Article on the Balkans war, part one

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Aug 6 18:49:20 MDT 1999

(I participated in the research on this article in a very minor way,
through doing some Lexis-Nexis searches. It is due to be published in an
American journal titled "Socialism and Democracy". I would only ask that it
not be circulated beyond this list. It is very, very long and I will be
posting it in segments.)



Tania Noctiummes* and Jean-Pierre Page**

"The NATO war is a bandit action"
Harold Pinter, London, May 2, 1999


US/NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999 was historically the
first military aggression carried out by NATO against a sovereign state.
Led by the United States, Western European nations--France, Britain, Italy
and Germany--for the first time actively participated in a unilateral act
of war, with other NATO states providing the use of their military bases.
There was no situation that called for ‘legitimate defence’; Yugoslavia did
not engage in an act of aggression against another sovereign state but its
armed forces were engaged in fighting, within its own national boundaries,
a separatist armed organisation, the KLA (UCK), which claimed to be the
sole representative of the Kosovo-Albanian people. Besides, the war did not
have the authorisation of the United Nations Security Council, it was not
approved by national parliaments of most of these countries, and it even
violated the treaty governing the Atlantic Alliance.

Also new in this post-Cold-War military action involving Europeans was the
use of ‘democratic values’ and the prevention of ‘humanitarian catastrophe’
as justifications.  NATO's immediate pretext was the ‘intransigence’ of
President Milosevic and his refusal to sign the EU-facilitated ‘Rambouillet
Accords’ that were accepted by Kosovo Albanian representatives. However,
the broader argument sold to the NATO countries’ populations was one that
could also be deployed during the bombing: the fundamental justification
was the freeing of the Kosovo Albanian population from an anti-democratic
régime intent on implementing a programme of ‘ethnic cleansing’/‘genocide’.
Plans began to be drawn up for a ‘stability pact’ for South-eastern Europe.
 Parallels were drawn between Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Milosevic’s Serbia,
and the support or neutrality of public opinion in NATO countries was
gained for a war effort to achieve the unconditional surrender and
capitulation of Yugoslavia, its occupation, and the establishment of a
US/NATO protectorate in Kosovo. Today, US/NATO has achieved Yugoslavia’s
"capitulation"  and has effectively occupied at least part of its territory
even though under cover of the United Nations. NATO leaders are now calling
for the departure of the President as a condition for economic assistance
for rebuilding the country.

In what follows, we intend to examine the socio-economic and strategic
context in which US/NATO intervention is taking place. It is our thesis
that the US/NATO bombing and occupation of Yugoslavia are not simply
circumstantial, but are part of a long-term and global process with
implications far beyond the borders of Yugoslavia. For the new ‘global
leaders’, the challenge appears to be the implementation of the so-called
‘Silk Road Strategy’ for the control of colossal oil and gas deposits in
the Caspian Sea-Black Sea regions and NATO's new strategic concepts adopted
at the Washington Summit.

We do not deny the existence of massive human rights violations on both
sides of the conflict in Yugoslavia, but our aim is to examine whether
those are the real motivations for NATO intervention. In our view, the
unacknowledged objectives for the war against Yugoslavia have to do with
the historical context of capital accumulation and its ramifications for
the foreign policy objectives of Western Europe and the US, the ultimate
home of transnational capital.

Since the end of the Cold War, many on the left have lapsed into a
subjectivist/moralistic way of apprehending the world, slighting the
underlying socio-political and strategic context. Much of the
political-military strategy of imperialism in the last 20 years consists of
the stirring up of confused nationalist/ethnic tensions and the building up
of regional bogeymen who can then be fought. Clearly, if these strategies,
aimed at breaking down all barriers to capitalist expansion and neo-liberal
restructuring, include the fragmentation of larger states or regional state
federations and their reconstruction as ethnically pure entities--in a
political application of identity theories ranging from Samuel Huntington
all the way to left post-modernists--there is great danger of co-optation
for a left that has in many cases shifted from an internationalist strategy
of working-class struggle against global capitalism (based on parties and
explicitly socialist movements) to single-issue advocacy NGOism based on
marketplace funding.

