Archive | Serbia

Still Tranquil Belgrade

LINH DINH •

Pandemic, lockdowns, riots, disappeared jobs, collapsed businesses, empty fridges, closed borders, weird explosions and, just now, Beirutshima, so 2020 is already a horror show, but wait, it’s actually a mousy prelude to the endlessly crashing cymbals, just ahead. Many more ambulances will howl down streets. The empire will only exit with a bang.

Meanwhile, all is still relatively calm in most places. I hear a child singing outside my basement window. Each afternoon, kids play in my building’s narrow courtyard, then disperse just before five, to head home for dinner.

To reach the front door the other day, I had to sidestep four boys playing cards. As I fumbled with the key, one kid looked up, frowned and said something that sounded like a correction. I ignored the pipsqueak, only to understand immediately that he meant, “It’s already open, dumbshit.”

To fuss over trivia is a peacetime privilege, or curse. Here in Serbia, they squirt ketchup on pizzas! Italy is nearby, but so what. Everybody and his Kalashnikov waving grandma have their own way of doing things. South Koreans eat pizzas with corn, and dill pickles on the side.

Yesterday, I met a 70-year-old architect whose name translates as Lucky Darling. Nearly every morning, Sretan can be seen outside a beauty salon. Since its owners are two striking beauties, it makes sense for the old fart to park himself there. Sitting at a table, Sretan sips coffee, looks at traffic and waves at neighbors. Around 11, he wanders to Kafe Parkić.

“You should go there. Garden. Very nice.”

My spot is Dzidzi Midzi, where, perched on the balcony overlooking the sidewalk, I’m quite visible to passersby. Alien to a place, you won’t recognize anyone, but they all see you.

Although Serbia has reopened for tourists sans conditions, few have entered, and in Hadžipopovac, I’m the only Martian. It’s cool, though. Staring hard at me, a girl of about three smiled and waved, which brightened her mom also.

Despite their fearful reputation, Serbs are quite mellow, I’ve found. Yes, there is an edge here, as expressed by the graffiti, for example, with fans of Red Star and Partizan cancelling each other out all over town, and each time they clash, a riot is almost inevitable. Walking for miles across Belgrade, however, I’ve not felt anything like the tension or even menace that’s become banal in American cities, with each morning’s newspaper yawningly reporting last night’s carnage. My landlord never locks his house or car, he told me.

Vietnamese, too, are generally not aggressive. Save your butchery for when it really matters, tough guys. Queers strut.

In Busan, my friend Jung-min said, “We Koreans have all been in the military, so we know how to use weapons, but when it’s over, we forget about it. When there’s a war,” he chuckled, “we can be quite brutal.”

Sretan’s English is not bad. His wife is a career diplomat. Together, they spent two years in Tokyo, three in NYC and four in New Delhi.

“New York is fantastic. We lived in the middle. Sutton Place.”

“Very expensive!”

“Yes, very expensive, but my wife is a diplomat. I didn’t have to do anything. I just walked around and looked.”

“Did you go to other American cities?”

“Washington. We were there for 15 days. I didn’t like it. Washington is like a village. New York, great.”

“Are there many Serbs in New York.”

“No. Chicago.”

“I’ve heard. Did you go to Chicago?”

“No, but I know. Many Serbs there.”

When young, Sretan’s passion was karate, so Japan was particularly fascinating. Still, he disapproved of their lifestyle, “Japanese, all they do is sleep and work. No life.” He shook his head.

Opening a plastic container, Sretan offered me a baklava. “You like? No pressure. You like?”

It was excellent, “This is very good, and the coffee too.”

“I told you. I don’t lie. Turkish coffee, but Serbian style. She knows how to make.”

Sretan on Russia, “We are close. Russians, Serbs, same people. Slavs.”

“But Croats are also Slavs.”

“Ah, but… Between Serbs and Croats, there’s a complex. If I look at you and have a complex, then I hate you, but it’s nothing. It’s in my head, my imagination. People have complex.”

Like all who grew up in poorer societies, Sretan’s teeth are not perfect. Mine are fourth world.

Sretan on America, “They put pressure on every country. They bomb. Yugoslavia, your country. Saddam Hussein…”

“Iraq.”

“Yes, Iraq. Destroyed his whole family. Gaddafi… Libya, Syria, Yemen. No good. America must change. The cosmos will make America change. History, the cosmos. There are two new powers. Russia, Kina. America will change.”

Kina is China, of course. I picked that up just from walking around. Kineska robna kuća is a store selling made-in-China household goods. Kineski restoran is a monosodium glutamate factory.

There’s a Chinese department store, Panda, with two branches in Belgrade. Well-made and elegantly proportioned, Serbs can wear burlap bags and still look good, so they’re fine in bargain Chinese fashion.

Seeing a slim lady in black and white horizontal stripes, framed by body hugging red, I immediately thought, This is why you left your room today. She’s like an upright zebra crossing for sleepy lizards.

The many used clothing stores are dressed up with the English “Second Hand,” often coupled with Butik. When I was in Ukraine in early 2016, used clothing was sold in huge mounds, for shoppers to dig through. Haven’t seen that here.

In Kiev, I saw beggars kneeling under snowfall, heads drooping, behind soggy cardboard signs. They had just been color revolutionized by Uncle Sam. In Belgrade, beggars aren’t nearly as abject. Many are gypsies.

In plastic sandals and pink sweat pants, a scrawny teenage girl meandered into a pizza joint to mumble at each table. It’s called Poncho, oddly enough. Offering no burritos or tacos, it does have cacti painted on its walls. Its logo is a Mexican with a bulbous nose, handlebar moustache and a sombrero sagging over his eyes.

There are many gambling parlors here, an index of desperation, and even more Western Union outlets. Folks in each neighborhood need to easily collect cash from relatives overseas.

Like all of Eastern Europe, Serbia is hemorrhaging people like there’s no tomorrow. At least seven hundred thousand Serb live in Germany. Moldova has lost a third of its population since 1989!

One day on the street, a very cosmopolitan Serb gave me his thoughts on this issue, and more. Seeing me photographing, he started to talk, for he, too, had a camera. Also, he likely assumed I was Chinese. Turned out he had spent a year there.

“What were you doing there?”

“Studying the language. I’m a translator.” His English was excellent and practically accent-free.

“Have you been to the States?”

“No. I got a visa but I never went.”

“It’s not the same any more. It’s ruined. Still, you should go and have a look. Have you traveled a lot?”

“Some. It’s not easy for Serbs to travel. Just stopping at an airport, you have to pay for a transit visa. One year, I went to Brazil, but the transit visa for the UK was so high, I had to pick a different flight.”

“Wow.”

“It is ridiculous. When I was in middle-school, we loved British culture and British music, but the UK is not very welcoming to us Serbs.”

“Lots of Poles there.”

“Yes, but few Serbs.”

“So where do they go?”

“Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France. Many young people are leaving. Here, you can only make 500, 600 Euros a month, so after you pay for food and rent, there’s nothing left. There’s no future here. You can only live day to day.”

To make things worse, there’s the coronavirus, but that’s a universal problem. Tourism is comatose everywhere.

When Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian refugees swarmed over from Greece five years ago, they marched right through North Macedonia and Serbia.

“We used to see them on the highways, with backpacks. I talked to some of them. One man asked me, ‘What’s better, Germany or Austria?’” My instant friend cracked up. “They had walked all the way here from Asia, but they didn’t know exactly where they were going.”

To reach Austria, they still had to cross Hungary, however. “The Hungarians were tough. The border guards would beat them, so they had to dig tunnels.”

“But what happened on the other side? It’s not like they fitted in.”

“They had guides, smugglers. Coyotes!”

Even though his English was clearly flawless, I was still surprised by his use of coyotes. Some people just have supremely quick twitching synapses, man, while the rest of us must rely on miniature ox carts, bogged down by mud, prejudices and clichés, between our frayed neurons.

To escape Turks, Serbs themselves migrated en masse to Hungary in the 17th and 18thcenturies, but there are key differences, no? You tell me!

My instant friend remembered a trip to Switzerland, “In a restaurant, I met a Dutch couple. I also speak Dutch. When the man found out I was a Serb, he looked at me like I was a monster!” He laughed.

“He probably thought you were, like, a mass rapist!”

“And a mass killer! Dutch people, how should I say it, they’re very righteous, you know. They’re even worse than Germans!”

