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Shinasi Rama (IJAS): The Serb-Albanian War, and International Community’s Miscalculations

Shinasi Rama (IJAS): The Serb-Albanian War, and International Community’s Miscalculations Posted March 23, 2001
International Journal of Albanian Studies

Shinasi A. Rama
Columbia University

The Serb-Albanian War, and International Community’s Miscalculations


The announced Serb–Albanian War in Kosova exploded in the first week of March 1998. Since then, the fighting has intensified steadily. Entire towns and villages are being razed to the ground, dozens of Albanian civilians are being slaughtered everyday, and hundreds of thousands of people have become refugees. The fierce resistance that the poorly armed Albanian peasants have put up to the well-equipped Serb army, to the paramilitary troops, and to the Serb police has left the analysts perplexed. Although armed only with very light weapons, the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA), as the umbrella organization that leads the Albanian resistance is known, has grown to about 80,000 fighters. The KLA controls a large part of the rural areas, which according to some estimates, is approximately 40 percent of the territory of Kosova.
Policymakers and analysts that have followed closely the political process in Kosova, are puzzled and perplexed by the recent developments. For most of them, the most disturbing aspect of the Serb–Albanian War is that the Albanians have definitely switched en masse from their exemplary non-violent Ghandian behavior to the more traditional, and their opinion the more effective method of realizing their goal of gaining the independence of Kosova. The main concern of policymakers is that the longer the Serb–Albanian War lasts, the more the chances are increased that a part of the Albanians in Albania, if not even the Albanian government itself, will have no other choice but to support the Albanians in Kosova and fight on their side. The possibility that the further prolongation of the conflict in Kosova will spillover and destabilize Macedonia appears almost certain.
At the regional security level, the expectations are that in case the war spreads, all of the Balkans will blow up. Croatians, and Bosnians, might decide that while Serbia has its hands tied fighting the Albanians in Kosova, it might be payback time. Croats and Bosnians could decide to settle their ‘federal’ problem by force. On the other hand, even Bulgaria is being prepared to play a few tricks demanding territory that it ceded before to Yugoslavia in 1945 and it will continue to be extremely sensitive towards Macedonia. Bulgaria sees here an opportunity to play a role in the game and attract sufficient attention from the competing interests in the Balkans, from the Russians and the Americans alike.
I contend that there are some valuable lessons to be learned from the handling of the Serb-Albanian situation by the international community. One of the very first lessons to be drawn is that the post-Dayton strategy of the international community aimed at the solving of the Balkan riddles has backslided. One of its major objectives, the prevention of the explosion of the Serb-Albanian War and the preservation of the status quo in Kosova was not achieved. Yet, surprisingly enough, although, it has utterly failed to prevent the Serb-Albanian War in Kosova, the strategy of the international community has not changed substantially.
The objectives of the international community appear to have remained the same, plus sa change et plus c’ést la meme chose. Among these objectives are, first, the preservation of the rump Yugoslavia and the consideration of the war in Kosova as an internal matter of Serbia, the logical end of which is to force Albanians to remain within Serbia. Second, the containment of the conflict in Kosova and the avoidance of the spillover in Albania and Macedonia. Third, the setting of an arms blockade so that Albanian resistance in Kosova would be spent easier and faster. Fourth, showing some political support for Rugova and his non-violent movement and in the case Rugova fails, play the Albanian game with other ‘realist’ Albanian politicians. Fifth, and more importantly, to save the Dayton Agreement and the “three in one and each on its own” formula that, so far, with heavy support from the United States, has kept Bosnia together.
Without questioning the logic of this policy, I argue that its fundamental assumptions are mistaken. I examine the reasons why the policy pursued by the international community in the past could not prevent the Serb–Albanian conflict. I suggest that by insisting on the same objectives while the reality on the ground has radically changed, the international community’s Balkan policy is headed towards another downfall. The fundamental unchanged assumption of the international community’s strategy, the belief that a second Yugoslav experiment could be repeated successfully with Serbs, Montenegrins and Albanians is, under the current circumstances, extremely imprudent and unrealistic. Similarly unforeseeing is the belief that the panacea for the Balkan quagmire rests with the internal democratization of Serbia. On the one hand, Miloshevic has acted ruthlessly and efficiently in defense of the ‘Serb Cause’ and for the creation of a Greater Serbia. He has been determined to expel the Albanians from Kosova and to eliminate them as a political factor in Yugoslavia. Even the Serb opposition and its leaders, do not want to talk about any kind of co-existence with Albanians. They beat the drum of the Serb victimization and hatred against Albanians louder than Miloshevic does. On the other hand, the Albanians in Kosova do not recognize the Serb state. For the last twenty years they have considered Serbia as another country that has occupied their own country. These are some strong reassurances that the chances that the current containment and appeasement policy a la Münich described above might fail even in the future have increased substantially.
I proceed in the following way. In the first section, I review the Western policy towards the Albanian question in Yugoslavia and the arguments used to justify the continued colonization of Kosova. I focus especially on the effect that the signing and the implementation of the Dayton Agreement had on the Albanians and their expectations for independence from Serbia. In the second section, I briefly analyze the post-Dayton developments, then I focus on evolution of the current crisis. In the third section, I present the arguments why the current strategy of the international community is bound to fail. In the conclusion, I argue that the international community ought to realize that attempts aiming at the partition, continued colonization, or regionalization of Kosova are the real threats to the regional stability. These attempts inevitably will prolong the conflict, they will force Albania to enter the war and definitely will lead to a destabilization of Macedonia. It is high time to realize that there are no realistic chances for Kosova to remain any longer as part of the rump Yugoslavia, save as a Serb colony. The international community should give very serious consideration to the recognition of Kosova as an independent political entity. This is the only possible way to avoid the spillover of the war that could involve all the neighboring states.


In the period between 1990 and 1995, pressed to find quick and viable solutions to the multitude of problems created by the wars of independence in Slovenia and Croatia and the War in Bosnia, the West paid lip service to the Albanian question in Yugoslavia. The reason must be sought in the relative peacefulness of the region. After the violent expression of Serb nationalism culminated in the revocation of the status of Kosova as a Constituent Federal Unit in 1989, it appeared that the crisis had subsumed. Moreover, the behavior of Albanians seemed to have radically changed; traditionally a warlike people, the Albanians in Kosova appeared to have been resigned to a non-violent Ghandian mood. The Europeans admired and praised the harmless non-violent Albanian ‘resistance’ but consistently ignored its goal of achieving independence for Kosova with peaceful means.

1.1.1 Albanians and Their Parallel State in Kosova

Ignoring the Serb political system, Albanians proclaimed the independence of Kosova in 1990 and elected the literary critic Ibrahim Rugova as their President. Albanians and their elite were convinced that the international community would respect the principles of self-determination and the right of the people to choose their own regime. They put their faith in the good will of the international community and patiently waited for the international community to recognize their right to have an independent Albanian state in Kosova.
From 1989 to this day, Kosova has continued to be a colony of Serbia. However, the Serb state presence has been limited to the Army barracks, the police, and the administrative apparatus filled by the Serb colons who were living in Kosova. While Albanians were patiently waiting for recognition from the international community, they managed to create one of the most efficient voluntary state structures in the world. For example, Albanians who worked in the West paid a three percent income tax voluntarily to the government of Kosova in exile. The government of Kosova used these funds to support the health system, the education system and the social system of the Albanian parallel state in Kosova. The extent of this system becomes evident when one is reminded that in 1990, the Serbs had thrown all the Albanians out of jobs and Kosova with a population of about two million people had a stable unemployment rate of 85 per cent, the overwhelming majority of those employed being Serb colons.
To the analysts, it was clear that with Albanians refusing to fight, and as long as other exacerbated ethnic problems in the former Yugoslavia persisted, the status quo would continue to reign in Kosova. Busy fighting wars in Bosnia and Croatia, the Serb regime tolerated the Albanian parallel state structures. They did not want to have a third front in Kosova. On the other hand, encouraged by their leaders like Rugova, who continually insisted that the recognition from the West was imminent, Albanians were waiting. They did almost nothing to attract the attention of the international community and in return they got nothing.

1.1.2 The International Community and Kosova: A Prelude

Thanks to the relative peace of the region, none of the Albanian leaders in the former Yugoslavia were ever invited in any of the Conferences that dealt with the problems generated by the dissolution of Yugoslavia, including here the Conference of 1992 in London. The international community insisted that Kosova was an integral part of Serbia and there was no willingness on its part to deal with it on a par with the other successor states. Consequently, it sought to manage the conflict either by preserving the status quo or by forcing the Albanians and the Serbs to find a modus vivendi within the rump Yugoslavia. This policy has been stated, clearly and openly, almost by all officials and diplomats who were pronounced on Kosova, independently of the NGO’s, the international organizations and the governmental agencies they represented. The valuable pieces of advice to the Albanians consisted in the promotion of dialogue between Serbs and Albanians, the protection of human rights, free media, the security of international monitors, and the establishment of the missions to observe the progress made in Kosova.
An exception to the general indifference of the international community was the interest shown by the US. In this context, a turning point on the international community’s interest on Kosova is represented by the Christmas Warning issued by President Bush a few days before he left office. Bush threatened to launch air strikes against strategic objectives in Serbia proper if the Serb regime launched a crackdown against Albanians in Kosova. The warning by President Bush was prompted by several reasons. At the time, the war had exploded in Bosnia and a Serb-Albanian conflict in Kosova could have had transversal effects on that war. The Albanian Officer Corps inherited from the past was still intact and although the weaponry possessed by the Albanian Army was not extremely sophisticated, it was good enough and in sufficient quantities to sustain a war in a rugged mountainous terrain with Yugoslavia. Albania had just signed a Treaty on Mutual Defense and Cooperation with Turkey, which meant that a Serb–Albanian War would immediately spillover to become a Balkan War involving also Macedonia where the restive Albanians had already proclaimed their autonomous region of Ilirida. The warning was also repeated again by President Clinton and Albright in 1993. The Western Europeans while expressing great admiration for Rugova, continued to completely ignore any demands from the Albanians of Kosova.

1.1.3 The Albanian State and the Albanian Question in the Former Yugoslavia

It was supposed that the Albanian state could become the greatest supporter of the Albanians in Kosova. However, following Rugova, and finding relief in the fact that the Albanian leadership in Kosova had decided to postpone the conflict, Salih Berisha (the President of Albania from 1992 to 1997), and his administration did all what they could do to keep the Albanians in Kosova and Macedonia in check and themselves out of trouble. Berisha took care to destroy systematically what remained of the Albanian state. He fueled the ideological struggle of Communists versus the anti-Communists, thereby alienating that part of the elite which had the know-how and the skills to contribute to the democratic transition in Albania. He and his administration intentionally destroyed the Albanian Officer Corps and weakened the Albanian Army to the point that it was not even able to defend its own depots. They oriented the whole Albanian economic system exclusively towards services, made the state budget dependent on the credits and subsidies granted by western donors and international financial institutions. Finally, they transformed Albanian economy in a guinea pig for all sorts of economic experiments. The new class struggle waged by Berisha and his cronies led to the Upheaval of 1997. Desperate for economic success, Berisha ignored the Albanian national question and the plight of Albanians in Kosova.
However, in due time, Berisha learned in a hard way that financial support depended on his stand towards Kosova and the Albanian national question. Thus, the support of the Albanian state for the Albanians in Kosova was duly limited to half an hour broadcast of news in the state TV, the publication of limited propagandistic materials, and some very cheap campaign talk. It appears that Berisha had received some kind of verbal reassurances about a positive solution of the Albanian problem in the former Yugoslavia but nothing good came out of it. In any case, he did very little to support their cause other than to use the Kosova issue to enhance his standing vis a vis the West. Thanks to his interventions, the Albanian political movement in Kosova was not able to achieve any kind of significant political results.


