The only true value of the current Serbian government is pathological deference to Imperial power exercised under the guise of extreme pragmatism, defeatist fatalism and supposed aversion to conflict. Appropriately, it has long been expected the government in Belgrade will act as an agent of Empire in Serbia. Wednesday, however, the government went even beyond that.
Monday evening the Kosovo Albanian government in Priština moved its paramilitary police to occupy the two crossings on the border between occupied Kosovo and the rest of Serbia in the solidly Serb populated north of the province. This was done days after the KLA-staffed government in Priština declared goods from unoccupied Serbia would no longer be allowed in Kosovo. The ban on imports coupled with control of borders by the government in Priština would enforce a stranglehold on the Serbs in the north, with a view to subdue them, or force them out.
When this happened the first reaction of the Serbian authorities was to categorically rule out coming to the aid of the imperiled Serbs in the north of Kosovo. (They were more concerned to prevent any rallies in their support from being staged in Belgrade.) The people there, however, have long learned not to look to the government, but to rely on themselves. Within hours they had the roads leading to the crossings blocked by setting up makeshift roadblocks and standing vigil, thus blockading the Kosovo Albanian police at the border posts.
NATO first claimed the action of the government in Priština had not been coordinated with it, then quickly saw to it that it was. When the Serb response forced the evacuation of the paramilitary police, NATO decided to ferry in regular police from Priština to take their place. Reacting to this turn of events, Wednesday local Serb youths chased away police from one of the border posts and set fire to it.
On this occasion, however, the Serbian government found uncharacteristic courage to issue a strongly worded attack — against the Serbs! President Tadić labeled the young adults who had demolished the border post "hooligans" and other government officials took to denouncing them as "extremists". (International media followed suit styling them "hard-line Serbian nationalist".)
It is difficult to see why the local Serbs should have any obligation not to hurl petrol bombs at a dreary control post set up on their land against their wishes. One manned by foreigners who had attacked the country unprovoked and who task themselves with impeding their freedom of movement in their own country. The Serbian government condemned an act of resistance against the NATO occupation openly siding against its people.
Its nasty denunciations are extremely irresponsible. The Serbs in the north of Kosovo count fewer than 60,000 souls. To the government in Priština they are insurgents, to NATO a headache they could do without. They are extremely vulnerable. The last thing they need is for the government in Belgrade to undermine them and bolster their tormentor's media offensive against them. The terms Belgrade used to attack them could well have been used to help construct a justification for a crack down.
As it was the emboldened NATO "merely" went for a haphazard attempt at intimidation. Erhard Bühler, the German general who heads the NATO occupation, gleefully announced the border crossing to be within a live-fire zone, where NATO troops would use live ammunition to defend lives, property or the zone itself. In other words NATO was sending a message it would use live ammunition to defend the handful of ugly metal containers that make up the border posts should Serbs again take them to task with a petrol bomb, or a club, or possibly just come near them.
NATO troops also moved against the makeshift roadblocks. Deadlines for their dismantlement were issued with occupiers vowing to dismantle them themselves should they pass unobserved. The Serbs called the occupiers' bluff and they ended up turning back without added incident. Minutes later General Bühler explained the reason NATO did not move to forcefully break up the peaceful roadblocks:
"I had the option to enforce and open up the roadblock. I decided not to do it because in the meantime so many criminals and extremists and armed people are here. It would be a nightmare."Thank god for the "extremists" then, their presence was the only reason Bühler's storm-troops did not crack down on the "non-extremist" Serbs!
Seeing the government in Belgrade is derelict in its obligation to afford Kosovo Serbs defense, the least it could do is keep its mouth shut when they elect to defend themselves the best way that makes sense to them. Shocking as it may be to quislings deference to power is not a positive value and not laying down before an occupation is not a vice.