America at war in Macedonia (Part 1)
by Michel Chossudovsky Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa Washington's covert war in Macedonia (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) aims to consolidate America's sphere of influence in southeastern Europe. At stake is the strategic Bulgaria-Macedonia-Albania transport, communications and oil pipeline "corridor" which links the Black Sea to the Adriatic coast. Macedonia stands at the strategic crossroads of the oil pipeline corridor. To protect these pipeline routes, Washington's goal is to install a "patchwork of protectorates" along strategic corridors in the Balkans. The promise of "Greater Albania" used by Washington to foment Albanian nationalism is part of the military-intelligence ploy. Amply documented, the latter consists in financing and equipping the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and its National Liberation Army (NLA) proxy to wage the terrorist assaults in Macedonia. The development of America's sphere of influence in southeastern Europe — in complicity with Britain — supports the interests of the oil giants including BP-Amoco-ARCO, Chevron and Texaco. Securing control and "protecting" the pipeline routes is paramount to the success of these multi-billion dollar ventures. A successful international oil regime is a combination of economic, political, and military arrangements to support oil production and transportation to markets. The Anglo-American consortium which controls the AMBO Trans-Balkan pipeline project linking the Bulgarian port of Burgas to Vlore on the Albanian Adriatic coastline largely excludes the participation of Europe's competing oil giant Total-Fina-Elf. In other words, US strategic control over the pipeline corridor is intent upon weakening the role of the European Union and keeping competing European business interests at arms' length. The US-based AMBO pipeline consortium is directly linked to the seat of political and military power in the United States and Vice President Dick Cheney's firm Halliburton Energy. The feasibility study for AMBO's Trans-Balkan Oil Pipeline, conducted by the international engineering company of Brown & Root Ltd [Halliburton's British subsidiary] has determined that this pipeline ... will become a part of the region's critical East-West corridor infrastructure which includes highway, railway, gas and fibre optic telecommunications lines. Upon completion of the feasibility study by Halliburton, a senior executive of Halliburton was appointed CEO of AMBO. Halliburton was also granted a contract to service US troops in the Balkans and build "Bondsteel" in Kosovo, which now constitutes "the largest American foreign military base constructed since Vietnam". Coincidentally, White and Case LLT, the New York law firm that President William J Clinton joined when he left the White House, also has a stake in the AMBO pipeline deal. Militarisation of the pipeline corridors The AMBO Trans-Balkans pipeline project would link up with the pipeline corridors between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea basin, which lies at the hub of the world's largest unexplored oil reserves. The militarisation of these various corridors is an integral part of Washington's design. The US policy of "protecting the pipeline routes" out of the Caspian Sea basin (and across the Balkans) was spelled out by Clinton's Energy Secretary Bill Richardson barely a few months prior to the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia: "This is about America's energy security ... It's also about preventing strategic inroads by those who don't share our values. "We're trying to move these newly independent countries toward the west ... We would like to see them reliant on western commercial and political interests rather than going another way. We've made a substantial political investment in the Caspian, and it's very important to us that both the pipeline map and the politics come out right." The Anglo-American oil giants, including BP-Amoco-Arco, Texaco and Chevron —supported by US military might — are competing with Europe's oil giant Total-Fina-Elf (associated with Italy's ENI) which is a big player in Kazakhstan's wealthy North East Caspian Kashagan oil fields. The stakes are high: Kashagan is reported "so large as to even surpass the size of the North Sea oil reserves." The competing EU based consortium, however, lacks a significant stake and leverage in the main pipeline routes out of the Caspian Sea basin and back (via the Black Sea and through the Balkans) to Western Europe. The key pipeline corridor projects — including the AMBO project and the Baku-Cehyan project through Turkey to the Mediterranean — are largely in the hands of their Anglo-American rivals, which rely heavily on US political and military presence in both the Caspian basin and the Balkans. Washington's design is to eventually distance all three AMBO countries, namely Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania from German-EU influence through the installation of full-fledged US protectorates. In other words, US militarisation and geopolitical control over the projected pipeline linking Burgas in Bulgaria to the Adriatic port of Vlore in Albania is intent upon undermining EU influence as well as weakening competing Franco-Belgian-Italian oil interests. Negotiations concerning the