Guess Kosovo wasn’t that ‘unique’: Separatism in the Caucasus



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A study of differences and similarities between the break-away states of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus and Kosovo in the Balkans.

After February 2008 when Kosovo Albanian-dominated Parliament proclaimed Kosovo independence (without organizing a referenda) with obvious US diplomatic support (unilateral recognition) with explanation that the Kosovo case is unique in the World (i.e., it will be not repeated again) one can ask the question: is the problem of the southern Serbian province of Kosovo-Metochia really unique and surely unrepeatable in some other parts of the World as the US administration was trying to convince the rest of the international community?[1]

Domino effect in international relations

The consequences of recognition of Kosovo independence by bigger part of the international community are already (and going to be in the future) visible primarily in the Caucasus because there are some similarities in these two regions.[2]

At the Caucasus region (where about 50 different ethnolinguistic groups are living together)[3] a self-proclaimed state independence is already done by Abkhazia and South Ossetia[4] only several months after the self-proclaimed independence of Albanian “Republic of Kosovo”,[5] following the pattern of both the Nagorno-Karabakh (formally a province in Azerbaijan) in 1991 and Kosovo in 2008.

The experts from the German Ministry of the Foreign Affairs expressed already in 2007 their real fear that in the case of the US and EU unilateral recognition of Kosovo independence the same unilateral diplomatic act could be implied by Moscow by recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as a matter of diplomatic compensation and as a result of domino effect in international relations.[6]

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It is also known and from the official OSCE sources that Russian delegates in this pan-European security organization have been constantly warning the West before 2008 that such scenario is quite possible, but with one peculiarity: from 2007 they stopped to mention possibility of the Russian recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh’s self-proclaimed independence (on September 2nd, 1991).

It is most probably for the reason that Moscow does not want (up to now) to deteriorate good relations with Azerbaijan – a country with huge reserves of natural gas and oil.

Why the South Ossetia could be different?

On the first glance it can be said that the Orthodox South Ossetians are equally separatist as the Muslim Albanians from Kosovo. However, the South Ossetians are having sympathies towards the Serbs (not for the reason that both of them are the Orthodox Christians), but not towards, as we could expect, separatist Kosovo Albanians.

The real reason of such sympathies is similar legal state rights applied by both the Serbs in Kosovo and the South Ossetians.[7]

Historically, the South Ossetia was never really integral and authentic part of sovereign Georgian state,[8] in contrast to Kosovo-Metochia which was not only integral, but culturally and politically the most important region of the medieval Serbian state (called as the Ancient Serbia or Serbia proper) till the mid-15th century when Kosovo-Metochia became occupied by the Ottomans.[9]

The territory of present-day Georgia historically was never before it became part of Russia politically firmly united around its capital Tbilisi in contrast to Serbia which before it lost independence in 1459 was having a long period of experience of the unified state territory with Kosovo-Metochia as its center.

When Serbia gained the autonomy status within the Ottoman Empire in 1830/1833 and was later recognized by the European Great Powers at the Berlin Congress in 1878 as an independent state it was known for her rulers and politicians which historical territories belonged to her: Kosovo-Metochia was on the first place.[10]

The present day territory of Georgia entered the Russian Empire in parts – segment by segment. Ossetia as united territory (i.e., not divided into the Northern and the Southern Ossetia as today situation is) became (according to the Russian historiography) voluntarily part of the Russian Empire in 1774.

In the other words, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great (1762−1796), in order to be surely convinced that the Ossetians are really independent, before incorporation of this province into the Russian Empire sent a special commission which informed St. Petersburg that “the Ossetians are free people subordinated to no one”.[11]

Georgia itself became part of the Russian Empire in 1804 (27 years later then Ossetia). This fact is the most important argument used by the South Ossetians in their dispute with the Georgian authorities.

The Southern part of Ossetia was given to be administered by Georgia only in the USSR by decision of three Georgian Communists – J. V. Stalin, Sergei Ordzonikidze and Avelj Enukindze. It has to be also stressed that the border between two parts of Ossetia (the Northern and the Southern) never existed before 1994.

What concerns the Kosovo Albanian case, it is known that the Albanians started to settle themselves in the region of Kosovo-Metochia from the present-day Northern Albania only after the First Serbian Great Migration (or Exodus) from the region in 1690. In the other words, before the Ottoman occupation of Serbia there were no Albanians in Kosovo-Metochia in any significant number (only 2% according to the Ottoman census in 1455).[12]

According to several Byzantine and Arab historical sources, the Balkan Albanians are originating from the Caucasus Albania – in the 9th century they left the Caucasus and have been settled by the Arabs in the Western Sicily (and the South Italy) which they left in 1043 and came to the Balkans.[13] The borders of the present-day territory of Kosovo-Metochia are fixed by the Yugoslav Communist authorities in 1945,[14] who in fact separated this province from the rest of Serbia together with the Province of Vojvodina.[15]

In addition, the Yugoslav Communist People’s Assembly issued the decree according to which it was forbidden for about 100.000 expelled Serbs from Kosovo-Metochia during the Second World War by the Albanian authorities to return back to the province.

This decesion was followed by migration of up to 200.000 Kosovo-Metochia Serbs during the period of the Socialist Yugoslavia from the province to the Central Serbia. In addition, during the Socialist Yugoslavia it is estimated that up to 300.000 Albanians from Albania migrated to Kosovo-Metochia.

