From STRATFOR (Austin, TEXAS):
Macedonia Accuses NATO of Siding With Militants

30 July 2001


Macedonian lawmakers are rejecting NATO's terms for peace with ethnic Albanian insurgents. In an unusual turn of events, Macedonian officials accuse NATO of trying to divide the country along ethnic lines by throwing its weight behind ethnic Albanian militants. Civil war is now imminent.


Ethnic Albanian militants, who on July 21 violated a weeks-old cease-fire with the Macedonian government, have begun withdrawing from strategic positions in the north. This follows days of violence and anti-Western riots that threaten to hurl the country into civil war.

Tensions remained high as officials from NATO and the European Union attempted to negotiate a lasting cease-fire on July 26. Days before, Macedonia's lawmakers had accused NATO of aiding ethnic Albanian insurgents.

Though Western journalists have viewed the accusation as a surge of nationalism typical for the Balkan region, NATO's recent dealings with Albanian insurgents do suggest some degree of bias, if not complicity.

Either through intent or mismanagement, NATO has helped prepare the ground for civil war.
Macedonia is the one former Yugoslav republic that remained stable during the past 10 years while bloody ethnic conflicts consumed both Bosnia and Kosovo.

During the 1990s, nearly 100,000 people were killed and 3 million displaced in the Balkans. Donor nations such as the United States, Japan, Canada and members of the European Union shelled out billions in reconstruction aid. Now, repeated incursions by ethnic Albanian insurgents into Macedonian territories threaten an encore of violence in the volatile region.

Far from being seen as a peace guarantor, NATO would bear part of the blame for a new civil war. NATO-led peacekeeping forces, known as KFOR, occupy a region of Kosovo bordering northwestern Macedonia. By order of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, KFOR must secure arms and halt trafficking by Albanian militants, but the force has failed to do so.
Albanian insurgents began filtering into Macedonia from KFOR-occupied areas of Kosovo in February, and they have repeatedly fired on national police.

KFOR has failed before to restrict the outflow of guns and militants from Kosovo.

For most of 2000, Albanian militants pressed into southeastern Serbia to annex three towns with an Albanian population majority. Many of the same militants redeployed to towns around Macedonia's Tetovo and Gostivar districts during the past five months.
As of the afternoon of July 25, militants were fighting for control of more than 20 villages but began to withdraw hours later in response to NATO requests.

With their borders still porous to armed insurgents, Macedonians fear active sabotage by NATO. For example, although the U.S. State Department hired contractor Military Professional Resources Inc. to train Macedonia's security forces in 2001, reports from Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and Macedonia indicate U.S. soldiers also escorted Albanian militants a few miles outside the Macedonian capital of Skopje only weeks ago. The Skopje bi-monthly Forum says the dual U.S. support is a means to disable Macedonia's defenses and to bolster the ethnic Albanians.

In both training and equipment, Macedonia's defense forces are already at a substantial disadvantage. Albanians are using NATO-issue 5.56 caliber weapons and third-generation, U.S.-issue night-vision equipment, according to Russian media and Dnevnik, the Skopje independent daily newspaper.
Moreover, Vremya Novosti, a Russian daily, reported on July 26 that U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said she persuaded Ukrainian officials to cease arms shipments to Macedonia. This could signal a potential arms embargo, further undermining the Macedonian defenses.

Underscoring their suspicion of NATO, Macedonian government officials were alarmed on July 21 when a KFOR helicopter violated Macedonia's airspace and touched down at two northern towns held by Albanian militants.

The country's Defense Ministry confirmed the landing, cited eyewitness reports of cargo drops and demanded an explanation from KFOR. KFOR officially denied aiding the rebels, saying its flights were meant to help establish NATO communications along the border.
Macedonia's majority party leaders also question NATO's political neutrality. The alliance did not immediately condemn the Albanians' recent violation of the cease-fire. Instead, American, German and NATO officials have blamed lawmakers in Skopje for disrupting the peace process by rejecting their proposals.

A peace proposal drafted by the United States and Europe -- and backed by NATO envoys -- demands compromises on the national language from Macedonia but no concessions from Albanian militants. The proposal would require that all state certificates and laws be printed in the Albanian Roman alphabet and in Macedonia's official Cyrillic alphabet, while correspondence to and from the central government could be in either alphabet.

Meanwhile, the proposal would also give smaller ethnic groups such as Serbs, Turks, Vlachs and Roma equal rights in local administrations where their populations exceed 20 percent, Radio Free Europe reported.
Macedonian lawmakers consider the proposal excessive. To Macedonia's non-Albanian legislators, who see Macedonia as more accommodative of minority rights than most Balkan states, the suggestions for compromises amount to arm-twisting. They also smack of betrayal to Macedonia, which has always supported NATO's deployment and occasionally unpopular U.S. foreign policy in the region.

With its credibility in question, NATO may not be able to prevent war in Macedonia. U.S. Embassy officials plan to evacuate nonessential staff from Skopje.

On July 20, NATO postponed plans to disarm Albanian militants due to the resumption of hostilities, and an envoy from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe said the alliance is helpless against ethnic cleansing by Albanians, the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA reported.

Macedonian officials are now willing to guard their borders against NATO troops as well as Albanian militants. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski plans to call a state of emergency. State security forces locked down the borders on July 25, refusing passage to KFOR and humanitarian aid workers.
The Albanian militants' campaign will likely continue, irrespective of NATO's 11th-hour efforts to restore a cease-fire.