“Yes, but Germans are righteous against themselves. The most righteous Germans hate being German!”

We had a good laugh over that. It was time to go, so I stuck out my hand.

“No, we will not shake hands!”

“Oh, that’s right. Coronavirus!”

After 16 days in Belgrade, I finally spotted an American flag on someone’s clothing. In most foreign cities, I’d catch that several times a day. The wearer was a teenager, so born after American bombs exploded in his city.

It had 18 stars and 17 stripes, so both present and past had been tampered with, a common enough occurrence, though not usually so harmless.

U.S.A. MDTWN LOS ANGELES / CALIFORNIA was superimposed in black. NYC and LA are mythical destinations. Thanks to Hollywood, their color saturated, larger than life images have become parts of everyone’s consciousness, subconsciousness and memory, to flare up as teasing dreams.

As the American dream is snuffed out in situ, it persists as a quasi-religion outside it. Uncle Sam’s sexy fantasies about himself lord over foreign minds. The NY logo is the world’s most popular icon. Meanwhile, the country sinks into degradation and farce.

Crotch grabbing Michael Jackson feared actual sex, granite-jawed Bruce Jenner is a cleavage and leg flashing grandma, a casino hustler and reality TV star tweets as the president, Joe Biden never perks up unless there’s a squirming girl within stroking distance, and yet, even here in Belgrade, books by Michelle Obama sell.

It’s already 11 and I haven’t been outside yet. Done with this article, I’ll reward myself with a huge slice of pepperoni with mushroom at Poncho. The long stroll down there will be pleasant. From the most hideous apartment buildings will step the most lovely people.

At the corner, I’ll likely run into Sretan. “Come to my building and ring the intercom,” he has said. “If I’m home, you can come up and we’ll drink coffee.”

I’ll bring a bottle of Ždrepčeva Krv. From his roof, we can look down at a still calm universe.

Linh Dinh’s latest book is Postcards from the End of America. He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.← Balkans Ahead!TweetReddit23ShareShare1EmailPrintMore

Posted in Serbia, Yugoslavia0 Comments

U.S. Is Pushing for a New Provocation Against Serbia over the Kosovo Issue

By Paul Antonopoulos

Belgrade and Pristina have resumed dialogue in Brussels, but the recent delivery of American-made armored vehicles to Kosovo could make the talks difficult and signifies Washington is once again attempting to destabilize the Balkans. Serbia and Kosovo returned to the negotiating table on July 16 after a long hiatus; however the hopes of Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, to allow a constructive dialogue could now be in jeopardy. Washington’s delivery of Humvee armored vehicles to Pristina is a clear message to Belgrade that the U.S. will continue recognizing Kosovo’s independence. Washington purposefully sent the armored vehicles knowing it will create tensions in negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina.

The U.S. is putting pressure on Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to recognize Kosovo’s independence. However, this is in detriment to international law and UN Security Council resolution 1244, which is still valid and specifies that Kosovo is a Serbian province despite Washington’s recognition of its illegal independence. Although the delivery of Humvee armored vehicles makes little impact on the military capabilities of Kosovo, it is a symbolic gesture by the Americans to show they still have significant influence over Kosovo. Hashim Thaçi, the President of Kosovo and alleged war criminal, has always said that Washington should be an important player in negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo.

Kosovo is recognized as an independent state by the majority of Western countries, with the exception of five EU members who still refuse to recognize its independence: Spain, Romania, Greece, Cyprus and Slovakia. Russia and China, permanent members of the UN Security Council, have not recognized this either and are de facto preventing Kosovo from joining the United Nations.Kosovo’s Legitimacy Receives Massive Blow After Another Withdrawal of Recognition

There is clear proof that tensions are still high between Belgrade and Pristine, especially after Vučić attacked with virulence Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Avdullah Hoti, after the last round of negotiations:

“Is it nice to sit at the other end of the table facing Hoti and listen to his gibberish, saying that they are the only victims and that we are the only bad guys? No.”

The fact that Kosovo recently received a new shipment of armored vehicles from the U.S. will not help normalize relations between the two parties, but this is not surprising considering the Albanians are key to Washington’s policy in controlling the Balkans. Therefore, Belgrade likely recognizes that it cannot trust Washington to bring a resolution to the Kosovo issue, especially since Serbia maintains strong relations with Moscow that it is not willing to sacrifice.

The special relationship between Belgrade and Moscow is viewed negatively by both Brussels and NATO. They would rather bring Serbia under its influence. This is further complicated by the fact that Beijing has an ever-increasing strong presence in Serbia and is investing a lot in the country. Beijing always supports the preservation of Serbia’s territorial integrity, especially regarding Kosovo, which could mean that the Balkan country might be a future flash point between the growing rivalry between China and the U.S.

In 2012, Belgrade highlighted that officials during the presidency of Bill Clinton, who were in charge at the time of the brutal NATO bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999, returned to Kosovo to invest – particularly General Wesley Clark and former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Today Kosovo is a hub for drug trafficking, human trafficking and organ harvesting, something that Brussels and Washington are happy to turn a blind eye to.

Albanians are trying to unite in a Greater Albania that would serve the interests of U.S. foreign policy. The arming of Kosovo could be a consequence of this vision, especially since American arms deliveries to Kosovo contradict international law and could trigger a new armed conflict. This may be the hidden goal of the U.S. It is possible that Germany is also pushing in this direction, especially since Berlin was a key player in the dismemberment of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The recognition of Kosovo’s independence opens the door to further destabilization, violence and potentially even a new Balkan war. With the U.S. delivering Humvee’s to Kosovo, it has signified that it has no interest in finding a lasting resolution between the rebel province and Serbia.

Posted in USA, Kosovo, Serbia, Yugoslavia0 Comments

China Delivers Armed Drones, Missiles to Serbia, First Deal to Europe

China Delivers Armed Drones, Missiles to Serbia, First Deal to Europe

Serbia has reportedly taken delivery of a batch of CH-92A armed reconnaissance drones plus missiles recently, the first time China has exported military-use aviation equipment to a European country and a milestone for Chinese arms firms in the European market, analysts said on Monday.

The drones are expected to become some of the most advanced weapons in the Serbian arsenal, as the cost-efficient unmanned aircraft can conduct tactical reconnaissance, precision targeting, ground attack and patrol missions, experts said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic inspected the drones on Saturday local time, according to Serbia’s Ministry of Defense.

A total of nine CH-92A drones plus 18 FT-8C air-to-ground missiles were included in the delivery. Fifteen more drones are expected in future procurement, reports said.

Developed by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the CH-92A drone has a combat radius of more than 250 kilometers, a ceiling of 5,000 meters, and a maximum speed of 200 kilometers an hour, and it can carry two missiles, including the FT-8C air-to-ground missile that can reach targets 9 kilometers away, according to publicly available information.

Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu told the Global Times on Monday that the CH-92A is the best option for Serbia because of its high cost-efficiency. At a relatively low price, this type of medium-sized drone can offer precise tactical reconnaissance, hit ground targets including high-value targets and bunkers, guide artillery fire, and conduct patrol missions in sensitive areas such as border and conflict regions.

Chinese military observers pointed out that while the monetary worth of the deal is not high, this is the first time China has exported military-use aviation equipment to a European country, which will have great significance in Chinese arms firms’ position in the European market.

Wei said that other European countries that run on a tight military budget can now take a closer look at Chinese drones, such as the CH series and Wing Loong series.

Chinese arms firms have been active providers of military-use drones in the international market, as CH series and Wing Loong series drones can often be seen in the Middle East and Africa. As of December 2018, 100 Wing Loong drones had been delivered to foreign clients.

Chinese weapons and equipment are well known on the international market not only because of their high efficiency and low cost, but also good after-sales services and logistics support, observers said, noting that China does not attach political conditions to arms sales, unlike some countries such as the US.

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Сriminal Roots of Kosovo Further Exposed by Thaçi’s Indictment in The Hague

By Paul Antonopoulos

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić was due to meet Kosovo leader Hashim Thaçi on Saturday at the White House. This was at the behest of US envoy for Kosovo-Serbia negotiations, Richard Grenell, after his much-publicized success in organizing the meeting. However, his success was short lived after Thaçi became indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity on June 24 by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office.

