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Mattis NATO ultimatum stutters European collective defence moods

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Mattis NATO ultimatum stutters European collective defence moods

Contributor: Pola Zafra-Davis

Posted: 02/22/2017

Comments on the US’s conditional commitment to NATO by Def. Secretary General Jim Mattis, in spite of later reassurances from himself and VP Mike Pence, have been met with strong reaction by European leaders.

Responses so far have ranged from agreement and support from the UK’s Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, to the steadfast resolve of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in stating that Germany does not plan to accelerate the 2% spending goal sooner than the 2024 deadline agreed upon during the 2016 NATO summit in Wales.

Reaffirmations of US support in NATO soon followed. But despite Mattis, Tillerson and Pence’s attempts to dampen anxiety, the renewed comments on burden-sharing signals uncertainty for European leaders on how much they can depend on the alliance and the Trump administration. The American January and February statements to the press in Brussels and in Munich come at a time when Europe’s defence and security is being stretched to new extremes between refugee migration in the South and a resurgent Russia in the East.

Timeline of Events

Last Wednesday, General Mattis rattled Europe by issuing what appeared to be an ultimatum for the NATO 2% GDP benchmark of defence spending. The statement “No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values…Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do” was made during a meeting with NATO defence ministers in Brussels. Mattis also gave a strict deadline that the spending has to reach 2% by the end of the year or the US would ‘moderate’ its support in NATO operations.

The pressure towards an increase in NATO contributions came a month after President Trump’s described NATO as obsolete during an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper and the Times of London.

"Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago," he said. "Number two, the countries weren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying".

Allegations by the US on European under-spending on defence came after NATO President Jens Stoltenberg’s encouraging words at a pre-ministerial press conference. He claimed that, overall, NATO members have increased their defence spending by 3.8% from last year an increase of approximately $10bn. But presently, only four European NATO members have met the 2% guideline: Estonia, the UK, Greece and Poland.

In a global context, relative to other global powers, Europe’s defence budget has been in steady decline since 2005. From 2005 to 2015, overall defence spending in the EU 27 dropped 11% and landed at it lowest levels of GDP contribution at an average of 1.4%. This amounts to decreases of 2bn euro per year over the past 10 years. This sits is in stark contrast to the US contribution, which has invested twice as much in defence spending, contributing 4.5% of its GDP.

US attempts to reassure European Allies at the Munich Security Conference

After the NATO Brussels meeting, the Munich Security Conference (17-19 February) saw Mattis take a less severe tone. Mattis addressed the audience of military leaders and lawmakers on Friday, saying “The reality is that American security is permanently tied to the security of Europe”

He added that “it is a fair demand that all who benefit from the best alliance in the world carry their proportionate share of the necessary costs to defend our freedoms."

At the same conference, Pence reassured European Allies on Saturday:

"Today, on behalf of President Trump, I bring you this assurance. The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to our transatlantic alliance."

Participants have noted that despite the calming tones, the high-level US delegation made no mention of Russia, Iran, Syria, or China. This has supported some commentators’ previous views that the Alliance has lost its shared values, a sense of purpose or common vision. Instead, more cynical voices view NATO as being used on a transactional basis between the US and European countries with Europe ‘buying’ the US’s commitment through defence spending.

On Saturday 18 Feburary, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault lamented in a tweet that Michael Pence spoke of unity at the Munich Conference but made no mention of the European Union. The omission of Europe’s supranational political and economic bloc from the dialogue indicates a division in transatlantic attitude.

Europe…poised to stand on its own?

Image courtesy of the European Defence Agency

Juncker followed Mattis’s statements with a call to “bundle their (Europeans’) defence spending better and spend the money more efficiently,” while also denouncing the ultimatum by remarking, “I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this."

Even prior to Trump’s electoral victory last November, European NATO members already started developing action plans for greater defence cooperation amongst themselves. European leaders have touted Europe-wide initiatives since summer 2016 and the September Bratislava Summit. These initiatives included plans to create an EU defence planning headquarters, an increase in R&D cooperation in defence technologies, and the creation of a European defence fund.

On November 2016, the EU Commission unveiled the European Defence Action Plan (EDAP), a three-pillared plan to a) launch a European Defence Fund, b) foster investments in defence supply chains and c) reinforcing a Single Market for Defence.

