NATO’s Poisoned Chalice

Serbia’s Delusions of "Partnership"

On Nov. 29, NATO foreign ministers meeting in Riga extended an invitation to Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina to join its Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. Established in 1994, the program has been a way for former Warsaw Pact countries and others to attach themselves to the Alliance, and is widely considered as the gateway to full NATO membership.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Dmitrij Rupel actually let the cat out of the bag two days earlier, in a statement to AP. But the invitation was still reported as a surprising change of course. Why?

Boosting the Globalists

The first hint of an answer lay in the way the invitation was reported by Serbia’s leading pro-Imperial medium, B92. It chose to emphasize that the acceptance was unconditional, and that NATO wanted to "send a political signal to Serbia."

What sort of signal? Earnest statements by President Tadic and Foreign Minister Draskovic more than suggest the NATO move was intended as a boost to the "democratic" forces in the coming general elections, scheduled for Jan. 21. This was directly confirmed by Daniel Fried, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who told the press Monday that Washington "wanted to help our Serbian friends."

Lest there be any confusion, it’s not the Serbian people Washington considers friends, but specific leaders such as Tadic, Draskovic, and "liberal democrat" Ceda Jovanovic. The help they need is in their political battle against the Serbian Radical Party.

After three years of waiting in detention, leader of the Radicals Vojislav Seselj was brought to trial before the Hague Inquisition on Nov. 27. However, the trial had to be suspended within days, because Seselj had gone on a hunger strike to protest the imposition of defense counsel. Seselj’s defiance of the Tribunal is certainly a contributing factor to the popularity of the Radicals. The party enjoys the support of a significant chunk of the Serbian electorate tired of the government’s incessant groveling before the Empire.

A Bone for Boris

President Tadic certainly wasted no time claiming sole credit for the invitation from NATO. Specifically, he praised two of his advisers, Vuk Jeremic and Jovan Ratkovic, who "conceived the political strategy over the past two months and held talks with representatives of key NATO countries" (Tanjug, via Glas Javnosti). If this is indeed true – and a report from mid-November offers a degree of confirmation – then Tadic had completely circumvented the Serbian diplomacy and dangerously exceeded his authority as president.

This is even more alarming because Tadic has a history of being a loose cannon, often letting his sycophancy to the Empire overcome proprieties of statesmanship. But unlike his infamous letter to the Emperor two years ago, the contents of his missive to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley were not made public. That letter, according to two New York Times reporters, played a key role in Washington’s change of heart.

In an article published Nov. 30, Brian Knowlton and Helene Cooper quote "U.S. officials" to suggest that Tadic had promised them a lot in exchange for the Partnership invitation:

"The official quoted Tadic as saying that as the Kosovo negotiations approached, he was ‘determined to be pro-Western, come what may,’ saying he would support U.S. and European institutions."

The phrasing of this indicates that Tadic pledged to support Empire’s push for the secession of Kosovo – something that he not only promised the Serbian people he would never allow, but that would also be against his presidential oath and the Serbian constitution.

Ever since they overthrew the government of Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, Serbia’s "democrats" have pushed an agenda of "Euro-Atlantic integration" to their people as the sole political and economic option. But while most Serbs hope for eventual EU membership as panacea to their economic troubles, however mistakenly, they are less than enthusiastic about joining NATO. After all, the Alliance did wage war on Serbia for almost three months in 1999, and has occupied a part of Serbian territory since.

If officials in Washington seriously think that Boris Tadic will triumph in next month’s elections because Serbia would be expected to give up Kosovo in exchange for becoming an official vassal of NATO… they may be in for a rude surprise. The same goes for Tadic, for whom the "gift" of partnership with NATO could become a poisoned chalice.

A Delicate Matter

In the aftermath of the PfP invitation, Serbian government spokesman Srdjan Djuric commented that it would strengthen Serbia’s case for keeping Kosovo, as it would be "a stronger basis for NATO member countries to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia in harmony with the United Nations Charter."

However, if Washington has any plans to respect Serbia’s territorial integrity, or the UN Charter, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns never got the memo. At the OSCE summit in Brussels this week, he took the position favoring "conditional independence," only to be checked by Moscow, which threatened a veto on any UN decision that is not a result of a negotiated settlement.

Neither Washington nor the Albanians running Kosovo have any intention of negotiating. Last week, UN police had to disperse with tear gas a crowd of some 3,000 demonstrators in front of their headquarters in Pristina, protesting the negotiations with Serbia. The demonstration took place on Flag Day, an Albanian national holiday that is usually an occasion for anti-Serb riots in the occupied province. Further inside Serbia, in a region with significant Albanian minority, local authorities replaced Serbian state flags with Albanian ones and held ceremonies for separatists killed in the 2000-2002 insurgency.

Dubious Asset

When the final decision on Kosovo’s status was postponed for 2007, ostensibly for reasons nothing to do with the new Serbian constitution or elections but in fact solely because of them, the government in Belgrade patted itself on the back for a job well done. But the Empire isn’t sitting idly by during the time-out, and as the "partnership" overture to Tadic, Draskovic, and other "democratic forces" indicates, has every intention of ramming an independent Kosovo down Serbia’s throat as soon as the voting is over. Provided they actually win the election, Tadic and his allies would then have to explain to the people why they allowed a land grab they had sworn to prevent.

And a "partnership" with the sponsors of the land grab would definitely not be an asset at that point.

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.