The situation on the border shared by Serbia and Kosovo is getting more dicey by the day. The latest spark threatening to ignite a new war between Serbia and Kosovo is attributed to Kosovo arresting a Serbian nationalist living in Kosovo. So what does Panama have to do with this?
During my last year working at the CIA, I had a front row seat to the U.S. behind the scenes effort to provoke an incident in Panama that would justify a U.S. military invasion of that country to dethrone Panamanian strongman, Manuel Noriega. The CIA, in concert with the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, was working hard behind the scenes, including helping fund a failed military coup, to bait Noriega. Kurt Muse, a U.S. Army veteran who was born in Panama, had been working for two years with opponents of Noriega to engineer his ouster. Muse was captured, jailed and tortured (spending 9 months in a squalid cell until he was rescued by Delta Force operators on 20 December 1989).
The final straw came on 16 December 1989 when four U.S. personnel were stopped at a roadblock outside PDF headquarters in the El Chorrillo neighborhood of Panama City. First Lieutenant Robert Paz, an officer of the United States Marine Corps was shot and killed in the incident. I do not know if their decision to drive thru El Chorrillo was an accident or a deliberate provocation. I believe it was deliberate. U.S. personnel in Panama at the time knew full well that relations with the Government of Panama were dicey at best and would have been briefed on areas to avoid.
The United States invaded four days later, struggled to secure the capital and launched a desperate search for Noriega. The crafty, corrupt General held out for two weeks and finally surrendered on 3 January 1990. I was at the U.S. State Department by this time and monitored the situation from the comfort of the Counter Terrorism office.
Looking back after 32 years this operation, while generally successful tactically was a strategic failure. The Navy SEAL unit sent to destroy Noriega’s airplane suffered significant casualties because of poor command decisions — the plane could have been destroyed by an AC-130 gunship, but one of the SEAL commanders insisted on putting the sailors on the target. Panamanian troops armed with a 50 cal machine gun wreaked havoc. Panama remains a dysfunctional, corrupt country. Billions of dollars of narcotics proceeds wash through the Panamanian Free Trade Zone in Colon and Chinese influence is expanding.
Which brings me back to Serbia. If you think that foreign intelligence operatives from the United States and the United Kingdom are taking a hands off approach to the situation on the the Serbian/Kosovo border, think again. With the war in Ukraine going badly for the United States and NATO, it appears that the West is hoping to create a situation in Serbia that will force Russia to divide its forces.
The ethnic and religious differences separating the Serbs and the Kosovars are centuries old. And there also is a long history of outside forces meddling to promote conflict rather than peace. Serbia’s support for Russia has earned it the enmity of the United States and NATO and is an undercurrent in this escalating conflict on the border. It is a dangerous game because NATO’s ability to intervene militarily has been sapped by its support for Ukraine’s war effort. Serbia is moving troops and vehicles to the border and the likelihood of increased violence is growing. If you are religious, pray for peace.
Now another topic. If you have not seen Viktor Bout’s full interview with Maria Butina, here it is. It is worth your time.