The key difference between the US’s strongly worded suggestions and Europe’s planning was that the message of last years’ European talks, proposals and declarations were based on increasing the efficiency rather than the overall amount of national defence spending.

The cries for burden-sharing have existed in NATO memory since the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992, when the (now-defunct) Western European Union lacked the material capacity to resolve the crisis. The memory of the US intervention in the Kosovo crisis, NATO’s Operation Allied Force in 1999, and the ISAF NATO mission in Afghanistan, further drove home the imbalance of military capabilities. Europe is comparatively lacking in strategic transport, command and control, ISR and ground support.

France and Germany are now collaborating on a joint-fleet of C-I30Js

Perhaps as a compound reaction to Trump’s radical executive orders towards migration, remarks on NATO obsolescence and his renewed line on NATO defence spending; France and Germany have made clear their cooperative acts. The two countries formally announced at the NATO summit, the creation of a joint-fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130J transport planes to later join a Dutch-led fleet of Airbus A330 tanker planes. Belgium and Norway are also being courted to join the group. German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyon had hoped to unveil the plan to Gen. Mattis as evidence of Europe’s commitment to NATO. This comes alongside other projects with Norway, Romania and the Czech Republic.

Threats to lessen the US’s role in NATO places the pre-existing Berlin-Plus Agreements in peril. These 2002 agreements allowed European members of NATO, access to NATO (importantly, the US’s) platforms and weapons to perform European missions where NATO chooses not to intervene. Since 2002, Berlin Plus has been used twice — Once in Operation Concordia in the Former Yugoslav Republic in Macedonia, and a second time in EUFOR Althea in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

While it is one thing to say that the US will not get involved in missions within Europe’s geographic interests, it is another to potentially deny access to the US’s arsenal as part of the Alliance-commitment. Despite increasing speeches on autonomy and self-sufficiency, current plans for European-specific defence were shared with the public as a basis to ultimately complement and strengthen overall NATO capabilities.

The startlingly stringent tone of the Trump administration is in contrast to the EU-NATO joint declaration signed in Warsaw in July 2016, many months before Trump took office. The declaration was signed by the President of the European Commission, President of the European Council and the NATO secretary general, and for European leaders, symbolises support in the implementation of the EDAP and the Implementation Plan of the EU Global Strategy in the area of Defence and Security.

The Tug-of-War between Humanitarian missions and Hard Defence on the Continent

Calls by the US for European states to increase defence spending come at odds with most European NATO members that have politically and financially invested in a uniquely European project. The urgency of a defence increase highlights the tension that European countries experience between funnelling money into the ‘Liberal’ soft power emphasis of the EU a.k.a. ‘Civilian Power Europe’ or focussing on building their traditional hard power.

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, made a point in the divergent security goals of Europe vs non-European NATO members. After Mattis’s quotes on the need for European members to increase their spending, Juncker stated to the media, “If you look at what Europe is doing in defence, plus development aid, plus humanitarian aid, the comparison with the United States looks rather different. Modern politics cannot just be about raising defence spending.”

Development Aid reports from the OECD appear to confirm this claim. While the US is at the top of the list for the overall amount of money spent, the Top 10 list for ‘donor amount relative to GDP’ is headed by European countries such as Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and againthe UK. The EU’s own aid budget is taken from a pooling of member state resources in the EU budget via a combination of VAT, import tax duties and national contributions of about 0.7% of GNI. In 2016, the EU aid budget rose 16% with the humanitarian aid budget rising to 1.1B EUR, along with an additional 200M EUR being set aside in 2017 for ‘exceptional’ circumstances.

The heightened alternative security spending of European NATO members comes at a time of migratory crisis following the turmoil in Syria, Libya and other areas of MENA. The EU had already pledged 3B EUR to Turkey for helping to stem the tide of refugees, and an 1.8B EUR emergency trust fund to Africa, in addition to the EU’s pre-existing humanitarian aid budget. While by no means a permanent measure, the sudden spiked increase of humanitarian, development and migration-related spending since 2015 brings to light the multi-faceted nature of contemporary European defence and security.

