Kosov@/NATO: Economy of the War and of Communication

by Alain Kessi
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Among the obvious consequences of the NATO attacks that will, in my opinion, have to be analyzed in future discussions, are (in no particular order)

* the political strengthening of Milosevic and the elimination of any inner-Yugoslav opposition. Specifically, the war, like the wars in Croatia and Bosnia before it, provides Milosevic with a perfect explanation why the promises of a better life for the population will not be realized - it is war, after all. If an issue out of the current demonizing discourse can be found, it is possible that the reasserted power position of Milosevic may pave the way for a regional order in which NATO assigns him the role of a co-guarantor of the regional stability - at conditions conforming to NATO and IMF plans;

* a massive provocation towards the Russian leadership that can be interpreted as an attempted revival of the politics of containment followed by NATO/the US towards the "Soviet" Union during the times of the Cold War. This may have been part of a scheme to evaluate the resistance likely to be opposed by the Russian leadership to the ongoing US policies aimed at directly disputing the sphere of influence of the Russian government around the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus;

* the liberation of Germany from the military isolation imposed by the post-war order, by breaking the taboo of a Bundeswehr (the army of Federal Germany) intervention against Yugoslavia. This may have been the single greatest motive of German politics to enter into a war against Yugoslavia within the NATO framework. After this tactical use, NATO has served its main purpose as a hegemonic power and Germany, together with France, may further on prefer to cut back NATO to the role of a military alliance among several others;

* the confirmation of US supremacy, including over EUropean "defense" policies, through the leading role taken by the US government in the NATO bombings. This situation could easily swing around to a substantial loss of US-American power over the EUropean "defense" system, however. Germany has become more independent by breaking out of the military isolation and is more susceptible to accept French offers for a military collaboration in the context of the Western European Union (WEU). Furthermore there is a danger of NATO being discredited to the extent that the reasons given for the intervention are in obvious contradiction to the consequences of the bombings - to the detriment of the US and to the benefit of the German and French governments;

* the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Kosov@ Albanians, from Kosov@, with two far-reaching consequences: a massive migration of refugees to neighboring countries and in more or less controlled ways[9] to Western European countries as cheap and extremely dependent labor; the destabilizing of Albania and Macedonia that in essence turns those two countries into NATO protectorates. In addition, one can be sure that the massive expulsion of Albanians precipitated by the NATO bombings was envisaged by NATO strategic planning to serve as the heart of its own war-mongering discourse of legitimation;

* also in connection with the mass expulsions, the destruction of the subsistence structures which stood in the way of capital accumulation by providing an alternative to being exploited at low wages. This time, the destruction of social structures aimed especially at the Kosov@ Albanian clans. In the context of the past Yugoslav civil wars such destruction has been identified as a substantial interest in war for the Yugoslav leadership under the pressure of IMF programs (see Materialien Nr. 6). The destruction of subsistence structure is thus in the interest of both Milosevic and the Western powers;

* at least a temporary weakening of the EUropean economy as compared to the US-American. This has become visible through the low exchange rate of the Euro to the US dollar. Presumably, US strategists do not mind waging a war in EUrope's backyard and imposing the consequences of a possible destabilization on their greatest economic competitor and NATO-partner;

* the destruction of substantial parts of the Yugoslav industry and infrastructure that have been the target of bombings far more often than military installations. A reconstruction based on foreign loans will make Yugoslavia economically dependent for a long time to come and force it to pay interests. Much like in Kuwait, thanks to its leading role in the war the US government is likely to position US companies well in the business of reconstruction. Even as the German diplomacy is trying to grab the initiative by proposing a "Marshall Plan for the Balkans", it will be hard for the EU to be more than a junior partner to the US. In case such a Marshall Plan turns the dependence of Yugoslavia on loans in a dependence on the "donor countries", this will be just another opportunity for the latter to implement a redistribution from the bottom to the top. Tax money will serve to finance the profits of (US and German) transnationals in Yugoslavia;

