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Balkan Report: June 15, 1999

15 June 1999, Volume 3, Number 23

Moscow's Third Way. The introduction of some 200 Russian troops into Prishtina and their continuing occupation of the airport there reflect Moscow's continuing effort to navigate between cooperation with NATO and confrontation with Western creditor countries.

This essential continuity has been obscured over the weekend both by often apocalyptic Western commentaries and by Western governments anxious to overcome the difficulties that arose when 200 Russian soldiers unexpectedly showed up in the Kosovar capital.

Commentators in leading American and West European newspapers speculated that this latest Russian action could mean one of two things: It could be a rogue operation by Russian generals and thus an indication that President Boris Yeltsin is no longer in control of the situation in Moscow.

Or, these same analysts suggested, it could mean that Yeltsin has had a change of heart and now shares the nationalist agenda of many of NATO's most vociferous critics in the Russian capital. In either case, the prospects for East-West relations were extremely gloomy.

At the other extreme were spokesmen for both NATO forces and Western governments who went to great lengths to suggest the Russian presence in Prishtina was a "bump in the road" and that the differences between Moscow and NATO that it reflected would soon be overcome.

Each of these three views--the notion that Yeltsin does not have total control of his government, the idea that Yeltsin's views about the West are evolving, and the belief that this "bump" will soon be overcome--captures part of the current East-West geopolitical reality.

And only a combination of the three provides not only an accurate description of what is going on but also a picture of just where Russian policy on Yugoslavia and on the West now is.

As media reporting from Moscow on Saturday and Sunday shows, few Russians care very much about who ordered the introduction of Russian forces--Yeltsin, the Defense Ministry, or a particular general. Instead, they are pleased that Russia has been able to create a fact on the ground that NATO was earlier unwilling to grant but is equally unwilling to directly challenge.

Yeltsin will gain support abroad in at least two ways. On the one hand, the Serbs and other states angry at NATO and the United States will see Russia as their spokesman/protector, even if Moscow eventually backs down.

And on the other, the Russian president will almost certainly be able to extract some greater concessions from the West in order to bring the Russian forces into conformance with NATO's plans, something Yeltsin will be better positioned to do if there is confusion about just who gave the order to send them there in the first place.

Moreover, reporting from Moscow also makes it clear that Yeltsin is evolving in his views about the West under the impact of NATO's actions in Yugoslavia. Yeltsin is clearly less uncritical of the West than he was a year ago, and he is very much interested in demonstrating his own and his country's power, especially because both have so obviously declined.

But Yeltsin also remains very aware of his dependence on the West and also the dependence of his country, an awareness that helps to explain why Moscow has taken such a carefully calibrated action. It also supports the idea that the Russian president was very much involved in the deployment decision. If the introduction of Russian troops into Prishtina had been a rogue action or if it had been the product of a new anti-Western Yeltsin, it might have been both larger and more dramatic than it in fact has proved to be.

Indeed, the Prishtina operation appears to reflect a desire to put pressure on the West without taking a step that would totally alienate the leaders of countries to which Moscow still looks for assistance of various kinds.

NATO will certainly seek a compromise that will keep the Russians "on board" as various Western leaders have said. Indeed, precisely because some in Moscow--including Yeltsin--have positioned themselves to deny full responsibility, the West may again, as it has in the past, give Yeltsin credit for backing away from something that he may have been responsible for starting.

And even if that happens--and the odds of a settlement on this point are probably quite good--Moscow and Yeltsin undoubtedly assume they will walk away winners, not only by signaling their support of the Serbs but also by underscoring the West's largely self-imposed requirement that Moscow be included in all future discussions about Kosova.

Consequently, Moscow's pursuit of a third way in this conflict appears likely to bring it far greater benefits than either of the extreme alternatives. And that in turn suggests that Yeltsin, who has practiced this style of politics before, almost certainly is heavily involved in this case as well. (Paul Goble)

UCK: Russians Go Home. Hashim Thaci, who heads the UCK-backed provisional government, said in a statement in Tirana on 14 June: "We are concerned about the entrance of these Russian troops into Kosova without permission of the international community or the Provisional Government. ...This partition of Kosova that Russians intend to [establish] will be unacceptable for the provisional government of Kosova. We cannot guarantee the security of the Russian troops that entered Kosova. They must leave Kosova as soon as possible." (Patrick Moore)

Albright Brings Together Kosovar Leaders. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has taken a major step toward putting a stop to infighting between three Kosovar leaders.

An 8 June meeting on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Cologne brought together Thaci, Ibrahim Rugova of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), and Rexhep Qosja from the United Democratic Movement of Kosova. That meeting, which received little attention in the international media, took place at Albright's urging. Since the Rambouillet talks, Albanian, French, and other European governments have all failed to achieve such a gathering, despite their persistent efforts to persuade the three rivals to overcome their differences.