The US meeting has been put on hold until further notice, but as Vučić revealed, the EU will take over discussions between Belgrade and Pristina at a later date. It appears that France and Germany specifically will spearhead these meeting with the French Embassy in Kosovo saying on Thursday that “France and Germany expect Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia to resume soon. Together with Chancellor Merkel, President Macron remains ready to host a Summit in Paris.” German Ambassador to Kosovo Christian Heldt tweeted:

“Our governments stand ready to be helpful with [a] proposed meeting in July.”

Due to prosecutors in The Hague indicting Thaçi’s alleged war crimes during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, Kosovo’s new prime minister, Avdullah Hoti, said he could not travel to Washington to conduct talks with Serbia.

“Thank you, Prime Minister Hoti. We understand your decision and we look forward to rescheduling the meeting soon,” Grenell wrote on Twitter.

US President Donald Trump was hoping for a foreign policy victory just before the upcoming elections, but rather, the Kosovo experiment created by Bill Clinton in the 1990’s is beginning to crack. Thaçi in 1993 became a prominent member of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA) and became responsible for the finances and armaments of the terrorist organization. The KLA financed its activities by turning Kosovo into a drug smuggling hub to distribute heroin and cocaine throughout Europe.Can Serbia Trust Washington’s Assurances in Upcoming Meeting with Kosovo?

A 2008 report by German intelligence service BND accuses Thaçi of having deep involvement in organized crime, saying that

“The key players (including Thaçi) are intimately involved in inter-linkages between politics, business, and organised crime structures in Kosovo,” and that Thaçi is leading a “criminal network operating throughout Kosovo.”

The charges laid against him by the prosecutor’s office in The Hague include murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture. He has also been accused of organ harvesting and drug trafficking by other reports and institutions. Although he has not been found guilty, it is well established that the KLA engaged in such activities, putting a mockery to the Albanian and Serbian Caucuses of US Congress suggestion in 2014 that Thaçi be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the Geneva School of Diplomacy giving him a Doctor Honoris Causa degree as a Doctor of International Relations, and the Montenegrin town of Ulcinj giving him the title of Honorary Citizen of Ulcinj.

Before the scheduled meeting, Vučić said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov informed him about worrying information concerning various Western plans and ideas regarding the solution to the Kosovo crisis. Vučić pointed out that he exchanged opinions with Lavrov on a number of issues but that the key topic was the relationship between the two countries and Russia’s support for the integrity of Serbia and the situation in Kosovo.

“We received certain assessments from the Russian Federation […] which worried me. They concern various plans and ideas regarding the solution to the Kosovo crisis. I do not want to deceive anyone and hide from the public: obviously we are facing a difficult period, in which we will face great pressure to realize some plans that we did not officially or unofficially get, but based on the assessments of our Russian friends, it seems that we will have to be very careful in following every idea that is presented to us,” Vučić said at the press conference after their meeting.

Thanking Russia for supporting Serbia in the United Nations and in all international forums, Vučić said that it had been agreed that Serbia would consult with Russia on an almost daily basis, emphasizing that one thing was clear:

“If at any time and in any place a solution is reached, any solution requires the consent of Russia. We do not want everyone else to be consulted without anyone asking Russia anything.”

He added that Russia supported the dialogue under the auspices of the EU, while Serbia is ready to listen to all other political actors and their ideas. He emphasized that Serbia will be able to protect its vital national interests, regardless of the price it will have to pay.

It begs the question whether the Trump administration now has the willingness to come up with a solution for Kosovo, especially as it is evident that the Albanians are connected with the Democrats in the U.S. and the criminal roots of Kosovo’s independence are being further exposed. The indictment against Thaçi is a major embarrassment for Washington as they have been the main backers of the illegal separation of Kosovo from Serbia. If Thaçi’s allegations are proven true by The Hague, it would mean Washington would have always known about the criminal activities of the KLA and the ongoing criminality in Kosovo’s government, but chose to ignore them to carve out a pro-US state from a pro-Russia Serbia.

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21 Years Ago, NATO’s War on Yugoslavia: Kosovo “Freedom Fighters” Financed by Organized Crime

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Twenty-one years ago, June 10 1999, marks the end of NATO’s  aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia (March 24, 1999- June 10, 1999). The bombings which lasted for almost three months, were followed by the military invasion (under a bogus UN mandate) and illegal occupation of  the province of Kosovo.

21 years later on April 24, 2020, the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Hashim Thaci who subsequently became “Prime Minister” and “President” of Kosovo was indicted for crimes against humanity.

The Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office At The Hague filed an indictment against Hashim Thaci on April 24, 2020 ” for a range of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution, and torture.”  

According to prosecutor Jack Smith, Thaci and his close allies “put their personal interests ahead of the victims of their crimes, the rule of law, and all people of Kosovo”. 

Nonsense: It took them 21 years years to acknowledge the crimes committed by the KLA. Those crimes were ordered by US-NATO. Hacim Thaci was and remains a US-NATO proxy. The KLA was supported by the CIA and Germany’s BND (Bundes Nachrichten Dienst).

Thaci was an the Interpol list. The KLA was also supported by Al Qaeda.

Balkan Insight 

From the very outset those crimes against the people of Serbia and Kosovo were committed on behalf of the Atlantic Alliance. NATO’s war on Yugoslavia was based on the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), their alleged “humanitarian” mandate was “to come to the rescue” of people of Kosovo.

The KLA had extensive links to organized crime involved in drug trafficking. In the wake of the 1999 war, 21 years ago, a Mafia State was installed in Kosovo. The bombing of Yugoslavia ceased on June 10th.

That same month of June, The US established in Kosovo its US military base Camp Bondsteel which constitutes “the largest and the most expensive foreign military base built by the US in Europe, since the Vietnam War”.

And then all of sudden 21 years later, the Hague Prosecutor says that Hashim Thaci is  a “war criminal”. His links to NATO are not mentioned.

In 1999, while the bombings of Yugoslavia were ongoing, some of America’s “Left” including  Znet were supportive of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), pointing to their so-called Marxist-Leninist roots:

At present, the only armed force capable of defending the Kosovar Albanian villages that remain is the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA). Despite political shortcomings born of the state of lawlessness into which the 90% Albanian majority has been thrown over the last 10 years, since Milosevic abolished Kosova’s autonomy, the KLA last year managed to organise an army of up to 40,000 fighters.    …

For example, Stephen Shalom, in an article on ZNet states: “I am sympathetic to the argument that says that if people want to fight for their rights, if they are not asking others to do it for them, then they ought to be provided with the weapons to help them succeed. Such an argument seemed to me persuasive with respect to Bosnia.”

In that same article, I was personally accused of having “discredited the KLA”:

“Michel Chossudovsky, a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, has set out the most meticulous frame-up in a piece entitled “Freedom Fighters Financed by Organised Crime”, which has been doing the internet circuit. Full of half-truths, assumptions and innuendoes about the KLA’s alleged use of drug money, Chossudovsky’s article seeks to discredit the KLA as a genuine liberation movement representing the aspirations of the oppressed Albanian majority. …

Listen to the report of Democracy Now on the KLA links to the Drug Trade (June 2, 1999)

These so-called “half truths and innuendos” were the object of my article written in April 1999 at the height of the NATO bombings. entitled : Kosovo “Freedom Fighters” Financed by Organized Crime,  April 1999

A word in relation to the Indictment of Hashim Thaci. He was “a paid killer” acting on behalf of his sponsors.

The KLA was relentlessly supported by NATO and the US military.

The following article was written and published in April 1999.

Michel Chossudovsky, July 8, 2020

***

Kosovo “Freedom Fighters” Financed by Organized Crime

Michel Chossudovsky

April 15, 1999

Heralded by the global media as a humanitarian peace-keeping mission, NATO’s ruthless bombing of Belgrade and Pristina goes far beyond the breach of international law. While Slobodan Milosevic is demonised, portrayed as a remorseless dictator, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is upheld as a self-respecting nationalist movement struggling for the rights of ethnic Albanians. The truth of the matter is that the KLA is sustained by organised crime with the tacit approval of the United States and its allies.

Following a pattern set during the War in Bosnia, public opinion has been carefully misled. The multibillion dollar Balkans narcotics trade has played a crucial role in “financing the conflict” in Kosovo in accordance with Western economic, strategic and military objectives. Amply documented by European police files, acknowledged by numerous studies, the links of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to criminal syndicates in Albania, Turkey and the European Union have been known to Western governments and intelligence agencies since the mid-1990s.

