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June 27, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 351
Richard Holbrooke’s Travels

From Belgrade's Dedinje to Kosovo's Junik

by Milos Vasic

As these lines are being written (Wednesday afternoon), Reuters is reporting

that Holbrooke, accompanied by Fehmi Agani, is presently talking to "uniformed members of the Kosovo Liberation Army " in the village of Junik with three individuals, a writer, a lawyer, and the third one, who does not have a specified occupation, but owns a gun with a Kalashnikov trigger system.

This village, located beside the road from Pec to Decani, is considered one of the strongholds of KLA. The American side insists that this was not an official meeting, that it was moreover accidental--just walking through the woods and hitting upon a group of people even though some sources claim that the meeting was arranged on the previous day.
 As they were thus chatting, someone took shots at the journalists who followed Holbrooke, as well as at a police helicopter which circled above.

Before that, Holbrooke visited Decani and the surrounding area, and reportedly he was very displeased by the sight of destruction.

Knowing Holbrooke, neither Milosevic, nor Rugova can expect to have an easy time of it in the coming days, along with the "uniformed members of KLA" - hence none of the active participants on the Kosovo scene.

All three sides, Milosevic, Rugova, and the KLA, have considerably angered Holbrooke and the powers he represents: Milosevic with the way he is using the police and the army in Kosovo; Rugova with his wheeling and dealing, and exorbitant demands; and the KLA with its military operations, extremism, and refusal to join the political process. Judging by all indications, Holbrooke is now attempting to play the role of the woodsman who is given to chance encounters.  This won’t be easy.

TRAP: Namely, regardless of the patriotic hollering in the referendum, which was merely a tactic for diversion and for attracting attention, it is clear that Milosevic is slyly drawing Holbrooke and the big powers into the internationalization of the Kosovo question.

It is clear to Milosevic that Ibrahim Rugova and the Liberal Democratic Partly of Kosovo (LDK) can no longer refuse internationalization which they have been seeking for years; they fell into his trap, and will now have to choose between cooperation with Milosevic and condemnation from powers at whose feet they wailed so loudly.

Why are we talking about a trap? Because Rugova and other political formations of Kosovo's Albanians passed up on the chance to predict and to understand the appearance of the Kosovo Liberation Army even though they were warned. All conditions for the appearance of such a military formation in Kosovo were already ripe back in 1995. At that time the first warnings to Rugova were already arriving from abroad, from Bujar Bukosi's government in exile-- take care what you do because there are people who want to go to war. It is enough to remember Rugova’s pitiful attempts at explaining the appearance of KLA with such naive statements as, "it's all a setup by the Yugoslav Secret Service", "those people are merely adventurers and marginalized individuals", and "they are merely peasants who are spontaneously defending themselves". Rugova did not notice, until it was too late, that he had gotten a competitor and perhaps a deadly enemy.

But now it really is too late: KLA is in power on the ground, KLA collects taxes, rackets, and memberships, and KLA is a favorite with the Albanian public, regardless of what we might think about it. Besides that, KLA told Rugova several times that: a) it is they, and not him, who represent the will of the Albanian population in Kosovo; b) that political pluralism is a luxury which Kosovo's Albanians cannot afford at this moment (which confirms suspicions that the ruling people in KLA come from Marxist-Leninist ranks from the eighties); and c) that, if he thinks about it more, this is no longer an issue of an independent Kosovo, but an issue of uniting all Albanians, while Rugova can do what he likes...

Other Albanian politicians are not in any better situation. Adem Demaci even demanded of KLA that it submit to his command, which caused them to throw their guns down and to laugh uncontrollably for hours.

No Albanian politician from Kosovo dared to direct even a modest suggestion of criticism at KLA, even though, from a political perspective, there are very strong reasons for criticism which could one day pay off in political dividends. KLA is attacking Serb civilians and ethnically cleansing villages, which will be remembered at the time of the final political settlement. Instead of thinking politically and securing a political future for themselves, Albanian politicians from Kosovo are now trying to approach KLA in a roundabout manner. If conjectures about the ideological and political orientation of KLA are correct, firm Marxist-Leninist ideology, it is hardly likely that there will be any "luxurious" political pluralism.

According to some conjectures, Hiseni's New Liberal Democratic Party of Kosovo could appear as the political extension of KLA, but those conjectures are based more on individual personalities than on political programs and eventual voter support. Albanian politicians in Kosovo are aware that KLA needs to be institutionalized in the existing system there: there are suggestions for holding new elections, for getting KLA representatives into parliament, etc. Bujar Bukosi and his government in exile keep repeating that KLA needs to submit to their control, but it is too late even for that: Bukosi had an opportunity of carrying this out in 1994/5, when the founders of the future KLA asked him for financial support, and he refused them with horror, believing all the while in Rugova.

KHMER ROUGE: However, the question is what KLA and its members (which is not necessarily the same thing) think about all this. This military formation is otherwise exceptional in that it cultivates a mysterious image and in that its contact with the public resemble most those of the former Yugoslav National Army and the Khmer Rouge of Kambodia in their rigidness. No one in their position can afford the luxury of torching a foreign TV crew's automobile.

Thus, the political and ideological picture of KLA remains quite unclear; among those who are familiar with the situation in Pristina, there is growing fear that this organization, if it ever gets a chance, will not tolerate the opinions of others, and that the shadow of civil war is looming above future Kosovo, regardless of how it ends up being. Richard Holbrooke should keep this in mind when he goes walking through the woods around Junika.

