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Wednesday, March 21, 2001, updated at 15:49(GMT+8)

News Analysis Why NATO Fails to Play Active Role in Balkans

As the second anniversary of NATO's 78-day air campaign against Yugoslavia approaches, a society where different ethnic groups can co-exist peacefully has failed to be established in the Balkans, as NATO promised in 1999 to help achieve.

Instead, the situation in the region remains volatile. Ethnic killings, acts of violence and conflicts in Kosovo continue. Even Macedonia, a country normally not a hotspot in the global situation, suffers a war threat now.

Tension is escalating as the Macedonian army and armed ethnic Albanian extremists have been fighting recently around the northwestern Macedonian city of Tetovo.

The Albanian ethnic rebels in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo on Tuesday insisted they were prepared for war if their demand for autonomy were not met. At the same time, Macedonia issued a 24- hour ultimatum for the rebels to surrender or withdraw from its territory.

The developments have wakened fears of a new wave of conflicts in the long-destabilized Balkans and put NATO's peacekeeping role in Kosovo in question.

Connivance with the KLA

It seems incredible that so many troops -- currently 38,000 in Kosovo -- from Western powers should have failed to stop violence provoked by a small group of ethnic Albanian extremists. However, the real answer is not too hard to be found if developments in the Balkan situation is being carefully followed.

Since the end of the Cold War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been meddling in the affairs in the ethnically-troubled Balkans, a region long regarded as a "powder keg," by making use of ethnic conflicts.

It helped the fledgling "KOSOVO Liberation Army" (KLA) turn out to be a political force for national separatism.

During the Kosovo war, NATO officials openly admitted that the western bloc provided money, weapons and training to the separatist group, which served as a pawn for big powers'intervention in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia.

Following the war, the KLA, which was not fully disarmed by NATO, but flanked by it to reorganize into the KOSOVO Protection Corps (KPC) ON September 20, 1999, became a major obstacle to the peace process in Kosovo. In this regard, the Security Council Resolution 1244 has not been fully respected.

With NATO's connivance, the ethnic Albanian separatists have been intensifying violence and white terrors in the province.

Using the NATO-set five-kilometer-wide "security zone" separating Kosovo and the rest of the Serbian republic as a safe haven, the rebel KLA attacked Serbian policemen and civilians, spreading violence into neighboring Macedonia and directly threatening logistical supplies for peacekeeping missions.

When the situation has swirled out of control, NATO shifted their responsibility for containing the extremists onto others by allowing the Yugoslav army last week to enter the buffer zone, where only Serbian policemen with light arms had been allowed to patrol since the zone was set up in June 1999.

Both Yugoslav and Macedonian authorities have accused NATO of failing to maintain peace in the region. Analysts say that NATO must bear the blame for the current chaos in the region.

Strange Bedfellows in Strategy

Another factor that hampers NATO's role in the Balkans lies in NATO members' Balkan strategies.

Observers here believe the United States and its European allies hide different purposes behind the semblance of accord.

The United States, they say, wants to have a strong influence on the region in order to achieve its strategic goal of controlling the Eurasian area.

The Americans use extremists to achieve its strategic goals. They only played lips service to condemn the rebels' acts, but have been reluctant to take any direct military action, analysts say.

However, the European Union, which partly overlaps NATO, is in favor of bringing the region under Western influence with the purpose of building a "greater Europe." So it hopes to see a stable and prosperous Balkan region.

EU foreign policy chief Javia Solana said in Skopje, Macedonia, Tuesday that refusal to negotiate with ethnic Albanian terrorists was justified, adding that "the terrorists must be isolated. All of us have to condemn and isolate them."

To "isolate" the "trouble makers" and recover its almost lost credibility in the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, the Western alliance has issued repeated warnings to the extremists and said on Monday it was sending more troops to help prevent them infiltrating into Macedonia from Kosovo.

But analysts say the source of tension would remain in place if NATO does not alter its Balkan policy.

In This Section

As the second anniversary of NATO's 78-day air campaign against Yugoslavia approaches, a society where different ethnic groups can co-exist peacefully has failed to be established in the Balkans, as NATO promised in 1999 to help achieve.

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