: or, indeed, just how involved they have been in it up to this point. . . .
As Misha Glenny has pointed out, the European attempts to broker a deal on the diplomatic front were fatally undermined by the actions of an American diplomat, Robert Frowick, now working for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, who made the arrangements that led to the signing of a joint statement by the NLA and the leaders of Macedonia's main Albanian parties. This was the "key event," as Glenny puts it, that "persuaded the NLA that it could snatch more from the chaos than just a seat at a negotiating table." The "truce" supposedly in effect swiftly broke down, and fighting resumed. Given the green light by their American sponsors, the NLA-KLA army is on the march – and they won't stop until they reach Athens, or Sofia.
Seen in the context of the emerging superpower contention between the US and the EU, the Macedonian crisis becomes a little less murky. By initially opposing NATO intervention, while hardly ruling it out, Bush emphasizes not only the primacy of NATO but also the primacy of the US within the Western alliance. With radically reduced military budgets, and a general unwillingness to suffer the political consequences and risks of sending troops in on the ground, the Euro-crats are being reminded that, despite their pretensions of moral and esthetic superiority, they are really just a lot of hot air when it comes to taking action: Their talk of a European "rapid reaction force" remains a pipe-dream, while the Americans hold the real power – that is, military power – in their hands.
In his latest really excellent column on developments in Macedonia, Nebojsa Malic pondered the question of whether it would be proper for Antiwar.com to advocate a defensive war on the part of the Macedonians against the Albanian invaders:
"Though Antiwar.com should not advocate war, Libertarian political thought strongly favors legitimate self-defense. Not in its twisted, Imperial interpretation of sending stormtroopers halfway around the world and slaughtering thousands of civilians to achieve 'strategic interests,' but taking up arms against an invader, or a terrorist movement, threatening a state that represents a guarantor of its people's liberty and property."
It seems to me that the very least Antiwar.com can do is to defend the victims of an invasion against the aggressors, especially when their own government seems to have abandoned that obligation. Not even the biggest cheerleaders for the KLA, such as Jeanne Kirkpatrick (who joined their Western front group in supporting Clinton's war in Kosovo) and Richard Holbrooke, deny who started the violence. (The Kirkpatrick-Holbrooke Washington Post op-ed piece manages to go on for some 500 words without once mentioning the NLA. "Macedonia," they intone, "is in real danger of destruction" – but at whose hands? They don't let us in on the secret.) In this fateful hour, however, the support of Antiwar.com, and of libertarians and anti-interventionists in general, doesn't mean a whole lot to the besieged people of Macedonia. After all, how many legions does the editorial director of Antiwar.com command? Less than the Pope, I assure you. Only one man in the world has the power to stop the dissolution of Macedonia and its annexation into a Greater Albania, and his name is Vladimir Putin.
In alliance with the EU, the US undertook the systematic destruction of the former Yugoslavia in a series of wars whose end is not in sight. Now perhaps Macedonia, known as FYROM (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), will be known as the former FYROM, as the Albanian Mafia bites off a big chunk and annexes it to their Kosovo stronghold. One by one, as the nations of Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics are targeted, and suddenly plagued by various insurgencies. The AIDS analogy – dormant since the start of this column – seems to reassert itself all on its own accord. The contagion spreads, as NATO pushes eastward, inserting itself into the Caucasus where joint Georgian-NATO military exercises are in progress even as Putin sits down with Bush. Before the summit ever begins, Putin is getting the message loud and clear: Capitulate, or you too will be targeted with the deadly – and fatal – virus of ethnic insurgencies, opportunistic infections of the body politic that will radically shrink the traditional Russian sphere of influence and, in the end, destroy all resistance.
Saturday's Slovenian summit will mark either the reentry of Russia onto the world stage as a major power, or else its relegation to the status of a Third World country in terms of prestige as well as economic resources. Russia cannot allow any further penetration of the Balkans by the Western powers and their Albanian proxies – and still remain a power to be respected if not feared. Either he stands up for Macedonia, or else he'll go down in history as Butt-boy Putin rather than Vladimir the Great. As to what course he will choose, I would not venture to guess, but I can say this: if Putin does not rise to the occasion, then the day is coming when someone will. Russia is and will remain a nuclear power, the only nation that really has the capacity or even the possibility of the will to stand up to the aspiring global hegemon. If Putin is not up to the task, then the nationalist forces that are gathering strength in the former Soviet republics will emerge as a viable alternative to his regime. The only question is: will the Russian people wake up before NATO troops are on the outskirts of Moscow?
In a preview of the weekend summit, President Bush solemnly declared that he will assure the Russian President that "Russia is not the enemy of the United States. The Cold War is over and the mentality that used to grip our nations during the Cold War must end." Now we will see what Putin is made of. He is supposed to be a hardnosed type of guy, and much is made of his KGB background by the Russophobes in the US for whom the cold war never ended (and never will end). He should therefore have no trouble asking his newfound friend, who is so willing to let bygones be bygones, the following: "Hey, dude, if we're such bosom buddies, then what about those NATO military exercises in Georgia? What's up with that?"
Let us hope that Putin at least has the spirit of Vladimir Mikamba, defense minister of Abkhazia – the breakaway republic that seceded from Georgia and is still fighting the tyranny of "ex"-Communist Eduard Shevardnadze – who boldly stated why his country was responding to the NATO incursion into the Caucasus with its own display of military prowess:
"We remember it well how NATO started the massive bombing of Yugoslavia in March 1999 under the pretext of 'preventing a humanitarian catastrophe' in Kosovo. Who can guarantee that such fate does not await our tiny republic?"
Who indeed. . . . ?
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