(March, 2000)Kosovo, one year on
The view from Kosovo - Tim Judah
- Nato's incomplete victory
- Serbs fear new war
- Behind the Kosovo crisis
One year after the beginning of Nato's 78-day aerial bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, Serbian Kosovo is dead. But Kosova, the Albanian name for the province which is still technically part of Serbia, is alive - if not well.
The record of the Nato-led peacekeeping force K-For and the UN administration in the province, Unmik, has been mixed, but the task they were set was immense - and ultimately perhaps impossible.
During the bombing campaign, which began on 24 March and lasted until K-For troops entered the province on 12 June 1999, the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR registered 848,000 ethnic Albanians who had fled or been ethnically cleansed from the province.
Tens of thousands more were also sent fleeing into the hills and woods of the interior.
In the decade before the war 350,000 Kosovo Albanians were also registered as having asked for asylum in western Europe.
By the end of February 2000 the number of refugees officially repatriated was 825,000 and tens of thousands more are likely to have returned without registering.
This extraordinarily rapid refugee return must rank as a major success for K-For and Unmik - but it is set against a UN estimate of 230,000 Serbs, Roma (Gypsies) and others who have been ethnically cleansed or fled since the ending of Serbian rule.
In the wake of the collapse of Serbian administration and the repressive law and order that went with it, Unmik has found it hard to fill the vacuum.
Revenge attacks, ethnically motivated murders, bombings and arson have driven the vast majority of the remaining Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo into enclaves guarded by K-For troops.
No one knows how many people have been killed in Kosovo since 12 June.
A recent figure given by the Yugoslav authorities, which are not present on the ground, claims that there have been 793 murders of which 630 were Serbs or Montenegrins.
The UN has a figure of 488 of which 161 were Serbs and 197 Albanians and the rest unknown or others.
Of some 4,700 international police designated for the province just a little over half have now started work and general crime, as opposed to ethnically motivated crime, is out of control.
While Serbs in central and southern Kosovo live in enclaves half the remaining estimated Serbs, 50,000 out of perhaps 100,000, live in northern Mitrovica, formerly a mixed town, and traditionally Serbian majority land in the north of Kosovo.
Since February Serbs, Albanians, K-For troops and the UN have clashed over the future of the divided town.
Albanians from the now Serb-controlled north of Mitrovica want to return home but the Serbs say that north Mitrovica is one of the only places they are safe in Kosovo today and that they will be driven out if Albanians become the majority there again.
They also link the return of Albanians to the north to the return of Serbs to the south.
In effect a de facto partition of Kosovo has taken place and, if one day in the future Kosovo becomes independent, then Serbs in the north say they will secede from the province to remain in Serbia.
The problem of Mitrovica is vastly complicated by the fact that the area is home to a vast mining complex.
In the past it produced gold and zinc. Now it is moribund and many international experts think if it ever began work again it would no longer be competitive on the global market.
Still, both Serbs and Albanians believe that immense riches remain to be exploited.
While K-For and Unmik can expect renewed clashes over Mitrovica in their second year, they are also bracing for conflict along Kosovo's eastern border.
On the Serbian side of the boundary lie three ethnic Albanian dominated areas, Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja.
A new ethnic Albanian guerrilla organisation has sprung up here, which demands that the area be joined to Kosovo.
They are supplied with arms and ammunition from Kosovo and have close links to the former guerrillas of the old Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
The area is home to some 70,000 ethnic Albanians but 6,000 have fled into Kosovo since June.
The UN is now making contingency plans to receive some 30,000 more refugees if a major conflict flares up this spring.
The former KLA has now divided into several streams. The military leadership has transferred to a supposedly demilitarised civil emergency organisation called the Kosovo Protection Force.
Kosovo Albanians regard this as the nucleus of the future army of a future independent Kosovo.
There have been numerous allegations that its members have been involved in clashes on Kosovo's eastern border, in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs and crime.
