When I listen to what people say about the war of NATO against Yugoslavia, and of the Yugoslav regime against the Albanian population of Kosov@ , be it on various mailing lists or in personal conversations with people, it is striking how insecure many seem to feel. Apparently many activists are having difficulties to remain true to even the most elementary principles of long-standing leftist politics, in a time in which a war cannot any longer be interpreted simply as imperialist/antiimperialist – here the ugly imperialists, there the brave liberation fighters. It seems to me that it is not those principles that have to be given up. Just like ever before, people and the lives they live should come first, before big-time politics. The point remains to develop, in solidarity, resistance against the attacks on our autonomy, without making differences among us invisible in the process. The point is still to see through discursive maneuvers of distraction and to base our analysis on an understanding of economic and social mechanisms of power. It is rather the less conscious characteristics of leftist and autonomist political practice that need rethinking.
The "facts on the ground" for which Slobodan Milosevic, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the KLA leadership (but also Ibrahim Rugova in his own more discreet ways) have, each for their own reasons, worked hard for years, are widely accepted. These "facts" consist in the perception that the conflict stems from age-old "ethnic" feuds and is so much ingrained in people that it is impossible to live together. In view of the crushing weight of "history", even from a leftist point of view the only thing to do then is to call for the "ethnic" separation – perceived as the only way to defuse the smoldering conflict – to be achieved by peaceful means through negotiations. This procedure has been demonstrated in the case of Bosnia in which the Dayton Agreement was reached under US sponsorship. But – it was not possible to implement the "ethnic" separation agreed upon there without violent relocations and massacres, since the people would not let themselves be moved without resistance. "Srebrenica" was in this sense a prerequisite for the implementation of Dayton – part of the plan, so to speak.
It seems vital to me to break out of the discourse about an "ethnic" conflict. To achieve this, we must concentrate our efforts on the one hand on laying bare the (economic and power-strategic) causes of the conflict. A central aspect herein is the high indebtedness of Yugoslavia and especially Serbia after decades of preferential access to international credit lines, due to the privileged position of Yugoslavia during the "Cold War". The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) policy of debt collection thereby leads to an intensification of the strategies of exploitation of the Yugoslav government, which in its turn gives rise to social struggles against this exploitation. The second part of our efforts must concentrate on exposing the mechanisms of ethnicizing, and thus the strategies for diverting the attention from those causes. Of course this is easier done in a (Western European) context in which the people have a certain distance to the events, than in the circle of those who are already exposed to an attack defined in "ethnic", i.e., racist terms and immediately need to react to it and develop strategies of survival against this attack. But even in Yugoslavia, in the context of war, some people manage to consistently speak of the conflict in such a way as to expose the absurdity of the logic of war. In (Ex-) Yugoslavia there is a long tradition of resistance against "ethnic" dividing lines imposed by the governments. From the „Women in Black" and conscientious objectors’ initiatives, e-mail lists like the anarchist ex-yu-a-lista and attack  all the way to various feminist groups. This is whom we must refer to when we want to build up solidarity with people in Yugoslavia. Such solidarity is possible and does not require taking a stand for one or the other parties to the war. In the case of Kosov@ it is slightly more difficult than in Bosnia to refer to existing projects and contacts, since the networking between Kosov@ Albanians and other people in Yugoslavia is less developed. For instance, there does not seem, in Kosov@, to be an anarchist movement visible to the outside – and the anarchist movement is an important pillar of anti-national politics in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. There are nevertheless contacts, be it in feminist circles, in the peace movement or in other contexts. Together with the people from these contexts I see the possibility to develop a common anti-national, "leftist" position.
It would be especially interesting to develop, in a common process, an understanding of how the attractiveness of various nationalist discourses, myths and loyalties is constructed for people in Switzerland, in Germany and in Yugoslavia. How can existing certainties that currently contribute to the front-building and legitimization for NATO, the KLA and/or Milosevic, be undermined? Some ideas in this direction can be gleaned from the "Materialien für einen neuen Antiimperialismus" Nr. 6 (Materials for a New Antiimperialism) . This is a discussion I would like to have with people from Yugoslavia, and in the process I want to take the fears and hopes of those people seriously. I think it is easy to point to the danger of various legitimizing constructions, but it is much harder to debate those questions with people who have appropriated these legitimizing constructions (often in incomplete and fragmentary ways) under the pressure of bombs and/or massacres. Since these legitimizing constructions are part of a strategy of survival, we must also try, in a collective process among radical/emancipatory activists, to develop new strategies of survival or point out existing alternatives. This process not only applies to Yugoslavia and the front-building there. In mixed (East-West) e-mail fora like nettime or syndicate, we also find a dynamic of front-building that we need to understand and undermine.