As such, the vague threat of a US pull-out from the North Atlantic Alliance brings an immediacy to defence spending in the already competing demands of Europe’s national budgets.


Thank you, for your interest in, Mattis NATO ultimatum stutters European collective defence moods.

Pola Zafra-Davis

Contributor: Pola Zafra-Davis


Written by Mika

4. marta 2017. at 10:04

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The „Adults“ Resume Control

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The “Adults” Resume Control | Chronicles Magazine

By:Srdja Trifkovic | February 22, 2017

At the security conference in Munich over the weekend and at the EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, VP Mike Pence offered profuse assurances to the European elite class that the Trump administration supports unity and cohesion in the face of various threats allegedly facing the Western alliance. His remarks amounted to an explicit repudiation of Trump’s campaign statements and promises.

“The United States strongly supports NATO and will not waver in our commitment to our transatlantic alliance,” Pence said, in contrast to Trump’s repeated (and reasonable) remarks before the election that NATO was “obsolete.” In a conference dominated by the narrative of the “Russian threat,” hacks and other fake news (Sen. Lindsey Graham warned France and Germany that the Russians were coming after them, vowing to “kick Russia in the ass in Congress”), Pence did not sound a single discordant note. He paid tribute to “our shared values,” our “noble ideals—freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law.” “As you keep faith with us,” he went on, “under President Trump we will always keep faith with you.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis—who also attended the Munich conference—made similar points in a speech last Saturday—points which until recently would have been considered distinctly un-Trumpian. President Trump has “thrown his full support behind NATO,” Mattis declared, and warned of threats “on multiple fronts as the arc of instability builds on NATO’s periphery and beyond.” Earlier last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went to Germany for the Group of 20 foreign ministers’ meeting. According to The Washington Post, as he left the meeting “there was a palpable sense of relief” among the Europeans, which “stemmed in part from a sense that Tillerson is a serious man who came to Bonn willing to hear their viewpoints.” According to the Post, after Tillerson’s meeting with Russian’s FM Lavrov,

Diplomats said they got the sense that there would be no radical shift in the U.S. stance toward Russia . . . One diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the participants were encouraged when Tillerson said the administration believes that before it can consider any lifting sanctions against Russia, Moscow must meet its commitments to help end the fighting in the Russian-speaking, separatist region of eastern Ukraine.

After Munich Pence went to Brussels, where on Monday he said that it was his privilege “on behalf of President Trump to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union.” He pledged the U.S. would keep working with the EU to protect eastern EU states from Russia’s supposed designs. He reiterated the pledge he made in Munich that the Trump administration would “continue to hold Russia accountable” for the violence in eastern Ukraine.

“Pence is looking like an adult,” commented James Jeffrey, Obama’s ambassador to Iraq and a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The question is will Trump listen to him?” The same question was repeated by several European commentators worried about “Trump’s next tweet.” But in the aftermath of national security adviser Michael T. Flynn’s demolition by the Deep State operatives—a sordid affair in which Pence played a significant, albeit not yet fully known role—this is the wrong question. The real question is whether Trump can resist the straitjacket which the Russophobic, NATO-for-ever “foreign policy community” has been hewing for him ever since last November 8.

The answer is “probably not,” and the clue is provided by the appointment of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as Flynn’s replacement. In contrast to his predecessor, McMaster sees Russia as an adversary and seems to reject the possibility of partnership. Last May, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, he pointed out Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for “rebels” in eastern Ukraine as evidence of Moscow’s broader effort “to collapse the post-World War Two, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.”

McMaster’s views are diametrically opposed to Trump’s previously stated objectives, and the Duopoly was delighted. “The selection encouraged Republicans who admire General McMaster and waged a behind-the-scenes campaign to persuade Mr. Trump to select him,” noted the New York Times, adding that a coterie of national security conservatives, “including a top aide to Senator John McCain of Arizona, also lobbied for him, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who has worked with General McMaster, encouraged him to take the job.” McCain himself praised McMaster in a tweet as “outstanding choice for nat’l security advisor—man of genuine intellect, character & ability.”

