Tuesday, February 26, 2008

In Kosovo, sacrificing principles for oil

Published: February 22, 2008 12:17 pm (at the end the albanian translation from "Koha jone")

BY ZACHARY HUBBARD (The tribune- Democrat)

Once again the Bush administration is sacrificing its conservative principles to satisfy our nation’s seeming insatiable thirst for foreign oil.

The latest victims of our oil lust are the ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo. Until Feb. 18, Kosovo was part of Serbia. That changed overnight when Kosovo unilaterally declared independence.

The United States, Germany and the United Kingdom were quick to recognize Kosovo’s declaration. Russia and Serbia flatly rejected it.

Yes, folks, Kosovo’s independence is all about oil – at least from a Western perspective.

In a press release that gleaned little media attention in the United States, Switzerland’s Manas Petroleum Corp. announced on Jan. 10 that “Independent resource evaluation confirms existence of giant oil and gas prospects on Manas Petroleum’s Albanian exploration blocks.”

The announcement indicated that there are potentially 3 billion barrels of oil and 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the areas explored. Some of these areas lie near Albania’s border with Kosovo.

Kosovo’s population is about 90 percent ethnic Albanian. The remaining 10 percent are nearly all ethnic Serbs. Under Tito, in the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo was a semi-autonomous region which enjoyed special political privileges in the Yugoslav system.

During the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbia’s President Slobodon Milosevic stripped Kosovo of its autonomy and kept a tight grip on the ethnic Albanians through an internal security force composed almost exclusively of Serbs.

Serb domination of Kosovo ended when a NATO occupation force, the Kosovo Force (KFOR), forcibly interposed itself between the ethnic Albanians and Serb forces.

For the Serbs, Kosovo is a place of religious history and national pride. If the Serbs had an Alamo, it would be located in Kosovo. There, in an area that has become known as the Field of Blackbirds, thousands of Serbian “warrior saints” stood their ground in the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje, only to be slaughtered by the invading Ottoman Turks.

The Serbs continued to resist the Turks during the ensuing five centuries of Ottoman domination, which did not end until 1912, when Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria defeated the Ottomans in the First Balkans War. To this day, the Serbs view themselves as defenders of Christianity who held the line against the incursion of Islam into Western Europe.

During that famous battle, ethnic Albanians fought side by side with the Serbs against the Ottoman invaders. But during the subsequent years of Turkish rule, most Albanians adopted Islam, while the Serbs clung to their Orthodox Christian tradition. Today, Kosovo is the historical seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

During the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia, rampaging ethnic Albanians reportedly destroyed more than 100 Orthodox monasteries and churches in Kosovo, some of which were nearly 1,000 years old. The UK Independent reported in November 1999 that the Albanian destruction of Serb holy sites in Kosovo continued even after NATO’s KFOR arrived.

Kosovo’s neighbor, Albania, is currently struggling to integrate with Western Europe. Islam in Albania today is something less than radical. In fact, the number of Christians in Albania may be nearly even with the number of Muslims.

However, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), a nonprofit, independent, nongovernmental organization that works to resolve world conflicts through diplomacy, reported in July 2006 that “a tiny but growing minority (in Albania) is turning toward Wahhabi Islam.”

This could spell future trouble for the West. The Wahhabis are a violent, extremist sect of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia in the 18th century. It has been argued that Osama bin Laden had gravitated toward Wahhabi beliefs prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It appears the West sold out the Kosovo Serbs in order to gain assured access to Albania’s newly discovered petroleum reserves. Albania’s strategic location on the Adriatic Sea guarantees the West easy access to Albanian oil, without having to deal with unsavory governments.

In the coming months, look for a growing political support for Kosovo’s union with Albania to form a Greater Albania, something that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.

The West will sit idly by as Albania expands its borders, knowing that a Greater Albania will be inclined to sell oil to the West and is not likely to be influenced by the Serbs and Russians.

After Kosovo, the next target for Albania will probably be its neighbor, the Republic of Macedonia. Ethnic Albanians make up nearly a third of the Macedonian population.

