No Game of Chess

Balkans and the Imperial "Inevitable"

"Ladies and gentlemen, it does not get much more disgusting than this."

Chris Deliso, frequent contributor and editor of, thus described the occupation of Kosovo going on nigh seven years. NATO’s attack on the then-Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in March 1999 was blatantly illegal from any standpoint, so its organizers tried to present it as a moral obligation, a "humanitarian intervention" to save ethnic Albanians from purported "genocide."

There was no genocide – not of Albanians, anyway. Instead, the Serb, Turk, Roma, Ashkali, and Jewish communities of Kosovo were almost completely wiped out by the "Kosova Liberation Army" terrorists, acting under NATO’s patronage. In addition to brutal murders aimed at forcing people to flee, hundreds of churches were destroyed, cemeteries desecrated, villages erased from the map; homes were torched and property stolen. And this was all after NATO’s "liberation" of Kosovo.

Eighteen months into the occupation, the government in Washington changed – but the American tune in the Balkans did not. Candidate Bush, vocally opposed to "nation-building" while campaigning, changed his tune after becoming Emperor George the Younger. For four years, Washington’s eye had been focused on the Middle East, "neglecting" the Balkans in the sense that it allowed Clinton-era policies to continue unhindered. When organized Albanian mobs rampaged through Kosovo for three days in March 2004, legions of their supporters in Washington headed off the outrage and actually turned it into a justification for letting Albanians have their way with the occupied province.

It appeared for a moment that the wind in Washington would change when John Kerry lost the 2004 presidential bid; the KLA had contributed to Kerry’s campaign, and his foreign policy advisers were organizers of the 1999 Kosovo war. But in January 2005, a report calling for Kosovo independence was published by the ICG, "a lobby group whose moral credit is very heavily deposited in the bank of Collective Serbian Guilt" (Deliso), setting off an avalanche of pro-Albanian propaganda in the media. Within four months, the ICG and its allies had the Bush regime convinced that seeking "victory" in the Balkans through "finishing the job" Clinton began would mitigate the ongoing Iraqi disaster.

Over the course of the past year, the resurrected Clintonites in the State Department’s Balkans section have maintained a propaganda carpet-bombing of Serbia; pushed for "reforms" in Bosnia-Herzegovina that would end the Serb autonomy from the Muslim-dominated central government; supported the secession of Montenegro championed by a corrupt regime; and advocated the "final solution" of the Kosovo problem – by granting Albanians the "inevitable" independence.

Between the politics and the media, Deliso argues, "the stage is being set for both further violence and the self-exoneration of those who caused it."

The board is set. The pieces are moving. And we come to it at last.

Coincidences That Aren’t

Agents of the Empire, both official and not, have maintained for years that the issues of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Montenegro were not connected, but had to be considered separately. This would enable the Empire to establish different principles, standards, and even logic in each situation. Only, the issues are connected; apart from the obvious fulcrum of all three issues (the Serbs/Serbia), lobbyists for Kosovo Albanians, Bosnian Muslims, and Montenegrin separatists are often the very same people. The same people who formulated U.S. policy in Bosnia did it for Kosovo and Montenegro.

It cannot be a coincidence – and it is not – that the referendum on Montenegro’s secession, scheduled for May 21, is taking place amid the "final status" talks about Kosovo and a shrill media campaign for the arrest of Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb military commander accused of genocide by the Hague Inquisition. Nor is it an accident that the adoption of Bosnian constitutional reforms, drafted in Washington, was being pushed at the end of April, and that the International Court of Justice decided to hear the highly irregular lawsuit the Bosnian Muslims had filed against Belgrade in 1993.


In four days, a referendum will be held that should decide whether Montenegro remains in union with Serbia or becomes an independent state. The republic’s separatist authorities have threatened to call a vote on the issue in the past, but have never actually done it – aware, perhaps, that they did not have enough popular support. More importantly, they did not have the green light from their foreign masters; since 1998, Montenegro’s regime has been a protégé of Washington, lavishly funded by American taxpayers. In 2001, it received more U.S. aid per capita than Israel!