Together with enormously high birth-rate of the Kosovo Albanian population,[16] these are the main reasons for drastically altered demographic picture of the province in Albanian favor during the time of the Socialist Yugoslavia thus making legal case for Serbs stronger to challenge Albanian thrive for Kosovo independence (and inclusion into Albania).

The people of the South Ossetia on the referendum about the future of the USSR on March 17th, 1991 voted for existence of the Soviet Union (like the Serbs upon Yugoslavia, but and Kosovo Albanians on referendum to become an independent from Serbia like the Georgians from the USSR).[17]

The referendum on March 17th, 1991 was organized two months after Georgian army started the war against the South Ossetia in which till September of the same year 86 Ossetian villages have been burned. It is calculated that more than 1.000 Ossetians lost their lives and around 12.000 Ossetians emigrated from the South to the North (Russia’s) Ossetia.

This is the point of similarity with expelled at least 200.000 Serbs from Kosovo-Metochia by the Albanian the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army[18] after the NATO peace-keeping troops entered and de facto occupied this province in June 1999.

A state’s independence of the Republic of South Ossetia from the Republic of Georgia was formally proclaimed on May 29th, 1992. However, this legal act can not been understood as a “separatist” one for the reason that at that time Georgia was not recognized by no one state in the world as an independent political subject and Georgia was not a member of the United Nations.

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However, in contrast to the case of the South Ossetia, the unilateral proclamation of the state independence of Kosovo by the Albanians on February 18th, 2008 cannot be treated by the international community as a legitimate act (without permission by Belgrade) as Kosovo by the international law and agreements is an integral part of Serbia (the same legal reason was applied by the international community to the case of self-proclaimed the Republic of Serbian Krayina in 1991 from Croatia).[19]

Differently from the case of Georgia, when the South Ossetia proclaimed the state independence in May 1992, Serbia in 2008, when the Albanian dominated Parliament of Kosovo proclaimed the state independence, was an internationally recognized independent state and a member of the United Nations.

This is a common point of similarity between the Ossetians and the Serbs as the nations: both of them are fighting against separation of one part of their national body and the land from the motherland.

However, Tbilisi is doing the same like Belgrade, from this point of view, i.e. claiming that the South Ossetia (and Abkhazia) is historical and state’s part of Georgia.[20] From that point of view, there is a similarity between political claims of both states – Serbia and Georgia with one significant difference: historical rights of Serbia over Kosovo-Metochia are much more stronger in comparison with the same rights of Georgia over the South Ossetia (and Abkhazia).

In the other words, Kosovo-Metochia was all the time, from historical, cultural, state’s and identity point of views, a central/proper part of Serbia, while both the South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been just borderland provinces of Georgia.[21]

International system of governing and separation

The main argument for the western politicians upon the case of Kosovo self-proclaimed independence, as “unique case” in global perspective, is the fact that according to the “Kumanovo Agreement” between Serbia and the NATO, signed on June 10th, 1999, and the UN Resolution of 1244 (following this agreement), Kosovo-Metochia is put under the UN protectorate with imposed international system of governing and security.

However, such “argument” does not work in the case of the South Ossetia as the Ossetians are governing their land by themselves and much more successfully in comparison with the “internationally” (i.e., the NATO) protected Kosovo-Metochia.

This was quite visible in March 2004 when the international organizations and military troops could not (i.e., did not want to)[22] protect the ethnic Serbs in Kosovo-Metochia from violent attacks organized by the local Albanians when during three days (March 17−19th) 4.000 Serbs were expelled, more than 800 Serbian houses were burned and 35 Serbian Christian Orthodox churches and cultural monuments were destroyed or severely damaged.

The “March Pogrom” of 2004 revealed the real situation in the region of Kosovo-Metochia. The position of the South Ossetians in independent Georgia from 1991 to August 2008 could be compared with position of the Serbs in Kosovo-Metochia after June 1999 which is under the total Albanian domination.

The fact is that the South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Pridnestrovje[23] showed much more political-legal bases and capabilities to be recognized as an independent for the reason that they showed real ability to govern themselves by only themselves, but not by the international organizations as it is in the case of the Albanian-governed Kosovo (the “Republic of Kosovo” from February 2008) after June 1999 up today. They also proved much more democracy and respect for human and minority rights in comparison with the Albanian-ruled Kosovo.[24]

The Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo-Metochia

There are several similarities, but also and dissimilarities between conflicts in the Nagorno-Karabakh province and Kosovo-Metochia. In both cases the international community is dealing with autonomy of a compact national minority who is making a majority on the land in question and having its own national independent state out of this territory.

Both the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians and the Kosovo Albanians do not want to accept any other solution except separation and internationally recognized independence (and later unification with their motherlands).[25]

Both conflicts are in fact continuations of old historic struggles between two different civilizations: the Muslim Turkish and the Christian Byzantine. In both conflicts the international organizations are included as the mediators. Some of them are the same – France, the USA and Russia as the members of both Contact Groups for ex-Yugoslavia and the Minsk Group under the OSCE umbrella for Azerbaijan.

Serbia and Azerbaijan were against that their cases (Kosovo-Metochia and the Nagorno-Karabakh) will be proclaimed as the “unique” as therefore it would be a green light to both Albanian and Armenian separatists to secede their territories from Serbia and Azerbaijan without permissions given by Belgrade and Baku (what in reality already happened).

However, there are differences between Kosovo-Metochia and the Nagorno-Karabakh cases.

Firstly, Kosovo-Metochia was internal conflict within Serbia (which is after June 1999 internationalized), but in the case of the Nagorno-Karabakh there is external military aggression (by Armenia).