The hostile position taken by the international community with regard to the independence of Kosova has been supported by several arguments. The first argument used to justify the colonization of Kosova is that if Kosova becomes independent, then, there is no way to contain the wave of secessionist movements around the world. In this context, the sacrality of borders and the sovereignty of the states are often mentioned as a justification. The second argument, advanced by policymakers and analysts alike, is that Serbs have an indisputable historic right to hold Kosova within Serbia. Third, it is insinuated that if Kosova becomes independent, then this will have regional implications: the Balkan peninsula will blow up. Let us examine why the arguments advanced to defend the present policy of the international community are fallacious and ungrounded.

1.2.1 Was Yugoslavia Dissolved or Is Kosova Just Seceding From Serbia?

With regard to the first argument, what is not conveniently mentioned by the analysts, is that the case of Kosova is not just another case of secession of an unruly region but the case of Constituent Federal Unit of the Yugoslav Federation with well-defined borders which enjoyed a high degree of sovereignty. With the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991, Kosova, as a Constituent Federal Unit of Yugoslavia, defined as such in the Constitution of the 1974, had the right to determine whether or not it wanted to remain within the rump Yugoslavia. The referendum held to determine the status of Kosova in 1990 showed that a surprising 90 percent of the people living in Kosova were declared for an independent Republic of Kosova.
The formulation in the Yugoslav legalese of the articles regarding Kosova in the Constitution of 1974, made it abundantly clear that in the final account, Kosova had rights recognized only to the six Republics and to the sovereign states. Even the later Serb justifications for the violent revocation of the status of Kosova were based precisely on the claims that the Constitution of 1974 had created an independent unit that could not be controlled by Serbia. Kosova was not a part of Serbia but a part of Yugoslav Federation extremely loosely attached to the Republic of Serbia. According to the Constitution of 1974 (until Miloshevic forcefully changed the Constitution of Kosova in 1989 and that of Serbia in 1990), Kosova was a Constituent Unit of the Yugoslav Federation. It had a parliament, its government, and enjoyed the same level of sovereignty as the other six Republics. Let me quote here one what one Serb author had to say about the status of Kosova in the Yugoslav federation. Recently, summing up the Serb official position against any future kind of autonomy for Kosova, Milutin Milenkovic says that,

Due to their ignorance or because it is convenient to them, these people do not take into consideration the fact that many articles of the Constitution of 1974 gave to the Autonomous Provinces [of Kosova and Vojvodina].. more powers than to the government of Serbia itself. For example, it was not possible to amend the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia without having obtained the consent of the authorities of the Autonomous Provinces. The Representatives of the Autonomous Provinces had the right to veto all the decisions taken by the Serb government.. The Autonomous Provinces were represented without intermediaries at the federal level, independently of the Serb delegation.. They contested at the federal level decisions taken by Serbia. As semi-sovereign and privileged states, the Autonomous Provinces exercised the right to oversee the central government of the Yugoslav Federation as “Constituent Units of the Federation” that existed within the Socialist Republic of Serbia.”

It is clear, even from this quotation that the argument that holds that the claim of Albanians is secessionist could not be correct. As another Serb analyst notes “Kosova had all the attributes of statehood, except the right to be separated from the Yugoslav federation.” With the dissolution of the Yugoslav federation, the last legal vestige that kept Kosova tied to Serbia was gone. At the minimum, Kosova had the right to have a referendum to determine whether it wanted to remain within rump Yugoslavia or not. And when the Albanians held such a referendum, 85 of the entire population of Kosova voted for its independence. Summing up this point, Malcolm has aptly remarked, “Kosova’s claim to independence is almost identical with that of Slovenia or Croatia.” The Badinter Commission, an international committee of jurists found that what happened to Yugoslavia in 1991 was not “secession” but the complete dissolution of Yugoslavia into its constituent units. If Yugoslavia dissolved, and all the other “Constitutive Units” like Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Slovenia had the right to self-determination, why not Kosova that was a Constituent Federal Unit, too? The Badinter Commission refused to recognize to Kosova the status of the sovereign “Federal Unit” simply because “any such recognition would justify the claims of Serbs in Krajina.” This was hardly a strong and convincing legal argument based on any loose interpretation of the Yugoslav Constitution of 1974.

1.2.2 The Historical Argument: Kosova as the Cradle of Nations

The ab antiquo argument, which has to do with the historical past of Kosova is used extensively by the foreign analysts to point out the importance of Kosova for the Serb nation. It is often repeated that Kosova is the central myth of Serb national consciousness, the cradle of their medieval state and their church; just for these reasons, it is being argued that it is impossible to allow Kosova to become independent from Serbia. An inquiry into the past would reveal that Serbs occupied Kosova in the thirteenth century and held it until 1457, that is, for less than two centuries. The Medieval Serb Empire was a multinational empire. The Albanians were an important part of it. Without seeking to use here historical arguments, one cannot help but note that even in the Middle Ages, this region was inhabited predominantly by the Albanians. Studies of the available documents, have revealed that even in the Middle Ages, the Serbs made up the small upper strata of the population and that Serbs were concentrated in towns and the administrative centers. Recently, in a thorough study on this topic, Noel Malcolm has exposed the falsity of the Serb claims. Malcolm has convincingly argued that if any people has a right to claim Kosova as their land, this is the Albanian people.
Besides the surprising fact that the international community is suddenly concerned with the historical inheritance of nations, what appears to be even more intriguing, is that the international community does not give the same weight to the arguments that Kosova was the cradle of the medieval Albanian state and the cradle of the contemporary Albanian state. The medieval state of Balshaj, “the Rulers of Albania,” and many other Albanian principalities extended here from the mid-fourteenth century to the late fifteenth century. The Battle of Kosova that feeds the Serb myth of victimization was not just the battle of Serbs “to save the Christendom” as we often hear. The Battle of Kosova was fought by a Balkan coalition. Albanian feudals were heavily involved in the Battle of Kosova and one of the triumvirs that led the Balkan Army coalition with the Serb Prince Lazar Grebljanovic, and King Tvarko of Bosnia, was the Albanian ruler Gjergji II Balsha. An indication of Albanian presence in the Field of Kosova, is that only Theodori II Muzaka, the Prince of Berat, lost more than 4000 of his Albanian fighters in the Battle of Kosova. Fortunately, these facts are quoted from the Serb chronicles of the time that contemporary Serb historiography has conveniently forgotten to mention.
It is worth noting that the first National Assembly of the Albanian people in the modern times was held at the city of Prizren in 1878. This was followed later by the National Assembly held in the town of Peja in 1899 and so on. Not to mention the numerous Albanian religious and cultural monuments in the region. It also must be said that a large number of Albanians from Kosova were Orthodox. Slowly, they were acculturated and became even ethnically assimilated Serbs. If the Serb Orthodox Churches and Monasteries survived five centuries of Turkish occupation of Kosova, the explanation must be sought in their protection by the Albanians. Especially, the Catholic Churches of the Albanians in Kosova are among the oldest religious buildings in the Balkan and a precious a part of their inheritance.
The Serb past in Kosova could be very well compared to the relationship between the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Patriarchana of Istanbul and the Greeks of today; to Algeria as part of the France d’outre-mer or to Spain when it was occupied by Arabs. Neither Greece could openly lay claims to Asia Minor, nor France could lay claim to Algeria, nor Arabs could openly claim Spain without becoming ridiculous. Moreover, if the Serb claims on Krajina, Bosnia and Eastern Slavonia are justified only on ethnic grounds, why should another standard be used towards the Albanians, who make up the overwhelming majority, in fact, over 93 percent of the entire population in Kosova? This is not a recent phenomenon; eighty years ago, in 1912, when Serbs finally occupied Kosova, over two-thirds of its population had declared themselves as Albanians. While the list of arguments could go longer, it is apparent that the unconditional acceptance of the Serb “historical right” on Kosova is unwarranted and unjustifiable except when it serves precise geopolitical reasons.

1.2.3 The Regional Implications: Will Bosnia Dissolve?

The most preoccupying aspect of the Kosova problem is that the analysts and policymakers unquestionably assume that if Kosova becomes independent, then we could have a Balkan War. Moreover, accepting an independent Kosova they argue, this would lead and justify a future breakdown of Bosnia.
Quite on the contrary, any further escalation of the conflict in Kosova will have a domino effect on the Bosnian stability. On the one hand, with the mounting tensions in Bosnia, the growing Croatian impatience with the Izetbegovic, the unsolved problems with the Croat–Bosnian federation, and the refusal of Bosnians to disarm their own Army, the prolongation of conflict in Kosova might be the much-needed pretext for the Croats to get away with a blitzkrieg a la Tudjman like the one that cleansed ethnically Krajina. The other scenario is that while the Serbs will have their hands full and tied fighting in Kosova, the Bosnians, the Croats, the Muslims of Sandjak and why not, the Montenegrins, will seek to make the best they can to get back to the Serbs. This is the way hell could break loose once again in the former Yugoslavia.
For any realist, with the creation of the Bosnian–Croat federation, the dissolution of Bosnia became a de jure reality. As it is now, the former Yugoslav Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina continues to be just another oxymoronic geopolitical concept. At the moment that the international community will decide to cut the financial pipeline, the political support and the incentives that sustain the “three in one and each on its own” quasi-theological solution, Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians will head for their separate ways.
On the other hand, the independence of Kosova would preserve the status quo in Bosnia. If the Bosnians, the Serbs and the Croats do not want to live together, it will be just a matter of time before Bosnia will break up. The international community will come to realize that the “three in one” solution did not work very well and then other options will be weighted and pursued. The rule of thumb is that an equilibrium will be preserved only if all sides want to preserve it. Believing that Miloshevic will allow the Republika Srpska of Bosnia to stay in the “three in one and each on its own” entity in exchange for the continuation of Serb rule in Kosova is a huge mistake. As the things are right now, and due to the imminent danger of explosion of war there, Miloshevic has no other choice but to allow the Republika Srpska to stay in Bosnia, at least until the fighting spirit of the Bosnian Muslims diminishes, regardless whether or not Kosova will become independent. Clearly, there is no justice served in denying to an entire nation its right to be independent, as it is happening with the Albanians in Kosova, just because of unfounded fears that Bosnia will dissolve.

