Fanning the Flames of Ethnic War in Macedonia


The escalation of hostilities between Albanian guerrillas and the Macedonian regime has further contributed toward the potential for the destabilisation of the entire Balkan region. However, the war that has arisen in the aftermath of NATO’s intervention in Kosovo continues to be inextricably linked to the role of the international community in the Balkans. An analysis of the strategic interests of the United States and other Western powers in the Balkans particularly in relation to Macedonia, coupled with a close scrutiny of recent developments in relation to the Macedonian-Albanian hostilities, highlights that the current crisis is an inevitable product of the West’s ongoing policy in the region. This policy is not only geared fundamentally to secure hegemonic interests in the lucrative Balkan region, but is also é in its method of actualization – thereby in systematic contradiction to the humanitarian principles the West professes to uphold.

I. NATO’s Eastward Expansion and Western Economic Interests

I.I The Collective Interests of NATO members and Others in the Balkans

Although there has been some dispute over the matter, there can be little doubt over the fact that the Balkans constitutes a region of strategic and economic interest to the Western powers, in particular the United States. The extent of the West’s interests in the Balkans was alluded to in April 1999 during the escalation of the Kosovo conflict by Robert I. Hunter, senior advisor at Rand Corporation and U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 1993 to 1998. Explaining the U.S. Administration’s policy in Kosovo, Hunter observed that the Balkan region “is the gateway to areas of intense Western concern – the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq and Iran, Afghanistan, the Caspian Sea and Transcaucasia. Stability in southeastern Europe must be a precursor to protecting Western interests and reducing threats from farther East.”[2] The establishment of such a regime by nature requires a combination of economic, political, and military arrangements to support and protect oil production and transportation to markets.[4]

Tension between the United States and Russia therefore still exists in the post-Cold War era for these reasons, although not with the same degree of intensity and conflict of earlier years, primarily due to Russia’s weakening since the collapse of the U.S.S.R. As noted by Douglas MacArthur Professor Stephen Blank é the principal expert on Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern Europe at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, “the Transcaspian has become perhaps the most important area of direct Western-Russian contention today”.[6]

In other words, the Great Game of the nineteenth century, which consisted of competition among the powers for the control of Central Eurasia, has continued into the twenty-first century with the United States leading the way. As a consequence of consistent U.S. efforts to monopolise potential pipeline routes to Caspial oil, “Washington is now becoming the arbiter or leader of virtually every interstate and international issue in the area”.[8] The principal method through which U.S. penetration and influence in the Balkans has been achieved is through military intervention. U.S. Army War College Professor Stephen Blank points out that an ingenious method of imposing U.S. hegemony is now being pursued in the form of peacekeeping missions. Since an open military-backed diplomatic confrontation with Russia remains dangerous and therefore inappropriate, U.S. policy is to find ways of implementing the “functional equivalent… [i.e.] peace operations”. As Blank points out, the U.S. pursues its interests with “actual policy making on a daily basis throughout the executive branch” in Washington.[11]

There can be no real disputing the fact that, as matter of policy, military intervention is concerned fundamentally with the protection of Western interests as opposed to human rights. Although NATO military expansion is publicly touted as a means of legitimately strengthening the security of NATO members from conflict, and more recently thereby the human rights of peoples around the world, the reality is rather different. The actual objective of NATO, along with NATO’s regional programmes such as Partnership for Peace, can be discerned from NATO’s definition of “security”. A threat to the “security” of NATO members is officially defined as any event or entity that challenges the “collective interests” of NATO members. For example, former U.S. Secretaries of State and of Defense Christopher and Perry stated in 1997 that “the danger to security… is not primarily potential aggression to their collective [NATO] territory, but threats to their collective interests beyond their territory… To deal with such threats alliance members need to have a way to rapidly form military coalitions that can accomplish goals beyond NATO territory”.[13] U.S. Ambassador Nathan Nimitz elaborated the implications for the way U.S. policy should hence be directed, in no uncertain terms: he concluded that the entire region must be brought under U.S. military-economic hegemony. “Pax NATO is the only logical regime to maintain security in the traditional sense… [and] must recognize a need for expansion of its stabilizing influence in adjacent areas, particularly in Southeastern Europe, the Black Sea region (in concert of course with the regional powers…) and in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. The United States must continue to play the major role in this security system.”[15]

The resolutely interventionist nature of Western policy in the Balkans based not on humanitarian, but on fundamentally commercial interests, can therefore not be in doubt. It is noteworthy that the growing military involvement of the U.S. in the Balkans to secure access and control over Caspian oil was discussed extensively by chief correspondent for the Journal of Commerce, Michael Lelyveld, in February 1999 shortly before NATO’s intervention in Kosovo. Lelyveld pointed out that there are “many reasons why” a U.S. military presence in the Balkans “appears inevitable, if policies continue on their current course”. They all revolve around the issue of protecting the planned pipeline routes to Caspian oil: “Security for the planned Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the trans-Caspian gas line may be impossible without some U.S. role or credible support.” On that basis, ostensibly humanitarian missions will be undertaken under U.S. leadership with the fundamental, but covert, objective of securing commercial hegemony: “[T]he call is sure to go out again to U.S. peacekeepers, or at least monitors, whether under the auspices of NATO or the OSCE.” Consequently, “most discussions have focused on the obstacles to a U.S. presence rather than denials that military access is the goal that would be desirable to achieve. Washington has also worked tirelessly to promote its interests in the region, bending pipelines away from Russia and Iran… Temptation to support that strategy militarily is bound to grow”.[17] NATO’s ongoing Balkans policy has therefore been undertaken within the strategic framework outlined above, and therefore has as its ultimate objectives the protection of regional Western interests through comprehensive military occupation of the region, i.e. the establishment of a new “Pax NATO”. This framework provides considerable insight into the most recent developments in the Balkans, once taken in context with the West’s strategic and economic interests therein. Any attempt to understand the continuing string of Balkans crises and Western intervention therein which ignores these issues will hence remain flawed and inaccurate.

