This article is primarily concerned with the Balkan crisis, which, on the face of it, may seem a somewhat untimely divergence of

This Balkan crisis - now over a decade old - differs from the region’s previous, numerous crises (in the past invariably referred to as ‘That Balkan Problem!’) in that it is now playing a pivotal role in a scenario of global dimensions, due, primarily, to the fact that the main protagonist in

this crisis is also by far the world’s most economically powerful state - namely, Corporate America, a state embarked upon world domination under the banner of ‘Profit’.

To determine why America/NATO became involved in this region it is, of course, necessary to view its actions within a wider historical context, but insofar as this is covered in this author’s previous article, ‘An Alternative View of The Yugoslav Crisis’, this article will concern itself

with the situation in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union (As a result of which, it must be kept in mind, Yugoslavia was no longer a useful foil for the West in its stand-off with the USSR), with particular emphasis on the role that oil has played in determining the strategy of the US in the region. The big oil corporations had wasted little time in buying their way into the vast ex-Soviet oil & gas reserves - especially those in Kazakhstan, and the enormous potential for profit that lay in this Caucasus region would play an important part in determining US strategy in the Balkans.

The Trade & Development Agency (TDA - now known as the USTDA) was given the task of overseeing this project, known as the South Balkan Development Initiative (SBDI) of 1996. This was an agency which had been set up in 1981 to deal with just such a situation. Following are some of its aims, quoted from its reports of the years 2000 & 2001: (1) “It provides funding for US companies to conduct feasibility studies on major projects in developing & middle-income countries”; (2) “It promotes economic development while helping the US private sector get involved in projects that offer significant US export opportunities...Exports of US goods and services related specifically to those projects already total over $1.2 billion”; (3) “TDA’s strategy is to identify those areas in which US companies are highly competitive - rail, aviation, power, and oil & gas”; and (4)”The longest lasting impact we can have is to bring US technology & investment to the Balkans through our private sector “. It is worthy of note that the TDA describes itself as “ an independent US government agency”. Equivocal phraseology, to say the least - but it is a token of the clonal relationship between the government and the so-called independent (corporate) establishment.

Understandably, the problem of transporting oil & gas from the Caucasus to its markets featured early on in the deliberations between the TDA and the oil corporations, one of the factors taken into consideration being that there was already a Russian plan on the table: a pipeline from the Bulgarian port of Burgas on the Black Sea to the Greek port of Alexandropolous on the Aegean Sea (thus by-passing the heavily trafficked Bosphorous). The TDA settled for a different plan: they would run a 900 kilometre trans-Balkan pipeline, called Corridor 8, from Burgas - via Skopje in Macedonia - to the Albanian port of Vlore on the Adriatic Sea at an estimated cost originally estimated to be $825 million, but later increased to $1.13 billion. On the face of it, this would seem to have been a strange choice for the Americans to have made in view of the fact that the US and Russia were already partners in the Caspian pipeline project, and could have continued this partnership in the latter’s Burgas to Alexandropolous project. After all, the latter was - at 280 kms. - a much shorter route and presented far fewer topographical problems. The American’s main objection to it - and it was a valid one - was that the Albanian port of Vlore, with its deeper water could accommodate larger tankers, and was more accessible to the oil markets than Alexandropolous. However, other factors of a more political nature played a more crucial role in the American’s choice.

One clue to this was hinted at by the Director of TDA, J. Joseph Grandmaison, when, in a press release he described TDA’s $588,000 feasibility grant for the project as “..a significant step forward for this policy and for US business interests in the Caspian region”. What he did not mention was that the company which TDA had chosen to run the Corridor 8 pipeline had obtained “exclusive right” so to do at a meeting with the three countries involved in the project, and that one of the three, Bulgaria, had also granted Russia “exclusive right” to run its line through Bulgaria! A very strange interpretation of the term “exclusive”. Further clues can be