Secondly, in difference to Armenia in relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh, Albania formally never accepted any legal act in which Kosovo was called as integral part of a state territory of Albania (with historical exception during the Second World War when Kosovo-Metochia, the Eastern Montenegro and the Western Macedonia have been included into Mussolini’s the so-called “Greater Albania” with the capital in Tirana).

Delegation from Albania did not take any participation in the talks and negotiations upon the “final” status of Kosovo-Metochia between Prishina and Belgrade in 2007−2013, while Armenia has official status of “interested side” in the conflict in regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh. However, the Armenians from the Nagorno-Karabakh such status did not obtain.

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While the Armenian army (i.e. from the Republic of Armenia) was directly involved in the military operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh, officially part of an independent state of Azerbaijan,[26] in the Kosovo-Metochia conflict of 1998−1999 the official regular army of the Republic of Albania was not involved (differently from a great number of the volunteers from Albania).

As a result, Armenia occupied 1/5 of Azerbaijan territory and the victims of ethnic cleansing are mainly the Azerbaijani. A military weaker Azerbaijan side in comparison to Armenia, which was supported by Russia in arms and other war material, did not apply to the NATO for the military help, but military weaker Kosovo Albanian side in comparison to Serbia’s police and the Yugoslav army forces did it during the Kosovo conflict of 1998−1999.[27]

Conclusion

It can be concluded that the Albanian unilaterally proclaimed Kosovo independence in February 2008 is not “unique” case in the world without direct consequences to similar separatist cases following the “domino effect” (the South Ossetia, the South Sudan, the Crimean Peninsula, the Eastern Ukraine, Scotland, Catalonia, Bask region…).

That is the real reason why, for instance, the government of Cyprus is not supporting “Kosovo Albanian rights to self-determination” as the next “unique” case can be easily the northern (Turkish) part of Cyprus which is, by the way, recognized only by the Republic of Turkey and under de facto Ankara’s protection and the occupation by the regular army of the Republic of Turkey from 1974 onward.[28]

Finally, that Kosovo “domino effect” well works in the practice showed the Russian authorities in the spring 2014 when Moscow recognized separation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine based on the self-determination of the local inhabitans exactlly calling the 2008 Kosovo case of self-proclaimed independence.


[1] The region of Kosovo (under such name known in the western politics and science) is traditionally and historically called by the Serbs as Kosovo-Metochia, while by the Albanians as Kosova or Kosovë. The western portion of the region is Metochia and the eastern one is Kosovo.

[2] “Южную Оссетию смерили косовским взглядом”, Коммерсант, 15. 11. 2006: http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/721626.

[3] On history, antropology, religion and ethnography of the Caucasus, see: N. Griffin, Caucasus: A Journey To The Land Between Christianity And Islam (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004); B. Grant, L. Yalcin-Heckmann (eds.), Caucasus Paradigms: Antropologies, Histories and The Making of A World Area (LIT Verlag, 2007); Ch. King, The Ghost of Freedom: A History of The Caucasus (Oxford−New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Th. De Waal, The Caucasus: An Introduction (Oxford−New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); J. Forsyth, The Caucasus: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); A. Tsutsiev, Atlas of The Ethno-Political History of The Caucasus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014); G. M. Hahn, The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland & Company, 2014). On ethnopolitical conflicts in the Caucasus, see: S. E. Cornell, Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus (London−New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2001); E. Souleimanov, Understanding Ethnopolitical Conflict: Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia Wars Reconsidered (New York−London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013).

[4] On self-proclamation of the state’s independence by Abkhazia and South Ossetia and followed war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008, see: S. E. Cornell, S. F.  Starr (eds.), The Guns of August 2008 Russia’s War in Georgia (M. E. Sharpe, 2009); R. D. Asmus, A Little War That Shook The World: Georgia, Russia, and The Future of The West (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010); D. Gierycz, The Mysteries of The Caucasus (Xlibris Corporation, 2010).

[5] Up today there are more than 100 states in the world, according to Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who recognized this territory as an independent state. Among them are and 26 EU member states. However, Kosovo is not still a member of any international political, economic or sport organization. The first two states which recognized Kosovo proclamation of independence in February 2008 were Afghanistan and the USA. The number of states who really recognized Kosovo independence is very questionable.

[6] Moscow used the domino effect principle in the case of unification of the Crimean Peninsula with Russia in the spring 2014 and can use the same principle for the unification with Russia of any other region of Ukraine or other ex-Soviet republics with significant number of the Russian-speaking population or at least to support their autonomous or separatist political movements.

[7] There is a claim that the Ossetians are only European nation in the Caucasus, but this claim is up to now not scientifically proved. The Ossetians themselves believe to originate from the Sarmatian tribe of Alans. The Ossetians speak a language that is remotely related to the Persian.

[8] See: Ph. M. Parker (ed.), Ossetia: Webster’s Timeline History 1204−2007 (ICON Group International, Inc., 2010).

[9] The Serbian Christian Orthodox cultural heritage in Kosovo-Metochia is of the crucial importance for the national identity of all Serbs (Политичка ревија, Тема броја: Косово и Метохија, питање идентитета и српског националног интереса (Београд: Институт за политичке студије, vol. 35, no. 1, 2013)).

[10] М. Екмечић, Дуго кретање између клања и орања. Историја Срба у Новом веку (1492−1992) (Београд: Евро−Ђунти, 2010), 203−94.

