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Crisis 1999
News Archive 1999

Where Serb forces are forbidden, Serb paramilitary grows

NATO is denying the re-entry of Serb military or police into Kosovo, despite its agreement to allow limited Yugoslav troops to return after ethnic Albanian disarmament. This is causing not only a Serb protest in Belgrade, but also two further complications for NATO's reconstruction attempt in the region. First, evidence shows a Serb paramilitary has developed in Kosovo. Second, Russia has threatened to rethink its involvement in KFOR, due to the NATO policy that prevents Yugoslav forces from having any control in Kosovo.

As was predicted in July, a Serb paramilitary force has developed in Kosovo. The Yugoslav administration said last week it would refrain from sending military troops into Kosovo, but reaffirmed its intent to reclaim the Kosovo territory.

We think Belgrade could be supporting an alternate Serb presence in Kosovo. NATO has failed to curb ethnic violence in the region, and both Serbs and Albanians have accused NATO of favoring the other. The Albanians have had KLA protection since the end of NATO bombing, but the Serbs feel the international community is allowing Albanians to victimize them. The Serbs have had no legitimate organized defense against the KLA and other ethnic Albanian attackers; according one estimate, 200,000 non-ethnic Albanians have had to flee from Kosovo since the end of the NATO bombing campaign. Where NATO has failed to protect Serbs, paramilitary units threaten to take over.

A Serb military police identification card and a paramilitary uniform were found on two of the Serbs killed by Russian troops in eastern Kosovo earlier this month. Groups of fighters have also been seen in dark paramilitary uniforms bearing a previously unknown insignia, according to a spokesman for NATO peacekeepers. Three Serbs, armed with hand grenades and a Kalashnikov rifle, were arrested on the disputed bridge separating the city of Mitrovica. The possession of grenades indicates outside support. Even armed residents do not carry these weapons.

A NATO spokesman reported that recent Serb attacks indicate an orchestrated Serb plan to instigate aggression and add to the tension in the region. NATO's Supreme Commander, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, said September 13 that he was increasingly concerned by the infiltration of armed Serbs, who appear to be members of a coordinated Serb effort to retaliate against ethnic Albanians.

Russian generals said they would not pass a UN Security Council agreement to turn the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) into an armed civil force, the Kosovo Corps. On September 14, Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov said Russia might reconsider its support of KFOR troops, because NATO is not allowing Yugoslavia to regain control of Kosovo.

The birth of a Serb paramilitary unit means we can expect regression toward ethnic warring in Kosovo. However, this time NATO will be caught in the middle. The Albanian Kosovo Corps and the new Serb guerrillas will engage in turf battles with increasing casualties, including those of KFOR troops. The eastern European winter is coming and KFOR has the least experience with the rough weather and terrain of all the groups represented in Kosovo. NATO has a difficult future ahead in its attempt to bring peace, and eventually reconstruction, in Kosovo. The looming potential for Russia to withdraw support, or even to become an adversary, threatens to make NATO's upcoming battle even more trying.

Source: Stratfor Kosovo Crisis Center

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