The ICG Strikes Again

The International Crisis Group – ICG for short (though they’ve recently decided to shun the acronym) – has long been a player on the Balkans scene, deployed first as rhetorical support for the Clinton regime’s interventions, then as a pressure group to ensure the preservation of their pet policies under the reign of Bush II. Throughout, they’ve remained an almost ubiquitous presence in the Western media, which never questioned either their bona fides or their expertise. Perhaps the presence of many former government heads and numerous shadow policymakers gave the ICG access to secret corridors of power and influence, or maybe the combination of American money and Brussels location made it the perfect conduit for joint U.S.-EU imperial projects. Either way, the ICG exploded onto the international scene in 1995, made a name for itself peddling the Kosovo war in 1999, and has continued its high-profile “conflict resolution” efforts ever since.

Long a supporter of independent, Albanian-dominated Kosovo, the ICG published a new report this week, titled “Kosovo: Toward Final Status,” which unequivocally recommends that the occupied Serbian province be granted international recognition. The timing, coordination, and presentation of the report suggest it is part of a major push for Kosovo’s independence, together with the efforts of pro-Albanian U.S. legislators and Kosovo “Prime Minister” Ramush Haradinaj.

The Evans Editorial

The full report is available as on ICG’s Web site. However, ICG president Gareth Evans published the polished-up executive summary as an editorial Tuesday in the International Herald Tribune, European avatar of the New York Times. After laying out the proposal for Kosovo’s independence, Evans took three paragraphs at the end to dismiss the moral and legal problems as mere inconveniences:

“After years of efforts to engage Belgrade constructively on the Kosovo problem [!], working through the proposed accord process without Serbia would amount to not so much a callous disregard of Serbia’s rights as a prudent denial of its capacity to wield a veto fraught with risk for everyone.

“As for the possibility of an uncooperative Russia, to resolve the Kosovo problem politically, without the Security Council’s imprimatur, would be awkward, but much more defensible than the decision in 1999, faced with a similar veto, to intervene with military force.

“Legitimate Serbian concerns should be taken fully into account, above all the status of Kosovo’s Serb minority, and Serbia should be warmly encouraged to participate fully in achieving the best possible terms of a final settlement. But the international community should caution Serbia’s leaders from the outset that the train is leaving the station, with or without them. [Emphasis added]

What Evans and ICG term “prudence” is indeed the callous disregard of rights – not just any, but fundamental rights of a sovereign nation – and they add insult to injury by actually saying so outright. Moreover, there have never, ever, been any efforts, least of all “constructive,” to engage Belgrade on Kosovo – unless, of course, one counts the 1999 bombing and invasion. The ICG itself has been unflinchingly belligerent on the issue since 1998, and has steadfastly dismissed any Serbian objection to Albanian claims. Then again, the argument “sure it would be illegal, but so was the 1999 war, and look how well that went” demonstrates that ICG is in open contempt of the reality-based community.

Preparation and Coordination

Whatever the people at ICG may be, they are not political amateurs. They know how the game is played, and they play for keeps. More to the point, they are experts at PR and media management. For instance, the report’s release on Jan. 24 was prepared with an editorial by ICG’s European program chief Nicholas Whyte, on the Web site of London’s IWPR (a sister organization to ICG in many respects), on Jan. 21.

Whyte’s rather blunt argument was that “Kosovo has been moving toward independence since 1999, and it is time for the international community to say so.” As for Serbia, it “needs to accept that Kosovo is lost, and that the role of Belgrade is to make the best case they can for the Serbs of Kosovo, rather than fantasize that they will get all, or part, of the province back.”

Given ICG’s connections within the Eurocracy, it simply cannot be a coincidence that ICG’s report came out the same day that EU’s enlargement commissar announced that Kosovo would be discussed during Emperor Bush’s visit, scheduled for February. Every wire report about Olli Rehn’s announcement also “mentioned” the ICG report.

Nor can it be coincidental that Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) has just resubmitted a resolution to the U.S. House of Representatives supporting the independence of “Kosova,” even though its predecessor died in committee before ever reaching the floor. ICG’s media offensive is just the tip of the iceberg.