“…The financing of the Kosovo guerilla war poses critical questions and it sorely test claims of an “ethical” foreign policy. Should the West back a guerilla army that appears to partly financed by organised crime.” 1

While KLA leaders were shaking hands with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at Rambouillet, Europol (the European Police Organization based in the Hague) was “preparing a report for European interior and justice ministers on a connection between the KLA and Albanian drug gangs.”2 In the meantime, the rebel army has been skilfully heralded by the global media (in the months preceding the NATO bombings) as broadly representative of the interests of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

With KLA leader Hashim Thaci (a 29 year “freedom fighter”) appointed as chief negotiator at Rambouillet, the KLA has become the de facto helmsman of the peace process on behalf of the ethnic Albanian majority and this despite its links to the drug trade. The West was relying on its KLA puppets to rubber-stamp an agreement which would have transformed Kosovo into an occupied territory under Western Administration.

Ironically Robert Gelbard, America’s special envoy to Bosnia, had described the KLA last year as “terrorists”. Christopher Hill, America’s chief negotiator and architect of the Rambouillet agreement “has also been a strong critic of the KLA for its alleged dealings in drugs.”3 Moreover, barely a few two months before Rambouillet, the US State Department had acknowledged (based on reports from the US Observer Mission) the role of the KLA in terrorising and uprooting ethnic Albanians:

“…the KLA harass or kidnap anyone who comes to the police, … KLA representatives had threatened to kill villagers and burn their homes if they did not join the KLA [a process which has continued since the NATO bombings]… [T]he KLA harassment has reached such intensity that residents of six villages in the Stimlje region are “ready to flee.” 4

While backing a “freedom movement” with links to the drug trade, the West seems also intent in bypassing the civilian Kosovo Democratic League and its leader Ibrahim Rugova who has called for an end to the bombings and expressed his desire to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Yugoslav authorities.5 It is worth recalling that a few days before his March 31st Press Conference, Rugova had been reported by the KLA (alongside three other leaders including Fehmi Agani) to have been killed by the Serbs.Kosovo’s “Mafia State” and Camp Bondsteel: Towards a Permanent US Military Presence in Southeast Europe

Covert Financing of “Freedom Fighters”

Remember Oliver North and the Contras? The pattern in Kosovo is similar to other CIA covert operations in Central America, Haiti and Afghanistan where “freedom fighters” were financed through the laundering of drug money. Since the onslaught of the Cold War, Western intelligence agencies have developed a complex relationship to the illegal narcotics trade. In case after case, drug money laundered in the international banking system has financed covert operations.

According to author Alfred McCoy, the pattern of covert financing was established in the Indochina war. In the 1960s, the Meo army in Laos was funded by the narcotics trade as part of Washington’s military strategy against the combined forces of the neutralist government of Prince Souvanna Phouma and the Pathet Lao.6

The pattern of drug politics set in Indochina has since been replicated in Central America and the Caribbean. “The rising curve of cocaine imports to the US”, wrote journalist John Dinges “followed almost exactly the flow of US arms and military advisers to Central America”.7

The military in Guatemala and Haiti, to which the CIA provided covert support, were known to be involved in the trade of narcotics into Southern Florida. And as revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) scandals, there was strong evidence that covert operations were funded through the laundering of drug money. “Dirty money” recycled through the banking system–often through an anonymous shell company– became “covert money,” used to finance various rebel groups and guerilla movements including the Nicaraguan Contras and the Afghan Mujahadeen. According to a 1991 Time Magazine report:

“Because the US wanted to supply the mujehadeen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan’, said a US intelligence officer.”8

America and Germany join Hands

Since the early 1990s, Bonn and Washington have joined hands in establishing their respective spheres of influence in the Balkans. Their intelligence agencies have also collaborated. According to intelligence analyst John Whitley, covert support to the Kosovo rebel army was established as a joint endeavour between the CIA and Germany’s Bundes Nachrichten Dienst (BND) (which previously played a key role in installing a right wing nationalist government under Franjo Tudjman in Croatia).9 The task to create and finance the KLA was initially given to Germany: “They used German uniforms, East German weapons and were financed, in part, with drug money”.10 According to Whitley, the CIA was, subsequently instrumental in training and equipping the KLA in Albania.11

The covert activities of Germany’s BND were consistent with Bonn’s intent to expand its “Lebensraum” into the Balkans. Prior to the onset of the civil war in Bosnia, Germany and its Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher had actively supported secession; it had “forced the pace of international diplomacy” and pressured its Western allies to recognize Slovenia and Croatia. According to the Geopolitical Drug Watch, both Germany and the US favoured (although not officially) the formation of a “Greater Albania” encompassing Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia.12 According to Sean Gervasi, Germany was seeking a free hand among its allies “to pursue economic dominance in the whole of Mitteleuropa.”13

Islamic Fundamentalism in Support of the KLA

Bonn and Washington’s “hidden agenda” consisted in triggering nationalist liberation movements in Bosnia and Kosovo with the ultimate purpose of destabilising Yugoslavia. The latter objective was also carried out “by turning a blind eye” to the influx of mercenaries and financial support from Islamic fundamentalist organisations.14

Mercenaries financed by Saudi Arabia and Koweit had been fighting in Bosnia.15 And the Bosnian pattern was replicated in Kosovo: Mujahadeen mercenaries from various Islamic countries are reported to be fighting alongside the KLA in Kosovo. German, Turkish and Afghan instructors were reported to be training the KLA in guerilla and diversion tactics.16

According to a Deutsche Press-Agentur report, financial support from Islamic countries to the KLA had been channelled through the former Albanian chief of the National Information Service (NIS), Bashkim Gazidede.17 “Gazidede, reportedly a devout Moslem who fled Albania in March of last year [1997], is presently [1998] being investigated for his contacts with Islamic terrorist organizations.”18

The supply route for arming KLA “freedom fighters” are the rugged mountainous borders of Albania with Kosovo and Macedonia. Albania is also a key point of transit of the Balkans drug route which supplies Western Europe with grade four heroin. 75% of the heroin entering Western Europe is from Turkey. And a large part of drug shipments originating in Turkey transits through the Balkans. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “it is estimated that 4-6 metric tons of heroin leave each month from Turkey having [through the Balkans] as destination Western Europe.”19 A recent intelligence report by Germany’s Federal Criminal Agency suggests that: “Ethnic Albanians are now the most prominent group in the distribution of heroin in Western consumer countries.”20

The Laundering of Dirty Money

In order to thrive, the criminal syndicates involved in the Balkans narcotics trade need friends in high places. Smuggling rings with alleged links to the Turkish State are said to control the trafficking of heroin through the Balkans “cooperating closely with other groups with which they have political or religious ties” including criminal groups in Albanian and Kosovo.21 In this new global financial environment, powerful undercover political lobbies connected to organized crime cultivate links to prominent political figures and officials of the military and intelligence establishment.

The narcotics trade nonetheless uses respectable banks to launder large amounts of dirty money. While comfortably removed from the smuggling operations per se, powerful banking interests in Turkey but mainly those in financial centres in Western Europe discretely collect fat commissions in a multibillion dollar money laundering operation. These interests have high stakes in ensuring a safe passage of drug shipments into Western European markets.

The Albanian Connection

Arms smuggling from Albania into Kosovo and Macedonia started at the beginning of 1992, when the Democratic Party came to power, headed by President Sali Berisha. An expansive underground economy and cross border trade had unfolded. A triangular trade in oil, arms and narcotics had developed largely as a result of the embargo imposed by the international community on Serbia and Montenegro and the blockade enforced by Greece against Macedonia.

Industry and agriculture in Kosovo were spearheaded into bankruptcy following the IMF’s lethal “economic medicine” imposed on Belgrade in 1990. The embargo was imposed on Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanians and Serbs were driven into abysmal poverty. Economic collapse created an environment which fostered the progress of illicit trade. In Kosovo, the rate of unemployment increased to a staggering 70 percent (according to Western sources).

Poverty and economic collapse served to exacerbate simmering ethnic tensions. Thousands of unemployed youths “barely out of their Teens” from an impoverished population, were drafted into the ranks of the KLA…22

In neighbouring Albania, the free market reforms adopted since 1992 had created conditions which favoured the criminalisation of State institutions. Drug money was also laundered in the Albanian pyramids (ponzi schemes) which mushroomed during the government of former President Sali Berisha (1992-1997).23 These shady investment funds were an integral part of the economic reforms inflicted by Western creditors on Albania.

