A Specter is Haunting Europe: Kosova and Crimea

Stephen Sylejman Schwartz

Stephen Sylejman Schwartz

PRISHTINA, Kosova: A specter is haunting Europe.  Kosovar and other Albanians who grew up under Titoite and Hoxhaite Communism may recognize the famous opening from the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels:  “A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter.”

A specter is again haunting Europe, America, the world – but is has nothing to do with communism, or Marx and Engels.  It is the specter of a nation that gained its freedom arms in hand, after almost 90 years of attempted genocide, with the assistance of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  The specter is that of Kosova.

First, a brief digression on Marx and Engels.  If the old and mistaken dreamers have a single virtue relevant currently, it is that they hated Russian imperialism.  They wrote in The New York Tribune of April 12, 1853, “We are astonished that in the current discussion of the Oriental question the English journals have not more boldly demonstrated the vital interests which should render Great Britain the earnest and unyielding opponent of the Russian projects of annexation and aggrandisement.”

If one were to substitute for the word “Oriental” the term “Balkan,” and, currently, would add the names of Ukraine and Crimea, joining “America” to “Great Britain,” while supplementing “Russian” with “Serbian” projects, these words could have been written today.

In the same article, the pair declared, “Russia is decidedly a conquering nation, and was so for a century, until the great movement of 1789 called into potent activity an antagonist of formidable nature. We mean the European Revolution, the explosive force of democratic ideas and man’s native thirst for freedom. Since that epoch there have been in reality but two powers on the continent of Europe – Russia and Absolutism, the Revolution and Democracy. For the moment the Revolution seems to be suppressed, but it lives and is feared as deeply as ever… the arrest of the Russian scheme of annexation is a matter of the highest moment. In this instance the interests of the revolutionary Democracy and of England go hand in hand.”

But enough of an ambiguous and, one must suspect, a deliberately-forgotten chapter of history.  Today we are faced with the Russian seizure of Crimea.  And not satisfied to present this as an act of self-defense by the supposedly-disadvantaged Muscovite imperialists, a large sector of the Western political and media class have dishonored themselves by echoing Russian insults against the noble people of Kosova.

A month ago, on February 11, 2014, Illyria published my article “Spain, Scotland, Kosova: The Height of Hypocrisy.”  There I wrote, “José-Manuel García-Margallo, [Spanish] foreign minister, told the Financial Times: ‘If Scotland becomes independent in accordance with the legal and institutional procedures, it will ask for admission [to the EU]. If that process has indeed been legal, that request can be considered. If not, then not.’ he said. While he refused to comment directly on whether Spain might veto Scottish accession to the EU after an independence vote, he insisted the cases of Scotland and Catalonia were ‘fundamentally different.’

“I read the article with stupefaction, then with outrage. Spain has, it seems, admitted that Europe includes two classes of nations: those meriting independence if they desire it, like the Scots, and those who should be denied their independence, even when it is recognized, as in the case of Kosova, by 107 [now 108] member countries of the United Nations. Spain has refused to accept Kosova’s sovereignty.

“Do the Spanish consider the process by which Kosova was liberated illegal? Kosova was freed by military action on the part of NATO, with participation by the Spanish. Indeed, it has been claimed that Spanish air force jets were the first to bomb Belgrade in 1999. The Spanish military was then included in the administration of Kosova. These decisions were hardly seen as illegal.”

On February 17, 2014, as reported in the Financial Times, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, declaring himself against the aspirations of the Scots, said openly, “Spain has been opposing even the recognition of Kosova… it’s to some extent a similar case because it’s a new country.”

Barroso was, at least, candid, if no less dishonest and, let us note, inaccurate historically.  Neither Kosova nor Scotland are “new countries.”  Kosova may be new as an independent state, and Scotland may regain the independence if lost in 1707, but the Kosovar Albanians and the Scots are linguistically, as well as in their traditions of customary law and other cultural facts, among the oldest nations in Europe.  I do not desire to debate the distinction between countries, nations, and states.  Suffice it to say that Kosova deserved and sacrificed for its freedom, as Scotland is entitled to independence if it chooses it, and as, most certainly, Ukraine has seen its blood spilt needlessly for a freedom fully justified – that of a Ukraine whole and complete, including Crimea.

The main point remains: the infamous “chattering classes” in the West have taken up the demagogic charge by Vladimir Putin and his political mafia that since the West assisted Kosova in gaining sovereignty from Serbia, the Kremlin has the right to seize Crimea from Ukraine.

