6. NATO Defends Private Economic Interests in the Balkans

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Title The Role of Caspian Sea Oil in the Balkan Conflict
Source Women Against Military Madness, November 1998; and Sonoma County Peace Press, April/May 1999
Author Diana Johnstone

Title Kosovo: It’s About the Mines
Source Because People Matter, May/June 1999 (Reprinted from Workers World July 30, 1998)
Author Sara Flounders

Title Caspian Pipe Dreams
Source San Francisco Bay Guardian, 12/16/99
Author Pratap Chatterjee

Faculty Evaluator Catherine Nelson Ph.D. & Jim Burkland
Student Researcher Misty Anderson, Jake Medway, Damian Uriarte

As a result of NATO’s success in the military conflicts of Bosnia and Kosovo, its member nations have been provided the political and economic opportunities to partake in the exploitation of the significant mineral resources in the Balkans. In addition, Western multinational corporations are now well positioned to access the lucrative oil refining industry needed at a terminal end of the pipeline agreement, formally signed last November by President Clinton and the presidents of four key Caspian-region nations. Proposed pipeline routes will divert oil and gas from the oil-rich Caspian sea to either Mediterranean or east European terminals for export to the Western nations, thus avoiding competing interests of either Russia or Iran. Successful reestablishment of NATO’s military presence in the Balkans has made real the goal of a leaked 1992 document of a Pentagon plan to preserve NATO as the primary instrument for Western security interests as well as the channel for U.S. influence and participation in European affairs.

Coverage 2000

U.S. and NATO interests continued to systematically exploit Balkan resources in 2000, a fact that went unnoticed by the U.S. mainstream media. For instance, although wire service stories pumped information back to the United States about the takeover of the Stari Trg mine, none spoke about NATO’s role in privatizing the facility while placing the blame for its demise on former Serbian president Milosevic (see Flounders, below).

The Caspian Sea pipeline through Turkey, considered the environmentally safer alternative to shipping through the Bosporous straits (see Chatterjee, below), and newly discovered Caspian oil reserves captured the media spotlight. However, the trans-Balkan oil pipeline project by New York-based AMBO-the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil Company-a virtual fait accompli, remains completely unreported. Although widely circulated by the wire services, the consortium’s activities were barely noted in business sections or on financial news shows.

The presidential campaign drew additional media attention to U.S. overseas oil interests. Marjorie Cohn notes that Dick Cheney has long lobbied to lift Iran sanctions in order to facilitate the movement of oil through the country. This is perhaps a harbinger of a shift in U.S. policy toward oil-delivering countries. Still, she notes, “Mr. Cheney’s oily fingerprints are all over the Balkans as well.”

And regarding Camp Bondsteel, Diana Johnstone, in a September 4, 2000, In These Times article quotes from the French Figaro magazine, June 9, 2000: “…Washington’s European allies ‘have the impression of having been taken for a ride: Anticipating tensions with a Europe on the way to unification and the loss of their bases in the EU, the United States may have decided to build itself a new bastion. A well chosen terrain: a Muslim region where European sentiments are inexistent, in the Balkans, near the Mediterranean, the Near East, petroleum.’[meanwhile] …European allies, looking at this gigantic permanent military base on their doorstep, ‘are beginning to wonder whether its implantation wasn’t the real objective of the war.’”

The disinformation distributed by the U.S. mainstream press has produced skepticism about “NATOS’s Balkan crusade” among apologetic humanitarian crusaders. Nonetheless, writes Paul Hockenos, “While the Western involvement in the Balkans isn’t a grand imperialist plot, it is equally naïve to see it solely as an altruistic matter of human rights.” Counters Johnstone, “…freedom and democracy must be developed by the people themselves, not by occupying armies and foreign administrators who know what is best, as dictated by IMF economists.” (See Censored 2000, Censored # 20, “IMF and World Bank Contributed to Economic Tensions in the Balkans.”)