In all major towns and cities of Kosovo, apart from northern Mitrovica, almost all trace of Serbia has been erased.
Immediately after the entry of K-For troops into Kosovo and with the collapse of the Serbian administration KLA men or KLA sponsored politicians moved to seize power in the town halls. A KLA dominated provisional government also began work.
Under the leadership of Bernard Kouchner, the French former minister, humanitarian activist and founder of Medecins sans Frontieres, Unmik has now negotiated a power sharing structure with these former KLA dominated "parallel structures".
So far Kosovo Serb representatives have refused to join this new administration.
Local elections are likely to be held in Kosovo this autumn. However there are no imminent plans for any general elections to any parliament which might determine the province's future.
The UN's Security Council Resolution 1244 which established Unmik asked it, "pending a final settlement", to prepare Kosovo for "substantial autonomy and self-government".
Resolution 1244 also reaffirmed the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia", of which Kosovo remains a legal part.
The fundamental problem is that the vast majority of Kosovo's population will not accept autonomy in Yugoslav ever again, but Unmik has no mandate to prepare the province for independence.
In the long run, frustration over this contradiction could lead Kosovo Albanians into conflict with Unmik and K-For, if they become seen as occupiers.
In the meantime Kosovo's future is also held to ransom by the extreme instability of the region.
Montenegro teeters on the brink of war, and many now believe that the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav president, will only be changed through violence and bloodshed.
- The view from Kosovo
- Serbs fear new war
- Behind the Kosovo crisis
Nato won a convincing military victory in Kosovo.
Whatever the initial hesitation of the air campaign; once it became clear to the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that Nato's political will would not break, the campaign was all but over.
Just how many Yugoslav tanks Nato warplanes may or may not have deployed is not the point. The only thing air power could do was to force Mr Milosevic to withdraw his troops and paramilitary units from Kosovo.
And this Nato did with the loss of only two aircraft and no pilots in combat.
However, Nato's political victory was far less conclusive.
The ending of the conflict has left the province with what promises to be an indefinite and significant garrison of Nato troops.
Inside Kosovo, relations between the remaining Serbs and the Albanian majority are bitter and explosive.
The United Nations civil administration is under-resourced.
Though diplomats don't like to admit it, the international community has established a strange kind of power-sharing arrangement in Kosovo between the UN and Nato on the one hand, and the heirs of the Kosovo Liberation Army on the other.
Nobody seems to have a clear idea about Kosovo's future.
And many other nagging problems remain; not least the tensions in the parts of Serbia closest to Kosovo where significant numbers of Albanians still live and the simmering tensions within Yugoslavia between Serbia and Montenegro.
During the conflict there was much talk of bringing the Balkans into the mainstream of Europe.
In the aftermath of the air campaign there has been little action to implement such lofty sentiments.
The Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is still in power in Belgrade.
Would there have been the same impassioned European response to the rise of the extreme right in Austria if Kosovo hadn't happened?Just as the Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein survived the Gulf War and saw out his chief adversary, former President George Bush, so Mr Milosevic's regime looks set to see out President Bill Clinton's term of office.
Indeed in one of those ironies of history, if the Republicans win this year's US presidential race, President Saddam Hussein could be facing a second President George Bush in a few months' time.
This situation has left many critics of western policy despairing; there are those who claim that the Kosovo war was not about defending human rights but about diplomatic self-interest.
In this view Nato had to square up to the bully not because of principle but to show that it still meant business. But this is a simplistic view.
In the real world diplomatic machismo and political principle may be forced to walk hand-in-hand.
Nato did indeed prove in Kosovo not only that it still has a mission but also that it had the stomach for a fight.
And remember there were many people who insisted that after a week or so of bombing the Nato alliance would have to call it all off or risk fragmentation.
That didn't happen. An important new principle - that of humanitarian intervention in another country's affairs was established.
No, of course the same approach wasn't pursued in Chechnya. Moscow is no Belgrade.