* a military-Keynesian solution of parts of the overproduction crisis in the US, and to a smaller extent in the EU, through the massive use (the "consumption" paid through taxes) of weapons. This has the side effect of providing a gigantic live weapons show as a state subsidized advertising opportunity for transnational arms companies;

* a solution to the question of where the US soldiers thus far stationed in Germany should go, if they haven't already been transferred to Iraq, or later to Bosnia. With the de facto NATO protectorates in Macedonia and Albania and the planned protectorate in Kosov@ (according to Annex B of the Rambouillet agreement in all of Yugoslavia) there is now sufficient work for those soldiers otherwise threatened with unemployment;

* an increased pressure on the state governments of the region to act in accordance with their candidacy for NATO accession, and test runs for NATO loyalty. The Bulgarian government for instance was - as Bulgarian media commented - not asked to provide an air corridor to NATO planes for any war strategic use, but in order to test the political willingness of bowing to the will of NATO against the will of the population;

* the fact that the acceptance for a division or separation of Kosov@, and in the medium term maybe of Macedonia, has grown internationally. If we examine the main argument given for the inalterability of state borders, namely the fear that other minorities in Europe might follow the example of the Kosov@ Albanians, we notice that this argument loses its stringency if the price of their sovereignty becomes so high that anyone who might fancy to walk in their footsteps would be thoroughly discouraged. This paves the way for the continuation of the splitting up of the Balkans according to "ethnic" criteria, or whatever criteria may suit the economic and geostrategic interests of the Western powers;

* a strengthened KLA leadership. In this context we can expect that especially the US, after the weakening of Yugoslavia and Macedonia, will not risk the creation of a Greater Albania under the leadership of the KLA or other forces. It would therefore not be surprising if the KLA was used as cannon-fodder and thus wiped out in the war - for instance by being armed so as to serve as ground troops of NATO and being sent to fight an overwhelmingly stronger Yugoslav army.[10] Albania is useful for the US as a submissive and extremely dependent state government. If however a self-assured Kosov@ Albanian leadership emerges from the war in full strength and kicks off a dynamic of independence, this does not lie in the interest of the US government who wants especially to control trade routes in the region and to that end needs obedient governments. As opposed to Germany, that has, as we mentioned earlier, supported the KLA at an early stage and apparently finds such a dynamic more promising.

Yugoslavia as a center of East-West trade

The importance of East-West trade routes stems from the already mentioned US interests in an enlargement of the US sphere of influence coinciding with a containment of the Russian influence around the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus. Thinking one step further, it is also about the revival of the old silk route all the way to China, with the important detail that Russia is to be bypassed, but at the same time alternatives are to be created to the Turkish route in order to take the edge off Turkey's crucial strategic importance. Since I have not yet seen these trade strategic reflections expounded in a publicly available source, and since the US hegemony in the Atlantic Alliance continues despite all the wounds incurred, I would like to elaborate on this a bit.

An essential reason why the lack of submissiveness and reliability (seen from a Western-imperialist perspective) of the Yugoslav government was so annoying was that trade routes that are important for the future pass through Yugoslavia with practically no alternative and thus depend on the goodwill of the Yugoslav government. In circles dealing with investment strategies Yugoslavia is seen as a country that (both before and after 1989) has misused its geographic position in order to control trade routes - both the overland route from Bulgaria and Macedonia through Belgrade to the West and the Danube shipping route. NATO strategists could have a good laugh about such attempts at monopolizing if they had ready alternatives. Besides the route going through the Bosporus, where in the case of oil, for instance, the limits of capacity have already been reached and substantial ecological danger and logistic problems are arising, alternatives to the route through Belgrade or the Danube have not been developed.

However, the current trade policies of the Western powers, and especially of the US, build upon the notion that a multitude of alternatives should be opened in order to reduce dependencies. If it had been possible to develop these alternatives earlier the Yugoslav government would have been missing an essential trump card and would have been much more exposed to Western attempts at intimidation and threats of embargo. Then, the "Yugoslav nut" might possibly have been cracked without a war. Even if for the NATO countries there was a whole set of other reasons for escalating towards a war, the probability that sufficient support for the war might have been assured would have been substantially lower. The development in good time of alternative trade routes was hindered both by diverging priorities among Western powers and mutually incompatible transport policies of the Balkan countries, combined with a lack of funds for infrastructure investment. In order for foreign investment to flow, the unwritten trade rules of the Balkan countries, which are not understandable to Western businesspeople, had to be abolished. The difficulties of understanding stemmed mainly from the fact that these rules were much too awkward for effectively imposing Western profit interests. Through the policies of "development" banks like the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) those rules were substituted by a business system of Western type that favors Western companies and essentially excludes the local firms.

