The new government in Belgrade has denounced the alleged infiltration of some 400 ethnic-Albanian guerrillas into the area from Kosovo, and has warned that unless the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force clamps down on such activity, Yugoslavia would be forced send its own army in to deal with the problem. Although inside Serbia, the ethnic-Albanian villages fall within the demilitarized zone established at the end of the Kosovo conflict, which allows Belgrade to maintain only police units there. The nationalist attacks on Serbian policemen appear to mimic the earlier strategy of the KLA, which used such attacks to goad Belgrade into a brutal response that eventually drew in NATO.
But this time around, NATO may behave quite differently. The Western alliance has repeatedly warned nationalist elements against fomenting trouble along the border, and has conducted a number of raids against suspected guerrilla bases inside Kosovo. While the U.S. may look more sympathetically on demands for Kosovo's independence, most NATO members remain strongly opposed and the U.N. resolution enabling the peacekeeping mission recognizes that the territory will remain an autonomous part of Yugoslavia.
The KLA element in Kosovar Albanian politics was, of course, dealt a serious blow in local elections throughout the territory three weeks ago, which saw a landslide victory for the party of moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova. That suggests that the majority of the ethnic-Albanian community are willing to pursue their desire for independence via negotiation with the new regime in Belgrade. But for those KLA hard men who remain determined to use any means necessary to win independence for Kosovo and unite it with Albania, NATO troops may become an obstacle in their path. And that could make the peacekeeping mission more than a little distasteful to some key NATO members.