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What's Behind the Crisis in Yugoslavia?

By Alan Dale

The following is from a speech delivered by Alan Dale, for the Emergency Committee Against U.S. Intervention in Yugoslavia, at a Minneapolis anti-war protest March 24.

The US government has again launched a massive bombing campaign against a sovereign country. Today as we gather here, hundreds of bombs and missiles are raining down on the people of Yugoslavia.

The US government portrays this as a humanitarian gesture on behalf of the Albanian population of Kosovo. This is a lie that is used to justify this bombing campaign and which serves to conceal the real issues behind US intervention.

Yugoslavia, like Iraq, is in a region of strategic interest to the Pentagon and large corporations that want to dominate it. The US attack on Yugoslavia is motivated by the same lust for super profits that has driven Washington to war in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq and to carry out more than 200 other military interventions around the world.

Is it really possible that the Pentagon is motivated by humanitarian concerns? Wasn't it just three weeks ago that Clinton, when in Guatemala, had to admit that the US government was involved in the war against the Guatemalan people that killed over 200,000 people?

Now, just what interests are in Yugoslavia? First, it is rich in minerals and ore deposits, major oil companies are looking for oil. The big oil companies see it as a possible gateway for pipelines to transport oil from newly-discovered Caspian Sea oil fields into Europe for export. This is really what is being fought out today in Yugoslavia.

The big economic powers represented by NATO are competing with each other over who can control and dominate not just the resources of Yugoslavia and its key trade routes, but this is also a competition for influence through Eastern Europe and the other states once in the USSR.

Washington today is working hand in hand with the other powers in NATO, but at the same time these governments have competing interests. Clinton's mad dash to plant both feet in Yugoslavia before the other big powers can maneuver their way in, may explain why he has moved so fast with so little support.

The people of the Balkans must be free to decide their own destiny. In fact, 400 years of ethnic conflict in the Balkans is not what stands behind the current crisis, but rather the intervention of outside powers.

Beginning in the 1980s, the IMF and Western powers intervened in Yugoslavia in a way that maximized tensions within the federal republic system. By the mid 1980s Yugoslavia was burdened with enormous debt, and the IMF ordered austerity measures that lead each of the constituent parts of Yugoslavia to look for an independent way out of the morass.

The IMF ordered the Yugoslav central government to stop making transfer payments to the separate republics and pay money on the debt. The glue that held together the federation came apart.

Western countries then recognized the internal borders of Yugoslavia as so-called “international borders,” despite the fact that they represented internal gerrymandered borders to maintain internal political equilibrium, not historically separate borders. The fuse was lit.

It is the height of hypocrisy for the US today to feign horrified outrage over events in Kosovo, when in 1995, the US, as the New York Times reported recently, “looked the other way” when the Croatian government drove 200,000 Serbs living in the Krajina region of Croatia out of their homes. Why? Because the “ethnic cleansing” of those people fit into US strategic policy at the time.

US-led NATO intervention today intends to complete the destruction of Yugoslavia and complete the transformation of the region into a series of weak mini-states that are nothing more than protectorates and pieces on the chess board of big power politics.

None of this is in the interests of the vast majority of the people of the US or Yugoslavia or anywhere else in the world. The people of Yugoslavia must be left alone to determine their own future.

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