Drug barons in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia (with links to the Italian mafia) had become the new economic elites, often associated with Western business interests. In turn the financial proceeds of the trade in drugs and arms were recycled towards other illicit activities (and vice versa) including a vast prostitution racket between Albania and Italy. Albanian criminal groups operating in Milan, “have become so powerful running prostitution rackets that they have even taken over the Calabrians in strength and influence.”24

The application of “strong economic medicine” under the guidance of the Washington based Bretton Woods institutions had contributed to wrecking Albania’s banking system and precipitating the collapse of the Albanian economy. The resulting chaos enabled American and European transnationals to carefully position themselves. Several Western oil companies including Occidental, Shell and British Petroleum had their eyes rivetted on Albania’s abundant and unexplored oil-deposits. Western investors were also gawking Albania’s extensive reserves of chrome, copper, gold, nickel and platinum… The Adenauer Foundation had been lobbying in the background on behalf of German mining interests. 25

Berisha’s Minister of Defence Safet Zoulali (alleged to have been involved in the illegal oil and narcotics trade) was the architect of the agreement with Germany’s Preussag (handing over control over Albania’s chrome mines) against the competing bid of the US led consortium of Macalloy Inc. in association with Rio Tinto Zimbabwe (RTZ).26

Large amounts of narco-dollars had also been recycled into the privatisation programmes leading to the acquisition of State assets by the mafias. In Albania, the privatisation programme had led virtually overnight to the development of a property owning class firmly committed to the “free market”. In Northern Albania, this class was associated with the Guegue “families” linked to the Democratic Party.

Controlled by the Democratic Party under the presidency of Sali Berisha (1992-97), Albania’s largest financial “pyramid” VEFA Holdings had been set up by the Guegue “families” of Northern Albania with the support of Western banking interests. VEFA was under investigation in Italy in 1997 for its ties to the Mafia which allegedly used VEFA to launder large amounts of dirty money.27

According to one press report (based on intelligence sources), senior members of the Albanian government during the Presidency of Sali Berisha including cabinet members and members of the secret police SHIK were alleged to be involved in drugs trafficking and illegal arms trading into Kosovo:

(…) The allegations are very serious. Drugs, arms, contraband cigarettes all are believed to have been handled by a company run openly by Albania’s ruling Democratic Party, Shqiponja (…). In the course of 1996 Defence Minister, Safet Zhulali [was alleged] to had used his office to facilitate the transport of arms, oil and contraband cigarettes. (…) Drugs barons from Kosovo (…) operate in Albania with impunity, and much of the transportation of heroin and other drugs across Albania, from Macedonia and Greece en route to Italy, is believed to be organised by Shik, the state security police (…). Intelligence agents are convinced the chain of command in the rackets goes all the way to the top and have had no hesitation in naming ministers in their reports.28

The trade in narcotics and weapons was allowed to prosper despite the presence since 1993 of a large contingent of American troops at the Albanian-Macedonian border with a mandate to enforce the embargo. The West had turned a blind eye. The revenues from oil and narcotics were used to finance the purchase of arms (often in terms of direct barter): “Deliveries of oil to Macedonia (skirting the Greek embargo [in 1993-4] can be used to cover heroin, as do deliveries of kalachnikov rifles to Albanian `brothers’ in Kosovo”.29

The Northern tribal clans or “fares” had also developed links with Italy’s crime syndicates.30 In turn, the latter played a key role in smuggling arms across the Adriatic into the Albanian ports of Dures and Valona. At the outset in 1992, the weapons channelled into Kosovo were largely small arms including Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles, RPK and PPK machine-guns, 12.7 calibre heavy machine-guns, etc.

The proceeds of the narcotics trade has enabled the KLA to rapidly develop a force of some 30,000 men. More recently, the KLA has acquired more sophisticated weaponry including anti-aircraft and antiarmor rockets. According to Belgrade, some of the funds have come directly from the CIA “funnelled through a so-called “Government of Kosovo” based in Geneva, Switzerland. Its Washington office employs the public-relations firm of Ruder Finn–notorious for its slanders of the Belgrade government”.31

The KLA has also acquired electronic surveillance equipment which enables it to receive NATO satellite information concerning the movement of the Yugoslav Army. The KLA training camp in Albania is said to “concentrate on heavy weapons training – rocket propelled grenades, medium caliber cannons, tanks and transporter use, as well as on communications, and command and control”. (According to Yugoslav government sources.32

These extensive deliveries of weapons to the Kosovo rebel army were consistent with Western geopolitical objectives. Not surprisingly, there has been a “deafening silence” of the international media regarding the Kosovo arms-drugs trade. In the words of a 1994 Report of the Geopolitical Drug Watch:

“the trafficking [of drugs and arms] is basically being judged on its geostrategic implications (…) In Kosovo, drugs and weapons trafficking is fuelling geopolitical hopes and fears”…33

The fate of Kosovo had already been carefully laid out prior to the signing of the 1995 Dayton agreement. NATO had entered an unwholesome “marriage of convenience” with the mafia. “Freedom fighters” were put in place, the narcotics trade enabled Washington and Bonn to “finance the Kosovo conflict” with the ultimate objective of destabilising the Belgrade government and fully recolonising the Balkans. The destruction of an entire country is the outcome. Western governments which participated in the NATO operation bear a heavy burden of responsibility in the deaths of civilians, the impoverishment of both the ethnic Albanian and Serbian populations and the plight of those who were brutally uprooted from towns and villages in Kosovo as a result of the bombings.

NOTES

1. Roger Boyes and Eske Wright, Drugs Money Linked to the Kosovo Rebels The Times, London, Monday, March 24, 1999.

2. Ibid.

3. Philip Smucker and Tim Butcher, “Shifting stance over KLA has betrayed’ Albanians”, Daily Telegraph, London, 6 April 1999

4. KDOM Daily Report, released by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, Office of South Central European Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, December 21, 1998; Compiled by EUR/SCE (202-647-4850) from daily reports of the U.S. element of the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission, December 21, 1998.

5. “Rugova, sous protection serbe appelle a l’arret des raides”, Le Devoir, Montreal, 1 April 1999.

6. See Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Harper and Row, New York, 1972.

7. See John Dinges, Our Man in Panama, The Shrewd Rise and Brutal Fall of Manuel Noriega, Times Books, New York, 1991.

8. “The Dirtiest Bank of All,” Time, July 29, 1991, p. 22.

9. Truth in Media, Phoenix, 2 April, 1999; see also Michel Collon, Poker Menteur, editions EPO, Brussels, 1997.

10. Quoted in Truth in Media, Phoenix, 2 April, 1999).

11. Ibid.

12. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No 32, June 1994, p. 4

13. Sean Gervasi, “Germany, US and the Yugoslav Crisis”, Covert Action Quarterly, No. 43, Winter 1992-93).

14. See Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1993.

15. For further details see Michel Collon, Poker Menteur, editions EPO, Brussels, 1997, p. 288.

16. Truth in Media, Kosovo in Crisis, Phoenix, 2 April 1999.

17. Deutsche Presse-Agentur, March 13, 1998.

18. Ibid.

19. Daily News, Ankara, 5 March 1997.

20. Quoted in Boyes and Wright, op cit.

21. ANA, Athens, 28 January 1997, see also Turkish Daily News, 29 January 1997.

22. Brian Murphy, KLA Volunteers Lack Experience, The Associated Press, 5 April 1999.

23. See Geopolitical Drug Watch, No. 35, 1994, p. 3, see also Barry James, In Balkans, Arms for Drugs, The International Herald Tribune Paris, June 6, 1994.

24. The Guardian, 25 March 1997.

25. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, La crisi albanese, Edizioni Gruppo Abele, Torino, 1998.

26. Ibid.

27. Andrew Gumbel, The Gangster Regime We Fund, The Independent, February 14, 1997, p. 15.

28. Ibid.

29. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No. 35, 1994, p. 3.

30. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No 66, p. 4.

31. Quoted in Workers’ World, May 7, 1998.

32. See Government of Yugoslavia at http://www.gov.yu/terrorism/terroristcamps.html.

33. Geopolitical Drug Watch, No 32, June 1994, p. 4.The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2020

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Posted in USA, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, YugoslaviaComments Off on 21 Years Ago, NATO’s War on Yugoslavia: Kosovo “Freedom Fighters” Financed by Organized Crime

Can Serbia Trust Washington’s Assurances in Upcoming Meeting with Kosovo?

