A silent complicity

The world cannot afford to let the tragedy of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia be forgotten due to the silence of those who were actors and accomplices of that brutal genocide.

President Clinton, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other close collaborators of the President, including the person who was ordered by Berger not to take notes when Cuba was discussed, were at the meeting Clinton held with Aznar in the White House on April 13, 1999, where the decision to intensify the bombings was made, and Aznar suggested that Serbian television, radio and other facilities be bombed, in actions that would take the lives of innumerable defenseless civilians.

Some of them, through press statements or in a book or memoir, may have individually written about the adventure, but none focused on the real danger and suicidal wars that the United States is leading the world to. The publication of the existing secret documents could be the legacy of a President in 200 years from now, when, judging by the pace we’re going at, there will no longer be any publicity or readers.

Less than ten years have since gone by.

In Europe and elsewhere they have many accomplices keeping silence.

After my third message was sent to Milosevic, Italy’s Minister of Transportation visited Cuba. I met with him on March 30, 1999 and directly discussed the issue of the war against Yugoslavia.

What follows is a summary of what I said to him, according to the notes taken during our conversation, in the presence of my Office staff and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“I began by asking why they had invaded Serbia and how they were going to reach a settlement. I told him that, in my opinion, it had been a great mistake and that, were the Serbs to offer resistance, they would run into a cul-de-sac. Why did Europe need to dismantle Yugoslavia, which had implemented many reforms and which, strictly speaking –the Cold War having ended– could not be labeled a communist state and, much less, an enemy of Europe? I explained that, in order to satisfy the German government’s demand, Europe had encouraged and supported the separation of Croatia, where, during World War II, Nazi Germany organized the fearful chetniks, groups which perpetrated countless crimes and massacres against the Serbs and the liberation movement headed by Tito.

“Due to this complacency and lack of political foresight, in the prevailing euphoria of the days when the socialist block and the Soviet Union were in a crisis, Europe dismantled Yugoslavia. This resulted in bloody episodes and, specially, in the long and violent war in Bosnia and, ultimately, in NATO’s current war against Serbia. By then, Macedonia’s separation had also taken place, which meant the mutilation of the greater part of the Yugoslav Federation. Only Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo remained.

“As everyone knows, for decades Kosovo’s population of Albanian descent grew uninterruptedly until it became the broad majority. In Tito’s lifetime, long before his death, many Serbian families left Kosovo seeking safety faced with the numerous acts of violence that extremist groups from Kosovo committed against them. At that time, in Kosovo, the Serbs were subjected to what today is called ethnic cleansing.

“Yugoslavia’s unnecessary and bloody disintegration encouraged and unleashed the underlying conflicts between the majority, of Albanian descent, and Kosovo’s Serbian minority, conflicts which are at the root of the current problem.

“The Serbian people are the essential core of what remains of the former Yugoslavia. They are a combative and courageous people who have been profoundly humiliated. I was convinced that, offered ample autonomy, Serbia would have accepted an honorable and peaceful settlement of the conflicts in Kosovo.

“Kosovo’s moderate groups, acting in an intelligent and constructive fashion, supported this settlement, as the presence of a broad majority of Albanian descent would, sooner or later, make the peaceful emergence of an independent state possible. Europe knows perfectly well that Kosovo’s extremist groups did not want this settlement; they demanded immediate independence and, because of this, wanted the intervention of NATO forces.

“It is unfair to lay all of the responsibility on Serbia. Serbia has not invaded any sovereign country. What it has done, in essence, is oppose the military presence of foreign troops in its territory. For months, in recent weeks particularly, it has known nothing but constant threats. Its unconditional surrender was urged. No country can be treated like that, let alone the people who, in the days of Europe’s occupation, fought most heroically against the Nazis and have ample experience in irregular warfare.

“If the Serbs resist –and I am convinced that they will resist– NATO will have no other option but to commit genocide, but such an action would fail, for two reasons:

“Firstly: they would be unable to defeat the Serbian people if the latter applied all of its experience and irregular warfare doctrine.

“Secondly: Public opinion in NATO member countries themselves would not allow such an action.

“Armored divisions, stealth bombers, tomahawk, cruise missiles or any other so-called intelligent weapon would not suffice. A missile or bomb would have to be launched for every person capable of carrying a rifle, a bazooka or a portable anti-aircraft weapon. All of NATO’s power would, in this case, be useless. There are star wars and there are ground wars. All high-tech equipment notwithstanding, individual combatants would be the most important element in this type of war.