The conditions for the development of trade routes are given by the interplay between local/regional interests and the requirements of interregional trade. The transport connections between Bulgaria and Romania, for instance, which would provide a way to bypass Belgrade on the way to the north-west, remain poor - only a single bridge far in the East and a few ferries, for a border of no less than five hundred kilometers. As long as the Bulgarian government insists on building the new bridge in Vidin, 20 kilometers from the Yugoslav border, the Romanian government will never agree. The latter has no interest in developing trade over the Bulgarian-Romanian border, since the master plan of Romanian transport politics is aimed at developing East-West trade from the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta to Hungary and onwards. The construction of a new bridge over the Danube would open Constanta to the competition of the Bulgarian ports of Varna and Burgas. Hence the interest of Western powers - in this case not so much the US as Germany and Austria - in alternative routes and flexibility will be realized only if the Romanian government can be offered sufficient compensation. The war of NATO against Yugoslavia now offers a coercive environment in which the Romanian government may be brought to agree to a bridge, as long as its location ensures that the traffic through Romania - and not only through a small corner in the west between Bulgaria and Hungary - is developed. Furthermore a bridge further away from the Yugoslav border could satisfy the needs of two trade routes, namely - besides the one mentioned - a south-north route from Turkey and Greece whose inclusion in such a project would make it interregionally more attractive and would make the investments more profitable.

For the United States another overland route is of much higher geostrategic importance - corridor VIII. This corridor runs from the Black Sea through Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania to the Mediterranean and is part of the transport political priorities of all three of these countries. The aim of US politics is to bring it under the control of international institutions and its advisors. This foreign interest suits the three Balkan countries to the extent that they are hoping it will help them break out of a transport political isolation - Albania is completely isolated towards the east, Macedonia is connected only towards the north and the south, and Bulgaria is too dependent on Yugoslavia to the west. In contrast to some of the other EUropean corridors, corridor VIII does not play a significant role on an intra-EUropean level (its "integrative force" is low for EUrope, say analysts who are close to investment circles). The corridor VIII receives its full strategic significance only when it is seen as part of an outreaching route leading to the Caspian Sea and further on to China. For the USA this corridor is therefore of outstanding importance, and the weakened governments of Albania and Macedonia (a significant consequence of the war moves of NATO) come just in time as forcibly obedient servants of US politics. Besides this, Bulgaria is not known for its affirmed independence from Western institutions, since it has been made dependent through Western loans and through the tactical promise that it will catch up to a Western standard of living by joining NATO and the EU.[11]

A trade corridor running through easily controlled countries offers the US the opportunity to reduce its dependency on current trade routes through Turkey and Greece and to get a tighter grip on its two NATO partners. On an economic level, the direct winner would be Italy, which would profit from the fact that Albania, through which the goods would transit and reach the Mediterranean, does not itself have the necessary infrastructure to serve as a distribution center for goods and raw materials arriving from the East.

The corridor VIII does not run directly through Kosov@, even if the most likely route runs as close as 20 kilometers from the Macedonian border to Kosov@. The war of NATO against Yugoslavia can certainly not be explained exclusively from the fact that the US have an interest in controlling trade routes and playing one route against the other. Such an aim would never have found the approval of the NATO partner countries. Notably in matters of the development of trade routes, the interests of Germany and the United States diverge substantially. What they do have in common is that Yugoslavia is to be bypassed if possible. For the US - to the south towards the Mediterranean. For Germany - to the north. Nevertheless, for parts of the US establishment the corridor VIII, in addition to the search for a legitimation of NATO as police unit, is likely to have been an important part of their strategic thinking. And more generally, the powerful position of the Yugoslav government stemming from its control over the trade routes developed so far was certainly on the agenda of German and other strategizing meetings.