Sources: the emperors-clothes, February 28, 2000, “How it is Done: Taking over the Trepca Mines,” by Diane Johnstone; The Associated Press, May 30, 2000; The Baltimore Sun, August 15, 2000, “Cheney interests can affect oil policy, by Marjorie Cohn; In These Times, September 4, 2000, “A Humanitarian Crusade,” by Diana Johnstone; St. Petersburg Times, September 26, 2000; Agence France Press, November 28, 2000.

2000 Update by Author Pratap Chatterjee

In June 2000 some 10,000 Caspian seals crawled ashore to die in the Kazakh port city of Aktau. Serikbek Daukeyev, Kazakhstan’s environment minister, blamed multinational joint oil venture Tengizchevroil. “The effects of oil wastes and pesticides caused chronic toxic poisoning in the seals,” he said. “Every year Tengizchevroil exceeds the set limit of waste emissions because of faulty equipment. Just this year the highest-permitted concentration has been exceeded by 200 percent.” The news was completely ignored by U.S. media despite the fact that Tengizchevroil, which produces a third of Kazakhstan’s crude output, is majority-controlled by two U.S. multinationals: 50 percent owned by Chevron and 25 percent by Exxon-Mobil. Similar cases of seal deaths have occurred in recent years along the Caspian. Last year 6,000 of the animals died in Azerbaijan while smaller numbers of deaths have been reported from the Turkmen and Russian sectors of the sea.

The media also ignored reports in December 1999 that Georgian scientists discovered several erosion sites along the western pipeline constructed by the Azerbaijan International Oil Consortium (17 percent owned by Amoco and British Petroleum each, 10 percent by Unocal and 8 percent by Exxon). Because of heavy rains the company was asked to stop oil transportation from Baku to Supsa.

Activists say that the environment is slowly facing catastrophe. “Environmental conditions of the Caspian Sea are degrading rapidly. The increased water level is damaging coastal areas, while increased oil concentration causes severe damage to the whole region,” says Manana Kochladze of Friends of the Earth in Georgia. Despite these massive environmental impacts from oil drilling, the U.S. government is promoting multiple, major new oil pipelines to carry oil and natural gas across the Caspian Sea to western markets. For example, on September 22, 2000, U.S. Assistant Energy Secretary for International Affairs, David Goldwyn, told a seminar organized by the Middle East Policy Council: “Multiple east-west pipeline routes, we believe, are essential to the security of the region’s infrastructure and development and thereby enhance U.S. energy security. Having a monopoly or even an oligopoly of transportation routes is not as good as having multiple routes in competition. Competition is going to give the countries the opportunity to make their own decisions on how to maximize their economic opportunities and also ought to drive down transportation costs.”

Oil companies also strongly disagree with this policy. Julia Nanay, director of the Petroleum Finance Corporation, told the seminar that the government was choosing political interests over commercial interests in its pipeline strategy. “It has been the U.S. government’s position to build these pipelines even at a time when it didn’t know whether the energy resources would be there. So, in a sense, the U.S. government would be happy to see these pipelines built, drawing a line above Iran, even if they stood empty,” he said.

Mr. Chatterjee welcomes comments and can be reached at Pratap Chatterjee, PO Box 14175, Berkeley, CA, 94712, USA; Ph: +1 510 705 8970; Fx: +1 510 705 8983; Em: pchatterjee@igc.org.

2000 Update by Author Sara Flounders

Nato Troops Seize Mining Complex
Reprinted from the Aug. 24, 2000, issue of Workers World newspaper

Claiming they were concerned about controlling air pollution, some 3,000 NATO soldiers stormed a lead smelting plant in Zvecan at 4:30 in the morning of August 14. The plant was the only functioning industry in the vast Trepca mining complex in northern Kosovo, a few miles from the city of Mitrovica.