1.2.4 The Spillover Effect: Will Macedonia Get Into Trouble?

Furthermore, it is assumed that if Kosova becomes independent this is definitely going to destabilize fragile Macedonia. Then, it is suggested that Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria will get involved in a Balkan War which, it is hinted, could become a spark to ignite another World War. This argument is also based on mistaken assumptions. The stability of Macedonia is not something which is generated by an artificial regional order supported only by the international community. The stability of Macedonia must be achieved primarily through a greater cooperation between Macedonians and Albanians who live in their own lands and who make up between 35 to 40 percent of the whole population in Macedonia. The Albanians of Macedonia can and will continue to support the continuous existence of Macedonia as a political entity in the same way they supported Macedonia’s bid for independence from Yugoslavia.
What will blow up Macedonia is the expansion of the conflict in the Northern and Eastern Kosova. There are five scenarios. The first is that however small, the waves of refugees will destroy the fragile equilibria within Macedonia. The second scenario is that the KLA will ask for support from the Albanians there and transform Macedonia in a place d’arme to fight in Serbia. The third scenario is that Serbs will fight the KLA in Macedonia thereby causing Macedonia’s de facto involvement in the war. The fourth scenario is that the Albanians within Macedonia will rise to support their brothers in Kosova. And the fifth scenario is the total involvement of the Albanian state in the war which will inevitably spillover to Macedonia. It appears that any prolongation of the conflict in Kosova, regardless of the strenuous attempts by the international community to preserve the Macedonia as a state, will definitely break Macedonia apart.
The key to Macedonian stability rests with the Albanians and the Macedonians. Albanians have their representatives in the Macedonian government and the are supporting Macedonia’s integrity. In the long run, though, Macedonia has to become a state based on citizenship and not on nationality. The Macedonian state must cease to identify exclusively with the Macedonians as an ethnic group, it must cease to be the “state of the Macedonians.” Otherwise, there is not going to be any kind of peace in Macedonia no matter how much support is given to Macedonians and Gligorov by the international community. In the past, the Albanians in Macedonia have shown that they could live in peace with the Macedonians. It is the Macedonian state which should do more to convince the Albanians to support Macedonia. If the Macedonian state is able to solve its internal matters in the proper way, that is by becoming the state of all citizens of Macedonia, there should be no reason for the international community to continue to live in fear that Macedonia will dissolve at any regional whirlwind. Albanians in Macedonia will support the integrity of the Macedonian state.

1.2.5 Summary of the Arguments

These are the main arguments brought by the analysts and the policymakers to justify the continuing Serb colonization of Kosova. While Albanians sought to convince the policymakers that none of these arguments was really valid, the international community did not want to even listen to them. Apparently happy that the status quo was holding, the international community insisted that from time to time, Miloshevic had to make some moves that would keep the Albanian hopes and their peaceful non-violent movement alive.
However, in parenthesis, I have to say that Miloshevic was very disappointing and not cooperative. He refused to give up even on very minor points such as to recognize the mere existence of key Albanian politicians in Kosova. He abruptly used to dismiss the shy and peaceful Rugova by asking the then U.S. Ambassador Zimmermann, “Whom does he represent?” Finally, by a special electoral law, Miloshevic decided that in case Albanians make up their mind to participate in the Serb political process, Kosova would be represented neither according to a proportional nor to a majoritarian system but according to a quota decided in Belgrade by Miloshevic. Miloshevic did all what he could do to discourage Albanians from participating in the political life of Serbia and Yugoslavia. His unwillingness to discuss even minor issues with Albanians, and the Serb determination to treat them as slaves, left no other choice to Albanians in Kosova but to fight.


The status quo held until December 1995. For a few years, the authority of Serb government in Kosova was limited to police raids or the display of force in Prishtinė streets. Seeking to weaken, if not to divide Albanian passive resistance, Miloshevic patiently tolerated the peaceful non-violent and unharmful movement of Rugova. He allowed for a number of Albanians who entered in joint ventures with Serbs to get rich, insisted in supporting the police forces stationed in Kosova with the money or goods sequestered by the Albanians, continued to settle some key areas with Serb refugees from Krajina and other places, and opened the borders for hundreds of thousands of young Albanians to leave Kosova for the US or Germany and Switzerland. In fact, about 700.000 Albanians have migrated from Kosova to other countries. There are about 300,000 Albanians from Kosova in USA, about 400.000 Albanians are in Germany and about 120,000 live in Switzerland while about two million Albanians are still living in Kosova proper.
Until the signing of the Dayton Accords, it seemed as if the problem of Kosova would continue to be postponed indefinitely, with the Serbs unwilling to change the status quo and with the Albanians willing to wait for a peaceful solution. Since throughout this period of time there were no incidents in Kosova, it appeared that, with some twisting and some pressure from outside, the issue could be easily solved. However, it became clear that once some sort of stable arrangements would be in place in Bosnia, then the regime of Miloshevic would turn towards Kosova. The Yugoslav crisis had began in Kosova and it had to end there. After the Albanian Upheaval of 1997, knowing that the Albanian state was definitely unable to wage a war, the Serb regime was looking for a casus belli to resolve the Albanian problem.
The crucial turning point for the Serb–Albanian conflict was the signing of the Dayton Agreements. While the Serbs retained their Republika Srpska in Bosnia almost intact, they also vetoed any discussion on Kosova and the international community acquiesced. First things come first; however, the Dayton was a great disappointment for the Albanian leadership. Failing to address the Albanian question, the international community Balkans was planting the seeds of the failure of its strategy for the restoration of peace in the troubled region. In this section I also examine the effect of the Dayton Accords on the Albanians in Kosova.

1.3.1. From the International Community: A Recipe to Solve the Riddle

To some analysts, it appeared that the Western states involved in the Balkan had decided to formulate their regional policies by relying temporarily on a weak Albania and a strengthened Macedonia as allies in maintaining the fragile peace in the region without however, solving the Albanian national question. This policy aimed at the building of temporary ‘quarantine’ castles out of the existing states with the long term goal of establishing stable democratic regimes that by the virtue of being democratic could not fight wars easily; improving the regional economy so that the people would not feel the relative economic deprivation vis a vis other more affluent neighboring states. In a sort of chain reaction, the growing affluence would help the creation of a dense network of extensive communication among the Balkan states. The intensification of communications, the creation of an economic society coupled with increasing economic interdependence, and the consolidation of democratic regimes would create favorable premises to get rid not only of the ethnofobies and chauvinistic nationalist aspirations but also of the authoritarian and charismatic rulers that are prone to capitalize on these sentiments. It appears but logical that, in a future economic society, where supposedly there are no strong authoritarian centers of power, the liberated individuals would pursue their own narrow interests that generally end up in some form or another in the acquisition of wealth or status through wealth but not vice versa. That is, the elite does not become rich thanks to widespread corruption and stealing from the state treasury. Moreover, the elite does not acquire political office and status through the unscrupulous political manipulation of popular sentiments. An economic society is an environment where politics is about economics and other practical interests and not about ancient myths and daytime dreams. Consequently, and within a reasonable period of time, the Balkans would become a peaceful peninsula for the very first time in its long history. This network of exchanges would hold the fabric of the future states together and it would become quite impossible to wage war, especially wars based on nationalist ideologies and to create states dominated by an ethnie that rules the other ethnic groups. It is presumed that people run after their interests. What has been overlooked here is the kind of interest various people are pursuing in the Balkan peninsula.
Among numerous positive aspects, the insightful policy adopted by the international community had a quandary. None of the Balkan states would accept the existence of yet another Albanian state. The quandary is that without a definite solution of the Albanian national question, it is obvious that in the long term, no political agreement and arrangement would hold. There are seven million Albanians in the Balkans and they live in five different states; three of them are successor states of Yugoslavia. The continuous oppression by the resurgent nationalist regimes especially after 1981, had strengthened the sense of national identity among the Albanians. Their already strong sense of national identity was heightened even more when it became clear that after 1990, both Macedonia and rump Yugoslavia were literally becoming nation-states, that is, they were becoming states where a particular ethnie was dominant. The ethnie which ‘owned’ the state and the administrative machine were either the Serbs or the Montenegrins or the Macedonians but not the Albanians who were still being treated as third-class citizens.
However, there were a number of reasons why the Albanian problem could be conveniently postponed. For one, the Albanians in the former Yugoslavia did not have any support from the government of Tirana. Secondly, after 1992, with strong pressures from the government of Tirana and President Berisha, the Albanians in these states abandoned the idea of armed resistance and became committed to a peaceful form of protest. In due time, their political movements almost disintegrated. Thirdly, about the time the Dayton Agreement was signed, the international analysts had formed the impression that Albanians in the former Yugoslavia neither would fight to obtain their state nor would they unite to solve their national question. They were waiting for the international community to see what they believed to be uncontested truths about their right to independence, in the case of Kosova, or to become citizens with all the rights, in the case of Macedonia. Albanians continued to protest peacefully and to wait for the non-violent movement to bear some fruits and the possibility of an armed uprising in Kosova seemed highly unlikely.

1.3.2 The Dayton Accord: Why the Albanians Were Left Outside?

Contrary to their expectations, in the Dayton talks, the Albanian situation was not even discussed. The Prime Minister of the Government of Kosova in exile, Bujar Bukoshi, was not allowed even to approach the military base; his photo behind barbed wire entanglements became a painful reminder in the Albanian press of the failure of the non-violence policy of Rugova. Apparently, the Western policymakers could not find enough convincing reasons to justify the creation of yet another ethnic Albanian state. More than the desire of the international community to force Albanians and Serbs to live together, more than the absence of understanding, the Albanian cause was hurt by the dismissing attitude of the West Europeans. The international community perceived that the Albanians in Kosova were too weak to fight for their state and too meek to succeed in obtaining a state. Moreover, there was absolutely no pressure from the Albanian state to solve this issue; President Berisha got a huge break in the form of a financial package to postpone the due payments on loans and credits received from the World Bank, the IMF and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Above all, there were no battles and no victims in Kosova or Macedonia. The Serb state continued to insist on that Kosova was the internal matter of Serbia and any discussion of Kosova could blow up the Dayton Agreement. To any good pragmatist, it was a self-evident truth that this issue could be harmlessly postponed and maybe solved, only if, and when, the crisis would explode.
Not that there was no preoccupation with Kosova issue. The US administration was carefully monitoring the developments in the region and they were aware of the potentially explosive situation there. For these reasons, the statement issued after the Dayton Agreement by the State Department specifically addressed the Albanian problem; however, it did very little to allay their fears that they were being literally excluded from what was hailed as the comprehensive peace plan for the former Yugoslavia. Kosova was mentioned only en passim and in the context of human rights; it was linked to the lifting of “the outer wall of sanctions.” The outer wall of sanctions regards the international status of Yugoslavia, its diplomatic recognition as a state, the upgrading of its status in the international organizations and the release of the assets of the former Yugoslavia.
Nothing that would satisfy the Albanians did really happen. Even the opening of the USIA library in Prishtinė in July 1996, (requested by the US administration a long time ago), and which was hailed as if it were the opening of the US Embassy in Prishtinė, did very little to tranquilize the Albanians. It was interpreted to be more of a preventive measure from Belgrade to counteract the defying statements coming from Berisha. Similarly the signing of ‘the education agreement’ between Rugova and Miloshevic on September 1, 1996 was also interpreted to be a preventive measure to show some progress in the Serb–Albanian relations and release mounting tensions in Kosova. Both show that Miloshevic was playing a shrewd ‘cat and mouse’ game with Rugova, his companions, and the Albanians in Kosova.
To put it in a broader perspective, the signing of “the education agreement,” and the opening of the USIA library in Prishtinė came at a time when Salih Berisha had just started his gambit to push Kosova to fight. Berisha had calculated that, in order to preserve the status quo, the international community would, first, recognize the fraudulent parliamentary elections of May 26, 1996; second, accept the reelection of Berisha as the “strong” President of Albania; and third, literally bribe Berisha to remain quiet and not to stir the waters in Kosova. Therefore, the reason why Berisha subsequently decided to take the lead on its own and push the Kosova issue to become a gambit must not be sought in a burst of patriotic feeling that ‘his nation’s interests required it,’ but from his acute awareness that Albanian question was the only card he could play with some effectiveness to obtain money and political support for his authoritarian regime.