Many of the arguments that can be given against the war turn out not to be unproblematic in one way or other. A widely used line of argument compares the Yugoslav policies towards Kosov@ Albanians to the attacks by the Turkish state on the life and identity of Kurds that have been going on for many years. It asks why NATO is not bombing Turkey, if it considers Human Rights so important. In its outrage about different sets of standards being applied to Turkey and Yugoslavia, this comparison takes the humanimilitarist legitimizing construction of NATO seriously. By pointing out that Turkey is not being bombed, the alleged motive of a humanitarian intervention is at once questioned and reaffirmed. Nevertheless I think that Kurdistan can be brought into the discussion in a different context, without legitimizing the motives given for the NATO attacks.  We can do this by emphasizing the interests of Turkey as a NATO state to be perceived by the world public as being on the side of the "Good Guys" – on the side of those who enforce Human Rights. Among other things, the news coverage of the NATO bombings diverts the attention of the public from the gigantic campaign of repression the Turkish state is currently waging against Kurds with increased intensity.
Similarly, claiming that NATO, through its "autonomous decision" to attack Yugoslavia, has booted out the UN and OSCE – the "legitimate actors" of the search for a "peaceful solution" – and thus broken international law, bears some danger. I do not only speak of the fact that it may sound strange if from an autonomist, radical leftist position one speaks in defense of structures that belong to the realm of big politics. Pragmatically, maybe one could take it that these institutions act as an opposite pole to NATO, and aim to strengthen them against powerful NATO. It is, however, only true to a limited extent that the UN/OSCE are an opposite pole to NATO. This became clear, among other things, from the espionage work done by the OSCE observers in preparation for the NATO attacks. On the one hand, the UN elite’s interests give rise to a strategy of "survival", of retaining its power in view of the NATO attacks started without regard to UN competence in the matter. Thus in a first phase Kofi Annan condemned the single-handed approach of NATO. But while the NATO leadership aims at making Yugoslavia (with or without Milosevic in power) submit to its will, at the same time it follows a strategy of first showing the UN managers who is the master and reducing their options, before courting them with offers for a renewed participation in the process – at NATO’s conditions. Kofi Annan at least seems to be playing along already. In this way the transnational institutions legitimize one another – despite power games among each other. They are reminiscent of the good old interplay between the good-cop-bad-cop duo of police interrogations, inspiring confidence and fear all at once. In the new NATO strategic concept that has recently been presented to the public, a possible future relation between UN and NATO is formulated – the UN should once and for all give the go-ahead for NATO interventions outside NATO territory.
Also, speaking of the incompetence of the decision-makers or referring to the sexual life of one of them contributes to legitimizing the war by depoliticizing the events, turning them into a spectacle and ignoring the existing interests. It is probable that a strategy of escalation might not remain under the full control even of the escalating strategists over the complete course of events, and some of the consequences of the NATO attacks may be unwanted and maybe even unexpected. But one thing is certain – it is not the failure of diplomacy that has led to NATO attacks, but the success of the escalation diplomacy. The now famous Annex B of the Kosovo Interim Agreement  of Rambouillet, signed by the Kosov@ Albanian leadership under the pressure and propaganda efforts of the US diplomacy, was meant to turn all of Rest-Yugoslavia into a NATO protectorate. It was definitely not out of diplomatic incompetence that it was conceived such that the Yugoslav leadership would under no circumstances be able to sign it.
