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March 18, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 430
KFOR Maneuvers

On the Razor's Edge

by Roksanda Nincic

"The announced NATO maneuvers in Kosovo and Metohija represent the continuation of a special psychological war against the FRY," Vladimir Lazarevic, Commander of the Third Army, stated recently.  "The regime is planning to prohibit public meetings during the NATO maneuvers in Kosovo, and under such conditions, and after they close down the independent media, they will call local elections," claim Vladan Batic, President of the Democratic Christian Party and Coordinator of the Alliance for Changes.  What in fact do the KFOR maneuvers, dubbed "Dynamic Response" and scheduled to take place between March 19 and April 10, signify?

REINFORCEMENT AND WITHDRAWAL: It has been announced that the maneuvers which are being held at the time of the anniversary of the NATO intervention against the FRY will include 2000 new soldiers from the USA, Holland, Italy, Poland, Romania and Argentina.  They will be taken from strategic reserve NATO forces which are used for swift actions and should return to where they came from when the maneuvers are concluded.  The fact that the NATO maneuvers include forces from countries which are not part of that alliance is explained by retired colonel Dragan Vuksic, Advisor in the Movement for a Democratic Serbia, in technical-military terms (that the forces in these countries are being taught procedures, methods and atmospheres of NATO units) and psychological terms (in order for NATO's image of aggression to be minimized and for the repulsiveness of this organization to be reduced).

VREME sources in the diplomatic world indicate that some of the Scandinavian countries refused to participate in the maneuvers, considering the maneuvers to be outside of the peace keepers mandate, while on March 15 the Politika daily carried a brief report from the Beta Agency and the AFP that Italy is withdrawing from the maneuvers.  No explanation was offered.

It should be noted that the KFOR presently includes 44,000 soldiers, of which a little over 37,000 are in Kosovo, while the others are located in Macedonia as part of the reserve force.  Around 30,000 soldiers in Kosovo come from NATO countries, while the rest come from countries that are not part of that alliance.

PERMITTED OR NOT: Keeping in mind its UN mandate and the military-technical agreement signed in Kumanovo, is NATO allowed to hold such maneuvers?
"This is yet another twisting of the UN Security Council Resolution on Kosovo whose objective is to apply pressure against the FRY, against our Army and our people," General Vladimir Lazarevic was direct in his interview for the Beta Agency.  He asked where does it say in the UN Resolution that they are allowed to hold maneuvers while the peacekeeping forces are there?

Admittedly, this document also does not say that the maneuvers cannot be held, while the Security Council Resolutions generally deal with political principles, and not with military exercises.  "Claims that what is at issue is the braking of the Security Council Resolution are political speculations or even political crimes, because they are intended to delude the public and could have catastrophic effects," Dragan Vuksic explains, pointing out that "there is no dilemma regarding the fact that NATO has a right to carry out maneuvers."

Vuksic quotes point 8 of the Annex to the Kumanovo Agreement, referring to the status of the KFOR forces in Kosovo: "Members of the international force (KFOR), including their vehicles, boats, airplanes and equipment will enjoy unlimited access and unhindered passage anywhere on the territory of the FRY, including air corridors and territorial waters.  This includes, but is not limited to, bivouacs, maneuvers, cantons and the use of rooms and buildings for support, training and operations."  (Bivouacs are necessary for an army when it is located in the field; cantons are the use of other facilities for housing an army; the phrase"is not limited to" is a standard sign for the right to use force.)
IFOR AND SFOR: "KFOR forces came to Kosovo on the basis of Resolution 1244 which is based on Chapter 7 of the UN General Principles, which gives them the status of a force that establishes and maintains peace, with the right to use of force in all cases in which the Resolution lf the Kumanovo Agreement are not being followed," states Vuksic, adding that the issue is not one of any exceptions being made because the IFOR and SFOR forces which came to Bosnia on the basis of the Dayton Accord also had and have the same right to carry out exercises and maneuvers.  In April of 1998 an exercise under the same name, "Dynamic Response," was carried out in western Bosnia, and it included 1800 soldiers from Italy, Holland, Turkey, Rumania, Poland, the USA and Canada.

The fact is that no one officially informed the Yugoslav government about holding the maneuvers, and let alone asked permission.  However that is nothing new - western governments and institutions never informed the FRY Ministry of External Affairs about visits of their highest officials to Kosovo, and that will probably remain that way for as long as Slobodan Milosevic is in power.  However, there are informal, semi-secret contacts between the Yugoslav Army and the KFOR, so that the FRY certainly did not find out about the maneuvers from the newspapers."

