The Yugoslav army is to occupy another area of the Presevo Valley in an agreement signed with NATO, which will be divulged to the public later. The area in question is that designated as Sectors C and E of the Presevo Valley, an area 1,250 kilometres square. The agreement was signed on Friday by the Yugoslav Army Commander, General Ninoslav Krstic, Kfor Commander-in-Chief General Carlo Cabigiosu and representatives from Montenegro. The main objective is to increase security in southern Serbia after Albanian extremists moved into the buffer zone set up by NATO at the end of the Kosovo campaign. The Albanian Commanders in the Presevo Valley had signed a ceasefire agreement with the Yugoslav authorities but earlier this week, launched mortar and machine-gun attacks on Yugoslav army and police units. Two Yugoslav army soldiers are still held by the Albanians. Meanwhile a difference of opinion is reported between Russia and western European/NATO countries regarding the policy to be adopted in the Balkans. President Vladimir Putin does not support the blasй optimistic approach adopted by the western nations. At the European Union summit meeting in Stockholm, President Putin stated that NATO was to blame for the situation for not having effectively disarmed the Albanian extremists in Kosovo after Kfor’s deployment in the region. Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s concern that the territorial integrity of Macedonia be guaranteed and stated that decisive action must be taken to ensure it. On the other hand, western European leaders have convinced themselves that the Albanians do not constitute a serious threat to the region and therefore wash their hands of the issue, support the Macedonian government with well-chosen words and watch from their comfortable armchairs thousands of kilometres away. Such countries have long history of drawing lines on maps, creating problems and then running away. The same has happened this time in the Balkans but one thing is clear: this time, Russia adopts a strong and clearly-defined strategic position and assumes an attitude of responsibility and solidarity with her traditional allies, a position which the west has noticed and respects. Certainly there is a long way to go. Lord Robertson, for example, the NATO Secretary-General, could not resist the temptation to give cheap advice to Macedonia, in a message to Skopje on Friday which sounded more like an order from an imperial governor-general. Speaking from thousands of kilometres away in London, Lord Robertson told Macedonia to launch a political initiative to unite the country, instead of attacking the Albanians unnecessarily. This from the Secretary-General of one of the most bloodthirsty and belligerent military organisations in history, one guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, is arrogance in the extreme and demonstrates a person, and an organisation, totally out of touch with reality. Macedonia meanwhile demonstrates a political and military competence which few supposed it to have. The Macedonian army and police forces seem to be showing themselves to be more than a match for the NATO-trained Albanians. Prime Minister Ljubko Georgievski stated yesterday that within the next week, a final offensive would dislodge the Albanian extremists from their strongholds in the north of the country, along the border with Kosovo, which NATO is supposed to be controlling. “The country’s leadership is totally determined to destroy the terrorists, but this is something one must prepare well for,” he stated. Greece and Ukraine have sent helicopters to bolster Macedonian airpower. Predictably, NATO’s reaction to the recent outbreak of violence was political arrogance and military cowardice, two attributes which this organisation stubbornly repeats time after time. The remaining German troops in Tetovo are to be moved, first to Erebino and later to Kosovo. NATO’s military strategy is extremely limited. In the Gulf, it consisted of high-altitude bombing and electronic warfare. The Yugoslavs learnt how to circumnavigate the latter and it was they who were tapping NATO’s computers at the end of the Kosovo campaign. NATO is left with high-altitude bombing. When that is impossible, this intrusive and warmongering bunch of cowards is as effective as a whale on the sand.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON