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Vol 3, No 11
19 March 2001
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Sam Vaknin The Common Enemy
Sam Vaknin

They are here, the future common enemy, helmeted and uniformed, shielded in their APCs and brandishing rifles and machine guns. The common enemy to be is KFOR and, by implication, NATO. It is flanked by Serbs triumphantly invited to repossess the now defunct security zone (one is tempted to ask "so, what was this idiotic war all about?"). Besieged by the radicalized remnants of the KLA and by a disdainful Macedonian populace—these less than elite units constitute prime targets. In "NATO's Next War"—an article published on 14 June 1999—I wrote this:

The real, protracted war is about to begin: NATO and the international peacekeeping force against an unholy—and, until recently, improbable—alliance. Milošević (or post-Milošević Serbia) and the KLA against the occupying forces. It is going to be ferocious. It is going to be bloody. And it is going to be a Somali nightmare.
Serbia... wants to regain its lost sovereignty over at least the northern part of Kosovo. Because it virulently hates, wholeheartedly detests, voluptuously despises NATO, the "Nazi aggressor" of yestermonth. Serbia has no natural allies left, not even Russia which prostituted its geopolitical favours for substantial IMF funding. Its only remaining natural ally is the KLA.
The KLA stands to lose everything as a result of the latest bout of peacemaking. It is supposed to be "decommissioned"—IRA-style, disarmed ("demilitarized" in the diplomatic argot) and effectively disbanded.
The KLA's political clout rested on its ever-growing arsenal and body of volunteers. Yet volunteers have a strange habit of going back whence they came once a conflict is over. And the weapons are to be surrendered. Devoid of these two pillars of political might—KLA political leader Hashim Thaçi may find himself unemployed, a former self-declared Prime Minister of a shadow government in Albanian exile. Rugova has the coffers, filled to the brim with tens of millions of US dollars and German marks raised from the Albanian diaspora world-wide. Money talks, KLA walks Bad for the KLA.
Having tasted power... Thaçi is not likely to compromise on a second rate appointment in a Rugova-led administration.
Hence, the mysteriously emergent Albanian "National Army of Liberation" on Macedonia's border with Kosovo. In another article, "The Army of Liberation," published on 5 June 2000, I described the dynamics that fostered the current anti-Macedonian insurgency. The KLA is trying to revive its sagging fortunes by provoking a new regional crisis—this time in the western part of pliable Macedonia and in collaboration with Albanians inside Macedonia. It is all about power, smuggling routes, the drug trade and the huge infusions of Western aid—a gang warfare compounded by years of mistreatment and mutual animosity. I wrote:
...both nations [Serbia and Albania] came up with grandiose game plans: Milošević's "Greater Serbia" and the KLA's "Greater Albania." The idea, in both cases, was to create an ethnically homogeneous state by shifting existing borders, incorporating hitherto excluded parts of the nation and excluding hitherto included minorities...
...The possession of weapons and self-government have always been emblematic of the anticipated statehood of Kosovo. Being disarmed and deprived of self-governance was, to the Albanians, a humiliating and enraging experience, evocative of earlier Serb-inflicted injuries...
This quandary is a typically anodyne European compromise which is bound to ferment into atrabilious discourse and worse. The Kosovars—understandably—will never accept Serb sovereignty or even Serb propinquity willingly...It is, therefore, inconceivable that the KLA has disbanded and disarmed or transformed itself into the ill-conceived and ill-defined "Kosovo Protection Corps"... in all likelihood, the KLA still maintains clandestine arms depots (intermittently raided by KFOR), strewn throughout Kosovo and beyond.
Its chain of command, organizational structure, directorates, operational and assembly zones and general staff are all viable. I have no doubt—though little proof—that it still trains and prepares for war...

...The emergence of the "Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac" (all towns beyond Kosovo's borders, in Serbia, but with an Albanian majority) is a harbinger. Its soldiers even wear badges in the red, black and yellow KLA colours.

The enemies are numerous: the Serbs (should Kosovo ever be returned to them), NATO and KFOR (should they be charged with the task of reintegrating Serbia), perhaps more moderate Albanians with lesser national zeal or Serb-collaborators... Moreover, the very borders of Kosovo are in dispute....The war is far from over.