But not to apply a principle consistently does not mean that there is no principle worth applying at all.
One contributor to this Kosovo anniversary coverage insisted that Kosovo had made a difference to the Europeans in particular. Whatever the deficiencies in their military capability, he said, they did act.
And this former senior officer also wondered if there would there have been the same impassioned European response to the rise of the extreme right in Austria if Kosovo hadn't happened.
But the very incompleteness of Nato's political victory does raise serious questions.
Western countries have resorted to armed force in the wake of the Cold War on several occasions. But these conflicts are always fought to a partial conclusion.
For one thing western public opinion - whose support is essential for any military campaign - tends to prefer limited goals, or that at least is what the politicians tell us, because they fear the casualties of a full-scale involvement.
Such are the dilemmas of wars of choice fought not for survival or to defend immediate interests.
In Kosovo, for example, Nato may be fated to struggle from one crisis to another.
For with the war over, other issues have risen up the political and diplomatic agenda.
Perhaps the greatest foreign policy problem of all is how collections of countries can retain sufficient engagement in key foreign policy issues to really make a difference.
- The view from Kosovo
- Nato's incomplete victory
- Behind the Kosovo crisis
A year after Nato began its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, President Slobodan Milosevic appears firmly entrenched in power.
Demonstrations against him last year faded without trace, and the latest opposition attempts to mount a challenge have looked weak and indecisive.
Meanwhile Serbia remains internationally isolated as a result of economic sanctions, severed diplomatic links and air traffic restrictions.
Slobodan Milosevic did not speak of defeat when he addressed a congress of his Socialist Party in February: "The entire world is aware that during the war we offered resistance in all ways," he told an audience of his supporters.
"And in all these ways we were superior."
Mr Milosevic is not only the president of the state - in effect, he is the state.
Through his party machine he controls the police, the media and the economy. He may have relinquished control of Kosovo to Nato-led peacekeeping forces, but he is not about to give up power.
"Mr Milosevic is president of Yugoslavia," said Miodrag Popovic, the Serbian deputy minister of information. "We did have elections. And likewise he's going to stay president as long as the people want him as a president."
From the rubble of Nato's bombing campaign, President Milosevic emerged like a phoenix.
He styled himself as rebuilder of the nation, in a propaganda campaign waged through the state-controlled media.
A workforce was marshalled to rebuild roads, bridges and apartment blocks, which were opened either by Mr Milosevic or by other Socialist Party officials.
"This was a very primitive campaign, but it worked," said Bratislav Grubacic, a political analyst in Belgrade. "They built some bridges - not perfectly because trucks can't drive over them - but from the point of view of ordinary people it looked like the authorities were doing something."
In an apparent effort to silence voices of dissent, the authorities in Belgrade have begun a creeping clampdown against alternative media.
Officials from the ministry of telecommunications, backed by police, have closed down a number of private and opposition-controlled radio and television stations.
Lawyers say the government has deliberately kept the electronic media in a legal twilight, making it easy to close down broadcasters.
i>Rumours of war
"The regime is closing down the free media because it wants to call elections," said a leader of the opposition Alliance for Change, Vladan Batic. "The government wants to hide the truth."
In this atmosphere of oppression, rumours are rife of a new Nato bombing campaign or a war in the smaller Yugoslav republic of Montenegro.
These fears have been fuelled by instability in south-eastern Serbia, where a new ethnic Albanian guerrilla group has emerged and is challenging the Serbian security forces.
The government is not discouraging the general paranoia in Serbia.
President Milosevic has a reputation for thriving in a crisis; if he cannot find one, analysts say, he will create one.
Many people blame him for the Nato bombing last year and for much of what Serbia has suffered since.
But in the absence of any credible political alternative, for the moment at least Mr Milosevic is here to stay.
