Starr Forum: NATO, the Balkans, and Ukraine: The Geopolitical Implications of the European Periphery

Starr Forum: NATO, the Balkans, and Ukraine: The Geopolitical Implications of the European Periphery


MICHELLE ENGLISH: Greetings. I’m Michelle English,
and on behalf of the MIT Center for
International Studies, I would like to welcome
you to today’s Starr forum. We’re honored to have with us
today Una Hajdari to discuss NATO, the Balkans, and Ukraine,
the geopolitical implications of the European periphery. Ms. Hajdari is a freelance
journalist from Kosovo and is at CIS as the 2018
Elizabeth Neuffer fellow. This fellowship sponsored by
the International Women’s Media Foundation and provides
a unique opportunity to female journalists working
on human rights and justice issues, allowing them
time away from the field to do research at MIT and
to report at the Boston Globe and the New York Times. In our typical
fashion, today’s talk will begin with our
speaker followed by a conversation between
our featured speaker and our discussant. Followed by that, there will
be Q and A with the audience. For those asking
questions, I’d like to remind you to line
up behind the mics and to please just ask
one question at this time just so everyone can
get their questions in. And also because
this talk is offered as an IAP for MIT
students, I just wanted to take a quick count of
first all of the MIT graduate students who are
attending today. If you could raise your hand? Any MIT grad students? OK, two, four. And if you are a MIT
undergraduate, raise your hand. OK, thank you. Now I’d like to
introduce our discussant. Elizabeth Wood is
Professor of history at MIT and the author of
three books, Roots of Russia’s War in Ukraine,
Performing Justice, Agitation Trials in Early Soviet
Union, and The Baba and the Comrade,
Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia. I think I got– OK. She has also written numerous
scholarly articles on gender and performance, as well as
blogs and other publications about Russian history
and current events. Within MIT,
Professor Wood serves as co-director of the
Misty Russia program coordinator of
Russian an adviser to the Russian language
program, and she also holds a secondary appointment
in MITs global studies and language section. Please join me in
welcoming Professor Wood. ELIZABETH WOOD: Greetings. It’s great to have
everybody here. I’m going to be very brief. I just want to set the stage
for what we’re about to do. First, let me say thanks to
Michelle English and Laura Kerwin who do an amazing
job with these Starr forums. They’re really,
really extraordinary. I also want to make
two quick announcements to say that the MIT Russia
Program in conjunction with the Center for
International Studies is going to be bringing
to Russia related speakers this spring. One is Brian Taylor who
will be here on February 26 speaking on Putinism,
his new book, and the second is former
Ambassador Michael McFaul, who will be here on
March 14 also in a Starr forum. So if you’re on the
Starr forum mailing list, you’ll find out about those– both of those– certainly,
the Michael McFaul event. If you want to find out more
about our MIT Russia events, [? Kati ?] Zabrovski is
our managing director, and she is over here in blue
and red, the Russian colors. And we have a sign up
sheet out in the lobby. So please feel free to
join our mailing list. And if you want to be on the
CIS Starr forum mailing list, talk to my– to Michelle and Laura. So obviously, this
is a key moment to talk about NATO, the
Balkans, and Ukraine, as you’ve all
probably been thinking which is why you’re here. President Donald
Trump has just said that he is not sure the
US should be part of NATO, and President– Russian president, Vladimir
Putin, has just said– has just yet again lambasted
NATO as he’s about to travel to Belgrade– to Belgrade. So what’s interesting
is to see why NATO is becoming the hotspot,
why there’s so much insecurity and uncertainty right
now as to the size of NATO, what’s going
to happen with NATO, and especially what’s going to
happen to NATO in the Balkans. One of the things that
we know Hajdari and I are very interested in is how did
the conflict get going in 1999. What’s been
happening since then? I’ll say a few more
words about Una Hajdari. We’re extraordinarily lucky
to have her here this year. Thanks to the committee that
brought her for the Elizabeth Neuffer fellow,
she has published extraordinarily widely
for someone who is still– I’ll say this– fairly young. She got her start in Kosovo,
which is where she’s from. So she’s from the Balkans. She’s fluent in many
languages, at least four. She has published– she
got started in the Balkans where she wrote
for Balkan insight. She was the managing editor of
a journal called Kosovo 2.0. She has contributed to
Agence France-Presse. She has contributed to German
newspapers, Die Tageszeitung and Berliner Morgenpost. She’s published
widely in the US press in Foreign Policy, The Atlantic,
The New Republic, The Nation, The Guardian, and of
course most recently, The Boston Globe where she’s
been interning this fall. And what I think
is extraordinary is that she publishes on
all sides of the spectrum, both the more conservative
American papers and the– or news outlets and
the more progressive. Exactly. Anyway she’s also won
awards for her journalism. One award was for a study on the
education of minority groups, and another was on
war criminals who have maintained a hold on
power in post-war Kosovo. And at the end of this
month, January 28, she’ll be leaving us to
go to The New York Times where she’ll be interning
at the international desk. So I’m going to turn
it over to Una Hajdari, and she can talk
about the Balkans. We have a couple of slides
if you want to use them. UNA HAJDARI: Yes. Hello. Just a quick check. Do I speak– my mic OK? Whoever I’m looking at. OK. Hi everyone. Thank you so much for your
interest in this topic. I feel that NATO is only
the subject of scandalous and sensationalist headlines
and that not very often people don’t– are not interested in
getting into the meat of the issue and the
reasons why NATO expansion is such a big and important
topic in eastern and southeast Europe. The fact that it’s being
mentioned more than ever by the current US
president is something that has brought it to the
foreground of political debate on a global level,
but most people don’t understand why the
post-socialist East European and Southeast European societies
have been focusing on NATO so much over the years. So just, briefly, to
go back to the history of NATO for those who might
not know very much about it, in 1948 and ’49
after World War II and the defeat of
Nazism in Europe, the European
security situation is divided between the spheres of
influence of the Soviet Union and the spheres of influence
of the Western powers, divided along the lines of where
they advanced during World War II and where the
world war ended. For the Western
European countries that had definitely
collaborated amongst each other but also with the United States
in World War I and World War II, it was important to
solidify this relationship and to make sure that they
could rely on one another in case they were
threatened by Germany. This was before West
Germany join NATO. And in case they were
threatened by the Soviet Union. And this is an important
element in this because NATO is, in many
ways, formed to prevent a possible Soviet threat. And this is something that
defines the role of NATO later on in history up until
this day with the successor state of the Soviet Union,
the Russian Federation. And so NATO doesn’t do
very much, initially. With the Korean War in 1950,
which is, in many ways, A, a proxy war, but then develops
in a full first and only confrontation between the Soviet
Union and the United States, the signatories of
what was initially just the North Atlantic Treaty
form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They assign a Supreme
Allied Commander for Europe, and decide to make this
military alliance a formal thing and something that dictates
their foreign policy. And for most of the Cold War,
NATO acts in different ways. It’s more active. Sometimes they act more
as a unified front. Sometimes more individually. This is shown through the
example of, let’s say, France and other
countries that end up developing their nuclear arsenal
as independent countries, just in case they have to
fend off for themselves and not as part of the
total military alliance. But all of this
changes in ’89 or ’90 with the fall of the Soviet
Union and the breakup of– oh, and, of course,
we need to mention that in retaliation to
the formation of NATO, the Soviet Union forms
the Warsaw Pact or signs the Warsaw Pact, where it
and its satellite states decide to organize for their
common defense, mainly. It’s much less a
society of equals, which NATO was considered to be. But definitely organized
the security situation in Eastern Europe along the
division line through Germany and what is referred
to as the Iron Curtain. This changes in ’89 with the
fall of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, it sets
its satellite states free. They’re independent
countries that can do their own thing,
militarily and otherwise. And so NATO does some intense
soul searching, at this point. What does it do as
an alliance that was formed to ward off
this other big power? Is it still necessary? And, also, this comes at a
time of big, massive euphoria in Europe and in the world. Neoliberalism is spreading. We don’t need wars. We’re not going to have wars. Nuclear arsenals are toned down. Demilitarization happens in
many, many parts of the world. And at the same time,
in Europe, specifically, this new political
alliance was formed, which existed as an
economic one for a long time and got transitioned into a