While it is doubtful that a Greater Albania could gobble up all of Macedonia, it may attempt to annex the ethnic Albanian areas of Macedonia contiguous to the Albania-Macedonia border.

Macedonia might just allow this to occur in order to hasten its admission to the European Union.

Zachary Hubbard is a retired Army officer residing in Upper Yoder Township. He served as the chief of intelligence assessments and senior Balkans intelligence analyst for the NATO Stabilization Force in the former Yugoslavia. Hubbard is a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

Pavaresia e Kosoves ne kembim te naftes

Nga Zachary Hubbard*
E Marte, 26 Shkurt 2008

Edhe njehere administrata e Bush sakrifikoi principet e saj konservative per te zaptuar naften e zbuluar se fundmi ne disa rajone te Shqiperise, qe shtrihen deri ne Kosove. Deri me 18 shkurt, Kosova ishte pjese e Serbise. Gjithcka ka ndryshuar brenda nates kur Kosova ka shpallur pavaresine. SHBA, Gjermania dhe Britania e Madhe e kane njohur shume shpejt shtetin e ri, nderkohe qe Rusia dhe Serbia e kane injoruar ate. Por gjithcka ne lidhje me pavaresine e Kosoves ka te beje me naften. Ne nje deklarate te 10 janarit te ketij viti, e cila u prezantua ne disa media te vogla ne SHBA thuhet se, kompania e zvicerane e naftes, Manas Petroleum Corp., ka konfirmuar ekzistencen e nje rezerve gjigante nafte ne Shqiperi. Deklarata bente te ditur se, behej fjale per nje rezerve 3 miliarde fuci nafte. Disa nga keto rezerva jane ne kufijte me Kosoven. Popullsia e Kosoves ne 90 per qind te saj eshte me shqiptare etnike. Mbetjet 10% jane afersisht serbe. Ne regjimin e Titos, Kosova ka gezuar autonomi te plote duke pasur edhe privilegje te kenaqshme ne sistemin jugosllav derisa regjimi i Sllobodan Milloshevicit filloi revanshin ne Kosove, duke ndjekur politiken e serbizimit te etnitetit shqiptar. Serbet dominuan edhe ushtarakisht ne Kosove, derisa forcat e NATO-s hyne atje duke i dhene fund gjenocidit. Per serbet, Kosova eshte nje vend qe mbart krenarine e historise se religjionit. Nje nga shtetet kufitare te Kosoves eshte Shqiperia, qe tashme ka marre rrugen e integrimit ne BE. Gatishmeria e shteteve perendimore per te njohur Kosoven si shtet kane si baze me se shumti interesin ekonomik. Pasi duke hequr ndikimin serb nga Kosova, rezervat e naftes te konfirmuara tashme nuk do te jene nen ndikimin rus. Gjithashtu, Shqiperia eshte ne rajon strategjik ne brigjet e Adriatikut, cka i garanton perendimit nje akses te lehte ne shfrytezimin e naftes. Ne muajt qe do te vijne do te shikojme nje rritje te mbeshtetjes se politikes se perendimit per Shqiperine e Madhe, dicka qe ishte e paimagjinueshme pak vite me pare. Perendimi do te levize ngadale ne ekspansionin e Shqiperise ne Ballkan. Duke njohur Shqiperine e madhe, shfrytezimi i naftes do te jete me i lehte. Pas Kosoves, targeti tjeter i Shqiperise eshte fqinji Maqedonia. Nje e treta e popullsise atje jane shqiptare. Maqedonia ka mundesi te pranoje kete proces ne kembim te integrimit ne BE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Published: March 21, 2008 09:29 am


For America and Europe, a sticky oil situation

Commenting on the damage to America’s international image caused by the war in Iraq, France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner recently told the International Herald Tribune, “It will never be as it was before.”

Kouchner went on to say that for America, “the magic is over,” meaning our country will never again be widely admired around the world.

Perhaps he is correct.

Kouchner should be worried, however, because if the magic is really over for America, France and the rest of Europe can’t be far behind.

