Showdown at Goat Gate

"Are there no Serbs in this room?" thundered Alexander Vasilevich Konuzin, Russia’s Ambassador to Belgrade, before the shocked audience at the Serbian capital’s Army House. It was Thursday, September 15, and the first reports began coming in of NATO’s movements to seize "customs posts" in the north of occupied Kosovo and turn them over to the self-proclaimed ethnic Albanian government.  Yet nobody at the "international security" conference, organized by NGOs lavishly funded by EU and U.S. taxpayers, had said so much as a word. Not even the president of Serbia, Boris Tadic, who had given the opening speech.

After listening to hours of pointless prattle, Konuzin had had enough. He paced as he addressed the hostile crowd, blasting their slavish devotion to powers that sought to dismember Serbia. "We have common interests, and we will defend the country even though it seems that some Serbs wish to see their country under foreign control," Konuzin concluded. Interrupted by the moderator and not allowed to continue, Russia’s Ambassador left the hall.

Illegal and Criminal

Meanwhile, NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen flew into the occupied province to personally support the much-heralded plan by the "government" of Hashim Thaci to "restore law and order" to the sliver of province still inhabited by Serbs. There would be "no turning back," Rasmussen announced, and echoing the words of "Prime Minister" Thaci, declared that NATO would not "back away from illegal and criminal structures."

By this he meant the remaining Serb institutions in the province Thaci and his backers claim is a sovereign state — yet it is Thaci’s regime that matches the description. Kosovo was seized from Serbia in a manifestly illegal and illegitimate war, occupied under a flimsy pretext of a UN resolution (that the Empire and its allies have shamelessly violated over the years) and eventually declared independent in a way that simply defied logic as well as law. And that’s without even considering that Thaci and his entire establishment — descended from the terrorist KLA – stand accused of being an organized crime syndicate involved in drug-running, sex slavery and trafficking of human organs harvested from tortured and murdered prisoners.

Outlaws International

All of this has happened before. At the end of July, Thaci sent his Special Forces to seize two checkpoints — Jarinje ("Goat gate") and Brnjak — at the administrative line between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia, located in the Serb-inhabited north. Officially it was a bid to establish proper customs controls at what Pristina claims it is an international border. In practice, however, it was a ploy to cut off the Serb-inhabited north from its lifeline, and end its 12-year resistance to KLA rule. Either way, it failed miserably.

Heralded as a "law and order" operation, there was nothing legal or orderly about it. Worse yet, Thaci’s thugs were aided by EU’s "legal assistance" mission (EULEX) and NATO’s "peacekeepers" (KFOR), supposedly "status neutral" institutions that had to be in compliance with UNSCR 1244. In the words of former UN official Gerard Galucci back in July, "When the international peacekeepers act outside international law, they become outlaws."

According to Galucci, the "chief threat to security" is actually NATO, whose behavior in support of Thaci constitutes "anti-peacekeeping." As for the self-appointed guardians of Kosovo, they are sowing the wind:

"The Quint [U.S., UK, Germany, France, and Italy] is either bluffing, prevaricating with the Kosovo Albanians, or totally abandoning the UN peacekeeping mandate under which their agents — KFOR & EULEX — are in Kosovo. Whichever turns out to be true, they are acting shamefully." 

Galucci is not naïve; he knows KFOR and UNMIK have violated 1244 in the past — but never to this extent, and never so openly.

It ought to be noted that KFOR’s principal role in the province was never to protect the Serbs from the rampaging Albanians, but to protect the Albanians from Yugoslav and Serbian authorities. Even though KFOR has saved many Serb lives over the years, its mission has always been to serve the interests of Hashim Thaci, insofar as they coincided with those of the Empire. UNSCR 1244 was just the fig leaf allowing NATO a measure of modesty; now that UNSCR 1973 has essentially been used as a condom during the Rape of Libya, even that is being dispensed with.

A Threat to Tadic

Having installed Boris Tadic as the President of Serbia in 2004, and engineered his complete control of Serbian politics in 2008, the Empire has come to rely on near-absolute obedience of its quislings in Belgrade. Yet even Tadic and his cronies are now pleading with the Empire to stop Thaci, as the events in Kosovo are seriously threatening their survival.