- The view from Kosovo
- Nato's incomplete victory
- Serbs fear new war
In March 1998, Serb forces rolled into a village called Prekaz in central Kosovo and, using tanks and armoured personnel carriers, levelled the home of a family called Jeshari. Adem Jeshari, Belgrade claimed, was a notorious terrorist.
"It was a normal policing action against a well-known criminal", Serb General Nebojsha Pavkovic, now the head of the Yugoslav armed forces, tells the programme. "It was successful. The other details I don't remember".
The details Pavkovic chooses not to remember are chilling. Fifty-three members of the Jeshari family were murdered. In Milosevic's Serbia this is, of course, an all too normal policing action.
But, in the words of a prominent Kosovor Albanian journalist, it was also "a ruthless favour to the Kosovo Liberation Army".
The Prekaz massacre acted as a clarion call to thousands of young Albanian men who now flocked to join the ranks of hitherto small and shadowy band of fighters known as the UCK or KLA.
But more crucially Prekaz was also to change international public opinion.
"As soon as we got the pictures of Prekaz," Veton Surroi, a respected opposition leader and newspaper publisher says, "we put them on the internet". The Albanians were inviting the world to share their pain.
In the months that followed the KLA played a subtle but deadly game in which the willingness of the Serb police and Yugoslav army to commit atrocities against civilians was skillfully manipulated to coax the international community into action.
Moral Combat - Nato at War shows how the United States, which had described the KLA as "terrorist", now sought to form a relationship with it.
The State Department thought more and more of this elusive Cornfield Commando force as freedom fighters engaged in a legitimate armed struggle against a brutal oppressor.
In January 1999, 45 Albanians were found dead outside the village of Racak after a Serb attack the previous day. It happened in the middle of what was supposed to be a ceasefire, brokered by the US envoy Richard Holbrooke three months earlier. That massacre changed everything.
"Spring has come early," US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told her colleagues, acknowledging that she had been expecting a resumption of hostilities, despite the ceasefire, once the winter snows had thawed.
Mrs Albright decided it was time for action. She told her European counterparts that she was coming to no more of the diplomatic meetings which would result in no action.
She said she would now enter a peace process only if diplomacy was backed by the explicit and credible threat of force against Belgrade. She knew the outrage sparked by the Racak massacre would provide a limited window of opportunity to galvanise international resolve.
Mrs Albright was right. The European allies agreed. A last-ditch effort to find a settlement was convened by the British and French at Chateau Rambouillet, outside Paris.
The Europeans, earnestly, sought an agreement that both sides could accept. But they also agreed with the Americans that any peace agreement would have to be enforced by an international military presence.
Avoiding a repeat of Bosnia
The leading allies were agreed that this force would have to be a Nato force. None wanted to repeat the very bruising experience of the UN Protection Force (Unprofor) in neighbouring Bosnia during the 1990s.
The Americans knew that because it had to be Nato, the chances of the Serbs accepting the deal were very small. They had a second acceptable outcome in mind.
"That meant the Serbs rejecting the plan and the Albanians accepting it," Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin told me.
Then, he added, there would be clarity where previously there had been confusion, clarity as to who was to blame, as to who Nato should oppose and who Nato should support.
It took weeks, but the US finally persuaded the Albanians to accept the plan. The Serbs rejected it. The European allies found themselves committed to the use of force against a sovereign European state.
But President Milosevic was not cowed. He was preparing to dramatically raise the stakes. Before the first bomb was dropped his forces moved into position and started executing the biggest campaign of forced deportation since the Second World War.
Nato air campaign
By the end of the first week of the Nato air campaign, hundreds of thousands of deportees were crossing the border into Albania and Macedonia.
Three miles above them, Nato found themselves powerless to halt it. Nato's stated objectives were now a hostage to fortune. President Clinton had said on the first night that the purpose of Nato's actions was "to halt an even bloodier offensive against innocent civilians".
Washington was shocked. A war that had been entered into with such confidence, and which those who had advocated it believed would be over very quickly, was now spiralling out of control.