formal political alliance, officially, with the
Maastricht Treaty in the ’90s, which,
sort of, forms this new political community
of nations in Europe where all of these
post-socialist states were going to become a part of. Now, as all of this is
happening– and then, of course, mercifully,
the Soviet Union breaks apart
peacefully, and there is no escalations in that aspect. Of course, one doesn’t
think about Chechnya and other things. But that’s a topic for
Russia experts, not me. But with all this happy
euphoria in Europe, there’s one part of it,
the southeastern region of the Western
Balkans that doesn’t seem to want to
transition peacefully into this neoliberal
European global order. Yugoslavia was less a big
worry for the Western powers because having famously
split from Moscow or split from Stalin
but then maintained its own form of
socialism after ’48, it had received US aid
for the Marshall Plan but also formed the non-aligned
movement, which incorporated other socialist countries
and post-colonial countries and states through different
parts of the world like India and Syria and Egypt
and stuff like that. But, anyway, it wasn’t a
big problem for the West because there were lines of
communication that were open. And it was, actually,
even considered to be a place where
a lot of people who wanted to be involved in
Russian issues from the West would meet. The Yugoslavs were
good intermediaries because they were socialists
so the Soviets were OK collaborating with them. That changed a lot but,
again, different topic. And they also had lines
of communication open with the West and were a
meeting point of East and West, which is very
symbolic considering what happened in the ’90s. So Yugoslavia descends
into, first of all, crazy nationalist– I don’t know what to call it. Crazy nationalism, intense
nationalist sentiments erupt in Yugoslavia,
mainly because most of its constituents–
it was a federation of socialist states,
which was made up of republics that had
different ethnic groups as the dominant one in
each separate republic. And every single one
of these republics wanted to be independent
and felt like now that the Federation
was falling apart, they could deal with
all their grievances they hadn’t dealt
with during the time of the socialist federation,
during World War II, before World War
II, as has happened in other places in the world. And so it started with
the northernmost republic leaving Yugoslavia. That’s Slovenia. That’s where Melania
is from for people who might want a reference point. Oh, now would be a
good time for maps, since I’ve gotten to that point. Is that– yeah. So Romania, Bulgaria,
and Greece, and Albania are, obviously, not
part of Yugoslavia. But it’s from
Slovenia to Macedonia. So Slovenia is the
first Republic. There’s a pointer here. I don’t know how to use it. Slovenia leaves
first and we then see the remaining
republics clash with each other,
first politically, and then on an individual
level between groups. And that escalates into war. And with the war
properly starting with various interventions
by the Yugoslav army and in Croatia, as it
was preparing to secede. Now, this was a tricky
question because many believe that Yugoslavia should
survive as a federation. It did have pluralist
elections in some parts of it, even when it was a federation. And its survival, the plan
was to have Yugoslavia survive as a federation and
be incorporated into the EU as a whole. But since some of the republics
wanted to leave and do their own thing, not
be part of Yugoslavia– especially because
at this point it was led by the head of the
Serbian branch of the Yugoslav Communist League,
Slobodan Milosevic. Who, many of you might
not know very much about, but was a Serbian strong
man who definitely believed that Serbia, that bigger
country there and with the lower part that’s partitioned, as the
biggest republic, as, perhaps, the republic that
had participated the most in the
Yugoslav economy, in the development of
the Yugoslav system, should get more out of the
country once it was leaving it. If it were to leave it. The alternate description
of his policies would be he wanted to
keep Yugoslavia together. Again, this is a
completely different topic that we don’t need
to talk about today. But, basically, these ethnic
groups or nationalist groups were clashing, and
the Yugoslav army was being used to intervene and,
first of all, calm things down. But then ended up becoming a
warring party in this conflict. So this is happening
while Europe and NATO are thinking about what
their future role is. So with the formation of
European Union, NATO becomes– and this was something that the
US side was very involved in. But the European
Union wants to form its own military
structures, mechanisms for future military
actions and/or financing and establishing its armies. This was a big part
of the integration of the new countries that had– do we have a wider UK map? Anyway, new countries
that had left the– former socialist
countries that were going to be part of the union. And we don’t know,
exactly, to what extent these countries were interested,
initially, in the conflict, mainly because it started
escalating very quickly. We have the first casualties
in 1991, massive casualties in 1991 in Croatia. The war in Croatia, it spills
over to Bosnia very quickly. In Bosnia things
escalate even more. There are more civilian
casualties in Bosnia. All at the same time, in
Kosovo on the other side we have incidents
breaking out, isolated, not as many civilian casualties
because the war there hadn’t escalated yet. And all this is happening while
the situation in the country is not going very well. And so now NATO has two options. It could either choose
to not become involved, or it could choose to think of
a common response with Russia, now, because this
was the vacuum that was created with the
fall of the Warsaw Pact where Russia was
supposed to have a new role in the European
security apparatus. What happens, initially, is that
UN monitors and OSCE monitors later on, and EU
monitors are sent in. And the crime keeps escalating. The incidents keep escalating. In April of 1995,
UN monitors get taken hostage by the Bosnian
Serb army in Gorazde. And this is the first time where
NATO has to actually consider launching airstrikes
because it has to protect its
own personnel that were taken hostage in Gorazde. This makes the
situation really tricky because if this conflict
escalates to airstrikes, what would stop them from
sending more air strikes should it get worse in eastern Bosnia. And the Russian side is
involved in all of this. They’re part of
the contact groups. They’re part of the
debate about this. They end up sending peacekeepers
in Bosnia, not militarily involved, but peacekeepers. And then, in July 1995, news
breaks of the large scale massacre in Srebrenica
on July 11 of 1995, where around 8,000 civilians
were killed within one day. And this is the massive
wake up call to the West where it’s like, we have
to actually step in. We can’t have our little liberal
freedom end of history party in Europe, while this is
going on in the Balkans. And the security general at this
point, NATO secretary general, decides to speed up things. He doesn’t go through the
Security Council, which would actually be needed
to give NATO approval for airstrikes in Bosnia. He goes to the UN
military general and gives him approval to
request airstrikes from NATO. And NATO launches two weeks of
airstrikes in Bosnia, which, effectively, end the war. Then NATO and Russia and
all these other countries become part of the Dayton
Peace Accords, which end up setting up the post-war Bosnia. Peace is restored in
Europe, to some extent. However, the situation
in Kosovo has still not been solved because Kosovo,
as the southern province of Serbia, has this
large Albanian majority. The Albanians don’t want to
be part of Serbia anymore. On the other hand,
Serbia doesn’t want to grant independence
or any sort of autonomy to its southern province,
which is also, ironically, the place where its first
medieval kingdom was set up, the heart of the Serbian nation. It’s something that they don’t
want to relinquish easily. But all these groups that
were involved in Bosnia now transfer to Kosovo. And they are involved in intense
negotiations with Slobodan Milosevic to use
diplomatic means to prevent any form of
Western intervention. And, again, this doesn’t
produce very many results because Milosevic is facing
a big crisis back home. There are protests going on
in Serbia on a monthly basis. Inflation is high because
of the many embargoes that have been imposed on
Yugoslavia at this point. He has created this network
of criminal organizations that are propping him up and
making sure he stays in power. And they also want
him to stay in power. And also, because, on one hand,
Russia’s strong resistance to air strikes and air
strikes were put on the table very early on. But on one hand, because
of the Russian reluctance, nobody expected for it
to actually escalate to this point. And then, to the very
point that in early 1999 as the last attempts were
being made by the US side, by everyone else to
solve this, airstrikes were so negatively
perceived in Europe that even, let’s say, a
country like the Czech Republic that builds a lot of its
modern identity on a failed revolution, a failed revolution
that was made to liberalize Czech socialist society,
where it bemoans the lack of Western
intervention in this revolution to help keep that
government in power. Even the Czech
public is like, no. The German public, the
German political elite keeps going on TV all the time
to talk about these airstrikes. We have to intervene. It’s a massive
humanitarian crisis. We have to get involved. Germany, especially, since