The war, far from being over, has reached a new stage in a process which
may have still more devastating consequences for the peoples of Kosovo, of
Yugoslavia as a whole, of the Balkans, and of Europe and beyond. One thing
is certain. The new political situation, whether regional or international,
will be completely transformed, raising challenges for all world-wide. New
contradictions will emerge. It is a moment of truth and credibility for
progressive forces. Will they be capable of influencing the movement
world-wide to resist and to prevail? The outcome will depend on the course
of action taken by the peoples themselves, if they are not to remain mere
passive objects of the ‘new world order.’

The first part of this article will address the geopolitical context in
which the war is being conducted. The second part will deal with the
strategic objectives of the most powerful NATO countries under US
leadership. The third and fourth parts will identify some of the stages in
a long process that ultimately led to military aggression and will examine
the extent to which the main justification given by NATO leaders played an
important role. In the last part, we will attempt to make a preliminary
assessment of some of the short- and long-term implications world-wide of
US/NATO intervention, including the proposed ‘stability pact’ for
South-eastern Europe.

I.      War, the expansion of capitalism by other means

The real objectives of NATO powers, especially the US, cannot be fully
grasped unless the global context in which Yugoslavia became a target is
understood. The defining traits of  today's global context are: the
collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a political vacuum in
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet territories; the emergence of the US
as the sole economic and military power capable of  intervening in any part
of the world; the growth and expansion of the European Union; a global
financial and economic crisis of capitalism that began in Asia, spread to
Russia and Latin America, and is currently threatening the heart of the
system in the US and Western Europe; growing economic rivalry between
Western Europe, the US, and Japan; rising socio-economic inequalities,
accompanied in most of Western Europe by popular rejection of ruling
right-wing governments and the establishment of social democratic ones;
growing disillusion and discontent with market-oriented reform in former
East bloc countries and former Soviet Republics.

The predominant phenomenon that characterises today’s world is an
acceleration in the expansion of corporate capital to all parts of the
globe. Although commonly called ‘globalization’, it is but the global
expression of capitalism, or imperialism, which is rooted in the leading
industrial nations, principally the US. An acceleration of this process is,
in the logic of capital, inevitable in the current context of capital
accumulation: a deflationary global economy (i.e., a crisis of production
or a ‘global glut’), and declining profit levels. Offsetting the inexorable
decline in the levels of corporate profit requires the acquisition of vast
markets, a permanent supply of cheap labour, and guaranteed access to
essential raw materials.

At the same time, the crisis of capital is accompanied by another
crisis--social and political. Only ten years after Western capitalist
powers declared the ‘victory of capitalism’ following the fall of the
Berlin Wall, the whole set of capitalist tenets--markets, mobility,
transparency, trade--is being increasingly challenged the world over. The
resistance to these values, imposed in the name of ‘modernity’, was
sufficiently troubling to the corporate elite that Business Week could not
ignore it when the global crisis, after engulfing Asia and Russia, hit
Brazil, in America’s ‘backyard’: "The American model is attacked
everywhere. The market is increasingly perceived as the enemy of growth.
Nations are withdrawing from it in response to the biggest ever destruction
of wealth."

The gravity of the crisis for US ‘national interests’ was recognised by the
political-financial couple, President Clinton and Robert Rubin, former US
Treasury Secretary, fathers of the so-called "American miracle." On June 3,
1998, Rubin said: "I am profoundly concerned--and I can tell you that the
President shares these concerns--about the weakening of public support for
globalization at a moment when the economic interests, national security
and the geopolitics of the country require the opposite.... Never have so
many countries faced so many difficulties at the same time."  Similar
concerns were expressed at meetings of the G-7, the World Economic Forum in
Davos, and the Bretton Woods institutions, where there was general
acknowledgement that a great economic crisis is threatening global
capitalism. George Soros shocked Congress recently when he said bluntly,
"The global capitalist system ... is coming apart at the seams."

It is in the face of this explosive combination of capitalist crisis and
growing socio-political instability that ensuring ‘stability’ has become
the primary concern of strategists of  the dominant powers. Capitalism
needs not only to expand its global outreach in terms of market
acquisition, cheap labour and raw materials, but it requires that
‘stability’ be guaranteed through the creation of political, social,
institutional, and legal conditions that are compatible with its interests.

