- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2000

The West acting through NATO went into Kosovo in the aftermath of an attempt to prevent Serbia from massacring and expelling Kosovars from that province of Serbia. Now the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is building a totalitarian regime of ethnic Albanians whose aggression against its neighbors will start new wars.
For many years the Albanian Kosovars were organized and led in their resistance to Serbia by a political movement that united almost all of their constituency under the moderate leader, Ibrahim Rugova. A few years ago, as Serbian oppression intensified many Kosovars lost patience and the KLA's armed force became increasingly dominant as the struggle became more violent.
Now the former KLA, led by 29-year-old Hassim Taci and Gen. Agim Ceku, formerly of the Croatian army, is the closest thing to a government in Kosovo. While formally disbanded, it has simply changed into the "Kosovo Protection Corps," and it continues to be the only organized and armed force apart from the Kosovo Force (KFOR) provided by NATO to support the United Nations. It does not hesitate to kill its domestic opponents and threaten moderate Kosovar leaders such as Adam Demaci and Veton Suroi. While the ideological direction of the KLA is still unclear, there is no doubt it is committed to extremist Albanian nationalism, cares little for the desires of the majority of ordinary Kosovars to live in peace, and even sometimes dreams of making Pristina the capital for all Balkan Albanians.
KFOR, the NATO-led international force which went into Kosovo to replace the Serbian army, has not tried to disarm the KLA (except for heavy artillery which it did not have much of in the first place) and does not do anything about non-military violence. KFOR does not even act to prevent ethnic cleansing.
Kosovo is repeating the lesson of Bosnia that supporting one extreme nationalism against another doesn't prevent ethnic cleansing. Albanian nationalism is not a bit better than Serbian or Croatian nationalism. The KLA removed not only some 200,000 Serbs from Kosovo but also demonstrated that it is an ethnic Albanian, not a Muslim, movement, by removing tens of thousands of Turks and Slavic Muslims, and perhaps 100,000 Muslim gypsies from Kosovo since last summer.
What Western leaders have not yet faced up to is the danger of aggression by Kosovo and the ability of this tiny non-state to wreak havoc in the region if it continues in the hands of the nationalist extremists of the KLA. The KLA is not only bad for Kosovars; it is dangerous for all those who are involved in the Balkans including Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria.
The danger comes from the fact there are areas in Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, bordering Kosovo, in which the large majority of the people are Albanian. Albanians are almost a third of Macedonia and a sixth of Montenegro. And 70,000 Albanians are the great majority of a small area of Serbia on Kosovo's northern border. As The Washington Post reported last week, KLA agents have already begun provocative killings of Serbian policemen, in the Albanian-populated part of Serbia, repeating what they did 18 months ago to start the war in Kosovo. There is every reason to believe they will use the same tactics to ignite Macedonia and Montenegro.
It is possible Kosovo will be prevented from causing much trouble by the internal divisions among Albanians between leftists and rightists, among Catholics, Orthodox, and Muslims (only 62 percent of Albanians are Muslim), between Albanians in Albania and those in Kosovo, between those who are satisfied to build their own lives and extreme nationalists. But if things continue in the current direction, it seems more likely the KLA will bring Balkan wars back to the front pages of the Western press.
What is needed in Kosovo, which technically continues to be a province of Serbia, is an administration that maintains order and prevents a politics of violence and intimidation. This is what the United Nations is supposed to provide under existing resolutions and agreements, and it is what all outside powers favor including Russia, the Europeans, and the U.S. But the United Nations is not doing what it is supposed to because the U.S. and others concerned are not willing to take casualties in order to disarm the KLA's remnants and proxies. They prefer civilians take the casualties. Civilians and the prospects for peace are being sacrificed for vain hopes that KFOR will not have to take risks and losses.
The population of Kosovo is down to about 1.6 million Albanians and 50,000 Serbs. The KLA controls it with very small armed groups. The bulk of the population is by no means committed to the KLA (except to defend against Serbians). While John Locke and John Stuart Mill do not dominate the conversation of Albanians in Kosovo, it is reasonable to think that most Kosovars would prefer a temporary U.N. administration which maintained order and provided the basis for free elections for local government rather than the dictatorial and inept KLA regime. A real U.N. administration would leave open the question of the ultimate status of Kosovo, which need not be decided until stability in the region has lasted long enough for extreme nationalist leaders to be replaced throughout the area as already has happened in Croatia.
The KLA would fight for a while against being forced to become a purely political group, and since they are experienced guerrilla and terrorist fighters they could cause casualties in NATO forces. But without the support of the population they could not defeat NATO forces. The United Nations needs to make a decision to do what it is supposed to, and to bring in police who would do the job with the protection of KFOR troops.
Stipe Mesic, the new president of Croatia, is taking a giant step away from extreme nationalism's monopoly in former Yugoslavia. But if the U.N. and NATO do not act forcefully to prevent the consolidation of dictatorial extreme nationalist control in Kosovo, the momentum he has achieved will be replaced by new bloody conflicts in Macedonia and Montenegro, as well as on the Serbian border.

Max Singer is a trustee and co-founder of Hudson Institute. Mihajlo Mihajlov is a Yugoslavia native who is a senior associate with the Program on Transitions to Democracy at George Washington University.

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