Kosovo is to set up a regular standing army, officially defying everyone, including NATO, although the bloc’s objections are only half-hearted. The alliance would prefer that the illegal entity of Kosovo change its constitution in order to create an army. Just amend it, and then you’re free to have one. This stance looks more like connivance than any real opposition to the move.
Washington’s position is more or less the same. It supports “the gradual, transparent transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into a multiethnic force in line with NATO standards” as long as it complies with the provisions of Kosovo’s constitution, reflecting that “entity’s multiethnic democracy.” That sounds like an approval with a caveat. In March, US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, Wess Mitchell, went so far as to say that Kosovo “has the right to form professional forces” and that this would not pose a threat to Serbia or Kosovo’s Serbs. In his opinion, “Nobody can place a veto on Kosovo’s right to develop its armed forces.” If that’s not offering a green light then what is?
Kosovo’s Albanians enjoy political support among US lawmakers. Congressman Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, is known as the Kosovo Albanians’ ambassador to the US without a portfolio. His name is on street signs there and his image adorns postage stamps. He was responsible for an attempt to impeach President Trump, after which Mr. Engel promptly did an about-face to hail the president’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. As the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, he has done a lot to spoil US-Russia relations.
The creation of a regular military force in Kosovo is a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. That document states explicitly that no other military presence except KFOR and Serbia’s Army shall be permitted without the mandate of the UN Security Council. The very declaration of independence in 2008 by Kosovo’s parliament was a flagrant breach of that resolution, because no referendum had been held.
The establishment of the force also contravenes the Florence Agreement (Article IV of the 1996 Dayton Peace Accords), which says that regional stability should be maintained with the assistance of the OSCE. The formation of a standing army in Kosovo would mean that a military force was being created within the territory of Serbia, which was a party to the Florence agreement. This is illegal but the president of Kosovo has been pushing hard to achieve this goal. “No turning back,” he says. The plan would increase the number of active-duty lightly armed regular forces to 5,000 and reservists to 3,000 — a considerable force to contend with.
And what do you think justifies such urgency? According to the leader of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, the threat is coming from “the Russian military bases in Serbia, from Russia’s MIG jets in Serbia and from the Russian military exercises in Serbia.” So it’s Russia again! But Belgrade is free to possess and purchase any warplanes it wants. Has anyone ever heard of any military exercises being conducted by Russia in Serbia that are large enough to pose a threat to other countries? Or of military bases? Could Mr. Thaci name at least one to prove his point? No, because Russia has no “bases” there and, unlike NATO, it does not conduct military activities in the region. The Russian threat is clearly a fantasy that serves as a pretext for this gross violation of international law that is fanning tensions in the Balkans.
Here is another angle that should be kept in mind. If this military force is created, it will be under the command of a man who has been involved in the illegal trafficking of human organs in Kosovo, as stated by the 2010 Council of Europe report. A standing army headed by a criminal? So, “NATO land” is going to set up a military force led by someone with an extremely dubious reputation. This is all happening in broad daylight with little media coverage!
No US or NATO official has ever commented on this fact. They always shy away from such thorny issues.
Moreover, the commander of KFOR, Italy’s General Salvatore Cuoci, stated on April 7 in an interview with Pristina’s daily newspaper Zeri that any aggression in Kosovo would be tantamount to aggression against NATO. Let’s unpack that for a minute. Kosovo is covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Essentially this illegal entity has become a part of NATO. Unlike in Crimea, no referendum has been held. This is clearly and unambiguously expressed in his statement — Kosovo has been annexed by the bloc. The general added that his command will provide security at those times when the police can’t control the situation.
The plan will entail significant consequences. It is vehemently opposed by Serbia and the ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo. Continuing terrorist activities may prompt the Serbian Army to intervene. The West could have easily prevented this turn of events. It will have to face up to its responsibility for whatever ensues. Moscow has issued warnings to this effect.
The situation in Kosovo is a glaring example that illustrates how little respect the West has for the international law that it insists others must honor. A part of Serbia has been snatched away to create a territory controlled by NATO. But that does not prevent Western leaders from pontificating about the need to play by the rules in the world today. Is there a better example of hypocrisy?
Originally published on 2018-05-10
Author: Peter Korzun
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation
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