Balkans: War Without End

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April 3, 2009: The Kosovo War is having a strange tenth anniversary. Serbians remain angry at the loss of Kosovo and at NATO's 1999 bombing campaign. The war isn't really over. Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008 demonstrated that. Serbia continues to reject Kosovo's unilateral separation. Even Serbian pragmatists hope for at least a minimal partition of Kosovo, with Serbian enclaves in northern Kosovo becoming part of Serbia. Serbia has the support of Russia in this effort. As for Russia, it invoked Kosovo as a precedent for separating an ethnic enclave from a larger state when it fought a war with Georgia in August 2008.

NATO's air campaign against Serbia began on March 24, 1999 and continued for 78 days. NATO was intervening on behalf of Kosovar Albanians. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA, UCK is the Albanian acronym) began to openly operate in 1996 and 1997, and by the end of 1997 Serbia was waging a low-grade counter-insurgency war in Kosovo. In 1998 the war expanded. Western European nations and the US said they would not stand by while the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic conducted another Srebrenica-like massacre (Srebrenica is the Bosnian town where Bosnia Serb forces backed by Milosevic killed 6000 to 8000 Bosniak Muslim men in July 1995. ) The Clinton Administration eventually used NATO as the military and political structure for conducting the air campaign against Serbia and then moving into Kosovo.

April 1, 2009: Albania and Croatia have joined NATO and become NATO's 27th and 28th member nations. Both countries have forces serving in Afghanistan. Macedonia continues to pursue membership in NATO, but Greece consistently blocks it. Greece refers to Macedonia as the "FYROM" (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Greece fears that Macedonia will lay claim to northern Greek province of Macedonia.

March 18, 2009: Greece said that it will continue to support Serbia's demand that resolving the Kosovo issue be done in a legal forum. Serbia has a case before the International Court of Justice which questions the legality of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. Kosovo maintains that it will win any legal battle in the ICJ.

March 16, 2009: Kosovo border police stopped a Serbian government group from entering Kosovo. Kosovo's government says that Serbian government officials must apply to Kosovo's Foreign Ministry for permission to enter the country. Serbia, of course, contends that Kosovo is still part of Serbia and that its government officials do not need permission to enter Kosovo.

Irish police said that the Irish Republican Army had received weapons from Albanian suppliers. Albanian smugglers provided the IRA with automatic rifles and pistols. Specifically, Irish police believe that the Real IRA (RIRA) and one of its factions, acquired weapons in Tirana (Albania's capital). It is likely that many of the weapons came from former Albanian military weapons caches which were looted after Albania's Communist government fell.

March 15, 2009: The Greek radical group Revolutionary Struggle claimed that it was responsible for two bomb attacks in Greece on facilities owned by the US banking group, Citibank. Revolutionary Struggle is making a real attempt to take on the mantle of the old November 17 (N17, also Revolutionary Organization 17 November) terror group, which Greek police and intelligence agencies dismantled in 2002. Still, November 17 had a 25-year run as a "Marxist-leftist-anarchist" terror group. Greek police say that Revolutionary Struggle (Epanastatikos Agonas) is using the riots that began in December 2008 as a political opportunity. The organization has said as much itself, that it intends to use the global recession to launch a revolution that will "end capitalism."

March 9, 2009: Serb police arrested 35 smugglers who are charged with smuggling petroleum and alcohol into Kosovo. 18 of the people arrested are policemen. Serbia is conducting an anti-corruption drive as part of its on-going campaign against organized criminal syndicates operating in the Balkans.

March 8, 2009: Around 60 people (including eight police officers) were injured when Kosovar Serbs protested a power shortage in Shillova, Kosovo.

 

 

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