II. Military-Economic Policy in the Balkans and Macedonia

II.I The Pipeline Project

The Federal Republic of Macedonia plays a key role in Western interests in the Balkans. At the heart of traditional trade routes, north-south and east-west, Macedonia is the key to stability in the southern Balkans.[19] It is clear that Jackson’s remark relates particularly to plans to establish pipelines in the Balkans to Caspian oil. The respected London daily, The Guardian, elaborates that: “A project called the Trans-Balkan pipeline has been little-reported in any British, European or American newspaper. The line will run from the Black sea port of Burgas to the Adriatic at Vlore, passing through Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania. It is likely to become the main route to the west for the oil and gas now being extracted in central Asia. It will carry 750,000 barrels a day.” The Anglo-American consortium known as AMBO that controls this Trans-Balkan pipeline project for the most part happens to exclude the participation of the competing European oil company Total-Fina-Elf. The signing of various ‘Memoranda of understanding’ (MOU) with the governments of Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia lend the Anglo-American consortium exclusive rights over the pipeline project: “[The] MOU states that AMBO will be the only party allowed to build the planned Burgas-Vlore oil pipeline. More specifically, it gives AMBO the exclusive right to negotiate with investors in and creditors of the project. It also obligates [Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania] not to disclose certain confidential information on the pipeline project.”[22]

The AMBO pipeline consortium has direct links to the U.S. government. The feasibility study for the Trans-Balkan project was undertaken by the Brown & Root Division of the world’s largest oil services company, Halliburton Energy, which was run by U.S. Vice-President Richard Cheney before he took his current political position. The study concluded that the pipeline would “become a part of the region’s critical East-West corridor infrastructure which includes highway, railway, gas and fiber optic telecommunications lines.”[24] This example alone clearly illustrates the continuing linkage between military and economic policy in relation to regional oil interests.

The AMBO pipeline project is being pursued in coordination with another strategic project, ‘Corridor 8’, spearheaded by the Clinton Administration. ‘Corridor 8’ was formulated in context with the Balkans Stability Pact, and includes in its programme – which is of interest to both the U.S. and Europe – highway, railway, electricity and telecommunications infrastructure. A combination of IMF and World Bank stipulations will additionally subject infrastructure in these sectors to a relentless programme of deregulation and privatisation. Despite EU involvement, U.S. companies have led the way by conducting feasibility studies for ‘Corridor 8’, financed by the Trade and Development Agency. U.S. companies such as General Electric, Bechtel, and Enron are thus competing with European corporations with U.S. Government support, and with the view to dominate regional transport and communications infrastructure, thus opening up the entire corridor to U.S. multinationals.[26] Richardson’s declaration clearly indicates that the focus of Western policy under U.S. leadership in the region is primarily concerned with ensuring that “newly independent” countries remain fundamentally “reliant” é i.e. dependent é on “Western commercial and political interests.” Political and economic policy, buttressed by military expansionism through NATO, has to prevent countries from “going another way” to that subservient to Western interests, even if that means violating the wishes of the related populations. In other words, the political map of the Balkans must be carved out in accordance with “the pipeline map”. Thus, while humanitarian reasons are widely publicised as the root of the West’s interventionist Balkan policies, it is clear that long-standing commercial interests are the primary motivation for Western strategy. To protect access to regional resources, in particular oil pipeline routes, the U.S. seems intent on installing a patchwork of protectorates along strategic corridors in the Balkans through the implementation of ostensible peace operations. Indeed, the implications of U.S. plans and the military-economic strategies through which they are to be implemented were described well by the leading war correspondent John Pilger, who twice won Britain’s Journalist of the Year Award.[29] The result of this policy has been noted by former State Department senior policy adviser Robert Manning: “The United States and its NATO allies appear to be stumbling backward into turning the former Yugoslavia into a series of protectorates one province at a time. Where does this lead? A swath of Eurasia – from the Balkans to the Caucasus to Central Asia – is full of troubled or failing states.” U.S. policy thus appears to be designed to draw in NATO forces to occupy the region, thus establishing through the manipulation of existing political and economic structures in the Balkans a series of protectorates under U.S. military control, securing U.S. domination and access to regional resources. Hindsight appears to corroborate this view considerably.

III. Repression in Macedonia and the International Response

III.I The Context of State Repression of Ethnic Minorities

Analysis of the context and realities of the Macedonian-Albanian conflict illustrates that NATO is continuing to manipulate events to open further prospects for increased intervention in the region. In context with the military, strategic and economic issues discussed in previous Chapters, an analysis of the documentary record demonstrates that the policies are designed primarily to secure economic and strategic domination; they are barely concerned with humanitarian issues.

Hostilities in Macedonia began in February 2001 when fighting broke out between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian forces along the Macedonian border between Kosovo and Serbia. The Albanian guerrillas are members of the National Liberation Army (NLA) and include Albanians from both Kosovo and Macedonia. NLA forces infiltrated Macedonian border villages either through the Presevo Valley, a 3-mile buffer zone between Kosovo and Serbia or through KFOR lines in Kosovo. By the beginning of March, the fighting spread from the border region to the area around the main ethnic Albanian town in Macedonia, Tetovo.

