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Will Kosovo be turned over to the Pentagon?

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti international commentator Tamara Zamyatina) - Predictions made by experts before Kosovo's illegal declaration of independence are coming true - the territory seized from Serbia is turning into a big military base of the United States and NATO.

Thus, George W. Bush ordered arms shipments to Kosovo. Because of this, Moscow insisted on an emergency session of the NATO-Russia Council - it will be held in Brussels on March 28.

Incidentally, Bush issued this order two days after the Moscow visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who urged Moscow to promote cooperation, expand consultations, and display more openness in general.

The haste with which the Pentagon is trying to take the fledgling Kosovo under its wing demonstrates the West's lack of confidence that peace will come to the Balkans after Kosovo's cessation. But the West was actively using this rhetoric - the need to put an end to the Yugoslav crisis - in order to justify its support for the Kosovo separatists. There can be no peace when one side is being equipped with weapons against the other. This means pouring more fuel on the fire...

The Serbs have already got the message. In the city of Kosovska Mitrovica (in northern Kosovo), they desperately rushed to defend their last shelter - a courthouse. Previously, it was the venue of Serbian justice, but now it is occupied by international lawyers who will turn it over to their Albanian colleagues. Blood was spilled there during clashes with peacekeepers. There are numerous rallies in Belgrade supporting the Serbian minority in Kosovo.

The city divided into Albanian and Serbian parts by the Ibar River will be a bone of contention for a long time to come. Belgrade has already sent an appeal to the UN, demanding that Kosovo's northern region adjacent to Kosovska Mitrovica with a compact Serb population be returned to Serbia. These people primarily need physical protection, but the advocates of Kosovo's independence are not likely to be worried about that. In the first half of the 1990s, Western countries shut their eyes to the expulsion of 300,000 Serbs from Croatia. They won't bother about a mere hundred thousand. People in Belgrade say that if 300,000 birds suddenly left a region, the world would be alarmed, but it did not even notice the Serbian tragedy.

One of the reasons behind Washington's decision to supply Kosovo with arms is its intention to keep Kosovska Mitrovica in Kosovo, because it is a turbulent and strategically important Serbian city. But the main goal is to give Kosovars carte-blanche to suppress the protests in Serbian enclaves on Kosovo's entire territory. This opinion is held by Yelena Guskova, head of the Balkans Crisis Center at the Institute of Slavic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Arms shipments to Kosovars are designed to legalize future Albanian efforts to oust the Serbian minority from the province. In other words, the Kosovars are given a chance to complete what they have started - drive non-Albanians out of the province, but with their own hands so as not to cast a shadow on the NATO-led KFOR peace keepers, not to mention the United States.

It seems that Kosovo will be the first state under NATO's complete protection. The KFOR peacekeepers have been a guarantor of order in the province for nine years now. Considering the intentions of Albania, Macedonia, and Croatia to join the North Atlantic alliance at its summit in Bucharest on April 2-4, Kosovo may become NATO's most powerful support in the Balkans. The Pentagon has already built the world's biggest military base on its territory - Camp Bondsteel. Now it has started the construction of a second military base, Guskova said.

Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, is convinced that Washington, at least under the current administration, does not need stability in the Balkans or the rest of Europe: "The United States cannot influence events in a stable situation. If it is calm in Europe, the United States has nothing to do there. U.S. political strategy is based on control through chaos." He mentioned that as far as he knows, initially Washington will supply Kosovo with small arms and armored vehicles without heavy equipment. Subsequently the Albanians will be trained for air force and tank units.

Under the circumstances, there is little Russia can do. Guskova and Ivashov believe that in addition to humanitarian aid to the Serbian enclaves in Kosovo, the Kremlin could suggest bringing Russian peacekeepers into the district of Kosovska Mitrovica. Russian experts are actively discussing the introduction of Russian peacekeepers into Serbia's southern regions bordering on Kosovo. But pro-Western President Boris Tadic is not likely to turn to Russia with such a request. Hence, Russia will have to use only diplomatic levers. As for economic levers - Kosovo's participation in the South Stream gas project - Russia either did not want to use them, or failed to do so.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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