Clash in Kosovo With NATO Troops

by Otis Grotewuhl, published on Workers World, June 2, 2023

Protesters in northern Kosovo clashed with NATO occupation forces and Kosovo police May 29. On May 30, a CNN article stated that “protesters threw Molotov cocktails at NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops and used batons to beat their riot shields.”

The fighting stems from the period in the 1990s when U.S. and German imperialism manipulated contradictions between ethnic groups and republics in Yugoslavia to break up that multinational country, by using the colonialist tactic of “divide and conquer.”

In early 1999, Washington, along with its NATO allies, used the fighting between the Yugoslav government and the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (which U.S. representatives had earlier labeled “terrorist”) as a pretext for firing rockets and dropping bombs all over Serbia in a 79-day war.

This war led to Yugoslavia’s dismantlement and destruction and the removal of the pro-socialist government of Serbia. In 2008, Kosovo was recognized by Western imperialist countries and NATO as an “independent” state. Prior to that, it was a province of Serbia, with a majority Albanian-ethnic population. A minority ethnic Serb population lives in Kosovo, mostly in its north.

To this day, many countries, including China, Cuba, Russia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, all of whom oppose NATO, refuse to recognize Kosovo’s “independence.”

Following the 1999 war, the U.S. built Camp Bondsteel, situated in eastern Kosovo. Bondsteel is now the largest U.S. military base in the Balkans and is part of the global network of more than 800 Pentagon bases to impose Washington and Wall Street’s interests on much of the world.

A major trigger of the May 29 protests had to do with recent elections in northern Kosovo, which were so contentious that even a May 30 CNN report characterized them as “controversial.”

Statement of Yugoslav communists

The New Communist Party of Yugoslavia released a statement on its website that gives a more honest assessment of the anti-NATO protests than those published by the corporate media.

The New Communist Party of Yugoslavia (NKPJ) and the Alliance of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia (SKOJ) condemn the brutal beating of citizens, who tried to prevent a violent assault on the buildings of these three municipalities by the Kosovo police, who threw tear gas at those present.”

The announcement further declares:

“Washington, London and Brussels are constantly pressuring Belgrade to officially recognize the independence of the false ‘State of Kosovo,’ which the communist and workers’ parties of the world vehemently oppose, and demand that this retrograde Act, directed against peace, stability and prosperity, carried out for the sake of the expansionist goals of big capital should immediately end.” (nkpj.org.rs, May 30)

While the imperialist press focuses on national divisions, it is hypocritical on their part, because the U.S. and NATO are responsible for promoting ethnic tensions in the former Yugoslavia. National and religious divisions were intensified and used by the imperialists in overthrowing the last socialist federation in Europe.

Yugoslavia was a hub of strong partisan resistance to fascism during WWII. The anti-fascist resistance that helped create Yugoslavia was composed of Croats, Slovenes, Serbs and other peoples of the region. Serbs have been a particular target of NATO attacks, because Serbia was the most populated republic of Yugoslavia and had put up the strongest resistance to Western imperialist aggression, just as its people resisted the German occupation during World War II.

On May 30, NATO publicly announced it would deploy 700 more troops to “quell the protests.” (pbs.org, May 30) This is another reason for anti-imperialist organizations to take a position opposing NATO’s role in the Balkans.

*Featured Image: Serbians in Kosovo battle NATO troops, May 29, 2023.

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