found by a brief look at how these TDA grants were distributed throughout the Balkan region as stated in their 2001 report: It reveals that there was a bias in the distribution thereof. Total grants to the countries through which Corridor 8 would run, Bulgaria, Macedonia & Albania, (countries, it should be noted, not directly involved in the disastrous Yugoslav civil war), were - respectively -$14,636,555; $10,030,285; and $9,161,856 - whereas Bosnia-Herzogovina, which had suffered heavily in the war, received $7,929,309. It should be stressed here that the above grants were for feasibility studies only. Other, much larger grants were being supplied by

other US government bodies. For instance, when, in 1998, the Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov met Clinton in Washington, their joint statement at the conclusion of the meeting contained the following items of pertinent interest: (1) “Over the past 7 years, the United States has provided Bulgaria with over $235 million in assistance under the Support for East European Democracy Program (SEED) to advance fundamental economic reforms”. (2) And also provided a $3.2 million Foreign Military Financing program ..and a US “military liaison team resident in the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense to organize staff & information exchanges”. This would be but one more stride of America’s military march eastwards (details of which, more later).

As can be seen from the foregoing facts and quotes, the Corridor 8 project, accompanied as it would be by linked facilities such as roads, telecommunications, rail and security, would act as the thin end of the wedge, opening up the prospect of further lucrative contracts for other US businesses - thus leading to the influx of American exports, capital, and eventual economic domination of the region. Or, as TDA puts it in their Annual Report 2000: “...we always knew Corridor 8 was far more than just a road (sic). As the links among the economies and cultures of the three countries continue to grow, Corridor 8 will become a vital economic Corridor as well”. What they could have added was that it would also provide a reason for maintaining a strong military presence (NATO) in the region for security.

In 1996 TDA gave the Albanian Macedonian Bulgarian Oil Corporation (AMBO) the exclusive right to run the Corridor 8 pipeline. Once again, a somewhat puzzling choice. AMBO was/is a company founded by one Vuko Tashkovikj, an immigrant to the USA from Macedonia who became an architect and set up an architectural firm in Pond Ridge, NY. How did an architect become an oilman? The answer to this is, for now, veiled in mystery. The feasibility study for this pipeline project was contracted out - by the TDA - to the prestigious oil/construction company Brown & Root (the CEO of whose parent company, Halliburton, had been Dick Cheney - now Vice-President under Bush jnr.); the economic analysis sub-contracted to Credit Suisse First Boston (of which Richard Holbrooke,. the much-publicised Balkan ‘peace-maker’, was Vice-Chairman); the legal aspects overseen by the New York law firm, White & Case (which President Clinton joined on losing his presidency). But perhaps the most fortuitous ‘coincidence’ occurred in January 1997 when Edward Ferguson, Director of Oil & Gas Development in Brown & Root, was appointed President & CEO of AMBO. Brown & Root Services (BRS), of Texas, is one of the many American companies involved in high-profile projects in the Balkans, and it is a company that bears all the hallmarks of membership of Corporate America, demonstrated by its clonal relationship with the US Administration over the years. It certainly benefited from fellow-Texan LBJ’s presidency - and will just as surely benefit from George W. Bush’s presidency (after all, Halliburton had donated one quarter of a million dollars to his election campaign). Brown & Root’s entry into the Balkans was no ‘shot in the dark’, as a brief resumé of its recent, pertinent history reveals (taken from the Austin Chronicle of August 2nd 2000): (1) From 1962 to 1972, Brown & Root built roads, landing strips, harbors & military bases in South Vietnam; (2) In 1992, when Dick Cheney was US Secretary of State for Defense under Bush Snr., the Pentagon “paid BRS $3.9 million to produce a classified report detailing how private companies - like itself - could help provide logistics for American troops in potential war zones around the world”. Later that same year giving BRS “an additional $5 million to update its report”; (3) “Between 1992 and 1999, the Pentagon paid BRS more than $1.2 billion for its work in trouble spots around the globe. In May of 1999, the US Corps of Army Engineers re-enlisted the company’s help in the Balkans, giving it a new 5-year contract worth $731 million”.

