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As originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, February 1985

The Spark That May Cause a Fire
Why the Soviets might want to invade Albania: a scenario

by Robert Ducci


WHATEVER ITS MERITS in other regards, Marxism-Leninism often increases the longevity of those of its subjects who are enjoying the actual exercise of unlimited political power. We have all been reminded of this phenomenon in recent years, when we have attended on our television screens the numerous Red Square funerals of members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) politburo, whose earthly lives had been concluded at ages ranging between seventy and eighty-five. The statutes of the CPSU still prescribe that a good Bolshevik never retires from the fight for World Revolution to which he dedicated himself in his youth.

The same is true in Eastern European countries subjugated by the USSR. Once their original "old Bolshevik" leaders had been executed, under Stalin's orders, in the early fifties, or kicked out for their counter-revolutionary faux pas, in the sixties and seventies, the rule was faithfully applied throughout Eastern Europe -- consider Janos Kadar, of Hungary, Gustav Husak, of Czechoslovakia, and Nicolae Ceausescu, of Romania -- but never with greater success than in the case of the two Communist rebel leaders Marshal Tito and Enver Hoxha (pronounced Hodja). Tito ruled Yugoslavia for almost forty years. Hoxha, who founded and who was named the leader of the Communist Party of Albania in 1941, still enjoys this position. His absolute rule over Albania has successfully resisted many attacks from inside his own party. (The plotters have usually been found dead; the most famous of them, Mehmet Shehu, had been Hoxha's best friend and perennial Number 2 for thirty-five years.) More over, Hoxha has been able to thwart successive attempts against his life or his power engendered by the Yugoslavs and the Russians. The hands of the apostles Marx and Lenin must really have been upon his head.

Return to Albania: Enigma of the Balkans
But, alas, no man -- not even a confirmed Bolshevik -- is immortal. One day death will summon Hoxha, and neither his astuteness nor his cruelty will suffice to drive it from his sickbed. There will be general mourning on the part of the Albanian people, and some of it will even be sincere. Fires will burn on the mountains and old muskets will be fired in the valleys; his corpse will be mummified and buried in state, much as Stalin's was (Hoxha is the most obdurate of Stalin's admirers). Then the tumult and the shouting will fade, and the tiny Balkan country will tread on toward an uncertain future.

Since the end of the Second World War, Albania has made headlines only three times: when the Yugoslav suzerains were replaced by the Russians; when the latter were superseded by the Chinese; when the Chinese were drily thanked for their help and asked to leave. In the past fifteen years very few people in the West have been conscious of the existence, in the southeast of Europe, of this country, which for all intents and purposes might be Tibet. Closed in upon itself, it has practically no communication with the surrounding world except through a small group of trusted officials; has no diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom, the United States, or the USSR; provides scant possibilities for its people to know what is going on in the outside world; allows very little foreign tourism and makes it practically impossible for Albanians to travel abroad. Nobody -- not even diplomats in the capital, Tiranë, who are so reduced in number that they often find it difficult to organize a foursome around a bridge table -- knows what really happens in Albania. Was Defense Minister Beqir Balluku executed in 1975, because he was a Soviet (a Yugoslav, an American) spy? Did Mehmet Shehu commit suicide, or was he deliberately killed upon orders from high up? Everyone's answer to these and to almost all vital questions is, We honestly do not know. The interest raised among connoisseurs by one of these occurrences quickly dies down: the map of Europe no longer seems to include the small country where in the fifteenth century the hero Skanderbeg led the revolt against the Turks and whence the Ottoman Empire drew its most bellicose janissaries and many of its grand viziers and pashas.

Nevertheless, let's take a look at the map. Albania is a rugged country slightly bigger than Wales, bordered on the north by Montenegro and Kosovo (in Yugoslavia), on the east by Macedonia, on the south by Epirus (in Greece), and on the west by the Adriatic Sea. The Yugoslav province of Kosovo contains more than a million Albanians: no wonder the government of Tiranë considers it "unredeemed. " Macedonia, inhabited by Serbians, Bulgarians, Turks, and other ethnic groups, has traditionally been disputed by Balkan countries; the Soviet Union, unanointed successor of Holy Russia, continues to harbor hopes of annexing it to faithful Bulgaria, so as to introduce a wedge between heretical Yugoslavia and NATO Greece. Epirus also, sacred to the manes of Achilles and Pyrrhus, was and might again become a bone of contention between Albania and Greece. Neither Serbia nor Greece, the two main Balkan rivals for hegemony over Albania before the First World War and between the wars, was able to ensure Epirus for itself alone, the reason being that Italy would not allow it. "And now, Zog, how long will it take you to sell yourself to the Italians?" asked Nikola Pasic, the old prime minister of Serbia, in 1925, having finished counting the gold sovereigns thanks to which Prince Ahmed Zogu (later King Zog) was to bring Albania over to Belgrade's side. The answer given by history is, a year and a half. Italy had not allowed the Austro-Hungarian Empire to establish itself firmly at the lower end of the Adriatic, nor was it going to permit anything of the kind to Yugoslavia or Greece.