These words of praise for Trump’s choice came from the man who also went to Munich last week, to deliver what one analyst calls “a calculated, planned attack on Trump’s entire system of beliefs.” As the Washington Times editorialized last Monday, it was “without modern precedent, and it was out of bounds.” McCain’s description of the president, to a conference where nobody could miss the point of his remarks, was very close to a declaration of war on Trump, and the fact that he made the remarks on foreign soil is particularly offensive: “The senator apparently accepts the Democratic line that Mr. Trump resides today at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue only because Vladimir Putin successfully manipulated American public opinion and thereby influenced the election in the 50 separate American states. He vows to open an investigation of the extent to which Mr. Trump’s clear and open wish to ease tensions with Moscow could be payback for the help in taking down Hillary Clinton in November.”

A war it is, and Trump cannot win it by making key appointments which are pleasing to McCain and his ilk. If Trump gives up on improving relations with Russia, he will have missed a historic opportunity—perhaps the last – to end once for all the European civil war that erupted in 1914, continued in 1939, and resulted in the frozen conflict called the Cold War. As I wrote in these pages six weeks ago, and elsewhere many times over the years, we need a pan-European entente that embraces the whole of the Northern Hemisphere, from Vancouver to Vladivostok; and Trump seems to understand that we all face “existential demographic and ideological threats—Asiatic and African in origin, Islamic in spirit – in the decades ahead.”

It now appears that this was not the case. Trump has caved in to the Russophobes, and this can only encourage the perpetrators of the ongoing soft (“seed crystal”) coup d’etat to be relentless. Steve Bannon is next on their list, but the final prize is clearly Trump himself—impeached, or humiliatingly tamed, or dead.

Written by Mika

22. februara 2017. at 19:01

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Kosovo*: High time to restore social cohesion and safeguard media freedom

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Kosovo*: High time to restore social cohesion and safeguard media freedom

Pristina (Kosovo). © Shutterstock

“Many victims of the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo*, in particular displaced persons, families of missing persons and victims of wartime sexual violence, are still trying to re-build their lives, find out the truth about their loved ones and access justice. The on-going political deliberations have not focused sufficiently on the needs of victims, leaving them with the feeling of abandonment and hopelessness. A paradigm shift is necessary in order to put the victims at the centre of the political dialogue, and prioritise their human rights,” said today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, at the end of his four-day mission to Kosovo.

The Commissioner is concerned that more than 15 years after the conflict around 16 500 persons belonging to all communities remain internally displaced in Kosovo, while some 20 000 displaced persons from Kosovo to Serbia have not yet managed to return home despite their wish. About 470 displaced persons are accommodated in 29 collective centres throughout Kosovo, including the collective centre “Samacki dom”, in northern Mitrovica, that the Commissioner visited. Commissioner Muiznieks is gravely concerned about the substandard living conditions of 50 displaced persons, including children, who have been accommodated there for many years. “No one should live in such conditions in Europe today. This and other collective centres need to be urgently closed and durable solutions should be found. Moreover, adequate and safe conditions for sustainable return and integration of displaced persons should be created.”

* All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.


Written by Mika

17. februara 2017. at 08:51

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A „New Birth of Freedom“ for Serbs?

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A “New Birth of Freedom” for Serbs?

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Stevan Gajic

A really remarkable chain of events has been happening to Serbs during recent months and weeks. It started at the end of 2016 and continued even faster with the beginning of 2017. Firstly, a proven enemy of Serbs, Hillary Clinton, lost the US presidential election, which was immediately met with rejoice among Serbs, especially in the contested territories. I say lost, because the victory of Donald Trump is not seen as an immediate benefit because of Trump’s qualities, but because the Clinton family has special interest in favoring all Serbian enemies in the Balkans. Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Serbs, first in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994 and 1995, and then in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (today’s Serbia and Montenegro) in 1999.

This is why it should not be a surprise that Serbs in Kosovo, Montenegro and Republika Srpska (the Serb part of Bosnia-Herzegovina) erected huge billboards with Trumps face and a message reading “Serbs stood by him all along”.

The second important event was the visit of Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, to Belgrade on December 12th and 13th at a time when he was in the middle of very intense diplomatic activities surrounding Syria. This visit took place during the peak of operations for the liberation of Aleppo. Visiting Belgrade at such a moment clearly signals the place of Serbia on Russia’s foreign policy agenda. Yet even more important was the fact that this visit sealed the deal by which Serbia is to receive a donation of six MiG-29 fighter jets by March 2017.