[11] On history of Georgia, see: R. G. Suny, The Making of The Georgian Nation (Indiana University Press, 1994); D. Rayfield, Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia (London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 2012); S. F. Jones, Georgia: A Political History Since Independence (I. B. Tauris, 2014).

[12] For instance, see: H. Hadžibegić, A. Handžić, E. Kovačević (urednici), Oblast Brankovića: Opširni katastarski popis iz 1455. godine (Sarajevo: Orijentalni institut u Sarajevu, 1972).

[13] About this issue, see: Кавкаски Албанци лажни Илири, Проширени текстови реферата изложених 21. јуна 2007. године на мултидисциплинарном округлом столу у САНУ „Методолошки проблем истраживања порекла Албанаца“, Београд: Пешић и син, 2007; Ј. И. Деретић, Д. П. Антић, С. М. Јарчевић, Измишљено досељавање Срба (Београд: Сардонија, 2009).

[14] Before 1945 it was hardly known what the exact borders of this province have been as it historically depended on the power of the local feudal lords (ex. the Branković’s) or foreign power (ex. the Kosovo Vilayet in the Ottoman Empire) which was administering the province.

[15] The Albanian minority in Serbia within the region of Kosovo-Metochia in the Socialist Yugoslavia enjoyed all kind of minority rights according to the international law and even above it. The region has its own president, constitution, parliament, police, academy of science, law, press, education system, etc. In the other words, Albanian-run and dominated Kosovo- Metochia was in fact an independent political subject in Yugoslavia equal with all Yugoslavia’s republics. Within such political conditions Kosovo Albanians developed a high range of the policy of the oppression and expulsion from the region of the ethnic Serbs with a strong tendency to separate the region from the rest of Serbia and include it into a Greater Albania. What S. Milošević’s government did in 1989 it was abolishment of just political independence of both autonomous regions in Serbia – Vojvodina and Kosovo-Metochia in order to protect the country from territorial destruction. However, even after 1989 Kosovo Albanians enjoyed minority rights according to the basic standards of the international law. Many minorities in Europe or elsewhere today can just dream about minority rights left to Kosovo Albanians by Serbia’s government in 1989. For the matter of comparison, for instance, the Kurds in Turkey (from 1999 a candidate country for the EU membership) enjoy no single minority right for the very reason as they are not recognized as minority group at all. From the legal point of view by the Turkish government, the Kurds do not even exist in Turkey as the ethnocultural and linguistic group. For this reason, the process of Kurdish assimilation in Turkey is on the way on. On the Kurdish question in Turkey, see: M. Heper, The State and Kurds in Turkey: The Question of Assimilation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007); C. Saraçoglu, Kurds of Modern Turkey: Migration, Neoliberalism and Exclusion in Turkish Society (Tauris Academic Studies, 2010); M. M. Gunter, The Kurds: The Evolving Solution to the Kurdish Problem in Iraq and Turkey (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); N. Beratsky (ed.), The Kurds (Greenhaven Press, 2013); R. Aras, The Formation of Kurdishness in Turkey: Political Violence, Fear and Pain (London-New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014). On Slobodan Milošević from the western perspective, see: L. Sell, Slobodan Milosevic and the destruction of Yugoslavia (Durham-London: Duke University Press, 2002); A. LeBor, Milosevic. A Biography (London-Berlin-New York-Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2012).

[16] The Kosovo Albanian birth-rate after the Second World War is highest in Europe and even higher than in Albania for the very political reason to claim Kosovo-Metochia to be exclusively Albanian territory – a claim to be based on the ethnic rights as the Albanians do not have any historic right on this province ((P. V. Grujić, Kosovo Knot (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: RoseDog Books, 2014)).

[17] The South Ossetian referendum is called by Georgia as illegal like Kosovo Albanian referendum is also called by Serbia’a authorities as not legally based. At the moment of the Kosovo Albanian referendum this South Serbian province did not have any political autonomy. Kosovo-Metochia enjoyed very wide political autonomy until 1989 when it was cancelled by Belgrade in order to prevent separation of the province from the rest of the country. It was left to Kosovo-Metochia after 1989 cultural and education autonomy for the local Albanians – the right which they enjoyed in Montenegro and the FYR of Macedonia. The South Ossetia was never enjoying such wide political autonomy (semi-independence) in the USSR as it was the case of Kosovo-Metochia in the Socialist Yugoslavia till 1989.

[18] On the Kosovo Liberation Army, see, for instance pro-Albanian and pro-western points of view on historical background for the Kosovo Liberation Army with described its activities up to and including the NATO intervention: H. H. Perritt Jr., Kosovo Liberation Army: The Inside Story of An Insurgency (University of Illinois, 2008); J. Pettifer, The Kosova Liberation Army: Underground War to Balkan Insurgency, 1948-2001 (London: C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd, 2012). The last book is official history of the Kosovo Liberation Army ordered and financed by the Albanian-run Kosovo government composed by the Kosovo Liberation Army veterans. The Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army is not lesser separatist and terrorist than, for instance, the Kurdish PKK. However, it is allowed for the Turkish government by the „international“ community to use all legal and other means to fight the PKK including and a clear violation of the human rights.

[19] About the case of the Republic of Serbian Krayina see: В. Ђурић, Република Српска Крајина. Десет година послије (Београд: „Добра воља“, 2005). Regarding the case of destruction of ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s, see: J. Guskova, Istorija jugoslovenske krize (1990−2000), I−II (Beograd: ИГАМ, 2003). Up today, the Republic of Kosovo is not a member of any international political, sport, cultural or economic organization.

[20] According to 1989 data, ethnic breakdown of Georgia was: the Georgians 69%, Armenians 9%, Russians 5%, Azerbaijanis 3%, Ossetians 3%. In 1993 it was 146.000 refugees in Georgia. At the same time about one million persons left Georgia, live in break-away regions or were expelled after 1989 (I. Ivekovic, Ethnic and Regional Conflicts in Yugoslavia and Transcaucasia: A Political Economy of Contemporary Ethnonational Mobilization (Ravenna: Longo Editore Ravenna, 2000), 18.

[21] See: C. Francis, Conflict Resolution and Status: The Case of Georgia and Abkhazia (1989−2008) (Academic & Science Publishers, 2011); A. Saparov, From Conflict to Autonomy in the Caucasus: The Soviet Union and the Making of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh (New York−London: Routledge, 2014).

[22] Neue Zürcher Zeitung (14. 05. 2004).

[23] An unrecognized the Republic of Pridnestrovje, the break-away region of the Republic of Moldova is very good example of transitional, or uncompleted statehood. It is de facto not under Moldovan control, possessing all formal attributes of a sovereign state, like the “Republic of Kosovo”. Pridnestrovje, or Transdniestria, forms part of the world-wide belt of “pseudo states” (V. Kolossov, “A Small State vs a Self-Proclaimed Republic: Nation-Building, Territorial Identities and Prospects of Conflict Resolution (The Case of Moldova-Transdniestria)”, S. Bianchini (ed.), From the Adriatic to the Caucasus: The Dynamics of (De)Stabilization (Ravenna: Longo Editore Ravenna, 2001), 87). Abkhazia, the South Ossetia and Pridnestrovje are the only “states” in the world who recognized the self-proclaimed independence of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1991. However, it is not done up today by any of the UN member states.

[24] On the issue of violation of minority rights in Albanian-governed Kosovo-Metochia, including and the policy of ethnic cleansing, see, for instance: The March Pogrom in Kosovo and Metohija (March 17−19, 2004) with a survey of destroyed and endangered Christian cultural heritage (Belgrade, 2004); H. Hofbauer,  Experiment Kosovo. Die Rückker des Kolonialismus (Wien: 2008); M. Чупић, Отета земља. Косово и Метохија (злочини, прогони, отпори) (Београд: Нолит, 2006), 387−88; V. B. Sotirović, “Kosovo & Metohija: Ten Years After The ‘March Pogrom 2004’”, Српска политичка мисао (Serbian Political Thought), vol. 43, no. 1, (Belgrade: Institute for Political Studies, 2014), 267−83. Such policy of violation of minority rights including and ethnic cleansing, at least at such extent, is not recorded in the cases of the South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Pridnestrovje. According to Miroljub Jevtić, both Kosovo Albanian secesionism and destruction of Serbian Christian Orthodox national and cultural heritage in this province have Islamic background (М. Јевтић, „Исламска суштина албанског сецесионизма и културно наслеђе Срба“, Национални интерес (National Interest), vol. 17,  no. 2 (Belgrade: Institute for Political Studies, 2013), 231−52). On Islamic fundamentalism, see: L. Davidson, Islamic Fundamentalism: An Introduction (Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, 2013).

[25] On the case of Nagorno Karabakh, see: H. Krüger, The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: A Legal Analysis (Springer−Heidelberg−Dordrecht−London−New York: Springer, 2010); B. Balayev, The Right to Self-Determination in the South Caucasus: Nagorno Karabakh in Context (Lexington Books, 2013).

[26] On political history of Azerbaijan since 1991, see: Svante E. Cornell, Azerbaijan Since Independence (M. E. Sharpe, 2010).

[27] Azerbaijan did not apply fot the NATO help for at least three reasons: 1) not to spoil good relations with Russia; 2) not to provoke Iran – a country which was supporting Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia; and 3) the NATO at that time was not ready for the confrontation with Russia in the region which was de facto recognized by Brussels and Washington as the Russian zone of interest. On the Kosovo-Metochia War in 1998−1999 in the context of destruction of ex-Yugoslavia, see: C. Hadjimichalis, “Kosovo, 82 Days of an Undeclared and Unjust War: A Geopolitical Comment”, European Urban and Regional Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2, (2000), 175-80; T. Judah, Kosovo: War and Revenge (New Haven-London: Yale University Press, 2002); A. Finlan, The Collapse of Yugoslavia 1991-1999 (Ospray Publishing, 2004). On the NATO’s air war for Kosovo-Metochia in 1999, see: T. G. Carpenter (ed.), NATO’s Empty Victory: A Postmortem on the Balkan War (Cato Institute, 2000); B. S. Lambeth, NATO’s Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001); D. Henrikson, NATO’s Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Airpower in the Kosovo Crisis 1998-1999 (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2007). On the NATO’s „humanitarian“ intervention in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, see: D. N. Gibbs, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009).

[28] The author of this article has strong belief that the USA and the Russian administrations simply decided in 2008 to recognize at the moment de facto situation upon the Balkans and the Caucasus affairs: Kosovo-Metochia will be recognized as the USA domain, while the South Ossetia and Abkhazia as the Russian one. By now, and of course, such a “secret diplomacy” deal cannot be proven by any document.