1.3.3. The Effect of Exclusion From Dayton Among the Albanians

Albanians got a library that nourished only false hopes. The opening of the library was interpreted as an excellent move by Miloshevic that by giving away ‘something,’ that is, a library, achieved many goals: it tranquilized the Albanians, reinforced the position of Rugova vis a vis the hawks on the Albanian side, including here the supporters of Berisha, and demonstrated sufficient interest for the Albanian cause in Belgrade and >from the West. The problem was that immediately after the Dayton Agreement, the EU countries rushed to recognize Yugoslavia unconditionally. The Germany decided that 120,000 Albanians from Kosova, who had arrived in Germany in the last few years and that were awaiting for their applications to received the status of the political refugees had to return to Serbia. Moreover, the Germany was going to pay Yugoslavia to receive these assilanten back. Italy rushed to sign a number of economic agreements with Belgrade. The Italian bid to become a Balkan power rested upon the uncontested assumption that Belgrade had to be the privileged Italian partner.
Only the US policy towards Belgrade remained strongly conditioned by the behavior of the Miloshevic regime in Kosova. Time and again, the US administration continued to send strong signals that Belgrade had to improve its treatment of Albanians for “the outer wall of sanctions to be lifted.” However, Albanians were arguing that if the international community had given up and had accepted the existence of “three states in one and each on its own” in Bosnia, what could forbid Miloshevic from doing the same to Kosova? Albanians saw no real international willingness to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Kosova from Miloshevic. For a number of Albanian intellectuals, the specter of partition and ethnic cleansing was becoming a real and eventual possibility.
Some of the Albanian leaders in Kosova were convinced that after the Dayton Agreement, the strategy adopted by the international community required as an absolute prerequisite a final solution to the Albanian national question. The only solution to uphold the Dayton Agreement required that Kosova remain in Serbia and that the Albanian question be solved in a way that would satisfy all the other Balkan states but the Albanians themselves. This is why after the signing of the Dayton Agreement, some Albanians traced its effects to their logical conclusion. When all is said and done, these intellectuals argued, although a rump and economically destroyed Albanian state might continue to exist on Western subsidies and as a harmless appendix of some other ‘caretaker’ state, Serbia would manage to keep Kosova, either entirely or, after some bloody ethnic cleansing, a huge part of it; Macedonia would keep Dibra and other Albanian territories, Montenegro would keep Ulqin, Hoti and Gruda, and the Greeks would claim, probably ‘successfully’ after a process of federalization of Albania itself, Southern Albania. In the long run, the effect of this solution–assuming a successful Serbization, Macedonization, and Hellenization policy just as Greeks had pursued with Albanians and the Bulgarians with Turks, Pomaks and Vlachs–the Albanians, as a political factor in the Balkans would disappear for good. The Albanian space has been shrinking since the Congress of Berlin in 1878; the acculturation experiment had been quite successful in these states, especially in Greece and so far, it appears that the process neither has been reversed nor has it been stopped.
The complete exclusion of the Albanians from a supposedly comprehensive peace agreement created great suspicions among the Albanian politicians within Albania, too. Some of them started doubting the real intentions of Western diplomacy with regard to the Albanian question. The fate of Bosnia, which was after all divided in three parts held together mainly by the political will of the US, became the haunting ghost of Albanian politics. Once the Albanian state plunged into anarchy in January 1997, many Albanians became convinced that this was something done by the West with the single purpose of finally destroying the Albanian state and achieving a political solution to the Balkan quagmire. Some Albanian politicians, such as the former President Salih Berisha, fueled the fire by insisting that there was a Western conspiracy to destroy the Albanian nation. It came of no surprise that the idea of an international conspiracy against Albanians gained ground steadily. In this context, the heavy involvement of the international community in Albanian politics during the Upheaval of 1997 was interpreted as another way of getting the desired results of destabilizing and weakening the Albanian state and getting rid of Berisha, who, unfortunately, was an amateur, shortsighted and an unstable politician. During and after the Communist revolution in Albania, rumors about plans to divide Albania between Greece and Italy, that allegedly had the support of the US government spread like fire in the woods. Other plans to divide Albania between Greece and Serbia were published in Macedonian and Italian press and given great publicity in Albania. And finally, seeking to improve the economy at any cost, the Albanian Prime Minister, Fatos Nano, declared that his government was willing to transform Albania in an Italian protectorate. The dissolution of the Albanian state and the coming to power of a cosmopolitan, pro-Greek and neo-Communist government, desperately interested only in achieving some kind of economic success, even at the expenses of the long term national interest, became the last straw for the Albanians in Kosova. In particular, the 90 minute long very friendly meeting between Miloshevic and Nano in Crete (arranged with the intermediation of Greeks), sealed their beliefs that the Albanian government was willing to sell them very cheaply.
The Albanians in Kosova could no longer hope for any kind of support from the Albanian state. Their perceptions were that this was also part of a major plan to break the unity of Albanians and to convince them that they belonged to several distinct groups that shared the same language but who had little in common with each-other. The goal of the international community, according to them, was to inculcate among the Albanians in Kosova and Macedonia the idea that they had more in common with the Serbs and the Macedonians than with the Albanians that were living in Albania. While the Albanians in Kosova and Macedonia became convinced that they were in fact different, the effect of that realization among the Albanians in Kosova was not resignation but a hardening of position manifested in a strengthening of their identity.
It was not only the insistence of the international community that Kosova must remain within the rump Yugoslavia which raised severe doubts about the intentions of the international community among the Albanians. In particular, Western emphasis on the stability of Macedonia was also questioned. How could Macedonia become stable if it continued to oppress and treat Albanians, who make up more than 35 percent of its population as third-class citizens? The Western emphasis on the necessity to maintain stability in Macedonia based on international security reasons appeared to the Albanians to be just another fake argument to hide the plan to eliminate Albanians as a political factor in the Balkans. If anything else, they argued, Macedonia would become a stable state only if it becomes the state of all of its citizens and not the exclusive state of ethnic Macedonians who in their opinion, were cleverly using the state to marginalize the Albanians and possibly eliminate them as a significant political factor in Macedonia.

1.3.4 Summing Up the Effect of the Dayton Accords

To sum up the argument, it must be noted that from 1990 to the signing of the Dayton Agreement, Albanians in Kosova, in the Albanian state, in Montenegro and Macedonia had an unshaken belief that the international community would finally come to realize that they deserved to have their state just as Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and Macedonians had theirs. When the Dayton Agreement was signed, the Albanians began doubting that the international community was willing to solve the Albanian question. After the explosion of the Albanian unrest, not only a major part of the Albanian elite but also a major part of the Albanian people became convinced that the international community did not want to solve the Albanian question in a positive way. In fact, Albanians became convinced that the international community had decided that they should be sacrificed for the sake of “regional peace and stability.”
While appearances were preserved, the authority of people that advocated unconditional collaboration with the international institutions and especially of those intellectuals that dared call the behavior of the international community positive, eroded fastly. The Albanians felt betrayed from their Ghandian non-violent elite and the indifference of the international community. In face of the unwillingness of the Serb regime to make any slight meaningful concessions, their position hardened and it appeared that the only viable option left to them to achieve any meaningful results was to fight. Although the appearances were preserved, it was clear that the strategy of the international community regarding Albanians, granted that in the Planning Bureaus of the Foreign Ministries there was a coherent, well-thought and co-ordinated plan of action for the next decade, had utterly failed. The strategy of the international community was based on gross misperceptions regarding the Serb cooperation, the Albanian expectations, their willingness to fight for Kosova, their willingness to support the integrity of Macedonia and their determination to become independent from Serbia.


To put it in a single phrase, the fundamental mistaken assumption of the policy pursued by the international community was that although it widely assumed that Kosova was a powder keg, none did not really believe that Kosova could possibly explode and that Albanians would fight. The analysts had concluded that Yugoslav Army was too strong, the Albanians had no guns, they were not united and, miraculously enough, the structuralist literary critic, Ibrahim Rugova, had managed to convert the Albanians, a people known for their excellent military traditions, in the Ghandian non-violence and a blissful belief in the benevolence of the West to their cause. Besides that, the Albanian state was a very weak state, its leadership was composed of mediocre amateur politicians of dubious legitimacy, desperately searching for the economic success and that could make no sense of the situation and the national interest of their own state. Even today, it is believed, and rightly so, that the current Albanian government is totally dependent on the credits, the loans and the benevolence of the West. Once the financial pipeline is closed, some analysts thought that the Albanians would starve and their government would get on its knees. The Albanians within Albania appeared to be absorbed on the problems of how to make a day to day living and the Kosova problem was not on their priority list. These were some strong reassurances that Albanians in former Yugoslavia were practically doomed to remain an integral part of Serbia and Macedonia. It seemed as if any international attempt to help Albanians in Kosova and Macedonia would fail anyway.

2.1 The Emergence of the Kosova Liberation Army

Yet, contrary to these expectations and causing great uneasiness among the international analysts and watchers, in August 1997, in Kosova emerged the KLA, a conspiratorial organization that, according to some reports, had been active since 1983. The KLA political program was contained in a single phrase: “the liberation of all Albanian territories from the Slav occupation.” It appeared that its fate would not be different from the Irish IRA with which it was routinely being compared in the international press. Before I examine its role in the political developments in Kosova, at the risk of repeating what I have already said, I wish to point out that there were four related processes that made its emergence possible. The first process is related to the inability of Rugova to get anything done. The Albanians in Kosova were getting tired, there were no results and the non-violence path was leading to nowhere. The international community pressured Rugova to talk to Miloshevic and Rugova was unable even to disagree on minor points. In this context, some cautious steps that were undertaken to build some confidence in the possible future Serb-Albanian dialogue served only to highlight the impossibility of any kind of agreement. For example, an agreement to allow education in the Albanian language signed by the Albanian and Serb representatives was not implemented mainly due to the Serb obstructionism. Albanians interpreted this as a clear sign of what was to be expected in the future. Serbs would sign any paper make any agreement and then continue to behave as if nothing had happened.
Secondly, the repression of Albanians in Macedonia, especially the brutality of the Macedonian police that killed several Albanians, wounded dozens of others and arrested over 400 peaceful demonstrators on July 12, 1997, and the Western acquiescence to that brutality had strengthened the Albanian suspicions that strong talk by the international community was really cheap. They believed that all what the international community really wanted was to avoid another Bosnia and to preserve the status quo at any price. Thirdly, as noted before, the destruction of the Albanian state was perceived by them to be part of a Western plan to eliminate the only outside support the Albanians in Kosova had. There was created an impression that they were left alone and that there were no reasons why they should expect anything from Albania. Fourthly, the Serb state became somewhat more active and after a long visit by Miloshevic in Kosova, it appeared clearly that for the Serb regime the time to solve the problem of Kosova had finally come. For a host of reasons, especially for the complicated relationship between Serbia and Montenegro, Miloshevic had to solve the Kosova issue as fast as he could.

2.2 Examining the Options for Kosova: Independence, Partition, or Colony?

We already have presented in a nutshell the only option considered by the international community and the think tanks in the various European capitals. That option excluded the independence for Kosova and insisted that the panacea was the future democratization of Serbia. They had ruled out any other option that could lead to the independence of Kosova from Serbia. The Europeans were crystal clear that, in this matter, they supported Serbia unconditionally. The US view was that Kosova should remain in a Yugoslav federation with broad autonomy. Even the United States, perceived by the Albanians to be their only supporter within the Contact Group and the international community’s organisms dealing with the Balkan, had ruled out the independence for Kosova.

2.2.1 The Albanian Proposals

The Kosova issue had been at the center of attention of the Serb and Albanian analysts throughout the conflict in Bosnia. Different plans to solve the Kosova knot were submitted and discussed by the Serb and the Albanian intellectuals. Among the Albanian intellectuals, Rexhep Qosja consistently had argued that Kosova must become a part of a unitary Albanian state. On the other hand, Adem Demaēi fancied that Kosova should become part of “a confederation of three, secular and sovereign states” that he named Balkania. Other intellectuals were willing to accept Kosova as part of Yugoslavia, albeit in a more decorous and elevated status. So did some former influential Titoist officials like Mahmut Bakalli, the Chairman of the Yugoslav Communist League for Kosova in the 70’s. As far as Rugova and his foreign policy adviser, Fehmi Agani, they were content to settle for the constitutional status of Kosova before 1989. However, they insisted that the final goal was independence of Kosova with a transitional period of two years under supervision from the international institutions.