The Albanian attacks centre around the perception among the ethnic Albanian community in Macedonia that they face significant discrimination and denial of their rights. The armed struggle has been justified as a legitimate attempt to secure these rights after years of disillusionment with what they perceive to be futile political dialogue and police brutality sanctioned by the Slavic authorities. As the Los Angeles Times has thus observed, “The root cause of the ethnic Albanian unrest is deep frustration born of their uncertain status in Kosovo and discrimination suffered in Macedonia next door.”[32]

These endeavours have largely had little success, and have been accompanied by an undeniable record of discrimination on behalf of the Macedonian government. As noted by Jan Oberg, Director of the Swedish conflict analysis group the Transnational Foundation for Future Peace and Research (TFF), an organisation with a decade’s worth of expertise on former Yugoslavia: “In some respects there is more repression of the Albanians in Macedonia than in Kosovo. Albanians do not play a role commensurate to the proportion they make up of the population (25 – 40 pct depending on sources)é If you go to the National Museum in Skopje you will not see a trace of Albanian culture. The constitution is ethnic-oriented rather than citizens-oriented.”[34] The armed uprising is purportedly a response to this repression, an attempt to secure equality for Albanians in Macedonia by force after the apparent failure of mere political dialogue over many years. The rebellion is, reports Macedonian journalist Kim Mehmeti in a report for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR), “forcing the country to look itself in the mirror and to realize that inter-ethnic talks over the past 10 years have taken place against a backdrop of police repression of the Albanian community.” The backdrop of government-sanctioned repression has been discussed by Macedonia specialist Fred Abrahams of the New York-based international rights monitor, Human Rights Watch (HRW). Abrahams points to a record of “ongoing problems with corruption, human rights abuses, and the use of violence – not to mention the government’s questionable commitment to multiethnic coexistence. Local and international human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have reported on the growing problem of police brutality and politicized courts.”[37] While there is no doubt that some complaints are politically motivated,[39]

III.II Ethnic Albanian Victims of Police Brutality

There are several outstanding examples that illustrate the nature and extent of this repression. In 1992 Albanian intellectuals attempted to reopen an Albanian-language teachers’ college that had been closed since a 1986 crackdown. Their endeavours continued for two years without any response from the Macedonian government. Hence, they opened Tetovo University on their own. Kim Mehmeti, who is also the director of an NGO that promotes inter-ethnic dialogue in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, reports that: “While ‘democratic dialogue’ continued over the future of the institution, police were dispatched to forcibly shut down the university.” The ‘dialogue’ “ended in the death of one Albanian [and] the detention of some of the university’s organizers… The Macedonian state has yet to recognize the institution.”[41]

Most recently international monitors report that a 16 year-old ethnic Albanian boy was killed returning home to tend to his sheep. This was accompanied by the “arrest and beating of scores of ethnic Albanian civilians, and the vandalizing of dozens of houses”.[43] These crackdowns have come in the wake of previous waves of police repression, such as that of January 2000 in the Albanian village of Aracinovo. After the murder of three Macedonian policemen there, “dozens of people – all of them ethnic Albanian… were tortured, beaten, or otherwise ill-treated” in an indiscriminate police crackdown, according to Amnesty International (AI). “Many men were held incommunicado for up to 11 days…. One man had his jaw broken, reportedly with a rifle butt.” Additionally, there were “strong indications” that a man who died in custody “may have been extrajudicially executed.”[45]

Police brutality, however, is only one aspect of wider problems related to state-sanctioned discrimination. Although HRW found that “many of the particular details concerning the rights of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia are manipulated by both sides”, in the final analysis it is correct to conclude that “ethnic Albanians have been denied many of the basic rights guaranteed them in both Macedonian and international law.” Discrimination in state employment, unequal political representation, endemic police violence, violations of the right to a fair trial, and the denial of the Albanian community’s right to protect and preserve their culture, constitute the most pertinent issues that, despite some measures, the government has yet to significantly address.[47] Indeed, the NATO powers have veritably supported Macedonia’s repression of its Albanian population, with the United States in particular shoring up the regime through a combination of economic and military programmes. Notably, both programmes have had systematically adverse consequence in terms of the rights of the population.

U.S. support of Macedonia has, for instance, involved lending millions of dollars of financial aid since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1995, and the inclusion of Macedonia in NATO’s Partnership for Peace.[49] The grave economic plight faced by much of the Macedonian people is therefore a direct consequence of self-serving international policies designed primarily to increase profits for Western multinationals.

Economic imperatives have been accompanied by appropriate corresponding military policies, with the U.S. assisting Macedonia to build a “pro-Western defense force with close links to NATO.” To this end, in 1998, the U.S. provided $7.9 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and $400,000 through the International Military Education Training program (IMET). Macedonia was also eligible to receive grants of Excess Defense Articles (EDA), which provide equipment such as vehicles, office machines, and medical supplies. This has resulted in the increasing integration of Macedonia into a military regime under effective NATO domination.[51] The international community under U.S. leadership has thus also been directly complicit in the government’s police repression of its Albanian community. Abrahams elaborates that from 1995 to 1998, the U.S. “trained at least 350 Macedonian policemen”, including “a group of special forces”, who were deployed in the western city of Gostivar on 9 July 1997 to remove an Albanian flag. “Direct clashes left three protesters dead and at least two hundred people injured, including nine policemen. Once the police established control, they beat demonstrators who were offering no resistance, including some people whom the police had tied to trees and traffic signs. At the local police station, detainees were forced to pass through a gauntlet of baton-wielding policemen. The U.S. training of police is continuing in 1998.”  Meanwhile, “no U.S. officials have publicly condemned the brutal police actions or the highly politicized trials of ethnic Albanians that followed, sending a message that the U.S. will tolerate abusive behavior by the Macedonian government.” In other words, U.S. policy has consisted of lending financial, political and military support to “a government that it views as a cooperative ally in the region.”[54] In the name of strategic and economic interests, the international community under U.S. leadership has “turned a blind eye to the absence of democratic institutions, mounting interethnic tension, police abuse, politicized courts, and growing corruption.” Although there is a clear and well documented record of ongoing discrimination against the Albanian community in Macedonia in opposition to which Albanian guerrillas are purportedly struggling due to the futility of political dialogue,[57]

TFF Director Jan Oberg rightly points out that as a result, the government’s response to ethnic Albanian calls for equality has been over-defencive: “As easy as it is to see that there is not a completely fair treatment of Albanians in today’s Macedonia, it is just as easy to understand that many Macedonians fear for their relative status and influence in tomorrow’s Macedonia.”[59] This explains why Macedonians have often responded harshly to legitimate Albanian demands due to justifiable fear that those demands may be used by certain elements as steps toward territorial autonomy or secession. The situation is exacerbated due to the existence of extremist nationalists whose activities seem only to confirm Macedonian fears. While this does not condone such brutal and discriminatory measures, it is clear that the fears behind such measures have some basis in fact.[61] Cable News Network (CNN) also reported that the rebels fighting in Macedonia were linked to those in Serbia. In an article titled, ‘NATO considers Macedonia fears’, CNN observed that “The rebels are believed to have ties with ethnic Albanian rebels fighting Yugoslav forces in the Presevo Valley of southern Serbia about seven miles (10 kilometres) to the northeast.”[63]