Why was Italy interested in assuring an Albanian principality under her control or, finally, in establishing a union between the two countries in the person of the head of the reigning family of the King of Savoy (Victor Emmanuel III, the emperor of Ethiopia and the king of Albania during most of the Second World War)? If we take another look at the map, we will see that in the days of naval supremacy freedom of navigation in the Adriatic Sea as far as Venice and Trieste was contingent on the possession, or at least on the control, of both the Italian and Albanian shores of the Strait of Otranto, which connects the Ionian Sea to the Adriatic. It was therefore a principle of Italian foreign policy to make sure that Albania did not fall into the hands of a strong adversary power.

After 1945 this principle became void. Albania, abandoned by the Fascists at the end of 1943 and by the Nazis in 1944, entered Stalin's empire. Albania was a lonely outpost after Tito's revolt; Stalin's successors didn't know what to do with it. Italy had other problems to cope with, and in any case its political class had been vaccinated against intrusion into Balkan affairs. Now and then there were fleeting rumors about the installation of a base for Soviet submarines in the bay of Vlorë. Before the sixties there was in fact practically no Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Hoxha expelled the Russians and called in the Chinese. After that episode came to an end and relations with the USSR improved, the government in Tiranë still consistently withheld naval and air force facilities from the Soviet Union and every other country. The country is blockfrei, refusing contacts with both the Warsaw and the NATO bloc. It even declines to be counted among the nonaligned countries of the world, or among the neutral countries of Europe (Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Finland, and Malta); it refused to take part in the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and is not a signatory of the Helsinki Final Act. Albania lives in self-imposed isolation: its people are too proud to surrender, too poor to arouse covetous glances, too valiant for any aggression against them to be worth the candle. Albania is perhaps the last example of the eighteenth-century Kleinstaaterei, like Weimar and Parma; or the first application of Schumacher's "Small is beautiful" to the international field; or in the realm of poetry the Dukedom of Illyria, where Viola loves Orsino who loves Olivia who loves Viola, until everything is rearranged in the concluding scene. Except . . .

EXCEPT FOR WHAT might happen after Hoxha's demise -- though one must grant that, being only seventy-six, he could survive for several more years. Nevertheless, his advanced age is a good reason for observers of the Balkan scene to begin wondering, and probably planning, about what will happen when he abandons the helm. There is no way of predicting what the political state of affairs in Albania will be after Hoxha's death. Has his succession already been discussed in the Tiranë politburo, or -- as seems more likely -- is the reigning chieftain wary of putting this item on the agenda? By letting it be known on whose shoulders his mantle is to fall, a dictator easily builds up a rival and possibly his murderer. May one therefore assume that since there is a large Hoxha faction in the politburo (no doubt about that), this majority faction will assert itself by electing Comrade X as secretary-general of the Party? This scenario is admissible, but it has one flaw: Hoxha has destroyed all his rivals, and thus it could happen that no one of his supporters in the Party's higher ranks will be big enough to fill the tyrant's boots. The apparently unanimous Hoxhaphiles might therefore rapidly divide themselves into two or more rival groups, each under a minor baron; and since Albanian society is still structured on contending clans, the political struggle might be doubled by clan strife. According to this scenario the political scene in Albania would be unstable for a number of years, a state of affairs that could encourage foreign interference, as we shall see.

Suppose that Hoxha's succession were to follow swiftly and in an orderly manner: there might still be cause for trouble. Whoever picks up Hoxha's baton will for a time inevitably be rather weak and exposed. To maintain the status quo would be his best course at first. Whatever official propaganda may say when it invents CIA plots and commandos, Tiranë leaders know only too well that the United States has no reason to destabilize Albania. The Yugoslavs are already having a hard job stifling the discontent of the Albanian minority in Kosovo and would not wish to annex its mother country. As long as Belgrade wants to protect itself from Soviet encroachment, it will remain interested in Albanian stability. The Tiranë leadership will therefore concentrate on the risk of Soviet intrusiveness. Is there a genuine likelihood of Soviet intervention in the small Balkan republic -- political, military, or both?