By: Paul Antonopoulos

It came as a shock to everyone when it was announced yesterday that discussions and negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo will take place at the White House in Washington on June 27. This came as a surprise as it was widely believed that President Donald Trump had no interest in the Kosovo issue and was satisfied to allow the Europeans to mediate it.

Richard Grenell, the U.S. president’s special envoy for Kosovo, believes there is a possibility to reach at least an agreement on economic cooperation. He said on Twitter that he “received the commitment from” both governments to attend the June 27 Washington talks and to “temporarily pause the derecognition campaign and the seeking of international memberships.”

Richard Grenell@RichardGrenell

If either side is unsatisfied with the June 27 discussions then they will go back to the status quo after they leave Washington.
As we have consistently said, we must first make progress on growing the economies. This is the focus. I look forward to these discussions. (2/2) https://twitter.com/RichardGrenell/status/1272566059657117697 …Richard Grenell@RichardGrenellGreat news! I have received the commitment from the governments of Kosovo and Serbia to temporarily pause the derecognition campaign and the seeking of international memberships in order to meet in Washington, DC at the White House on June 27 for Dialogue discussions. (1/2)2,9535:28 PM – Jun 15, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,268 people are talking about this

Although Kosovo illegally broke off from Serbia in February 2008 and received recognition from a majority of countries around the world, Belgrade has pursued a successful diplomatic push to have states derecognize Kosovo, with the most recent being the West African country of Sierra Leone on March 2 of this year. To date, 15 countries have withdrawn their recognition of an independent Kosovo, making the split between international recognition and non-recognition at about 50% each. Belgrade’s campaigning has also hindered Kosovo’s efforts for membership in international organizations like Interpol and UNESCO.

With a temporary truce in place, Washington is hoping to establish trade relations between Serbia and Kosovo, with Grenell saying “if either side is unsatisfied with the June 27 discussions then they will go back to the status quo after they leave Washington. As we have consistently said, we must first make progress on growing the economies.”

If we look at what Grenell has already said publicly, it appears that he is confident that an agreement can be reached regarding open economic cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina. Such an agreement would help create some momentum before the next round of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina on finalizing the status of Kosovo.

With the U.S. inundated with domestic issues, like the out of control coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, foreign policy issues, with the exception of perhaps China, will not play a major role in the upcoming presidential election, giving Trump more freedom to pursue certain issues. This is in addition to a mainstream media that are oriented against Trump and will not emphasize any of his successes in the foreign policy field.

This announced meeting comes as only a few days ago Trump said that he would no longer engage in experiments to create new states that are not capable of surviving on their own, such as Kosovo. It is for this reason that we can interpret Grenell’s statement that things will return to the status quo if parties are not satisfied with the results of the upcoming talks as a demonstration of Trump’s loose support for Kosovo’s Albanians as Washington will not put demands against Serbia. This statement is a result of the growing frustration that the White House, the State Department, and even Grenell himself has because of the unstable political situation in Pristina.

Albanian influence in Washington is losing ground, with only minimal support in Congress, especially in the House of Commons, where one of their key allies, Eliot Engel, is also the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He tried to impose the views of previous administrations through testimonies, writing letters and public appearances, criticizing the Trump administration’s policy regarding negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. However, he has been mostly ignored by the president.

There has been no progress in the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina in finalizing Kosovo’s status and the U.S. has virtually no trust in Kosovo leader Hashim Thaçi and the entire political elite in Pristina. However, Grenell would not have organized a meeting in the White House if he was not confident that some kind of economic agreement could be reached between the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić emphasized yesterday that Serbia will certainly not agree to the recognition of Kosovo’s independence while in Washington. Similar statements also came from Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić, who is wary of Pristina’s consent to suspend the campaign for admission to international institutions.

“The problem is, however, that we do not trust the Albanians in Pristina, because they have always lied and made unilateral moves,” Dačić said.

He added that if what Grenell announced on Twitter was true, Belgrade expects Pristina to immediately withdraw the requests for membership that it submitted to international organizations.

It is likely that for Trump it is unimportant whether Serbia continues its campaign to have countries withdraw recognition of an independent Kosovo, but for the Albanians it would be critical as Belgrade has been highly successful. It is for this reason that Kosovo’s biggest opposition party, Vetëvendosje, accused Thaçi of going against Kosovo’s interests by suspending the membership process to join international organizations, especially at a time when more and more countries are withdrawing their recognition of an independent Kosovo.

Even though Vučić has suspicions about the sincerity of Kosovo’s halt on joining international organizations, demonstrating that Serbia does not trust Washington’s assurances, Belgrade is fully prepared to continue its successful campaign of derecognition in the event of Pristina withdrawing on their word.

Posted in USA, Kosovo, SerbiaComments Off on Can Serbia Trust Washington’s Assurances in Upcoming Meeting with Kosovo?

EU Demands Serbia to Help Kosovo During Coronavirus Crisis

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research,

The Working Group for the Chapter 35 of the Serbian National Convention on the European Union (EU) has called for the authorities in Serbia and Kosovo to create a cooperation to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We witness the coronavirus pandemic (COVID19) representing a great danger everywhere in the world and the health systems increasingly burdened with the number of infected patients. The pandemic has shown that the spread of the disease goes beyond borders, national and ethnic origin or religion of the affected, and can only be combatted through joint action, cooperation and solidarity. Cooperation is necessary primarily for the sake of humanity and responsibility for human lives in these difficult times,” the press release reads.

In times of crisis, the EU proclaims that Kosovo is in fact Serbia’s responsibility. This unprincipled nature of the EU is solely guided by the interests of its major members and aims to palm off the medical responsibility of the illegal breakaway province of Kosovo back to Serbia. The EU did nothing to suppress Albanian separatism. In fact, the EU supports the illegality of Kosovo’s independence by deploying over 1,000 police officers under the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo mandate and all member states with the exception of Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia, recognizing Kosovo’s independence.

The EU Task Force on Chapter 35 calls for communication channels between medical staff in Serbia and Kosovo to be open as it would allow the exchange of information on the pandemic to be crossed over on a daily basis. This could also perhaps even contribute significantly to the reconciliation of the two entities. Even though Serbia is under EU pressure to help Kosovo, Belgrade should not give in to any concessions offered by Brussels on the Kosovo issue. The promise of EU membership will certainly be mentioned.

The EU is trying to force Serbia to expend their resources to send aid to Kosovo without expecting any acts of good will from the Albanian side. This is a policy that requires Serbia to treat Kosovo as its own territory while the EU still attempts to make Belgrade accept that Kosovo is an independent state. AKosovo Wants to Establish its Own Armed Forces. Kosovo is a De Facto “NATO Protectorate”

similar appeal was sent to Serbia from the EU at the time of the migrant crisis when the EU also isolated itself of the problems in Kosovo and asked Belgrade to cooperate with Pristina in controlling migrant flows and make records of illegal immigrants traveling via Kosovo in 2015 and 2016.

While Serbia is expected to help Kosovo, despite the EU’s insistence that it is independent, Serbia is not able to assist the Republika Srpska in Bosnia. As part of Bosnia’s independence deal, two entities were formed, the Serbian-majority Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Hezegovina, where the majority of Muslims and Croatians in Bosnia live. Sarajevo’s political leaders are vetoing the decision of the Republika Srpska National Assembly to introduce a state of emergency in its territory to stop the spread of the coronavirus. For political reasons, Muslim Bosnians are stopping life-saving security measures, which are supported by the international community, and while Serbia is expected to help Kosovo, it cannot help the Republika Srpska.

Bosnia blocked the Republika Srpska so that the borders between the two entities could not be closed as the Serbian entity wanted to do. However, if we look internationally to places like Australia, states in the same country have closed their own borders to those who do not live in a particular state. According to the laws of Bosnia, Republika Srpska cannot close their border without approval from Sarajevo.

Therefore, Sarajevo’s moves are about antagonism and political contradiction at a time when coronavirus can engulf both entities of the country. The Bosnian Muslims have no argument for denying measures to protect people from coronavirus and are using this situation to stir up ethnic tensions rather than seeing this as a medical issue. As already showed earlier, it is not a contradiction to close the borders of the entities as many states and regions around the world have closed their borders despite being the same country.