2.2.2 The Serb Options: All Albanians Should be Sent to the Albanian State

Besides the view that Kosova had to remain part a centralized unitary Serb state favored by Vojislav Seselj, the most favored plan by the Serb side was the partition of Kosova. Following the initial plan of the nationalist writer Dobrica Qosic, the first President of rump Yugoslavia, the Serb academician Aleksandar Despic argued in June 1996 that the most likely solution was the partition of Kosova in two distinctive parts. According to this plan, the Serbs would keep Deēan and some other religious places, (an area that currently is being cleansed ethnically) including here the not-so-religious Mitrovica, a region ranked second in the world for its chromium reserves. Albanians would keep the rest of the territory including here Prishtina, an administrative city of about 600,000 inhabitants. Then, the status of the two parts of Kosova would be discussed in agreement with Serb and Albanian ‘motherlands.’
On the other hand, the Serb government, has insisted that it had to keep Kosova intact. The preparations were made with regard to two variants. With regard to the Qosic–Despic variant, the Serb government had insisted on the redrawing of the borders of the Kosova municipalities so that in case of partition in the Serb and the Albanian part within the Yugoslavia, Serbs would be in majority the largest number of municipalities possible; most of these municipalities would be in Northern part of Kosova. This would be an imitation of Dayton Bosnia, that is, Kosova would become a Republic with two distinctive parts with close links to “mother countries.” If that ever happened, Serbs were sure that Serbia would take the lion’s share and the future ‘Republic’ that would remain within Yugoslavia, would be politically paralyzed.
In the second variant, in case Serbia would lose the war with the Albanians, if the Albanians would ever dare fight, (and I have to note that in 1996, that appeared a remote possibility) then the goal of the Serb government was to cleanse at least the Western and the Northern parts of Kosova displacing and expelling between one million to one million and a half Albanians from Kosova by sending them to Albania. After the cleansing of these parts was achieved, then the status of Kosova could be discussed with the Albanians that would remain in Serb Kosova while the remnants of Southern Kosova, in the lower percentages of its actual territory would be attached to the Albanian state.

2.2.3. The Fight to the End Option

The peaceful and non-violent movement of Rugova had brought no results whatsoever to the Albanian cause. The regime of Miloshevic was not willing to give up anything, they were unwilling even to talk to the Albanians. There was but one option left to the Albanians who were seeking a swift solution and that was war. In a string of attacks on Serb police and Albanian collaborators of Serbia, the KLA drew international attention to the question of Kosova. The response of Rugova and the Democratic League of Kosova, was to label the KLA as terrorists or to insinuate that it was not clear for whom the KLA was working. The Albanian leadership in Prishtinė, continued to ignore the KLA and to pursue the Ghandian non-violent path to the ridiculous point of calling the KLA “terrorists.” Rugova and the party he leads, were supported by a significant part of the Albanian elite of Kosova. Although the non-violence was leading to nowhere, the international community supported and encouraged it while continued feverishly to push Rugova to talk to the Serbs who in turn refused to even talk about the talks forcing the dialogue to enter in a cul de sac.
The response of the KLA was to increase the number of attacks and their intensity. In a few months, the press was openly speaking about free zones controlled by the KLA in the Drenica region. No Serb police would dare go in these areas allegedly controlled by the KLA and its units. The string of successful attacks by the KLA, gave new hope to the Albanian population of Kosova that finally their situation might be resolved. It also became a major problem for the ‘constructive’ dialogue between Rugova and Miloshevic, who consistently refused to even consider meeting Rugova as the representative of Albanians. In turn, KLA attacks served as a pretext for the Serb regime to start solving the Albanian question. The conditions appeared to be quite favorable; the Albanian government, which was not able to assert its authority on the whole territory of Albania, had given assurances in Crete that it would accept any kind of solution. The Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano had explicitly stated that the Albanian government considered Kosova to be an internal matter of Yugoslavia. On the other hand, Rugova, who was insisting on a peaceful solution, was losing credibility. The whole matter was becoming complicated thanks to a collateral effect of the Upheaval of 1997 in Albania. Over 750,000 light automatic and semi-automatic weapons fell at the hands of the population within Albania. Small amounts were being transferred to Kosova and the KLA was expanding rapidly, claiming to have liberated parts of the Drenica region by February 1998.

2.3 The Serb Reaction to the Emergence of the KLA

The Serb impatience grew during the months of January and February 1998, when the intensity of KLA attacks increased and it became obvious that the status quo was finally going to change. The Serb regime was claiming that there were areas where no policemen would dare go and that the KLA was becoming “a threatening force.” Early in January 1998, the Third Corps of the Yugoslav Army stationed in Nish began moving troops and equipment to Kosova. So did the Second Corps dislocated in Leskovac. The Army Corps dislocated in Prishtinė was put on a state of alert. There were rumors about a considerable number of recruits and conscripts from Vojvodina and other parts of Serbia as well as paramilitary troops being prepared to be deployed in Kosova. While analysts were convinced that the Serb regime was about to conduct a military operation aimed at the pacification of Kosova, they were not sure about the extent of the operation; whether it would be just an expeditionary force whose only goal would be to restore the rule of Serbia on the Drenica region where the KLA units were active, or whether it would be the beginning of the final solution of the Kosova problem from a position of force.
The international community was getting very uneasy about the preparations by the Serb regime to punish the Albanian “separatists” and the KLA. Yet, probably assuming that a small scale operation would be successful, the international community implicitly gave the green light to a Serb expeditionary force whose operations zone would be limited in a few villages of Drenica, actually within the small county of Skėnderaj. On February 25 1998, the Ambassador Gelbard in a press conference in Prishtinė called the KLA “terrorists.” Miloshevic took it literally and a few days later, the Special Forces of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) and the Serb police, supported by helicopter gunships, and artillery surrounded the villages of Qirez, Prekaz, and Llaushė of the Drenica region. They razed to the ground entire quartiers of these villages. The brutality of the Serb attack aimed to struck terror in the hearts of the Albanians in Kosova; they literally slaughtered 80 people, most of them women and children, 13 members of the Ahmeti family and 47 relatives of Adem Jashari, the person who, according to the Serb police, was one of the KLA leaders in the Drenica region. The killing of unarmed civilians, mostly women and children, and the brutality of the actions of Serb police caused an international uproar. The Serb regime had intended to make the punishment of Qirez, Prekaz, and Llaushė an example for the rest of the Albanians in Kosova. Instead it fumbled badly in public relations. The international community reacted very quickly, at least verbally, and for a moment it seemed that the status quo would be restored quickly.
The massacres of Drenica brought Kosova at the attention of the international media and the policymakers. The international media disputed the existence of the KLA and many questioned the extent of its organization and its fighting capability. Insinuations were duly made that in fact, the KLA was an organization created by Serb secret service of Miloshevic to give him the much needed casus belli to quash the unarmed Albanians in Kosova, that many of its leaders were figures of a dubious past linked to Marxist-Leninists, that Iranians Chechens and Afghans were in fact those that were fighting in Kosova, to the argument that KLA were just groups of frustrated peasants and youth that were seeking to ignite the war against the Serbs in Kosova. Regardless of these guesses, the massacre of Drenica prompted many Albanian villages to be organized into militias whose main goal was the self-defense of their villages and homes. Albanian immigrants in Western Europe and the United States started to return home and the money collected by the Albanian Diaspora began to flow to the KLA. Within three weeks the situation in Kosova was radicalized. Independently of who had an interest to start the Serb-Albanian War in Kosova, the fact of the matter was that the War had already started. Albanians were totally unprepared. They not the backing of the Albanians state. They were unarmed and divided. There was no way for the Belgrade regime not to profit from the extreme weakness of the Albanian side.

2.4 The Serb Strategy in Kosova

Whatever the secret war plans of Belgrade were, the strategy followed by the Yugoslav Army (VJ) and the Serb police was unraveling some very disturbing intentions. The Serbs did not want to have another Bosnia in their hands. This time around, after they created a cordon sanitaire between Albania and Kosova, and especially after having sealed the Western and Southwestern parts of Kosova, they followed a strategy that since then it was repeated in one village after another with an extraordinary regularity. The first step is to surround any given village by massive numbers of the Serb Army and police troops. Once the Albanian women and children leave to go hiding in the mountains and the hills, then the Serb Army shells the houses until they are razed to the ground. If the people who are defending their homes are caught, they are summarily executed. Once there are no houses and no people left in the village army units leave for another village. In due time, it appears that the same scheme would be repeated in the rest of the villages of Kosova and the Plain of Dukagjini. When the winter will come, the males, that now are either fighting to defend their villages or that are hiding in the mountains, would not be able to resist longer so they too would follow their families in Albania. This process of ethnic cleansing does not repeat the mistakes of Bosnia and it does not cause a public relations blunder. Until the noise is heard, no powder keg has really exploded. It also is a very efficient tactic; so far over 200,000 people have become refugees within Kosova and over 40,000 refugees have already arrived in Northern Albania with little noise in the international media.


3.1 The Explosion of the Serb–Albanian War

While there was much talk about the Serb attack in Drenica and the problem of Kosova became the main topic of discussion in the Contact Group, the international community chose to do very little. On the other hand, after fortifying some key positions, the Serb Army interrupted operations for a few days because Belgrade wanted to let the international wave of protests quiet down. In response to the Contact Group meeting of March 24, 1998, Belgrade also announced that it was going to hold a referendum on whether or not, the international mediators should be allowed to participate as a third party in the talks between Serbs and Albanians. In several meetings of the Contact Group, Kosova was among the main topics discussed. The international community reprimanded Miloshevic for his actions, slapped with some final ultimatums, set some tough conditions, reimposed sanctions and then lifted them again. It fell short of committing troops for Kosova or upholding the Christmas warning given by President Bush and then repeated by President Clinton. There were concerns expressed by the international community. Strong as they were, the concerns were not policies, and therefore, they did no good to stop the killing. Although several measures were proposed and duly approved, they seemed more smoke than fire. None of the measures adopted by the Contact Group intended to stop Miloshevic and it was clear that these measures could not have the slightest effect on the policy of Belgrade towards Kosova. In essence, except for some cosmetic remedies or collateral actions, the policies adopted by the Contact Group paradoxically favored Miloshevic. Measures that aimed at the containment of the conflict and the avoidance of the spillover of the conflict in Albania and Macedonia, as well as the measures that aimed at limiting the fighting capability of the KLA by forcing the Albanian government to control the black market of lightweapons that were transferred from Albania to Kosova, were exactly what Miloshevic would have wanted. Without support from the Albanians outside Kosova and without weapons and ammunition, the KLA would remain isolated and at some point it would be defeated by the superior Yugoslav Army.
It is obvious that the strategy pursued by the international community even after the explosion of the Serb-Albanian War in Kosova did not substantially change. What changed was the reality on the ground. In about a month, the KLA swelled to 80,000 soldiers and its area of operations expanded rapidly. Some units of the Serb Army fought well but on the whole, the Serb Army was not able to defeat the poorly armed Albanian peasants defending their homes. It has become abundantly clear that unless Miloshevic razes to the ground every house and village of Kosova, unless he kills most of the Albanians living there, the Serb rule is not going to be restored in Kosova. The Serb regime has indicated that indeed, this is its goal. Kosova must remain within Serbia, regardless of the price in human lives and material destruction.
The strange beliefs of the international community that the Albanians would give up and recognize the Serb rule, that Rugova controlled Kosova and that he could cut a deal with Serbs, and that Albanians in Albania would not help Albanians in Kosova, were manifested in the insistence of the governmental representatives of the Contact Group that, be it as it may and whatever happens, Kosova had to remain part of Serbia. The Albanian peasants, who admittedly are neither military nor political experts, could have believed that, indeed, staying in Serbia might be the best solution for them to prosper and live in peace. However, faced with the terror, the shellings, the atrocious killings, the burning alive of their relatives, and threatened with death by the Serb Army, Serb police and the infamous paramilitary troops, the Albanian peasants started to fight for their lives. From that point on, it was clear that Kosova issue would be solved only in the battlefield and that the Serb–Albanian war had started. Even after the reality in the ground changed so radically, the international community’s strategy and its view of the Albanian issue did not change.