Thirdly, in spite of immense Western pressure spearheaded by the once powerful ‘viceroyal’ Office of the High Representative of the ‘international community’, nowadays occupied by Austrian diplomat Valentin Incko, as well as despite the pressure marked by both protests and warmongering threats from the Muslim leadership of Sarajevo, Republika Srpska celebrated its official holiday in memory of its founding on January 9th, 1992. The anniversary celebration in Republika Srpska’s capital, Banjaluka, took place on the Day of St. Steven, who is the patron saint of the Republic. This year, the celebration contained an element of well-balanced demonstration of power. Part of it was a parade in which participated, among others, the Republika Srpska’s special police forces who marched in camouflage uniforms with Kalashnikov assault rifles. Sarajevo and Incko also opposed the ceremonial participation of the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Bosnia-Herzegovina armed forces, designated as the keeper of Republika Srpska Army traditions after the post-war creation of a unified armed forces. They were invited by Mladen Ivanić, the Serb member of the Bosnia-Herzegovina three-men presidency. Their presence demonstrated that Bosnia-Herzegovina is not an effective state and that Serbs are loyal to the Republic for which they sacrificed during the civil war. Besides Ivanić and the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, the celebration was attended by President of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolić, Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej, Serbia’s armed forces Chief of Staff General, Ljubiša Diković, Serbian Crown Prince Alexander, leaders of Serbs from all former Yugoslav republics, and other high guests. Notably, Serbia’s pro-globalist PM, Aleksandar Vučić, was absent, being away on a several day visit to India where he was participating in the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ business conference. Vučić was the only Serb leader who supported Hillary Clinton, as he was a guest at an event organized by the Clinton Foundation. Vučić is now trying to get back on track with the new reality by attempting to establish connection with the entourage of the new President of the United States.

The celebration in Banjaluka was a demonstration of willingness to defend the results of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement which is constantly being undermined at the expense of Republika Srpska by attempts at centralizing Bosnia-Herzegovina by both the Muslim leadership in Sarajevo and the High Representative.

President Dodik’s most important political message was that if the pressure continues, Serbs are ready to defend themselves and proclaim full independence of their Republic with the right to join Serbia in the future.

What really frightened Muslim leader Bakir Izetbegović is that Dodik was invited to Donald Trump’s inauguration, which is perceived as a clear indicator of some new winds blowing in the Balkans. However, in a move unheard of before, the outgoing US administration refused to issue a travel visa to the guest invited by the president-elect. The ‘lame duck’ administration went even an extreme step further: only three days before the inauguration, the State Department imposed sanctions against Dodik personally (ban on travel to the US and freezing assets in the US, non-existent in this case). This unprecedented scandal is just another in a series of moves by which Obama’s outgoing administration aimed to hinder the new president.

And this is not the end. All Serbian opponents in the region seem to have lost their common sense. Albanians are notorious for building a monument to Bill Clinton and naming a boulevard after him, as well as a clothing shop after his wife, Hillary. It is no surprise that every Albanian leader has supported Clinton. Some of them, like the PM of Albania, Edi Rama, went as far as to insult Trump during the campaign. Rama was so sure of his political predictions that at the Belgrade Security Forum in October 2016, in front of many journalists, participants and his fellow panelist, Serbian PM Vučić, he exclaimed how sure he is on who will be the next US president, and that it certainly would not be Trump. Bosnian Muslim leader Izetbegović organized rallies in support of Clinton. He is not at ease with Trump because of the latter’s attitude towards radical Islamic terrorism, and Izetbegović has well known ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. His father, Alija Izetbegović, was the first to introduce jihadi warriors in Europe during the 1992-1995 civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Those courted included Osama bin Laden, who was granted the citizenship and passport of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Croats also supported Hillary, but were more tactical about it in taking care not to show any open dislike for Trump. However, they made another huge incident. During his official visit to Kiev, Croatian PM Andrej Plenković offered his hosts to share Croatia’s ‘know-how’ and experience of ‘reintegrating’ rebellious territories. The Croatian example is that of ethnically cleansing more than half a million Serbs and committing numerous other war crimes in the process. Plenković essentially suggested that the Croats would help the current authorities of Ukraine to get rid of the Russian population. This provoked a harsh reaction from Moscow. But instead of backing off, Plenković reaffirmed his position, which provoked Russia even more. In the context of Trump’s victory and a possible new global deal between Moscow and Washington, these statements were more then harmful for Croatian interests.

