Unlikely Angels? Non-Humanitarian Factors Behind NATO Involvement
NATO came to the negotiating table with three basic economic objectives in Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999: (1) to dismantle Yugoslavia’s competing socialist economic system, (2) to gain control of valuable mineral resources, and (3) to command the site of a future energy distribution network.
Chossudovsky (2003) argues that NATO sought to dismantle the socialist economic system in Yugoslavia. He notes that Western intervention in Yugoslavia prior to the Kosovo Crisis was not limited merely to the diplomatic maneuvering described by Galbraith. In fact, a Reagan-era document from 1984, National Security Decision Directive [NSDD] 133 - "U.S. Policy Towards Yugoslavia," encouraged the dismantling of its communist system:
A censored version, declassified in 1990, elaborated on NSDD 64 on Eastern Europe issued in 1982. The later advocated "expanded efforts to promote a ‘quiet revolution’ to overthrow Communist governments and parties," while reintegrating the countries of Eastern Europe into a market-oriented economy.
Chossudovsky further asserts that IMF "economic medicine" in Yugoslavia, a country already devastated through debt-restructuring, weakened its welfare state institutions. This austerity program amplified weaknesses in Yugoslavia’s ethnic fault line, serving to destabilize the country. "Secessionist tendencies, feeding on social and ethnic divisions, gained impetus precisely during a period of brutal impoverishment of the Yugoslav population." Additionally, Parenti (2000) argues, "Of the various Yugoslav peoples, the Serbs were targeted for demonization because they were the largest nationality and the one most opposed to the breakup of Yugoslavia." Pilger (2004) noted that as the last socialist economic system in Europe, Yugoslavia faced negative pressure from the West. In the lead up to the Kosovo crisis, before the press began the media campaign about the Kosovar Albanians, Tony Blair’s main concern towards Yugoslavia was about its "failure to embrace ‘economic reform’ fully." Finally, Chossudovsky mentions that NATO’s "peace" proposal to Yugoslavia before the bombings required that "the economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles."
Before the NATO bombing, the World Bank had already created economic forecasts based on a crisis situation in Kosovo. It, together with the European Commission, was assigned to provide economic aid in the Balkans. However, the World Bank decided that Yugoslavia was not to receive any aid until "political conditions there change."
In regard to mineral resources, as Lydall briefly noted, Kosovo is home to "substantial deposits of lignite and non-ferrous metals." Indeed, Kosovo’s mineral possessions in the Trepca mining complex are quite substantial, and have continuously been a focus of ethnic conflict.
Describing this focus a year before the NATO intervention, New York Times columnist Chris Hedges labeled northern Kosovo’s mines, rich in "lead, zinc, cadmium, gold and silver," as the "Kosovo war's glittering prize." According to one mine's director, Novak Bjelic, "the [ethnic] war in Kosovo is about the mines, nothing else. This is Serbia's Kuwait -- the heart of Kosovo." Hedges described the millions of tons of valuable metals produced by the Trepca mine complex in the three years preceding his article, the strategic role of these resources in military infrastructure from the Second World War to the present, and Kosovo’s "17 billion tons of coal reserves." He also recounted the ethnic conflicts between Serbs and Albanians over the mines where, for example, the $5 billion-dollar mine complex itself became a centre of Albanian militancy.
One month following the NATO intervention, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo [UNMIK] gave itself the authority to administer FRY and Serbian assets in Kosovo. A think-tank, the International Crisis Group [ICG], then published a report on Trepca stating that UNMIK should "take over the Trepca Mining Complex from the Serbs as quickly as possible and explained how this should be done." The Trepca mines were occupied in 2000 by UN peacekeepers on the grounds that the mines posed an environmental hazard, and were turned over to the Washington Group, a large U.S. defense contractor with partners in France and Sweden.
Some argue that NATO is also seeking to control certain areas in the Caspian Sea in order to secure the route of a key oil pipeline. The World Socialist Web Site in particular has been one major proponent of this argument (though the credibility of the WSWS lacks general public acceptance compared to a more mainstream source). In order to reduce its dependence on imported Middle East oil, the WSWS argues, the U.S. has targeted Caspian oil. A $1.3 billion dollar oil pipeline will cross the Caspian in order to serve this purpose.
In April 1999, British General Michael Jackson, the commander in Macedonia during the NATO bombing of Serbia, explained to the Italian paper Sole 24 Ore "Today, the circumstances which we have created here have changed. Today, it is absolutely necessary to guarantee the stability of Macedonia and its entry into NATO. But we will certainly remain here a long time so that we can also guarantee the security of the energy corridors which traverse this country."
The WSWS in other articles, along with many anti-war commentators, also argues that NATO seeks to fill a power void in Eastern Europe caused by the collapse of the USSR. Its own imperial ambitions necessitate the elimination of sovereignty and competing systems in strategic zones throughout the world. Looking at the bigger picture in the Balkans, it has quoted U.S. strategists such as Mortimer Zuckerman, who warned,
The region of Russia's prominence—the bridge between Asia and Europe to the east of Turkey—contains a prize of such potential in the oil and gas riches of the Caspian Sea, valued at up to $4 trillion, as to be able to give Russia both wealth and strategic opportunity.
The role of NATO as an international military force was also a factor. After the break-up of the USSR, NATO faced an identity crisis and a challenge to its legitimacy and raison d’etre. Chomsky argues that NATO fought to maintain its "credibility," or Washington’s ability to use force to resolve international disputes. He quoted National Security Advisor Samuel Berger, who "listed among the principal purposes of bombing ‘to demonstrate that NATO is serious.'" One European diplomat mentioned how "inaction" would have cost NATO "credibility" at its 50th anniversary. And Tony Blair stated, "To walk away now would destroy NATO’s credibility."
During the Rambouillet negotiations before the Operation, NATO strongly desired intervention on its own terms, even though strife might have been avoided through intervention by other bodies. Yugoslavia was willing to accept a UN or OSCE-led peacekeeping force. But Madeleine Albright asserted, "We accept nothing less than a complete agreement, including a NATO-led force." Two days later, she stated "It was asked earlier, when we were all together whether the force could be anything different than a NATO-led force. I can just tell you point blank from the perspective of the United States, absolutely not, it must be a NATO-led force. This attitude, in combination with NATO’s sabotage of the Rambouillet talks (discussed below), seriously undermines any U.S. or NATO claims that it open-mindedly sought a peaceful solution in good faith.
Ignatieff claims that NATO intervention in Kosovo occurred not just for "humanitarian" reasons, but also to implement stability and assert American dominance over NATO. Because this essay demonstrates that NATO contributed to the very opposite of stability, the U.S. push to dominate NATO appears predominant.
As NATO supporter David Fromkin argues, "To preserve credibility, a great power that starts an intervention must carry through to victory." He described arguments in 1999 that the great power must "back up its words with deeds and its requests with armed force." Fromkin reminds the reader, however, that "it was not to keep our credibility that most Americans supported [the bombing]. It was to save a million or more people from horrors, suffering, and death." This common claim will be examined in the following sections of this essay.