Belgrade’s Reaction

As one might expect, the report poured additional oil on political fires in Belgrade. Serbian president Boris Tadic and Serbia-Montenegro FM Vuk Draskovic both rejected the possibility of Kosovo’s independence. However, Tadic’s Democratic Party used the report to launch another attack on Prime Minister Kostunica, accusing him of undermining Belgrade’s influence in Kosovo by not “cooperating” with the ICTY.

It has long been obvious that what lurks under the euphemism “fulfillment of international obligations” is unconditional surrender to the whims of Carla delPonte. But regardless of what Kostunica thought about it morally, he is in an almost hopeless situation politically. If he knuckles under, he risks withdrawal of the Socialists’ support that is keeping his minority government afloat. If he doesn’t, he risks defection by one of his coalition partners, G17, and possibly Draskovic’s SPO; either would bring his government down.

Of course, with these pathetic excuses for leaders busy with their own agendas, Serbia definitely isn’t looking toward Kosovo. ICG’s recommendation that the “international community” should ignore Belgrade’s protests has that much more weight when it’s obvious those protests will be half-hearted at best.

The Leviathan Lurks

ICG and its American patrons may be in a hurry, but Europeans aren’t quite as much. Brussels sees the entire Balkans eventually disappearing in its hungry maw, just as soon as the shattered countries of the region can be “built” into proper welfare states – or in the words of a pompous Eurocrat envoy to Macedonia, “security providers.” The Eurocrats couldn’t care less whether Serbia and Kosovo enter the EU together or separately, so long as they do.

This view was once again reaffirmed by Erhard Busek, head of the “Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe,” interviewed last week by Radio Free Europe analyst Patrick Moore. (Though RFE is a propaganda outfit funded entirely by the U.S. government, Moore routinely defies official nomenclature by calling the occupied Serbian province “Kosova,” its bastardized Albanian name.)

As described on its Web site, the Stability Pact “is the first serious attempt by the international community to replace the previous, reactive crisis intervention policy in South Eastern Europe with a comprehensive, long-term conflict prevention strategy.” In practice, it’s another political boondoggle that uses European taxpayers’ money to buy influence in the Balkans.

Pandora’s Box

Unfortunately, the current drift of Imperial policy suggests that ICG’s “suggestions” might actually be adopted. For while it is true that the occupied Serbian province has been sliding toward separation since the 1999 war, that has been as much a consequence of Albanians’ pulling as the Empire’s pushing, despite the official rhetoric. At the very least, through their ignorance and malevolence, the occupiers have given Albanians a license to reshape Kosovo as they see fit. The resulting picture is horrifying – and therefore suppressed.

Kosovo would be “independent” in the same way Ukraine is democratic, Iraq has been liberated, and George W. Bush is a champion of freedom. Great powers often got away with murder, both literally and figuratively, but in the past they at least tried to pretend otherwise. After the Kosovo War, that is no longer the case. The “illegal but legitimate” explanation used to justify NATO’s naked aggression in 1999 opened the Pandora’s Box of self-righteous interventionism we are witnessing in Iraq today, and who knows where else tomorrow.

An independent Kosovo would be purely Albanian. The Serbian people, culture, and history in that region would be systematically eradicated, as they have been every time in history when Albanians dominated the province; as they have been over the past five years of “UN protectorate.” Terrorism, ethnic hatred, and aggression would receive the ultimate reward from the hands of the very people who profess to fight and deplore them.

Is there justice in the world, or has it been corrupted to serve only the interests of Empire? Is there law still, or has it been replaced by might? Kosovo will be the true test of that – not Iraq, nor Afghanistan, nor any other place His Most Elevated Imperial Majesty decides to invade next, if he can muster the troops. As Kosovo goes, so will the soul of Western civilization. This is bigger than Serbs or Albanians; it’s about principles the modern world was built upon, about restraints that – though imperfect by any definition – have nonetheless managed to stave off the self-annihilation of humanity. Shall they be trampled for the sake of slaking the power lust of sociopaths, or defended, if against overwhelming odds?

Read more by Nebojsa Malic

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.