In my opinion, the answer to this question is yes, for reasons that are durable in both the short and the long term. It is easy to see what advantages the USSR would reap from the return of the prodigal son to the Warsaw Pact (Albania was the only member that got out of the Pact of its own free will and without suffering reprisals). The re-establishment of Soviet influence in Albania would enable Moscow to exert pressure on Yugoslavia by encouraging Albanian irredentism toward Kosovo and umpiring the two parties' claims. Greece's allegiance to NATO, already enfeebled by her conflict with Turkey and by Andreas Papandreou's inclination toward non-alignment, would be further weakened. The long-coveted Albanian ports (Durrës, Vlorë, and Sarandë) might be opened to the Soviet Mediterranean fleet, which could use them for overhauling, refitting, onshore leaves, supplies, and other purposes for which it does not have facilities in the Mediterranean except, to a very small extent, at Latakia, in Syria. The annexation of Albania would, furthermore, allow Soviet forces to establish electronic surveillance over much of the Mediterranean region, including central and southern Italy and its islands, and mainland Greece and its islands. Reconnaissance and attack planes could be based at modernized airports with underground hangars: the defense plans of Allied Forces South (NATO's southern command) would have to be substantially modified. Finally, only extreme measures by NATO would prevent the USSR from installing tactical nuclear missiles targeted upon Italy, Yugoslavia, and Greece. These three countries are now threatened by the SS-20 and other missiles, but the deployment of shorter-range and therefore faster missiles in Albania would add one more difficulty to the complex problem of deterring threats to the already ill-defended region of southeast Europe.

The advantages that the Soviet Union might reap from bringing Albania back into the Warsaw Pact are so evident that the matter must have received close study by the Soviet Defense Council and by the Central Committee. The risk of kindling a very serious crisis with the West has certainly loomed large in such a review. Taking action on Albania might appear to be a very bold decision, on the order of Khrushchev's decision to install missiles in Cuba. The potential benefits, though, would probably outweigh the difficulties. Foremost among the latter is the lack of contiguity between Albania and Bulgaria: the use of land forces, at least initially, would have to be ruled out. But parachutist and airborne troops might easily capture the Adriatic ports, with a view to sealing up Albania against a possible landing of NATO forces; the airports could also be captured by surprise, and a line of airborne logistical supply established in a relatively short time.

I shall not indulge in further war games, at which I am not at all competent. I shall instead try to draw a possible political scenario for justifying Operation Albania.

IN A SPEECH at the Conference of Non-Aligned Countries in New Delhi, the late Indira Gandhi made an arresting pronouncement that her country might well come to regret one day. "It is perfectly in order," she said, "for the government of a country to ask for the help of an allied or brotherly country." What she had in mind, of course, was Afghanistan: she thus tried to legitimize Soviet armed intervention in that unlucky country, and in one stroke legitimized other military aggressions by the Soviet Union against "brotherly" countries, such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia. It was possibly the best homage to the memory of Leonid Brezhnev, who invented the doctrine of "brotherly aid" that carries his name.

This time-honored doctrine will continue to be the pretext for Soviet military intervention abroad. A Socialist country is usually described as being about to lose its independence and revolutionary heritage owing to the maneuvers of a gang of traitors to the proletariat in conspiracy with Western imperialists. A few insurgent heroes rise against this hideous plot and ask the Soviet Union to help them defeat it, a request that Moscow generously honors, in the spirit of revolutionary internationalism. Moral protests and diplomatic condemnations are scorned as sheer interference in the internal affairs of the Socialist bloc.

In our scenario the Soviet planners have now reached a point where two of the main elements of Operation Albania have passed the test of feasibility: an airborne expedition against Albania would be a rather minor job for the Soviet army and air force, and a plan to destabilize the men and political groups who inherit power in Tiranë after Hoxha's death could easily be put together. Some small faction that has been denied participation in power could be encouraged to appeal to Moscow for brotherly aid. Or, better still, the ruling group itself could defy the opposition by requesting the protection of Big Brother so as to continue ruling in his name. This second possibility might be better, but Soviet political planners might well prefer generating the occasion to waiting for it.