WHOSE SOVEREIGNTY: Beside the Yugoslav government the Russian Permanent Representative to the UN, Sergei Lavrov stated that the military maneuvers by NATO in Kosmet represent "a blatant of Security Council Resolution 1244."  "Such actions that are taken without the agreement of the Yugoslav government represent open trampling of the sovereignty of the FRY, which are guaranteed by the Security Council Resolution," stated Lavrov.

However, the Kumanovo Agreement indicates the actual situation with the FRY sovereignty in Kosovo, having been signed prior to when the upcoming maneuvers had been agreed upon.  We point to certain characteristic formulations: "the KFOR will work unhindered within Kosovo with the with authorizations to make use of all facilities..." "The Commander of the International Forces has supreme power in interpreting the points of this agreement..."  "The KFOR can organize and operate without limitations within Kosovo..."  "The KFOR Commander will have authorizations without having to ask for permission, to do everything he considers necessary and correct..."

AILING KFOR: However, it appears that the KFOR is not in the best of health.  Since the beginning its makeup has been heterogenous, while Western sources themselves are complaining lately that some countries are withdrawing their troupes, and that the ones that remain are increasingly behaving in keeping with what they are told by their governments and are following their national interests instead of listening to the KFOR Command.  VREME sources indicate about competition between certain army contingents in occupying certain sectors - among other things in terms of future economic jobs (who will have command over the Trepca mine?).  Command is naturally very difficult under such conditions and understandably reduces the ability of the KFOR in doing the job for which it is in Kosovo.

There are more problems: the UNMIK police recently accused French soldiers of having hindered investigations of incidents in Kosovska Mitrovica.  Gerry Adams, UNMIK Police Regional Commander, who announced this was fired the next day.  At the end of February the Italian general Silvio Macaroli was also fired, supposedly because of sharp criticism of American behavior in KFOR activities this far.  The international human rights organization Amnesty International accused the KFOR - also in connection with events in Kosovska Mitrovica - of nor respecting human rights.  British Foreign Minister Robyn Cook stated in response to this that he did not see the Amnesty Report, but that he would categorically "deny every idea that the KFOR would use disproportionate force toward anyone."  Amid all this, according to the BBC, NATO General Secretary George Robertson claims that there is no crisis in the peace operation in Kosovo and promises that the strength of the mission will be maintained.  Western political and military officials of the magnitude of Wesley Clark and Xavier Solana are lining up in Kosovo on a daily basis.

Because of situations like this, because of the fact that the KFOR Commander, German General Claus Reinhardt says that his troupes are not secure, because of conflicts in Kosovska Mitrovica, and because of the spreading of violence to the territory of Serbia (Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja), the KFOR Command is demanding additional troupes.  NATO Commanders say that the number of soldiers should be returned to 49,000, as many as there were in the summer of 1999, and that special reconnaissance and intelligence formations should be formed (2000 additional men).  Thus far only France and Italy expressed a willingness to send 700 and 400 soldiers respectively.  US Defense Secretary William Cohen, certainly paying attention to the USA presidential election campaign, stated several days ago that new deployment of American forces will certainly be short lived.

FAST REACTION: One of the important problems is the fact that the KFOR is presently tied to the territory; they are staying where they have been located, and they lack those crucial, swift formations.  Therefore, the upcoming maneuvers are supposed to verify such an operative group which would simplify the work of the KFOR forces.  "We are practicing swift transfer of forces for quick reaction, which is one of the strategic problems facing the European countries, members of NATO, given that they lack appropriate transport aviation," explained Vuksic.

However, keeping in mind the fact that one of VREME's interviewees, a former defense minister asked whether it is likely that the strengthening of such an operative segment would only be directed at Kosovo, that is to say is all this being done because of the unrest in Kosovska Mitrovica?

He doubts this, pointing to the hot spots where NATO could eventaully act in the near future (the Presevo Valley and Montenegro), and believes that the KFOR maneuvers are encouraging the separatists tendencies in Montenegro and the extremist aspirations of the KLA in Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja.

