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NATO is well on the way to establishing Kosovo, currently a province of
Yugoslavia, as an independent nation. If a Republic of Kosovo is declared,
the Balkans will be further destabilized, the influence of militant Islam
will increase, and Moscow’s international political ambitions will be
furthered.

The construction of the Republic of Kosovo would give Europe its second
Moslem state, the first being Albania. The two states taken together would
provide a formidable Islamic presence in the center of the Balkans, the
“powder keg of Europe.”

The establishment of an independent Kosovo would be the first major
change in boundaries in the Balkans since WWI and would increase the climate
of fear and mistrust in a region known for mutual mayhem.

Independence for Kosovo has been in the works since NATO’s air war
against Yugoslavia ended on June 10 this year. Contrary to official U.N.
declarations that Kosovo remains part of Yugoslavia, the province
increasingly is taking on the appearance of a separate nation. NATO, as well
as other segments of the “international community,” are designing a new
nation for the Balkans.

Former senator and past presidential candidate Bob Dole is one of the
advocates of an independent Kosovo. Following a visit to Kosovo in early
July, Dole declared that developments in the area were such that Kosovo will
eventually break away from Yugoslavia.

Whatever personal problems Dole may have, he is adept at reading the
direction of the political winds.

Even before the end of the air war against Yugoslavia, there were charges
that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) received NATO air support for ground
operations against the Yugoslav army. Following the retreat of Belgrade’s
forces from Kosovo, the KLA began reprisals against Serb and other
non-Albanian civilians. Homes, shops. and churches were damaged or
completely destroyed. The NATO force in Kosovo, K-FOR, seemed unable to stop
the attacks, and some charged that K-FOR was not committed to restraining
the ethnic Albanians from exercising their revenge.

An exodus began and thus far numbers some 200,000 refugees, mostly Serbs,
but also other non-Moslems including the Romanies, more commonly known as
Gypsies.

In the midst of the continuing flight of the refugees, NATO is building a
new military force in Kosovo, made up in large part of those responsible for
the latest round of death and destruction. According to an agreement with
NATO, the KLA no longer exists, but many of its members will participate in
the “Kosovo Protection Force.”

The “Kosovo Protection Force” is designated by NATO as a civilian defense
force with the right only to carry light arms, mostly side arms. The idea
for such a force surfaced shortly after the end of the air war against
Yugoslavia, and received the support of the commander of NATO forces, Gen.
Wesley Clark.

Former members of the KLA, however, see things differently. They consider
the new force as the beginning of a Kosovo army, which would take the field
following a referendum on independence. Kosovo Albanian political leader
Hashim Thaci also stated that plans are being laid for a military academy to
supply the new Kosovo army with trained officers. Caches of arms belonging
to the KLA still exist, though forbidden by NATO. One recently discovered
weapons dump contained automatic rifles, machineguns, rocket launchers, and
anti-tank weapons. Regardless of the name, the ethnic Albanian military will
be well armed.

About two months after Dole’s trip to Kosovo, the United Nations decreed
that the Yugoslav dinar be replaced by the German mark as the
official currency of Kosovo. Some foreign commentators referred to this as
“relaxing the ties between Yugoslavia and Kosovo.”

Imagine if the U.N. decreed that Alaska was now to use the Russian ruble
as its monetary unit, instead of the U.S. dollar, and this was merely
“relaxing ties” between the 49th state and the rest of the country.

The substitution of the Yugoslav dinar for the mark is a
bold, but little-reported move, a large step in separating Kosovo from
Yugoslavia, which the dominant media has failed to appreciate. Nations need
money as well as an army. The substitution of forms of money in Kosovo is
leading up to separate Kosovo currency.

A nation must also be able to engage in relations with foreign nations.
Kosovo is proceeding toward independent status in this respect as well. The
Kosovo Albanians, while under NATO supervision, are reported to have
established a customs house for the collection of taxes on trade on at least
one of the border crossings between Macedonia and the nominally Yugoslavian
province of Kosovo.