Indeed, it seems that the majority of the Albanian guerrillas fighting in Macedonia are from the KLA. According to The Guardian: “The guerrillas in Macedonia are mostly locals who served in the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army. Its Albanian acronym UCK, is the same as the National Liberation Army.”[65] This fact, however, brings up a pertinent question which has been posed well by the Swedish peace and conflict resolution specialist Jan Oberg: “[H]ow is it possible for KLA which was officially dissolved in September 1999 to keep on fighting (or be the root of fighting) inside both Serbia and Macedonia. Who helped them to do that?”[67]

Numerous reports confirm that KFOR forces refuse to prevent these attacks despite their close monitoring of guerrilla actions in the region, and the large number of KFOR troops available. A Reuters report, for example, inadvertently illustrates that KFOR has knowledge of the whereabouts and operations of the KLA guerrillas but refuses to arrest them or prevent them from carrying out their attacks. Describing the return of a group of rebels to Kosovo after their attacks on the Macedonian border, Jim Marshal, spokesman for the U.S.-led contingent of the KFOR multinational peacekeeping force, said the men appeared to be dumping their uniforms and weapons before heading towards Kosovo. ‘We saw a lot of men in black uniforms crossing into Kosovo, entering buildings, changing out of their uniforms, leaving their weapons and coming here… in civilian clothes’, Marshal told reporters in the Kosovo village of Debelde, where U.S. troops are monitoring the trouble.We have seen machine guns and some RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and light weapons,’ he said.” In other words, NATO forces were monitoring the guerrillas closely enough to watch them change their uniforms, drop their weapons, and enter the same town, Debelde, where NATO forces were stationed. Indeed, it is remarkable that NATO troops and the Albanian Macedonian guerrillas share the same home base, and that NATO is constantly aware of the location of the guerrillas, their armed capabilities, and the location of their hidden weapons. Yet NATO does not prevent the guerrillas from attacking Macedonia, nor do NATO forces arrest the guerrillas while they are “dumping their uniforms and weapons”.[69] The implications are accentuated when we consider the observations of OSCE monitor David Chandler, Research Fellow at the Policy Research Institute of Leeds Metropolitan University: “The problem is not that KFOR is under-manned; at 48,000 troops, that is more than one for every thirty adults.”[71] NATO does nothing to stop them.

Furious condemnation from within international diplomatic circles of NATO’s studious inaction in the face of Albanian guerrilla movements, appears to have elicited the embarrassed response of NATO spokesman Jim Marshall, who subsequently promised in a press statement that: “Anyone who crossed into Kosovo would be detained and searchedé We will disarm them and detain them and investigate each case individually.” Unfortunately however, the integrity of Marshall’s promise is in severe doubt, since as he himself admits above, NATO is fully aware that the guerrillas dispense with all clothing and weapons related to their operation before entering Debelde. One wonders what Marshall hopes to find after such a search, given that he already knows his forces will not be finding anything. As for measures to be taken after the completion of searching and individual investigations, nothing concrete is promised é rather the question is left open ended: “It will be up to KFOR to decide about further investigations.”[73] Although NATO had claimed by the climax of the Kosovo intervention that the KLA had been disarmed and disbanded, and that stability had been introduced, the disbanded KLA guerrillas continued to be trained and funded by the UN and NATO in a new incarnation é the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC). A 1999 U.S. Executive Order outlined U.S. plans to entrust the CIA with the task of training the KLA. Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis J. Kucinich, testified in August 1999: “I read the latest reports concerning a recent Executive Order that hands the CIA a black bag in the Balkans for engineering a military coup in Serbia, for interrupting communications, for tampering with bank accounts, freezing assets abroad and training the Kosovo Liberation Army in terrorist tactics, such as how to blow up buildings.”[75]

The head of the KPC appointed by the UN is Agim Ceku. Ceku was previously appointed head of the KLA under U.S. tutelage in 1999, and remains one of the two top leaders of the guerrilla group. Reports show that the same KPC/KLA fighters “funded by UN members including Britain”[77] Diplomatic correspondent Tom Walker adds that the rebels “have obtained modern American-made Stinger shoulder-launched missiles, along with more rudimentary Russian-made Sam-7 missiles.” They are also “making use of maps issued by Nato for the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) which it supervises across the border.”[79] Yet simultaneous with that rebellion began the uprising in Macedonia, a fact of which the U.S. was well aware, illustrating that both rebellions were knowingly encouraged by the CIA. Despite the clear implication that the KLA attacks in Macedonia under NLA guise are in receipt of international, more specifically U.S. support, through the UN’s KPC, the KPC has not been dissolved, and indeed continues to be in receipt of UN funding and training.

This conclusion is corroborated by the BBC, which reported that “evidence by foreign diplomatic sources [showed] that the guerrillas now have several hundred fighters in the 5km-deep military exclusion zone on the boundary between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia. The sources said that: Certain Nato-led K-For forces were not preventing the guerrillas taking mortars and other weapons into the exclusion zone. The guerrilla units had been able to hold exercises there, including live-firing of weapons, despite the fact that K-For patrols the zone. Western special forces were still training the guerrillas, as a result of decisions taken before the change of government in Yugoslavia. Guerrilla leaders had now taken over from political leaders in many Albanian villages within the zone.”[81] Other commentators have recorded similar conclusions on analysis of events, for instance retired U.S. Army Colonel David H. Hackworth: “Now – with CIA help – the Kosovo Liberation Army rebels are attacking on two fronts: southern Serbia and along the Macedonian border, where our paratroopers tangled with them last week.”[83]