Brown & Root’s most important Balkan project, begun in the immediate aftermath of NATO’s bombing of Kosovo and Serbia, was almost certainly the $36.6 million US military base Camp Bondsteel, near Urosevac in Gnjilane county in southeastern Kosovo. As the OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMIK) noted in their report in the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict - and after the arrival of NATO in the area: this was an area in which the Serbs were the majority ethnic group, and it had remained relatively calm during the conflict. “Since the end of the conflict, however, the situation has been startlingly different.” For instance, whereas in June 1999 “..only one house in Gnjilane had been destroyed” - by October of that same year “the number had risen to 280!”. And the KLA was now in the area in force. The Serbs and Roma had fled, and the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the party of the liberal Albanian, Ibrahim Rugova, was also being targeted by the KLA.

This OMIK report preceded the construction of the base, for which the Americans had no mandate - other than their own. It involved the seizure and flattening of two hills of cultivated land of some 800 acres (the largest foreign-based camp since Vietnam). This could only have meant that the Americans intended to remain there for a long time. Were the reasons for establishing Camp Bondsteel in this autocratic manner ‘humanitarian’? (If there is one thing to be said in favour of the feudal barons as they built their walled, impregnable castles throughout Europe, it is that at least they made no bones about why they were doing so!). Be that as it may, Camp Bondsteel is also strategically placed near the Kosovo-Macedonia border, giving it easy access southwards. So easy, in fact, that the KLA used it for their subsequent incursions into Macedonia - unhindered! Could it be that the security of Corridor 8 was/is of prime importance to the US, to the exclusion of much else - at least, for now? And with the above in mind, is it not rational to assume that, at the very least, NATO was deliberately not preventing the KLAs’ incursions into Macedonia because the ensuing friction there accomplished two things: (1) it justified the need for NATO’s presence in the region (and this includes Macedonia), and (2) it ensured that the latter ‘played ball’ over Corridor 8? Why else had the ‘peacekeepers’ in the

stand-off between the Serbs and Albanians in Macedonia included such men as Solana (who had been NATO General Secretary through much of the crisis), and James Pardew (the Pentagon representive sent to persuade the Bosnians to use the mercenary MPRI’s services in the aftermath of the Drayton Accord)? Indeed, the early reaction of distrust evinced by the Macedonian Slavs to America’s “peace-keeping” moves in the region was surely understandable in view of the fact that their Army was concurrently being advised/trained/aided by that prestigious group of ‘privatised’ retired US Generals known as the Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) - under the command of ex-General Richard Griffiths (as admitted by Major General Metodi Stamboliski of the Macedonian Army General Staff in the Macedonian magazine “Defence” no.60 April 2001). After all, this is an organisation which: (1) assisted/trained the Croatian Army in preparation for the latter’s attack on the Serbs in West Krajina; (2) aided & assisted in the reformation of the Bosnian Army after the Drayton Accord; and (3) aided and

assisted the KLA after NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia in ‘99. This was all under the command of the self-same General Richard Griffiths who, from ‘89 to ‘91 had been US Assistant Commander in Europe for Intelligence - in Frankfurt. In Croatia, he, naturally, had had a close relationship with Brigadier Agim Ceku, a Kosovan, who was then serving with the Croatian Army - but had later left to become Commander of the KLA in Kosovo. To cap it all, it transpires that when the then Chief of Staff of the Macedonian Army, General Jovan Andrejevski attended Military School in the US, Richard Griffiths had been his tutor!

On September 11th 2001 - with G.W.Bush jnr. now President - the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked, causing severe civilian and military casualities. With surprising alacrity the US laid the blame for this event at the door of the Afghan Taliban and its al-Quaeda cohorts - and decided to invade Afghanistan. But the fact that for years there had been a close relationship between the US (its Intelligence Services in particular) and the Taliban - to say nothing of the Pakistan ISI - immediately posed a question, best expressed by Paul Joseph Watson in his article ‘The End Justifies the Means’: “When one considers the voluminous evidence derived from official sources, domestic and foreign mainstream media, and alternative media, the only logical conclusion is that elements within the US Government had specific foreknowledge of the events of September 11th and allowed the attacks to take place when preventative measures could and should have been taken to prevent them..”. He intriguingly added: “What is also patently clear is that a New World Order has been fuelled and accelerated by September 11th”.

America invaded Afghanistan and a ‘War on Terrorism’ was now the clarion call-of-the-day. The US Central Command (CENTCOM - which had led the ‘allies’ in the Gulf War of ‘91), led the invasion, and using Bulgaria’s and Romania’s prospective membership of NATO as an incentive (to say nothing of grants, etc.), the Americans, in return, gained from those two countries: (1) contracts to improve their military bases and Black Sea ports - and use of same for possible interventions in the Middle East; (2) permission to overfly their countries using military aircraft. This cooperation resulted in Bulgarian and Romanian troops serving with the peace-keeping force in post-war Afghanistan.

In the spring of 2003, the Americans, again using their strike force CENTCOM, invaded Iraq with Britain as its only ally. They had planned on using their old NATO ally Turkey as a jumping off point for moving their troops in a pincer movement into northern (Kurdish) Iraq, but the Turks balked at this and refused permission. The conveniently-placed Balkan countries, Bulgaria and Romania, were used instead, and 3000 US troops (including ‘special operations units’) - and weapons - were flown to the frontline in Iraq during the invasion. Apparently, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was now involved/participating in this Middle East fracas.

Disorienting, to say the least - but not if it is recalled that, from its inception, NATO had been formed to act as a force to both protect and propagate the socio-economic system of its Corporate capitalist masters. Indeed, it would seem that the present secretary-general of NATO, Lord Robertson, agrees with this: to quote the Independent on Sunday dated July 6th ‘03 “Last week Cable & Wireless announced that Lord Robertson, the secretary-general of NATO, will join the company in December as executive deputy chairman. His role will be to foster relations with overseas governments. A meeting with the Japanese administration is likely to be at the top of his agenda”. Anyway, the term NATO is certainly a misnomer, and it would not be surprising if its title were to be changed in the near future (as has occurred with the Common Market over a number of years).

It was now evident that there was a change in US military strategy. As Will Dunham (of Reuters) reported on June 13th 2003: “The United States has begun a dramatic realignment of its military forces abroad, making key changes in the Middle East and Asia and preparing a restructuring in Europe to confront emerging 21st century threats”. This was confirmation of a previous report

by George Jahn (of Associated Press) written on April 1st 2002: “Even before September 11th, Caspian Sea oil and gas - and planned pipelines for deliveries of those energy sources - had dictated a re-evaluation of Western strategic interests” (see ‘Corridor 8’ above). As evidence of this new strategy: (a) in the aftermath of its invasion of Iraq, the US is pulling out 5000 of its troops from Saudi Arabia; (b) it intends moving its troops from the vulnerable demilitarized zone in Korea to ‘hub bases’ further south; (c) it will reduce its forces based in Germany quite drastically - but its Ramstein airbase will remain; and (d) if (and it is a big ‘if’) the US manages to set up military bases in Iraq, the deteriorating relationship with Turkey could result in the US removing all troops from that country - even the Incirlik airbase. However, their Intelligence Base outside Diyarbakir would pose a serious problem!

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s statement in June of this year sums it all up concisely: “We have been reviewing our presence around the world, in every portion of the globe”, adding that US forces are still deployed as if the USSR still existed!

The rapidly increasing, insidious encroachment of corporations of vast wealth and influence into the military arena - in the form of mercenary groups such as the MPRI (above) does not augur well for the future, inasmuch as it reflects the sinister trend towards what is, in effect, the

privatisation of military tasks, which leads, inevitably, to the demise of democratic accountability in this field. That oil has played an important role in determining the policies/actions of the US (NATO) in the Balkan crisis was clearly, if inadvertently, spelt out by the then Bulgarian President, Petar Stoyanov, at an international conference held in Bulgaria, mainly to discuss the Trans-Balkan pipeline. When asked whether regional conflicts - particularly in Kosovo - would hinder these infrastructural projects, he replied: “Economic profit is a significant tool in political decision-making”. Never were truer words spoken!