And, about the KLA's dwindling options:

If it does not transform itself into a political organization in a convincing manner, it might lose its members to the more alluring pastures of statecraft... Overruled by UNMIK (United Nations Mission In Kosovo), opposed by Berisha's Democratic Party, recognized only by Albania and the main Albanian party in Macedonia and bereft of finances, it was unable to imbue its structure with content and provide the public goods a government is all about.
... The ballot box seems now to be the KLA's only exit strategy. The risk is that electoral loss will lead to alienation and thuggery if not to outright criminality. It is a fine balancing act between the virtuous ideals of democracy and the harsh constraints of realpolitik.

NATO and KFOR face the unenviable dilemma of clashing with Albanian nationalists in Kosovo, the Golem they created—or, through abstention, aiding and abetting in the disintegration of Macedonia. KFOR cannot be seen to be suppressing the very population whose well-being it ostensibly was hastily assembled to secure.
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Moreover, KFOR is no match to a genuine and well-equipped Albanian guerilla movement. Its soldiers will be slaughtered as were the far more superior and knowledgeable Serb fighters. Taking this inferiority and reluctance into account, KFOR's best policy is to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to exploding mines and the occasional casualty. The Macedonians are not likely to sit idle while their country is being torn apart. Hot pursuits into Kosovar territory are not an outlandish proposition.

Sooner or later, NATO/KFOR and the Macedonian ARM will cross machine gun fire. The Americans are likely to fold with the first body bag—which would leave militarily-strapped Europe in a deep lurch indeed. One should also not ignore the rumblings from Bosnia. The Dayton Accord is falling apart, as well it deserves. The HDZ Croats all but declared independence. The West fires elected politicians at a ferocious pace. Croatia is unlikely to intervene unless something really bad happens. But a civil war in Bosnia is not out of the question. Add this to the growing American isolationism and you can begin to understand why I wrote this immediately after the Serb October Revolution and Koštunica's ascent to power in my article "The Fifth Horseman," published on December 4, 2001:

The plot thickens by the day. The inevitable is unfolding in Kosovo. Raffish Albanian extremists enjoin the Serb police forces and military at the southern fringes of Serbia. The latter's Pavlovian violent response is sure to escalate the conflict. The West helplessly reprimands the very armed and rambunctious demons it has unleashed, mortified at their audacityto no avail.
A spate of murders of Albanian moderates inside the nascent Kosovar state is likely to effectively annul the results of the mock local elections in October. The regionand Western Macedonia with itis down a slippery path. With its hordes of bloated bureaucrats, mountebank bankers and coxcomb politicians, the West copes with the self-inflicted Augean task of sorting out the Balkans by making extempore vacuous promises combined with empty harrumphs.
Neither its carrot of wheedling persiflage nor its stick of turgid impotence are credible. When fighting breaks, the eroded and inept forces that pass for sedentary NATO will find themselves the targets of villain and rescued alike, the common enemy of the wily and indomitable denizens of these blood-drenched plains.

Sam Vaknin, 19 March 2001

Also of interest:

The author:

The author is General Manager of Capital Markets Institute Ltd, a consultancy firm with operations in Macedonia and Russia. He is an Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia.

DISCLAIMER: The views presented in this article represent only the personal opinions and judgments of the author.

Moving on:

After the Rain cover

After the Rain:
How the West Lost the East

Sam Vaknin's book on sale from CER as a print book and as an ebook


Sam Vaknin
New Balkan Tension

Anatoliy S Baronin Jr
The Final Frontier

Timothy Kenny
and Fate

Elke de Wit
Lost Killers

Andrew James Horton

Joanna Rohozińska
God's Eye

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Ákos Topolánszky

Štěpán Kotrba
Sow and Reap

Brian J Požun
Shedding the Balkan Skin

Martin D Brown
Czech Historical Amnesia

Dejan Anastasijević (ed)
Out of Time

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Hungarian Oil Scandal

Sam Vaknin
After the Rain

Press Reviews:
Oliver Craske
Macedonia in the Headlines

Andrea Mrozek
Contemplating Compensation


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