I rather like the tactical move of those who claim there is a secret agreement between Milosevic and NATO representatives. There is no need for this to be real, and the claim is not all that serious. The real importance of it is to point out that Milosevic is one of the main beneficiaries of the NATO attacks, and that NATO, the KLA and Milosevic need each other for legitimizing each other’s war strategies, and that all three parties are united in a patriarchal-lifedestroying showdown against the Serbian and Albanian population. Sprayers in Belgrade said it in a nutshell. "Slobo, du Clinton!" , Boris Buden of Bastard/Arkzin quotes a Belgrade graffito. Beyond the general interest in imposing the logic of war, a common interest between the Yugoslav leadership and the transnational power structures, symbolized by William Clinton, can be traced to their division of labor in pressing added value out of the majority of the Yugoslav population – with the aim of collecting the debt.
This dynamic stems from the fact that said powers have some common interests indeed, but those interests can be too similar – in the sense of a competition for spheres of influence. A strong motive for the USA, but also for the Netherlands and England, is maintaining NATO as a hegemonic military power. For the USA the main interest is to perpetuate the US role as the protector of the European post-war order. For the Netherlands and England the presence of the USA is desirable for counterbalancing German or rather German-French dominance in EU structures. Germany and even more so France do indeed have an interest in the continued existence of NATO, but not as a hegemonic power that restricts them in their power-strategic options. In their view, NATO should be cut back to an alliance among others, alongside EUropean structures that allow EUrope under the leadership of Germany and France a certain autonomy from US-American interests.
In order to save a NATO that has become quite useless after the Cold War, NATO needs a war in which it can prove that it is needed. This, however, does not yet explain why this war is waged against Yugoslavia. In this the motives of the various powers probably differ. An interesting point – only in the German discussion, along with that in Austria and in German-language areas of Switzerland, is Germany perceived and described as an imperialist power pushing towards the south-east. The investment policy of Germany since 1989 has been better known for its orientation towards Russian markets and for a relative disinterest in the Balkans. Is the emphasis on German imperialist efforts by some activists in Germany shaped by an anti-German  overrated perception of "oneself" (all bad things come from Germany)? Or is rather a lack of information about the ins and outs of the German foreign policy in other languages responsible for the omissions regarding Germany in discussions outside the German-language area? Some indications (the tip of an iceberg?) of German interests and power games do exist. Most widely known are the diplomatic initiatives of Hans-Dietrich Genscher in favor of the international recognition of the independence of Slovenia and Croatia that provided (unintentionally?) substantial help to Milosevic’s strategy of clinging to power, based on ethnicizing social questions. Already in the first phase of dislocating the Yugoslav state structure by means of war the demonizing of Serbs was accompanied by common interests of the German foreign and the Yugoslav domestic politics – much like today between NATO and the Yugoslav central government. A point which received less attention than Genscher’s Yugoslavia politics but has nevertheless found its way into non-German media is some evidence that the KLA has been supported, in an early phase, by the German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND – Federal Information Service) and other German secret services, and was armed by German institutions against the will of the US-American CIA. 
In any event, the escalation strategy in its final phase seems to have taken place under US leadership. It may be difficult to find out whether the US government was pushed to take over by the facts created on the ground by German efforts towards an escalation, in order to avert an excessive EUropean autonomy, or whether the USA took steps towards making a diplomatic solution impossible due to its own interests in the disintegration of what was left of Yugoslavia. In any case, the US government came to the conclusion that a war under NATO/US leadership worked more effectively towards maintaining its influence than diplomatic attempts at defusing the war preparations pushed ahead by German and Yugoslav policies.
In an effort to explore the interests of various powers, it seems appropriate to me to start out with the observed consequences of the NATO attacks and to try to imagine who might benefit from those consequences, who might have accepted them grudgingly and who will clearly suffer from them. I do not imagine that every single consequence can be assigned to a willful strategy. But I do think that most of the consequences were very easy to predict and may therefore, in the view of one or the other actor and under the given circumstances, have contributed to making the escalation strategy attractive or, on the contrary, to raising skepticism about such a strategy.
Among the obvious consequences of the NATO attacks that will, in my opinion, have to be analyzed in future discussions, are (in no particular order)
An essential reason why the lack of submissiveness and reliability (seen from a Western-imperialist perspective) of the Yugoslav government was so annoying was that trade routes that are important for the future pass through Yugoslavia with practically no alternative and thus depend on the goodwill of the Yugoslav government. In circles dealing with investment strategies Yugoslavia is seen as a country that (both before and after 1989) has misused its geographic position in order to control trade routes – both the overland route from Bulgaria and Macedonia through Belgrade to the West and the Danube shipping route. NATO strategists could have a good laugh about such attempts at monopolizing if they had ready alternatives. Besides the route going through the Bosporus, where in the case of oil, for instance, the limits of capacity have already been reached and substantial ecological danger and logistic problems are arising, alternatives to the route through Belgrade or the Danube have not been developed.
