On Wednesday, March 26, Barack Obama gave an impassioned speech at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, condemning Russia’s "assault" on Ukraine and extolling the virtues of the Atlantic Empire. Eleven years since his predecessor’s invasion of Iraq, fifteen years since the U.S-led NATO aggression in Serbia, Mr. Obama tried to lecture Moscow about "the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way" and the "recycled maxim that might, somehow, makes right."  His indignation would be a lot more righteous if the government that actually held such a belief, and recycled the said maxim, were not his own.

Whatever possessed Mr. Obama to say that "even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system" when this was clearly not the case, and Bush II’s war was prosecuted without UN approval, without even NATO approval, but by an ad-hoc "Coalition of the Willing"?

And how could he have possibly claimed that "Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations", when no such referendum ever took place?

It is possible the Emperor’s speechwriter was instead referring to the 2006 vote in Montenegro, which was organized by OSCE and the EU, but riddled with irregularities and fraud. Still, how could the Emperor – or his staff – not know the difference?

But the greatest insult to the world’s intelligence surely had to be this:

"Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident: that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, and that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future."

If the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with [sic] force, why did you do it? If international law matters, why do you routinely violate it? And what "freedom" of choosing a future are we talking about – the "right" to never say no? To do what one is told, or be bombed, invaded, occupied, looted, or "liberated" through a "color revolution"?

When Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel accused the president of Russia of living "in another world", she was inadvertently right; as his March 18 speech indicates, Mr. Putin inhabits the "reality-based community," which is indeed a world different from the one Ms. Merkel and Mr. Obama seem to live in.

Crime(a) and Punishment

On March 16, just as Empire’s stooges in Serbia organized a sham vote to legalize their policy of treason, the population of Crimea – an autonomous republic within Ukraine, inhabited largely by ethnic Russians – turned out in large numbers, without a single incident, to vote overwhelmingly in favor of reuniting with Russia. Two days later, president Putin and the representatives of Crimea and the free city of Sevastopol signed a reunification papers in the Kremlin.

The Empire has denounced the Crimean referendum as illegitimate and illegal, violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and a result of Russian "invasion." Yet Ukraine’s constitutional order was destroyed in the February 22 coup by "our man Yats" and the brownshirts, Crimea was arbitrarily given to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1954, and the Ukrainians feel so "invaded" their troops have been defecting to Russia for weeks.

One could legitimately ask why the Atlantic Empire is defending Communist borders – but this wouldn’t be the first time. Of course, in Yugoslavia’s case, the integrity of Serbia is not considered inviolable (but that of occupied and forcibly removed "Kosovo" is). Crimea had even more autonomy within Ukraine than Kosovo within Serbia.

Had Mr. Putin really wanted to invade or annex the Ukraine, he could have organized a countercoup in Kiev and had the new government invite Moscow in for protection. Or he could have declared Ukraine "in dissolution" – the way the West did to Yugoslavia – and encouraged the Russian-speaking regions to secede. He did neither.

Discussing principles and precedents is pointless here, though. In Empire’s understanding, it can do no wrong, and Russia (or Serbia, or whoever else is Hitler du jour) can do no right. This is called "Who/Whom" and is straight out of Lenin. The irony is difficult to escape.

The Forgotten Pogrom

Crimea and Sevastopol’s decision to separate from Ukraine, and Russia’s decision to take them back, happened on the 10th anniversary of a vicious ethnic pogrom in Kosovo. In March 2004, in the fifth year of the occupation and in the presence of several thousand well-armed NATO troops, some 50,000 ethnic Albanians rampaged across the province for four days, torching Serb and Roma homes, shops and churches. At the time, NATO officials were appalled and condemned the pogrom in no uncertain terms; one U.S. admiral actually called it "ethnic cleansing," while a UN official compared it to Kristallnacht. Yet the media spun it as "clashes," while the Imperial political machine soon made it into a case for – independent Kosovo!

Over the past 15 years, ethnic Albanians running the NATO-occupied province (and later self-proclaimed "state") have systematically terrorized not just the Serbs that remained following the waves of murder, arson and expulsion, but also fellow Albanians who dared oppose the organized crime clans running the place.

What about human rights, individual freedoms, sanctity of borders, international law? None of that applies in Kosovo, a "personal" matter to former State Secretary Clinton and her husband, who in 2009 unveiled a statue of himself in the "Kosovian" capital.

Meanwhile, in the "invaded" Crimea there is no violence, no persecution, and no pogroms – unlike the imagery coming in from "democratic" Ukraine. Though, to be fair, one of the worst thug enforcers of the coup regime in Kiev was killed by the Ukrainian police on March 25.


Eleven years ago, as the Empire waged its illegal, illegitimate war on Iraq, British historian Kate Hudson wrote of a "pattern of aggression" that relied on the precedent set in 1999. On March 24 that year, NATO launched an all-out aerial war against what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Officially, the reason was to "compel" Belgrade to accept the "peace proposal" offered as an ultimatum at the French chateau of Rambouillet earlier that month – which envisioned turning the province of Kosovo into an independent Albanian state and giving NATO unrestricted access to all of FRY. The ultimatum was designed to be rejected; Washington wanted a war in order to give NATO a purpose.

But instead of capitulating within a week, the government of Slobodan Milosevic fought on for 78 days, agreeing to let NATO occupy Kosovo only after receiving explicit guarantees of sovereignty. When Yugoslav troops retreated from Kosovo, they did so nearly unharmed and in perfect order, showing that the bombing was primarily directed against civilian targets and intended to terrorize.

The war was illegal and illegitimate, but the Empire did not care. Kosovo was a Rubicon  the Empire needed to cross: a demonstration that it could attack anyone, anywhere, for any reason. And crushing Yugoslavia – whose "resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform" (Norris, 2005) was the real reason behind the war – would send a message to Russia.

Moscow got the message, all right. Famous Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, among others, pinpointed the bombing of Serbia as the moment when Russia lost its illusions about the West. By December 1999, the corrupt, thieving, pro-American regime of Boris Yeltsin was no more, and Vladimir Putin began cleaning house.

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.