NATO in Libya may spark Balkan tinderbox

A French Navy Rafale fighter jet takes off for mission in Libya (AFP Photo / Alexander Klein)
The threat of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict in the Balkan countries, which experts define as "the European tinderbox," could spark another Libyan scenario, says former Russian Intelligence head Evgeny Primakov.

Speaking at an international conference in Montenegro, Primakov said the threat of NATO interference in the Balkans is a real possibility that should be avoided at all costs.

“I fear that the NATO operation in Libya may cast a shadow on the Balkans,” Primakov said, in comments that were published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Monday and reported by Interfax. “Such a scenario is not so unrealistic, and ways to avoid it must be found.”

NATO’s operation in Libya has set a dangerous international precedent, especially for regions and countries whose policy does not conform to NATO standards, he said.

Primakov, an ex-prime minister, as well as the former Russian Intelligence head, paid special attention to the threat of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts in the Balkans, specifically in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The respected academician from the Russian Academy of Sciences also alluded to the armed clashes between NATO troops and the former Yugoslavia.

From March 24, 1999 to June 11, 1999, NATO launched a massive aerial war against Yugoslavia, as Albanian militants battled with Yugoslav forces. The war led to a massive displacement of the population in Kosovo, estimated at about 1 million people. The conflict was condemned by many countries, including Russia, on the grounds that NATO did not have the support of the United Nations Security Council.

Primakov reiterated the position of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in September that the Libyan model of resolving regional problems must not become "a model for the future."

Russia has a principled stand on "the problem zones", and does not recognize the independence of Kosovo and Metohija, which it views as Serbian territory.

There is a realistic chance to avoid tensions with the division of Kosovo, he said.

"If the West welcomes the separation of Kosovo from Serbia due to the independence demands of local Albanians, why not apply the same approach to the compact Serbian areas in the northern part of Kosovo and Metohija?" Primakov speculated.

Russia also opposes the transformation of Bosnia and Herzegovina into a single state, arguing that such an idea does not follow the letter of the Dayton Agreement.

“If we speak about the development of the Dayton Agreement, apparently, it is necessary to strengthen sovereign rights of Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims within the framework of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said. “Any other arrangement will lead to bloodshed.”

Meanwhile, Primakov denied that Russia opposes the accession of the Balkan countries to the European Union, saying Russia’s position is being either intentionally or unintentionally distorted.

"Moscow is perfectly aware of the reasons why the Balkan countries want to join the EU,” he said.  “At the same time, Russia seeks to prevent the weakening of its economic, cultural and political relations with the Balkan countries by their involvement in the EU."

The Balkans are a junction between three civilizations: West European, East European and Asian. Stability and security of the developing multi-polar world depend on the way that pressing problems of the peoples populating this special region, Primakov said.

Robert Bridge, RT