The New York Times of March 8, in an article by Peter Baker, titled “Sovereignty vs. Self-Rule: Crimea Reignites Battle,” gave the appearance of balance on the Russian propaganda equating Crimea with Kosova.  Baker wrote, “The Kosovars’ secession from Serbia in 1999 drove a deep wedge between the United States and Russia that soured relations for years. Washington supported Kosova’s bid for independence, culminating in 2008, while Moscow saw it as an infringement of Serbia’s sovereignty… The clash in Crimea is hardly an exact parallel of the Kosova episode, especially with Russian troops occupying the peninsula as it calls a March 16 referendum to dissolve ties with Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Though the United States intervened militarily in Kosova, it did not do so to take the territory for itself…”

Baker continued, “Kosova is the case that deeply divided Europe… [T]he Kosova Liberation Army, a rebel group representing the Albanian[s]… struggled against the Serbian government, which responded with punishing force until Mr. Clinton intervened in 1999 with a 78-day NATO bombing campaign.  Kosova declared independence in 2008. The United States under George W. Bush recognized it, as did Britain, France and Germany, but Russia adamantly rejected it, as did Spain. The International Court of Justice later ruled that Kosova’s declaration was legal… Russia has cited Kosova to justify support for pro-Moscow separatist republics in places like Georgia, where it went to war in 2008 and recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia over Western objections.”

The Times and Baker even quoted a denizen of the Washington think-tank universe, Dimitri K. Simes, who argued absurdly, “Kosova is very much a legitimate precedent… Independence was accomplished despite strong opposition by a legitimate, democratic and basically Western-oriented government of Serbia.”

As all who know him are aware, Simes is hardly an objective observer of this situation, since he was born in Moscow.  But more important is his deliberate falsification of recognized fact.  The Serbian regime was neither legitimate, democratic, nor “Western-oriented.”  The Belgrade cenacle of Slobodan Millosheviq rose to power by destroying the institutions of former Yugoslavia, ruled through illegal groups that invaded Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Kosova, murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians and assassinating local leaders, and supported the Iraq of Saddam Hussein and Arab extremists against the West.

Let me count the main differences between Kosova and Crimea:

1. Kosovar Albanians were subjected to repressive violence beginning in 1912 with the conquest of the territory by Serbia, although the Serbian policy of cultural genocide in Kosova became especially acute after 1987.  Russians in Crimea have never suffered such oppression.

2. Kosovar Albanians conducted a strictly non-violent civil disobedience campaign from 1987 to 1998.  Crimean Russians have never commenced or even proposed such an idealistic approach to their supposed grievances.

3. Serbian victimization of Albanians included an attempt to expel all of them in 1998-99.  No such effort has ever been mounted against Russians in Crimea.

4. NATO intervened in Kosova to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.  No similar disaster threatens Russians in Crimea.

If anybody seeks parallels in the Balkans to the Crimean crisis, they are easily identified. Like Russia now, Serbia used manufactured claims of neo-fascism and of alleged ethnic discrimination against Serbs to justify armed occupation of Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Kosova.  In Croatia, Serbia was defeated.  In Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbs were allowed to partition the country and impose a pseudo-state, the so-called “Republic of Serbs” (Republika Srpske) on half the territory, the main borders of which dated back centuries, when Bosnia was an Ottoman and then a Habsburg province, and, after 1945, a Yugoslav republic.

Serbs are right now attempting to partition Kosova by breaking off its northern part as a new “Republic of Serbs” with parallel police and other structures, murdering and expelling Albanians.

Support for Russian intrigues in Crimea has been put forward by Milorad Dodik, boss of the illegitimate “Republic of Serbs” in Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Serbian chetniks have appeared in Crimea promising to support their alleged brethren.  Bosnia-Hercegovina has announced a prohibition on its citizens from fighting outside its borders, mainly out of concern for jihadist recruitment for Syria, and Serbia has reportedly agree to the same.  Chetniks travelling to Crimea in the interest of homicidal mischief should be treated no differently from jihadists who go to Syria for nefarious meddling; nor should Serbia continue to encourage its citizens to cross the border into Kosova with similar intent.

Proper comparisons with the Russian adventure in Crimea should begin with Transnistria, the area of Moldova carved away by Russians in 1990; South Ossetia, torn from Georgia by Russia beginning in the same year; and in 1991, Nagorno Karabakh, or Artsakh, the Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan that broke away from the latter country, and Abkhazia, usurped from the Georgians in 1991.  There is a reason that Kosova has been recognized by so many UN members, who deny the sovereignty of Moscow-controlled statelets, as well as the so-called “Republic of Serbs” in Bosnia-Hercegovina.  That is because these are puppet entities created to advance an expansionist agenda.   Kosova, which is recognized even by its Orthodox Christian Slav-majority neighbors, Montenegro and Macedonia, is nothing of the sort.  It is a country established only to embody its people’s aspirations for freedom.  And so it will remain.

Powerful interests in Britain, Germany, and the U.S. seek to impede effective action against Russian lawlessness in Crimea, and do not shy away from attempting to drag Kosova into their repellent manipulations.  But Russia, Serbia, and its apologists should keep their dirty hands and despicable rhetoric away from Kosova, where they are destined to suffer new shame and defeat. To paraphrase Marx and Engels, “The powers of old Europe may enter into a holy alliance to exorcise the specter of Kosova.  But in their attempt to do so they will fail.”