Kosovo Albanians have been well supplied with arms and money. Some of the support has come from Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East, and some from the extensive heroin trade controlled by Albanians. More recently, as Germany’s Social Democrats and their Green coalition partners prepared to take over the reins of government in Bonn, evidence came to light that German secret services have been instrumental for years in helping the Albanian separatist movement in Kosovo.

While the government of ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl had officially backed the Western policy of seeking a negotiated solution (before that policy gave way to yet another wave of “bomb-the-Serbs” euphoria), the Bonn government was undermining that policy on the ground. Behind the scenes, German civil and militar)’ intelligence services have been involved in training and equipping the Kosovo rebels for years. Their objective was to foment armed rebellion against Serbia and thus strengthen Germany’s autonomous sphere of influence in the Balkans, where Bonn has conducted a remarkably active policy—quite independently of its European partners —ever since Yugoslavia started breaking up almost a decade ago.

Plus ça change, plus la même chose. Germany’s policy in the region traditionally has been anti-Serb; it remains so today, no less than in 1914 or 1941. In December 1991, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, then-foreign minister of the Federal Republic, insisted on what the rest of the European Union subsequently came to regard as the “mistaken and premature” (in the words of Lord Carrington) recognition of Croatia. It is also noteworthy that the self-proclaimed government of the Republic of Kosovo is based in Germany, where approximately 400,000 Kosovo Albanians now live.

According to a report from Paris by Roger Faligot, published in the European (September 21-27), Germany’s role in arming the Kosovo militants has led to a serious rift between the Bundesnachrichtendienst (END), the German intelligence service, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Faligot quotes French diplomatic sources and General Pierre-Marie Gallois, a specialist in geopolitics, who maintains that some decision-making circles in Germany wish to destabilize the Serbs regardless of the consequences for regional stability: “The Kosovo crisis has initiated a rift between Germany and the United States. Washington realized that pushing the Kosovo Albanians towards a military confrontation with Milosevic, as the Germans wanted to do, would have a boomerang effect on the Balkans. The United States put pressure on Germany to stop supporting the KLA behind the scenes, as did the other European countries such as Britain and France.”

The founding of the KLA, the armed wing of the Albanian separatist movement in Kosovo, coincided with the appointment of Hansjorg Geiger as the new head of the BND in 1996. One of his first operational decisions was to set up in Tirana one of the largest BND regional stations. BND operatives collaborated closely with the top brass of the Shik, the Albanian secret service and the successor to the notorious communist Sigurimi. The BND men were in charge of selecting recruits for the KLA command structure from among tens of thousands of Kosovo Albanians living in Albania. Meanwhile, the BND Rome bureau provided political intelligence back-up, including recruitment work in Trieste and Bari, two of the principal entry’ points into Italy for Albanians.

The German Militärabschirmdienst (MAD), the intelligence arm of the military, and special commando units such as the Kommandos Spezialkräfte (KSK) were involved in training and the provision of uniforms and communications equipment. Reporters covering Kosovo were surprised to find some KLA fighters clad in current issue Bundeswehr combat jackets with identifiable German insignia. The training was subsidized through an Albanian foundation known as “The Fatherland’s Call,” with branches in Düsseldorf, Bonn, Stockholm, Bern, and other European capitals.

These findings were corroborated in a recent German television documentary program, Monitor (September 24). The network’s team of investigators, Jo Angerer and Volker Happe, have unearthed a wealth of data proving the link between the KLA and German intelligence services. The report opened with a shipment of arms seized as they were being smuggled into Kosovo from Albania, including high-tech Armbrust anti-tank grenade launchers. “They were developed by the German company MBB for the Bundeswehr, and built in Singapore under German license,” the report stated, adding that Albanian rebels were also using radio communications and military Monitoring equipment of German origin.

Monitor confirmed that immediately after the communist regime in Tirana collapsed, the BND resident in Tirana was involved in “several illegal arms supplies” which had been arranged by MAD headquarters in Cologne. A former MAD official said that the arms supplies were ordered “by the very top” and that the operation is still treated as strictly confidential. According to a written statement by another informer involved in this operation, “In 1990 and 1991, the MAD supplied electronic and optical Monitoring devices and other equipment such as radios to the Albanian intelligence service. The Monitoring equipment came from the former East German ministry for state security—the Bundeswehr took it over after unification —and from MAD supplies. MAD officials trained Albanian intelligence service personnel in Tirana to use tins equipment.”

Contrary to the expected denials from the Federal Defense Ministry, BND and MAD sources confirm that members of the Bundeswehr’s school for communications in Bad Ems visited the Albanian capital Tirana on several occasions, as did members of the MAD in Cologne, to arrange deliveries and training.

All of this is against the law—both international law, and Germany’s domestic legislation regulating its intelligence agencies, according to Dr. Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, a Munich-based expert on intelligence-related questions. It remains to be seen whether the new coalition in Bonn will be less adventurous in its Balkan policy and more inclined to observe the law of nations and to pursue consensus-building within Europe.