In July, Tadic had sworn that Serbia’s army and the police would not fight. So the Serb civilians in Kosovo fought back by themselves. All this week, social networks have been abuzz with preparations for renewed resistance. A major opposition movement issued a call Wednesday to back the Kosovo Serbs with volunteers from all over Serbia. On Thursday, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church came to the province himself, and issued a call to the nation to pray and endure.

Over the past two weeks, the Serbian public has been shaken by the revelations from U.S. diplomatic dispatches published by Wikileaks — that almost the entire political establishment of the country has been taking its marching orders from the Empire. Washington’s envoys even interfered in the selection of the present head of the Church, following the passing of the previous Patriarch. With his empty promises of EU membership quashed in late August by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Tadic has absolutely nothing to offer the Serbian public.

Their palpable panic may help explain why the pro-government daily Blic (owned by the Swiss-German conglomerate Ringier) claimed on Thursday that the U.S. envoy to Kosovo, Christopher Dell, had a financial interest in backing the Thaci regime. According to the paper, Thaci’s regime is broke, and desperately needs hundreds of millions of Euros to pay a Turkish-American consortium (Bechtel-Enka) for a major highway contract. The paper’s source claims Dell has been helping Thaci plan the customs takeover, as well as negotiate the sale of "Kosovo Telecom" (illegally carved out of its Serbian parent) to Croatia, in exchange for a substantial kickback from the consortium.

Yet even if there was truth to these claims, it still remains a mystery why EULEX, KFOR and the Quint governments are all on board with Thaci’s insistence on "sovereign Kosovo."

Foundations of Empire

The Serbs often wonder what has earned them, Washington’s ally in both world wars, such unrelenting hatred. What they don’t realize is that the Empire doesn’t think in terms of history — but rather seeks to end it.

In answering why the Empire is so set on breaking Serbia, everyone has a favorite point of departure: Yugoslavia was destroyed because it practiced a working form of socialism, which posed a threat. It was all Germany, driven by a desire for revenge from defeats in both world wars. It’s all about the oil, ore, control of pipeline or trade routes. It isn’t about the Balkans at all, but about preserving dominance in Europe and fighting Russia. It’s all about making the jihadists love the Empire… Some of these are fanciful conspiracy theories, others a matter of public record. There is at least some truth in all of them.

NATO’s Rasmussen hints at consistency, arguing that NATO spent "12 years ensuring stability and security and we will not allow that achievement to be put at risk." (Reuters) Since when is consistency a concern for the Empire, though? Wasn’t Saddam Hussein an ally for 12 years, before the U.S. turned on him over Kuwait? What makes "Thacistan" so different?

The answer might lie in the carefully constructed perception of the great crusade against "Serb aggression" in the Balkans as Empire’s founding myth, and the fear that abandoning that narrative could be detrimental to Empire’s continued survival. But that might be a moot point soon enough.

Castles in the Sand

Taking upon himself to articulate the Grand Idea of the Atlantic Empire, Tony Blair once argued that the Balkans heralded a brave new age of "liberal interventions". He could not have been more wrong. All the Empire managed to do is dismantle the Westphalian order, destroying the very foundations of its own power in the process. All it built was a perception-managed, virtual reality — a sandcastle. And now the tide is coming in.

If there is one cardinal rule of authority, it is to never give an order that cannot be obeyed. By demanding of Serbia to give up Kosovo, that is precisely what the Empire did. No matter how sycophantic or spineless the government in Belgrade might be, that was one thing it could not do and survive.

The sight of Serbs manning the barricades to defend Kosovo, and reports of people coming from the rest of Serbia to reinforce them, are Boris Tadic’s worst nightmare. It means that the people have decided that their government won’t do its job. How long before they decide that Tadic and his cronies need to face a reckoning for their long and hard abuse of Serbia? That prospect promises to be most unpleasant.

KFOR’s helicopters bringing Thaci’s "police" to the north of Kosovo may well spell the beginning of the end for Tadic — and with him, Empire’s entire Balkans sandcastle. Reality can only be bullied so much, before it strikes back.

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.