However, the current trade policies of the Western powers, and especially of the US, build upon the notion that a multitude of alternatives should be opened in order to reduce dependencies. If it had been possible to develop these alternatives earlier the Yugoslav government would have been missing an essential trump card and would have been much more exposed to Western attempts at intimidation and threats of embargo. Then, the "Yugoslav nut" might possibly have been cracked without a war. Even if for the NATO countries there was a whole set of other reasons for escalating towards a war, the probability that sufficient support for the war might have been assured would have been substantially lower. The development in good time of alternative trade routes was hindered both by diverging priorities among Western powers and mutually incompatible transport policies of the Balkan countries, combined with a lack of funds for infrastructure investment. In order for foreign investment to flow, the unwritten trade rules of the Balkan countries, which are not understandable to Western businesspeople, had to be abolished. The difficulties of understanding stemmed mainly from the fact that these rules were much too awkward for effectively imposing Western profit interests. Through the policies of "development" banks like the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) those rules were substituted by a business system of Western type that favors Western companies and essentially excludes the local firms.
The conditions for the development of trade routes are given by the interplay between local/regional interests and the requirements of interregional trade. The transport connections between Bulgaria and Romania, for instance, which would provide a way to bypass Belgrade on the way to the north-west, remain poor – only a single bridge far in the East and a few ferries, for a border of no less than five hundred kilometers. As long as the Bulgarian government insists on building the new bridge in Vidin, 20 kilometers from the Yugoslav border, the Romanian government will never agree. The latter has no interest in developing trade over the Bulgarian-Romanian border, since the master plan of Romanian transport politics is aimed at developing East-West trade from the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta to Hungary and onwards. The construction of a new bridge over the Danube would open Constanta to the competition of the Bulgarian ports of Varna and Burgas. Hence the interest of Western powers – in this case not so much the US as Germany and Austria – in alternative routes and flexibility will be realized only if the Romanian government can be offered sufficient compensation. The war of NATO against Yugoslavia now offers a coercive environment in which the Romanian government may be brought to agree to a bridge, as long as its location ensures that the traffic through Romania – and not only through a small corner in the west between Bulgaria and Hungary – is developed. Furthermore a bridge further away from the Yugoslav border could satisfy the needs of two trade routes, namely – besides the one mentioned – a south-north route from Turkey and Greece whose inclusion in such a project would make it interregionally more attractive and would make the investments more profitable.
For the United States another overland route is of much higher geostrategic importance – corridor VIII. This corridor runs from the Black Sea through Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania to the Mediterranean and is part of the transport political priorities of all three of these countries. The aim of US politics is to bring it under the control of international institutions and its advisors. This foreign interest suits the three Balkan countries to the extent that they are hoping it will help them break out of a transport political isolation – Albania is completely isolated towards the east, Macedonia is connected only towards the north and the south, and Bulgaria is too dependent on Yugoslavia to the west. In contrast to some of the other EUropean corridors, corridor VIII does not play a significant role on an intra-EUropean level (its "integrative force" is low for EUrope, say analysts who are close to investment circles). The corridor VIII receives its full strategic significance only when it is seen as part of an outreaching route leading to the Caspian Sea and further on to China. For the USA this corridor is therefore of outstanding importance, and the weakened governments of Albania and Macedonia (a significant consequence of the war moves of NATO) come just in time as forcibly obedient servants of US politics. Besides this, Bulgaria is not known for its affirmed independence from Western institutions, since it has been made dependent through Western loans and through the tactical promise that it will catch up to a Western standard of living by joining NATO and the EU. 
A trade corridor running through easily controlled countries offers the US the opportunity to reduce its dependency on current trade routes through Turkey and Greece and to get a tighter grip on its two NATO partners. On an economic level, the direct winner would be Italy, which would profit from the fact that Albania, through which the goods would transit and reach the Mediterranean, does not itself have the necessary infrastructure to serve as a distribution center for goods and raw materials arriving from the East.