The Republika Srpska are trying to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously and its National Assembly even voted in a majority to declare a state of emergency. Even EU High Representative to Bosnia, Valentin Incko, welcomed the decision and the commitment of Republika Srpska President Željka Cvijanović to use extraordinary powers in the interest of public health. Incko also pointed out that stopping the spread of the coronavirus and saving the lives of citizens must be priorities for all Bosnian authorities. However, his recommendations did not go into the realm of pressuring Bosnian authorities, and so long as the borders remain open, the people of Republika Srpska remain susceptible to higher rates of infection.

While Serbia is expected to assist Kosovo on the behalf of the EU, despite not being an EU member and the EU insisting on Kosovo’s independence, Belgrade also cannot assist Republika Srpska without being accused of interfering in Bosnian affairs. It is little wonder then that Belgrade has lost interest in appeasing Brussels and no longer responds to promises of EU membership, and rather it continues to build its relations with traditional ally Russia as well as emerging superpower China.

Posted in Europe, Kosovo, SerbiaComments Off on EU Demands Serbia to Help Kosovo During Coronavirus Crisis

Washington Ponders Imposing Sanctions on Serbia for Russian Weapon Purchases

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research,

With Russia delivering another round of the Pantsir S1 anti-missile defense system to Serbia on Tuesday, EU and U.S. officials have reacted. Both Brussels and Washington have sent their warnings to Serbia, with Washington even threatening sanctions against the Balkans country. For the U.S., they are hoping to prevent Serbia from acquiring the Russian made S-400 missile defense system as it will severely restrict American hegemony over the Balkans. While Brussels expects Serbia to comply with the commitments it made when it entered the EU’s strategic priority, the U.S. State Department urged countries to abandon purchases from Russia as it could lead to sanctions.

“In discussions with senior government officials, we have repeatedly expressed concern that Serbia is buying Russian military equipment, including the purchase of the Pantsir system,” a State Department spokesman said.

The European Union previously said that in order to progress on the road to European integration, “Serbia needs to align its foreign policy with the EU’s foreign policy, in accordance with the negotiating framework.” Although Brussels is not making threats of sanctions against Serbia, it is leveraging a potential Serbian admission into the EU. This leverage would not be effective however as only 42% of people in Serbia are in favour of EU membership.

However, this is not the first time that U.S. administration officials are threatening to activate Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017, which deals with the possibility of imposing sanctions on individuals and legal entities having business cooperation with the security and intelligence sectors of Russia, Iran and North Korea. In November last year, Thomas Zarzecki, director of the U.S. State Department’s Task Force 231, arrived in Belgrade immediately after it was announced that Serbia had purchased the Pantsir system. Even before the arrival Zarzecki, it was announced by Matthew Palmer, U.S. Secretary of State’s representative for the Balkans, that sanctions may be imposed against Serbia.US Threatens Sanctions on Serbia, Scrambles to Thwart Possible Russian S-400 Missile Defense Purchase

Zarzecki left Belgrade last November and no sanctions were imposed on Serbia. Now, after Serbia acquired the Pantsir and they have begun arriving in the country, the possibility of imposing U.S. sanctions is being activated again. This becomes difficult as there is no doubt that the State Department will be pushing to punish Serbia for acquiring Russian weaponry. However, it is still within easy living memory that the U.S. led a NATO campaign of destruction against Serbia in 1999, killing over 500 civilians and destroying vital civilian infrastructure like bridges, industrial plants and private businesses. This campaign of destruction has left widespread anti-American sentiment that still persists to this day. Paradoxically, most NATO members today, with the exception of the U.S., has a more positive attitude towards Serbia and would accept that the purchase of military equipment from Russia is a national decision of Serbia and that Belgrade is entitled to that decision.

The President of the Foreign Policy Committee of the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress, Eliot Engel, publicly rebuked one of the U.S. generals serving in NATO over the Alliance’s stance on Serbia. Engel criticized the position on Serbia’s military neutrality and intensive cooperation with Russia. As the Pantsir system is arriving in Serbia, interests for the S-400 system will intensify. Other states have received threats of sanctions if they purchase the S-400, such as India, and it can only be expected that Serbia will receive such warnings, too. Therefore, these discussions of sanctions because of the Pantsir system is a preventative warning for Serbia not to purchase the S-400.

However, the Serbia of the 1990’s is drastically different to the Serbia of today. Today, Serbia is making a recovery from the 1990’s and both Russia and China have achieved Great Power status and are willing to oppose Western interventionism and support independent states such as Serbia.

The U.S. State Department’s position certainly has elements of dissatisfaction over Serbia’s co-operation with Russia and China. NATO, on the other hand, praises the level of co-operation with Serbia and is ready, at least in words, to respect military neutrality. With the 1990’s remembered for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the advent of the U.S. dominated unipolar world, things have changed so much in the world that a once weak Russia and China who were, now are capable of maintaining their own positions.

With Russian and Chinese support, Serbia has enough strength to resist U.S.-led pressures that imposed sanctions could have minimal impact on the country, and rather create opportunities to push towards financial independence away from the U.S. dollar. It is for this reason that even Washington will be contemplating whether imposing such sanctions would be worth the risk of pushing another country towards financial independence as has happened in Iran and Venezuela.

Posted in USA, Russia, SerbiaComments Off on Washington Ponders Imposing Sanctions on Serbia for Russian Weapon Purchases

North Macedonia Is Being Used by NATO to Target Serbia and Russia

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research,

The North Macedonian House of Representatives unanimously approved on Monday for their country to accept the NATO Accession Protocol, taking the former Yugoslav Republic a step closer towards accession into NATO which is expected to be completed and finalized in the spring. North Macedonia’s rapid accession into NATO is only possible because of the Prespa Agreement signed between Athens and Skopje in June 2018, bringing an end to the name dispute between the two countries that emerged in 1991 with the breakup of Yugoslavia.

The Prespa Agreement, named after a lake that traverses the borders of Greece, North Macedonia and Albania, defined exactly what was meant by “Macedonia” and “Macedonian.” For Greece, according to the agreement, these terms denote an area and people of Greece’s northern region, who continue the legacy of the Ancient Macedonian Hellenic civilization, history and culture, as well as the legacy of Alexander the Great. In reference to North Macedonia, these terms denote the modern territory of North Macedonia, the Slavic language and Slavic people with their own history and culture unrelated to the Ancient Macedonians. The agreement also stipulates the removal of North Macedonian irredentist efforts against Greek territory and to align them with UNESCO and Council of Europe’s standards.

With Greece no longer blocking North Macedonia’s attempts to join NATO and the European Union, no time has been wasted to elevate the Balkan country into the Atlanticist organization. There is no doubt that the Prespa Agreement, which caused political turmoil in Athens and Skopje, was signed only for North Macedonia’s rapid entry into NATO.

The acceleration of North Macedonia into NATO is not only a key priority for the organization to reduce Russian influence in the Balkans, but to continue pressurizing Serbia that was bombed by NATO in 1999 in response to the Serbian military operation against the “Kosovo Liberation Army” terrorist organization. North Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia are the only non-NATO members remaining in the Balkans, however it is important to remember that Bosnia is effectively a U.S. protectorate, while North Macedonia has been trying to join NATO since 1995 when Yugoslavia was completely destroyed in all but name. Serbia has no such ambition to join NATO and is considered a problematic country as it is the only remaining bastion of Russian influence left in the Balkans and is preventing full Atlanticist hegemony over the region.NATO’s Continuing Enlargement Aims at Further Weakening of Russian Influence in the Balkans

Syriza, the ruling Party of Greece at the time of the signing of the Prespa Agreement, knew full well that the Prespa Agreement was largely despised by the Greeks, but none-the-less pushed for it and signed it. It is very obvious that the Prespa Agreement was to accelerate North Macedonia primarily into NATO, especially as not only Syriza, but also the current ruling party of New Democracy is loyal to NATO, with North Macedonia’s entry into the EU being only a consolation prize for Western powers. Less than a month after signing the Prespa Agreement, North Macedonia received an invitation to join NATO on 11 July 2018 with the accession protocol made in February 2019. North Macedonia’s accession into the EU on the other hand has made no progress since the Prespa Agreement was made.