3.2 Problems with International Community’s Strategy

To elaborate on what I just said, it is obvious that there are a number of problems with the strategy adopted by the international community. The first problem is whether or not the containment strategy will be able to keep Albania out of war, if the war is prolonged. The second problem is whether or not, if the conflict is expanded, the Albanians in Macedonia could stay out of the conflict. The third problem is whether or not any large scale ethnic cleansing by Miloshevic could be kept out of the attention of the public opinion and media. The fourth problem is whether there is any political force, or a politician that could convince the KLA to get to the negotiating table with the Serbs. The sixth problem is related to the domestic political situation of Serbia and the ability of any Serb politician to solve the Kosova problem in an way that would be acceptable to the Albanians and the Serbs. The seventh problem is whether or not the international community has any kind influence left on either side. And finally, whether or not Bosnia will be the next domino to fall.

3.2.1 Why Albania Cannot Stay Out of the Conflict

It continues to be imperative for the containment policy to succeed that the Albanian state should not get involved in the War. For this reason, strong economic incentives, diplomatic pressure and political support for the government of Tirana, have brought some desired results. Nano was inclined to follow the Greek advice which was to stay completely out of the conflict. After a visit by the Assistant Secretary of State Strobe Talbot, the Albanian government and opposition took a more supportive stance towards Albanians in Kosova. They have complied in a very exemplary way with the requests of the international community. To assure the international community about its good will, the Albanian government has even requested the deployment of 7,000 to 20,000 NATO soldiers to control the Albanian-Yugoslav border, and especially the Albanian Army’s huge arsenals in the Northern part of Albania. In the opinion of the Albanian politicians, if NATO troops would take over the defense of these depots, the KLA cannot take any kind of armaments other than by fighting with the NATO troops. It follows that neither arms nor the people would be able to flow to Kosova. The gover>nment of Tirana several times has confiscated weapons bought in the black market and has arrested numerous activists from Kosova. Moreover, it has called upon the Albanians in Kosova to quit the fight. The Prime Minister Nano even has hinted that he could meet with Serb officials to discuss Kosova.
As far as the Albanian opposition is concerned, the former President Berisha, besides using some strong rhetoric, has done absolutely nothing to support the Albanians in Kosova. He is desperately seeking to regain the lost favor of the US and the international community. Berisha is using the issue of Kosova to improve his image and position in the Albanian political configuration. It is not unlikely that once Northern Albania shifts to the side that supports the KLA, Berisha might seek to draw some political advantages out of it and to behave as a national hero. For the moment, though, he is behaving politically correct and doing nothing significant to support the KLA.
Thanks to skillful diplomatic maneuvering and strong economic incentives offered to the current government of the Albanian state, it appears that, for now, the international community has managed to limit the spillover of the conflict to the neighboring Albanian state. The strategy adopted by the international community so far has been successful. However, it is far from clear that Albania can stay out of the conflict for too long. The Albanian government, composed of neo-communists, has come to power thanks to the Communist revolution of the 1997 that overthrew the regime of Berisha, another former hard-core communist turned authoritarian. The current government does not enjoy any kind of legitimacy in key areas such as Northern Albania. With 500,000 to 750,000 refugees expected to come from Kosova, it is impossible that Northern Albania could stay out of the conflict. For one, many of the Albanians coming from Kosova have parts of their families and relatives in Albania. Although there were not much communication between them during the years of Communist dictatorship, the current situation has reinforced the family ties. Secondly, even if the Northerners do not get into the conflict themselves, their region will be transformed into a place d’arme for Albanians from Kosova and the KLA.
The Albanian government, that barely controls the main towns of Albania, cannot muster enough police forces to control these areas and it cannot stop these processes. If the Albanian government cannot do that, then it is the Serb side which will seek to cleanse the Northern Albania from the KLA, causing a de facto involvement of the Albanian state in the war, and extending the front-line to include Montenegro and the Second Yugoslav Army with its headquarters in Podgorica. It is also a possible option that in response to this, the KLA will find it necessary to expand its operations in Albania changing its name to Albanian Liberation Army and transforming Albania itself in an operative zone. It is almost a surety that with little popular support, the current government will loose complete control of the key areas of the country. The decomposition of the Albanian state becomes an eventual possibility and then there has to be seen what kind of actions will be undertaken by Greece, who is particularly interested in this process, and Turkey.
The immediate effect, though, will be that the Albanian population will get involved in war and Northern Albania will become an area dominated exclusively by the KLA. Any further exacerbation of the conflict in Kosova will have as an inevitable consequence the involvement of Albania in the war. The major problem of the strategy adopted by the international community is that unless Kosova issue is solved quickly, Albania is bound to go to war.

3.2.2 Why Albanians in Macedonia Could Go to War

The second major problem is whether or not, the international community will be able to keep Macedonia out of the conflict. Refugees from Kosova that are headed in Macedonia, as well as the Albanians there that resent the Macedonian rule, could make the life for the Skopje regime very difficult. Macedonia does not have an well-equipped and well-trained army and it would be extremely difficult for them to contain the restive Albanian population which is sandwiched between Macedonia and Albania in a very compact rugged mountainous region. The perception that they are fighting against all the other Balkan states might be a powerful incentive for the Albanians in Macedonia to start fighting along their fellow Albanians from Kosova. Even in this scenario, the possibility that the Albanians in Northeastern Albania, especially in the regions of Mat, Dibėr and Kukės will be involved in the fight is greatly increased.
However, what could definitely blow Macedonia away is the expansion of conflict in Eastern Kosova. The flow of the refugees would be directed towards Dibėr, Tetovė, Gostivar, and Strugė destroying the fragile equilibria there. The presence of the NATO troops will not stop the fighting. The interested sides know that with a few bombs and casualties, NATO troops will take good care not to get involved in the clashes. The Serbs will take advantage of the situation and will seek to control Northern Macedonia and raid Albanian villages there. That would by the casus belli we are told Greeks, Bulgarians, Turks, Russians and the rest are eagerly expecting to start the Seventh Balkan War. I will refer the reader to the section 1.2.4 where I have briefly sketched the five possible scenarios that will lead to the destabilization of Macedonia.

3.2.3 Keeping Kosova Out of the Screen

Besides the containment of the Serb-Albanian War in Western Kosova, another great achievement of the strategy adopted by the international community is that differently from the War in Bosnia, it did manage to get the Serb-Albanian War out of the focus of the media and the international press very quickly. As a result, to the great convenience of the Serb side, for the international community, the Serb-Albanian War has became a secret and local guerrilla war. The visit of Rugova to Belgrade on May 15, 1998, when he went to talk to Miloshevic, as a Yugoslav citizen, without any international intermediaries and without making the withdrawal of the Serb army and security forces part of the package, took Kosova out of the focus of the press and the media. It gave to Belgrade valuable time and justifications for the ethnic cleansing that ensued later. It also took Rugova out of the political scene. The recent visit by Rugova to Washington, cannot remedy for his mistake to go Belgrade, just as any other loyal citizen of Serbia. After his visit to Belgrade, it is regrettable to note but Rugova has lost his influence. Right now, Rugova is a considered a puppet figure of the international community that does not enjoy any kind of respect among the Albanians in Kosova.
The silence from Albania itself has helped a lot. We see many refugees but no killings, no destruction, and no violence. Serbs have closed the Western Kosova hermetically. There are no news coming from that area. Although only in the town of Junik 5,500 houses were razed to the ground and many women and children were buried alive, there is little mentioning of facts like this in the international media. The impression that Albanians and Serbs are talking is mistaken but sufficient to keep the press away from the Albanian problem. Serbs are being prepared for a huge operation and the expansion of the front-line, the growing number of people killed, and the streams of refugees could remind many people of Rwanda and Bosnia and increase the public support, though not the governmental support, for the plight of the Albanians in Kosova.

3.2.4 The Albanian Mystery: Peasants, KLA and no Politicians

For all the brutality of the Serb Army, and Police, Miloshevic could not realize his goal of cleansing a large part of Kosova in a brief time, or initiating a wave of refugees that would have left Kosova for Albania. For all the might of the Yugoslav Army, it took Miloshevic three months to occupy some villages in the municipality of Deēan. He will soon have to involve into the fighting in Kosova, units from the First Army and the Second Army of VJ. In the next months, in the Serb view, the military crackdown will be decisive to determine whether or not the integrity of Kosova as it is, will be preserved.
However, the Albanian resistance has grown to about 80,000 fighters (and less than 50 percent of the Kosova territory is involved in the fighting). It is growing day by day and the front-line has expanded. KLA controls 40 percent of the territory of Kosova. It has become clear that Miloshevic has lost Kosova definitely unless he decides to keep it as a colony. Any future brutal crackdown in the Eastern part of Kosova, not only would have the effect of destabilizing Macedonia as I have already noted, it would have the effect of doubling, if not of quadrupling, the number of fighters and extending the front-line to include all of Kosova, Northern Albania, and Macedonia.
From the proclamations of the KLA it appears that their objective is set clearly and unequivocally. There is no realistic possibility that Kosova will continue to remain part of Serbia with the acquiescence of the Albanians, independently whether Serbia will become democratic or totalitarian, unless Kosova continues to be held occupied as a colony. Moreover, from the KLA point of view, it does not matter any longer whether or not Miloshevic will cooperate with the international community. He already has made it clear that he does not want to do that. It is precisely for that reason, that Miloshevic sought and managed to radicalize the situation in Kosova.
Miloshevic was unwilling to reach a compromise when it was the right time and when the Albanian elite in Kosova was willing to reach a compromise. By now, it is a whole new ball game. The KLA and the Albanian fighters, most of them armed peasants who have lost everything they had, will not accept to talk with Serbs. There is no real political leadership on the Albanian side that has enough authority to make even any tentative attempts to force some kind of Serb–Albanian settlement that could keep Kosova within Yugoslavia. All Albanian politicians in Prishtinė, including here Qosja and Demaēi, know fully well that there is no outside power that could convince the Albanian peasants to give up weapons and go back to paying taxes to Serbia unless they are defeated and killed in the battle. So far, the Serb Army has not been able to defeat them in the battle. The ranks of the KLA are growing rapidly and by the end of the summer one can expect it to have between 150,000 to 200,000 fighters ready for combat. The KLA controls over 40 percent of the territory and the movement is spreading in some towns, too. It does not appear likely that the KLA will look for some politicians in Prishtina to represent and to lead them in the negotiating table. There is intense activity in the Albanian political circles in Prishtinė to create some support for young Albanian politicians who might ‘tame’ the KLA and then sit in the negotiating table for the KLA. However, it is highly unlikely, that the KLA leadership would relinquish the political leadership of the Army. They will not accept to discuss the status of Kosova which means that the international community will be faced with the worst Balkan situation ever. Macedonia will fall, Bosnia will fall and all parties will pursue their interest. To start any negotiations with KLA, it is absolutely necessary to accept the independence of Kosova as a possible option, and probably, as the only viable option to save the region.