At 6:30 a.m., in a further attack that had nothing to do with air pollution, NATO soldiers closed down and confiscated the equipment of Zvecan’s Radio S-the only station that dared to report information critical of NATO. The northern part of Mitrovica is the only remaining multi-ethnic part of Kosovo. Thousands of Serbs, Romani people, Slavic Muslims, other nationalities, and peoples of mixed backgrounds have been driven out of other areas by Kosovo Liberation Army thugs and vigilante groups. Many have fled to the north side of the Iber River. There, with the local Serbian population, they have resisted more than a year of KLA attacks in an economically devastated region.

The surprise attack by NATO shut down the only radio station and the main source of employment for the local population. The mines, with their smelting, refining and power centers, once constituted one of Yugoslavia’s leading export industries and a main source of hard currency. It was the major source of jobs in the region.

Defending the pre-dawn attack, Bernard Kouchner, the head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said, “As a doctor and chief administrator of Kosovo I would be derelict if I allowed a threat to the health of children and pregnant women to continue for one more day.” UNMIK is the police force set up by NATO to administer Kosovo. Kouchner has never had a word of criticism for the environmental havoc NATO created throughout the entire region with the use of depleted uranium weapons, the bombing of chemical plants, and the use of cluster bombs. If you find it hard to accept that NATO is suddenly concerned with pollution, it’s worth looking for what is really at stake.

‘Most Valuable Piece of Real Estate’

On July 8, 1998, New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges wrote, “The sprawling state-owned Trepca mining complex is the most valuable piece of real estate in the Balkans.” Hedges described glittering veins of lead, cadmium, zinc, gold and silver. The Stari Trg mine is ringed with smelting plants, 17 metal treatment sites, warehouses, freight yards, railroad lines, a power plant and the country’s largest battery plant. It is the richest lead and zinc mine in Europe. There are also 17 billion tons of coal.

It was George Soros, the multi-billionaire financier, who wrote Kouchner’s script. Paris-based journalist Diana Johnstone, in a February 28 report, described a policy paper by the International Crisis Group (ICG). This is a think tank set up by Soros to provide guidance in the NATO-led reshaping of the Balkans. The think tank publicly called on Kouchner to take over the management of Trepca and to use the pretext of environmental hazards to shut the Zvecan smelter down.

The Soros group stressed that the takeover should happen before new elections in Yugoslavia so that the opposition could blame Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for the loss of Trepca. The elections are now six weeks away. At the time this proposal was made there was no pollution-the lead smelter was not even in operation. It was closed for several months after the NATO bombing.

Production in this state-owned industry started again only two months ago, at great sacrifice and expense. The hard currency it could have earned was desperately needed to rebuild Yugoslavia’s ravaged economy.

With the seizure of the smelting plant in Zvenca, NATO will control the entire Trepca complex. Proving once again that NATO is the military arm to insure primarily U.S. corporate control, the first move after seizing the complex was to turn it over to a consortium of private mining companies. This consortium-ITT Kosovo Ltd.-is a joint venture of U.S., French, and Swedish companies.

The most interesting partner in this deal to control Trepca is the U.S. company Morrison Knudsen International. On July 7 Morrison Knudsen merged with Raytheon Engineers and Constructors, a major military contractor that makes Patriot missiles and radar equipment for the Pentagon. This is an enormously lucrative deal. ITT Kosovo Ltd. will administer Trepca, appoint executives and a board of directors, develop the investment strategy, and skim the greatest profits from every possible deal. Those in the Albanian population who hold illusions that control by these corporations will mean the return of the thousands of well-paid, secure jobs with benefits that existed before the war should read the plans multi-billionaire Soros has in store.

Once NATO has control of the whole industrial complex, according to the ICG, foreign investors will develop a very modern, highly profitable facility with a small workforce. In this outright theft of an industry that was built by the efforts of all the peoples of Yugoslavia, Soros’s think tank recommends that the management and administration be made up of foreign executives “in order to prevent corruption”!

Copyleft Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail:ww@workers.org. For subscription info send message to: info@workers.org. Web: http://www.workers.org)