American and European foreign policy in the Balkans, suffering from a terminal form of historical amnesia, is bankrupt. The results of those bankrupt policies are visibly on display today as Kosovor Albanians declare themselves independent and a second Muslim state is now established on the European continent. The stage is now set for the a regime led by elements of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and beholden to the interests of Islamic fundamentalists and narcotraffikers, to create the dream of a Greater Albania. All made possible by the United States and its European allies. The war against Milosevic, justified in part by humanitarian considerations, brought about an alliance with Albanian extremists who are now trying to do in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) what they did to Serb authority in Kosovo. If these armed groups of Albanian extremists are allowed to run rampant, they could be even more destabilizing and damaging to regional security and U.S. interests than the original sin itself.
History matters a great deal in the Balkans. The conflicts in the Balkans mirror the well-defined, historic and ethnic fault lines of a region where killings and mass murder have occurred in previous decades, and even centuries. For example, during the war in Croatia from 1991-1992, the areas where some of the most vicious fighting and killing occurred just happened to parallel regions of the country where Serbs had been slaughtered en masse during WWII under conditions which by current day definitions would have to be called genocide. The Serb population of Croatia at that time scarcely needed propaganda from Belgrade to feel very uncomfortable, isolated and afraid in a brand-new Tudjman-led Croatia.
In Bosnia, for all the horrors of that war, the conflict cannot be understood properly and accurately if it is dismissed simply as a war of Serbian aggresion. Once again, the prospect of living in an independent Bosnia -- four decades earlier, the site of horrific killing grounds of Serbs and others -- left large segments of especially the rural Serb population feeling very isolated and very fearful. Despite a post-WWII tradition of multi-culturalism and intermarriage, in rural areas especially where Serbs predominated, there was a deep-seeded fear of domination by Muslims and a collective memory of WWII killings and slaughters. In Kosovo, Albanian nationalists have driven 90 per cent of the province's non-Albanian population from there homes. The Kosovo Liberation Army now has a base from which to foment other insurgencies which it has done in Macedonia and Serbia proper. The goal of the KLA is to create a Greater Albania. That goal is no longer a pipe dream.
Ethnic cleansing has certainly taken place. Almost as soon as NATO assumed control of Kosovo in June 1999, the KLA began a systematic campaign to rid the province of non-Albanians. Not only was the Serbian minority a target, but some seventy thousand Roma (the so-called Gypsies) were driven out, as were thousands of Montinegrins, Bulgarians, Jews, and Macedonians. By the spring of 2000, more than 250,000 non-Albanians out of a prewar population of 350,000 were refugees in neighboring countries.2 Six months later, the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe estimated that 90 percent of Kosovo’s non-Albanian people had been forced to leave their homes. Joshua Trevino in his post at Brussels Journal lists the list of Kosovar accomplishments under UN supervision:
"In the aftermath of the Serb surrender in June 1999,
the victorious KLA seized the opportunity to drive approximately
200,000 non-Albanians — overwhelmingly Serbs, but also Roma — out of
the province. Human Rights Watch reported
that this flight was motivated largely by concrete threats and the
occasional local massacre, with a reported total of one thousand Serb
men, women and children murdered.
* In February 2001, an IED planted by Albanians destroyed a bus carrying Serbs to family gravesites at the Gračanica monastery.
* In August 2003, Serb boys swimming were machine-gunned from a riverbank.
* In March 2004, a deliberate anti-Serb pogrom claimed dozens of lives, and further ghettoized the remaining Serbs in their northern enclaves.
* Perhaps most distressing from a cultural standpoint is the deliberate and systemic destruction of Serbian Orthodox Church parishes, properties, monasteries, and art throughout Kosovo since 1999. Students of the 20th century will recall the Nazi efforts to comprehensively erase Jewish culture from the Continent, which included the demolition of synagogues and the use of Jewish headstones as paving: since then, only the Kosovo Albanian program to exterminate Serbian culture in Kosovo compares in European history. In the summer following the Serbian defeat, the KLA demolished the Church of the Holy Virgin at Musutiste and St Mark’s of Korisa Monastery. Sadly, they did not stop there. In lieu of the long list of churches and cultural sites destroyed by the Kosovar Albanians since 1999, is it enough to note the documentation here, here, here, here, and here."
