Antoni's Wire Service

Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 22:02:40 -0300 (ADT)
From: Antoni Wysocki
To: Antoni's Wire Service
Subject: negotiating in good faith


Anyone who has been exposed to reportage of the current war in Yugoslavia from mainstream Canadian or American sources will be familiar with the terms of the affair as framed by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization.) Principal features of this account are that the United States and other nations, actuated by humanitarianism, first attempted through diplomacy to end the persecution of the ethnic Albanian population of the Yugoslavian province of Kosovo by federal government forces. These efforts proving unavailing (ostensibly in the face of the obduracy of Yugoslav officials) the Kosovars' paracletes saw nothing for it but to initiate hostilities against Belgrade under the NATO banner.

Last week as a possible end to the war hove in sight, coverage by North America's major newsmedia remained true to form - indefatigably and uncritically disseminating the official NATO perspective. Thus on Friday a Canadian Press correspondent in Belgrade wrote :

Caving in to Russian and western demands, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic accepted a peace plan for Kosovo on Thursday designed to end mass expulsions of ethnic Albanians and end more than 70 days of NATO air strikes...Though cloaked in language meant to make it palatable to the Belgrade government, the peace plan itself contained tough conditions Milosevic had until now resisted, including the deployment of foreign troops on Yugoslav soil.
--'Milosevic accepts plan,' Canadian Press, Friday, June 04/99--

In order to realize how fallacious such a presentation is it is necessary to understand that the received wisdom on the war - i.e. the NATO construction which passes for unbiased reporting in the North American mainstream - is, in a word, rubbish. Setting aside the question of the motives of US and other leaders in taking up the cause of the Kosovars, the claim (repeated endlessly in Canadian and American newsmedia) that the peace talks which immediately preceded the present conflict were stymied by Yugoslavia's resistance to compromise, is false. In reality the Yugoslav delegation assented to the main body of the Rambouillet Agreement (the document which arose from said negotiations.) It is true that the Yugoslavs did reject an annex to the Agreement (apparently drafted unilaterally by the American mission) which set out the protocols for implementation of Rambouillet's articles but, pace Canadian Press, this did not entail a refusal by Belgrade to countenance the deployment of an international military force in Yugoslavia.

On February 20/99 Agence France Presse and the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS both reported that Belgrade was willing to accept the stationing of foreign soldiers in Kosovo (provided that they were under the command not of NATO but of the United Nations or of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.) On the other hand US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright insisted that : "We [i.e. the Clinton administration] accept nothing less than a complete agreement, including a NATO-led force" (1). As late as March 23/99 - the very eve of the NATO bombing campaign - the Yugoslav government reiterated that it was amenable to an "international presence" in Kosovo; equally, US officials remained adamant that only a NATO corps would do.

So much for the myth of Yugoslavia's derailing the peace process - and also for the suggestion by Canadian Press that Slobodan Milosevic had "caved in" by consenting to the stationing of a foreign military contingent in Yugoslavia. As shown above his administration had already agreed to such a proposal prior to the NATO bombardment, reserving only the condition that the alien force must be under the auspices of a body other than NATO; and, sure enough, article 3 of the eirenicon brokered last week by Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari called for "Deployment in Kosovo under UN auspices of effective international civil and security presences"(2).

To be sure article 4 of the Ahtisaari accord stipulates that the international force is to incorporate "substantial NATO participation" but even this formula marks a compromise rather than the surrender jingoistically touted by Canadian Press. Furthermore the implementation protocols of Rambouillet's Appendix B were rejected by the Milosevic regime because they allowed for the virtual occupation of all of Yugoslavia (3). By contrast the current proposal envisages an international presence in Kosovo alone.

Note should also be made of the absence from the Ahtisaari compact of any promise of independence for Kosovo; "substantial autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" (article 5) is as much as the new accord offers. This is a retreat of the first importance from Rambouillet, which contained measures for a referendum on Kosovo's future (4) - with secession from Yugoslavia seen to be one of the options. Amongst other elements of the Ahtisaari accord which imply a mitigation of the Rambouillet protocols is the absence of detailed instructions on instituting a free market economy in Kosovo.

For those not predisposed to the sycophancy of the US/Canadian mainstream newsmedia it should be clear that the Ahtisaari proposal is rather more modest than Rambouillet. So the question presents itself, why has NATO spent three months bombing Yugoslavia - killing two thousand people outright and leaving the balance of the Yugoslav population in mortal peril of cholera and other epidemics - only to present Milosevic with an agreement which he had assented to in principle before hostilities began?

Some will point to the increasing opposition within NATO countries to the war : in Europe scores of thousands have demonstrated against the war and even some governments - notably Greece - have threatened to break ranks. In the US Bill Clinton is facing a lawsuit for violating the War Powers Act of 1973 (the Act specifies that the US President can only commit US military forces to action for a period of 60 days without authorization from Congress; Clinton failed in a bid to secure such approval.)

While protests may have played some part in tipping NATO's hand I would suggest that the more fundamental reason for Washington's newfound willingness to accept a negotiated solution is that its primary objective in the area has already been achieved. Reports have emerged that US negotiators privately admitted to prominent journalists that the conditions of the Rambouillet Agreement were consciously designed to be unacceptable to Yugoslavia with a view to generating a casus belli. In a June 02/99 press release the US media watchdog FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) quotes two accounts of confidential briefings at Rambouillet in which senior US officials acknowledged that : "We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need some bombing, and that's what they are going to get" (5).

It remains to be seen whether NATO is willing to actually accept an end to hostilities at this time : it may be that the present discussions are designed merely to give NATO an irenic air with a view to frustrating its critics. If the Ahtisaari accord is implemented, however, this will only demonstrate the mendacity of the NATO apologists - for all that the present proposal offers could have been obtained without the use of violence. Of course, then the Serbs wouldn't have "got what they deserve."



(1) 'Forgotten Coverage of Rambouillet Negotiations,' Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting media advisory, May 14, 1999.

(2) The text of the Ahtisaari peace proposal (as posted by the BBC online service) can be viewed at :

(3) See especially paragraph 6, Appendix B of the Rambouillet Agreement, which states that "NATO shall be immune from all legal process, whether civil, administrative, or criminal"; also paragraph 8 which reads "NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia]."

(4) See paragraph 3 of the Amendment, Comprehensive Assessment, and Final Clauses section of the Rambouillet Agreement.

(5)'What Reporters Knew About Kosovo Talks - But Didn't Tell,' FAIR Media Advisory June 2, 1999.