The overriding standard of judgment about Operation Albania has to be the degree of military risk. Not, of course, the risk that the invading army might incur owing to the resistance of Albanian patriots (there would certainly be few of them at the start, though in time their numbers would probably grow) but the supreme risk of detonating an East-West crisis of major proportions. The men in the Kremlin are willing to take calculated risks: they had correctly reckoned that when the sclerotic Brezhnev gave the green light to the invasion of Afghanistan, there would be no reaction from the West other than verbal, because geography ruled out a Western military intervention of any kind. But Albania is in the Mediterranean area, close to NATO forces. An evaluation of the risk must therefore take into account the possibility of a military reaction from Italy, from Greece, from the U.S. Sixth Fleet, or from NATO as a whole. What kind of reaction should the Kremlin expect from each of these?

Italy's reaction to a Soviet surprise invasion of Albania would range from extreme anxiety among the knowledgeable minority to acute embarrassment in political circles and timorous indifference among the masses. The Italian Foreign Office would rapidly mobilize its diplomats abroad to ascertain how the allied governments evaluated the event and how they intended to react, but Italy's leaders would find it difficult to elaborate a practical proposal to be put to the NATO allies. Italian politicians would not have to worry about the possibility of violent demonstrations by the Communist Party or the trade unions: the prospect of Soviet forces permanently stationed a hundred miles off southern Italy would not fill those organizations with bliss. But the people would be spiritually unprepared to meet force with force, having been kept in the dark about the risk of a confrontation with the USSR in the Balkans (or, for that matter, in North Africa). Rome would therefore stay put, waiting for a lead from Washington and other allied capitals.

Greece's strategic position would change even more radically than Italy's, and the Greek government would be seriously upset. Warsaw Pact pressure, already felt along the Bulgarian border, would now spread to the formerly peaceful Albanian frontier. In the beginning Athens would mold its posture on Belgrade's, and while it would prick up its ears at noises coming from Turkey, it would probably counsel prudence and restraint, putting its confidence in rumors that the Soviet troops would be withdrawn once they had completed their fraternal duty or that Moscow was about to offer a Soviet-Greek non-aggression treaty.

I have mentioned the U.S. Sixth Fleet because it is the foundation of U.S. power in the Mediterranean. Supported by the Mediterranean NATO countries, and supplied by their ports and airports, the Sixth Fleet is a remarkable engine of war. But whether by itself it could sustain a military operation substantially more meaningful than the two that it carried out in recent years against Qaddafi's Libya must remain open to doubt. Certainly one or two big aircraft carriers could take a position in the Ionian Sea or in the Gulf of Taranto; AWAC planes flying over the Adriatic could gauge the extent of the Soviet penetration. Could such a limited show of force dissuade Moscow from completing its airborne expedition and cause it to call back its Antonov planes and its parachutists, as Khrushchev called back his ships because of Kennedy's ultimatum? Probably the answer is no, and therefore another step would have to be taken, and the problem put by Washington into NATO's lap.

NATO is of course a convenient cover for what is in reality a juxtaposition of the political will of several sovereign states. Past experience has shown that it is difficult for the organization as such to reach a collective decision that might trigger a large war, unless there is direct aggression against one of its members. For a number of years military advisers have urged the Atlantic alliance to protect not only its member states (which it has done successfully) but also the vital interests of the alliance in areas outside the geographical and juridical limits of NATO (limits that encompass North America, Western Europe with the exception of the neutral and non-aligned countries, and the Mediterranean basin with the exception of the Near East and North Africa). Nothing came of those proposals. The difficulties in defining the vital interests and the areas proved too great. In 1973 the European allied governments, except Portugal, declined to provide air bases and other facilities to American forces engaged in saving the skin of Israel -- and, a few days later, that of Egypt. In retrospect, the gutlessness of the West at the time of the Cuban expeditions in Angola (1975) and Ethiopia (1978) proves the stupidity of its leaders as well as the lack of political education of its peoples. The large majority of them blissfully ignored where Luanda and Addis Ababa are and the fact that Cuban "liberators" made it impossible for Angolans and Ethiopians to choose the amity and the aid of the West if they so wanted. It would have been difficult to persuade the electorate in Copenhagen or Amsterdam to countenance a military operation in those "distant countries of which they knew nothing." And though Tiranë and Albania are closer to, say, Norway than to the two African countries mentioned above, the northern members of NATO, among others, would be likely to adopt a concerned attitude but one that stopped short of concrete action.

