On events in Yugoslavia


A declaration of the Directorate of the ‘Memorial’ International Union, Moscow

Recent communications from the Balkans do not remain any doubts: ethnic purges carried out by the Serbian army and police in their fight with Albanian separatists have turned, since the NATO bombardments of Yugoslavia began, into large-scale crimes against humanity, such that Europe has not known since WW2.

The guilt of the present Belgrade regime is obvious and acknowledged by the whole world, except a number of Russia politicians and Russia mass media. But how can one assess the actions of Western leaders who publicly appeal that their goal is to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe on the Balkans, and who actually triggered such a catastrophe?

Before the bombardments, some NATO politicians supposed that the air raids in Yugoslavia may destroy the Albanian population of Kosovo. Now we see that the scandalous professional incompetence is massive.

If they wanted to ‘punish Miloshevich for his obstinacy’, then it is the scandalous irresponsibility, because first of all hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians were punished. As to the position of Miloshevich inside the country, it seems to become stronger.

Another collateral result of the NATO military action is the growth of the probability of communist revenge in a number of countries, including Russia. The influence of anti-Western, fundamentalist forces on the internal and external policy of Russia is very substantial even now. In the current situation the new factor can overweigh the fragile balance. The events may develop into an unpredictable and very dangerous direction.

Certainly, the responsibility for the lot of the Russian democracy is born not by the NATO commandment, but by Russian citizens. Certainly, no general political considerations may cancel the necessity to stop massive slaughter. Yet, for the time being, without facilitating the state of Kosovo Albanians, the NATO politicians boosted the threat to the prospects of the mutual approach of the West and the East, of the ‘third world’ with the developed democratic countries.

The NATO was captured with the same trap, which four years ago trapped the Russian government, which tried to remove general Dudayev’s regime in Chechnya by force. The shameful Chechen war discredited the young Russian democracy. The new war on the Balkans threatens the authority of democracy as such.

The impotence of the international community to force, by peaceful methods, the Yugoslavian government to observe the norms of the humanitarian right in Kosovo testifies that the established system of international relations is very imperfect. The military action, which destroyed the imperfect system, appeared to be as impotent.

Several years ago it seemed that the fall of communism would lead to establishing a new world order based on the right. This has not happened.

The 20 thcentury is finishing in the same manner as it began: by a war on the Balkans. Does mankind remember that this war turned into the World one?

The only reasonable and moral policy today is to use every infinitesimal chance which would enable us to stop the military operation, to stop violence over the peaceful population, to return to negotiations whichever difficult and even humiliating this step would seem to some participants of the conflict. But it seems more plausible that neither side taking part in the conflict, directly or indirectly (in particular Russia), would lack the will, and courage, and common sense, and elementary philanthropy.

8 April 1999

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