The corridor VIII does not run directly through Kosov@, even if the most likely route runs as close as 20 kilometers from the Macedonian border to Kosov@. The war of NATO against Yugoslavia can certainly not be explained exclusively from the fact that the US have an interest in controlling trade routes and playing one route against the other. Such an aim would never have found the approval of the NATO partner countries. Notably in matters of the development of trade routes, the interests of Germany and the United States diverge substantially. What they do have in common is that Yugoslavia is to be bypassed if possible. For the US – to the south towards the Mediterranean. For Germany – to the north. Nevertheless, for parts of the US establishment the corridor VIII, in addition to the search for a legitimation of NATO as police unit, is likely to have been an important part of their strategic thinking. And more generally, the powerful position of the Yugoslav government stemming from its control over the trade routes developed so far was certainly on the agenda of German and other strategizing meetings.
2 Both e-mail lists can be subscribed to by sending e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org> with the command "subscribe ex-yu-a-lista" or "subscribe attack", respectively, in the body of the e-mail. Most of the contributions are in "the language we speak", as Yugoslavs sometimes call the South-Slavic language that has by now received separate names according to nationalist interests, and sometimes also in English.
3 Ethnisierung des Sozialen - Die Transformation der jugoslawischen Gesellschaft im Medium des Krieges. Materialien für einen neuen Antiimperialismus Nr. 6, Berlin/Göttingen 1993. (Ethnicizing the social conflicts - The transformation of the Yugoslav society in the medium of war. Materials for a new Anti-Imperialism). Available online in German language at <http://www.nadir.org/nadir/archiv/Internationalismus/jugoslawien/materialien_06/>, updated annex at <http://www.humanrights.de/antikrieg/texte/antii_d.htm>.
4 Marcel Noir: "Unser Mann in der OSZE". (Our man in OSCE) In: Jungle World, 14 April 1999.
5 Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo, Rambouillet, France - 23 February 1999. And especially its Appendix B: Status of Multi-National Military Implementation Force. Available on the Web at <http://www.law.pitt.edu/kosovo.htm>.
6 Boris Buden: "The official Bastard (ARKZIN)-statement on the war in Yugoslavia - Saving Private Havel", 20 April 1999.
7 Note added at translation: The anti-Germans are a faction of the German left that has had the merit to reintroduce important historical questions (especially the relation to historical Nazism) into the political discussion but sometimes tends to take Germany and its importance too seriously in an almost narcissistic sense.
8 Roger Faligot: "How Germany backed KLA". In: The European, 21 September 1998. Of course secret service sources should be taken with a grain of salt.
9 Note added at translation: As shown by Helmut Dietrich, another effect of the war is that through the presence of NATO troops in Albania and Macedonia where most of the refugees transited made it possible to successfully isolate the refugees and prevent them from making contact with people who could help them pass the borders into Italy and on to Switzerland and Germany. An even tighter control was made possible by the fact that the refugee camps are under NATO supervision. Cf. Helmut Dietrich, "Europäische Flüchtlingspolitik und der NATO-Krieg - Die Zerschlagung der Fluchtwege aus dem Balkan nach Westeuropa" (European Refugee Politics and the NATO war - The dismantling of flight routes from the Balkans to Western Europe), Widerspruch No. 37 (July 1999), Zurich, Switzerland.
10 Note added at translation: Although as predicted here, soon after the publication of this article an outright anti-KLA propaganda started in the world media, it seems that the position of the KFOR (Kosovo Force) command towards the KLA structures is more ambiguous than I had supposed, and the KLA leadership is given the opportunity to ascertain its power. Clearly, it is considered to be the force that will control the population and serve Western interests by modernizing Kosov@. Whether - as Bulgarian media surmise and some KLA officers are quoted as saying - the KLA leadership is positioning itself for the next round of the struggle for a Greater Albania, a myth that has played a role in constructing its popularity, remains to be seen.
11 In the context of NATO interests in corridor VIII it may be interesting to note that Salomon Passi, the chairman of the Atlantic Clubs in Sofia, an association which de facto represents the interests of NATO, has served as an intermediate in the negotiations for an infrastructure deal between a US-American company and the port authorities of Burgas.
12 My e-mail address: <email@example.com>;
Tel/Fax: +359-2-543 785.