by Giannis Kartalis
(Vima, Analysis column, February 04, 2001)
Nearly two years after the NATO attack on Yugoslavia, which was supposed to bring stability to this region, not only has there been no stability but we may well be on the brink of a new conflagration. The developments in Kosovo and South Serbia caused by the uncontrolled activities of the Albanian nationalists are particularly serious, with the result that a worried Greek government is now facing the spectre of a new Balkan crisis of—as yet—indeterminable magnitude.
The problem is that NATOs intervention in Kosovo did not impose a system of equality of privilege between the Albanians and the Serbs, but rather encouraged Albanian intransigence, with the result that the Serbs have fled the region. Essentially, one ethnic cleansing has replaced another. And this is because the Albanians (after years of oppression under the Milosevic regime) welcomed the NATO forces as liberators and not as a force whose mission was to restore the multiethnic character of this autonomous region, which was what UN Security Council Resolution 1244 called for.
The violent attacks by militant Albanian nationalists from the UCK on the devastated city of Mitrovica, on the South Serbian city of Prelevo and even within FYROM, are surely aimed at the creation of a Greater Albania and a redrawing of borders within the Balkans, which will produce a general instability throughout the region and whose main victims will be the territorial integrity of FYROM and of Serbia itself.
All the elements for a new and generalised conflagration are already in place, while at the same time the myth the West has been so assiduously cultivating all these years is crumbling: the myth, that is, that it was the blood-thirsty Milosevic who bore the entire responsibility for the instability in the region. For today Milosevic is no longer in power, but has been replaced by a moderate leadership under Voislav Kostunica which is struggling by democratic means to achieve stability in the region and which has already restored diplomatic relations with Tirana.
Two years later, even NATO has realised that the principal destabilising force in the region is not the Serbs, but the various Albanian nationalist groups. The Organisation has thus, under pressure of the atrocities and to prevent the troubles from spreading, been forced to revise its policy, chiefly in order to prevent collaboration among the different groups of Albanian extremists. Already NATO and Serbia discussing the abolition of the 5 km security buffer zone between Serbia and Kosovo, which is being used by the Albanians as a safe haven.
The latest tragic incidents emphatically demonstrate that NATO failed to grasp, in time, the realities of the region. And that is because of the prevailing erroneous view that Milosevic was entirely responsible for the whole situation. Those who foresaw that the attempt to stabilise the region by military intervention would bring about precisely the opposite result have now been vindicated.
None of this would have happened if the Western forces had been persuaded in time that they should be working for the creation of an autonomous multiethnic Kosovo within the framework of the Yugoslav Federation and had not allowed the extremist elements in Albania to believe that the West would support their separatist tendencies in such an inflammable region. Now it may be too late.