Hands off Kosova and Serbia

Independence for Kosova - imperialism out of the Balkans

After months of prevarication and dithering, imperialism has finally decided to take decisive military action against Serbia. On Tuesday night, Javier Solana, Nato’s secretary-general, ordered air strikes against targets across the territory of Serbia and Montenegro (ie, the rump Yugoslavia). In justifying the Nato action, Solana rehashed the line given by imperialism when it launched air strikes against Iraq: “Nato is not waging war against Yugoslavia. We have no quarrels with the people of Yugoslavia who for too long have been isolated in Europe because of the policies of their government”.

Backing up Solana, Nato’s supreme commander, general Wesley Clarke, warned the Serbian regime: “If required, we will strike in a swift and severe fashion.”

The first wave of air strikes were expected to come from volleys of cruise missiles launched from the sea and air, and also raids by Stealth B-2 bombers. It is unclear as to what Nato’s military strategy will be after the first wave of aerial bombing has been completed. To date, Nato officials have ruled out the use of ground troops before a peace deal. On Tuesday in the House of Commons both Tony Blair and George Robertson, the defence secretary, repeatedly said there were no plans for the 4,800 British troops in Macedonia to move into Kosova.

The reaction of the Milosevic regime in Belgrade has been predictable - and hypocritical of course.  Serbian television has quoted Milosevic saying that “anyone who is out to impose solutions by force will have to face the responsibility for actions aimed against a policy of peace and the consequences that would ensue”. He also damned western governments for “threatening a small European nation which is defending its territory from separatism. Belgrade is tolerant but not stupid.”

As we know, Serbia/Yugoslavia has attempted “to impose solutions by force” against the Kosovar people. Since the moment the United Nations observers left Kosova on Monday, Serbian forces have stepped up their campaign of terror - adopting a scorched earth policy reminiscent of American tactics in Vietnam. It seems that Belgrade wants to annihilate the Kovovar Liberation Army once and for all - by driving out the Albanian population.

Tony Benn, correctly denouncing any military intervention by Nato, said on Radio Four’s Today programme (March 24) that the KLA was “armed and funded by Germany”.  This may or may not be true, but nothing can hide the fact that the Kosovars and the KLA are fighting a just war against Serbian oppression. We unconditionally support the right of the Kosovars to national self-determination. In the concrete, this means supporting independence. Autonomy inside the rump Yugoslavia is no longer enough for the Kosovar masses. The forcible attempt by the Serbian regime to stifle the rights and aspirations of the Kosovars has seen to that.

However, as we have consistently argued, Nato and imperialism in general are not stalwart defenders of democracy. And they are certainly not friends of the Kosovar people. The likes of Robin Cook and co have made it perfectly clear that in their opinion the Kosovars do not have the right to self-determination. Nato opposes any independence for Kosova. It wants to spread the new world order. This means it aims to impose a solution - on both the Serbians and the Kosovars. Even-handed imperialism is the order of the day. In his briefing to reporters, Solona threatened: “We urge in particular Kosovar armed elements to desist from provocative military action.” KLA - don’t step out line … or else.

The proposed Nato action has received cross-party support in Britain, albeit with a few reservations about the military effectiveness of aerial bombardment. Liberal opinion, as always, is right behind the Nato action, with The Guardian being particularly gung-ho: “The only honourable course for Europe and America is to use military force to try to protect the people of Kosovo” (March 23).

Communists are obliged to denounce Nato warmongering in rump Yugoslavia - and anywhere else in the world. As Milosevic - and surely Nato planners - must know full well, air strikes against Serbian targets will only act to mobilise support for the Belgrade regime, not ferment rebellion against it. As with Saddam Hussein, every bomb props up the reactionary regime, which appeals to the most backward and vile nationalist sentiments in order to cohere Serbian society and whip up hatred against the Kosovar people. Judging by official Serbian statements, the entire Albanian population in Kosova are ‘terrorists’.

As we have repeatedly seen this century, air strikes alone have never toppled a regime. Without ground troops, imperialism will find it impossible to impose its solution to the ‘Serbian/Kosova question’.

If Nato does decide to employ ground troops, that would be a risky gamble. Serbia has a well oiled military machine. After all, Tito’s Yugoslavia was in a constant state of readiness to resist the might of the Soviet Union. Rump Yugoslavia has over 200,000 well equipped and well motivated men to call upon. It has a squadron of high-performance MiG-29 jets. Its anti-aircraft missile systems are reasonably sophisticated too. Almost every road in the country has tank traps. There is also the Russian-designed ZSU anti-aircraft quadruple cannons, which are mounted on mobile armoured hulls. But the real danger to Nato is not this - in comparative terms - puny arsenal. Russia feels threatened by Nato expansionism. It even promises to aid Serbia if Nato attacks - so things could soon escalate in a most dangerous way.

The entire left and workers’ movement must condemn Nato’s imperialist war. That does not mean support for Serbia. We call for peace through class struggle. All imperialist armed forces must withdraw from the region - and all Serbian forces must leave Kosova. And, crucially, it means no support for own ruling class in Britain.

Eddie Ford