this will be the first conflict that Germany or
any military action that a unified Germany was
involved in since World War II. At some point the
diplomatic efforts imploded, and NATO decides to
launch airstrikes on Yugoslavia, the
interesting thing being that the
Russian party, which was involved in the
debate the whole time does not get notified
until three hours before the bombing starts. Where the prime
minister, Primakov at the time, literally, is
on a flight to Washington, DC and has to turn
around once he realized that the bombings on
Yugoslavia have been launched. Again, the airstrike was
supposed to be short-lived. It was supposed to be
limited to military targets and other resources that were
associated with the military. But Milosevic didn’t
want to give up. And what happened was that the
worst atrocities in the Kosovo conflict actually happened
during the bombing because utter chaos erupts. You have the Yugoslav
army that is now making use of this
free-for-all to do what it wanted to do in Kosovo. The Kosovo side,
which is usually– so in Kosovo there
was a separation between the main political
party at the time, which had a non-violent approach, and
these self-organized guerrillas called the Kosovo Liberation
Army who were armed and wanted to take an armed
revolt against the Yugoslav army. These were escalating. The number of casualties were
going up, and most [INAUDIBLE] didn’t want to give up. There has never been
a bombing like this. And 11 weeks, NATO keeps looking
for new targets, new places to bomb, obviously, because
of the difficulty of carrying on air strikes without– they didn’t have
any ground support. They did rely on the
Kosovo Liberation Army as they do in any
other conflicts that NATO was involved in. They relied on the
Kosovo Liberation Army to be the local eyes and ears
for the stuff they were doing. But, of course,
intelligence was flawed. And they end up hitting
refugee convoys, buses, and stuff like that. Only in June of 1995, he
had been assigned earlier, but Yeltsin assigns
a special envoy for this war, Chernomyrdin,
if I’m not mistaken. And he ends up convincing
Milosevic to sit down and sign an agreement. This agreement is signed in
[? Kumanovo ?] in June of 1995, and it signifies
the end of the war in Yugoslavia, completely,
because Milosevic– and Milosevic, sort of, his last
stand because very quickly he is toppled from power through
elections that occur soon after that in Serbia. Anyway, Yugoslav
troops pull out. Yugoslav political
elite pulls out. And Kosovo becomes the
first European protectorate that is completely monitored
and overseen by NATO. NATO oversees its airspace. It oversees its borders. And this pet project of
the West has, to this day, remained a thorn in the side
of the Russian foreign policy security efforts in
Europe because it was seen as an overkill,
too much of an overreaction to a situation that might have,
at some point, been solved through diplomatic efforts. Anyway, fast forward,
this is 1999. Fast forward nine
years later, in 2008. In 2008, Kosovo was overseen
by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, again, which
is the top political level of the country. It does organize
its own elections. It does have a parliament. But it functions, effectively,
as a UN and NATO protectorate. In 2008 there are debates
going on about Kosovo finally declaring
independence and solving the political status of Europe. Because since then,
between 1999 to 2008, all these countries
end up joining NATO, so the Czech Republic,
Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Baltic States. NATO has expanded. The EU has expanded. Most of these countries
that have joined NATO also joined the EU, which is why
these two parallel processes are often referred to as
Euro-Atlantic integration. And the NATO forces in the
country and the UN forces in the country have
to come to a decision as to the future of Kosovo. 2008 is also the
time when escalations were happening in Georgia. And there’s this
pattern since 1989, at any given point when there is
a big hurdle, a big achievement that has to be made
in the solidifying independence of Kosovo,
the Russian side has used for either
escalations on its end or a complete disbanding of
diplomatic communications or a degradation
in communications between DC and Moscow. Kosovo does declare
independence. And this is seen as the
final straw of any efforts to re-establish an
international security system where Russia
and the United States will be on the same side. Because even in the Bush years
or the early Obama years– Obama followed after that. There was an attempt to
sort of reset the clock, and be, like, OK. We can go back and talk
about these things. And, on the other
hand, NATO was strongly involved in expanding its
presence in the Balkans. And to this point
we have, obviously, Croatia, Slovenia who joined
NATO, Montenegro recently joined NATO, and Albania,
Macedonia, and Bulgaria, and Romania before. And Greece and Turkey,
one of the first states to join in 1955 after
the initial Western European expansion. So Macedonia is set to join. And so now– slide. So these are the countries
that are not part of it. Bosnia and Herzegovina, and
Kosovo and Serbia, obviously. So Bosnia-Herzegovina is
separated into three– has a political
system, currently, not to go into
detail about that, but that is basically
separated along ethnic lines. You have a Serb, a Croat, and
a Bosnia group representative. And the Serbian
presidential representative has often been strongly under
the influence of Belgrade. And Macedonia is probably
set to join NATO very soon. Macedonia held a
recent referendum regarding its name in
October of this year whereby it went from being
called the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to being
through a referendum changing its name to North Macedonia. Why this is an issue
is because Greece, which is found in
its southern border has a northern province
that is also referred to as Macedonia historically. Alexander the Great is the
son of Philip of Macedon. So he’s also of Macedonian
descent, claimed both by Macedonia and Greece. Nationalism and history,
again, nothing surprising. So Macedonia is set to
join NATO very soon. And we have all this
big block of countries that surround Serbia who
definitely doesn’t want to be part of NATO
at this point, even though the current
president Alexsandar Vucic has hinted towards– he’s definitely supported
European integration, which has often
gone hand-in-hand with NATO integration. But the NATO bombing is such
a big scar in Serbian society. And it ends up
dividing the Kosovar and the Serbian political elite,
or making it difficult for them to communicate to this day. They’re now found in a dialogue
that is facilitated by Brussels and the European Union, which
is set to normalize relations, which has not being completed
and will probably stretch on to the next couple of years. And so the population
in Serbia remembers the bombing and everything
that occurred around it in a way that will make it very
difficult for them to integrate into NATO very soon. So that’s when it
comes to the Balkans. The big question now– so the Kosovo bombing or
the Yugoslavia bombing for Kosovo, if you want
to refer to it as that, is seen as having set a
precedent that will reverberate or influence future
decisions of NATO to intervene in other
parts of the world. The point where the issue of
NATO intervention is debated is, of course, the Ukraine
crisis, where we see– and to be very,
very brief because I assume there are people
in this room who know this 10 times better than me. So in 2013 the Ukrainian
president Viktor Yanukovych decides to reverse or not go
through with an association plan with the European Union. This causes mass
revolt in Ukraine because it is, on one hand,
seen to be a decision influenced by Russia, which doesn’t
want the EU to get so close its border. On the other hand influenced
by other groups within Ukraine who want to see it
on a more pro-Eastern path rather than a Western one. These protests spread
across the country. Unrest erupts on the
eastern Ukrainian border region of Donbas and,
to some extent, Crimea. Russia ends up
supporting, politically, the eastern Ukrainian
separatists who formed their own independent
states that supports the referendum in Crimea. Ends up absorbing Crimea
into Russia, a decision that is not accepted by the West. And so we have
this new big crisis on Europe’s eastern
border that, if we were to follow the
logic of the ’90s, would definitely require
NATO intervention. But NATO has been very
reluctant to become involved because it’s
considered to be too close and too provocative to Russia. But, on the other hand,
you have a Ukraine, which sees this as
the European Union and NATO have invested
endless amounts of money in setting up Kosovo as
the perfect pet project. Most of the economy is run– the economy is very, very small. And Kosovo sees a
lot of foreign aid and both economic
affairs, infrastructure and developmental
affairs, and all that. And so then Kosovo
gets all of this. Whereas Ukraine gets a lot
less and nothing in a moment where it finds itself in crisis. And how this affects a very
specific sort of mindset on what is commonly referred
to as the European periphery, is that the Western
community of nations only wants to intervene and
get involved in our conflicts when there is a direct
interest in that. In the Kosovo scenario,
NATO needed a foothold in southeast Europe. They needed to show that
it could become involved in solving big conflicts. This is in the ’90s when a
lot of the other conflicts that NATO had been
involved in had subsided. Whereas Ukraine, which is
a latent and active issue that they could
become involved in, does not apparently
require intervention. This combined with the lack