AMBO pipeline have been supported by US government officials through the Trade and Development Agency's (TDA) South Balkan Development Initiative (SBDI) "designed to help Albania, Bulgaria and FYR Macedonia further develop and integrate their transportation infrastructure along the east-west corridor that connects them." The TDA points to the need for the three countries to "use regional synergies to leverage new public and private capital [from US companies]" while underscoring the responsibility of the US Government "for implementing the initiative." With regard to the AMBO pipeline, it would appear that the EU has largely been excluded from the planning and negotiations. "Memoranda of understanding" (MOU) have already been signed with the governments of Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia which strip the countries' national sovereignty over both the pipeline and the transport corridors by providing "exclusive rights" to the Anglo-American consortium: " ...[The] MOU states that AMBO will be the only party allowed to build the planned Burgas-Vlore oil pipeline. More specifically, it gives AMBO the exclusive right to negotiate with investors in and creditors of the project. It also obligates ... [the governments of Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania] not to disclose certain confidential information on the pipeline project. The AMBO pipeline project is linked up with another strategic project entitled "Corridor 8", initially proposed by the Clinton Administration in the context of the "Balkans Stability Pact". Of strategic importance to both the US and the European Union, "Corridor 8" includes highway, railway, electricity and telecommunications infrastructure. In turn, the existing infrastructure in these sectors is slated for deregulation and privatisation (at rock bottom prices) under IMF-World Bank supervision. Although rubber-stamped by EU transport ministers as part of the process of European economic integration, "Corridor 8" feasibility studies were conducted by US companies financed directly by the TDA. In other words, Washington seems to have set the stage for the takeover of the countries' transport and communications infrastructure. American corporations including Bechtel, Enron and General Electric (with financial backing from the US government) are competing with companies from the European Union. Washington's design is to open up the entire corridor to US multinationals in a region situated in the European Union's "economic backyard", where the power of the Deutschmark tends to dominate over that of the US dollar. In early 2000, the European Commission began negotiations on EU associate membership status with Macedonia, Bulgaria and Albania. And in April 2001, at the height of the terrorist assaults, Macedonia became the first country in the Balkans to sign a so-called "stabilisation and association agreement" (SAA) constituting an important step towards full EU membership. The agreement provides the basis for "trade liberalisation, political co- operation, economic and institutional reform and transplantation of EU legislation". Under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, Macedonia would (de facto) be integrated into the European monetary system, with full access to the EU market. The terrorist assaults coincided chronologically with the process of "EU enlargement", gaining momentum barely a few weeks before the signing of the historic "association agreement" with Macedonia. Amply documented, the US has military advisers working with the terrorists. Was this a mere coincidence? Also, Robert Frowick, "a former US diplomat", was appointed to head the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Macedonia in mid-March, again barely a few weeks before the signing of the "association agreement". In close liaison with Washington and the US Embassy in Skopje, Frowick initiated a "dialogue" with NLA rebel leader Ali Ahmeti. He was also instrumental in brokering an agreement between Ahmeti and the leaders of the Albanian parties, which form part of the government coalition. This agreement negotiated by Frowick has largely contributed to destabilising political institutions, while at the same time jeopardising the process of EU enlargement. Moreover, the deteriorating security situation in Macedonia has provided a pretext for increased US political, "humanitarian" and military interference, while contributing to weakening Skopje's economic and political ties to Germany and the EU. In this regard, one of the "binding conditions" of the "association agreement" is that Macedonia conform to "EU standards on democracy". Needless to say, without a "functioning government" in Macedonia, the EU association process with Brussels cannot proceed. The puppet governments installed in Tirana, Skopje and Sofia, while largely responding to US diktats, are currently being swayed in the direction of the European Union. Washington's intent is ultimately to curb Germany's "Lebensraum" into Southeastern Europe. While paying lip service to "EU enlargement", the US has consistently favoured "NATO enlargement" as a means to pursuing its strategic interests in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, while Germany and France have opposed it.
* * *To be continued next week Acknowledgement: Emperor's Clothes, website: http://www.emperors-clothes.com