The U.S.-KLA link has been further corroborated by other high-ranking sources. Senior European officers who served with the international peace-keeping force in Kosovo (KFOR), as well as leading Macedonian and U.S. sources, “accuse American forces with K-For of deliberately ignoring the massive smuggling of men and arms across Kosovo’s borders”, reports The Observer. “The CIA encouraged former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters to launch a rebellion in southern Serbia in an effort to undermine the then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevicé The accusations have led to tension in K-For between the European and U.S. military missions. European officers are furious that the Americans have allowed guerrilla armies in its sector to train, smuggle arms and launch attacks across two international borders”, including Macedonia’s. One European K-For battalion commander testified that: “The CIA has been allowed to run riot in Kosovo with a private army… [T]he U.S. State Department seems incapable of reining in its bastard army.” He did not seem, however, to believe that the U.S. genuinely desires to reign in its “bastard army”, and indeed went on to confirm a continuing U.S. policy of supporting and tolerating the KLA guerrillas: “Most of last year, there was a growing frustration with U.S. support for the radical Albanians. U.S. policy was and still is out of step with the other Nato allies.”[85] According to one official, “What has been happening with the National Liberation Army [which has been responsible for a series of attacks on Macedonia’s borders in recent weeks] and the UCPMB [its sister organisation in southern Serbia] is very similar to what happened when the KLA was launched in 1995-96”, said one. “I will say only this: the U.S. intelligence agencies have not been honest here.”[87]

As the BHHRG has noted, this grim interpretation of events  “seemed confirmed in May” when senior OSCE official, U.S. Balkan diplomat Robert Frowick visited the Kosovo capital of Prizren “to negotiate a deal with the Albanian rebels behind the Macedonian government’s back. When the ‘deal’ was discovered, the government in Skopje furiously distanced itself from it and there was much open speculation in Macedonia about Frowick’s real employer.” The affair effectively allowed the Macedonian government “to appear to distance itself from a deal which it then set about negotiating, namely an agreement by which the rebels would be disarmed and NATO troops would enter Macedonia with a mandate.”[89] it would also appear that NATO is behind the attempts at escalation by both sides.

IV.II International Support of Macedonia’s Offensive

Although the United States clearly appears to have at least tolerated, if not covertly supported, Kosovan Albanian guerrilla attacks on Macedonia, the U.S. also simultaneously appears to be supporting Macedonia in its attempts to crackdown on the guerrillas. Probably the most conspicuous evidence of NATO’s military support to both parties in the current conflict is the role of Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), a Virginia-based private U.S. military corporation working on contract for the Pentagon. MPRI has trained both the KLA and the Macedonian army under Pentagon tutelage, and in close coordination with U.S. military intelligence.[91] While thousands of Albanians living in the villages north of Tetovo fled into Kosovo to escape a Macedonian crackdown on rebels in the region, toward the end of March NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson “commended the restraint of the Macedonian authorities in driving off the rebels” along with 5,000 Albanian civilians henceforth forced to make “the treacherous journey across mountain tracks” into Kosovo. Robertson also “promised Nato would commit a further 1,200 soldiers from the Kosovo peace force Kfor to patrol the borders with Macedonia to prevent recruits and arms reaching the rebels. Britain is to send 120 troops from a specialist artillery unit to fly the Phoenix unmanned artillery spotting plane over the supply routes for the rebels across the border. They will join French and American Kfor units also deploying unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over the disputed area.” British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook “roundly condemned the rebels, declaring them a ‘terrorist threat’ seeking to undermine multi-ethnic stability in Macedonia.” This coincided with the U.S. decision to “send unmanned reconnaissance planes to Macedonia to aid government troops”. U.S. President George Bush announced that: “U.S. agencies already are supplying government forces in Macedonia with surveillance information.”[94] NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson also promised Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Kemir that the extensive military intelligence, planning and strategising would be accompanied by material assistance in the form of “reinforcements to the southern border of Kosovo, to stop further infiltration and cut off the supply lines to the ethnic Albanian extremists.”[96]

Around the same time CNN reported that the “EU backs Macedonia over rebels”, with EU leaders “welcoming Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski” to the Stockhom EU summit. The summit’s host, Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson said on the eve of the summit that: “We will express our solidarity.”[98] Clearly, the NATO powers, in particular the United States, have provided extensive logistical and strategic military planning and support for Macedonia’s offensive. Direct military assistance to Macedonia in terms of material support for the offensive has also been provided by the NATO powers through various joint military training programmes and arms sales. The driving force behind the Macedonian offensive is therefore NATO under U.S. tutelage.

The prospects for a full-fledged NATO military intervention have also grown increasingly likely, with escalating calls from high-ranking U.S. officials to commit NATO forces to a peacekeeping operation in Macedonia.[100] On Friday 29th June 2001, NATO ambassadors “formally approved plans to send a 3,000-strong force to Macedonia to help disarm ethnic Albanian rebels if a lasting political agreement and ceasefire takes hold.” The plan would only take effect “if the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian political leaders solve their differences.”[102] Despite U.S. claims that a NATO military intervention is out of the question, it is thus clear that intervention seems to be an increasingly likely option for an international community eager to establish regional hegemony.

The publicisation of international support for Macedonia also appears to be designed to stave off the increasing concerns at NATO’s covert tolerance and support of KLA guerrillas operating in their NLA incarnation. In the wake of internal diplomatic trepidation at NATO’s covert sponsoring of ethnic Albanian guerrillas coordinated by the United States, the escalation of NATO military assistance to Macedonia in its offensive against Albanian rebels has been touted as proof that the international community does not support rebel activities. By the beginning of June, four hundred NATO-led forces were purportedly “sent to hunt out Macedonian rebel supply routes in a bid by the international community to show it does not back the guerrillas.” Spokesman for NATO troops in Kosovo Major Fergus Smith reported that: “Taskforce Juno, made up of British, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian troops already in Kosovo [moved] into southwestern Kosovo bordering Macedonia and Albania”. According to Major Smith, their role is to “interdict supply routes and smuggling routes into and out of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. “This demonstrates”, he argued, “that the National Liberation Army does not have the support of the international community.”[104]