of a clear EU perspective is something that has
affected voters and citizens in a similar way that it
did in the Balkans the ’90s, and it still does. In the Balkan case,
Serbian nationalist groups see the Balkans as
the Western playground where they get to do
whatever they want, intervene wherever they want,
intervene in internal affairs because in the Kosovo scenario
Kosovo was part of, officially, the southern province of Serbia. So was part of the country. And so now we have
a situation where– the biggest irony of all of this
being that Kosovo was neither a NATO member, and not even
close to becoming an EU member, because it has functioned as
a protectorate for so long. It needed the West to be part of
every segment of its existence to the point where it
didn’t manage to establish democratic institutions. It didn’t establish elections
are relatively fair. You have the dominance of the
political party that came out of the KLA, the
guerrilla movement I mentioned there was fighting
the Yugoslav forces in the ’90s. And it has not been able
to get on its own feet and form an effective
and functioning country. So the failures of
Kosovo and the successes often reflect the way NATO
chooses to act and expand in Eastern Europe. And, again, in this
discussion with Elizabeth, what should be mentioned
about the NATO bombing as well is that this year
marks the 20th anniversary of the bombing. And in no way have
the problems that were present in the ’90s
been solved in the Balkans. It is still an example
of extreme nationalism, ethnic divisions, escalations,
not war, not military because NATO
peacekeepers are present in Kosovo and, to some
extent, in Bosnia. But this region has definitely
not recovered from its breakup. And so people who were
against the NATO bombing would say that this should
have been handled, yes, supported diplomatically,
but handled by the people on the ground. Others who support the
NATO bombing insist that these arguments
shouldn’t be had because the moral
debate about preventing casualties and
actually saving lives is the one that trumps
everything else. So, that’s all for me. And I look forward
to your questions. This was more of a
background, and I really hope that in the
discussion we can hash out the intricacies of this issue. Thank you. ELIZABETH WOOD: So, following
the Starr Forum format that many of you have enjoyed
every other time, what we’ll do now is we’ll have about
10, 15 minutes of discussion in front of you. I have some questions
for Una that I think will be interesting. And then we’ll open it up for
everybody else’s questions. There’s water right here. So, Una, it sounds
like what you’re saying is that if we compare the
Kosovo situation and the Ukraine situation, NATO has acted
really quite in different ways. That in Kosovo the situation has
been NATO, a complete takeover, extensive bombing. I looked up the numbers and
there were 38,000 sorties in that four month period. There were 700 US planes. There were just huge numbers
of violence and so on. Ukraine, the opposite. Luhansk, Donetsk
are sitting there. Huge debates in
Congress, whether even to give the Javelin fighters. Why do you think that the two
situations are so different? What is it about Kosovo? Partly, you’ve said
it’s geography. Perhaps, the geography of
being closer to Russia, being closer Europe, say more. What makes these two
situations so different? UNA HAJDARI: So the main
difference is the setting. And that’s why I
spent so much time setting up the setting in the
’90s and the setting right now. So in the ’90s, NATO and the
EU and the OSCE, which was then being set up, all of them
wanted to incorporate Russia and the former socialist
countries of Eastern Europe into its security structures. And Yugoslavia was
seen as just a hitch. We needed to intervene to get
rid of this little problem, and then we would
incorporate everyone in the same structures. And then we won’t have to worry
about the way we’ll intervene in future conflicts because
we’re all going to be part of a wider security structure. This doesn’t, necessarily,
mean that they actually– even though this was often
discussed– planned for Russia, itself, to be part of the EU. Definitely not,
but NATO, as well. But it was seen as
the small problem that can be solved easily. At this point in a
process that was started by the bombing in Kosovo, the
relationship between Russia and the EU and NATO when
it comes to security issues has gotten– the divide has grown
so big that now we’re talking about opposed side,
which wasn’t the case. The NATO bombing resets
the East West divide that was sort of overcome
with the end of the Cold War, in many ways. Not to the same extent, of
course, not to that size, but we’re talking about
a different world order where it’s not as bipolar. Where it’s not as divisive. And where there is
more consultation from the US and Russia
on issues of security. And the fact that
Russia’s opinion regarding the intervention in Serbia
was not taken seriously or not incorporated a lot– so Russia was part
of the contact group, was part of the negotiations,
the diplomatic efforts and all that. But the airstrikes were always
something that was a no-go. And so that’s very
different with the Ukraine because now we’re
talking about a NATO that is most likely not going to
expand into Ukraine anytime soon. And they know that this would
be an escalation on the borders. ELIZABETH WOOD: Yeah. I mean, certainly, from
the Russian perspective you’re absolutely right that
in ’97 there was discussion of NATO Russian charter. That they would be
working together, that there would be harmony. ’99 from the US
issue as the US press covered it was, oh, the
human rights violations, what the Kosovar Albanians could
be doing to the Serbians, what the Serbians could be doing
to the Albanians, and so on. Whereas in Russia, this led
to a whole set of resentments and frustrations. And at one point
Alexander Lebed, who was trying to
position himself as a potential presidential
candidate in Russia, referred to Russia as a
humiliated and offended nation. August of ’99 Putin
is brought in. And I remember myself
thinking during that period of the bombings that
while everyone here was busy talking about
the human rights issues, they were ignoring
the bludgeoning, I would call it Neanderthal use
of force that was so extensive. And I predicted,
and it seems, alas, that I was right that it
would give rise to strongman politics in the region. As local nations decided
we have to have a strongman politics because the US and
NATO are going to use this. And I’m wondering whether
you think that’s true. Do you think there’s been a
kind of strongman politics that comes out of this? Putin positions himself from the
beginning as a war president. He has to solve Chechnya first. But then he can position
himself as he’s not going to be kicked
around by the West. Vucic does the same. Dodik, we should
explain who they are. But do you feel that
in the Balkan context that the local leaders
are also trying to play a strongman
politics both vis-a-vis each other and, potentially,
vis-a-vis Europe? UNA HAJDARI: So, with
Kosovo there’s a big client state that’s basically created. I mean, the [INAUDIBLE] of
our government does not only consult with the
west, it literally– their press releases are
handed over to them directly from the Western embassy. And this is fine
because those people who were elected
in power after 1999 were not very efficient leaders. So from all these
scenarios, that might not be the worst one. So it’s separated. It’s strongly separated. And Serbia is also humiliated. And this has made it really
hard for this Serbian society to recover. The current Serbian prime
minister denies, openly– she did that on Deutsche
Welle a couple of months ago– denies that there was
genocide in Srebrenica because the way Serbia
dealt with the bombing. It’s different when you have
combatants on the field. And you have one army, and
then you have another army. And it’s equal. And they felt there was
this big Western power that just came in and– for reasons and I talked
about some of them, reasons that might
have been legitimate. But there’s this
big Western power that comes in and just
rains down bombs on us. And, especially
amongst the population, because Serbia, again, unlike
other parts of the Balkans, had been spared
from war directly. People in Belgrade
hadn’t seen any war. Novi Sad hadn’t seen any war. These are different
parts of Serbia. The south north
hadn’t seen any war. And then all of a sudden there’s
these bombs that come in. Of course, just like the Russian
situation with Chechnya and all that, the Serbian public
was handed strong– only had access
to intense Serbian TV propaganda, which
made their awareness about what was going on in
the rest of the Balkans very, very low. And so this has made it so hard
for the Serbian politicians, even the reformist prime
minister, Zorin Dindic, who was killed after getting power. He was probably the
most progressive force the country has seen since
1989 or since Milosevic. Made it even for him and then
Boris Tadic as well later. All of them have had a hard
time dealing, A, with the Kosovo issue, talking
about Kosovo openly, and, B, getting the country out
of this wartime fatigue that was created in the ’90s
because of its implications in the Yugoslav wars. If that makes sense. ELIZABETH WOOD: That
makes a lot of sense. So as a Russia
watcher, I see a lot of connection between both
Vucic in Serbia and also Dodik in Banjaluka and
Republika Srpska. So just quick
background, and thank you for all this background. Bosnia, itself, is
divided into two parts. One is as Bosnia
and Herzegovina, and the other part is
Republika Srpska, which is still Serbian dominated. Putin has been to
Belgrade four– he’s about to– his coming
will be the fourth time. UNA HAJDARI: I think
