What is happening in Kosovo?

It is impossible to make sense of rising tensions in Serbia without knowing the post-socialist history of the Balkans and imperialist geopolitical aims.

Nato’s Camp Bondsteel has been established on a location that guarantees control of important pan-European corridors: transportation routes connecting Europe to ‘areas of intense western concern’, such as the middle east, Afghanistan, the Caspian Sea and Transcaucasia.

We reproduce below with thanks an article published by the Anti-Imperialist Front regarding the serious unrest that has lately erupted in the Serbian breakaway province of Kosovo between ethnic Serbians in the north and the puppet Kosovan authorities.

Nato forcibly wrested the Kosovo province away from Serbia in 2008 on the excuse that the majority of its population were ethnic Albanians who wanted independence from Serbia. This was obviously deeply resented by Serbia as the area has a long history pertaining to Serbian nationhood, and neither Serbia itself nor ethnic Serbians in Kosovo have ever reconciled themselves to the hijacking of their territory.

Many countries in the world have refused to accept Kosovo as an independent state, as a result of which it has not been admitted to the United Nations. Countries opposed to its recognition include Russia, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Iran, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Egypt and South Africa as well as European Union countries Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Cyprus.

The latest unrest arose because Kosovan Serbs reacted angrily to the provocative passing of an edict that required them to exchange old Serbian number plates on their vehicles for new plates issued by the Kosovan authorities. In addition, various other orders were issued to which ethnic Serbians strongly objected, and which were aimed at creating a two-tier ethnic state within Kosovo and to further isolate the Serbs within the Kosovo province from their compatriots in the rest of Serbia.

From there matters escalated.

Serb mayors in northern Kosovo municipalities, along with local judges and some 600 police officers, resigned, leading to the need for local elections to be held in the Serb-majority provinces of Northern Mitrovica, Zubin Potok, Zvecan and Leposavic. Needless to say, the Serbian population there vowed to boycott these elections. There followed EU mediation with US direct assistance, the result of which was that Kosovo and Serbia reached a deal, announced on 23 November, that Serbia would stop issuing licence plates now used in Kosovo while Kosovo’s government would stop further actions to deny the re-registration of vehicles.

However, this deal failed to calm tensions, since on Tuesday 6 December Kosovo police arrested a former Kosovo Serb police officer Dejan Pantic for allegedly attacking state offices, smashing the windows of the election commission offices, and police officers and election officials.

In protest at Dejan Pantic’s arrest, according to AP on 13 December: “Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared anew during the past week after Serbs erected barricades on the main roads in the north of Kosovo, a former Serbian province … Shots were fired from the barricades, and a Kosovo Albanian police officer was injured. Someone lobbed a stun grenade at a European Union peacekeeping patrol mission.

“Serbia raised its combat readiness and warned it would not stand by if Serbs in Kosovo are attacked. Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic has called for deploying Serb troops to northern Kosovo, further fueling fears of a revival of the 1998-9 war in Kosovo that claimed more than 10,000 lives and left over one million homeless.” (Why tensions persist between Kosovo and Serbia, and their Russia-Ukraine link by AP, Indian Express, 13 December 2022)

Over the Christmas break matters continued to escalate:

“Serbia has moved troops to the ‘highest level of combat readiness’ as tensions increased along the border with Kosovo and Nato peacekeepers came under fire from small arms.

“Milos Vucevic, Serbia’s defence minister, said that, on the orders of the president, the army was at ‘the level of the use of armed force’.

“Roadblocks and barricades were being erected in the north of Kosovo today, according to photographs posted by locals.

“Serbia began building its military presence in the area from Sunday [25 December] when Milan Mojsilovic, chief of its general staff, was dispatched to the border. Vucevic said that its special forces were being boosted from 1,500 to 5,000.

“Reports have emerged of gunfire and sporadic attacks on journalists [ie, the alleged stoning of the car of one journalist, a Kosovo Albanian TV reporter].