IV.III Bloody Fruits of Western Policy: Humanitarian Catastrophe

The ensuing conflict has resulted in an escalating humanitarian catastrophe that has primarily affected the civilian Albanian population, inflicted particularly by Western-backed Macedonia. Macedonia has responded with unwarranted and indiscriminate brutality much of which is directed systematically and with impunity against Albanian civilians. The international community, particularly the United States, bears direct responsibility for the massive violations of human rights perpetrated in Macedonia’s offensive, constituting the driving strategic and military force behind the offensive. While purportedly urging Macedonia to use restraint in its crackdown, NATO Secretary-General Robertson and EU security affairs chief Javier Solana “underlined NATO and EU support for the Skopje government’s action.” “Macedonia enjoys the firm support of the international community to act against those who use the bullet rather than the ballot box,” stated Robertson concerning the Macedonian offensive that has been strongly condemned by international monitors. 

Executive Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, Holly Cartner, reported that Macedonian “government forces were responsible for the deliberate killing of 16-year-old Omer Shabani on April 3 in the village of Selce.” HRW had also received credible reports that “families of ethnic Albanians arrested on suspicion of membership in the so-called National Liberation Army (NLA) were unable to obtain any information on the whereabouts of their relatives.” HRW’s own documentation further indicated that “government forces were responsible for the wanton destruction and looting of villages perceived as being pro-NLA, including the villages of Selce, Gjermo, Gajre, Drenovec, and Kolte.”[107]

A representative case study of the nature of the Macedonian assault is the arbitrary shelling and burning of the ethnic Albanian village of Runica, which included the brutal beating of some of its civilian inhabitants, toward the end of May. According to Human Rights Watch, Macedonia’s attack began without warning around 4:00 AM on 21 May “with mortars, tank shells, and helicopter fire.” Most of the approximately ten families that lived in the hamlet, making up a population of about 100, fled immediately into the mountains to escape the shelling. Virtually the entire village of around fifty houses was burned to the ground, including the mosque and the school. One family with four daughters did not flee due to their inability to evacuate their elderly and infirm father. The family was caught and badly beaten when Macedonian government troops entered the village. “Macedonian forces beat all members of the family, and twice doused the thirty-one year old son with gasoline and threatened to set him on fire. The family was walked down the only street of the village and continuously beaten and kicked while the Macedonian forces burned most of the houses in the village with gasoline.”

Fifty-six year old Advie Hamidi, the mother of the family, testified to Human Rights Watch:

[The Macedonian forces] broke down the door and right away started beating us, kicking us with their feet and with the butts of their gunsé I don’t know how many times I was hit, with fists, with guns, they dragged us by the hair and dragged usé Then they put gasoline on the house and lit it on fireé Then they took us out in the streeté They burned all the houses, the mosque and the schoolé When we reached the bottom of the village, they put the barrel of an automatic rifle in my husband’s mouth. He was lying down and they stepped on his chest, almost killing him. Then they took my eldest son. They twisted his arms [behind his back] almost breaking themé Then they hit him in the head with a rifle and a lot of blood started flowing. Then they took the can of gasoline [and poured it on him]. Me and all my daughters rushed to him to try and protect himé >From the morning hours until 11:30 a.m., they never stopped beating us. Cartner thus reported that HRW investigations “show that Macedonian forces burned civilians’ homes and beat some villagers last week in the village of Runicaé The government’s actions are at odds with its legal obligations and stated intent to minimize civilian casualties. The U.S. and European governments should condemn the ill-treatment of the villagers of Runica by Macedonian forces and push for and participate in a full inquiry into these serious abuses.”[110] Meanwhile, NATO has continued to laud Macedonia’s offensive, confirming international support for the brutal actions while routinely condemning the ethnic Albanian uprising. Lord Robertson declared: “A band of armed thugs must not be allowed to destroy a multi-ethnic democracy and these senseless attacks must cease.” V. The Strategy and its Objectives: What to Expect

U.S. strategy appears to be designed to play both sides in the Macedonian-Albanian conflict against each other to exacerbate the crisis, fan the flames of war, and thereby provide a pretext on which to escalate NATO military intervention in accordance with consolidating NATO’s military occupation of the Balkan region, in particular around Macedonia. The manufacturing of social unrest and destabilisation, manifesting in ethnic hatred and ultimately conflict, allows NATO to intervene in the name of peace-keeping for altogether more sinister motives, allowing the United States to secure its monopoly over potential pipeline routes to Caspian oil by establishing an effective NATO military occupation there. Military intervention will supply the mechanism to enforce and protect increasing political and economic restructuring of the region in accordance with Western, primarily U.S. interests. Political institutions and parties standing in the way of U.S.-NATO economic domination will be dismantled and eliminated to make way for the opening up of regional resources to Western investors.

A key precedent for this is the international community’s economic plundering of Bosnia-Herzegovina legislated for by the Dayton Accords, under a NATO military regime that dominates Bosnia’s entire political and economic infrastructure. NATO’s virtually colonial hegemony over Bosnia has been documented extensively by several leading experts, including Canadian economist Michel Chossudovsky, Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa[113] It is reasonable to believe that the same brand of policies is also planned in relation to Macedonia. Chossudovsky reports that: “A Dayton-style agreement is the chosen framework for displacing and destroying existing State institutions including a fragile yet functioning parliamentary system. With regard to Macedonia, the OSCE has appointed Ambassador Robert Frowick to work with the Skopje government.” Yet, it was Frowick é now Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office – who had been placed in charge of “implementing ‘democracy’ in Bosnia-Herzegovina under the Dayton agreement: the Bosnian ‘Constitution’ – previously drafted by American lawyers at the US Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio – was appended to the 1995 US brokered ‘General Framework Agreement’.” The destabilisation of Macedonia will therefore doubtless provide a pretext to undertake the same brand of policies undertaken previously in Bosnia, and later in Kosovo, to consolidate U.S. hegemony through NATO in Macedonia and beyond. As Macedonia’s leadership becomes increasingly bewildered, the West is increasingly likely to offer its assistance in the form of peacekeeping and loans, which of course includes the establishment of military bases along with prospects for consolidating economic and thereby political control. The present conditions thus highlight the possibility of Macedonia’s future membership of NATO and the EU, as long as it fulfils the necessary requirements of compliance to Western demands. What is of concern currently is whether the West will continue to endorse Macedonia’s brutal response to the extent that it leads to a war against ethnic Albanians in Macedonia of similar scale and character to Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo. If so, there remains very real potential for the occurrence of a humanitarian catastrophe that escalates into a wider Balkans conflict culminating in a fatal regional conflagration. The potential Western response to the crisis includes either intervention on behalf of the besieged Albanians, or support for Macedonia’s crackdown on the pretext of suppressing terrorism. Whatever the case, the Western powers under U.S. leadership will continue to attempt to manipulate events with the view to consolidate hegemony, to secure regional interests.