2. Sotirovic 2013

Prof. Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirovic

www.global-politics.eu/sotirovic

globalpol@global-politics.eu

© Vladislav B. Sotirovic 2015

_____________________

Original source of the article: http://russia-insider.com/en/2015/01/10/2319

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How Germany paved the way to the Kosovo War 1998-1999



Ixgrydi

By Matthias Küntzel (in 2000)

Contribution to the 2nd International Hearing of the European Tribunal concerning Nato’s war against Yugoslavia. Hamburg, April 16, 2000 [1]

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In 1991, a delegation of the German Bundestag visited Kosovo for the first time in order to talk with Kosovo Albanian nationalist leaders. This prompted – as early as 1991! – the warning by a senior member of the Yugoslavian parliament that “the British and the Germans would create a common intervention force with 70,000 soldiers in order to intervene in Kosovo.” [2] Indeed an early and accurate prophecy! So what about Germany’s role in preparing for the Kosovo war?

There were and there are strategic differences between German and the US policies about how to retain or enhance hegemony. “As a wealthy status quo power, the United States has an interest in maintaining international order”, wrote Joseph S. Nye, Jr, a former US deputy secretary of defense. “In a world where there are some two hundred states but many thousands of often overlapping entities that might eventually make a claim to nationhood, blind promotion of self-determination would have highly problematic consequences.” [3] Berlin, however, in seeking to create conditions for an ongoing expansion of German influence (that means: changing the international order) does not share this priority. As Rupert Scholz, the former German secretary of defense, explained: “The aim of maintaining “stability” in Europe seems to be a most dangerous one. There will not be any real stablity, which is able to maintain peace, if individual nations are held prisoner in unwanted and unnatural (“unnatürliche”) state organizations, which have been imposed upon them.” Since 1990, German foreign policy has “constantly persisted in activly advocating a universal right of self-determination.” [4]

This policy has a particular bearing on Kosovo. The hidden war about Kosovo’s future started in 1995 at the latest. In February 1995 in the presence of Roman Herzog, Germany’s President at that time, Germany and Albania signed a common declaration of principle at Tirana. This declaration is rarely mentioned in the literature but nevertheless decisive because it promised to find a “solution to the Kosovo question” by advocating the right of self-determination for Kosovo’s Albanians. [5] Advocating self-determination for Kosovo´s Albanians, however, meant advocating their right to secede from Yugoslavia. This declaration was in so far a kind of advance notice to continue Germany’s 1991 course (recognition of Croatia) in order to further split up Yugoslavia following a racist (völkisch) concept of self-determination.

In the period following, the German goverment did everything it could to spur on the separation of Albanians within Kosovo. Germany supported and financed those nationalists who sought to pursue the goal of full independence by creating alternative governing institutions as well as independent Albanian educational and medical systems in Kosovo which systematically separated the majority of the people in Kosovo from the other peoples of Yugoslavia. In addition, German secret diplomacy was instrumental in helping the “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA), as they call themselves, since its creation in February 1996. The daily newspaper “The European” stated that “German civil and military intelligence services have been involved in training and equipping the rebels with the aim of cementing German influence in the Balkan area.” [6]

During those years, Germany unilaterally supported the secessionist movements. In 1997 editor Johann Georg Reißmüller of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (a German daily newspaper) wrote: “The US government is not at all happy with Germany’s policy in Kosovo”.

It was, however, exactly that year – 1997 – that the crisis in Kosovo began to escalate. After the destruction of the Albanian army arsenals the KLA armed itself in order to start a large-scale nationalist rebellion. This development and the following counter-attack by the Serbian police moved Kosovo into the headlines and into the focal point of NATO’s considerations. How did Germany and the United States react?

“The Clinton administration is still uncertain about how to deal with this crisis”, later wrote the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. A senior official from the German foreign office was sent to Washington to put pressure on the deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott. “We urgently need U.S. leadership now” claimed Germany’s emissary. [7] This pattern: Germany calls for the U.S. government – actually for a special wing of the U.S government – to act against Yugoslavia were repeated between March 1998 and March 1999 over and over again. Let us now take a closer look at that pre-war diplomacy which paved the way to war.

The US government is responsible for most of the war crimes NATO committed against Yugoslavia. But even in 1998, the Clinton administration – split in several fractions on how to deal with Milosevic and the Kosovo Albanians’ nationalism – hesitated, reacting uncertainly on a case-by-case basis, oscillating between supporting the KLA and letting Milosevic have a free hand in smashing them. Germany on the other hand knew what to do and how to act. The grand design of Germany’s Kosovo policy had been in effect by March 1998. It was revealed by Germany’s informal ambassador to the Balkans, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, who on March 16, 1998 said: “We should try to tell Milosevic the plain truth through pressure and even military interventions that he can retain control over Kosovo as a part of Yugoslavia only if certain fundamentals are met. And if this is not the case, the territory there will have to be transformed into a kind of protectorate until those fundamentals are provided for.” [8]

This idea of pushing the Kosovo´s Albanians towards a military confrontation with Milosevic in order to create a Kosovo protectorate from now on became the central point of Germany’s Kosovo policy – either by the Kohl/Kinkel CDU government or the Schröder/Fischer SPD-Green coalition. One condition was that international troops be stationed on Kosovo soil. As early as March 1998 Germany accordingly put this matter on the agenda at the London meeting of the international Contact Group on Yugoslavia. [9]

The other condition was that Nato would have to enter Kosovo against the will of the Yugoslav government. Accordingly, Germany sharpened its tone towards Belgrad. Milosevic became the main target and remained so whatever his policy looked like.