During the Vietnam War, a group of fifteen US experts affirmed that war was
essential for the stability of "our society." Their 1966 report,
subsequently published under the title Report from Iron Mountain on the
Possibility and Desirability of Peace, elaborated the point in these terms:
Although we do not imply that a substitute for war in the economy cannot be
devised, no combination of techniques for controlling employment,
production, and consumption has yet been tested that can remotely compare
to its effectiveness. [War] is, and has been, the essential economic
stabilizer of modern societies.

        a) The Long-Term Geopolitical Goals

As the principal supporter of the globalized capitalist system and the sole
country with a global military outreach, the US has taken upon itself the
task of expanding the international reach of corporate capital,
consolidating its hold and defending its interests wherever they are seen
to be threatened--or pre-empting potential threats. The linchpin of US
foreign policy is the construction of a global system of domination
subordinated to the needs of its own economy. Anthony Lake, Clinton’s
National Security Adviser, who announced the Clinton Doctrine in September
1993, stated: "Our interests and our ideals compel us not only to undertake
but to direct.¼ We must promote democracy and market economy in the world
because it protects our interests and our security, and because it reflects
values which are at once American and universal."

With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the US found itself in an
unprecedented position, as the only global power. The war against
Yugoslavia serves to implement a number of objectives defined for the
post-Cold War ‘new world order’ under US leadership, reflected in a
Pentagon policy paper entitled Defense Planning Guidance as well as in
Anthony Lake's formulation of the Clinton Doctrine.  Despite a considerably
weakened Russia, the long-term objective of US strategy was to neutralise
its still remaining competitive threat. In the Pentagon's words:
        Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival ...
First, the US must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a
new world order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors
that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive
posture to protect their legitimate interests.
Accordingly, the Clinton Doctrine reflected a shift from ‘containment’ to
‘enlargement’ (’roll-back’ for Russia), ‘consolidation’ and ‘perfection’.
By the fact that it has become the geopolitical pivot of the world, US
ambition is to be the arbiter of Eurasia made up of two major economic
zones: the EU and an economically growing Asia.  According to the former
National Security advisor, "the ultimate objective of American policy
should be benign and visionary: to shape a truly cooperative global
community, in keeping with long range trends and with the fundamental
interests of humankind. But in the meantime, it is imperative that no
Eurasian challenger emerges capable of dominating Eurasia and thus also
challenging America."

Brzezinski sees three reasons to ‘roll back’ Russia. First, it constitutes
the region that links Eurasia from East to West. Secondly, Russia and the
former Soviet republics that are still under its influence contain vast
deposits of natural resources. Thirdly, political instability in Russia is
such that there could be a threat of nationalists or Communists taking
power. Weakening Russia, even a capitalist one, is the condition for
unrestricted access to the wealth of Eurasia. Brzezinski proposes that
Russia be dismantled in three parts, European, Asian, and Central.

Brzezinski stresses the importance of US "management" of Eurasia (i.e., the
totality of Europe and Asia), which he characterises as America's "chief
geopolitical prize."  He describes the maintenance of US "supremacy" there
as being essential to global stability and evokes the region's strategic
value in the following terms:
        About 75 percent of the world's people live in Eurasia, and most of the
world's physical wealth is there as well¼.  Eurasia accounts for about 60
percent of the world's GNP and about three-fourths of the world's known
energy resources¼.  After the United States, the next six largest economies
and the next six biggest spenders on military weaponry are located in
Eurasia.  All but one of the world's overt nuclear powers and all but one
of the covert ones are located in Eurasia.

        b) The Silk Road Strategy: Oil and Gas Stakes

The collapse of the Soviet Union opened the possibility for Western
exploitation of the colossal oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea
region and former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Whereas, before 1991,
only the USSR and Iran bordered the Caspian Sea, now there are five
independent States--Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan.
It is estimated that they contain some 200 billion barrels of oil and
comparable reserves of natural gas.  Three of them alone--Kazakhstan,
Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan--are reported to contain oil and gas reserves
equivalent to those of the Gulf region today. Russia’s potential resources
in raw materials alone are estimated at $140,000 billion.  Control over
this region now rivals or surpasses in importance that of the Gulf region.
Hence, the declaration in 1992 by US Senator Robert Dole that the frontiers
of American concern to control oil and gas resources had advanced from the
Gulf region "towards the North and including the Caucasus, Siberia and