Thus, while there is no doubt that Macedonia and Albanians both possess responsibility for the current conflict, the fundamental underlying cause of the conflict lies in a decade of Western manipulation in the region, particularly in relation to NATO policies in Macedonia and Kosovo. Unfortunately, therefore, as far as is possible to predict from the current situation along with historical precedent, the future for the Balkans as a result of U.S./Western interference appears grim indeed.


[2] Croissant, Michael P. and Aras, Bulent (ed.), Oil and Geopolitics in the Caspian Sea Region, Praeger, London, 1999.

[4] Blank, Stephen J., ‘The United States: Washington’s New Frontier in the Trans-Caspian’, in Croissant, Michael P. and Aras, Bulent (ed.), Oil and Geopolitics in the Caspian Sea Region, op. cit.

[6] For further discussion see Chossudovsky, Michel, ‘America at War in Macedonia’, Transnational Foundation for Future Peace and Research (TFF), TFF Meeting Point, June 2001. Chossudovsky is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa.

[8] Ibid., p. 255.

[10] Ibid., p. 253.

[12] Cited in ibid., p. 252.

[14] Cited in ibid., p. 252.

[16] Lelyveld, Michael, ‘Caucasus: US Military Presence In Caspian Appears Inevitable’, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Boston, 4 February 1999,

[18] Abrahams, Fred, ‘Macedonia’, Foreign Policy In Focus, April 1998, Vol. 3, No. 7.

[20] Monbiot, George, ‘A Discreet Deal in the Pipeline’, The Guardian, 15 February 2001.

[22] Cited in Monbiot, George, ‘A Discreet Deal in the Pipeline’, op. cit.

[24] Cohn, Majorie, Pacification for a pipeline: explaining the U.S. military presence in the Balkans, Jurist: The Legal Education Network, 27 April 2001, .

[26] Cited in Monbiot, George, ‘A Discreet Deal in the Pipeline’, op. cit.

[28] The highest award for journalism in Britain.

[30] Washington Post, 15 February 1999.

[32] Vankovska, Biljana, Macedonia After the Kosovo War: The Way Away from the ‘Powder Keg’ to the ‘Oasis of Peace’ é and Back Again, Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF), Sweden, October 1999. Dr Vankovska is an Associate Professor at the University of Skopje and a TFF adviser. TFF is a Sweden-based NGO dedicated to conflict mitigation, peace research and education. On the basis of nonpartisan field missions, TFF makes analyses and concrete peace proposals, for use by politicians, media, humanitarian organizations and others. The organisation conducts courses and seminars in conflict-understanding and resolution as well as reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia and works with NGOs, the UN and Council of Europe. TFF has sent 35 conflict-mitigation missions to the former Yugoslavia between 1999 and 2000.

[34] Chiclet, Christopher, ‘KLA exports Albanian conflict to Macedonia’, Le Monde diplomatique, 15 April 2001.

[36] Abrahams, Fred, ‘Macedonia’, op. cit.

[38] Official census figures state that Albanians make up around 23 per cent of the Macedonian population, although Albanians claim that the real figure is between 33 and 40 per cent (see National Albanian American Council, ‘The Conflict in Macedonia: Summary Fact Sheet’, May 2001). A regular census is held in the first year of each decade in Yugoslavia. However, ethnic Albanians in Macedonia boycotted the 1991 census arguing that they would be deliberately undercounted. Consequently, census officials were unable to properly verify the number of Albanians in the country, and had to establish estimates of the Albanian population using previous polls among other statistical parameters. They found that the Albanian population amounted to 21.7 per cent. The response of Albanian political leaders was to complain that the census was incorrect, and therefore unjust. This response was arguably duplicitous considering that the Albanian community had boycotted it thereby establishing a fundamental obstacle to its accuracy. The complaints were eventually heard by German officials. Taking the concerns seriously, head of the Working Group for Human Rights and Minorities within the International Conference on Former Yugoslavia, Ambassador Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, called for an extraordinary census to be held in Macedonia under international supervision. This second census under the supervision of the international community – conducted and paid for essentially by the European Union on Macedonian territory é occurred n 1994. This census more or less confirmed the conclusions of the 1991 census, finding that 22.9 per cent of the population are Albanians (Johnstone, Diana, Comment on the ‘Summary Fact Sheet’, on Macedonia distributed by the National Albanian American Council, Z Net, viewed May 2001, For in-depth discussion see Friedman, Victor A., ‘Observing the Observers: Language, Ethnicity and Power in the 1994 Macedonian Census and Beyond’, in Toward Comprehensive Peace in Southeast Europe: Conflict Prevention in the South Balkans – the Report of the South Balkans Working Group, Twentieth Century Fund Press, New York, 1996, p. 81-105).

[40] Mehmeti, Kim, ‘Futile Dialogue Exposed’, op. cit.

[42] Guardian, 10 April 2001.

[44] Cited in Coen, Rachel, ‘Macedonia War Gets Kosovo Treatment é In Reverse’, op. cit.

[46] HRW Report, A Threat to Stability: Human Rights Violations in Macedonia, op. cit.