The debate in the Atlantic Council, in Brussels, would therefore be concluded with pious words, or with the tacit charge to the United States -- possibly in conjunction with Italy -- to act to the best of its ability, judgment, and political authority to obtain the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Albania. (The unhappy precedent of Afghanistan should be kept in mind but not taken as a pattern. The West had no possibility of access to that region, whereas it is in close physical contact with the Balkans.) Everything would thus be thrown back on the ability of the American President to carry Congress with him, in his attempt to confront the Soviets with a credible posture and program signaling that either. . . or. . . Time would unfortunately be very short, and the planners in Moscow -- reviewing the limited choices open to the President -- might well conclude that it was already too late for him to instruct the Sixth Fleet and the Rapid Deployment Force to land troops on the Albanian seaboard with a view to ensuring at least some territorial pawns and pre-empting a total occupation of the country by the Soviet Army.

Such a pessimistic evaluation on our side, and such an optimistic one on the opposite side, would be precluded if the U.S. government and NATO Supreme Headquarters had a contingency plan ready, political and military, to manage a crisis of this type and magnitude. Neither this writer nor probably any of his readers is privy to U.S. and NATO secrets. It is known only that the theoretical study of crisis management has progressed considerably in the West. It is dearly to be hoped that precise application of this doctrine is available to manage crises that might occur in certain delicate sectors of the world. Moreover, if it were known or credible that a contingency plan existed to cope quickly with events like the Albanian scenario I have just described, this would by itself act as a deterrent or at least would introduce doubts into the Soviet leaders which might restrain their hand.

LET US NEVERTHELESS, à toutes fins utiles, paint with dark colors events as they might further develop. The sequence now becomes more and more speculative. Every conjecture is predicated on two independent unknown quantities: When will the crisis start? and What will then be the overall ratio of forces in the two camps, particularly in the nuclear field? Let us assume that no nuclear ultimatum is given to demand the withdrawal of Soviet forces; that no foothold on the Albanian territory was seized when circumstances were still favorable; that no Soviet transport plane has been shot down so as to induce Moscow to pause for reflection. The West would still have cards up its sleeves (it would have reached a high degree of readiness, it could sink Soviet warships and transports with no great risk of reprisals; the mounting of a future landing operation would be in progress), but the value of those cards would diminish with the passing of days. After a week or two Soviet order would be established in most of Albania, except the mountainous areas. The Tiranë government would solemnly thank Moscow for its brotherly aid. "Proofs" of the imperialist plot and prisoners purported to have been "subversive commandos" would be produced. The Security Council of the United Nations would vote to condemn the Soviet Union by a slight majority, but the resolution would be nullified by a Soviet veto. Well-disposed or simply naive journalists of the Western world would periodically spread the news that Soviet troops were about to embark in Durrës to return home. Official Moscow sources would now and then promise an end to the occupation. Some army units might even be withdrawn gradually, however, naval and air bases would receive Russian "advisers"; eventually U.S. reconnaissance satellites would discover missile silos in the process of being built on the Albanian hills. Americans would vigorously protest in Moscow. They would receive the answer that there are no mutually agreed-upon limits or constraints to the deployment either of the two blocs of intermediate nuclear weapons, and that in any case short-range nuclear missiles in Albania were meant to make up for Cruise missiles deployed in Sicily.

The profound change in the strategic situation in the Balkans and the Mediterranean sector would not stop with the deployment of short-range missiles aimed at most of Italy, Yugoslavia, and Greece. There would be a cascade of political consequences that do not need much fantasy to be imagined. After some time the question of Macedonia would be raised; incidents and riots would be encouraged in the Yugoslav Macedonian Republic, and these would be followed by military maneuvers all along the borders of Yugoslavia under the high command of the Warsaw Pact. No concrete aid would be forthcoming from the non-aligned countries or from NATO. It would make no difference which formula was adopted, an "independent" Macedonia or a Yugoslav-Bulgarian federation (a 1947 invention of Georgi Dimitrov, which Stalin vetoed for his own reasons). Safe overland lines of communication and transport between Bulgaria and Albania would, in some way, be established and maintained.

While putting Macedonia to good use, the Kremlin would move the other half of the pincers, Kosovo, to squeeze further concessions from Yugoslavia. In return for Soviet restraint of uprisings of the Albanian minority, Belgrade would be requested to open its naval and air bases to the Soviet forces. This do ut des would be heartily supported by Serbian chauvinists, because it would save the Serbian minority in Kosovo from being expelled from the land where it has lived since the Middle Ages. By now the rope would be firmly around Yugoslavia's neck, and the end of its non-alignment would be in sight. Thus the whole of the Balkans would have become part of the Eastern empire led by Moscow. Greece and perhaps Turkey might find it advisable to search for some accommodation with it, and would probably withdraw from NATO and declare neutrality.