Albanian governments have alway faced a choice between friendly relations with their neighbors or the protection of a powerful patron in order to pursue the dream of a "Greater" Albania. Albanian leaders have always opted for the second option. Ottoman Turkey, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Maoist China and now the United States have all played a key role in helping Albania achieve its objectives in the region. In each case, their patron was cast aside when they were no longer useful.
Under the Ottomans, Muslim Albanians served the Sultan as governors, soldiers, brutal policemen, efficient tax collectors and oppressive landowners. Unfortunately for Albanians they found themselves on the losing side during the Balkan Wars. Esat Bey Toptani, the Albanain General of Sutlan Hammid's forces in Kosovo and Western Macedonia ended up losing both provinces for the Empire.Luckily, the European powers redrew borders in 1913 such a way that they ensured that no Balkan state would come close to reflecting its ethnic boundaries, thus creating a state of perpetual conflict. The overarching goal was to keep these fledgling states weak, requiring alliances with European patrons.In the case of Albania, that patron was Italy. Unfortunately, Italy, separated from Albania only by the Adriatic Sea, was in a unique position to not only help satisfy the grievances of the Muslim Albanian elites but also to occupy the country and use it as a staging area for the conquest of Greece. The invasion of Albania was met with only token resistance by the Albanian Army in 1939. Mussolini expected the Albanians to provide manpower and they did not disappoint.
Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times, describes the scenes at Greek-Albanian borders:
"To inquire into Albania’s fate I went up to the border north of Janina [sic] where everyone was discussing what they would do to the “macaronades” (macaroni eaters). . . . I managed to cross into Albania through a frontier post called Perati. There I found pathetically seedy Albanian troops still wearing hand-me-down Italian uniforms once furnished at cut-rate to King Zog by a muniﬁcent Rome. They had ripped Zog’s “Z” emblem from their caps; that was the only difference, and they appeared not more ferocious on Mussolini’s behalf than they had proven in the name of their former ruler. The Italian ofﬁcers with whom I spoke were disconsolate. “Those Greeks,” said a captain from Bari. “They are so provocative. They keep pointing guns at us and making derogatory remarks.”
Fascism was a flourishing ideology in Albania since 1927 and it quickly came to the forefront during the Italian occupation. No Albanian could dream that the Rome-Berlin Axis was capable of being defeated. The new Albanian government sent the crown of Skenderberg to be handed to Victor Emanuel who would be proclaimed King of Italy and Albania and Emperor of Ethiopia. Within days of the transfer of the crown a new map made its appearance. The map of Greater Albania or Shqiperia Ethnik, which now adorns the patches of the KLA and is the logo of the Albanian American Civic League. It incorporated Kosovo, parts of Greece, western Macedonia, part of Montenegro, and Serbia.
On 3 May 1941, six days after Nazi forces entered Athens, the Albanian government dispatched another “special delegation” to Rome. It formally presented to the Italian foreign ministry “Albania’s minimal demands” for adjustments of borders vis-à-vis Yugoslavia and Greece. Concerning Greece,
besides Chameria where approximately twenty thousand Muslim Albanians lived, Verlaçi demanded the incorporation into Albania the Greek cities of Ioannina and Preveza in Epirus, “together with their regions as well as certain other Greek regions, primarily in Western Macedonia.
In 1943, when Mussolini was overthrown by Marshal Pietro Badoglio in September 1943, Albania switched its primary allegiance and dutifully offered men and services to the Nazis. In Kosovo, the Albanians
formed the SS Skenderbeg division, while in Albania proper the nationalist movement, Ball Kombëtar, joined the Nazis in their butchery of innocent civilians. The governments in Tirana ruled over Greater Albania with the same ﬁnesse that the Nazis ruled Greeks and Slavs. For Albanian leaders, the acquisition of Kosovo was more important than who their friends happened to be. Even Albania’s leading intellectual and most highly regarded statesman, Mehdi Bey Frashëri, was impressed by Germany’s territorial “generosity” and agreed to act as "regent," under the watchful eye of Hermann Nuebacher, Hitler’s Balkan envoy. Frashëri, like others, believed that only Nazi Germany guaranteed the permanent union of Kosovo with Albania, and he was not about to reject help for ideological reasons. Frashëri was guided by the same principles as those espoused by another prominent Albanian intellectual, Omer Nishani. Nishani was a card-carrying member of the Albanian Fascist Party had written previously:
"Today is a historic day for Albania. On this day, a year ago, the Constituent Assembly in Tirana unanimously decided to deliver the Crown of Skenderbeg to the king and Emperor of Italy, Victor Immanuel III. From that day on, Albania has linked her destiny to that of Fascist Italy and the Albanian people have placed themselves under a genuine monarch, in whose hands the Crown of Skenderbeg will retain its historic value. . . . On this occasion I should also like to point out several things about the fascist regime. It is most suitable for our backward country. The national identity and independence can be preserved through good organization and discipline as the fascist doctrine preaches. We have a need to organize and discipline ourselves according to the dogma of Albanian fascism, which will strengthen our nationality under the Roman Empire. Only in this way will we achieve our heart’s desire of expanding Albania to its ethnic borders."