“Latvia’s defence ministry confirmed that its troops stationed in the country as part of Nato’s peacekeeping mission had been fired at on Christmas Day …

“This month, Serbia demanded the return of its troops to Serbian parts of northern Kosovo, upping their presence from 100 to 1,000 while claiming that existing EU and Nato-led peacekeeping missions had failed to protect the Kosovo Serbian minority. Nearly 4,000 Nato troops are stationed in the region.” (Serbian troops at ‘full combat readiness’ as tensions rise with Kosovo by Aliide Nayler, The Times, 27 December 2022)

The CPGB-ML has issued a statement condemning the Nato-inspired provocations taking place against the Serbian citizens of Kosovo, which are intended to provoke Serbia, a Russian ally, in the context of Nato’s proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.


What is happening in Kosovo?

16 December 2022

The recent tensions and escalation of violence in the Serbian province of Kosovo cannot be understood solely on the basis of the relations between the local actors and in isolation from the historical context that brought the situation about. The existing problems and grievances of the remaining Serbian population and the political ambitions of the imperialist-backed Albanian elites of Kosovo manifest themselves as mere symptoms of more profound and far-reaching issues that go well beyond whatever legal dispute occurs now and then.

Today it is about car license plates, tomorrow it will be some other excuse. But an excuse for what, you may ask? To be able to answer that question, we need a wider geopolitical and longer historical context. Once we understand that, we will see that the current events are more rightly related to the politics of domination and dependence, rather than to the short-term legal and political objectives of the local actors.

First things first: who are the actors? It might seem obvious, but no, it is not Serbia and Kosovo Albanians. The main actors are the main forces of what is termed, the ‘collective west’ – the imperialists. They compete using the age-old strategy of divide et impera (divide and rule). For that reason, we can view this conflict as the USA-EU using Kosovo as a proxy to impose their own interests over Serbia, and to extend the isolation of Russia.

What objectives do these actors have? We cannot talk about a single objective, but rather about numerous interdependent goals that can be classified into three broad categories: 1. geopolitical, 2. economic, and 3. military.

For all actors, there is a strong link between the three goals and they can be considered a ‘zero-sum game’ (ie, a situation in which one side’s victory is the other side’s loss, as opposed to everyone winning to a different degree). After the end of the cold war, the USA redefined the role of Nato, stipulating that it was now the primary means of securing its interests, especially as a means of political and military influence in Europe.

At that time, the area of the Balkans in general, and Yugoslavia in particular, was defined as a zone of special interest, given that it represents a gateway to issues of intense western concern: the Arab-Israeli conflict (Palestine), the Iraq-Iran conflict, access to Afghanistan, the Caspian Sea, Transcaucasia, etc.

In the geopolitical sense, control over the region means control over the communication and supply routes between those strategic areas and Europe. In the military sense, it means the protection of western investments and the breaking of the Russian monopoly over oil and gas transport. Economically, however, it means making sure that the neoliberal order remains intact and unchallenged.

When we defined this situation as a zero-sum game, we were referring to the fact that European objectives are essentially the same, just that the means are different and stand in opposition to the means that the USA is pushing …

So, how do Serbia and Kosovo fit into the whole picture? In the mid-1990s, a plan was made to develop what were called pan-European corridors: routes that would connect Europe to the – you are probably guessing it – ‘areas of intense western concern’, the bulk of which would pass through the Balkans. At about the same time, the war in Bosnia was still on, and a major discussion was on the table: the European proposal was to place peace forces under the mandate of the UN, while the US proposal was to bring in Nato troops as a means of guaranteeing ‘peace’.

As we are all aware by now, the peace deal was brokered by the USA as a result of Nato intervention. It is also worth mentioning that, at the time when the USA was redefining the role of Nato, France and Germany proposed the creation of a European army force called ‘Eurocorps’. That was a move that the USA saw as a threat to its interests and managed to stop by integrating Eurocorps into Nato command. In the same fashion, we can understand the intra-imperialist competition in Bosnia as an attempt to secure control under Nato rather than under EU command.

Right after the war in Bosnia was finished, the escalation of the Serbian-Albanian conflict in Kosovo gained traction. According to western politicians, the objective of the Kosovo conflict was to design a solution that would make the southern Serbian province independent from Serbia, but that would keep Serbia dependent on Kosovo. That policy continues to this day in one form or another.

