Kosovo 15 years later, a personal memory and a word about free research by Jan Oberg

March 24, 2014

I’m happy to reprint an article Kosovo 15 years later, a personal memory and a word about free research by Jan Oberg, director of TFF (Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research). Dr Oberg served since 1991 four years as mediator between parties in Kosovo and also was in Serbia during Nato-bombing. His analysis in my opinion gives a good view not only Kosovo but also some events today. Jan is also the founding member in TFF which was established on January 1, 1986. Its mission is following:

TFF is an independent think tank, a global network that aims to bring about peace by peaceful means. It inspires a passion for peace from the grassroots to the corridors of power.
TFF is an all-volunteer global network. It promotes conflict-mitigation and reconciliation in general, as well as in a more targeted way in a selected number of conflict regions – through meticulous on-the-ground research, active listening, education and advocacy.
The Foundation is committed to doing diagnosis and prognosis as well as proposing solutions. It does so in a clear, pro-peace manner.”

tff logoMore in TFF home page


Kosovo 15 years later, a personal memory and a word about free research    by Jan Oberg TFF director

Lund, Sweden March 24, 2014

Media with a pro-Western bias usually remind us of 9/11 based on a victim narrative. We just passed 3/20 – the 11th Anniversay of the war on Iraq. Every year they forget 10/7 (Afghanistan) and 3/24, the destruction of Serbia-Kosovo in 1999.

What to do when NATO’s raison d’etre – the Warsaw Pact – had dissolved? Answer: Turn NATO into a humanitarian bombing organisation which in – fake – Gandhian style could say: We are bombing for a higher ethical humanitarian purpose to save lives and on this exceptionalist moral high ground we ignore international law.

Kosovo 15 years later

Kosovo remains a unique result of propaganda and mass killings to produce and independent state without a UN Security Council mandate – which doesn’t prevent Western politicians from teaching Russia international law these very days.

If Kosovo, why not Tibet, Taiwan, the Basque country, Korsica, Kurdistan, Palestine, or Crimea? The answer is: Kosovo was exceptional. But why? Oil and gas, perhaps, see later…

Kosovo of 2014 is a failed state with quite a few of the – unconvicted – war criminals of the 1990s still in power. (They were leaders of UCK/KLA army that was set up by CIA and its German brother BND behind the back of Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, the Kosovo-Albanian leader and advocate of pragmatic non-violence).

The international so-called community (read: a handful of NATO countries) have ever since violated UN SC Resolution 1244 that stated that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, FRY, was a sovereign state with territorial integrity.

The US got what was the real pupose of it all, the gigantic Bondsteel base in Kosovo, the largest built outside th U.S. since the Vietnam war – to secure the numerous gas and oil pipelines from Central Asia to the Vlore harbour in Albania. Did you ever hear about Bondsteel?

Till today, only 56% of the UN member states have recognised Kosovo as independent (declared in 2008). Reverse ethnic cleansing of the Serb minority in Kosovo took place right after NATO’s bombing – “we must understand the anger there” as some expressed it.

Serbs were some 20% of Kosovo’s people in the 1960s, today a few percent. This and the Kraina ethnic cleansing against the Croatian Serbs were the proportionately largest ethnic cleansing campaigns in the 1990s.

Insecurity, hatred and a miserable economy still characterise Kosovo after 15 years of all kinds of international missions in the place. Something very deep must be wrong. 

Whether it was a good idea to make Kosovo an independent (failed) state or not can be discussed. Belgrade’s repression was unacceptable, for sure, but there was no genocide. However, what can not be discussed is that NATO’s bombing wasn’t the right means with which to help create a solution.

If the West/US/NATO doesn’t learn from Yugoslavia, such immoral, illegal and ill-conceived projects will continue in various forms.

A personal memory

The people I met during the bombings in Belgrade and Novi Sad during the merciless destruction of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia did not see NATO’s war during 78 days as a humanitarian operation. Neither could I.

I remember standing on the 5th floor of the Moskva Hotel in the heart of Belgrade, see NATO’s fireworks during the night – its relentless pounding of the Batanica Airbase 10 kilometres outside Belgrade. I shall never be able to forget how I felt the blast up through my body. I would like to believe that if the decision-makers behind this war had been in that room and seen the destruction by daytime, they would have stopped the campaign.