Post–World War II historical accounts perpetuate the myth that Albania was an innocent victim of fascism and ignore its participation in a war against its neighbors. British intelligence agents dispatched to the Balkans at the start of the Greek-Italian war disputed claims of popular Albanian resistance against the Italian invaders. On the contrary, between 1939 and 1943 communists and nationalists alike were riding on the same bandwagon and vociferously spouted Greater Albania slogans. “The Korce (communist) group,” wrote Reginald Hibbert, a key British supporter of the Albanians, “began to agitate against the Greeks” (not against the Italians) and seemed pleased that the invasion ended Zog’s rule, something they had failed to achieve themselves, even with the Comintern’s help. The nationalists, on the other hand, were happy with their role as Mussolini’s loyal allies.
Between April 1939 and October 1940, the Italian general staff organized fourteen Albanian regiments (sixty-two-thousand troops) to be used against Greece and Yugoslavia. These units operated as integral parts of the army of the empire and, by and large, followed the international law governing war. But the Albanian government also asked and was allowed to create parallel irregular units, which would operate beyond the constraints of international law. Their mission was to create “facts on the ground” by terrorizing Greeks in northern and southern Epirus and expelling Serbs from their ancestral homes in Kosovo. Military documents captured by the Greek forces in the Italian garrison of Korcë (document no. 122, 29 June 1939) give the details of an understanding the Albanian and Italian governments shared concerning the importance of independent action by the irregulars. Though the Albanian government insisted that the fourteen regiments would “ﬁght under national colors,” the irregular units needed neither “national colors” nor uniforms; only weapons, which the Italians supplied in abundance. However, there was a direct linkage between regulars and irregulars and a tacit division of labor. The former were partners in the creation of a new European order, while the latter would do the dirty business of ethnically cleansing Kosovo of Serbs and Epirus of Greeks. By war’s end, the irregulars and Ball Kombëtar forces had reduced the Serbian population of Kosovo by three hundred thousand. For the ﬁrst time in its long history, Albanians became the majority in the province. As in today’s Kosovo, all atrocities against Greeks and Serbs were conveniently attributed to irregulars over whom the central command supposedly had no control. As far as communist resistance is concerned, the record is clear: it started in earnest after the battle of Stalingrad and intensiﬁed when Julian Amery (chief of British intelligence in Albania) showed up with sufﬁcient quantities of gold coins to make it happen. Communist resistance was hardly in evidence when Greeks and Serbs were ﬁghting fascism.
In 1999, the KLA also waited for an assignment during NATO’s air war against a sovereign state. Having ruled out ground forces for Kosovo, NATO was looking for a local substitute and found it in the KLA. No questions asked. The mounting evidence that the KLA was a motley collection of nationalist fanatics, unrepentant communists, and common criminals was simply brushed aside. Typical of this willful blindness was a statement by Senator Joseph Lieberman in the midst of the Balkan war. Lieberman asserted that “the United States of America and Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same human values and principles.” He added that “ﬁghting for the KLA is ﬁghting for human rights and American values.” Armed with such illusions, the NATO powers not only blundered into Kosovo, they greatly strengthened the faction in the Balkans with the most aggressively expansionist agenda. NATO’s intervention set the stage for the later crisis in Macedonia; indeed, it made that crisis virtually inevitable.
When the campaign was over, the KLA’s commander, General Agim Geku,
negotiated the conversion of the KLA into a “legitimate police force”
under Albanian “national colors” but shirked all responsibility for
the actions of “irregular units.” While NATO seems saddled with the
role of managing a protectorate on behalf of the United Nations, the
Albanian irregulars have succeeded in making Kosovo Europe’s most
monoethnic piece of real estate. Now with the help of CNN and
Washington based public relations ﬁrms, all terrorist actions by
Kosovars are explained as “understandable acts of revenge” attributable
to “uncontrollable elements,” while Serb reaction to brutalities
against innocent civilians are branded “genocide.” Detaching
Kosovo from Serbia’s control was the ﬁrst stage in that campaign—foolishly aided and abetted by NATO. Destabilizing FYROM so that the fragmentation of that country becomes likely is the next phase.