But the Sunday referendum is not really about Montenegro. It’s hard to believe any of the regime’s "friends" in the West actually give a damn about the rocky republic. From what they have written, said, and done in the past years, they are primarily interested in supporting Albanians and sticking it to the Serbs. The separatists in Podgorica have sought for years to deny the Serb identity of the Montenegrins, insisting that the people who once considered themselves the last free Serbs were actually "victims of Serb oppression."

If Montenegro becomes independent, it may well become "Djukanistan" – a private fiefdom of separatist leader Milo Djukanovic and his followers. That is, until it is partitioned, or annexed to "Kosova."

Dominating Serbia

The "democratic" regime in Serbia, which came to power through a U.S.-aided coup in October 2000, had once thought that delivering Slobodan Milosevic to the Empire in chains would demonstrate Serbia’s obedience and loyalty to the new masters of the Balkans. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Milosevic’s illegal rendition merely showed that the Dossie regime was infinitely pliable; once perceived as effective, the policy of extortion continued. Like a pack mule, Serbia has been treated to the carrot-and-stick approach, heavy on the stick.

The current government, reassembled from the leftovers of DOS in 2004, is entirely dedicated to joining the European Union as the only real option for Serbia – and all of its actions follow from that premise. Any and all abuse from Brussels is tolerated and even deemed necessary.

Serbia needs the EU like a bullet to the brain – it is already a welfare-state government by oppressive bureaucracy, only sufficiently dysfunctional to permit some economic activity. If Serbians think the legions of politicians in Brussels and Strasbourg are any better than their domestic tyrants, they are in for a nasty surprise.

It is rather the EU that needs Serbia, as the linchpin of the Balkans. Yet its abusive "courtship" is proving counterproductive, argues Timothy William Waters, former Hague Inquisition prosecutor, in the New York Times:

"The mania for Mladic partly comes of our need for a war criminal because the last one, Milosevic, so recently and inconveniently died. … It’s not clear what that has to do with changing Serbia, but it’s worth asking what we want Mladic for. … Because we want a war criminal, badly. And it doesn’t matter what it might cost."

If Serbia does not find and extradite Mladic – if, instead, Serbians decide this whole EU business isn’t worth the humiliation – it is Brussels that will find itself painted in a corner, not Belgrade. Once Serbia is no longer a pack mule, neither carrots nor sticks can have much effect.

Spoilers and Dissenters

Even Kosovo, whose separation under Albanian dominance is supposedly "inevitable," is no longer looking so clear in the Imperial mind. Visiting the occupied province with NATO’s governing board, the Alliance’s Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer declared last week that "Anybody who would like to spoil the [negotiations] process or harm it, would be defeated by KFOR."

This could be interpreted as a threat to Serbia not to interfere with the planned separation. However, Belgrade has not so much as hinted at the possibility of opposing the secession by force. The likeliest candidate for Scheffer’s threat would be the Albanians, who have escalated terrorist attacks on Serbs and UN personnel over the past month. But is it realistic to expect NATO to actually oppose the KLA, after having supported it for eight years and nurtured its separatist agenda? Scheffer’s statement is out of character and remains an enigma.

Meanwhile, a new organization arose in Washington this month dedicated to opposing the independence of Kosovo. The American Council of Kosovo has already started its own media campaign, and its message has already been heard in the American mainstream. They are not a lobby funded by Belgrade, but rather acting on behalf of the Kosovo Serbs. All of a sudden, those who have argued for years that U.S. interests lie squarely on the side of the Albanians are facing some stiff competition, and their cause sounds a lot less "inevitable" than they tried to make it appear.

Unexpected Moves

It is a long-standing human weakness that we seek security at the expense of liberty and accept control in exchange for a perception of certainty. But this weakness only goes so far, and when attempts to control human beings begin to trample on their dignity, challenging logic and law, there is a backlash. Those who seek to dominate and control see the world in terms of a grand chessboard, and peoples and individuals as pieces on it. The Empire has certainly spent much time and effort to set the Balkans board and get the pieces in motion. But life is no game of chess, and the pawns on this board are moving in unexpected ways. Because nothing is inevitable.

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 debuted in November 2000.