3.2.5 What Is Happening to the Serbs?

The strategy adopted by the international community is based on other mistaken assumptions regarding Serbia, its people, and its political leadership. First, it is often said that Miloshevic is a capricious and greedy authoritarian politician that is pursuing exclusively his own self-interest and that can flip-flop policies in an eye-beat. While there is nothing wrong with this assertion, what is quite often forgotten to be said is that Miloshevic has a clear goal in mind that, in the end, is the creation of a hegemonic Serbia. Only the hope of creating the “Greater Serbia” has kept the Serbs attached to him through these years. The economic sanctions, tough as they were, did nothing to slow down Miloshevic. It is almost certain that sanctions will not do no good, except to give a face lift to the international community. Can Miloshevic Bring Peace to Kosova?

It is not the goal of this paper to focus on Miloshevic per se; however, there is nothing to suggest that he has ever abandoned the goal of creating the “Greater Serbia” nor that he could abandon it in the future, especially with regard to Kosova. Arguments, such as, Miloshevic is the only person who could give to Kosova its independence, are true. However, scholars and analysts forget that this would be the end of Miloshevic’s political life. It follows from here that the international community should abandon this stance of wait-and-see what Miloshevic will do. The reconfirmation of traditional Serbo–Russian alliance and the strong support he continues to get from Greece and the European Union, show that under the circumstances, Miloshevic is playing his game very well. If the matters are left in the hands of Miloshevic, it is absolutely sure that he will not cooperate and that he will not give up anything except by force. Miloshevic has not gone on the record as a person that has given up under pressure from the international community. The Serb Opposition: Seeking Democracy Serb Style

Another mistaken assumption is to nourish hopes that the Serb politicians are divided on the issue of Kosova and some of them would agree to some kind of solution imposed by the international community. The role of the presumed ‘democratic’ Serb opposition is greatly exaggerated. None of the leaders of the Serb opposition parties, neither Vuk Drashkovic, nor Vesna Pesic, Gjingjic nor Vojislav Seselj, have ever doubted Miloshevic’s policy towards Kosova. If anything else, they are even more hard-liners than he is. The role of sanctions on the Serb military machine is highly exaggerated. Miloshevic does not need much military equipment to fight in Kosova. He already has signed a two billion dollars deal with Russia during December of 1997 and he already has received huge shipments of military material from Russia. However, deeds speak louder than the words; in this sense, it should come of no surprise if in the coming months we find all the Serb parties united in a government of National Serb Unity. Why the Serbs Refuse to Fight

The most astonishing fact, apparently ignored by the international community and one that throws doubts on the slogan of “Kosova as the central myth of Serb consciousness and the Serb nation” is that a considerable number of Serbs apparently do not want to fight in Kosova. During the Titoist times, for a lot of Serbs, Kosova belonged in another world that they heard about in the news. The fighting in Kosova has revealed that the Serbs do not appear to be as emotionally attached to Kosova as it is often being described. Otherwise, there would not be desertions and fighting in the Serb Army barracks. The ratio of Serbs to Albanians in Kosova has already fallen to one to fifteen. There are less than 120,000 Serbs left in Kosova. Their morale is pretty low and there are numerous reports of desertion from the Serb military. The more recent case of over 100 Belgrade policemen who refused to go to fight in Kosova is significant. The support for the war in Kosova is strong among the Serb colonists but not among people from Serbia proper or people from Montenegro.

3.2.6 Mistaken Assumptions, Misperceptions, or Aberration From the Norm

The strategy of the international community rests upon a mistaken assumption generated by the dominant institutionalist and modernization schools of nationalism which assume that the nationalist identity is a product of the anomie generated by modernization and skillfully manipulated by elites, that in another rational choice variant, are followed by rational individuals that calculate their gains and losses every fifteen minutes or so. The analysts and planners forget that the Balkans is a land where some people live between dreams and reality. It must be said that in the Balkans, in most cases, the people are not able to distinguish where reality begins and where the dreams end. This mystical orthodox state of mind, which is an aberration from the norm, is incomprehensible to the rational foreign Western analysts who, tend to consider it as just another temporary lapsus to be remedied by democracy and the free market. If the analysts and policymakers decide to wait for the Serbs, the Macedonians, the Albanians, the Bosnians, the Croats, and the Montenegrins to change their mind within the next year or so, and to see what great mistakes they are committing, then we also will have another situation like Bosnia. The exception to Bosnia will be that Albanians are a tougher nut to crack and they will create many more problems to the Serbs.
Moreover, the assumption that who controls the elites he controls the game, in this context, it is not entirely correct, especially in the Albanian context. While the argument advanced above could be used to support this claim, it also must be remembered that in these societies, the social organization is based on the Church, in the case of Serbs and on the extended family, in the case of Albanians. The individual, whoever, he is, cannot be charismatic in the Weberian sense. Therefore, the elite does not have the same weight as it does in other societies. The Albanian peasant uprising in Kosova has made it impossible for the Albanian elite to do other than attempt to control or channel the burst of popular sentiments. This means that first, they have to follow their people in order to be able to somehow lead them in the future. This takes time to be accomplished and no Albanian leader in Kosova has the credentials to convince the Albanian peasants to give up their weapons. Only the KLA has the power to do that but I find no convincing reasons why they should relinquish the political leadership of the Albanians in Kosova.

3.2.7 The International Community Cannot Be Trusted

As I have noted, after three months of the Serb-Albanian War, under constant pressure by the U.S., the international community has done some very good things: as integral parts of the carrot and stick policy there were some minor, yet, substantial, achievements. Such substantial achievements were the imposition of sanctions on the former Yugoslavia or the display of strength through joint Partnership for Peace and NATO military maneuvers in the region or the postponing of the membership of Yugoslavia in the IMF for another six months. Furthermore, no planes of the Yugoslav National Airline (JAT) will be allowed to land in certain Western airports. However, the economic sanctions do not stop the violence. In spite of all these efforts, the strategy pursued by the international community appears to be headed towards another failure because by now, neither the Albanians, nor the Serbs trust the international community.
The reasons for the Serb paranoia are well-known. The Albanian distrust in the fairness, the honesty, and the good intentions of the international community is a relatively new phenomenon that could have wide implications in the future for them and for the international community. The Albanians will continue to view the behavior of the international community with a great deal of suspicion. They have come to realize that Miloshevic has called the Western fulminations, sanctions, military demonstrations, and NATO meetings, a bluff. Miloshevic will continue to call them a bluff. In fact, in their opinion, Miloshevic was certain that the behavior of the international community was complacent to him, as long as he would manage to cleanse fast and without many civilian casualties some parts of Kosova. As a result, while for the last three months the international community was doing practically nothing to stop Miloshevic and it was allowing Serbia to get away with a full-fledged war with Albanians. The Albanians have lost their faith in the international community; their distrust in the international institutions is increasing with the mounting threats from NATO and other organisms that they will bomb and shell the KLA bases in Kosova.
The Serb and the Albanian distrust of the international community has hardened their positions and it has made the intermediating role of the international community more difficult. Throughout this analysis I have insisted on using the term ‘international community.’ Probably, the failure of the strategy might be due to the non-existence of such community. The Serbs are relying on Russia and the Yeltsinian “politika balshoj dublinski” (the big stick policy) to advance their claims on Kosova. They have given to Russians the much needed portual facilities in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic Sea. Strategically speaking, this would undermine any NATO expansion in the Eastern Europe making the Southern Europe very vulnerable. Strangely enough, the greatest support for the Serb cause is coming >from the European Union, especially from the Italians and the French. Considering the Albanians as their common enemy, Greeks and Serbs have cooperated intensively not to allow the creation of an Albanian state.
On the other hand, the Albanians have come to conclusion that they have no significant supporters in the international community. For ideological reasons, the European Union cannot accept the existence of an Albanian state. Numerous visits by high ranking US and European officials appear to have had the desired effect on the Turkish side. For one, Turkey has abandoned its position that in case Kosova was attacked, it would intervene militarily. It has become clear that Turkey does not want to risk its precarious position vis a vis the US and the European Union. It is high time for the United States to look after its long-term interests in the region. At the moment, it is in the United States vital interest that Kosova issue be solved as fast as possible and as fairly as possible. Considering the independence of Kosova as a possible option would not be neither unjustified nor unrealistic. In fact, considering the reality on the ground, the time for transversal policies is over. Unless the U.S. show some impartiality and fairness in this game, chances are that the Albanians might decide to look for support from other states and these might be the wrong places.


In this analysis I have examined the reasons why the policy pursued by the international community in the past could not prevent the Serb–Albanian conflict. I have argued that its fundamental assumptions are mistaken and that by insisting on the same objectives while the reality on the ground has radically changed, the international community’s Balkan policy is headed towards another downfall. The fundamental unchanged assumption of the international community’s strategy, the belief that a second Yugoslav experiment could be repeated successfully with Serbs, Montenegrins and Albanians is, under the current circumstances, extremely imprudent and unrealistic. The current containment and appeasement policy a la Münich will not work. Furthermore, I have argued that the longer the Serb–Albanian War lasts, the more the chances are increased that a part of the Albanians in Albania, if not even the Albanian government itself, will have no other choice but to support the Albanians in Kosova and fight on their side. At the regional security level, the expectations are that in case the war spreads, all of the Balkans will blow up, involving in this war Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Any further escalation of the conflict in Kosova will have a domino effect on Bosnia. The “three in one and each on its own” solution will not hold. While the Serbs will have their hands full fighting in Kosova, Bosnians, Croats, the Muslims of Sandjak, and Montenegrins, will seek to make the best they to get back to the Serbs and to each-other. This is the way hell could break loose once again in the former Yugoslavia.
For the time being, there is no possible way to force the Albanians of Kosova to live in a common state with the Serbs that want all of them out of Kosova. Therefore, the option of the independence for Kosova must be seriously considered by the international community. In the future, Albanians and Serbs might have excellent relations. It must be clear to the international community that, at this moment and in the immediate future, there are no realistic chances that these two peoples could live together in a single state. I have argued that Kosova’s claim to independence is well-justified, that for the Albanians who make up the overwhelming majority of the population, Kosova is the cradle of their nation. I also have argued that the fears of the international community that Kosova’s independence might have serious regional implications are unfounded and based upon an erroneous reading of the Albanian situation. If anything else, the prolongation and the intensification of the conflict will have disastrous consequences for the region. If the conflict is prolonged and the front-line is expanded to Eastern and Southern Kosova. the spillover of war to Macedonia and Albania is inevitable. The consequences will be exactly what the current policy of the international community claims that is seeking to prevent from happening.
There is growing distrust among the Albanians in the fairness of the international community. Their experience has convinced them that the international community does not necessarily give the same weight to the same principles in different circumstances. The post-Dayton period has been a period charged with tensions and Albanians have reached the point where they will not consider the intervention of the international community except as a hostile intervention. The recent threats issued by high NATO officials have strengthened their belief that the international community is there to prevent them from achieving their goal of full independence of Kosova.
Finally, the solution of the Kosova problem can come about without the international community’s involvement. The failure of the international community’s strategy, supported by ample evidence in this analysis, begs for some serious reconsiderations. Under the present conditions, if the international community wants to intervene and to succeed in solving the Kosova issue, it should also take into serious consideration the possibility of the independence of Kosova.
It is clear that for the Serbs, Kosova is definitely lost. The attempts to divide and partition Kosova are bound not only to lead to the destabilization of Macedonia, they also will lead to an involvement of Albania in a peasant and guerrilla war that it will be very difficult to stop without heavy casualties. The likely outcome of that scenario is hard to predict. What is worth mentioning here is that, given the geostrategic position of the peninsula, and in particular, the key geopolitical position held there by the Albanians, one might say with some certainty that the failure of the international community to adopt a strategic approach that might lead towards a realist and definitive solution of the Albanian problem in the former Yugoslavia, that is, at least, the acceptance of the independence of Kosova as a possible option is bound to have grave consequences for the long term interests of the powers which have vital interests in the region. This is especially true for the long term interests of the United States.
The Albanians will not have the kind of political class they have now for too long. The emergence of KLA and the growing distrust in the intentions of the international community are indications that the emergence of a political class which will be extremely realist in its foreign policy assumptions is more likely, especially when one considers that the future Albanian politicians will come from a traditional non-Hoxhaist background. The consequence of the failure of the international community to act properly is that its ability to influence the future developments in Albania and the Balkan will be greatly hampered. With their state, or without any state, Albanians will continue to be a factor of primary importance in the region and for the security of Europe and the Mediterranean basin.

