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'Russian Observer' on Macedonia Crisis
[posted 8 September]
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German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President of France Jacques Chirac, who met in Berlin, said they were sure that the NATO Essential Harvest operation to collect the arms to be turned over to it by Albanian separatists is going to be successful. When the operation is over, the chancellor said, a phase of "mutual coordination" should follow. Moscow does not share this view. Moreover, Russian experts suppose that Macedonia is faced with a prospect of a big war, the outcome of which no one can predicted.

According to the information available in Moscow, the Albanian gunmen are not going to hand in their armaments. And apart from small arms they have tanks, armored vehicles, heavy mortars and other weaponry, which they are going to use in future serious combats on the Macedonian territory.

NATO experts have estimated that the extremists have 3,000 pieces of arms and, having received about 1,500 rifles during the Essential Harvest operation, they rub their hands with pleasure. But, according to the Macedonian side, it is not true. The extremists have about 20,000 pieces of arms, not counting heavy weapons, which they are not going to surrender and are hiding them in the woods and mountain caves. Kosovars returning from Macedonia think a real war is still ahead.

Macedonians, too, believe that the disarmament operation launched by NATO is just a farce and, like the opposite side, they are getting ready for a war. This is precisely why the West is inclined to regard the latest concessions made by Skopje as a kind of political camouflage, which does not prevent the rapid build-up of military capability with the help of friendly countries, including arms deliveries from Ukraine. Only a week ago a few planes loaded with arms, including missile systems, landed in the Petrovic airport not far from Skopje.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry is hastily forming special-task units, training them for coming back under the control of the authorities in the northern and north-western territories of the country, which are populated by Albanians. These territories are in fact controlled by extremists. Nobody in Macedonia believes that NATO can ensure law and order in the country. It looks like Macedonians have decided to act on their own and have chosen armed struggle against the gunmen. At the same time, Skopje relies on Russia's support. And this explains why the country's authorities have been cool of late towards the West and are turning ever more towards Moscow. The intensive dialogue is going on not only directly between the presidents of the two countries, Trojanovsky and Putin, but also along diplomatic channels.

The developments indicate that the U.S, NATO and the European Union, which have miscalculated the situation in the Balkans, are again back where they started and are compelled to seek the Kremlin's advice. So they sent their representatives in the Balkans to Moscow, who have been received today by Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Reposted from 'Russian Observer' For Fair Use Only

[by Viktor Sokolov, September 9, 2001 06.38.2001, 18:38]

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