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Balkan Report: June 29, 1999

29 June 1999, Volume 3, Number 25

A Kosova Balance Sheet. "That's what you get when you treat a third-rate power like a first-rate one--and it decides to act accordingly." Such was the comment of one Western observer of the Moscow scene, reacting to Russia's recent move to occupy Prishtina airport before NATO could get its troops into Kosova. At the airport, one man identified only as "General Igor" gleefully told London's "The Independent on Sunday": "I'll be here for years."

An agreement regulating Russia's role came later, after days of painstaking negotiations. One suspects that it could have been reached a lot sooner were it not for Moscow's desire to savor its coup-on-the-ground and drag the talks out accordingly.

The Russian troops arrived from Bosnia, where they were part of SFOR, formerly known as IFOR or UNPROFOR. They were there partly because of Russia's long-standing desire to serve notice that it remains a great power, at least as far as the Balkans are concerned. But they were also there partly because of a Western desire to involve Russian troops in the peacekeeping effort.

Part of the irony in this is that the cornerstone of Western policy for decades had been to keep Soviet or Russian ground troops out of the Balkans. Now, 200 paratroopers left their NATO-supervised peacekeeping posts in Bosnia to elbow in on Kosova.

Whatever happens, General Igor and his friends will not have their own zone of occupation, at least under the current arrangements. Many observers had feared that any Russian zone would turn into a local version of the ethnically cleansed Republika Srpska, which would attract the province's Serbs to settle but where ethnic Albanians would not be welcome.

Meanwhile, the Kosovars have been coming home in droves despite the dangers of land mines (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 June 1999). On the military side, NATO now has a document from the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), in which the guerrillas pledge to demilitarize and partially disarm according to a fixed time table.

It is too early to tell whether the UCK will stick to its word. But perhaps the most disturbing phenomenon on the ground involves continuing reports from various parts of Kosova regarding attacks on Serbian civilians, abandoned Serbian property, and Serbian cultural monuments, including historic churches. The big question is whether these are isolated acts of revenge or something more sinister.

On the diplomatic front, three young prime ministers have shown a willingness to look forward and stress reconstruction and regional cooperation. Macedonia's Ljubco Georgievski, Albania's Pandeli Majko, and Hashim Thaci of the UCK's provisional government are political products of the 1990s. (And when considering those who belong to the new generation of Balkan leaders, one might also add Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic and Macedonian Albanian leader Arben Xhaferi.)

Their taking office marks the end of an era in which the political leadership rested--and that seems truly the right word--with persons whose politically formative years were under communism. Macedonia's President Kiro Gligorov and the Kosovar shadow-state leader Ibrahim Rugova have both made their marks on the region's history, but time now seems to have passed them by, along with their Tito-era styles.

The main issue on the horizon, however, remains the democratization of Serbia. The Serbs are the numerically largest people of the former Yugoslavia and live at the very center of the Balkans. They also have a stronger democratic tradition than most of their neighbors. They therefore cannot be "written off" as inherent warmongers, any more than the Germans could after having started and lost two World Wars. It is precisely the example of post-1945 Germany that suggests that there is ample time and opportunity for Serbia to reclaim its democratic heritage and take its place politically as well as geographically at the center of the Balkans.

But NATO ended the war with a "Saddam Hussein peace" that left in office a dictator who first came to power by manipulating nationalist sentiments and after 10 years of economic downturn. Many Western leaders are now predicting Milosevic's eventual demise, but not necessarily in the coming weeks.

Part of the reason for this is that the domestic opposition presents no readily identifiable alternative to Milosevic. Some opposition leaders have no large followings, while others are tainted by a history of opportunism or mercurial behavior. Still others are extreme nationalists who might have no qualms about launching new wars or waves of ethnic cleansing.

Perhaps the most serious threat to Milosevic could come from below, including from Serbs who lost their homes as a result of his wars. That sort of discontent could, however, as easily be harnessed by the extreme nationalists as by democrats.