three or four times, yeah. ELIZABETH WOOD: And he’s come on
the liberation of the Red Army day at the end of World
War II from October ’44– UNA HAJDARI: To set up
a statue of Nikolai II. ELIZABETH WOOD: Exactly. He came. I guess he sent Lavrov
for the Nikolai II. He had Tsereteli, this
famous Georgian sculptor who made the Peter the
Great in Moscow, which is an absurd statue, make a
Nicholas II, the last Russian Romanov Tsar in Banjaluka. What do you make of
all these connections? Are they just
fraternal relations of two orthodox powers? Is there more going on? What do you think? UNA HAJDARI: It’s
very interesting because what the
bombing also did– so Serbian society, of course,
with the fall of socialism you have this initial sort
of re-traditionalization of these societies in
the sense that they become more religious. They become more
nativist, they are more focused on their ethnic
and national identity. This happens to the
Croats, the Bosniaks, or the Catholic ethnic group,
the Muslim ethnic group, the Serbian Orthodox
ethnic group. And so, in that
sense, yes, there is a re-establishment of
relations with Russia. I say re-establishment
because even while there were sentimental ties between the
Yugoslav Serbs and the Russians before, Yugoslavia
maintained a policy of not– even as a socialist country it
didn’t favoritize the Russian Federation or the
Soviet Union and even was very open to
mocking and criticizing its form of socialism. And we met with one of the
later US ambassadors to Russia, and he remembers during a
trip in the ’90s in Belgrade, where he jokingly referred
to one of his friends, oh, you’re acting
like a Russian. You got offended
because it was, like– not that that’s a good
thing to be offended for. But I’m just saying,
in terms of context, that’s what the situation
was in the ’90s, which isn’t the case now. You have Putin coming
to Belgrade tomorrow and the Serbian press has
been going out of it’s way to show how happy they are
that they have him there. And how they want
people to come in and to organize a grand parade
around his visit and all that. ELIZABETH WOOD: I
know you’ve actually been writing about the
protests in Belgrade right now, and I’d be curious. What do you think
is going to happen when Putin comes tomorrow? There’s going to be these
pro-Putin demonstrations. What about the
protesters on the ground? Maybe say a few
words about that? UNA HAJDARI: There have been
opposition protests going on in Serbia for a couple of weeks. They began in early December
after an opposition politician was beaten up in a South
Serbian city before a debate. And so they launched
these protests. But very quickly they expanded. And people of all different
kinds of backgrounds and they didn’t necessarily have
a party affiliation when they joined the
protests, started protesting in Belgrade every week. And the protests
keep getting bigger. Vucic downplayed them mainly
because the opposition in Serbia is so fragile
and disorganized and unable to present a credible
threat to his power. But people who’ve been
involved in protests have announced that
they’re going to be gathering in Belgrade tomorrow. However, knowing
Vucic, I believe that there are security
measures set in place to not let them interfere with the parade. Because there were
protests announced in 2014 when Putin visited
the last time. ELIZABETH WOOD: I think
I’ll ask one more question, and then we’ll open it up. I’m very curious. Kosovo has announced
that they’re going to create an army. And it seems to me that
there’s much symbolic meaning for Kosovo as not quite its own
nation developing its own army. But I’m so curious if you
could spell out for us, what are the symbolic issues? Why upgrade their
security force to an army? And, also, what might
be the repercussions if other powers in
the area say, whoa, we’re not comfortable with
Kosovo having an army? UNA HAJDARI: So
after the bombing, NATO was the
peacekeeping force there. And having the world’s
best trained military be your peacekeeping force
made it clearly unnecessary for there be an army,
as well as the fact that the agreement that
led to the capitulation of the Yugoslav army in Kosovo
or their removal from Kosovo, clearly listed the
demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army as
one of its conditions. And so, for a long time,
it had this security force that would intervene. And, I don’t mean
to offend anyone, but in humanitarian events
didn’t do very much. But that was fine. For the symbolics of
having someone parade around on Independence
Day, they had an army or a security force. It was not allowed
to be called an army. And that’s set up in
Kosovo’s constitution in order to not inflame
relations with Serbia because Kosovo still
exists internationally through Resolution 1244, which
was the UN resolution that was passed in 1999 after the end
of the bombing, which, again, saw a strong Russian
hand in its setting up. Why it’s, since then, made it
so difficult for this Kosovo situation to be solved is
because Russia made sure that the political
status of Kosovo would go through the
Security Council. And it knew that once it
went to the Security Council it could exercise its veto. And China has not been favorable
towards the Kosovo independence issue, either. So in UN Resolution
1244, the longer from the resolution says that should
the political status change, it would be subject to
Security Council approval. So Kosovo was not set up as
an independent country fully. The president, Hashim
Thaci, he’s been in power– he was prime minister first and
became president, as they do. And he’s been getting a lot of
resentment from the population because he hasn’t
managed to deliver. His government has not
delivered on EU integration, on any form of
integration of Kosovo into the regional
situation in the Balkans. It isn’t part of Interpol. It isn’t part of any
international body that would make it easier
for its citizens to travel around the world or
be part of the global society. And, as such, he chooses
a nationalist measure, an entirely insignificant one. Even if the Kosovo army were
to be set up tomorrow morning, it would never be more efficient
than the NATO peacekeepers who were there. But it’s a move to sort of
quell the dissident voices in the country. So that’s what happened. And, of course, it’s seen as
a major provocation by Serbia, and a direct violation
of UN SC Resolution 1244. ELIZABETH WOOD: I can’t
resist one more question. UNA HAJDARI: OK. ELIZABETH WOOD: What
about Montenegro? So Montenegro is
now part of NATO. Is that– UNA HAJDARI: You
should ask Manafort. ELIZABETH WOOD: Ah, yes. Tell us, what do you think
about the American connection on that one? But, also, how is that viewed
in the rest of the Balkans? I mean, you’re creating this
patchwork of NATO, not NATO. How do people view that? UNA HAJDARI: So
Montenegro is tricky because when all these other
Yugoslav republics left, the only republic that remained
loyal to Serbia was Montenegro. They share the same
faith, more or less a lot of a similar history. But Montenegro chooses, because
of the political constellations of the time, and
because, like all these other Balkan
republics, it felt it had somewhat more
of a distinct ethnic and national identity. This is where the term
balkanization comes from. These countries separating
into smaller units so that every little
village can be independent. So Montenegro,
through a referendum, declares independence–
or after referendum declares independence in 2006. And it is staunchly
pro-European very early on. They decide to get
on their NATO path, at some point
because Montenegro is seen to be a country
that could be susceptible to
Russian influence. Now, this is seen
for different ways. Montenegro has a very
active tourist industry. It’s a coastal country,
so that’s pretty and nice. But, also, a lot
of its industries right after the
fall of Yugoslavia were bought up by
Russian oligarchs. And has a big Russian
immigrant community, one of the biggest
in the region, ranging from oligarchs to
political émigrés who live and work there. So it was always seen
as a country that was very susceptible to Russian
influences either directly or through Serbia,
which is why NATO pushed so hard for its inclusion into
NATO, unlike with other states in the region. Right now it is seen as a
relatively stable example compared to Macedonia, who has
yet to become a NATO member. Macedonia was one of the
countries in the region that did so well in its
reform processes that it was thought to be
able to join the European Union together with
Croatia in 2013, but ended up not doing
this because it got an authoritarian leader
who, for different reasons, decided to play up
its national history. He built a lot of monuments all
over Macedonia with Alexander the Great and Philip of Macedon,
which got Greece really angry. And so they backtracked
a lot on the progress that was made initially. And now with the name
referendum, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia
did put up a statement the other day
condemning the fact that Macedonia was forced– because the
Macedonian parliament approved the resolution
that would change its name. We should now refer to
it as North Macedonia. I’m trying to get
the hang of it. But North Macedonia becoming an
official thing a couple of days ago probed the Russian
Foreign Ministry commenting on it
in a way that NATO forced Macedonian to
change its name so that it could be a part of it. Which, technically, is true. One of the reasons that
Macedonia could not join NATO is because Greece opposed
its joining of NATO with the name Macedonia. So it was constantly referred
to as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
and had difficulties in joining many other
organizations because of that. ELIZABETH WOOD: Wow. So we see quite