In the summer of 1997, a new US policy was announced identifying both
Central Asia and the Transcaucasus as spheres of national interest.
Legislation introduced by US Senator Sam Brownback known as "The Silk Road
Strategy Act of 1997," explicitly linked the construction of East-West
pipelines through Russian and non-Russian territory to an increased US role
in ‘conflict resolution,’ strengthening the military, creating ‘a
favourable business climate,’ and developing ‘democratic institutions’ and
an ‘independent media’.  Brownback stressed that the Caspian Sea region was
of critical importance to the US for a number reasons including the rich
reserves of gas and oil, and the fact that many countries in the region
help to contain the spread of anti-Western Iranian extremism northward and
the flow of weapons of mass destruction southward. He also said that strong
market economies near Russia and China would help to "positively influence"
those two countries during their transition to democratic societies."

In recent years, major Western petroleum corporations, particularly the US
transnationals Chevron, Conoco, Texaco, Mobil Oil, Unocal, and other US
companies, have either concluded or are discussing a series of
multi-billion dollar contracts with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan,
and Russia to explore and develop Caspian oil and gas deposits.   However,
their implementation and effective control depends on the availability of
direct East-West routes that are ‘safe’ for their transport out of a
land-locked region characterised by growing tension. At present, the only
functioning pipelines run across Russia, giving it leverage over its
newly-independent neighbours.

The key concern of US strategists is to bypass countries that are seen as
actual or potential rivals and/or to weaken them by supporting multiple
pipelines. According to Richard Morningstar, special adviser to the
President and Secretary of State for Caspian Energy Basin Policy, the US
supports multiple pipelines because "the whole pipeline system... will help
ensure and strengthen the sovereignty and the independence of the new
countries in the region."  US policy reflects Brzezinski’s approach:
        America's primary interest is to help ensure that no single power comes to
control this geopolitical space and that the global community has
unhindered financial and economic access to it.
Similar concern with regard to Russian domination in the region was voiced
by Caspar Weinberger, former US Defense Secretary, in 1992: "If Moscow
manages to dominate the Caspian Sea (and its oil), that victory would be
more important than the expansion of the [US?] West was for the West."
These concerns are not apparently shared by France. According to the French
Ambassador to Moscow, Hubert Colin de Verdière, France has no objection to
the export of oil through Russia.

The main US preoccupation, shared by Germany, is the construction of a
direct East-West corridor. In May 1998, US Energy Secretary Frederico Peña
announced a co-ordinated Caspian Sea Initiative involving America’s three
trade and investment agencies--the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private
Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the Trade and Development Agency (TDA).
According to OPIC President, George Muñoz,  "Coordination and co-operation
among our three agencies will be key in any successful effort to support
American investment in an East-West Transcaspian pipeline."  Ex-Im Bank
Chairman James A. Harmon stated that, together, the three agencies could
support billions of dollars of American investment in Caspian oil and gas
projects.  The EU and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
(EBRD) contributions would be much smaller, in the millions of dollars.

The most important alternative pipeline, rail, and ferry links being
discussed would link the Caucasus to the West through Georgia (via its
Black Sea port of Supsa), a country whose leadership has adopted a clear
pro-Western course and supports the Euro-Atlantic structures.  According to
a Radio Free Europe (RFE) report, routing via Georgia will mark the
practical implementation of Brzezinski’s concept of creating a geopolitical
belt around Russia.  Other routes are more controversial. A route that
would reach Pakistan via Afghanistan is less attractive to industry which
is concerned about the economic viability of the route and political
instability in the region.  Whereas, industry favours the shorter and
cheaper Iran route, especially since a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan’s
southern gas field of Korpedzhe to Kurt Koy in northern Iran already
exists,  the US government is resolutely opposed  fearing that it will
strengthen Iran in the region. Richard Morningstar clearly expressed the US
government's preference for a direct East-West route: "We think that from a
commercial standpoint, even apart from the political question, these
pipelines should go in an east-west direction."

