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The Fall-Out in Europe

by Tariq Ali

With the exception of Britain, the European Union countries are now pushing for a negotiated settlement, aware that it remains the only viable solution. The attempt to indict Milosevic as a ‘war-criminal’ while Kissinger and Suharto, to name but two, go free is a sick joke. Though it is interesting that the so-called indictment accuses Milosevic of the murder of 314 people. Awful though this was it hardly amounts to ‘genocide’, a word which has been loosely used by Clinton and his English factotums. A settlement could have been achieved some months ago if the United States had not insisted on a NATO peacekeeping force.

The New York Times writing on 8 April, 1999 on the failed Rambouillet negotiations said: “In a little-noted resolution of the Serbian Parliament just before the bombing, when that hardly independent body rejected NATO troops in Kosovo, it also supported the idea of U.N. forces to monitor a political settlement there.” In other words this war has been fought not so much for the safety of the Kosovars, but to assert NATO hegemony and it is now indisputable that it turned out to be a grave miscalculation.

The New York Times of 20 May, headlined “Allies Seriously Divided” and so they are, despite the spin being put on the latest Albright-Cook love-fest in Washington. This had a triple function. It was designed to conceal the serious split inside NATO, to put extra pressure on Milosevic by threatening the use of ground troops and to gently chide the New Labour leaders for temporarily putting their own future above the needs of the “special relationship’ with Washington.

No amount of British spin, however, can conceal the fact that the unity of NATOland has been rent asunder by the war. The isolation of the war party led by Madeline Albright and Sandy Berger in Washington (and supported by Blair and Cook in London) is almost complete. The German Chancellor has ruled out his country’s involvement in any escalation of the war, publicly challenged Washington’s explanation for the bombing of the Chinese Embassy and demanded a proper NATO enquiry. The Italian Prime Minister has excluded the use of Italian soldiers in any NATO operation on the ground unless expressly sanctioned by the United Nations and backed by Russia and China. Any attempt to do so without UN approval could lead to the fall of the government. The Greek foreign minister has made it clear in public that if NATO sent in troops it would be impossible to use Salonika as a point of landing. In private he has warned that a popular revolt could topple his government if it were to acquiesce in any such plan. The Hungarian, Czech and Polish government, blushing new brides at NATO’s altar, are now pale-faced and nervous, wondering whether they will survive the war. They had married NATO because of the generous dowries that might follow. The rude honeymoon has shocked them. The French, too, are slowly moving in the German direction and even General Sir Michael Jackson, the British Commander in Macedonia us told eight different interviewers on radio and television last Tuesday that: “We will not go in unless there is an agreement.”

Outside NATOland the situation is extremely serious. The Ukraine was the only country in the world to renounce nuclear weapons and unilaterally disarm. A few weeks ago its Parliament voted unanimously to revert to its former nuclear status. The deputies claimed that they had foolishly believed the United States when it had promised a new norm-based and inclusive security system. . NATO’s war on Yugoslavia had destroyed all their illusions and belated attempts to woo them back into the fold by promising EU membership ‘in the future’ may not work.

If Kiev is angry, Moscow is incandescent. The military-industrial complex is one of the best-preserved institution in the country. Its leaders have been arguing with the politicians for nearly two years, pleading that they be allowed to upgrade Russia’s nuclear armoury. Till 24th March this year they had not made much headway. On 30 April, a meeting of the National Security Council in Moscow approved the modernisation of all strategic and tactical nuclear warheads. It gave the green light to the development and manufacture of strategic low-yield nuclear missiles capable of pin-point strikes anywhere in the world. Simultaneously the Defence ministry authorised a change in nuclear doctrine. First use is no longer excluded. In the space of several weeks, Javier Solana and Robin Cook, former members of European Nuclear Disarmament, have re-ignited the nuclear flame.

In Beijing, too, the bombing of the Chinese Embassy has resulted in a shift away from the no-first-strike principle. The Chinese refuse to accept that the bombing of their embassy was an accident. Rightly or wrongly, they believe that it was a Machiavellian ploy by the war-party in Washington to sabotage any peace plan by ensuring a hard-line Chinese veto at the UN. When Beijing insisted that “We want those responsible to be severely punished” they were not referring to the pilots who simply obeyed orders. The Chinese have long memories. They were hoping that Clinton would sack either Albright or Berger just as President Truman had sacked MacArthur for suggesting a land invasion of China during the Korean War of the Fifties. There are also indications that Moscow and Beijing are discussing new security arrangements to counter NATO. The bombs on Belgrade may well come to be seen as the first shots of a new Cold War.

As a result of all this, a great deal of real diplomacy is taking place behind closed doors. Britain is not part of it because what it thinks doesn’t really matter. Its leaders are used to accepting decisions made elsewhere and the whole world is aware of this fact. That is why there is something surreal about Cook’s huffing and puffing and why Blair’s promises to the refugees have a hollow ring. New Labour and its media-chorus, having unleashed mayhem on Kosovan and Serb alike, should, at the very least, have the decency and moral courage to admit their mistake and call for a halt to the bombing, which, in the words of the Pope’s Easter message this year, has become a ‘diabolical act of retribution’.

The real tragedy is that the Kosovo for which NATO supposedly went to war on 24th March no longer exists. Its cities and villages are being bombed to smithereens by NATO. .Its population is being pushed out by Milosevic. Even if some of the refugees were to return, a significant proportion, the very people whose talents would be needed to rebuild the region will probably never go back. Refugees rarely do. Only 10 percent returned to Bosnia. The ‘accidental’ bombing of the KLA this weekend may have been just as accidental as that of the Chinese Embassy. It is public knowledge that most of the NATO countries are nervous of the KLA and the establishment of a ‘safe haven’ or a de facto NATO protectorate as part of a deal might not be enough to stop the divisions within the Kosovan Albanian camp.

The scale of disaster is now clearly visible. Every day, as the bombs fall, the situation gets worse. New Labour’s hands are already stained with the blood of innocents. Time to call off the dogs of war and seek the help of non-NATO powers to resolve the conflict. CP

Tariq Ali is the author of The Obama Syndrome (Verso).

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