Release Date: June 13, 1999
Eric Margolis, c/o Editorial Department, The Toronto Sun
333 King St. East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3X5
Fax: (416) 960-4803 -- Press Contact: Eric Margolis

The Real Victors in Kosovo

by Eric Margolis

GENEVA -- Everyone involved in the strange Kosovo conflict is claiming victory - except for its chief victims, the Albanians. Serbia's ruler, Slobodan Milosevic, has saved his own skin, evaded prosecution for war crimes, and managed, at least for now, to keep Kosovo, which was 93% Albanian until this year's ethnic terror, under Serb sovereignty. NATO's promises to the Kosovars of a future vote on independence have been forgotten in the rush to end the war.

The muddled accord almost certainly assures continued violence in Kosovo and a legion of future troubles for the Balkans. Many of the one million Albanian refugees are afraid to return to Kosovo, whose borders will remain under Serb military and police control, thus cementing Milosevic's terrorism. Albanians know once NATO loses interest in Kosovo, the Serbs will be back

Milosevic, who keeps power by creating trouble, will now turn his perpetual- motion crisis machine on neighboring Montenegro, unstable Macedonia, Bosnia, and Serbia's forgotten Muslim region of Sanjak. He will emerge from the war a hero and inspiration to the growing force of racism among Balkan Slavs and the Greeks.

The `peace' deal is being hailed as a triumph of sensible internationalism by the curious, ad hoc alliance of groups that opposed the war: leftists, right- wing isolationists, anti-Americans, and Muslim-haters. Far from a triumph, it is a craven surrender to expediency by NATO's weak- willed leaders. At the same time, the western democracies have not only invited Russia and China to meddle in the Balkans, they are relying on them as `partners in peace.'

Misery loves company; so do repressive regimes. It was no coincidence semi-communist Russia, and fully communist China, sprang to the defense of Serbia, Europe's last communist state. Nor that Moscow and Beijing reacted furiously to NATO's half-hearted intervention in Kosovo to protect human rights. Both are major violators of human rights and persecutors of restive minorities.

Five years ago, the 1.2 million Muslim Chechens rose up against 250 years of savage Russian oppression. During World War II, 80% of Chechens were massacred, starved, or deported en masse in railroad cars to concentration camps by Stalin. To crush Chechen resistance, in 1994 Russian carpet bombing and heavy artillery killed 50,000 to 100,000 Chechen civilians. Torture and executions were widespread. Virtually all Chechen cities, towns, and villages were leveled in a horrifying prelude to Kosovo.

Russian parliamentarians recently accused President Boris Yeltsin of major war crimes in Chechnya. Yet this same leader, and the same army that committed these atrocities, have been invited by NATO to join the Kosovo peacekeeping force. The Russian contingent, which was said to eventually number 10,000 troops, will be the second largest military force after the British. Far from keeping peace, the Russians will promote the interests of the outlaw Serb regime and, of course, Moscow's own centuries-old strategic ambitions in the Balkans, as Russia's seizure of Pristina airport showed this weekend.

China has been enlisted in the `peace process' because its support in the UN Security Council is essential for diplomatic cover. The accidental bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade presented Beijing with a golden opportunity, which the Chinese immediately seized, to put America on the psychological defensive. China's contrived rage over this trivial incident helped distract attention from China's theft of US nuclear secrets, and deflected world condemnation over the anniversary of the Tienanmen massacre. Russia and China now hold veto power over the UN operation in Kosovo.

More important, China is currently waging an intensifying campaign of repression against the Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim people, the majority in China's sensitive western province, Sinkiang - formerly Eastern Turkistan. The Uighurs have rebelled against heavy-handed Chinese rule, and Bejing's campaign to swamp the region with Han Chinese settlers, repeating the process of Chinese ethnic inundation in Inner Mongolia and Tibet.

China recently executed a score of Uighurs, arrested hundreds of suspected nationalists, and imposed martial law in many regions of Sinkiang. While Chinese repression in Tibet has provoked worldwide protest, its equally brutal policies in Sinkiang remain almost unknown. Not surprisingly, NATO intervention to save the Kosovars from Serb ethnic terror set off alarm bells in Beijing, which fears foreign action over its own violations of human and national rights.

No wonder, then, that Russia and China, sought to be involved in Kosovo. Under the guise of peacekeeping, Moscow and Beijing will try to ensure Kosovo never gains independence from Serb rule, a precedent that would embolden and encourage their own long-oppressed Muslim colonial subjects.

War and peace often make strange bedfellows. But NATO did not need to invite such violators of rights to join its councils over Kosovo. NATO troops massed on Serbia's borders before the bombing campaign would have ended this war before it began, saving Serbia and Kosovo from devastation, and the need to beg Russia and China for help. By failing to deploy sufficient military force - and being seen as ready to use it - NATO has created a quagmire it will long regret. Seeking the aid of big oppressors to curb a small oppressor makes a mockery of NATO's humanitarian mission.

Russia, and to a lesser degree, China are the big winners of this botched war, and at no cost to themselves. NATO and Serbia have achieved merely Pyrrhic victories. They have made a desert, and call it peace. The Kosovar Albanians have lost everything.

[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]

[Eight years after the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnians,--Marlise Simmons, "Officers Say Bosnian Massacre Was Deliberate," Guardian, October 12, 2003]

Jonathan Steele, "If Kosovo is left in limbo, it will be a victory for Milosevic," New York Times, April 22, 2005

Copyright © 1999 Eric Margolis - All Rights Reserved
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