Since the end of World War II, Europe has made a habit of letting the United States do its heavy lifting. It was U.S. generosity and leadership that, through the Marshall Plan, rebuilt war-torn Europe.

Thousands of Americans gave their lives to liberate France from Germany in World War II. Many Americans lie buried on the shores of Normandy today. To show its gratitude, France withdrew from NATO’s integrated military command structure in 1966 and gave the United States one year to remove all U.S. military forces from French soil.

While the first generation of German baby boomers protested in the streets against the presence of U.S. forces in West Germany, it was U.S. leadership and sacrifices that ultimately brought down the Berlin Wall and caused the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In early 2003, as the United States was planning for the Iraq invasion, a troika comprising France, Germany and Russia hurriedly maneuvered in the U.N. Security Council attempting to thwart the U.S. plan. Two years later, the world learned that many high-level political and civilian officials from the troika had been implicated in paying billions of dollars in kickbacks to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein through the now-infamous U.N. Oil for Food program.

China’s Chairman Mao Zedong was right when he said, “Power proceeds from the barrel of a gun.”

The world has changed a lot since Mao died in 1976. Today, power proceeds from a barrel of oil. Unfortunately, the United States and Europe alike have bet their futures on oil.

This has left both in a position where any unscrupulous oil-producing nation can employ economic blackmail to impose its will on the petroleum needy.

This is nothing new. The Soviet Union used energy as a tool for controlling its satellite nations. Most electric power generation plants were built in mother Russia and in dependable allies, such as Belarus and the Ukraine.

Major transmission networks carried electricity to less-reliable countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. If a Soviet satellite nation got out of line, the Russians could literally turn off the lights.

Since the 1991 Gulf War, the United States has maintained a large military presence in the Persian Gulf. While ostensibly about liberating Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion, the war was more about keeping Hussein from seizing Saudi Arabia’s oil fields and potentially disrupting the supply to the West.

When I served as a military planner, every order I saw for the Middle East included the requirement to “maintain an uninterrupted flow of oil from the Persian Gulf” as one of its objectives.

In the years since the Gulf War, many European countries have sought to lessen their energy dependency on the Middle East, turning instead toward Russia.

This strategy was called into question during the early days of 2006, when Russia shut off a major natural gas pipeline over a political dispute with the Ukraine. The pipeline to the Ukraine also serviced Germany and other European Union nations. In 2007, Russia temporarily cut off oil to Belarus. This again impacted many EU nations.

Today, even as German Prime Minister Angela Merkel proclaims that her country must cut its dependency on Russian oil, a natural gas pipeline is being built beneath the North Sea to carry Russian natural gas from Western Siberia to Germany. From Germany, the gas will be distributed throughout the EU.

As Europe’s oil and gas dependency on Russia grows, so will its susceptibility to Russia’s use of energy as a tool of foreign policy. The EU is therefore bound to grow more politically supportive of Russia and its surrogate Iran with respect to Russia’s foreign policy.

Today, the United States continues to maintain a large military presence in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region, ensuring an uninterrupted supply of oil for America and the EU. Most EU nations are nonpaying beneficiaries of that U.S. presence.

As an American war with Iran appears increasingly possible, Russia will continue to back Iran in order to prevent U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.

Because Russia can deny oil and gas supplies to Europe, the EU nations will come under increasing pressure to support or at least remain neutral toward Russian foreign policy in the Middle East.

While the United States remains stuck in the Middle East, the EU will be stuck paying tribute to Russia’s political will.

In many ways, the EU position is even graver than that of the United States. Europeans have known extreme pain at the gas pumps for years. Despite EU solidarity, when push comes to shove, national interests will take precedence during an energy crisis.

America has a significant Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We have at least a century’s supply of coal still in the ground.

In a national emergency, the United States could resume production from domestic oil and gas wells that today are not deemed cost-effective to operate.

America has more energy options than Europe. So I ask you, Monsieur Kouchner, who is the magic really over for if not the EU?

Zachary Hubbard is a retired Army officer and freelance writer who lives in Upper Yoder Township. He is a member of The Tribune-Democrat Readership Advisory Committee.