But France, the UK, Italy and the dominating voices within the US government still prefered to follow a less confrontational policy. In 1998, The European for example stated that “Washington realised that pushing the Kosovars towards a military confrontation with Milosevic, as the Germans wanted to do, would have a boomerang effect on the Balkans. The United States put maximum pressure on Germany to stop supporting the KLA behind the scenes, as did the other European countries such as Britain and France.” [10] They termed the KLA activities “terrorist” and supported indirectly a Serbian counteroffensive against the KLA during the summer of 1998 and appealed to Milosevic and the moderate Albanian leader Rugova to begin talks. The KLA, however, succeeded in provoking the Serbian police force and in escalating armed clashes time and again. The policy of de-escalation turned out to be a permanent failure as long as there was a continuity in the supply of KLA weapons and KLA mercenaries across the Albanian border.

It was therefore not at all surprising that in the summer of 1998 all the efforts of the United Nations and the majority of Nato countries (including the US) concentrated in the goal of cutting off the arms and soldiers supplies in favor of the KLA. The Albanian government headed by Fatos Nano who had disassociated himself from the KLA supported this plan. Inside NATO the idea of sending 7000 soldiers to cut off the traffic in weapons began to take shape.

During this crucial situation,however, Germany’s covering up for the KLA became both public and evident: The German government vetoed the cutting-off of the supply of weapons for the KLA! Klaus Kinkel, then head of the German foreign office said: “Of course you have to consider whether you are permitted from a moral and ethnical point of view to prevent the Kosovo-Albanians from buying weapons for their self-defense.” [11] Volker Rühe, then head of the ministry of defense answered to this consideration with an unequivocal No: “You cannot resolve the Kosovo conflict by sending troops to Albania to seal the border and thus be acting in favor of Milosevic.” [12] Rühe’s message was quiete clear: everyone who tries to seal the border in order to find a peaceful solution is taking sides with Milosevic. In order to disassociate yourself from Milosevic you have to escalate the war between the Kosovo Albanians and the Serbs by delivering more and more weapons to the KLA!

This open German solidarity with the KLA has been as much an isolated provocation as has the recognition of Tudjman’s Croatia in 1991, 50 years after the formation of the first Croatian state under the rule of the fascist Ustashi regime.

Just like 1991 Germany again stood nearly alone against a huge majority of countries in Europe and the world. Just like 1991 Germany again supported a movement with a background rooted in the Nazi past, because the KLA is partly led by the sons and grandsons of extreme right-wing Albanian fighters, the heirs of those who fought during World War II in the fascist militias and the “Skanderbeg Volunteer SS Division” raised by the Nazis. [13] The “National Front of Albania” (Balli Kombetar) which collaborated with Nazi leaders in 1943/44 today boasts about its influence within the KLA which has a program that seems to be a modified version of the 1943 Nazi utopia.

Thus the program of “ethnic cleansing” which Germany exported into the Balkans in 1941 remained alive within the movement of the Kosovo Albanian nationalists during the 80s. “The nationalists have a two-point platform” wrote the New York Times in 1982: “First to establish what they call an ethnically clean Albanian republic and then the merger with Albania to form a greater Albania.” [14] Whenever the KLA talks about “liberation” or “freeing” this has been up to now understood in the Nazi-sense of “free of something” i.e. “free of Jews” (“judenfrei”), “free of Gypsies” or “free of Serbs”. Noone could be really surprised when, beginning with June 1999, the de facto rule of the KLA turned out to be a daily and a deadly trap for thousands of non-Albanians, especially defenceless Serbs.

In the summer of 1998 Germany and the USA took not only opposite but conflicting sides: While the USA – in the words of General Shelton, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – has had “concerns about the techniques that are being used to put down, to squelch the uprising” [15] Germany on the other hand acted as the protective power for the KLA. This confrontation includes a strategic conflict within NATO: Is the Atlantic Alliance supposed to help or to hinder the KLA? Should NATO as the KLA’s airforce contribute to the revision of state borders and the further diminishing of Yugoslavia? Or is the alliance bound to clap down on such a type of militant secessionism?

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It was Germany’s insistence and the ignorance or thirst for adventure within the leadership of the other NATO powers that brought the world’s biggest military alliance eventually in favor of the Albanian nationalists. Germany has “given evidence of its prepareness to lead” praised the influential Frankfurter Allgemeine. [16] Now Germany once again took the lead in pressing for military intervention in Kosovo. The New York Times reported: “German officials seem increasingly inchined towards charting a military course to stop the violence in Kosovo.” [17] Indeed. “Mr. Kinkel threatens with a Nato intervention in Kosovo” proclaimed the headlines of German papers on June 5, 1998. “The United States, unlike Germany, rejects a snap decision about a military intervention”, wrote Frankfurter Allgemeine the following day. Volker Rühe was the first government official in Europe who as early as June 15, 1998 spoke in favor of a strike against Yugoslavia even without a UN Security Council green light. This suggestion played havoc with not only the UN Charter but also with the German constitution and the Treaty of Moscow concerning German unification. This proposal was later taken up positively by the USA. We have to conclude, therefore, that Germany is not only guilty of committing the crimes which are connected with the US-led bombing of Yugoslavia, but is responsible for ardently working towards triggering this war. The German concept for Kosovo includes the following:

  1. to make a stand against the Yugoslav government
  2. unlimited support for the Kosovo Albanian nationalists who demand independence and a lasting unification with Albania
  3. to demand for air-strikes against Yugoslavia in order to achieve a NATO protectorate for Kosovo which is supposed to be only an interim step towards the independence of Kosovo.