“Beyond Kosovo, a much more serious problem is emerging, to the detriment of Europe’s and the world’s interests. Russia has been humiliated terribly. NATO has already advanced to the borders of what was once the Soviet Union and it is promising to include other states of the former socialist block, and even Baltic countries that were part of the Soviet Union. Russians have every reason to think they will not stop until they reach the walls of the Kremlin.

“Like the Serbs, the Russians are a Slavic people and this sense of identity is very strong among these peoples. The attacks on Serbia are profoundly humiliating for them and, more than any other action, they have produced deep and justified feelings of insecurity, not only among the Russians but in India and China as well, and these countries will undoubtedly attempt to ally themselves to Russia to guarantee their security. I doubt the Russians would cease to do whatever is necessary to retain a response capability which would be their sole guarantee in this situation.

“Neither Europe nor the world, with their current and overwhelming economic problems, would gain anything through such a course of action.

“A few days ago, in the early morning of March 26, while returning from Colombia to Russia before schedule, the President of the Russian Federation’s State DUMA, Guennadi Selezniov, made a stopover at Havana’s airport. I took up these issues with him of my own initiative. I told him no military solution was possible, that, without a doubt, any effort to offer Serbia military aid would inevitably lead to a general war, as the only means available to wage such a war today are not conventional. I said also that the battle was of a political, not military, nature.

“Selezniov publicly expressed this point of view I shared with him.

“Both, Europe and the world are duty-bound to find such a settlement, which, though difficult and complex, is perfectly possible. If, rather than devote all their efforts to threatening Serbia with terrible bombings, they had brought pressures to bear on extremists in Kosovo, such a settlement could have been reached. Only NATO can contain extremists in Kosovo through frank and uncompromising efforts. It is not a question of using weapons to achieve this, but, rather, of warning the extremists in such a way that they will be certain, beyond all doubt, that they do not have NATO’s support. There is no question that the bombs that have been dropped on Serbia for a week now will never contribute to these dissuasive efforts.

“In addition to this, I believe it is a serious political mistake that the United States and Europe should try to keep Russia on the edge of the precipice in economic terms by imposing it the International Monetary Fund’s unviable formulas.

“The West makes no mention of the 300 billion dollars that have been stolen from Russia and relocated to Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Austria and other countries. This is fifteen times the miserable 20-billion-dollar loan that the International Monetary Fund has been discussing for months now. The West, which recommended or imposed these models and policies on Russia, shares in the responsibility for this ruthless plundering of Russia’s wealth.

“An internal explosion in Russia would be catastrophic. This is coupled with NATO’s encroachment, which I’ve already mentioned, the proposal to cancel the Strategic Anti-Missile Defense Agreement and, now, the incredible humiliation surrounding the attack launched by NATO’s powerful forces against a small country like Serbia.

“I told him I was against all kinds of genocide or slaughters, regardless of the perpetrator, and that all ethnic groups and religions, without exception, are deserving of the right to life, culture and peace.

“If I have taken the liberty of explaining this, it is because I feel it is my duty to warn you of these dangers and of the need to solve them. To lay these issues on the table does no harm to anyone and can, on the contrary, benefit everyone. I again expressed my conviction that the Serbs would resist, and that a peaceful settlement was, in my opinion, feasible, even though negotiating with a country on which thousands of bombs had been dropped and whose honor, dignity and economy had been dealt a harsh blow was by no means easy.

“NATO has practically no more military targets to strike, perhaps only concentrated or moving troops remain, and the easiest thing for these troops would be to split up to wage another type of war in which they cannot be destroyed by air strikes.

“Europe knows that ground combat would be very costly in terms of human lives and, what’s more, futile. I added that, were the Serbs to deploy the strategy we would use in our country in the event of an invasion by the United States, an area in which they have already shown extraordinary experience, NATO’s war would be futile and repulsive, an act of genocide in the heart of Europe destined to be condemned everywhere”.

Today is a glorious day for our country, the day on which Carlos Manuel de Céspedes began Cuba’s war of independence against the Spanish metropolis.

He was a source of inspiration for the generations of Cubans who came after him. What he taught us was the duty to reflect on and confront the dangers that menace the human species today.

Fidel Castro Ruz
October 10, 2007