Geographical distance and psychic numbing are two of the most nasty war-promoters.

One morning Belgrade woke up to the destruction of various ministry buildings in the centre. A maternity clinic had taken a hit too. That was the first time the Swedish government uttered anything but full support; then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anna Lindh, said on radio that perhaps such big bombs should not be used in city centres.

My wife called me that morning and told me that Lindh had finally said that much. I said, I know why – because I was to have a meeting with the Swedish Ambassador that morning but he had just called me to tell that we had to postpone it because the blast had blown in some windows and the main door of his villa (10 kilometres away).

That was Madame Lindh’s moment of truth. Logically, the foundation in her name last year awarded Madeleine Albright the Anna Lindh Prize

TFF’s mediation in Kosovo had a price

TFF has been engaged in Yugoslavia since 1991 and still follow developments closely. It was the only organisation that did mediation for years with three governments in Belgrade and the non-violent political ladership in the Kosovo province under Dr. Ibrahim Rugova. I personally served for 4 years as unpaid goodwill mediator between the two.

TFF produced a proposal for a 3-year negotiation process under the leadership of the UN – the only document published widely in the media in both Belgrade and Kosovo.

Naturally, TFF’s conflict-mitigation experts went out in the media against the idea of bombing because we knew that the parties were interested in a negotiated solution. And we managed quite well to influence opinion.

But neither countries like Sweden or NATO were the slightest interested in real negotiations – Ramboulliet  which, among other things, sought to force Serbia to accept NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia was a stage-set pretext for bombing by, among others, Madeleine Albright, no negotiations taking place there. 

The Swedish government at no point showed any interest in TFF’s work all over Yugslavia. But they must have known about it – because in December 1999 we received a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressing due regret that the annual organisational support we had received over 9 years (about US$ 60.000) would not be paid in the future.

Having worked for all these years with conflict analysis and peace-making in all parts of Yugslavia was too much for a Sweden that, after Olof Palme, had turned itself into an obedient follower of US/NATO, stopped being neutral and having an independent foreign policy, let alone a peace and disarmament policy.

Thus, TFF is the only organisation of its kind that has been thrown out of the Swedish government’s budget. We are proud of having survived as people-financed ever since.

Researchers who are dependent on governments for their salary and projects usually believe that they conduct free research. But there is no government money in the field of security and peace without strings attached.

That explains the political correctness, predictability and boredom embedded in most government-financed research works in the field and why genuine peace is seldom promoted in them. 

•••

Post Script by Ari Rusila:

I have also dealt issues mentioned article above. My on the ground experience comes from my capacity building work in Kosovo just after bombing and following situation then afterwards. Here is some of my own articles about topic:

kosovo heroin flag

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Crimea: The referendum, the mote and the beam, by Jan Oberg

March 17, 2014

I’m happy to reprint an article “Crimea: The referendum, the mote and the beam” by Jan Oberg, director of TFF (Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research). His analysis in my opinion provides an exellent framework and wider context to what now is happening in Crimea. Jan is also the founding member in TFF which was established on January 1, 1986. Its mission is following:

“TFF is an independent think tank, a global network that aims to bring about peace by peaceful means. It inspires a passion for peace from the grassroots to the corridors of power.
TFF is an all-volunteer global network. It promotes conflict-mitigation and reconciliation in general, as well as in a more targeted way in a selected number of conflict regions – through meticulous on-the-ground research, active listening, education and advocacy.
The Foundation is committed to doing diagnosis and prognosis as well as proposing solutions. It does so in a clear, pro-peace manner.”

TFF logoMore in TFF home page

 

 

Crimea: The referendum, the mote and the beam

By Jan Oberg

TFF director

Lund, Sweden March 16, 2014

Of course it is illegal and of course it will be rigged, that referendum in Crimea today. And of course it is a ploy and comes only in the wake of Russia’s (read Putin’s) unprovoked aggression, used as a pretext to build a new Greater Russia. 

That is, if you browse the mainstream Western media the last week and on this Sunday morning. 

Referendum means referring an issue back to the people. It is – or should be – an important instrument  in democracies. And it’s a much better instrument than war and other violence to settle complex conflicts.

Generally, citizens-decided conflict-resolution is likely to last longer and help healing wounds of the past than any type of solution imposed by outside actors.

In Switzerland citizens go and vote on all kinds of issues on many a Sunday throughout the year. Sweden has used it to decide about nuclear energy, Denmark about EU membership and – in 1920 – to solve the conflicts in Schleswig-Holstein and define the future border between Germany and Denmark. Referendums, binding as well as non-binding, are an accepted instrument in many countries.

 

Why did the West not use referendums?

The West likes to pride itself of its type of democracy whenever and wherever it can. But it doesn’t use the referendum instrument that often. 

About 25 years ago it decided that it was good conflict-resolution to divide Yugoslavia into six republics; foolishly it used the old administrative borders and elevated them to international borders (the purpose behind that: you could then define the Yugoslav People’s Army’s presence in Croatia and Slovenia as ”international aggression by Serbia”) instead of asking people to which republic they preferred to belong.

In a few days it is 15 years ago NATO bombed Kosovo and Serbia to ”liberate” Kosovo and make it an independent – predictably failed – state. Fifteen years later, one wonders what better situation a negotiated solution ending with a referendum could have produced. No referendum there either.

Or take the Dayton Accords from 1995 for Bosnia-Hercegovina. No one in the democratic West bothered to ask the 4,3 million people living there (arund 33% Serbs, 45% Muslims/Bosniaks and 17% Croats) whether they would like to live under those Accords.

Further, Dayton was signed in the US, the Bosnian constitution written by US lawyers and the agreement signed by three presidents none of whom were representing anybody in Bosnia at the time of signing. Not exactly a democratic peace. And it should be clear today that it is not going to work in the future either.

Or take the issue of nuclear weapons. No nuclear weapon state has ever asked its citizens whether they want want their country to possess nuclear weapons which, logically, also make them potential targets of somebody else’s nukes. All opinion surveys in the nuclear powers tell us that there is no majority anywhere for the nuclear weapon status.

And how few of the new Eastern members of NATO and the EU have had a referendum on membership?

So, even in democracies the belief that ”we know what is best for you” often stands in the way of more intelligent, democratic conflict-resolution, i.e. better and more sustainable solutions to complex conflicts.

This is dangerous: How did it come to this?

Crimea is an extremely sensitive conflict spot and has been for centuries. In my view, there is more than a 50% risk that the situation we see today in Ukraine may lead to something like Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Conflicts and violence – even the threat of it – as well as sanctions have their own dynamics and there is always a risk that they spin out of control – if people don’t stop and think but continue tit-for-tat escalation. 

Why has it come to this? There are many reasons but let me mention these:

► The US and the EU have meddled in Ukraine’s internal affairs in a way that they would never accept Russian neo-cons, finance institutions and NGOs would in their own countries and are, thus, significantly co-responsible for the mess.

► The US and the EU lack politicians and they lack advisers who understand the larger scheme of things. They invest in spin doctors and PR companies instead of in knowledge-based expertise. It should have been obvious to a historically minded Western security and foreign policy elite that Ukraine is not a place to fish in extremely troubled waters and not expect a harsh reaction.

► Putin sees a golden opportunity to play tough in the light of the history of the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact saying in effect: This far and no longer! To be or act surprised at that speaks volumes of ignorance, propaganda, or both. 

The triumphalist US/NATO/EU expansion policies since 1989 would boomerang at some point – and that point is Ukraine, Ukraine meaning ”border” (like Krijina in Croatia). 

Wiser politicians of the past: Common security

Whether we like it or not, the US and the EU have handed Russia and Putin a point or two on a silver plate.

Wiser politicians like Willy Brandt, Olof Palme, Urho Kekkonen, or Nelson Mandela knew that we need peace first and then a policy to secure it (not the other way around) and that that again means moderation, prudence and search for common interests rather than provocatively promoting yourself. 

The reduction in intellectualism and moderation of foreign and security policy elites worries me at least as much as Russia’s response to US/NATO/EU the-winner-takes-it-all policies.

Hopefully the referendum may defuse tension

And, so, let’s rather hope that the referendum in Crimea could be a means to diffuse the tension. The rest of Ukraine has its own deeply worrying conflict- and violence-prone factors looming.

But they don’t have to blow up like Pakrac, Western Slavonia in Yugoslavia were the first shot was fired in what became a terrible war. And remember that war was preceded by a similar fishing in troubled waters as we have seen in Ukraine.

Are political decision-makers and media able to learn from contemporary history this time or will Yugoslavia be repeated? 

Perhaps a Christian West should remind itself – and take serious – of the Gospel of Matthew 1-5:

”And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

The mutual blaming in Moscow, Brussels and Washington of ”the other” should be seen as little but psychological projections of their own dark sides (beams) of which they must be subconsciously aware.

We will get nowhere but to hell with tit-for-tat, judgementalism and self-righterousness. Both Russia and the West should, instead, take steps in the direction of democratic peace-making: refer issues back to people themselves but – and that is important beyond words – stop influencing or buying them on the way to the ballot box.

 

TFF provides research and public education related to the basic UN Charter norm that “peace shall be established by peaceful means”. 

Jan Oberg

TFF director, dr. hc.

March 16, 2014


500.000 bodies or sign!

October 24, 2008

Some of you may have been reading my earlier column “Do you hear Mr. Nobel rolling in his grave? on 12th Oct.2008.  Now I was reading an shocking article “How the Nobel Peace Prize Was Won” by Gregory Elich at CounterPunch. Original article can be found from here.

One of the main points highlights Ahtisaari’s mediator tactics when he is threatening President Milosevic that those whom Ahtisaari represented were willing to flatten Belgrade and to kill 500.000 people in a week unless President Milosevic does not sign his offer.

Sign or get 500.000 bodies!

“Ahtisaari opened the meeting by declaring, “We are not here to discuss or negotiate,” after which Chernomyrdin read aloud the text of the plan. Ahtisaari says that Milosevic asked about the possibility of modifying the plan, to which he replied, “No. This is the best that Viktor and I have managed to do. You have to agree to it in every part.” Ristic reports that as Milosevic listened to the reading of the text, he realized that the “Russians and the Europeans had put us in the hands of the British and the Americans.” Milosevic took the papers and asked, “What will happen if I do not sign?” In answer, “Ahtisaari made a gesture on the table,” and then moved aside the flower centerpiece. Then Ahtisaari said, “Belgrade will be like this table. We will immediately begin carpet-bombing Belgrade.” Repeating the gesture of sweeping the table, Ahtisaari threatened, “This is what we will do to Belgrade.” A moment of silence passed, and then he added, “There will be half a million dead within a week.” Chernomyrdin’s silence confirmed that the Russian government would do nothing to discourage carpet-bombing. The meaning was clear. To refuse the ultimatum would lead to the deaths of large numbers of civilians and total devastation. President Milosevic summoned the leaders of the parties in the governing coalition and explained the situation to them. “A few things are not logical, but the main thing is, we have no choice. I personally think we should accept…To reject the document means the destruction of our state and nation.”

True story

I originally found above mentioned article from a column by Dr. Jan Oberg, who is a Danish co-founder of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.  He also checked from a  Canadian lawyer Chistopher Black if the quotation was true.  The lawyer confirmed that it was exactly the same what President Milosevic had earlier told him in his cell in the Hague.

Dr. Oberg published also 22nd Oct. 2008 an article which headline “Peace Laureate Ahtisaari endorsed terrorism” tells quite a lot about content. I really recommend you read this analytical article yourself.  It can be found from here. If link does not open so copy/paste following address: http://www.transnational.org/Resources_Treasures/2008/Oberg_Ahtisaari_2.html

The bottom line

After reading articles mentioned above, having followed Kosovo conflict management on the ground as well from different reports and sources I would conclude, that

  • methods to stop Nato bombings were not so sophisticated than maybe earlier assumed
  • it is not anymore unclear, why Serbs had reservations for Ahtisaari and his impartiality as UN envoy/mediator
  • it is easy to understand why there was not real negotiations – status talks – 2005-2006, why they failed and why the outcome – Ahtisaari plan/report – is what it is

The lesson learned could be that crisis management with using force to get imposed solutions without real negotiations between local stakeholders are not sustainable.



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