The secretary of state has thus demonstrated that Kosovars, like many Europeans throughout most of this century, have been unable to solve problems among themselves unless the U.S. took the initiative and forced them to agree on a basic democratic platform, thereby demonstrating its unique and dominating role on the international scene.

Albright secured a commitment from the three Kosovars to honor the pledges they made at Rambouillet on creating a democratic interim framework for Kosova. The three agreed to coordinate their efforts toward setting up a post-war civilian administration in the province supervised by "a special representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan." The draft UN Security Council resolution proposed by the G-8 countries stipulates that the UN is to establish such an administration, but it is likely that the OSCE will be charged with doing the job and will have to work closely with the Kosovars to make that administration a success.

Few details of the meeting have been released, and UCK spokesman Sabri Kicmari told RFE/RL only that Albright later met with each of the three leaders separately. It is likely that during those meetings Albright was hammering out details of future cooperation. Late last month, Albright had urged the Kosovars to create a National Security Council, following a suggestion by Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 1999). That council, made up of a variety of Kosovar political groups, would serve as Kosova's interim legislature until parliamentary elections are held under international supervision and would serve as a check on the provisional government during the interim period. The council may thus bring together the two governments that currently exist--the provisional government of Prime Minister Thaci and the shadow state government of Bujar Bukoshi of the LDK.

This is the second time that the rival Kosovars have agreed to form a broader platform. The first time was during the Rambouillet talks in March, when the Albanian government played a role in having the rivals sit at the negotiating table. In the end, it was the U.S. that helped them formulate a clear and credible vision for a democratic and free future in Kosova. That vision was credible because it included an international protectorate with strong foundations, including heavily armed NATO forces that would guarantee all Kosovar inhabitants the necessary security against both Serbian forces and enemies of the peace settlement within the province.

The vision also provided for internationally supervised free elections, in which the rivals would have to compete openly and on equal terms. The main reason Rugova's LDK was so hesitant to join Thaci's government was that the latter had weak democratic credentials and an opaque guerrilla organization. Without assurances from the U.S. and NATO, the LDK was afraid that the UCK, with its military structure, dominant position in the province and limited democratic experience, would eventually become a stumbling block for a truly democratic post-conflict development.

But fears were allayed once Western leaders made it clear that Western organizations will take the leading role in setting up Kosova's future police force, which is to be placed under civilian and democratic control. Albright stressed at a press conference after the 8 June meeting that "Kosovo's political leaders will, I hope, cooperate to make Kosova truly democratic." Therefore, a firm commitment by the UCK to disarm and transform itself into a political organization was at the center of her talks with the rival Kosovars, she added. At the same time, a new local police force will probably include former UCK fighters.

The Rambouillet accord envisaged that the Kosovar police force will be trained and supervised by the international community. It is, in fact, likely that this will happen soon after the deployment of international forces. Albright explicitly told journalists after the 8 June meeting that "these representatives...told me without any ambiguity that they will meet the key commitments made at Rambouillet. ...The [UCK] will demilitarize and enter into a process of transformation." Thaci added that the UCK will "transform itself into a political entity."

Rugova, who has twice been elected as shadow state president and has so far refused to recognize Thaci's government, said: "We can do it together." He did not elaborate. And Albright stressed that "the leaders I have met with intend to go forward with vision and courage."

Indeed, the three will very soon have to demonstrate the credibility of their vision as well as their ability to set up the necessary state institutions. The challenges facing their administration will be huge. During and after the return of the refugees, they will not be able to meet those challenges unless they unite quickly now and keep to their promises to promote democracy. (Fabian Schmidt)

Djukanovic Pledges Help for Serbia. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said in Cologne, Germany, on 9 June that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "is a politician who belongs to the past." Djukanovic added that Milosevic's polices are "quarrelsome and arrogant." The Montenegrin leader noted that Montenegro "is willing to make an effort to assist Serbia to democratize and to embark upon such an avenue together with us." He added: I think that prospects for stability in the region can only be achieved if there is a substantial autonomy [in Kosova], within Yugoslavia, which will ensure full guarantees of minority [rights] and democratization within Yugoslavia as a whole." U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called Montenegro "a shining example of what is possible" in the former Yugoslavia.

In Sofia on 14 June, Djukanovic told his hosts that "Yugoslavia needs a democratic turnaround. If Serbia remains a prisoner of the former policy, Montenegro will look for its own legal status."

In Podgorica that same day, a group of intellectuals formed the Movement for the Independence of Montenegro and called for a referendum on separate statehood. They issued a declaration in which they said that "federal institutions, instead of protecting Montenegro, are the cause of instability and insecurity," AP reported. (Patrick Moore)

Georgievski Looks Toward Reconstruction. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said in Taipei, Taiwan, on 11 June that the return of the 250,000 Kosovar refugees and a comprehensive international plan for Balkan economic reconstruction are necessary if he is to realize his plans for his country's development.

Unnamed sources with his party told AP that work will begin in July or August on a Taiwanese-financed "industrial zone" near Skopje airport. The project will cost some $200 million and include about 20 factories that will manufacture or assemble high-technology products for the European market.

Georgievski and his multi-ethnic coalition were elected last fall on a pledge to end corruption and promote development. Establishing relations with the Republic of China was a key component of his strategy. His plans have been held up and endangered by the conflict in Kosova. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations of the Week. "There are those who believe that the history of southeast Europe is but a prologue to a similarly grim future, that violence is endemic, and renewed strife inevitable. ...Today, we may not agree on everything, but let us agree on this. We represent many cultures, speak many languages, and view the history of this century from many different perspectives. But we are united in our belief that the people of the Balkans have known enough of war and ethnic cleansing, insecurity and fear. The time has come, on the threshold of a new century, to begin a new chapter in the life of this region." -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, at the Balkan stability pact conference on 10 June.

"I know there is still pain, I know there is still great bitterness. But we must look to the future, and there is a future." -- Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in Belgrade on 11 June.

"What these people now need are bread and work." -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, quoted by Deutsche Welle on 11 June.

"I believe this is no big threat to our national security because there are 16,000 NATO soldiers to help keep stability in Macedonia and the number will increase in the near future." -- Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski on 8 June, referring to the Serbian shelling of a Macedonian border village the previous day.

"NATO actions are a rude violation of the generally accepted principles and norms of international law. NATO aggression against Yugoslavia should be viewed as a military crime and its leadership should be punished for the crime." -- from the text of a resolution adopted by the Russian State Duma on 9 June.

Russian Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Interfax on 7 June that his party is preparing a resolution in the Duma urging President Boris Yeltsin to sack Viktor Chernomyrdin as his special envoy to Yugoslavia. Zyuganov said that Chernomyrdin "has gone from special representative to special destroyer," claiming that his peace plan will lead to a "further breakup" of Yugoslavia.

"Russia has always been strong in spirit. Now the situation in the Balkans has shown that Russia is strong not only in spirit, but also in its diplomacy. We have done all we needed to. Relations with NATO are still frozen. As for the future, we'll see." -- a scowling President Boris Yeltsin, on 11 June.

"I feel at home here." -- Russian soldier to AFP in Prishtina on 12 June.

"Our boys did the right thing by going in. At last we have done what Yugoslavia asks of us." -- Gennadii Seleznyov, speaker of the State Duma, to Interfax on 12 June.

"I think [Milosevic] will find a way to stay around and in charge for quite awhile. I don't think it will be a matter of days. I'm afraid it's a matter of years." -- Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan, to Reuters on 7 June.

In the wake of Belgrade's acceptance of the Chernomyrdin-Ahtisaari text, "the traitors now have their heads up. The Americans will stick their noses into our internal political relations, support those traitors, and start destroying what is left of Serbia." -- Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, as quoted in "The Daily Telegraph" on 8 June.

The outcome of the Kosova conflict "is an especially great success for Hungarians, because it has become clear to Serbia and to any other country, not just that steps of this kind cannot be taken against the ethnic Albanians, but that these methods cannot be employed against any national minority." -- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, on 11 June.

"We are not here to take anyone's dreams away." -- Secretary Albright, after meeting with rival Kosovar leaders Hashim Thaci from the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), Ibrahim Rugova of the Democratic League of Kosova, and Rexhep Qosja of the United Democratic Movement of Kosova on 8 June in Cologne.

"She asked us to be careful." -- Rugova, describing that same meeting.

"The game is over. I don't want to be here when the others arrive." -- Serbian resident of Prishtina, quoted by Reuters on 9 June.

"We shouldn't have to go. This is our home. But NATO is here now and the Albanians will destroy everything." -- Serbian student to Reuters in Prishtina on 14 June.

"Nobody is shooting at these [fleeing Serbs]. Nobody is raping these people, nobody wants to push these people out." -- Albanian refugee to Reuters at Rozaje, Montenegro, the previous day.

"We ask for the protection of the international community, so we can stay in our homes. Revenge is not a solution for the Kosovo crisis." -- Local Serb leader Momcilo Trajkovic at a recent rally in Prishtina, also quoted by Reuters. Trajkovic is a critic of Milosevic.

"We have shown that our army is invincible. I am sure it is the best army in the world." -- Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, in a televised address on 10 June.

"I wanted to share with you the joy of this day. NATO has been victorious, Milosevic has lost, and the Kosovars can go home." -- Secretary Albright to refugees in Macedonia on 11 June.

"What the Serbian people decide is within their purview. Of course, if they wish to receive the help the international community is prepared to offer Serbia in rebuilding, then of course they'll have to make a decision for new leadership." -- U.S. Vice President Al Gore on 11 June.