a patchwork here. I think we’re going to
open it up for questions. I have many more questions if
we somehow– but let me see. I’ll take the first hand I see. Come down to the mic, and
be sure to ask questions. You may have a small
comment, but let’s keep the dialogue going. AUDIENCE: Is Russia still
holding three Ukrainian Navy vessels? And, if so, what’s going
to be the outcome of that? UNA HAJDARI: That’s a question
for Elizabeth, actually. ELIZABETH WOOD: Yes, they are. And I’m not sure
what’s going to happen. So, yeah. AUDIENCE: I recall
during the bombings the Chinese embassy was hit. And NATO and the American
forces said it was an accident, and China said it
was intentional. And I knew several
American Chinese people who sided with China and
thought it was intentional. Do you have any thoughts on– obviously, the
intention, it seemed like the message was
trying to say to China, don’t be involved with this. Were they secretly behind
the scenes creating chaos to escalate the problem? So your thoughts on that. UNA HAJDARI: China was very
supportive of Milosevic throughout the
’90s, as was Russia. But actually,
China was even more vocal in its support than
Russia because Russia was trying to democratize, was
getting all this Western aid, and didn’t want to send
out this image of being– and I mentioned this
briefly, but Milosevic played between wanting to– with the ideas of forming a
big Serbian state and keeping communism alive. And that’s the thread
that China got. China got involved in the
keeping communism alive rhetoric. And so they were
very big on wanting to see Milosevic stay in power. Official accounts, to this day,
are that it was an accident. But yeah. ELIZABETH WOOD: Can we
take one from this side. AUDIENCE: So I have
a question after all. So I’ve worked at the war
crimes tribunal in the Hague. And I’m curious. Many of my colleagues went
on to the new tribunal having to do with
Kosovo questions. UNA HAJDARI: Excellent question. AUDIENCE: And I was wondering,
because that’s coming from an international body– in
fact, I’m not quite sure who was behind it, but I think
it’s European Union– If you could untangle a little
bit of the relationships between the pending
Kosovo trials and the attitude towards
them in the Kosovo political ranks and also in the
Mitrovica community and also the NATO
relationships to those things. I mean, in a sentence– UNA HAJDARI: That’s
an excellent question. Do I answer that,
or are we taking– ELIZABETH WOOD: No, take it. Take it. Go ahead. It’s a good question. UNA HAJDARI: So that’s a
great question because– and I didn’t mention
it in my presentation, but one of the reasons why, by
the time other things had come around to the ’99
bombing, Milosevic had such a bad
reputation in the West was because, in the meantime,
the ICTY was set up. And a lot of the
involvement of the Yugoslav army with or without
direct involvement and/or bolstering from
Milosevic in Bosnia was starting to surface. So– ELIZABETH WOOD: Explain
ICTY real quick. UNA HAJDARI: The International
Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia was, sort of, a landmark tribunal much
like the one in Rwanda. The namesake of the
fellowship that I’m here with, Elizabeth Neuffer, covered
the ICTY and the Rewanda tribunals extensively. It was seen as this big– it was an international
court organized for the first time since
the Nuremberg trials, where war crimes
were going to be put on trial by an
unbiased international body of legal experts and
prosecutors and judges and so on and so forth. Ellen, having worked there,
might have a better explanation for it. But that’s basically it. And so they ICTY did cover the
Kosovo war, but a lot less. This was the end of its mandate. It’s mandate ends,
and a lot of people are going to write
back to me if I’m not right about this, but with
the end of the bombing. So the end of the bombing
is the end of the mandate. It’s stuff that
happened afterwards, a lot of the attacks by
Albanians on the Serbs who were leaving Kosovo
after the bombing. All that kind of stuff at
the time was not included. And so Ellen
mentions a court that is being set up now, which
will focus exclusively on the Kosovo Liberation Army. Why it relates to
our debate about NATO is because the US was very
strongly opposed to the court. And it decided to play a big
role in setting up the court, just so it could help
define its parameters. Why this was important is
because the Kosovo Liberation Army were the eyes and the
ears of NATO on the ground. They were not accepted as
a legitimate military force or a legitimate
army in the conflict until NATO got
involved and, sort of, gave them the legitimacy
that they had lacked so far. And the Kosovo
Liberation Army had people who defended their
communities from the assault of the Yugoslav army
and so on and so forth, but also committed
war crimes for which they were not prosecuted. And it’s different
when the war crimes are committed by the army of
one of the Balkan countries. And it’s different when they’re
committed by an army that has such strong US support. And so the court was set up
after a report by a Swiss prosecutor, which found out
that there had been organ trafficking– apparently,
organ trafficking– this isn’t [INAUDIBLE] so
we have to be careful– conducted by some
members of the KLA, kidnappings and torture
and ethnic cleansing and so on and so forth. And the court will deal
specifically with these things once it’s set up, in order to
deal with the unresolved issues from the war in 1999
that haven’t been dealt with, mainly because– I mean, this is,
again, we have to be careful with these
classifications, but a lot of the people
who were in the KLA ended up being in power
afterwards in governments that were supported strongly by
the EU, by NATO, and by the US. So these people
were in government, including the current president. And they might be
indicted by the court. And that’s the background
into why it ties into NATO. ELIZABETH WOOD: Uh huh. That answers your question? AUDIENCE: Yes. ELIZABETH WOOD: Great. Fascinating. Let’s take one one more. Fabulous. AUDIENCE: Good afternoon. My name is Seth Johnston. I’m from the Center for
European Studies at Harvard. Thanks for your remarks today. I want to ask you a question
about the tension that is sometimes drawn in
NATO between security interests on the one hand
and democratic values on the other hand. And allow me to put
the question this way in terms of what the NATO
treaty text actually says. The most frequently cited
passage from the NATO treaty is the mutual defense
clause, a so-called Article 5 that everyone’s familiar with. Less frequently cited is
the specific articulation in the treaty that NATO
stands for democracy, individual liberty,
and the rule of law. And even in the passage
of the treaty that talks about the openness
of the alliance to bringing in new members, there’s a phrase
in there about new members have to be able to further the
principles of the alliance, these democratic values. UNA HAJDARI: So why aren’t
they involved in Ukraine? AUDIENCE: Sorry? UNA HAJDARI: So why aren’t
they involved in Ukraine? AUDIENCE: Yeah, so, I
suppose my question to you is, what do you think is the
record of NATO in this regard, in Ukraine, but
also specifically to those countries
that have joined the alliance in the Balkans? Do you see NATO’s impact
on domestic politics having been constructive
to its stated aims? UNA HAJDARI: So Article
5 is cited a lot, again, which plays into our big debate
about Eastern European security and issues with
stuff like that is the fact that the first big
intervention that NATO had was in a non-member country
and in a foreign conflict. And so you think,
how can this not make non-NATO members scared
about the prospect of them being involved. They know they can’t
attack Poland now. Or they know they
can’t attack Germany without having everyone
else become involved. But these were countries
that were not part of it. Again, so that ties in with
you, I guess, the fact– the official stance
of NATO when it chose to launch
airstrikes in Yugoslavia without getting the
Security Council approval was, we are becoming involved
in a humanitarian issue. And, I mean, this is
such a difficult debate to have because it’s
not easy for anyone to say they shouldn’t
have gotten involved because, obviously, more
people would’ve died. ELIZABETH WOOD: Well,
let me try to tackle it. I’ve thought about this
question for a long time. And I, obviously,
don’t have an answer, but it seems to me an
interesting question to ask whether more people– so let me relate a conversation
I had with Bill Hill who was here in the
fall as a speaker. William Hill is
a former diplomat who has had postings in
Moscow, in Transnistria– UNA HAJDARI: Yugoslavia. ELIZABETH WOOD: –in
former Yugoslavia. And he was very, very involved
in the offense of the OSCE, the Office of Security
and Cooperation in Europe. And what he said, and
he says it in his book No Place for Russia, that OSCE
had its largest concentration of monitors that they had
ever put anywhere in Kosovo in June of 1999. Or, not June, in March of 1999
before the bombing started. And he and I have had
interesting conversations about, what is the
role of monitors on the ground versus military
responses to human rights abuses? And I think it’s still
an open question whether, in fact, if you just– at least we can put
a thought experiment. We’re in a major university. We can use our minds
to think about this. What if the monitors
had been allowed to increase their footprint
so that any atrocities that happened could have been
caught at the moment? What he says one of the
reasons NATO was called in was that the American who was
in charge of that region who was working somewhat with OSCE
but also somewhat with the US command, was a guy, and I’m
