Operation "Self-Interest?"

IssueJune - August 2002
Feature by Bobi

PN: For some years now Macedonia has been on the receiving end of “humanitarian” military interventions [see box below for a list of international missions to Macedonia]. NATO peacekeeping forces have been deployed in Macedonia for several years already, and will probably remain there for years to come. Can you briefly explain the different “peacekeeping” missions that have taken place in your country and what their aims were?

Bobi: The first NATO troops arrived in Macedonia in 1998 and were placed on the border [with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia], just after the trouble [with China] at the [UN] Security Council. [After] UNPROFOR [United Nations Protection Force] forces that had been [stationed] at the border with Yugoslavia failed to get their mandate for working in Macedonia renewed.

There are now also NATO troops within Macedonia providing backup and logistics for NATOs [KFOR] troops in Kosova. This region is important [to them] because of the supply routes from Thessaloniki [Greece] to Kosova.

The NATO missions have changed. During last years conflict in Macedonia there was a mission called “Essential Harvest”, with the [stated aim] of disarming the Macedonian-Albanian UCK [the National Liberation Army, or NLA]. NATO pressed the president and the government to invite their troops, though it was later presented to the public that, at the request of the friendly country of Macedonia, NATO was sending peace-keeping forces.
PN: NATO always presents its missions as having been successful, especially Operation Essential Harvest, in seizing the UCKs weapons. But at the same time, when they began this “harvesting” mission, it was said that they would leave Macedonia - their work done - within six months. [In September 2001 NATO began Operation Amber Fox which is ongoing.] What do you think? Have any of these international missions achieved their stated aims?
Bobi: Basically no. We can see that every [NATO] mission has failed. During the UNPROFOR mission the border was calm. They [UN troops] acted differently, and they approached the local community in a different way from NATO. After the first weeks of NATO's arrival, their relations with local people became very bad. But when they took over [“managing”] the border, it became very vulnerable and suddenly UCK [KLA fighters] began coming into Macedonia.

The [weapons] harvesting mission, when they sent 3,500 NATO soldiers to our country to collect 4,500 weapons, was only a good show, which they could present to the media as a success. The number of weapons in the Balkans, [belonging to] the UCK and the Macedonian government is much higher - 4,500 weapons is a joke.
PN: Couldn't the weapons collection have been carried out by civilians?
Bobi: Yes, that is the problem. Now they are having more trouble justifying their so-called peacekeeping missions, so they are building schools and hospitals. So this question is always present: why send the military to do civilian jobs? I think it is a question of public relations - of trying to create positive public opinion.
PN: You said that the troops are trying to engage in various types of “social” work. But what are the other effects on society of having this huge NATO military presence in the country?
Bobi: It is militarising society. You have soldiers out on the streets in uniform, they are never in civilian clothes. Even before the war started we had a peace-keeping mission from NATO, which is a military organisation, and on a psychological level, this [their presence] raises tensions. [Also,] the trafficking of women [and drugs] has probably increased to satisfy the demand that has grown. This is one of the bad effects that every army generates, whenever they go to any part of the world.
PN: From an anti-militarist perspective, what is your position?
Bobi: NATO troops have failed to achieve any of the aims of their missions. We think that they should leave. Peacekeeping missions should really be carried out by different kinds of groups, not military organisations.

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