Earlier in 2016, Brexit announced a year of great changes and, most importantly, the fall of the EU, which is in a state of utter confusion and submerged in political divisions. On top of this, the US President-elect predicted its demise in his interview to The Times just days before taking office. This might as well be the case.

Let us not forget that after Slovenia’s succession, Yugoslavia still formally existed, but it was in effect broken, never to recover. The EU without the UK is not and never will be the same, even if it survives in one form or another. Another important statement that Trump made in this interview was labelling NATO obsolete. One of the consequences of this statement in the Balkans is that pro-globalist political elites have lost the ideological ground under their feet. This especially goes for Montenegro, whose ruling class dominated by the unchallenged leader Milo Đukanović is now absolutely lost since Euro-Atlantic integration, Russophobia, and Serbophobia are all they have to offer nowadays. Now that the future of both the ‘Euro’ and ‘Atlantic’ communities is questionable, they have nothing to offer. Montenegro has already been in deep political crisis since the October 2016 parliamentary elections. The only logical—and in my deepest belief inevitable—result of this political and ideological crisis will be a Serbian Spring in Montenegro, and an urge for unification with Serbia and Republika Srpska, which would not be the first time.

That state of new affairs is obviously putting pressure of Serbia and Serbs in the region. This was clear after the arrest of the Kosovo Albanian terrorist leader, criminal lord and at one point PM, Ramush Haradinaj, in France on a Serbian warrant for a number of horrendous war crimes.

Serbia told France that if it does not extradite Haradinaj to Serbia then, by reciprocity, Serbia will not extradite people wanted by France that are arrested in Serbia. Such a clear attitude would have been unimaginable just weeks ago, when the process of ‘EU integration’ was the top priority for the Serbian political elite. Another example is the attitude of Serbia’s President Nikolić, who convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council after a Serbian passenger train from Belgrade was not allowed to enter the Serb-dominated north of Kossovo. In order to prevent the train from entering, ethnic Albanian separatist authorities sent special police forces, which was an act of provoking local Serbs. President Nikolić stated after this emergency session that Serbia will not stand by as Serbs are targeted, but will militarily enter its province. In support of this, at his annual conference on January 17th, Lavrov stated that Albanians should not be present in the Serb-inhabited north of Kosovo. Nikolić went a step further on January 17th by telling the US Ambassador to Serbia: “I always speak frankly and openly and protect the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia. I understand that you unconditionally support a thing whose creation you directly influenced [i.e. secessionism in Kosovo]. By exercising your will, you have created a lot of trouble, and I hope that this behavior will stop with the new administration.”

Before this new wave of confident statements by Serbian officials, probably the only politician in power throughout the Serbian space who predicted these new tendencies and acting accordingly, meaning independently, who was therefore respected home and abroad, was Republika Srpska’s President Dodik.

All of these swift changes in the world — Brexit, Russia’s diplomatic and military victory in the Middle East, Trump’s electoral victory, etc.—seem to have come as unexpected gifts from sky to the Serbs. Serbs are simply not used to such good news. We have been trained to lose and take it like a sport or with a pinch of salt since 1991, the beginning of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Maybe this had an even earlier tradition, since 1918 when the Serbs gave up their own statehood and invested a million and a half lives lost in WWI for a vague “brotherly” Yugoslav identity that failed in 1941 and in 1991, both times with the Serbs betrayed by the ‘brotherly peoples’ with high price in human lives. So what should we make of this, and will Serbian leaders, including those present and those coming in the near future, be capable of capitalizing on these global changes?