1 “According to some polls 99% of the Albanians in Kosova does not believe to Slobodan Miloshevic; 98% does not believe to Serb parliament anbd to the Serb Army; 96% does not believe to the Chief Justice of Yugoslavia; 87% does not believe at all the Serb Radio-TV. Out of the 11 models proposed to solve the Kosova issue, 98 % of Albanians want independence of Kosova; 68% wants an international protectorate, 60 % want to unify with Albania and if none of the above is achieved, 51% want a special status with international warranties.” Vreme March 21, 1998.
2 Kosova was declared an independent Republic on July 2, 1990. See “Constitutional Declaration of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosova,” The Truth on Kosova Tiranė: Shtėpia Botuese Enciklopedike, 1993:329
3 Paula Tscherne-Lempiäinen, From Autonomy to Colonization: Human Rights in Kosovo 1989-1993. Vienna: International Helsinki Federation, 1993.
4 The Serb government used the general strike of the Albanian workers of September 3, 1990 in which participated over 200.000 workers as a pretext to fire all the Albanians and to replace them with Serbs.
5 For an introduction to Rugova’s personal belief system see Ibrahim Rugova, La Question du Kosovo: Entretien avec Marie-Franēoise Allain et Xavier Galmiche, Paris: Fayard, 1994.
6 See Susan Woodward, Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution After the Cold War Washington, D.C.: The Brooking Institution, 1995:306
7 See Mero Baze, Realitete Shqiptaro-Amerikane Koha: Tiranė, April 1997:40-47
8 Milutin Milenkovic, “Kosovo na Srbija o..?” in http://www.yugoslavia.com or Kosova in Serbia o...? in http://www.ecn.org/est/albania/approf/albart41.htm.
9 “Srbi i Albanci” Vreme March 21, 1998
10 Noel Malcolm, “The Past Must Not Be Prologue. Kosova Challenges the West to Learn from the Mistakes of the Past.” Time Magazine May 3, 1998.
11 Malcolm, Ibid. See James Gow, Triumph of the Lack of the Will: International Diplomacy and the Yugoslav War. London: Hurst, 1997:75–77; see also, Peter Radan, “The Badinter Arbitration Commission and the Partition of Yugoslavia,” Nationalities Papers Vol. 25 1997:537–557.
12 Stefan Troebst, Conflict in Kosovo: Failure of Prevention? An Analytical Documentation. Working Paper No.1 EMCI: Flensburg, 1998: 47.
13 The former US Ambassador in Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmermann has been one of the strongest supporters of this argument. See his book, Origins of a Catastrophe. New York: Times Books, 1996; See also Morton Abramowitz, “Ominous Rumblings From the Balkans.” Washington Post February 16, 1998: A27
14 See Guilgliemo Adam Brocardus, “Directorium as Passagium Faciendum ‘Historiens des Croisades,’” in Historiens Armeniens, II p. 484–485; Selami Pulaha, “On the Aucthocthony of Albanians in Kosova” The International Journal of Albanian Studies Volume 2 Number 1 Spring 1998: 35-73; Alain Ducellier, “Les albanais ont-ils envahi le Kosovo? L’Albanie Vol. 2 Number 13 Paris Juin 198: 1-14; H. Hadzibegic, A. Handzic, E.Kovacevic, Oblast Brankovica, Sarajevo, 1972.
15 Selami Pulaha, Popullsia Shqiptare e Kosovės gjatė shekujve XV–XVI Shtėpia Botuese ‘8 Nėntori’: Tiranė, 1984; Skėnder Gashi, “Prania e shqiptarėve nė krahinėn e Gallapit, Moravės e tė Serbisė Jugore nė gjysmėn e parė tė shekullit XV (1411–1438) nė dritėn e materialit onomastik.” Gjurmime Albanalogjike (Seria e Shkencave Filologjike) Vl Prishtinė, 1978: 103–119. Selami Pulaha, “Qytetet e Rrafshit tė Dukagjinit dhe tė Kosovės gjatė gjysmės sė dytė tė shekullit XVI nė dritėn e tė dhėnave tė reja tė regjistrimeve kadastrale osmane.” Studime Historike Number 4 1980: 201–202. For the Turkish census and cadastral registrations made in 1457 or immediately after see Tapu ve kadastro umum müdürügünün arsivi, defteri mufassal liva–i Prizren, Number 55 p. 13–17. Defteri mufassal liva–i Dukagin Number 63 page 41; defteri mufassal liva–i Iskenderiye number 59, pages 141–144; defteri mufassal liva–i Vuēitern number 124 p. 1–7; Ibid. p. 95–97; Ibid. p. 112–115; Ibid. p. 229–231; Ibid. p. 311–315; Published in Studime Historike Number 4 1980;
16 Noel Malcolm,
17 Stefanaq Pollo, “Lidhja Shqipare e Prizrenit dhe lufta e saj pėr ēlirim e bashkim kombėtar.” E vėrteta mbi Kosovėn dhe Shqiptarėt ne Jugosllavi,” Akademia e Shkencave: Tiranė, 1990:152-173; Stefanaq Pollo, Lidhja Shqiptare e Prizrenit 1878-1881 “8 Nėntori” : Tiranė, 1978.
18 See Pranvera Bogdani, “Kosova nė shtetin feudal shqiptar tė Balshajve.” E vėrteta mbi Kosovėn dhe Shqiptarėt ne Jugosllavi,” Akademia e Shkencave: Tiranė, 1990: 109-122;
19 Selami Pulaha, “On the Aucthocthony of Albanians in Kosova,” IJAS vol. 2 No. 1 Spring 1998:40-45 (35-74).
20 Ibid.
21 For the best description of the demographic situation of Kosova see Hivzi Islami, Rrjedha Demografike Shqiptare Prishtinė, 1994; Ecuria e numrit dhe shtrirja hapėsinore e popullsisė shqiptare ne trojet etnike tė ish-Jugosllavisė. Instituti Ekonomik: Prishtinė, 1995; Hivzi Islami, Kosova dhe Shqiptarėt, Prishtinė, 1990; Asllan Pushka, Trendet Demografike ot Popullsisė shqiptare” Shekulli XXI New York: Gjonlekaj Publishing Co., 1996:57-61;
22 Hivzi Islami, Kosova dhe Shqiptarėt, Prishtinė, 1990.
23 About the role of Miloshevic in upholding the Daytion Agreement see Morton Abramowitz, “Ominous Rumblings From the Balkans.” Washington Post February 16, 1998: A27
24 Warren Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe. New York: Times Books, 1996: 81
25 Alexander Kyrou, “American Foreign Policy Ambitions in the Balkans,” Mediterranean Quarterly, 1995
26 Fabian Schmidt,”Teaching the Wrong Lesson in Kosovo,” Transitions, Vol. 2 No.14 July 12, 1996:37-39.
27 After the elections of May 26, 1997, Berisha gave several inflamatory speeches in Strassburg and Madrid. He insisted that after the Dayton Accords, the time to solve the issue of Kosova had come. Rilindja Demokratike June 25, 1996
28 See Shinasi A. Rama, “Failed Transition, Elite Fragmentation and the Parliamentary Elections of June 29, 1997” in The International Journal of Albanian Studies Volume I Number I Fall 1997:92 (82-125)
29 One of the harshest critics of Rugova, Rexhep Qosja, declared that the policy pursued by Rugova was a complete failure. Qosja argued that Albanian question was being sacrificed for the sake of “regional peace and stability.” Bota Sot, November 27, 1995:2 Quoted in Elez Byberaj, Albania in Transition:The Rocky Road to Democracy Bouder: Westview Press, 1998:252
30 See Afrim Krasniqi, Rėnia e Demokracisė Eurorilindja: Tiranė, 1997; Mero Baze, Realitete Shqiptaro–Amerikane, Koha: Tiranė, April, 1997; Aleksandėr Meksi, Pėrmes Fjalės sė tij. Luarasi: Tiranė,1997
31 Bashkim Gazidede, Official Report to the Albanian Parliament March 26, 1997 (The entire speech has been recorded in a tape in the possession of the author); “President Sali Berisha promised Sunday, half an hour after the emergency rule was established in the country, he will use iron fist against the ‘red terrorists supported by foreign intelligence services.’” Altin Fortuzi, “Berisha Pledges Iron Fist Against ‘Red Terror.’” Albanian Daily News Number 484 March 3, 1997:2. The authoritative Italian daily La Stampa reported, “... recentemente gli Stati Uniti hanno ammonito Atene a non immischiarsi nel conflitto albanese.” Ingrid Badurina, Un Piano do Spartizione dell’Albania La Stampa March 20, 1997: 2
32 Ibid. See also the Daily Report from Kosova Information Center of March 12, 1997. (In Albanian Language)
33 This was the argument advanced by Rexhep Qosja, had argued that the Albanian question was being sacrificed for the sake of “regional peace and stability.” Bota Sot, November 27, 1995:2
34 This is the result of several surveys conducted by various international institutions. In a survey conducted by the USIA, when asked whether the Albanians in Kosova and the Albanians in Albania were different, somewhat similar, akin, or one of the same nationality, 19% of the respondents said they were different, 26% somewhat similar, 33% akin, and only 19% one and the same. USIA, Office of Research and Media reaction, “Albanian Public Prepared to Defend Kosova” Opinion Analysis, M-69-96, 1 April 1996:1. Quoted in Elez Biberaj, Albania: The Rocky Road to Democracy, Westview Press, Boulder,1998:274
35 The full text of Balkania could be found in
36 Here it is worth mentioning Veton Surroi and Shkėlzen Maliqi. Both belong to the young generation of Albanian politicians in Kosova.
37 “Rugova Calls for International Protectorate.” RFE/RL Newsline, Volume 2 No. 21 Part II, February 2, 1998.
38 Zoran Lutovac, “All Kosovo Options.” Vreme May 10, 1997.
39 Gazmend Pula, “The Serbian Proposal for the Partioning of Kosova–Accents of Albanian Reaction.” Südosteuropa Vol.45 1996:639-642.
40 Zoran Lutovac, “All Kosovo Options.” Vreme May 10, 1997
41 La Repubblica, March 6, 1998
42 That was the opinion of an anonymous The Economist analyst in “Catastrophic Kosovo: The West Must Get Tougher with Slobodan Miloshevic,” The Economist, March 7, 1998:18

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