by Eric Margolis © 1998 Eric Margolis
Peace in our time! If you ever wondered why Europe failed to stand up to Hitler's aggression, just look at Tuesday's agreement over Kosova between NATO and Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic. Like Munich and Bosnia, this was a cynical sellout, disguised as peace.
Milosevic's New Nazis began ethnic cleaning in Kosova nine months ago. They ignored NATO's warnings it would not tolerate a repeat of Bosnia's horror. Nine months later, there are 300,000 Albanian refugees, many living in fields as the winter snows approach. Serb soldiers have burned 300 villages.
After a long game of chicken, NATO's decision to launch air attacks forced Milosevic to back down. Had NATO done this nine months ago, there would not today be 300,000 refugees and a land laid to waste. But NATO wanted Serbia to hold on to Kosova.
The deal negotiated by US envoy Richard Hoolbrook calls for Serbia to withdraw some regular army troops and paramilitary police from Kosova. But other Serb troops will remain in Kosova, which is 93% ethnic Albanian. Holbrook left the numbers suspiciously vague: NATO is surreptitiously allowing Serbia to retain sufficient troops to maintain continued military control of Kosova.
The diplomatic `triumph' allows NATO to feed the horde of Albanian refugees created by Milosevic's latest ethnic cleansing. Serbs had previously blocked emergency aid convoys. Instead of feeding yet more refugees, NATO should have gotten rid of Milosevic, the criminal who keeps creating tidal waves of human disaster.
In a stupid act the west will soon regret, 2,000 civilian `monitors' from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), armed only with clipboards and pens, will police the accords and supposedly assure Serb forces do not resume attacks on civilians, or block aid convoys. The OSCE is a useless, impotent, multi-national bureaucracy, a mini- UN, with such powerhouse members as Andorra and St Marino. Besides, it will take many weeks to deploy OSCE observers in Kosova - while Albanian refugees face punishing cold, hunger, and disease.
Sending in the OSCE clowns would simply be a bad joke were not so many lives in peril. Serbs will resume ethnic cleansing once they see NATO's attention has wandered. If NATO threatens air attacks to stop new atrocities, Serbs will grab the hapless OSCE monitors - just as they took UN peacekeepers hostage in Bosnia.
This little Munich allows Milosevic to again get away with ethnic cleansing in the heart of Europe, and lock up the results. Equally shameful, the west has given Serbia tacit assurances the UN War Crimes Commission in the Hague will be excluded from Kosova - meaning no Serb war criminals will be charged with crimes against humanity.
This disgrace comes on the heels of the Clinton Administration's promise to Milosevic that his two chief henchmen in Bosnia, Mladic and Karadzic, both wanted war criminals, would not be apprehended or prosecuted. The criminals who committed Europe worst atrocities since 1945 are to go free, thank you Bill Clinton.
The killing and burning will cease- for now. But what of Kosova's future? The status quo is untenable. Yet the deal offers no political solution.
Holbrook's calls for talks between Albanians and Serbs on Kosova autonomy are nonsense - as everyone involved knows. Milosevic intends to regain Kosova, drive out or kill its Albanians, and repopulate the region with Serb settlers. Albanians will only settle for total independence. Milosevic's atrocities have made any future Serb-Albanian cooperation impossible.
NATO, fearing any change in Europe's borders, refuses independence to Kosova. NATO has thus become de facto ally of Serbia: both want Serbia to retain control of Kosova. Hence this week's great charade of NATO threats and Serbian defiance. It was clear Milosevic would cave in once real pressure was applied.
The Kosova Liberation Army will resume battling Serb occupation forces. Ironically, NATO may end up bombing Albanian guerrillas in order to preserve Serb control of Kosova.
This latest Balkan sellout has bought wily Milosevic some time. Still, after more fighting, Kosova's eventual independence seems inevitable.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]
Copyright © 1998 Eric Margolis - All Rights Reserved