Although one should not compare two historic periods – since history almost never repeats itself – there is a striking parallel in US-Russia relations today and during the American Civil War. In the 1860’s, Russia was an ally of the Union and President Abraham Lincoln’s struggle that resulted in ending slavery, while the UK was helping the slaveholding South and invading Crimea just several years before. Nowadays, Russia obviously has sympathies for the new American administration, while many Western leaders and interest groups— whom Alexander Dugin, using Trump’s terminology, generically calls the “Swamp”- openly despise, oppose and almost reject the expressed will of the American people by dismissing the democratic process as “populism”. In 1863, probably the greatest US president and Republican Party leader, and Trump’s predecessor in the oval office, Abraham Lincoln, gave a famous speech known as the “Gettysburg Address”, on the site of a battlefield that saw grand sacrifices of both the Unionist and Confederate soldiers. Talking about the post-war US, Lincoln predicted “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom”. It seems that 2017 might give an answer as to whether or not this unique historical moment in international relations will mark the beginning of a “new birth of freedom” for the Serbs on the Balkan Peninsula.


Written by Mika

24. januara 2017. at 23:34

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Could war return to Kosovo?

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Could war return to Kosovo?

What was supposed to be an historical moment of reconciliation between Serbs in Belgrade and those trapped in Mitrovica, in the disputed territory of Kosovo, has been disrupted by a show of force from Kosovar Albanians.

A train from Belgrade bound for Mitrovica was stopped by ethnic Albanians currently in charge of Kosovo, a legal part of Serbia which unilaterally declared independence in 2008. Kosovo currently has limited recognition as a state.

The proximate cause of the disruption was a slogan written on the side of the train reading ‘Kosovo is Serbia’.

Under normal circumstances this would be a harmless slogan analogous to ‘Boston Is America’. But in the context of the Balkans, the slogan was understood as a provocation of Albanians who – like the US and EU – see Kosovo as a state rather than as a province of Serbia, and an historically important one at that.

The incident prompted Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic to say that the Serbian military would intervene if any harm was to come to Serbs living in Kosovo.

This conflict of course is something of a ghost of Clinton’s past. Under Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, NATO illegally bombed what was left of Yugoslavia in attempts to break apart the state. Kosovo’s status as a province to some and at state to others, has not resolved the lingering conflict, it has only made things worse. Serbs in Kosovo now face discrimination, poverty and violence.

Kosovo was granted special status in Tito’s 1974 Yugoslav constitution. Because Kosovo had an Albanian majority in spite of being part of the Yugoslav Republic of Serbia, autonomous provisions were enshrined into law. By contrast, Serbs living in Serbian majority provinces of Bosnia and Croatia, received no such special status.

In spite of this, as a result of an insurrection which became increasingly funded by external forces ranging from America and Germany to Saudi Arabia, the KLA (“Kosovo Liberation Army”), a group which even the US recognised as a terrorist organisation throughout much of the 1990s, waged brutal assaults on Serbs beginning in the late 1980s.

Rather than mediating in the conflict, NATO bombed a country that had been an ally in both world wars.

There is a very real danger that bloodshed could return to Europe’s forgotten conflict zone.

Hopefully due to Donald Trump’s apparent distaste for intervention, the US will not add fuel to the flames as it did in 1999.

Written by Mika

17. januara 2017. at 23:15

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Serbian Nationalist Train Halts at Border With Kosovo

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Serbian Nationalist Train Halts at Border With Kosovo

The Associated Press

A train left Belgrade, Serbia, on Saturday for Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, where most of Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs live. The train was painted with Serbian flags, religious Christian Orthodox scenes and the words “Kosovo is Serbian” in 20 languages. Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press

BELGRADE, Serbia — A train decorated with Serbian nationalist slogans and images departed on Saturday from Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, and headed for northern Kosovo, but it halted at the border in a stunt that set off a dramatic escalation of tensions between the former wartime foes.

Officials in Kosovo had protested that the train’s planned route into Kosovo was a violation of their country’s sovereignty and promised not to let it in.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia ordered the train stopped in Raska, Serbia, as it approached the border with Kosovo, a former Serbian province, claiming that ethnic Albanians in Kosovo had tried to mine the railway.

The train was painted with Serbian flags, religious Christian Orthodox scenes and the words “Kosovo is Serbian” in 20 languages.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia does not recognize the split and has sought to maintain influence in northern Kosovo, where most of the country’s ethnic Serbian minority lives.

At a news conference in Belgrade on Saturday, Mr. Vucic accused Kosovo of plans to arrest the train’s driver and passengers.