In regard to diplomatic relations, foreign diplomats already arrive and
depart from Kosovo on official business without informing Belgrade. There is
even a possibility that the United States, Albania, and other nations may
open official delegations in Kosovo, ignoring completely any protest from
Yugoslav authorities.

The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan added to Kosovo’s growing
international recognition as a separate state. During his visit to the
region in mid-October, Annan met with U.N. and ethnic Albanian officials,
while refusing to meet with representatives of the Belgrade government.

It should be remembered that the (former?) KLA’s goal was not simply to
liberate Kosovo from Serb rule, but to establish a “Greater Albania” which
would comprise independent Kosovo, the nation of Albania and part of
Macedonia and Montenegro. “Greater Albania” would be an Islamic powerhouse
in the middle of the Balkans. Years of bloody struggle insure that “Greater
Albania” would be oriented toward fundamentalist, militant Islam. Greece and
tiny Macedonia would be sandwiched between the new Moslem state to the
north, and increasingly fundamentalist Turkey in the south. The tension
would be felt throughout Eastern Europe.

Any attempt to establish such a state would be sure to arouse among
non-Moslems the fear and dread of the return of Islamic power to the
Balkans. The nightmare of centuries of Moslem domination in the region would
appear again as a real threat.

While expressing the best of intentions, NATO has succeeded in firmly
inserting itself into an ever-explosive mixture of ancient hatreds and
present political machinations.

Moscow, traditional friend of the Serbs, will benefit the most from
NATO’s activities. Ironically, NATO is presenting Moscow with the opportunity to
revive a theme dating back to the 19th century, that of Russia as “defender
of the Slavs.” Russia now appears, as it did a century ago, as the only
major European power willing to assist the Slavs against Moslem domination
and Western interference.

In fulfillment of this role, Russia has just produced what it refers to
as the “white book,” which contains numerous charges of war crimes against
NATO allegedly perpetrated during the recent air war against Yugoslavia. The
“white book” is a cooperative effort between the Russians and the Serbs.

Regardless of the degree of truth in the “white book,” it is sure to
present Moscow in its pre-Soviet role as “defender of the Slavs.” Moscow’s
influence among the Balkan states is sure to increase, while that of NATO
will decrease as it increasingly takes on the appearance of a reincarnation
of the Turkish empire.

On Nov. 2 the “white book” was presented to the Russian Duma (the lower
house of the Russian parliament) in preparation for the volume to be sent to
the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

A web of economic and trade ties connects various Balkan nations. Greece,
a NATO member, has various major agreements with Moscow in a number of areas
including electrical production, industry, science, and economics. Serbia,
with or without Milosevic, remains close to Moscow.

Russian influence is
growing in Bulgaria. Although Bulgaria bowed to NATO demands that it refuse
to allow Russian planes to cross its air space when Moscow brought its
troops into Kosovo, Bulgarian officials praise Russian involvement in the
region.

NATO is setting a dangerous precedent as it seeks to rearrange borders.
If NATO can change borders, there is nothing to prevent others from doing
the same thing — as long as they have the power to back up such a move.

Moscow could turn the tables on NATO. In January, weeks before the air
war against Yugoslavia began, representatives from Belgrade requested that
their nation join the union of Russia and Belarus. The idea was warmly
received by the Russian and Belarussian officials. The first steps toward
admitting Yugoslavia into the union have been taken. The process could be
completed at any time.

If Yugoslavia were to be admitted to the Russian/Belarussian union, then
it would be possible for Moscow to claim Kosovo as its own. Such a move may
be beyond Moscow’s present abilities, but circumstances can change.

NATO should move carefully and consider all options. The construction of
an independent Republic of Kosovo may not work to NATO’s best advantage, or
that of the entire region.



Toby Westerman is the editor/publisher of International News Analysis

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