In order to help promote a non-nationalist alternative to Milosevic, some Western governments and NGO's have actively begun to promote the democratization of Serbia. This involves support for democratic political forces and the independent media. It also means launching the German-sponsored Balkan stability pact for regional peace and development, which Serbia will be welcome to join once it has rid itself of Milosevic.

A tantalizing prospect would be for the international community to use its de facto protectorate over Kosova to promote democracy in Serbia as a whole. The province could become a center for a free and vibrant Serbian press and independent electronic media. NGO's and the opposition could also operate freely there. Kosova could once again become the "cradle of Serbian civilization." (Patrick Moore)

RFE/RL Talks to the UCK's Jakup Krasniqi. One of the UCK's top spokesmen recently gave the following interview to RFE/RL's Albanian-language broadcasters.

RFE/RL: Mr. Krasniqi, can you tell us something about the UCK-KFOR agreement?

Krasniqi: The agreement between the UCK and KFOR is not linked to the individual zones of Kosova, but it is an agreement between the commander of KFOR and the General Staff of the UCK. ...Of course in the circumstances that have been created in Kosova, we will not need a Kosova Liberation Army anymore, but rather a protection and security force of Kosova.

RFE/RL: We have heard and read that KFOR has begun to disarm UCK soldiers, such as happened in the village of Zhegra.

Krasniqi: This was a misunderstanding; there will be no disarmament of the UCK. Jamie Shea himself yesterday said that we are not talking about a disarmament but a demilitarization and transformation of the UCK.

RFE/RL: Could you elaborate on what that term means? It is not really clear to the public what demilitarization means.

Krasniqi: The word is about a situation in which the UCK will have control over its arms, which are to be kept at a particular location, while KFOR is aware where these arms are. And it includes the transformation of the UCK into a protection and security force of Kosova.

RFE/RL: Is the UCK indeed so well organized that it can keep all of its soldiers under control? Can it make sure that there will be no revenge against the Serbian civilian population?

Krasniqi: The provisional government of Kosova and the General Staff of the UCK have full control over its forces in Kosova. It has no intentions to commit any revenge and has not committed any revenge against anybody. It guarantees full security to all citizens of Kosova, of course that means all citizens who have not committed crimes and massacres. All citizens of Kosova who have not committed such crimes are fully free and equal.

RFE/RL: Mr. Krasniqi, how do you explain that the Serbian population is leaving Kosova en masse? Do you have a message for these people?

Krasniqi: We have repeatedly said and continue to say that the UCK does not take any measures against the civilian population. They should stay in their homes and continue their lives like everybody else.

RFE/RL: Does this mean that the UCK will offer protection to innocent Serbian civilians?

Krasniqi: We are convinced that nothing will happen to the Serbian civilians, but of course if there is such a danger not only we will take measures, but also the international forces will do this.

RFE/RL: Mr. Krasniqi, how do you explain media reports that the UCK has endangered Serbian churches and even clerics in Prizren? Are these reports true?

Krasniqi: You must see that media that are not well informed are reporting such things, but we still have to deny such reports. Such alleged deeds are not the aim of the UCK. They have never happened and will not happen.

RFE/RL: Could you tell us what the internal political situation of Kosova is now? Is there a rapprochement between the political and military forces?

Krasniqi: The political situation remains as it was. There was a rapprochement with all those political forces that wanted to cooperate, and the cooperation has been developing well.

RFE/RL: Has there been such an approach between [Ibrahim Rugova's] Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) and the provisional government of Prime Minister Thaci?

Krasniqi: Not yet.

RFE/RL: Are there talks in that direction?

Krasniqi: There will be.

RFE/RL: Are you optimistic that the situation in Kosova will improve?

Krasniqi: We are optimistic. The situation is changing for the better and the changes for the better can be seen with every step and in every part of Kosova.

RFE/RL: Mr. Krasniqi, what is the difference between the Rambouillet accord and the G-8 document, approved by the UN Security Council?

Krasniqi: There is no real considerable difference. The key questions are still included, such as the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova. There are minor differences, but by and large we think that the same issues are addressed.

RFE/RL: But the UN resolution envisages an international administration in Kosova. Does that not mean that the administration by other institutions of Kosova will be suspended?

