Despite President George W. Bush’s rhetoric about withdrawing our forces from the Balkans, we can expect a strong continuing U.S. presence there. Why? It’s all about the transportation of massive oil resources from the Caspian Sea through the Balkans, and maintaining U.S. hegemony in the region.
Although NATO ostensibly bombed Yugoslavia to stop ethnic cleansing, the bombing was actually part of a strategy of containment, to keep the region safe for the Trans-Balkan oil pipeline that will transport Caspian oil through Macedonia and Albania. The pipeline is slated to carry 750,000 barrels a day, worth about $600 million a month at current prices.
Cooperation of the Albanians with the pipeline project was likely contingent on the U.S. helping them wrest control of Kosovo from the Serbs. The U.S. seeks to contain Macedonia as well, supporting both sides in the conflagration there. Military Professional Resources International, a mercenary company on contract to the Pentagon, has trained both the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Macedonian army. MPRI also supplied and trained the Croatian army in 1994 and 1995 before the Croatians cleansed more than 100,000 Serbs from the Krajina region.
The bombing was not aimed at ethnic cleansing. It was part of U.S.-run NATO’s eastward expansion as a counterweight to Russia, which wants the Caspian oil pipeline to run through its territory. NATO, created during the Cold War to protect Western Europe from the Soviets, should have disbanded after the breakup of the USSR.
But a 1992 draft of the Pentagon’s Defense Planning Guidance advocated continued U.S. leadership in NATO by “discouraging the advanced industrialized nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger global or regional role.” Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said, if we decide to expand NATO, “we should not fear that Russia will object; we will do it because it is in our interest.”
Bush is walking a delicate tightrope. He calls for Europe to do the grunt work in the Balkans, but also wants to prevent the European Union from becoming more powerful than U.S.-led NATO. A U.S. Army officer stationed in Bosnia, speaking anonymously to the Los Angeles Times, observed wryly, “The only thing the Europeans need us Americans for is the leadership.”
The U.S. has invested too much in the region to pull out. After the NATO bombing campaign, the U.S. spent $36.6 million to build Camp Bondsteel in southern Kosovo. The largest American foreign military base constructed since Vietnam, Bondsteel was built by the Brown & Root Division of Halliburton, the world’s biggest oil services corporation, which was run by Richard Cheney before he was tapped for Vice-President.
NATO’s bombs, never sanctioned by the United Nations, were not “humanitarian intervention.” The alleged mass graves were never found by the FBI, and the 10,000-11,000 bodies NATO touted turned out to number about 2000-3000, mostly in KLA strongholds. Even the Marine Corps Gazette concluded after the bombing that the “resulting deaths of thousands of Serbian soldiers, civilians, and Kosovar Albanians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more can hardly be viewed as a victory for humanitarianism.”
It is the purview of the United Nations, not the United States, to authorize humanitarian intervention. If the U.S. really wanted to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Yugoslavia, it would encourage the International Monetary Fund to forgive $14 billion in loans from prior regimes, finance reparations to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by its bombs, and remove the U.S. troops from the region.