[48] Abrahams, Fred, ‘Macedonia’, op. cit.

[50] Abrahams, Fred, ‘Macedonia’, op. cit.

[52] Abrahams, Fred, ‘Macedonia’, op. cit.

[54] Cited in Coen, Rachel, ‘Macedonia War Gets Kosovo Treatment é In Reverse’, op. cit.

[56] See for example successive reports on Macedonia by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

[58] Oberg, Jan, ‘Macedonia é not innocent’, TFF Press Info 120, 17 May 2001.

[60] Johnstone, Diana, Comment on the ‘Summary Fact Sheet’, on Macedonia distributed by the National Albanian American Council, ZNet

[62] CNN, ‘NATO considers Macedonia fears’, 7 March 2001.

[64] Carroll, Rory, ‘West struggles to contain monster of its own making’, Guardian, 12 March 2001.

[66] Oberg, Jan, ‘Macedonia and the Western press’, TFF PressInfo 121, 21 May 2001.

[68] Reuters, 4 March 2001.

[70] Chandler, David, Bosnia: Faking Democracy After Dayton, Pluto Press, London, 2000, p. 211.

[72] Reuters, 4 March 2001.

[74] Kucinich, Dennis J., ‘What I Learned from the War’, Progressive, August 1999, Vol. 63, No. 8. He comments: “How this is intended to help establish democracy in Serbia or Kosovo hasn’t been explained. Nor has the failure to substantially demilitarize the KLA been explained. Nor has the reverse ethnic cleansing taking place in Kosovo by the KLA while NATO rules the province been explained.”

[76] Ibid.

[78] Ibid.

[80] BBC News, ‘Kostunica warns of fresh fighting’, 29 January 2001.

[82] Hackworth, David H., ‘The CIA Strikes Out Again’, Defending America, 13 March 2001. Hackworth is one of America’s most-decorated living soldiers. With 52 years of military experience as a soldier and a reporter, he is a leading U.S. military expert.

[84] Beaumont, Peter, Ed Vulliamy, and Paul Beaver, ‘CIA’s bastard army ran riot in Balkans’, op. cit.  [italics added]

[86] Cited in Beaumont, Peter, Ed Vulliamy, and Paul Beaver, ‘CIA’s bastard army ran riot in Balkans’, op. cit.

[88] BHHRG Report, Macedonia in Crisis, op. cit.

[90] Oberg, ‘Macedonia é Victim of Western Conflict-Mismanagement’, op. cit. For extensive discussion see Chossudovsky, Michel, Washington Finances Ethnic Warfare in the Balkans, Transnational Foundation for Future Peace and Research, Meeting Point Forum, 11 May 2001. Also note the observations of The Scotsman (2 March 2001): “MPRI sub-contracted some of the training programme to two British private security companies, ensuring that between 1998 and June 1999 the KLA was being armed, trained and assisted in Italy, Turkey, Kosovo and Germany by the Americans, the German external intelligence service and former and serving members of Britain’s 22 SAS Regiment.”

[92] Fox, Robert, ‘Thousands flee war in Macedonia’, This is London, 27 March 2001.

[94] Smith, R. Jeffrey, ‘U.S. Data Aiding Macedonia’, op. cit.

[96] Scahill, Jeremy, ‘Back to the Brink: Albanian attacks on Macedonia and Serbia could lead to another Balkan war’, In These Times, 30 April 2001.

[98] Veenendaal, Peter, ‘Strong EU and NATO Support for Macedonia’, op. cit.

[100] Gedda, George, ‘Bush: More Balkan Troops Possible’, Associated Press, 28 June 2001.

[102] Tran, Mark, ‘Little choice of NATO in Macedonia’, The Guardian, 21 June 2001.

[104] Developments do suggest, however, that the U.S. is reducing or halting its support of the guerrillas é or at least making a show of doing so. By mid-June Reuters reported that: “The NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo said on Monday it had arrested a top commander of the Kosovo Protection Corps, the Western-backed successor to the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army. The peacekeepers said they had information that Ruzhdi Saramati, a regional commander in the southern Kosovo city of Prizren, posed a threaté The arrest came a week after KFOR and the United Nations decided to suspend five other commanders from the Corps after they appeared on a U.S. blacklist of people suspected of trying to destabilise the Balkans. Peacekeepers also said they seized more than 250 rounds of ammunition, plus weapons and information about an outlawed military police group on Sunday at the house of one of the recently suspended commanders. International officials have so far been tightlipped on the specific suspicions against the protection corps commanders, although the White House linked the U.S. blacklist to efforts to quell an ethnic Albanian guerrilla insurgency in Macedonia.” (Reuters, ‘Kosovo peacekeepers arrest regional KPC commander’, 16 June 2001) This may indicate either of two possibilities. Having covertly supported KLA/NLA actions in Macedonia simultaneous with a Macedonian offensive, thus provoking regional war, U.S. policy has taken an about-turn in which support for the KLA ceases and is directed instead solely at Macedonia. Alternatively, these U.S. actions may be designed to deflect growing international criticism of the policy of covert support of the ethnic Albanian uprising by attempting to illustrate U.S. antipathy towards the guerrillas, so as to continue that support covertly and without international criticism. Which of these two possibilities is actually the case is unclear at the moment.

[106] Holly Cartner, Letter to Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, Human Rights Watch, 9 May 2001,

[108] HRW Press Release, ‘Macedonian Government Abuses in Runica Village: International Community Should Push for a Full Investigation’, Human Rights Watch, New York, 29 May 2001.

[110] Reuters, ‘Civilians’ lot unclear amid Macedonia shelling’, 1 June 2001.

[112] See Chossudovsky, Michel, ‘Dismantling Yugoslavia, Recolonizing Bosnia’, Covert Action Quarterly, Spring 1996.

[114] Chossudovsky, Michel, Washington Finances Ethnic Warfare in the Balkans, op. cit.

Mr. Nafeez Ahmed is a political analyst and human rights activist based in London. He is Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and a Researcher at the Islamic Human Rights Commission.