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The horrendous price of G8 peace
9 Jun 1999 - Press Info No. 69
"Here we go again! Media around the world tell us that there is a 'peace' process, 'peace' negotiations and a 'peace' agreement soon to be concluded. There will be NATO 'peace-keepers' in Kosovo. They tell that Yugoslavia and the Balkans are taking the first steps to long-term 'peace' and stability. To a peace professional it's all Orwellian Newspeak. This authoritarian NATO operation bodes ill for the future, for world order, normativity, lawful governance, democracy, moral politics and indeed peace," says TFF director Jan Oberg. "The present and future costs of this type of peace policy are unacceptable and out of proportion with the Albanian-Serb problem it purported to solve in the first place. Today Serbs and Albanians are more polarised and hateful than ever. The very least would be to stop using the word 'peace' under circumstances like these. There are those who say that there were no alternatives - but they suffer from either a) lack of knowledge about conflict-resolution, b) lack of political imagination, c) self-censorship or d) authoritarian NATO-fundamentalist attitudes - or perhaps all of it in some proportion. Here are some facts."
Human costs and war crimes
Since NATO started bombing on March 24, the number of refugees and displaced have increased from around 50.000 to 800.000; the number of dead and wounded increased from around 2.000 to an estimated 15.000. Atrocities have been committed by the Yugoslav/Serb side, by KLA and by NATO; the latter has used depleted uranium bombs and cluster bombs and otherwise violated internal law by deliberately destroying predominantly civilian objects and terrorising millions of civilians.
Cost of destruction, bombing and re-construction
The Kosovo - or independent republic of Kosova - we wanted to preserve is demolished; the rest of Yugoslavia partly in ruins. The immediate direct material costs range between US $ 50 and 150 bn, the indirect and long-term costs may be several times bigger. No one knows the costs of the bombing - 33.000 sorties by 1100 planes, aircraft carriers, bombs, missiles, ammunition, surveillance, international coordination, fuel, supplies, wages, insurance, social benefits, transport, etc - but if we estimate it at US $ 500 million per day, we come close to US $ 40 bn. The region now faces a huge environmental destruction, the Danube in particularly affected. The US has carried out most of the destruction, the EU will be footing the bill for reconstruction - a tremendous burden on the EU.
NATO in Yugoslavia/Kosovo - armed 'peace' and no independent Kosova
50.000 NATO troops in Kosovo is more than the repressive Yugoslav government ever had in the province. None of the agreements or, rather, dictates make reference to institutionalised consultations with the Yugoslav government. Except for the possibility that a referendum may be held later, there is no mention of an independent Kosova, and the KLA/UCK must be disarmed. So, neither the Serb nor the Albanian side is going to get or achieve anything beyond what NATO will allow them to.
Next, likely exodus of Serbs
The G 8 document stipulates a complete withdrawal of Yugoslav military and police (with the return of a few, later) from the Kosovo province where, by the way, many of them were born and raised. The region will be occupied mostly by those NATO countries under US leadership that bombed Yugoslavia into de facto capitulation. A Russian contingent will be co-located and not cover any zone by itself. If so, one can hardly expect many Serbs will feel safe enough to stay, let alone return. There will be more refugees, the majority won't go back in the near future
Let's look at ALL the refugees. There are some 800.000 Albanian refugees. It is highly unlikely that they will be able to go back this year; getting 50.000 troops operable in a heap of ruins full of mines and with no water is not done overnight. And what would they come home to? After 4 years about 10% of the refugees have returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Then there is the other - forgotten - refugee problem. Since 1995 Yugoslavia has hosted some 600.000 predominantly Serb refugees from Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia. There are 150.000 to 200.000 Serbs in Kosovo; if they choose to leave the province, there are equally many Serbs inside and Albanians outside waiting to come home. Media attention is almost exclusively on the Albanians and, thus, the willingness to bring humanitarian aid to all in need is likely to be met with 'donor fatigue.' In addition, the bombings have made many leave Belgrade and other parts of Yugoslavia for Hungary and other European countries (if they can) and displaced thousands inside Yugoslavia. Finally, when the worst is over we may expect hundreds of thousands of FRY citizens wanting to leave as they see no future for themselves and their children in the double cage of the Milosevic regime, the NATO occupation and their combined devastation of the country. So the real refugee problem may reach 2 million people.
Neighbouring countries suffer
Countries around have paid a multi-billion dollar price too. Although some may capitalise on it, full compensation is out of the question. Macedonia is on the verge of collapse; Albania is converted to a combined refugee camp on the one hand and a NATO base and UCK training ground on the other. Croatia suffers a heavy blow to its tourist industry this summer. All Yugoslavia's trade partners have lost that market, first during years of sanctions and now because of the devastation. It can not be disputed that this type of peacemaking has destabilized the region for years to come.
A new Cold War approaching
And there is a larger framework. The Ukrainian parliament has voted unanimously to revert the country to its former nuclear status. On April 30, a meeting of the Russian National Security Council approved the modernisation of all strategic and tactical nuclear warheads. It decided to develop strategic low-yield nuclear missiles capable of pin-point strikes anywhere in the world. The defence ministry authorised a change in nuclear doctrine. Thus Russians feel humiliated through the 1990s, but go along with most US/Western demands because of its frail leadership, its economic weakness - it can hardly pay for its own troops to be deployed in Kosovo for years ahead - and its dependence on the West. And in Beijing, the bombing of the Chinese Belgrade embassy has resulted in a shift away from the no-first-strike principle. Add the spy accusation, human rights policies and WTO negotiations and we begin to see the contours of a new Cold War. Russia, China and India - and others - have learnt not to trust the stated peaceful aims of the West. Many countries with secessionist minorities are likely to anxiously wonder when they will get the treatment Yugoslavia did.
Strengthening the principle that might makes right
Without being unduly philosophical, remember Gandhi's famous dictum that 'means are ends-in-the-making.' Mighty weapons, NATO dictates, de facto occupation and an all-dominating US presence can not bring genuine peace and democracy to the peoples of the Balkans. It is not diplomacy backed up with force, it's force backed up with diplomacy. The process has systematically marginalised small NATO countries, non-NATO countries, the UN, OSCE and NGOs. It has torn to pieces every vision of a multi-cultural, participative world order and the principle of bringing about peace by peaceful means. We are ALL worse off with this outcome," says Dr. Oberg and ends: "This whole process displays too much muscle, too little intellect and no heart. It should be humanly possible to imagine a slightly better balance between the three, and only such better balance would deserve to be called peace."
© TFF 1999
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Dr. Jan Oberg,
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