sorry I’ve forgotten his name. UNA HAJDARI: Richard Holbrooke. ELIZABETH WOOD: Yeah. UNA HAJDARI: Holbrooke? ELIZABETH WOOD: No,
wasn’t Holbrooke who had been in El
Salvador in 1980 when, for those of us who
are older, we remember this. 1980 had seen horrific violence
against four Maryknoll sisters and some church members,
Maryknoll sisters being Americans. And the US did not respond. And this guy who was– I don’t think it was Holbrooke. UNA HAJDARI: OK,
yes, you’re right. ELIZABETH WOOD:
Although Holbrooke was, of course, there. And Holbrooke was
a major player. Thought this was a minor player. But he said, wait,
we didn’t respond when atrocities were committed. We have to respond now. And of course, we
also have to remember one thing you haven’t
mentioned is– I mean, that you have mentioned,
but that Rwanda had happened. Srebrenica had happened. Everybody was totally paranoid
about more human rights violations happening. So the climate was do something,
do something, do something. But I still find
myself wondering, what about the
long term effects, something that our
questioner asked. This was such a great question,
but Seth didn’t bring up is what about the
long term effects of the munitions that fell,
the mines that were planted. You know, they were
using cluster bombs, which were actually illegal. Where is our
discussion about that? I think that’s also an
important piece of the– and also the long term. What I’m really
worried about and why this topic is so
important and I’m so glad you agreed to speak on it, is
the continued fragmentation of the Balkans. I was just in Sarajevo
where in Bosnia you have three different
sets of education. The Bosniaks, the Croats in
Herzegovina, and the Serbians literally have different
education systems for their children. They talk about the massacres
in the siege of Sarajevo, which was one of the
world’s longest sieges ever. It was four years. It was longer, even, than
the siege of Leningrad, which is hard to believe. And people are still
not even able to talk to each other
about these things. Has NATO solved
anything by creating the protectorate of Kosovo? I think it’s an
interesting question. UNA HAJDARI: Wow. I was going to circle back to
an answer to that question, and, I guess, answers
yours as well. Well, the interesting
thing, and this comes from covering North
Kosovo on the ground. So within Kosovo
the northern part is Serb majority, which is
found on the Serbian border. And that’s where a
lot of the incidents happen nowadays because of
the clashes with the Albanian majority population
in all of Kosovo in the Serb majority region. And this was, for
me, so surprising. And this of course isn’t
everyone, but a lot of them are so open to having NATO
there because they see them as a neutral arbiter. They don’t trust the EU– no, NATO and the EU, sorry. They like NATO as it’s referred
to in its Kosovo version as KFOR, the Kosovo Forces
and the EU who are there. And they don’t trust
other political options, stuff like that, when
there’s an escalation. Because they know NATO
is going to come in, isolate whatever’s
going on, the people, the groups that are involved,
and not do anything else. This strategy is a little
difficult because– so NATO’s not
allowed to directly be involved in
conflicts in Kosovo. It’s only peacekeeping. It’s not allowed to
shoot at civilians unless shot at directly,
and so on and so forth. And in 2004 there was a massive
escalation of unrest in Kosovo whereby a big part of
the Albanian population went into Serbian communities,
burned down churches, houses. A lot of people– in certain parts of
Kosovo, the last pockets of Serbs who were
still living there left the country and
all that kind of stuff. And NATO was not able
to stop any of this. You’d think with the biggest
military alliance there, this stuff wouldn’t
happened, but it was because it could only
stand in front of them to some extent. And then when it escalated–
because they were also fearful that if they shot at
the local population they would turn against
them at some point. So very limited in terms
of democratization. It is only– and
this was actually part of the whole
debate about this because I also
don’t really agree with people who talk about
NATO as this big force that is involved in every
pore of society. It had the CIA, FBI,
and everyone else that’s involved in
making sure that NATO expands to the last
little corner of Europe. It is limited in its
scope in many ways. But on the other hand
it’s this very powerful military alliance. So we should also just place
it where it should be, and not make a boogey man out
of NATO on one hand, and on the other hand have
open conversations about what it should do in eastern Europe. ELIZABETH WOOD: That’s good. Other questions? AUDIENCE: About a month ago NATO
approved a membership action plan for Bosnia. And at the same time you
see the Serbian nationalists in Bosnia, the strongest
[INAUDIBLE] action of Russia in Bosnia,
[? Izetbegovic ?] declaring, how do you call it, the Bosnian
Serb [INAUDIBLE] independent. They don’t clearly
want to join that. How do you see the
future of that? UNA HAJDARI: So this is
one of the big problems because, again, it circles
back to the democracy element. So the president in Montenegro
who delivered the NATO membership, made
Montenegro part of NATO, is someone who’s been
in power for 25 years. He has not encouraged
democracy in Montenegro. Is part of a wide group of–
and this has been documented. I’m not making it up. Supports certain criminal
groups in the country who might not make profit
for him, but at least he oversees the way
the economic activity is done in the country. He oversees the
foreign investment. He’s involved in all of
these ports of society, so he’s not a very
democratic president, even though he delivered
all these big accession agreements into Montenegro. On the other hand, the
Montenegrin opposition, as mentioned by the gentleman,
is extremely pro-Russian and extremely nationalist. And an average
Montenegrin citizen is caught between the decision
of having a very pro-Russian and nationalist
opposition come to power. Not all of them are pro-Russian,
but the biggest factors in the opposition, the ones who
could actually win elections are. –or keeping this guy who’s
been in power for 25 years. And so it’s very tricky. And on the other hand,
you have in Bosnia, but in the Serbian
entity of Bosnia that Elizabeth mentioned
earlier, you have Dodik who is the president of– one of the three
presidents of Bosnia. Bosnia has three
presidents, on president for each ethnic group. Bosnia is the really complicated
country in the Balkans. And so he has officially
been elected as president. And he says, well, Bosnia
is just my place of work. I really am a Serb. And I feel I belong to Serbia,
and Serbia’s my real country. And he insists on forging
strong ties with Russia and making this a big part
of his foreign policy, the ironic thing being that
Russia hasn’t delivered. It is involved in Bosnia,
but it hasn’t always delivered on Dodik’s
nationalist rhetoric. So when Lavrov was
recently in Banjaluka he said, I support the
Bosnian constitution. And I support the
existence of Bosnia as a state, which goes
directly against what Dodik says in other ways. And so it’s more complex. And it’s definitely too complex
for a region that’s so small and has such a
high concentration of different ethnic
groups, countries, and so on and so forth. Which is why doesn’t get covered
by the foreign press as much as, let’s say, Ukraine does. But in the context
of these debates it’s definitely interesting. ELIZABETH WOOD: But Bosnia
does have a member action plan to join NATO. UNA HAJDARI: Yes. It doesn’t have EU– ELIZABETH WOOD: Do you have
any sense of whether that’s likely to happen? UNA HAJDARI: It’s tricky because
the reason why it has three presidents is because the
agreement that was overseen by the United States in 1995,
’96, the Dayton agreement signed in Dayton, Ohio, set
up a country that was so– they wanted to make sure that
ethnic violence would never happen again. So there is an ethnic quota
for every single official institutional position
from the village council to the presidency,
which makes it extremely hard to run that country. And it’s stalled reform. It’s stalled progress. It’s stalled all
these kinds of things that would make
it a country that would be in a successful
EU member state. So it’s not happening
any time soon. ELIZABETH WOOD: Do you
think Serbia would ever join a Russian alliance? Would it ever be asked? I haven’t heard
anything of it doing, but Russia has tried
to set up its parallel with the Eurasian economic
union as a, kind of, counterweight to
the European Union. UNA HAJDARI: See, this is
what’s really important about the whole debate
because we often– there’s Russian
influence in Serbia, but it isn’t as intense to
lead to that sort of thing because Serbia knows
that it has so many more benefits from joining the EU. Just like Ukraine knows it has
so many benefits from joining the EU. A much more stable community
of nations economically, internationally accepted,
and so on and so forth, than going back to anything
that would be led by Russia, unfortunately, I guess. But it knows that it has
this wild card, which is anytime it feels like the
EU is clamping down too hard or being too difficult with
the ongoing accession process with Serbia, it can go and can
mention its ties with Russia. It can have Putin
fly in for a day. They can go to visit him
and do other things that would encourage this. ELIZABETH WOOD: So are they
actually trying to join the EU? UNA HAJDARI: Yes. Serbia is actively
trying to join the EU, but Serbia has a
province in the South that it doesn’t recognize. ELIZABETH WOOD: Called Kosovo. UNA HAJDARI: Called Kosovo. Because one of the EU,