Krasniqi: It is an administration that will be charged with rebuilding the administration that once existed in Kosova, namely that of the provisional government of Kosova. The [two administrations] will help each other and are in the service of peace and the reconstruction of Kosova.

RFE/RL: Do you believe that the status of Kosova has been solved with the deployment of international forces in Kosova?

Krasniqi: We hope that the solution of the status of Kosova is an ongoing process. The international status was never closer to a solution and more secure.

RFE/RL: Can you quickly describe to us what is going on today in Kosova?

Krasniqi: Kosova has taken a turn for the better. The citizens now live in security. Those driven out of Kosova have begun to return and with the international community present there the provisional government has begun to prepare the necessary [measures]. (Translated by Fabian Schmidt)

The Price of Stability. Veteran correspondent Karl-Peter Schwarz wrote in the Vienna-based "Die Presse" on 23 June that the Russians' coup at the Prishtina airport fell flat because Moscow's former allies in the region refused to give the Russians overflight rights to resupply their garrison.

Schwarz argues that the Kosova crisis provides the best illustration of the functioning of the post-1989 geopolitical realities in East-Central Europe and the Balkans. The region's new-found stability is based on the commitment of virtually all countries in the area to democracy and a market economy. This stability also rests on those same countries' willingness to help prevent Moscow from making trouble in the neighborhood--as was shown in the Prishtina airport affair.

But one does not get something for nothing, Schwarz concludes. If the West wants to keep and expand the stability it now finds in a once-volatile area, it must make membership in the EU and NATO a realistic prospect for all the countries concerned. (Patrick Moore)

Cosic Calls on Milosevic to Resign. Prominent Serbian nationalist intellectual and former Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic wrote in an open letter to the Serbian Academy of Sciences that Milosevic has led the country into isolation and should resign, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 June. Cosic added that he does not consider Western pressure on Milosevic to be "democratic," but stressed that Milosevic's departure is in the "interest of the Serbian nation." (Patrick Moore)

Panic Predicts Milosevic's Ouster. Serbian-American businessman and former Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic told the Budapest-based daily "Magyar Hirlap" that he expects Milosevic to be gone from power within three months, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 24 June. Panic added that he predicts that Milosevic's own police will kill or oust him. Panic added that there is "a 25 percent chance" that the dictator will escape into exile, as well as "a 15 percent chance" that he will kill himself. Both of Milosevic's parents committed suicide. (Patrick Moore)

Reports of Corruption in Refugee Camps. The "Berliner Zeitung" reported on 25 June that many Kosovars in the Cegrane camp in Macedonia say that UNHCR employees insist on large bribes to ensure placement on lists for evacuation to other countries. A UNHCR spokeswoman said in Skopje that she is familiar with the charges. She stressed that none of the accusations has been proven but also declined to deny them. (Patrick Moore)

Only 13 Tanks Destroyed? NATO air strikes succeeded in destroying only 13 Yugoslav tanks, the London-based daily "The Times" reported on 24 June. Many of the tanks and other vehicles that the alliance claimed to have eliminated were in fact decoys. Unnamed KFOR sources told the daily that the Yugoslavs hid and disguised their tanks using practices that they learned from the Russian military. The daily noted that some 250 out of the pre-bombing 300 tanks were counted leaving Kosova during the recent Serbian withdrawal. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations of the Week. "We are proud of what we did because we think it's what America stands for. No one ever, ever should be punished and discriminated against or killed or uprooted because of their [sic] religion or their ethnic heritage." -- U.S. President Bill Clinton at the Stenkovec refugee camp in Macedonia on 22 June.

"Now we go to live in Kosova without Serbs. You cannot gain freedom without blood." -- Male Kosovar refugee to AP in Stenkovec, shortly before meeting with Clinton.

"The whole world admires Slovenia's success in building freedom and prosperity and now we look to you to play a crucial role as we build a better future for all of Europe. ...[Slovenia] "can lead the way [for other countries of the region], and America will help." -- Clinton in Ljubljana on 21 June.