The reflections on a possible radical leftist approach to the war of NATO against Yugoslavia and that of the Yugoslav leadership against the Kosov@ Albanians and on possible ways to revive arguments based on economic and social power interests that were presented in this article are sketchy, incomplete and not sufficiently well thought-out to give us the tools to act. In fact, they are meant rather as food for thought and action, as a possible starting point for further discussions and the search for appropriate forms of action and communication. I would be happy if readers who are interested in participating in such a process contacted me.[12]


1 The spelling Kosov@ is chosen in the tradition of the gender-neutral Spanish spelling which combines the alternatives "a" and "o" into the @ sign. This provides a way of avoiding having to choose between the partisan spellings Kosovo (the Serb neuter stemming from the historical, nationalistically tainted name of the place "Kosovo Polje", which translates to "Field of the Blackbirds") and Kosova (its variant used in Albanian language).
2 Both e-mail lists can be subscribed to by sending e-mail to <majordomo@zamir.net> with the command "subscribe ex-yu-a-lista" or "subscribe attack", respectively, in the body of the e-mail. Most of the contributions are in "the language we speak", as Yugoslavs sometimes call the South-Slavic language that has by now received separate names according to nationalist interests, and sometimes also in English.
3 Ethnisierung des Sozialen - Die Transformation der jugoslawischen Gesellschaft im Medium des Krieges. Materialien für einen neuen Antiimperialismus Nr. 6, Berlin/Göttingen 1993. (Ethnicizing the social fabric - The transformation of the Yugoslav society in the medium of war. Materials for a new Anti-Imperialism)
4 Marcel Noir: "Unser Mann in der OSZE". (Our man in OSCE) In: Jungle World, 14 April 1999.
5 Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo, Rambouillet, France - 23 February 1999. And especially its Appendix B: Status of Multi-National Military Implementation Force. Available on the Web at <http://www.law.pitt.edu/kosovo.htm>.
6 Boris Buden: "The official Bastard (ARKZIN)-statement on the war in Yugoslavia - Saving Private Havel", 20 April 1999.
7 The anti-Germans are a faction of the German left that has had the merit to reintroduce important historical questions (especially the relation to historical Nazism) into the political discussion but sometimes tends to take Germany and its importance too seriously in an almost narcissistic sense.
8 Roger Faligot: "How Germany backed KLA". In: The European, 21 September 1998.
9 Note added at translation: As shown by Helmut Dietrich, another effect of the war is that through the presence of NATO troops in Albania and Macedonia where most of the refugees transited made it possible to successfully isolate the refugees and prevent them from making contact with people who could help them pass the borders into Italy and on to Switzerland and Germany. An even tighter control was made possible by the fact that the refugee camps are under NATO supervision. Cf. Helmut Dietrich, "Europäische Flüchtlingspolitik und der NATO-Krieg - Die Zerschlagung der Fluchtwege aus dem Balkan nach Westeuropa" (European Refugee Politics and the NATO war - The dismantling of flight routes from the Balkans to Western Europe), Widerspruch No. 37 (July 1999), Zurich, Switzerland.
10 Note added at translation: Although as predicted here, soon after the publication of this article an outright anti-KLA propaganda started in the world media, it seems that the position of the KFOR (Kosovo Force) command towards the KLA structures is more ambiguous than I had supposed, and the KLA leadership is given the opportunity to ascertain its power and - as Bulgarian media surmise and KLA officers openly admit - position themselves for the next round of the struggle for a Greater Albania. We had better keep an eye on developments in Macedonia.
11 In the context of NATO interests in corridor VIII it may be interesting to note that Salomon Passi, the chairman of the Atlantic Clubs in Sofia, an association which de facto represents the interests of NATO, has served as an intermediate in the negotiations for an infrastructure deal between a US-American company and the port authorities of Burgas.
12 My e-mail address: <kessi@bitex.com>; Tel/Fax: +359-2-980 96 52.
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