Strategic differences between German and the US policies diminished considerably in 1999 when the Clinton administration decided to go to war in favor of the ultra-secessionist KLA. They seem to gain, however, new weight in the post-war debate about the final status of Kosovo. US Secretary of State Madelaine Albright recently rejected the idea of creating a greater Albania, whereas German policy seems to be pushing in the opposite direction.

Karl Lamers, the influential CDU foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition in the Bundestag said about the transformation of Kosovo into a NATO protectorate that this is “only the first step towards the separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia” and that an independent Kosovo will be “only an interim step to merging (“Anschluss”) with Albania.” [18] Recently, Lamers mentioned with great satisfaction “that everything we are actually doing in Kosovo, e. g. the creation of a new currency zone, is aimed at creating an independent Kosovo…”. [19] Even Germany’s red/green coalition government does not want to recognize Kosovo as being a province of Yugoslavia. That is the reason why in his last major statement Joschka Fischer – Germany’s vice-chancellor and secretary of state – let the question of “the future status of the Kosovo” open claiming that it would be impossible to resolve this now. In an interview with a French newspaper, however, he made clear that he had no doubts about the Kosovo’s future status: “The international community is present in Kosovo and the Balkans in order to show that – according to the example of resolving the ,German question’ in 1990 – the ,Albanian question’ could be resolved only with the agreement of the neighbouring states.” [20]

US government circles are quite aware of the ambitions of their rival, Germany. Zbigniew Brzezinski called the Berlin republic a “geostrategic main actor” and a “subversive big power inspired by an ambitious vision”. Strobe Talbott, the deputy secretary of state, characterized Germany as the seismic focal point of the current geopolitical earthquakes which are disrupting the Atlantic Alliance as well as the Balkans. He emphasized that Germany is “the epicentre of thoses processes – enlargement and expansion, extension and deepening.” [21]

Within the context of the war against Yugoslavia the other great powers, however, not only reacted to aggressive German moves but pursued their own special interests as well. The United States wanted to retain its influence in Europe, to strengthen a worldwide role for NATO and to weaken Russias influence within the new world order. Great Britain und France were eager to demonstrate their military superiority over Germany and wanted to give a starting signal for the establishing of an independent European intervention force (together with Germany) vis-a-vis the USA. Each of these nations is a rival to the others and is trying to retain or achieve as much influence and power as possible. The war against Yugoslavia has been the first, however, to be spurred on by Germany as an attempt to redesign current world order after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This war has put the irrational elements and the destructive roots of capitalistic societies into a new light.

(Not published)
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NOTES:

[1] This contribution is a short description of a broader study: Matthias Küntzel, Der Weg in den Krieg. Deutschland, die Nato und das Kosovo, Elefanten Press, Berlin 2000. The author’s e-mail address: mail@matthiaskuentzel.de.

[2] This warning was published in the Yugoslavian journal Polityka; see the minutes of the Bundestag meeting June 16, 1991, pp. 2560-1.

[3] Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Redefining the National Interest, Foreign Affairs Vol.78 No.4, July/August 1999 pp. 22-35.

[4] See Rupert Scholz, Das Festhalten an ungewollten Staaten schafft keine Stabilität, in: Die Welt, December 12, 1991; Rupert Scholz, Das Selbstbestimmungsrecht und die deutsche Politik, in: Internationale Politik 4/1995, S.51.

[5] “Deutschland und Albanien … bekräftigen das Recht aller Völker, frei und ohne Einmischung von außen ihr Schicksal zu bestimmen und ihre politische, wirtschaftliche, soziale und kulturelle Entwicklung nach eigenem Wunsch zu gestalten.” This declaration is published in the Archiv der Gegenwart, March 13, 1995, pp. 39819-20.

[6] Roger Fallgot, How Germany Backed KLA, in: The European, 21-27 September 1998. See for more details M. Küntzel, Der Weg in den Krieg pp. 59-64.

[7] See Die Zeit, May 12, 1999.

[8] Christian Schwarz-Schilling, March 16, 1999, Deutschlandradio, quoted in: Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung, Stichworte zur Sicherheitspolitik, April 1998, p. 47.

[9] Russia, the USA, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany are members of this informal but influential group.

[10] Roger Fallgot, ibid.

[11] Interview with Klaus Kinkel, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, July 30, 1998.

[12] Mr. Rühe is quoted in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, June 9, 1998.

[13] See Chris Hedges, Kosovo´s Next Masters? in: Foreign Affairs, Vol.78, No.3, May/June 1999, pp.24-42. “Although never much of a fighting force, the Skanderbeg Division took part in the shameful roundup and deportation of the province´s few hundred Jews during the Holocaust. … The decision by KLA commanders to dress their police in black fatigues and order their fighters to salute with a cleched fist to the forehead has led many to worry about these fascist antecedents.” (ibid.)

[14] See Marvine Howe, Exodus of Serbians Stirs Province in Yugoslavia, New York Times July 12, 1982.

[15] See New York Times, June 16, 1998.

[16] See Frankfurter Allgemeine, September 26, 1998.

[17] See New York Times, June 10, 1998.

[18] See the minutes of the Bundestag parliamentary session of April 15, 1999.

[19] See the minutes of the Bundestag parliamentary session of April 5, 2000.

[20] See Le Monde March 25, 2000, emphasis by the author.

[21] See Frankfurter Allgemeine, February 5, 1999.


Original source of the article:

http://www.matthiaskuentzel.de/contents/germany-and-the-kosovo

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