Kosovar Robbers Gain the Upper Hand

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What is so special about Kosovo in comparison with other similar conflicts?" I posed this question to Georgi Derluguian, a professor at Northwestern University in Chicago who is one of the world's leading experts on the Caucasus. "Why has the issue of Kosovo's independence become so important for the United States and most European Union countries?"

In place of an answer, Derluguian sent me a link to a documentary film, "The Albanian Brooklyn Connection," made by Dutch filmmakers in 2005 and aired on U.S. public television station PBS.

The main character of the film is Florin Krasniqi, a U.S. citizen of Kosovar heritage. He works as a lobbyist raising money in the United States to promote independence for Kosovo. At a fundraising dinner that Krasniqi organized in 2004 to raise money for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke said, " We have already raised $510,000 at this event."

In the film, Krasniqi legally purchases a high-caliber rifle in the United States that was intended "for hunting elephants in Tanzania," as Krasniqi explained. He then explains that he smuggles tons of these contraband weapons into Kosovo under UN and NATO protection. In Kosovo, the film shows Krasniqi displaying one of the "elephant rifles" to his relatives living there and boasts that it is powerful enough to take down a helicopter.

The documentary has very little voiceover from the filmmakers and consists mostly of Krasniqi's monologue or his answers to short questions.

Krasniqi: "The United Nations doesn't know what we are capable of. If we were able to get NATO to help us liberate ourselves, I think we are capable of getting the United Nations thrown out of the area."

Journalist: "In Pristina, I spoke to the NATO spokesman who told me that they were very successful in disarming the Albanians."

Krasniqi: "Ha! Ha! It's NATO propaganda. ... No one can disarm Albanians. Because Albanians have a bitter history and they don't trust anybody. Albanians in Kosovo are very well armed, and if NATO pulls out or we don't gain our freedom peacefully, then we'll use those weapons to do it."

This is what makes Kosovo unique. United Nations and NATO peacekeepers stationed there are neither a means for maintaining law and order nor even instruments in a geopolitical chess game of the countries that sent them. They are toys in the hands of the separatists, used for achieving their goals. Once the United States and the EU realized that the separatists are also able to turn against their protectors if they don't meet expectations, the Western powers began to get cold feet. In this global game of cops and robbers, it is the robbers who have the upper hand.

There is a strange logic in the way developed democracies conduct international police operations. In 1999, when NATO intervened to protect the Kosovar Albanians, they bombed the Serbian infrastructure rather than commit ground forces to fight the combatants. "No innocent Serbs will die from the guns that we purchase. Innocent Serbs have died as a result of [NATO] bombings," Krasniqi contemptuously claims in the film.

In 2008, when Albanians proved uncompromising in their demands for independence, the NATO "policemen" saw themselves as targets and betrayed the very international law that they were supposed to uphold.

The multinational peacekeeping forces in Iraq turned the region into a breeding ground of international terrorism. Once they abandon Iraq, they will leave the messy task of dealing with the consequences to the opponents who were against the invasion in the first place.

Is this the NATO that Ukraine and Georgia are so eager to join? What benefit from this organization could they possibly be counting on, except that their soldiers will receive English-language lessons?

Alexei Pankin is the editor of IFRA-GIPP, a magazine for publishing business professionals.