Another Balkan war brewing

Macedonia: Albanian insurgents can't be allowed to disturb the peace of a nation and the region.

March 22, 2001

THE WEAKEST OF the successor states to the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia has in its decade of existence avoided the bloody traumas of the others.

Until now.

NATO peace-keepers in Kosovo need to police the border better to prevent arms from reaching the ethnic Albanian insurgents in Macedonia. The United States should make clear it is not leaving the area before peace prevails.

Intervention in Macedonia itself, though called for by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, is not an issue. Macedonia has not sought it.

The fighting is brought by two small groups that have only recently appeared inside the country; one is an extension of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army.

Macedonia has about two million people, of whom about three-fourths are ethnic Macedonians and one-fourth ethnic Albanians. That fraction may be greater since Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo propelled Albanian refugees across the border, destabilizing Macedonia.

Macedonia has been the most democratic of the former Yugoslav republics. The leading ethnic Albanian party is in the ruling coalition.

But nationalist grievances remain. Preeminent are demands for an Albanian-language university, and more Albanians in the civil service.

The insurgents demand these things, but really appear bent on dismembering the fragile little country in behalf of unification with Kosovo and Albania to form a "Greater Albania."

They should not be allowed to disturb the peace of Europe or tear up its borders this way. The cultural grievances should be addressed politically and peacefully.

Macedonia's sovereignty and territorial integrity deserve the financial and political support of both Europe and the United States.

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