The turning point in the Kosovo conflict was the Nato intervention that led to the 78-day-long bombing of Yugoslavia. While it was much touted that the main reason for the military intervention was to protect the Albanian civilian population from ethnic cleansing – or ‘a humanitarian war’, as it was called back then – the real cause was the refusal of the Yugoslav delegation in France to sign the military provisions of the Rambouillet accords.

This point is essential to understand if we put it in the context of the geopolitical and military objectives referred to above. The Rambouillet accords contained political provisions that demanded wider autonomy (not independence) for Kosovo province – the part that the Yugoslav delegation accepted, signed and ratified in the parliament – but military provisions that were added at the last minute which required Yugoslavia to allow Nato free access to its territory and diplomatic immunity from local laws.

In other words, the accords stipulated outright occupation of Yugoslavia. That detail was rejected and led directly to the military campaign, the result of which was the establishment of one of the biggest military bases in Europe: Camp Bondsteel.

If you compare the map of pan-European corridors with the situation of Camp Bondsteel, you will find that it located just where multiple corridors meet, giving it the perfect location for control of the region and guaranteeing US interests – as per the redefinition of Nato.

If we rely on the EastWest think-tank and its proposal for Nato policy in the western Balkans, the challenges that the USA faces are to limit the supply of Russian gas to Europe and to substitute it with its own liquified natural gas (LNG) as an alternative. As for China, the challenge the USA faces in the Balkans is that China is circumventing the usual restructuring conditions that the IMF forces on states that ask for loans.

In the context of the above, Yugoslavia then and now Serbia represent an obstacle to control of the region for both the USA and the EU, while in the past it also presented resistance to the neoliberal policies imposed by the west. Currently, Serbia is the only country in the region that continues to maintain the policy of neutrality, meaning a friendly relationship with Russia, China and Iran.

The latest development in Kosovo is only a push in the direction of securing imperialist interests in the region, and the Albanians in Kosovo are a means to achieving those ends. According to the European proposal to ‘normalise’ the relationship with Kosovo, Serbia is expected to de-facto recognise the province’s sovereignty, which would seal the imperialist presence and control over the region.

What the proposal does not provide is a guarantee of safety for the remaining Serbian population living under Kosovar rule, nor does it provide a long-term solution to the problem. Rather, it only freezes the conflict for the time being, leaving it open to reactivation in case of a geopolitical need.

It is worth mentioning that the original peace in Kosovo was established under the terms of UN resolution 1244, which requires the withdrawal of Serbian police and military forces while allowing for their return in the future, requires the establishment of a legal entity to represent the interests of the Serbian community, and forbids the establishment of Albanian military structures. In the past two decades, not only has the Albanian party rejected the constitution of Serbian autonomy, but, with the permission of the western military presence, it has constituted a de-facto military-like structure under the guise of ‘special police’.

The representatives of the imperialist countries have ignored the resolution they facilitated, and that they were meant to guarantee. Upon the arrival of the Nato occupation forces, they allowed the ethnic cleansing of the non-Albanian population, including Roma, Ashkalis and Egyptians, not only Serbs. The remaining Serbian population has been reduced to the status of second-class citizens, whose rights are systematically suppressed and who are exposed to discrimination and abuse on a regular basis.

For the sake of comparison, the ethnic composition of Serbia in terms of percentages has remained largely unchanged over the course of the past three decades.

In the other words, any imperialist-brokered ‘peace’ just means the preservation of the conflict. The violence in Kosovo is just a reflection of this.

Waged in the name of stopping ethnic cleansing, it was an exercise in gigantic ethnic cleansing; waged in the name of stopping genocide, it was a genocidal war against the Yugoslav people; waged in the name of averting humanitarian disaster, it caused the worst humanitarian disaster in Europe since the second world war; waged in the name of democracy and human rights, it was a war to impose puppet regimes in the constituent republics of former Yugoslavia; waged in the name of defending the sovereign rights of the Kosovan people, it was a war to set up a Nato puppet state in Kosovo.