There were a couple of times when I felt I just can't do this any more. We're just not doing this right and I owe it to my people to stand up and say we're just not doing this right. General Michael Short.The strains in the Nato alliance began to tell. American General Michael Short, the head of the air campaign, considered resignation.
This veteran combat pilot, who had flown hundreds of missions in Vietnam and whose devotion to those under his command is striking and beyond dispute, was so appalled by the orders he was being given that "there were a couple of times when I felt I just can't do this any more. We're just not doing this right and I owe it to my people to stand up and say we're just not doing this right".
He did say that. He argued it up the chain of command. He asked for permission to go after major, fixed strategic targets in Serbia proper.
That permission was withheld and he was told to keep going after small, mobile targets in Kosovo itself, targets he believed were impossible to find.
On many days, he says, his pilots had to drop as many as half their bombs on dump sites, known to be empty and of no value.
The general blames the politicians for allowing public opinion to dictate military strategy. He also blames the nature of Nato.
"This is my first time fighting a war with 19 partners," he says, adding: "It was war by lowest common denominator."
At the same time, Nato commanders were growing increasingly concerned about the security if their internal battle plans.
We have learned that a secret US investigation, carried out after the air campaign had ended, concluded that the Serbs had access to the highly sensitive air tasking orders, or ATOs.
Sources at Nato told us that in the second week of the campaign the generals found to their horror that the ATOs were distributed on an internal Nato computer system called Chronos, and that no fewer than 600 people had access to this system.
They immediately restricted that number to 100. The internal US investigation, which remains classified, concluded that when this was done, the effect on what the Serbs appeared to know was immediate.
No spy has yet been caught and Nato insists that there is no evidence that any spy was operating.
Nato does concede that the number of people who had access to the ATOs was tightened up.
Pentagon sources confirm this. They also say that the system deployed was the same for that used in the policing of the no-fly agreement in neighbouring Bosnia.
But that is a peace time operation, established by agreement. Commanders of that operation wanted their plans distributed widely because it was safer for the aircraft pilots that as many people as possible should know why they were there.
It remains mystifying that such a system was then simply inherited in the wholly different circumstances of the air campaign against Yugoslavia.
As the air war progressed and intensified, strains within the alliance deepened. In April, the British Government began to argue publicly that Nato would have to consider a ground invasion option.
There was irritation at the very public way the British Government was pushing the ground troops option. Jamie Rubin.They believed a decision on this would have to be taken soon so that the troops would be in place to launch a ground invasion before winter.
This angered the Americans. "There was irritation at the very public way the British Government was pushing the ground troops option," says Jamie Rubin, especially since inevitably it meant pressing for the deployment of American ground troops.
Robin Cook and Tony Blair went to Washington and were persuaded by their US allies not to have the debate in public. The need to preserve the public face of Nato unity took precedence, for now, over the need to address urgent questions of military deployment.
One US official conceded: "The British were told - look if you think you've come here to turn the president, it's not going to happen."
By May, though, Germany and Russia had, together, opened a secret back channel to Mr Milosevic himself. It involved the services of an inconspicuous Swedish financier called Peter Castenfelt.
He went to Moscow to meet the Russian security services, the very men Mr Milosevic believed would eventually come to the rescue of the Serbs. They told him to tell Mr Milosevic that they had decided to throw their lot in with President Yeltsin.
Mr Castenfelt was smuggled into Belgrade by the Russian secret service and over four days held a series of secret meetings with Mr Milosevic. He told them the message from the Moscow security establishment was "Exit Now".
By the time the official international envoys, Marti Ahtisaari of Finland and Viktor Chernomyrdin arrived in Belgrade at the beginning of June to try to press President Milosevic to end the war, the Serbian leader had already made up his mind. The Swedish envoy's secret mission had been decisive.
Ten days later Nato troops rolled into Kosovo with Slobodan Milosevic's consent.