What should this writer, who is an Italian, prophesy about the political repercussions in his own country of this theoretical sequence of events? Once the rape of Albania had been consummated, there would probably be a political swing toward resistance and preparedness. Some political parties that had been uneasy about the presence of Cruise missiles in Sicily would insist that they be deployed -- on the condition, however, that some or all of the missiles were targeted upon the Soviet silos in Albania. Other groups, on the contrary, would ask that negotiations with the Soviets be opened immediately regarding the simultaneous withdrawal of nuclear missiles from Albania and Sicily. Voices would be more frequently heard -- among them, the enthusiastic voice of Mr. Mintoff, from Malra -- in favor of making the Mediterranean a nuclear-free zone. A deep silence in Israel and in Libya would kill that suggestion for the time being.

The Yugoslav crisis, coming after the Albanian coup, would visibly preoccupy responsible circles in Italy, while leaving the common people largely indifferent. Isn't Yugoslavia a more or less artificial creation? And aren't the Macedonian people mostly Bulgarians? But once Yugoslavia fell under Soviet influence, there would be a rapid change both in political circles and among the better-informed members of the public. The consequences would be serious.

Which image of Europe would in fact be present in the eyes of sensible observers in the Peninsula? For more than a third of a century Italy's security and its parliamentary democracy have been preserved by the Atlantic alliance as well as by slow progress toward European unification. No prompt decision, no courageous move, would, however, have come from NATO or from the EEC in the Albanian-Yugoslav crisis. The whole eastern flank of Italy, from Trieste to Syracuse, would stand exposed and barely defensible. If the pseudo-neutrality of Greece and the pact of mutual assistance between Libya and the USSR were taken into account along with the presence of Soviet forces on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, the arc of potentially hostile nations encircling Italy would weigh somberly on its future. Could the U.S. Sixth Fleet continue to be based in Gaeta and Maddalena or would it seek calmer waters farther west? And would lines of communication with the Suez Canal remain secure, once Egypt began feeling itself cut off from the center of Western power?

The next scene could be embroidered differently by different novelists. The middle-of-the-road chiefs of the Italian Communist Party would be ejected and replaced by people closer to Moscow. Neutralist temptations would be rising in the Socialist Party and in the left wing of the Catholic Party, and they would not lack for rationalization from radical intellectuals. To salvage what might still be salvaged, cool heads and prudent hands would start charting a new course, away from the alliance and the EEC, toward the non-aligned world.

We may safely stop here: history is not a mathematical theorem, though it often resembles one. I personally would prefer to have recourse in conclusion to quotations from three great men.

The first is from Paul-Henri Spaak: "Who wills certain things also wills their consequences: if he does nor like the consequences he should oppose the things from which they originate."

The second is what the wise Chou En-lai told his NATO visitors (including the Italian Foreign Minister Giacomo Medici and this author) at the beginning of the seventies, which can be summarized as follows: "The Soviets will not attack you in the German plains: they will hypnotize your mind and soul with that menace. They will then be free to carry out a strategy of successive wide-range encirclements of Europe. The first, through Angola and Mozambique, will threaten your supply lines with the Eastern Hemisphere. A second ring will then be established, foreclosing the West from the Ethiopian high plateau, Aden, and Afghanistan, and possibly Iran and the Persian Gulf. Your influence on India will be reduced very close to zero; Pakistan will find itself in a difficult situation. While cashing in on all that, the Soviet leaders will begin to construct a third encircling ring. This time they will aim at putting under their control the Balkan peninsula and the Eastern Mediterranean. If that happens, the West as we know it will be finished. Shortly before that happens you will witness an improvement in Soviet-Chinese relations: slow and cautious, but irresistible. You will remember that we never liked Stalin, but neither did we object to his pact with Hitler. The survival of his people is the first responsibility of a leader. Later on, the struggle may be resumed under better conditions."

The third quotation is from Dante: "Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda," a little spark may cause a great fire. It could be an appropriate conclusion to a meditation on the future of Albania.


Copyright © 1985 by Roberto Ducci. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; February 1985; Volume 255, No. 2; pages 16-26.

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