Date: Tue, 29 Sep 98 12:39:51 CDT
From: (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Washington Prepares Assault On Yugoslavia
Organization: BCTEL Advanced Communications
Article: 44171
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Washington Prepares Assault On Yugoslavia

By Argiris Malapanis, Militant, Vol.62 no.35, 5 October 1998

Washington has taken new steps toward launching military strikes against Yugoslavia, using the pretext of alleged concern for Albanians in Kosova who are under fire by Belgrade's army and police forces.

At a meeting of defense ministers of NATO member countries in Vilamoura, Portugal, September 24, the U.S.-run Atlantic imperialist alliance issued an activation warning for air strikes and cruise missile attacks on Yugoslavia. This means military chiefs have drawn up their plans and are seeking participation from a number of governments, which would give international cover to action by Washington. The Pentagon has threatened unilateral military intervention unless Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic halts the offensive by his regime against Albanians demanding independence of Kosova.

As of September 24, the governments of Germany, the Netherlands, and Portugal had pledged 30 jet fighters to be used along with U.S. planes and the navy for possible military strikes. NATO officials said their plans require hundreds of warplanes.

A day earlier, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire and negotiations on the status of Kosova between Belgrade and representatives of the pro-independence Albanian majority in Kosova. The document also called on the Milosevic regime to order the withdrawal of security units used for civilian repression. And it condemned all terrorist actions, referring to the guerrilla campaign by the Kosova Liberation Army that is fighting for independence.

The government of China did not support the resolution, but did not veto it either. To secure Moscow's acquiescence at the UN Security Council, Washington had to withdraw from the text explicit reference to military strikes. The document falls under a section of the UN's charter that gives it military enforcement powers, which is what the U.S. government argues it has a right to do. Moscow, which has often sided with Belgrade in the conflict, disagrees. No measures of force and no sanctions at this stage are being introduced by the Security Council, said Sergei Lavrov, the Russian government's representative, who voted for the resolution.

Washington and Moscow have been on a collision course over NATO's expansion into Eastern and Central Europe and the repositioning of U.S. forces closer to Russia's border, as well as over U.S. imperialism's overt attempts to dominate petroleum production and distribution in the oil-rich former Soviet republics of the Caucusus region.

NATO expansion, and a new degree of domination by Washington as the number one military and economic power among its imperialist allies in Europe, were built on the U.S. government's earlier success in bleeding Yugoslavia and in deploying tens of thousands of NATO troops in Bosnia that have been occupying that republic since 1995. The U.S. rulers' ultimate goal is to use their military might to maintain an edge over their capitalist competitors in Europe and to reestablish the domination of capitalist property relations throughout the formerly federated Yugoslav workers state.

Fighting spreads in Kosova

In Kosova, a region of Yugoslavia whose population of about 2 million is 90 percent Albanian, fighting has recently intensified in the central region of Drenica and in areas east of the capital Pristina. The fighting has developed progressively into open warfare since the end of February, when Belgrade's forces launched the first assaults with heavy artillery and tanks on civilians, killing dozens. The attacks came after a series of mass mobilizations led largely by students demanding an end to the state of siege Belgrade has imposed since 1989, when it revoked Kosova's autonomous status, and reopening of Albanian-language universities and schools.

Since that time, support for independence among the majority Albanian population, which faces widespread discrimination by chauvinist Serbs, has spread. The ranks of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) also swelled over the spring and summer, and UCK units took control of large parts of Kosova. In an offensive that began in mid-July, Belgrade's army and special police units have retaken many areas, setting many villages on fire and forcing hundreds of thousands of Albanians to flee.

As of now, Albanian refugees are nearly 400,000, said Adani, a member of the Independent Students Union in Pristina who asked that his real name not be used, in a telephone interview from Kosova's capital September 24. Tens of thousands have fled across the borders to Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro, he said, but 70 percent are displaced inside Kosova, the overwhelming majority living out in the open.

Over the last few days, the war has spread for the first time to the areas east of Kosova, Adani added. Another 20,000 Albanians were forced to flee from the municipality of Podujeva, not far from Pristina. Fighting between UCK soldiers and the Serbian regime is intense there. Smoke and fire from Belgrade's artillery bombardment can be seen from afar.

Many Serbs who were brought to Kosova over the last decade as part of a colonization effort by Belgrade to tip the population balance against the Albanians have also left for Serbia.

Adani said Albanian students have maintained contact with Serb student groups in Belgrade opposed to Milosevic's brutal assault. But travel and face-to-face contact has become extremely difficult for all except journalists.

Among the students and other Albanians many echo calls by procapitalist forces who support NATO military strikes. But those views are far from unanimous.

Lulezon Jagxhiu, another member of the Independent Students Union, said Albanians in Kosova are determined to continue their struggle for independence despite the odds against them. Jagxhiu, who does not support NATO intervention, pointed to growing rebelliousness by Albanians fighting against national oppression in the region and said opposition to Belgrade's offensive among many inside Serbia remains significant even though not visible in the streets at the moment.

In neighboring Macedonia, police of the proimperialist regime of Kiro Gligorov clashed with thousands of Albanians in Gostivar and Tetovo, after cops removed Albanian flags from city halls in those two cities. Albanians are nearly a third of the population of Macedonia and are concentrated in the areas near Kosova. Spray-painted UCK signs have recently appeared on many walls in border villages.