Thus, KLA represents the rouse which forced all the LDK rabbits into Milosevic's trap. Now Rugova is balancing between KLA, Milosevic, and the growingly impatient Holbrooke and his clients, with ever lessening chances of coming off unharmed. Milosevic is pressing him with patient offers for negotiations, and the big powers and Holbrooke are pushing him to sit down to the negotiating table. His excuse that he wont negotiate as long as Serbian artillery is shooting in Kosovo is carrying less and less weight.
This suits perfectly both the KLA and Milosevic--the former are continuing with attacks, aware that every bullet they fire is weakening both Milosevic and Rugova while the latter is satisfied because he has an opportunity to defend himself from KLA with artillery, and thus of gathering more cards for negotiations.

The only ones losing out are Rugova and his LDK, which suits both Milosevic and KLA.  Milosevic will say, "who am I supposed to talk to about a peaceful settlement to the Kosovo crisis - is there anyone who represents the peaceloving Albanians of Kosovo?" KLA in any case wishes to crowd out Rugova from the political scene and to appear as the only representative, for now, of Kosovo's Albanians. Aware of this, Rugova is now fighting for an international protectorate in Kosovo, one of the few options which includes him in its scenario.

As he has grown tired of walking through the woods and looking at ruins which clearly show that they were not the result of light fire, and as he has talked at length with accidental uniformed pedestrians from KLA and other people in Kosovo, Richard Holbrooke should appear in Belgrade on Wednesday evening in order to talk with his old friend Slobodan Milosevic on Thursday morning. Holbrooke is coming to Milosevic straight from ground level: he went to Skoplje, to Belgrade in the first round of talks with the president, to Pristina, to Junik where he smelt gunpowder, and where he saw what he had seen. Before that the political context of those talks on Thursday was carefully prepared, there was an air show held by NATO above Albania and Macedonia. Rugova was told by Xavier Solana that he should not even dream of an independent Kosovo. The NATO Pact told the Head Chamber in Aever, near Bruxells, that it should continue planning "all options" for military intervention in Kosovo, regardless of what the UN Security Council has to say on the matter. KLA has been told in a roundabout manner that the West is aware of everything that is happening in Kosovo, and that KLA is not innocent when the most delicate issues are at question (attacks on Serb civilians, ethnic cleansing of villages, and systematic refusals to acknowledge the right of Serbs to remain in Kosovo as equal citizens).

Richard Holbrooke will hear the usual inspired, bewailing from Slobodan Milosevic about the KLA which is shooting and indulging in terrorism (against which all countries are fighting with every means at their disposal); against Rugova who refuses to negotiate and is excusing himself by calling on those "same means" which he, Sloba, is using in combating terrorism, like every normal statesman, instead of him (i.e. Rugova) distancing himself form this same terrorism before they sit down to talk like human beings; against the "international community" (in Serbian: "the world's potentates") which is not letting us do to the Kosovo Albanians what the Turks are doing to the Kurds, the Russians to the Chechens, the Chinese to the Tibetans, Israelis to Palestinians, the French to Corsicans, the English to the Irish, Hutui to Tutsis, the FBI to the Texas separatists, and so on along the rest of the planet; against the traitorous independent media which Holbrooke's wife, Cathy Morton, is defending, etc. - which all together can last for hours where the President of FR Yugoslavia is concerned.

WHISKY AND GROUND LEVEL: Already used to Milosevic's rhetoric and “modus operandi”, Holbrooke will listen carefully to all that, will wait tactically for the whisky to be served, and will then confront the President of FR Yugoslavia with his impressions from ground level, which could easily include the impression that KLA is ready for a truce, so that it might be worth while talking about it discretely. His impressions will most certainly include the thorough demolition of civilian settlements with heavy artillery; with satellite shots of various things and phenomena on ground; with the newest developments in the planing of the Head Chamber of NATO in Aever, near Bruxelles; with intelligence information about everything that is happening in Kosovo, but his people most probably haven’t told him; with Rugova's readiness to negotiate if only Milosevic slows down with police and military actions, and allows him to save face; with a closer definition of what are colloquially called "Serbian para-millitary formations" in Kosovo; and finally, with what they talked about two days earlier.

On Wednesday, NATO demanded that Rugova stop his insistence on an independent Kosovo, but also demanded the withdrawal of Serbian and Yugoslav military formations, both from Kosovo and from barracks, with a practical cease-fire.

A cease-fire is the key issue at this moment of the Kosovo crisis, and that is the only imaginable reason why a Richard Holbrooke would stroll around Junika, lest he should meet a writer and a lawyer who also happen to be walking by at the same time. However, a cease-fire can only be signed by those who control the military units on ground, which rules out Rugova in the entire picture.

If that is how it is there, and it appears to be that way, this could be a key moment in the Kosovo crisis. KLA managed to put into the background the key arguments of Ibrahim Rugova with their initiation of a guerrilla war in Kosovo: human rights for Albanians, autonomy of any kind, education, political democracy, rights of minorities and all the rest; shots from firearms are far better heard There Where it Counts, even in Dedinje, where they otherwise do not know how and simply do not want to listen to anything.
When heads begin to fall, everyone suddenly becomes serious and begins to panic, they begin to travel, to prepare plans for sanctions and military intervention, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on air shows, and begin to take strolls in the woods, lest they should meet someone and be able to sit down and talk like human beings.
 When it finally comes to that, that is to say to shooting, various possibilities open up from the perspective of the stronger party: on the one hand, we'll blow you into thin air (both the one and the other - so that there is no confusion); on the other, that we'll send troops to ground level and will force public peace and order by beating up both sides, if only they try to pull fast moves again; and yet on the other hand, that you will all get sanctions, you'll be isolated and you can slaughter each other as much as you like, and after ten years you can get back to us - if anyone survives.

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