"No exercise of military power outside of ones national territories can be understood as the readying of a force to carry out military tasks, for it would turn out that the maneuvers are an end in themselves.  The maneuver would certainly have its military, technical, strategic points, but it is far more likely to be realized within some political objectives set by NATO countries.  Such political objectives would give the maneuver meaning and would serve as orientation," our source told us.  In any case, the Military Lexicon published in 1981 defines maneuvers as "organized and synchronized movement of forces and equipment in preparation for carrying out battle on ground, sea and in the air."

EAST-WEST: Admittedly, the political statements made by western officials are not confirming the above fears.  In the fall of last in Montenegro, it looked like the referendum on independence would be called this spring, but this has been postponed for now under direct western pressures.  These days warnings are being issued with regard to Serbian border territories.  According to news agencies, State Department Spokesman James Rubin who visited Kosovo together with the American Envoy to the Balkans, Christopher Hill, warned Albanians "not to expect the held of the West outside of the borders of Kosovo."  He said that one year ago western countries committed to helping Kosovo Albanians militarily, but that no such promise was given to Albanians living outside of Kosovo.

However, Igor Ivanov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs does not agree.  In a letter to the ministers of the G-8 (USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada) he expressed concern that "the very critical situation" in the three communities at the southern tip of Serbia in which the majority of the population is Albanian, could result in the beginning of a new war.  Concretely, he warned "of the possibility of repeating last years scenario."

According to Dragan Vuksic, it could be understood that "the maneuvers would get a different meaning if the KFOR forces were supported by far more powerful forces which would be brought to Kosovo and Metohija on that occasion - with the option of staying - and if the exercises were accompanied by increased air force activity, for which there is no reason.

CONSEQUENCES: And finally, how can the NATO maneuver affect the otherwise desperate political situation in Serbia?  "It all depends on what point of view we take," says Vuksic.  "It can be a realistic and pragmatic point of view, which presumes that in Kosovo there is a reality which we cannot change, but can only make it worse with our behavior.  We can behave the way we have behaved thus far - to negate all reality, to blame everyone for something while we play innocent all along.  Such behavior would contribute to the creation of tension, to nervousness and to frightening the otherwise frightened citizens.  That is already happening because the Serbian people are worried by the current mobilization.  I would like to believe that those responsible will find the middle path and will realize that there is no need for serious military measures on our part," states Vuksic.

"We would be fools not to raise our battle capabilities," the former defense minister told us.  "Every country in the world would do that under similar conditions," he added.
Everyone VREME spoke to agrees that it is very likely that the government will use the NATO maneuvers to prohibit public gatherings, to stifle the independent media, to increase repression and, officially or not, to institute martial law.  Therefore, cause for optimism can only be found in the realm of science fiction.

What is the Objective

According to the BBC, the exercise will indicate readiness to prevent renewal of violence, while the statement issued by NATO indicates that the maneuvers will show the determination of this alliance in maintaining security in Kosovo and safety of its citizens, as well as in strengthening the KFOR, should that be necessary.  Those forces are practicing the execution of tasks for which they are there, in accordance with the Kumanovo Agreement and the Security Council Resolution.  It is only natural that they are practicing procedures related to the tasks of disarmament, mine sweeping, control of the territory, the border, antiterrorist actions, offering humanitarian aid and all forms of preventive action," Dragan Vuksic says, continuing to enumerate the objectives of the maneuver: in accordance with NATO plans to practice the bringing of a force into Kosovo and Metohija, above all for the purpose of swift reaction; to react to irresponsible statements made by generals and politicians regarding the return of the Yugoslav Army to Kosovo; to demonstrate force and to issue a warning to the regime that force will be used, for instance in Montenegro, in response to force.

Other interviewees rate as the top objectives NATO's need to confirm the success of the KFOR and to assert its control over the territory, to strengthen their presence and to attempt to improve the ever more present image - prevalent in the west also - that the Kosovo Mission is a failure.

Both the American and the British press openly say that political goals declared by NATO are not being achieved: under the KFOR and under UNMIK there is no peace, no democracy, nor is there any of the greatly clamored for multi-ethnicity.  None of the institutions of civil government are operating in any segment of state or social activities.  But there is ethnic cleansing, there is an escalation in violence and crime, there is arms smuggling, public and private property is being stolen, even wars between mafia clans are being mentioned, drug trafficking and white slavery.  Beside the different political interests, it appears that at issue are huge sums of money also.  On top of this, few people believe that the Albanians have given up on the idea of independence, even though they have been warned, even by the USA recently, by State Secretary Madeleine Albright, that they are unwilling to accept something of the sort for now.

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