"We want Serbia to be a part of the new Europe, but Serbia must reject the murderous rule of Mr. Milosevic and choose the path that Slovenia has chosen, where people reach across the old divides, and find strength in their differences and their common humanity." -- Clinton on the same occasion.

"This is the last minute to reverse the present political course in Serbia and to demand the responsibility of those who have had unlimited power in the decision-making process over the last 10 years." -- Alliance for Change spokesman and Balkan affairs expert Milan Protic, in the 22 June "The New York Times."

"I do not wish charity, I want to go home and return to work. I wish that politicians would leave us and let us live normally." "I am not scared any longer. I was a refugee long enough and I do not wish to live that life. I do not care what is going to happen when I return home." "All this could have been avoided. There was nobody to give us any advice; there was only fear and panic. People acted accordingly." -- Three Kosovar Serb refugees in Serbia proper, quoted by Reuters on 22 June.

"I expressed my expectations that the United States will use its authority to provide full protection for the people in Kosovo, especially to Serbs and Montenegrins, who are unfortunately exposed these days to the dangers of revenge from Albanian armed extremists" -- Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic after meeting with Clinton in Ljubljana on 21 June.

"Kosovo is very distant from Serbia at the moment. It is no longer a province, nor is it Serbian." -- Kosovo Serbian leader Momcilo Trajkovic, to Banja Luka's "Nezavisne novine" of 23 June.

"They burn our houses, we burn theirs." -- Kosovar Albanian boy (10) to AP, on 23 June, after he came from a nearby village to loot Serbian homes before other Kosovars set fire to them.

"The movement of the Serbian population was not initiated by the UCK. It would not be fair to say that the Albanians are driving them out. I don't feel good about it. But it simply shows the intensity of the pendulum swing. It's part of the gamble that Milosevic and the Serbian authority made. He gambled all or nothing, and he lost. And the people here, too, gambled all or nothing with Milosevic, and they lost. You cannot have fascism for 10 years without majority support. The Serbian people supported fascism. I do believe in collective responsibility. But I do not believe in collective punishment. I don't think that the Serbian people should be leaving because they supported fascism. Through the Hague Tribunal we can identify individuals, maybe a large number, but certainly individuals who in one way or another have been hurting the Albanians." -- "Koha Ditore" editor-in-chief Veton Surroi, in an interview with the "IWPR's Balkan Crisis Report of 23 June.

Those who killed innocent civilians "do not belong to the Serbian nation, but to the nation of criminals." He added that every Yugoslav soldier carries a booklet on "humanitarian law and the rules of war." -- Milosevic aide Zoran Matic, quoted in the "International Herald Tribune" of 25 June.

"The Serbs and the Russians, shoulder to shoulder, should get rid of Milosevic. For the Serbs the way to achieve this is to have a democratic election. For Russia it means ending the anti-Western rhetoric and taming our own generals. After we get rid of this shameful union and legacy, both the Serbs and the Russians will be able to finally tackle the task of economic recovery and to attract investment. This is what Russia should be doing now, turning over the shameful page of its support for Milosevic." -- Former Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to Ekho Moskvy Radio on 11 June.

"Milosevic was elected by the population of Yugoslavia and nobody but the citizens of Yugoslavia can dismiss him. As for Russia, it will not interfere." -- Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin in Strasbourg on 24 June.

"We must be in the Balkans and we will indeed be there." -- Chernomyrdin on 22 June.

"Our [Russian KFOR] paratroopers will be deployed in areas densely populated by [ethnic] Albanians. Many Albanian families sustained losses as a result of NATO missile strikes and bombing. ...This is why it is quite possible that Russians will have to defend NATO soldiers, which is not included in the peacekeeping plans of the Russian contingent." -- Air Force Major-General Nikolai Bezborodov, deputy head of the Duma's Defense Committee.

"If this government was not asked about anything [by NATO about troop deployments], then it is a puppet government. But if it agreed to it, then it is a treacherous government." -- Macedonian ex-Prime Minister and now opposition leader Branko Crvenkovski at an anti-government rally in Skopje on 24 June.