In 2001, the Albanian Ntional Liberation Army (NLNA) , an offshoot of the KLA, initiated a short conflict fagainst the FYROM government, mostly in the north and west of the country. This war ended with the intervention of a NATO ceasefire monitoring force. In the Ohrid Agreement, the government agreed to devolve greater political power and cultural recognition to the Albanian minority. The Albanian side agreed to surrender separatist demands and to fully recognize all Macedonian institutions. In addition, according to this accord, the NLA were to disarm and hand over their weapons to a NATO force. Once the agreement was signed, NATO sent in thirty-ﬁve-hundred troopsto begin a thirty-day mission to disarm NLA forces. The farcical nature of that mission was highlighted when NATO ofﬁcials insisted that the rebels had only an estimated thirty-three-hundred weapons. Macedonian primeminister Ljubco Georgievski was incredulous: “We used to seize that quantity in a single raid. . . . I think it is laughable to speak of thirty-three-hundred pieces six months after the outbreak of the crisis.” Nevertheless, NATO pronounced the disarmament mission a success after collecting just over thirty-three-hundred weapons.The episode was reminiscent of NATO’s earlier conﬁdent pronouncements that the KLA had turned in its weapons as agreed, only to have those statements rendered absurd when NATO units later discovered large caches of arms and ammunition. Furthermore, the minority Albanian population have an effective veto power over any piece of legislation. The Albanians, estimated at between 25 percent and 35 percent of Macedonia’s population, thus will have power in the parliament equal to that of the Slavic majority. Other countries, such as Cyprus and Lebanon, that have tried similar systems found them to be unworkable, a veritable blueprint for legislative gridlock.
Some provisions of the agreement have the effect of facilitating the NLA’s secessionist agenda. Albanian was to become a second ofﬁcial language in communities where ethnic Albanians make up more than 20 percent of the population. The peace agreement also required state-funded higher education in the Albanian language in such communities. And in perhaps the most controversial provision, not only were substantial numbers of ethnic Albanians to be added to the national police force, but only Albanian police were to be assigned to work in communities with majority Albanian populations. The latter requirement makes major portions of northern and western Macedonia into Albanian-governed enclaves. The worst aspect of the settlement forced on the FYROM government by the Western powers is that it gives the NLA a sizable de facto safe haven. Ethnic Albanian forces now effectively control approximately one-sixth of the country’s territory. Government forces and police are not allowed to go there, and the Skopje government does not exercise even nominal control.
When policy makers operate in a historical vacuum, mythology and
history acquire equal value, as the current Western approach to the
Balkans afﬁrms. Not so paradoxically, nationalists and communists alike
have made claims and counterclaims that have distorted the nature of
Balkan events to the point that yesterday’s brutal communists are
treated as victims and those who lost millions ﬁghting on democracy’s
side, Serbs and Greeks, are treated as enemies. Claims and myths
recorded in the Communist era
historiography form the basis of Western analyses and assert the following: (a) Albania ceased to exist as a sovereign state in 1939 and, therefore, played no role in implementing Rome’s (and its own) grand schemes in the Balkans; (b) from the onset of the war, the majority of the Albanian people resisted the occupation; (c) only the quisling government of Tirana with a few collaborators were criminally involved in acts of brutality against neighboring states; and (d) the communists commenced resistance soon after the invasions and,
therefore, they could not have been held responsible for what transpired between 1939 and 1944.
Unfortunately, the dye has been cast, for better or for worst. policies based on myth will now reap what they have sown. Contrary to expectations of a multi-culturally tolerant, economically developing, neighbor friendly Balkan region where peace is about to break out we will be saddled with an expansionist Muslim state that is well on its way to being a lynch pin of organized crime and Islamic fundamentalism on Europe's doorstep with surrounded by angry and vengeful competitors. Hardly the island of stability and loyal ally US planners had hoped for.
Balkan Wars by Andre Gerolymatos
Kosovo and Macedonia: The West Enhances the Threat by Ted Galen Carpenter
Pages From Albanian History by Nikolaos Stavrou