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Edmonton Sun, June 01, 2009
Risky business in the Balkans

By PETER WORTHINGTON

Since Barack Obama became U.S. president, both Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have separately visited Europe and made disquieting observations about the Balkans.

In March, Clinton commented in Brussels that the Obama administration was "determined to listen, advise (European Union countries) and through agreement arrive at wise solution to common challenges."

Among the "common challenges" was that the "Balkans is in danger of becoming part of the forgotten past." She added the ominous view that "it will not be allowed for unfinished business to remain there."

What "unfinished business" is that, one wonders?

Well, it certainly isn't rapprochement with Serbia, where VP Joe Biden was last week. Many recall Biden's 1999 sponsoring of the bombing of Serbia and his remark on Larry King Live that Serbs were "a bunch of illiterate degenerates, baby killers, butchers and rapists."

The "unfinished business" mentioned by Clinton is formal recognition, of Kosovo as an independent state -- which violates the original terms of the U.S.-sponsored war against Serbia on behalf of Kosovo.

Since that 78-day air war (which the U.S. had predicted would bring Belgrade to its knees within 48 hours), Kosovo has unilaterally declared independence which many countries have accepted and Slavic countries (such as Russia) have rejected. (Canada is nervously "assessing" the situation, aware that Quebec has the potential of someday being a Canadian Kosovo).

A recent panel discussion on the Balkans presented by the Lord Byron Foundation at Toronto's Royal Canadian Military Institute (RCMI), brought together experts on the subject, including James Bissett, former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia.

The panelists agreed that recent moves indicate "reinvigoration" of the former Clinton policies, whereby then-secretary of state Madeleine Albright worked assiduously to go to war on behalf of Kosovo.

That was arguably, one of the greatest errors and miscalculations of the Clinton regime. The justification was that Serbs were intent on genocide of Albanian Kosovars when, in fact, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) provoked Serbian reaction, and fabricated massacres.

Embarrassing as it should be to those who supported the Kosovo war, no evidence of mass graves has ever been found. Atrocities on both sides, yes, but no massacres. The "war" was utterly unnecessary.

In fact, since the war al-Qaida and Muslim extremists have flooded into the Balkans: Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia. The dreaded spectre of militant Islam in the heart of Europe has become a reality, enhanced by U.S. policy and now apparently revived by Obama.

According to the RCMI panelists, European countries are uneasy about what seems a renewed American push in the Balkans. Increasingly, Europeans realize they were hoodwinked into recognizing Kosovo's independence on the pretense it would resolve problems and bring peace.

The opposite has occurred. Russia and China are stronger and more aggressive and influential now; Europe is less inclined to accede to Washington's wishes; the U.S. is weaker, sapped by two costly wars and an untested new president beset by a recession at home.

Islamic world

Possibly, Obama is persuaded that activism in the Balkans on behalf of Bosnia and Kosovo will enhance America's reputation in the Islamic world. If so, it's another error. The Balkans are a graveyard for foreign ambitions.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already adopted a resolution advocating a centralized, unitary Bosnian state, and the RCMI panel was in agreement that previous U.S. interference has contributed to Balkan violence and unrest. Bosnia and Kosovo are potential problems that European countries will inevitably inherit.

For starters, Obama should put a leash on Clinton -- and a muzzle on Biden.
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