For the Atlanticists, a rapid accession into NATO to contain and weaken Russian influence in North Macedonia and to also further constrain and pressurize Serbia was a higher priority than formalizing the Balkan country into the European neoliberal order as an official member. Although North Macedonia will undoubtedly join the EU eventually, it is not a matter of urgency as making the country into a NATO member. The Prespa Agreement is highly unpopular in both countries as they both feel they have lost out and did not achieve their objectives of promoting their interests with the name issue. NATO was unwilling to risk the Prespa Agreement failing and the name issue re-emerging which would once again put on hold North Macedonia’s accession into the organization.

North Macedonia cannot contribute to NATO in any meaningful way as it is a poor country of just over two million people and not close to the Russian border like the tiny Baltic states. Its accession into NATO is only for the purpose of weakening or preventing any Russian influence in the country and to further isolate Serbia. Despite North Macedonia being an overwhelmingly Orthodox and Slavic country that had the potential to become another pro-Russia state in the Balkans alongside neighboring Serbia, since its separation from Yugoslavia in 1991, Skopje pursued a pro-Western policy and joined the NATO program Partnership for Peace as early as 1995 and became a European Union candidate a decade later. Why North Macedonia has pursued such a Western-centric policy since its separation with Yugoslavia is not clearly understood, but it is certainly understood why NATO has accelerated North Macedonia’s membership into its organization.

Posted in USA, SerbiaComments Off on North Macedonia Is Being Used by NATO to Target Serbia and Russia

Balkan ‘Genocides’ Are Not to be Questioned

By Stephen Karganovic

Genocide accusations are, it would seem, the latest fashion spreading out of the Balkans. On December 5, a former minister in the “government” of NATO occupied and administered Kosovo, Ivan Todosijević, who happens to be an otherwise occupation friendly and cooperative ethnic Serb, was sentenced to a two-year prison term. The court found him guilty of making what it considered the outrageous claim that the so-called genocidal “Račak massacre,” which in 1999 triggered NATO aggression against Yugoslavia, was an imposture. Since the trial began just two days before, by Balkan standards the swiftly reached verdict was remarkably expeditious, suggesting the importance which the NATO imposed and sustained authorities, as well as their foreign backers, attach to the dubious Račak narrative.

To arrive at such a harsh judgment, the Kosovo court must surely have dug up startling new evidence about what actually happened in Račak that even ICTY failed to produce. In 1999, ICTY amended its initial indictments of Serbian military and political leaders to include the slaughter of Albanian civilians in Račak. The incident was said to be a cold-blooded, genocidal murder of forty-five helpless Albanian peasants, executed by a unit of the Yugoslav army after it had besieged and captured their village. All well and good, while the NATO attack was in progress and public support needed to be drummed up by publicizing shocking atrocity stories. Later however, when things had calmed down and prosecutors would have been obliged to present some semblance of credible evidence to support their claim, the Račak episode was quietly dropped by ICTY, due to lack of evidence to support the accusation.

The reason Račak is so important to the construction of the mythological narrative in which recent Kosovo history under NATO occupation is enveloped is precisely because it served as a conveniently arranged “humanitarian catastrophe” to justify unleashing the military campaign against Yugoslavia that had already been decided on before that.

The principal actor in that operation was a certain William Walker, officially billed as a “US diplomat,” at the time head of the Kosovo Verification Mission. His dramatic arrival in Račak and public asseveration that he was shocked by the horror of the crime scene he found there set the propaganda stage for what was to follow. Ironically, Walker had plenty of experience earlier in his career arranging genuine massacres of El Salvadorean peasants during their rebellion against the pro-Western, neo-colonial regime that had been imposed in that country.

However, he was quite sloppy and turned a dismal failure when it came to staging the phony massacre in Račak. Since the alleged victims were members of the KLA terrorist outfit killed in a legitimate police operation, they quickly had to be refurbished for public display, while covering up as much tell-tale forensic information as possible. In the process, some mix-ups occurred that gave the game away. In the gully where the victims’ bodies were laid out to be photographed by the foreign media, there curiously was no evidence of blood around the corpses (watch 00:25 – 00:41 seconds). The suspicion that the bodies were hastily dressed up in a different set of civilian clothes not their own, to mask the fact that they were soldiers, was also corroborated by the fact that holes in the victims’ clothing generally did not correspond to the entry wounds of the bullets that killed them.Judiciary as Continuation of Warfare: How the West Uses Srebrenica to Implement Thought-crime Legislation

But none of these details apparently bothered the Kosovo court when it issued its stern judgment against Todosijević for “incitement to ethnic, racial, and religious hate, disorder and intolerance,” just for pointing out some of these incongruities.

Both the court’s procedural swiftness and the categorical nature of its conclusions are understandable in light of the importance of Račak in the historical mythology earlier referred to. The ultimate objective was not to just sentence some poor chap for a thought crime, but something much larger than that. Račak is symbolically the corner-stone of the Kosovo Albanians’ own emerging “genocide” narrative. Never mind that this vacuous charge, raised during the NATO assault on Yugoslavia in 1999, was discarded shortly after peace was restored. It has recently been boldly reinstated, thus successfully questioning Račak would further undermine whatever scant credibility the protected narrative may have.

As the perennial source and model – at least in recent times – of the Balkan “genocide” epidemic, Srebrenica predictably could not long remain outside this picture. Professor Raphael Lemkin may be turning in his grave, but the Bosnia-Herzegovina High Representative Valentin Inzko seems determined not to be outdone by Kosovo Albanians. Just as in Pristina the hapless Todosijević was being court martialed for his incautious remark, in Sarajevo this month Inzko solemnly announced that he would at long last use his mythical “Bonn Powers” to impose a Srebrenica genocide denial law in that unlucky country. The reason such a measure was not enacted long ago was a quirk in the Dayton Agreement requiring consensus on vital interest issues and the Serb entity Republika Srpska’s adamant refusal to be a willing party in the suppression of scholarly research and public discussion of the dubious grounds for the “Srebrenica genocide” accusation leveled against it.

Interestingly, the “Bonn Powers” to override and impose laws and procedures in Bosnia, which Inzko invoked in order to circumvent the legal deadlock which prevents the passage of genocide denial legislation, are just as spurious as the “Srebrenica genocide” itself. The self-serving charade was utterly demolished by Dr. John Laughland several years ago. Such powers are not mentioned anywhere in the Dayton Agreement which ended the war in Bosnia and set up the current constitutional arrangements in that country. Nevertheless, these puzzling powers, whose origins remain unexplained on the website of the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia, were successfully invoked several times in the past by Inzko’s predecessors to punish and dismiss elected officials who refused to toe the line prescribed by NATO powers, greatly raising tensions and often causing havoc in the country’s political system.

The claim of genocide in July of 1995 in Srebrenica is just as vacuous as the assertion of “Bonn Powers” which may soon be used in Bosnia to prohibit questioning it. The Srebrenica narrative would have collapsed long ago but for the respectability conferred upon it by its corrupt enabler, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), whose dishonorable role in perpetuating the fraud has been conclusively unmasked by a team of international scholars. Oddly for a “genocide,” in Srebrenica there is no evidence whatsoever of dolus specialis, or prior intent to annihilate a group protected under the Genocide Convention (also here). As for the physical evidence, even the heavily manipulated ICTY autopsy reports support a finding of just under 2,000 deaths in Srebrenica, far short of 8,000, as officially claimed. But even those deaths were from a variety of causes, execution accounting for several hundred of the aggregate total.

And as if that were not enough to make Prof. Lemkin’s stomach churn, in 2012 ICTY formally ruled that in the Bosnian village of Zepa another, hitherto unnoticed “genocide” had occurred and that the grand total of just three victims (mayor, military commander, and local religious leader) was quite sufficient to prove it. The feature which, in the Chamber’s preposterous opinion, raised the matter to the coveted status of genocide was that the three individuals were key leaders without whom the local community would collapse and become unsustainable. Unsustainability equals extinction, and extinction equals – genocide. (See also Tolimir Judgment Summary, p. 7.) In a scathing dissenting opinion, Judge Prisca Nyambe, a member of the trial panel, protested vigorously against this absurdity, but to no avail.

With childlike simplicity, most Balkan contenders seemingly would love to be “genocided” by their local enemies provided, however, that they survived to tell the tale to the tabloid media. It is a pity that there appear to be no adults in the room to restrain their exuberance.

Posted in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, YugoslaviaComments Off on Balkan ‘Genocides’ Are Not to be Questioned

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