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Toward a New Foreign Policy.

Key Recommendations

* The U.S. should provide emergency military and financial assistance to Macedonia.

* Washington should put intense pressure on rebellious Kosovar and Macedonian Albanians by increasing KFOR's strength and border patrols.

* The U.S. needs to take a firm stand regarding potential border changes in the Balkans.

Responding adequately to the demands of the competing nationalisms in the Balkans is no easy task. For starters, the U.S. together with NATO and the European Union should articulate a firm and consistent policy regarding the upsurge of extremism and nationalism in the Balkans. At such a critical time, it would be wise for Washington to maintain open communication lines with all parties in the Balkans--the Croats, the Muslims, the Serbs, the Albanians, and the Macedonians.

Clearly, however, the good guy/bad guy policy framework only compounds the regional crisis. During the Milosevic regime, the Serbs were viewed as the bad guys. Now that they have unseated Milosevic, they have become good guys. The U.S. came to the aid of the Kosovar Albanians in 1999 but have since condemned the Albanian extremists, who have spread the conflict to the Presevo Valley and Macedonia, perhaps with the hope of creating a Greater Kosovo.

As is proper, the world powers and the UN Security Council have expressed solid verbal support for the Macedonian government in its conflict with the Albanian paramilitaries. This rhetorical support, however, should be immediately translated into financial and military aid. The Macedonian forces are poorly equipped to deal with a broader insurgency, and without aid, the fragile Macedonian government could collapse. The longer that Macedonian forces fight Albanian rebels, the greater the chance for a complete breakdown in interethnic relations in the country. A civil war in Macedonia could easily escalate into a broader regional conflict. Immediate action is required to prevent such a potentially devastating deterioration.

The U.S. should exert political and military pressure on the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia to try to prevent the strengthening of the NLA guerrillas forces. The U.S. and NATO should seek a mandate to increase KFOR's strength in Kosovo and should transfer more KFOR troops to the Macedonian border region. The international community should have zero tolerance for the violence in Macedonia and should consider cutting off economic and military aid to the Kosovar Albanians. Such a stance would send a clear message to the extremists of the ethnic Albanian poulation that the international community will not tolerate further ethnic warfare in the Balkans.

Simultaneously, the U.S. and NATO must insist that any negotiations on the future of the Albanian community in Macedonia should only be held once the rebel army is disbanded and renounces its intentions of achieving political ends through violence. There should be no negotiations with the NLA without a cease-fire, and the U.S. should only negotiate with the NLA's political arm.

The U.S. together with the European Union should facilitate talks aimed at improving the plight of Macedonia's Albanian community. These talks should be held in the form of a regional conference to solve the overall Albanian question in the former Yugoslavia. A solution for the Macedonian Albanians should be closely linked with resolving the situations of Albanians in Kosovo, southern Serbia, and Montenegro. Without a more comprehensive approach to solving the Albanian question, instability in the southern Balkans is likely to continue and intensify.

The U.S. must take a clear stance regarding the potential for future border changes in the Balkans. Any border changes should only be agreed upon through a Balkans peace summit with the consent of all sides involved. In the meantime, the U.S. must stand firm against the creation of new borders through military force.

Washington should recognize that the main threat to Balkan stability currently rests with the extreme nationalist Albanians, who seek to carve out either a Greater Albania or a Greater Kosovo. Just as the U.S. stood firmly against a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia, it needs to remain consistent and strongly oppose any attempts to create a Greater Albania or a Greater Kosovo.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the U.S. and NATO should oppose Bosnian Croat attempts to unilaterally declare a third entity in Bosnia. Any changes in the constitutional status of a sovereign state--be it in Bosnia-Herzegovina or in Yugoslavia--need to be achieved through the consent of all parties within the state, through political negotiations, and in an atmosphere of tolerance.

With regard to the new Yugoslav government, the UN and the Hague prosecutors should negotiate a timetable for Yugoslav compliance with human rights measures--most prominently, the arrest and prosecution of war criminals. The politics of threats and ultimatums is unnecessary and counterproductive given the new political realities in Serbia.

The U.S. government, which played a leading role in the Balkans until the end of the Clinton administration, should continue to assist and coordinate in achieving a consistent Balkan policy. Such a policy should avoid the mistakes of the past while working toward bringing all sides to the negotiating table to avoid further warfare--a prospect that would directly threaten U.S., NATO, and European interests in southeastern Europe.

Robert D. Greenberg <> is a professor in the Department of Slavic Language at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently a Fulbright scholar in Macedonia.
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Author:Greenberg, Robert D.
Publication:Foreign Policy in Focus
Date:Apr 22, 2001
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