“This was an ambition to provoke a conflict, to start a wider conflict in this territory that we consider as ours,” he said. “It was my decision to stop the train in Raska to preserve the freedom and lives of our people, to prevent a wider conflict and show that we want peace.”

“We sent a train, not a tank,” he added.

President Hashim Thaci of Kosovo wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday that his country respected the free movement of people and goods but that a train covered in nationalist banners that violated Kosovo’s Constitution and laws was “completely unacceptable.”

The train was to be the first to travel from Belgrade to Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, since the 1998-99 Kosovo war. The train later turned back to Belgrade.

Written by Mika

15. januara 2017. at 09:57

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The Yugoslav tribunal shuts down, a Kosovo tribunal starts up

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The Yugoslav tribunal shuts down, a Kosovo tribunal starts up

Democracy in America | 1 hour 47 mins ago

The Yugoslav tribunal shuts down, a Kosovo tribunal starts up

IT WAS a historic day for international justice, but it did not look like it. On December 15th Ratko Mladic sat in the dock at the UN’s Yugoslavia war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, grumbling and reading a newspaper. When the prosecutor accused him of organising the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys after the town of Srebrenica fell to his Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, he wagged his finger in denial. It was the last day of his trial, though the verdict could be a year in coming. Verdicts about the court itself, meanwhile, are already being handed down.

The case against Mr Mladic brings to an end the trials of the important figures indicted by the tribunal. (Appeals are being dealt with by another body.) In the Balkans, there is widespread disappointment at the role it has played. Meanwhile, as one tribunal shuts down, a new one for Kosovo was launched in the Netherlands on January 1st. Later this year it should begin issuing indictments for Kosovars accused of crimes committed between 1998 and 2000.

Created in 1993 by the UN Security Council, the Yugoslavia tribunal ultimately indicted 161 people and sentenced 83 of them. “Its greatest success,” says Eric Gordy, the author of a book on war crimes in the Balkans, “is that it did anything at all.” Judge Carmel Agius, the president of the tribunal, admits it has been “a troubled journey” but is proud of its achievements.

The tribunal’s biggest failure was its inability to convince people in the former Yugoslavia that it was impartial. Many in the region saw it as a foreign imposition. It was created by outsiders at a moment when the world had the will to demand justice for war crimes wherever they were committed. But trials have dragged on for years, and judges and lawyers are paid handsomely. People in the former Yugoslavia, Mr Agius says, suffer from a habit of “blaming foreigners or someone else” for their disappointments. But, he says, “not a single mass grave would have been excavated” if the tribunal had not existed.

Mirko Klarin, a journalist who urged the court’s creation in an article in 1991, says one success was expanding the definition of war crimes. Yet this, he thinks, may have been the court’s downfall. Starting in 2012, several acquittals called into question the court’s “command responsibility” precedents, which held leaders culpable for war crimes committed in operations they had ordered but not directly led. Many observers believed that powerful Western countries worried that such standards might be applied to their own armed forces or politicians, and used their influence to turn the tide.

The suspicion that war-crimes tribunals are an alien imposition also afflicts the new Kosovo court. In fact the court is not a UN body. It is a tribunal set up under Kosovo law, with foreign judges, funded mostly by the EU and in response to allegations made in a Council of Europe report in 2011. (One was that several prisoners held by what was then the Kosovo Liberation Army were murdered for their organs.) Florina Duli, who runs the Kosovar Stability Initiative, a think-tank, says many of her compatriots are convinced that the new tribunal is a tool of “big countries and the European Union”. They think the threat of indictments will be used to blackmail Kosovar leaders to do what the Europeans want, such as keeping the EU-sponsored dialogue with Serbia going.

David Schwendiman, the prosecutor, concedes that the aims of the new tribunal are more modest than in decades past. His work may not deter fighters from committing crimes in Syria. Still, he sees a duty to build a body of law with which to try such criminals when the political will to do so returns. In the meantime, the tribunals “[help] people learn what happened, but not be consumed by it.” As an effort to record history, the Yugoslavia tribunal with its archive of millions of pages is an undisputed success. That, and the convictions it has achieved, says Mr Gordy, are “definitely better than nothing—and most conflicts get nothing.”

Written by Mika

13. januara 2017. at 22:32

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