Cheap Thrills

by , October 17, 2008

Almost eight months after the US – followed by most NATO members – recognized the occupied Serbian province of Kosovo as a dependent state, the Serbian government finally did something about it. On October 8, the UN General Assembly approved Serbia’s request to seek the opinion of the International Court of Justice about the legality of Kosovo’s separation. Albania, the US and four Pacific island nations in its orbit were the only votes against. For a moment, Belgrade basked in victory, no matter how feeble or immaterial.

The Empire would not be denied, however; within hours, recognitions of Kosovo’s "independence" came from Portugal, Montenegro and Macedonia. A day after that, the announcement came that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner was none other than Martti Ahtisaari; the official explanation listed Ahtisaari’s peacemaking activities in Namibia, Aceh and Iraq (!?) but it is plain as day that the Nobel was a direct reward for his efforts to establish occupied Kosovo as a separate state.

Belgrade’s incoherent response (or rather, lack thereof) to these latest insults and injuries is puzzling – until one remembers that Serbia is ruled by a client regime of the Empire, one that perseveres in unquestioned loyalty even as the Empire begins to crumble both from without and from within.

Half-Hearted Struggle

Boris Tadic got reelected President on a claim that he cared about Kosovo as much as about joining the EU and improving the lives of Serbians. His Democratic party was also able to win the most votes in general elections earlier this year based on the same claim, that they would fight for "both Kosovo and the EU." It took a union with the Socialists, arranged by the Empire, to cement them in power, though. And while that government has "done everything it could" (Tadic’s favorite phrase) to win favor in Brussels and Washington, it hasn’t done much of anything to fight for Kosovo.

First off, Serbia disavowed any use of force in protecting its sovereignty. Instead, it pledged legal and diplomatic action, and then undertook neither.

Belgrade did withdraw some of its ambassadors from countries that recognized Kosovo following the February 17 declaration of independence, but that was done by the previous government, and without much enthusiasm by either Tadic or Foreign Minister Jeremic, his personal protégé. And that was it. No Western ambassador was expelled, or even given a note of protest. Indeed, US and UK envoys, Cameron Munter and Steven Wordsworth, have meddled freely in Serbian politics, to the point of acting as midwives for the new government.

Instead of launching legal proceedings against the countries that recognized Kosovo, the Serbian government decided to ask for a vote in the UN on whether it should be allowed to seek advice from the ICJ about the legality of Kosovo’s separation. Just prior to the vote, Tadic gave a statement to the media saying that Serbia might be satisfied with partition of the province. Both the Albanian regime in Kosovo and the Empire reacted by insisting on Kosovo’s integrity (only Serbia can be partitioned, no one else!), and Tadic quickly claimed a misunderstanding, but the damage was done.

Operation Enduring Munich

The Serbian media had one day to trumpet the victory in the General Assembly as a triumph of Tadic and Jeremic’s wise, visionary policy or what have you. On October 9, Washington struck back. Kosovo was recognized by Portugal, Montenegro and Macedonia. Portugal reportedly folded only following intense pressure from not just the US, but also the European capitals. Montenegro and Macedonia were somewhat easier – both are run by client regimes beholden to the Empire, and had little trouble in agreeing to take part in the modern-day Munich.

Once upon a time, Montenegro’s inhabitants considered themselves the best and proudest of Serbs. Today, following five decades of Communist indoctrination and another decade of separatist propaganda bankrolled by smuggling profits and Imperial aid, a good portion of them consider themselves something else. More than a third, however, remain loyal to their roots. Some ten thousand protesters from all over the small country gathered in Podgorica over the weekend, demonstrating against the recognition and chanting "Honor matters more!" There were reports of two dozen injured, many of them riot police.

It remains to be seen whether the demonstrations will accomplish anything; it appears "people power" is only effective when it functions as a cover for Empire-sponsored coups, while any semblance to actual democracy is usually successfully ignored.

Some Call It Peace

It is hard to argue that the Nobel Peace Prize to Martti Ahtisaari on October 10 was either accidental or a coincidence. Certainly, the former president of Finland has done much for Empire’s causes, from Namibia to Indonesia, but there is no doubt whatsoever that the Nobel recognition came due to his activities regarding Kosovo.

As Gregory Elich at Counterpunch documented, Ahtisaari first served as a NATO envoy during the 1999 attack on what was still Yugoslavia. It was he who threatened the terror-bombing of Serbia if Slobodan Milosevic did not surrender Kosovo to NATO. Following this "success" (Belgrade did sign a truce with NATO, which the Alliance promptly proceeded to violate with impunity), Ahtisaari became a board member of the International Crisis Group, an interventionist think-tank that spearheaded Imperial policy in the Balkans and elsewhere.

When in 2005 Washington embraced the "independence" of Kosovo as its foreign policy objective, Ahtisaari was appointed as the UN mediator in the status talks. The so-called talks were a sham; they consisted of Serbian envoys proposing a variety of options to Ahtisaari – or rather, his deputy, Albert Rohan – and the Albanians refusing to hear any of them. In February 2007, Ahtisaari unveiled his "plan" for Kosovo’s future – as an independent, Albanian state. When the plan was rejected by Belgrade and sank by the Russians at the UN Security Council, in July last year, it seemed the Finn was finished.

Then came February 17, the recognitions "encouraged" by the Empire, and the de facto implementation of Ahtisaari’s program by the facetiously dubbed EU "rule of law" mission (EULEX).

The Nobel Committee’s choice was indeed scandalous, both because Ahtisaari did not in fact contribute to peace, but also because the achievement the award is obviously intended for is not really his own. Renaming it "Kosovo Independence Award" and giving it to George W. Bush would have probably been a little much, though.

Apt Pupils

The Empire isn’t gloating too much about yet another stomping it delivered to Serbia. Not because its rulers and media celebrities have rediscovered a sense of decency, but rather because it’s a bit preoccupied with its own troubles, as the decades of wars and inflation come home to roost.

While both Washington and Brussels are frantically conjuring money from thin air to bail out their overextended banks and the Empire totters on the brink of financial collapse, their Balkans clients remain steadfastly loyal. Could this mean their subsidies are still flowing – something for the suffering American taxpayers to note? Or could they simply be aware that their staying in power is entirely contingent on Imperial support?

How else to explain that official Serbia greeted Ahtisaari’s Nobel with a loud "no comment"? The only reactions quoted by news agencies came from opposition politicians and media observers.

Meanwhile, even as Portugal, Macedonia and Montenegro recognized Kosovo, the Foreign Ministry in Belgrade implemented its July decision to return Serbian ambassadors withdrawn from NATO countries following Kosovo’s declaration of independence. Then it expelled the ambassadors of Montenegro and Macedonia.

The official explanation – that they had recognized Kosovo following the UN vote – was rubbish, as Portugal’s envoy was left alone. And how about the ambassadors from the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, or any other country that had recognized the occupied province? Had it been comprehensive, the expulsion would have been a proper diplomatic move. This way, it reeks of hypocrisy and cowardice. For, as one Serbian commentator points out, all Montenegro and Macedonia did was obey the Empire – and isn’t that what the Belgrade quislings aspire to?

Lashing out at Podgorica and Skopje even as it continues to bow and scrape before Brussels and Washington doesn’t make Serbia look strong or resolute. Quite the contrary. But such is the behavior the Empire has conditioned in its Balkans clients. They finally love Big Brother, even as his boot begins to slip off their faces and slides into the junkyard of history.

Read more by Nebojsa Malic