        c) Yugoslavia: natural corridor to the Caucasian chessboard

Yugoslavia’s principal geopolitical significance for the West lies in its
geographic location linking the Near East, Europe, and the Caspian Sea
region, and in its developed transport infrastructure and control over a
key sector of the Danube. It controls one of the major land routes from
Western Europe to Turkey and the Near East (a total of 26,949 km of paved
highways and 3,960 km of railroads); it is strategically located along the
Adriatic Coast; it contains pipelines for crude oil (415 km), petroleum
products (130 km), and natural gas (2,110 km);  and it surrounds 400 km of
the 3,000-km-long Danube which links the Black Sea directly to southern
Germany as well as to Hamburg in northern Germany and Amsterdam through the
Rhine and the Main.  These 400 km are the key connection for those trading
between Eastern and Western Europe.  The manner in which Serbia could
threaten Western interests in the region was shown when, for instance, in
late 1992 and early 1993, Serbia stopped Romanian traffic on the Danube
from reaching Austria and Germany as a response to Romania stopping barge
traffic to Serbia.

A number of proposed transit routes to and from the West involving
Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia, depend on
‘stability’ in Yugoslavia. The East-West corridor most widely hailed by the
West is one that would link the Caucasus from Georgia to the Balkans via
Bulgaria, whose natural and most direct import-export corridor to Central
and Western Europe is the Danube passing through Serbia.   The corridor
includes a 515-mile pipeline from the Caspian basin to the West and a new
Black Sea rail ferry route which would link Georgia and Ukraine in the
Caucasus with Bulgaria in the Balkans. The initiative was announced as
recently as April 1999, in the middle of US/NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
Western support for this project is related to the fact that it would
weaken Russia and Iran, an objective which was underlined by the
simultaneous holding of military exercises by three of the four members of
GUAM--Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan--linked to NATO’s Partnership for
Peace programme. An RFE report points out:
        If both this pipeline and ferry arrangement work out, Russian leverage
over these countries will decline still further.... While the number of
troops involved is small, such a joint exercise highlights the continuing
decay of the Russian-backed Commonwealth of Independent States as the chief
security organization of the post-Soviet region. And it gives new content
to GUAM.¼

A number of other significant oil and gas related investments in Bulgaria
also require ‘stability’ in Yugoslavia. A major Western energy
conglomerate, part of the Anglo-Dutch Shell group, has plans to build
pipelines through Bulgarian territory for transport of natural gas to
Western Europe.  Another envisaged water corridor will start in the
Netherlands, formed by the Rhine-Main-Danube canal network, and pass
through Yugoslavia.  The corridor is expected to carry three-thousand-ton
ships from the North Sea into the Black Sea. Another new US-sponsored
pipeline project amounting to several billion dollars is being planned to
transit through Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo.  Another corridor
involves a land route from Vienna, which passes through Belgrade and Sofia
to reach both Istanbul and Thessaloniki on the Aegean in Greece.

Western oil and gas companies are also heavily investing in Romania which,
together with Bulgaria, is the heaviest user of the Danube. A Romanian-US
joint venture in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) began in 1998 with the
construction of a new 1 million ton capacity LPG import terminal canal in
the Black Sea deep-water port of Constanta at the entrance to the
Cernavoda-Constanta Canal, which connects the port to the Danube. US
companies involved are UGI Corporation, the largest US marketer of propane
gas, the Energy Transportation Group, and North American World Trade.
Constanta is viewed as a natural for receiving LPG from ocean tankers and
distributing within Romania and beyond into the Danube basin region.
According to an RFE report, "the Romanian venture is at a strategically
important area to supply the local needs and to export efficiently and
economically using the Danube and the region’s extensive transportation
network into the rest of East and Central Europe."  When completed, the
facilities are expected to provide 600,000 tons of LPG to 85 million people
in the Danube Basin.  The President of UGI Enterprises in Pennsylvania
considers the project to be an outright winner: "Geography is compelling
and the market potential is large."  In September 1998, Romania’s President
Guglielmo Moscato endorsed a route through Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia to
the ENI terminals at Trieste. He said that Caspian oil could flow through
existing pipelines to Central European markets.

A major land route that is envisaged would link the Bulgarian Black Sea
port of Burgas, which can handle annually a minimum of 13 million tons of
cargo, with the Albanian harbour at Durres on the Adriatic. The route could
transport goods and people to and from the Georgian port of Poti and reach
as far as China. However, its commercial success will depend, in large
part, on regional stability.

Louis Proyect

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