one of the basic tenants of any state in the world,
but a basic parameter of any country, one of the
rules that you have to follow is to have clearly
defined borders. Serbia, obviously,
does not have clearly defined borders at this point. So it would be something
that they have to deal with. And it is part of
the EU accession plan as Chapter 3 defines it. ELIZABETH WOOD: And,
actually, that’s one of the arguments about why
Russia intervened in Ukraine was to make it so that Ukraine
couldn’t join NATO or the EU because the borders
wouldn’t be clearly defined. Do you buy that argument? UNA HAJDARI: I don’t
know about the argument, but it’s for sure
made it harder. It definitely made it harder. ELIZABETH WOOD: It’s a factor. UNA HAJDARI: The ironic thing
is, though, that Kosovo– so visa liberalization is
part of the early stages of EU accession because a country– so when members of the EU and
some of the EU’s periphery can travel within the EU because
of the Schengen agreement, which allows for open
borders and easy travel. The EU, of course,
members get this, but also countries in the region, most
of them, actually, all of them have Schengen– ELIZABETH WOOD: Oh,
they have Schengen. UNA HAJDARI: –have
Schengen except for Kosovo. And Kosovo was supposed to
join a couple of years ago. There were political agreements
and things that stopped it, but it’s very
ironic because it’s this country that has
so much EU presence, but can’t travel to
any country in Europe or almost any country in
Europe without a visa. That’s what I have
to put up with. And then Ukraine
joined recently, even though the reason
why Kosovo couldn’t join was because it didn’t have its
northern border with Montenegro and Serbia defined entirely. ELIZABETH WOOD: Huh. Makes me wonder. UNA HAJDARI: That’s what
makes the EU– that’s what makes it an easy target of
the Russian propaganda machine, because it bends and
changes its rules. And it’s, like, you
think this Copenhagen criteria is so strict. It’s such a big part
of the accession rules, and then you change it. You have fast track countries
like Romania and Bulgaria that joined very quickly
to make sure to secure the sphere of influence that was
on the Western and the Eastern Balkans. You made it easy for all
these other countries to join. And then you make it
so hard for others. And this is something that
people in Serbia [INAUDIBLE].. Sorry. ELIZABETH WOOD: So we
have another question. UNA HAJDARI: Questions. AUDIENCE: This sounds so
messy and entangled that this might be a naive question. Is there any possibility of
NATO looking at the situation, taking another look at
the situation, and saying, our involvement in Kosovo
is costing too much. Withdraw, and Serbia
takes it over again. UNA HAJDARI: Oh, there
are many, many debates going on about NATO
being too expensive, the mission there
being too expensive. The NATO troops in Kosovo are
organized into Mixed Battle Group East, I believe,
a wider battalion that’s called Mixed
Battle Group East, which means that there are different
contributing nations that are part of it. The German parliament,
for example, has had many, many debates
about how costly it is to keep sending all these
people there, having them there at all, other
countries as well. And there has been a reduction
of peacekeepers in Kosovo over the years. Would that lead to Serbia– hmm. I think not. But it would definitely– I think that
assuming that having just the NATO
peacekeepers there until the final political
instability in Kosovo is solved would be great. But a lot of the
other missions can– and they have scaled them down. The EU had a big
rule of law mission there because it was
supporting the local judiciary so it had this biggest civilian
mission in its history, which is called EULEX the EU Rule
of Law Mission in Kosovo. And did not manage to put any
of the big criminals in jail, but it did manage to
put a lot of them. By criminals I mean both
war crimes and corruption, everything else. To not get into more
complex debates, I don’t think that
Serbia, at this point, has an interest in
going back into Kosovo. This is just like,
again, with Ukraine. I don’t think Russia actually
considers having to– obviously, not the
entirety of it because it’s an independent country. But it is enough
of an issue that it can be used in political debates
spreading nationalist rhetoric on a daily basis. But I don’t think that there’s
a real possibility of Serbia coming in. Yeah. And I hope I’m right. AUDIENCE: Yeah. The question is regarding
Kazakhstan and Central Asia, so the longest border
between two countries is between Russia
and Kazakhstan. And what do you think? Now it’s very good relationship
between Kazakhstan and Russia, but what do you think? What is the chance and
possibilities that Russia would intervene in Kazakhstan? UNA HAJDARI: If it
does, guess what it’s going to name as a precedent? AUDIENCE: Sorry? UNA HAJDARI: If
it does intervene, guess what it’s going
to name as a precedent? So when Russia became
involved after the Crimea referendum and the absorption
of Crimea into Russia– Is absorption the word? Is that annexation? ELIZABETH WOOD:
Yeah, [INAUDIBLE].. UNA HAJDARI: –because
I don’t want to– And so the issue
the could constantly be mentioned as a
precedent was Kosovo. So if self-determination was a
valid concept in international political, legal, in the
setting up of a country that sought international
recognition, why couldn’t Crimea do it? If Kosovo could do it,
why couldn’t Crimea do it? Again, with Donetsk and Luhansk. If Kosovo couldn’t do it,
why can’t Donetsk and Luhansk do it? And this is the case for
all the other regions found on the Russian
periphery near or broad or territory of the
Russian Federation itself that might be
seeking independence. They constantly refer back
to the Kosovo example. That’s why we had
this whole talk. Kosovo, in itself, is completely
insignificant as a country. 1.8 million people
that don’t affect the regional economy of the
Balkans and/or anything else. But it’s an interesting
political example. And I do not think that
NATO won’t get involved. NATO has made it. The Balkans is as close as
it’s going to go at this point, in terms of becoming involved. I mean, it’s not going to
become involved in the Balkans anymore. It did in the ’90s. But it’s the closest
it’s going to get in terms of sending troops
and all that kind of stuff, and Poland. ELIZABETH WOOD: Certainly, I
think that’s exactly right. That Russia has,
on the one hand, at the time was
furious about Kosovo, but then uses the Kosovo as
the precedent for saying, well, Crimea had a referendum
and Kosovo had a referendum. UNA HAJDARI: It
didn’t, actually. ELIZABETH WOOD: It
didn’t, actually. UNA HAJDARI: But Kosovo– ELIZABETH WOOD: It was the
myth of the referendum. UNA HAJDARI: Yes, yes, Kosovo– ELIZABETH WOOD: Whether Russia
will intervene in Kazakhstan may depend a lot on what happens
with Nazarbayev when Nazarbayev steps down. My understanding,
and then we probably have to stop because
it’s 1:30, is that Russia tends to
intervene when there’s already a civil conflict going on. So they intervened
in Georgia when Georgia was not that strong. They intervened, but
especially in Crimea. The minute Yanukovych leaves
power in Kiev, then, oh, we can take Crimea. They say, we had to, because
Yanukovych was out of power. But I argue that they could. They had the opportunity
because– and Syria, too. They don’t intervene until
the war gets messy enough that it’s very weak. Northern Kazakhstan does have a
very large Russian population. I think people in
Kazakhstan are very worried about the situation. You probably can tell us more. I’m actually wearing
a Kazakh scarf. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. ELIZABETH WOOD: What? AUDIENCE: I think one
of your sons is Kazach. AUDIENCE: Yes, my
child is Kazach. Yes. I have very strong
ties to Kazakhstan. You have a good memory. But in any event, so we’ll
see if they decide to use the, oh, we have to
protect our neighbors. In the 19th century
that was the argument they typically used with what
we now call the Balkan region. So what a great discussion. Thank you, everybody,
for coming. Thank you for all
of your questions. We’ll be around for
a few more minutes.

5 thoughts on “Starr Forum: NATO, the Balkans, and Ukraine: The Geopolitical Implications of the European Periphery

  1. Yugoslavian Army dosnt start the war in Croatia, Yugoslavian Army rule is to protect all civillians and Croatian and Muslim shothing the first and killed civillians then all we know what is happen. Truth is Truth and soon will be see. You are only west propaganda like all this years. Why you dont lisen other part not Russian but Serbian part? What about Depleted Uranium and Why. Truth is hurt? Very soon we will see the truth, include about Srebrenica and there is not happen a Genocide.

  2. Nice to hear (for a change) someone from Balkan talking about all the mess UN and its globalist partners did to this region. West has been very "quiet" about it ever since. Now, all of the sudden, we can clearly see similar patterns starting to appear all over these parts and even other neighboring countries. Research historical influence of western propaganda in this area of the world. It works for "drones" but not on us who know our history and witnessed the war as children. Was 5 when the war broke. God forbid any violence EVER again! BTW, EU is the worst thing now, as it only complicates things. Another layer of legal cluster****! The game here is always rigged by outside forces. Never forget that!

  3. to insecure, many false and not enough explained claims, no meanon of ddayton agreement and its terms, third entety in bosnia, failed coup inmontenegro and so much more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *