Kovacevic on Geopolitics

From the very first days of the Obama administration, the vice president Joe Biden has taken over running the U.S. foreign policy agenda for the former Communist bloc in Europe. This self-appointed mandate applied not only to the ex-Soviet states, the best known cases being Ukraine and Georgia, but also to the states of ex-Yugoslavia in the Balkans. He has met with the proverbially corrupt Balkan political leaders on many occasions, either at the margins of international gatherings, such as the annual Munich Security Conference, or when they visited Washington, DC., and he called them his friends.

Biden has also “toured” the Balkans himself, most recently in mid-August 2016, taking with him his entire extended family. In general, he has behaved like an imperial pro-consul for the Balkans. As I have written in an earlier article, in which I examined in great detail the Biden business in the Balkans, in both his statements and activities, Biden has embodied the essential spirit of the U.S. global hegemony. In order to justify hegemonic projects, he has been willing to turn the truth upside down, so that “fancy words covered up torture chambers and targeted killings, wars masqueraded as peace, and imperial dictates were presented as sovereign decisions of free nations.”[1]

However, the world today is much less pliable to the logic of U.S. hegemony than it was when Biden started his first vice presidential term in 2009. Obviously, the manner in which he and others in the Washington corridors of power played their hand has had much to do with this outcome. There is no way to turn back the clock now. As F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, one of the greatest characters in American fiction tragically realized, “you can’t bring back the past.” Whoever becomes the president (and the vice president) next will have to pick up and deal with the broken pieces that Biden and Co. so arrogantly and carelessly left behind. Considering the choices available in November, there is no reason to expect that the global situation will get better any time soon. Quite the contrary.

At least one of such “broken pieces” with the power to hurt for many years to come is located in the Balkans. This “broken piece” was the main reason for Biden’s mid-August visit to Belgrade and Prishtina and it had to do with the relations between Serbia and Kosovo. Biden has advocated the unilateral Kosovo independence so vociferously and for so long that he could actually be considered one of Kosovo’s founding fathers. The Kosovo Albanians definitely treat him so. During the press conference with the Kosovo president Hashim Thaçi on August 19, 2016, Biden openly revealed the extent to which he had been willing to lobby for Kosovo’s recognition by the international community of states. Referring to Thaçi, he said: “Every time you’ve come to my office, you’ve said, will you call the following presidents, Joe? He gives me a list when he comes as to what countries that hadn’t – you know I’m not kidding.” [2] And Biden sure called those presidents. He did not think that would be the degradation of the office of the U.S. vice president because Kosovo has all the features of a true U.S. economic and military (colonial) dependency.

After all, one of the most strategically important U.S. military bases – Camp Bondsteel – was constructed in eastern Kosovo almost immediately after the ending of NATO military intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999. The base has since become a control & command outpost and a key facilitation point in the recent U.S. wars in the Middle East. Its significance (as well as belligerency) will only grow as both Russia and China become more involved in the Balkans, filling out the power vacuum left by the infighting and structural weaknesses within the European Union.

This is why Biden announced new financial injections for Kosovo, including “a new development assistance compact” headed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign aid agency (functioning independently from USAID and the State Department), which is supposed to bring to Kosovo hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars. This is in addition to about $2 billion that, according to Biden, the U.S. has already funneled into Kosovo since its proclamation of independence in 2008. Biden must be well aware that it is only this money that keeps Kosovo afloat considering that its ruling political elite, including Thaçi, is tightly linked with the networks of organized crime and wide-spread corruption and has very little regard for the living standards of the ordinary citizens of Kosovo, whether they are Albanian or Serb. However, for geopolitical reasons, Biden had nothing but praise for Thaçi, even saying at one point “and the rest of the world is following your leadership.”

It is possible that there is also something else which is motivating Biden’s praise for the Kosovo leadership. After all, during the same press conference, he himself admitted that “all politics is personal, particularly in international relations.” If we take into consideration how profitable business opportunities “suddenly” opened up for his son Hunter after the pro-U.S. coup in Ukraine, [3] which the elder Biden did all he could to legitimize in the eyes of international community, it may not be unreasonable to suppose that something similar is in the works in Kosovo. However, at this time, only certain symbolic honors and rewards are publicly visible. For instance, the Kosovo Parliament decided to name a highway leading to Camp Bondsteel after Biden’s recently deceased son Beau. [4] Beau Biden worked in Kosovo as an official of the U.S. Justice Department in the early 2000s. He died of brain cancer and one wonders whether his health was affected by the impact of depleted uranium left over in Kosovo from the hundreds of NATO bombs. It would not be the first time in history that the children pay for the sins of their fathers.

Belgrade in Croatia?

Prior to visiting Prishtina, Biden made a stop in Belgrade. Some critical observers claimed that as soon as he arrived, he right away made a breach in the diplomatic protocol. The protocol demands that every visiting foreign dignitary bow to the host nation’s flag held by a member of the special military guard. However, Biden seems to have ignored the Serbian flag, especially when compared to how the Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Chinese president Xi Jinping, and the German chancellor Angela Merkel acted in the similar situation. [5] Was this a sign of Biden’s still harboring animosity against Serbia stemming from its resistance to NATO? Or a sign of his disapproval of Serbia’s close economic relations with Russia? One can only speculate.

However, a much more embarrassing diplomatic faux pas was made by Biden later, when during the press conference with the prime minister Aleksandar Vučić, he thanked Vučić for his “positive vision for the future of Croatia(!)”. [6] Biden also stated that his first visit to the Balkans was “back in 1997, before the break-up of Yugoslavia,” which is historically inaccurate because Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991. In addition, he recalled meeting with the aging Tito in the company of the aging Averell Harriman, a top U.S. WWII diplomat, but also a Wall St. banker with financial links to Fritz Thyssen, one of the key Nazi financial sponsors in the 1930s. According to Biden, Tito and Harriman reminisced about some WWII events and spoke of “Franklin and Joe Stalin and Franklin Roosevelt”. Wasn’t there a Churchill instead of one of the Franklins?

Joking aside, Biden had some very serious messages to convey to the Serbs. He stated that he saw Serbia as a member of the “Euro-Atlantic” community which is a code word for NATO membership. Considering that the vast majority of the citizens of Serbia are against membership in NATO, Biden’s statement implied that the U.S. would engage, both overtly and covertly, in trying to break and dissolve that social consensus. How this is done can easily be understood if we recall the similar pro-NATO psychological operations in other Balkan states, some of which have been pushed into NATO, even without a national referendum. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were poured into the NATO-friendly political parties, media outlets, non-governmental organizations, and think tanks, while the opponents of NATO, even though they represented the majority opinion, were demonized as undemocratic, violent, ignorant, and “primitive”. To make his point even more forcefully, Biden openly praised “a strong military-to-military relationship” between the U.S. and Serbia and urged the Serbian leadership to facilitate the “increasing Serbian military’s interoperability with NATO forces.”

For the end of the press conference, Biden saved what he thought would a great PR boost for NATO promotion. Some pro-NATO media organizations immediately picked up the cue and announced that Biden publicly apologized for the 1999 NATO military intervention. [7] However, that is far from being the accurate interpretation of Biden’s words. Biden actually said: “I would like to add my condolences to the families of those whose lives were lost during the wars of the ’90s, including as a result of the NATO air campaign, in terms of responsibility”. As can easily be seen, the sentence is fairly convoluted. First of all, it hides the pernicious acts of war and war crimes against the civilian population under the innocuously sounding “air campaign”. Secondly, it buries NATO military intervention (which represented the violation of both international law and the U.S. Constitution) under the general heading of the “wars of the ’90s”. And, thirdly and most importantly, it does not clearly pinpoint those who could be held accountable in the court of law. Therefore, notwithstanding the media spin, this “so-called” apology will have no impact on the Serbian public opinion. The majority of the population will remain impervious to the U.S. and NATO “overtures” until those who committed crimes and/or carry command responsibility are not ready to atone for them, not only symbolically, but materially as well by paying damages to the families of innocent victims, such as the family of a three-year old Milica Rakić. [8] Neither Biden nor anybody in the U.S. and NATO leadership has even the slightest intention of doing that. This is just one of many indicators of the extent of their cruel arrogance and hypocrisy.

This is why Biden’s visit, though obviously personally rewarding, will do nothing to address even the short-term issue of the political stability and economic prosperity in the Balkans, let alone the prospect of its mid to long-term peaceful future. In large part due to the U.S. and NATO geopolitical engineering in which Biden was one of the chief engineers, the region has been permanently and fatally destabilized. Biden’s Balkan business is therefore not only unfinished; it is unfinishable.

5.The videos of various leaders’ reaction can be seen here: http://www.b92.net/info/vesti/index.php?yyyy=2016&mm=08&dd=17&nav_category=11&nav_id=1166860

Originally published by BFP/Newsbud on September 1, 2016.

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