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June 13, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 142
Bosnian Thunder

Take Five

by Milos Vasic

A compromise is known to be the second best form of an agreement between the warring factions (an accord being the best). The best compromise is that where both sides feel equally frustrated and dissatisfied. That is why compromises are doomed to be shortlived. The Geneva agreement on the fourweek ceasefire in Bosnia is a typical example.

Yasushi Akashi, a U.N. envoy, described the situation with a melancholic Far Eastern proverb, ``You may lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.''

The Bosnians objected because some ``armed civilians'' had remained within an exclusion zone around the town of Gorazde, southeastern Bosnia. The Bosnian Serbs headed by their leader Radovan Karadzic appeared obstinate according to the principle, ``we want to do it, but you wouldn't let us.'' Akashi offered lumps of sugar, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic cracked his whip, and the horses eventually got thirsty (or had been from the very beginning but thought that they would be able to wheedle out something else besides water).

Karadzic's team wanted a total and comprehensive truce immediately which is understandable: the Bosnian Serb Republic is exhausted by the war, stretched over the territory that is too large to be defended effectively, and Slobodan Milosevic is fiercely pressing Radovan Karadzic to find some political settlement, whatever it may be like, only to get rid of the sanctions. The forms of pressure from Yugoslavia come according to an elaborate plan.

On one hand, Slobodan Milosevic is slowly surrounding Karadzic, infiltrating the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) in the Bosnian Serb Republic, quietly activating old communist aparatchiks who had turned overnight into the aparatchiks of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDSKaradzic's party), and, perhaps, even the dormant networks of the Communist Partythe Movement for Yugoslavia (SKPJthe party of Milosevic's wife Mirjana Markovic). On the other hand, Milosevic and his apparatus in Serbia are gradually cutting down the political importance of Karadzic's war lobby in Belgrade, leveling hostile criticism at warmongers, extreme rightwing nationalism, etc. This way Milosevic is making way for the ``civic'' opposition parties in Serbia that are sympathetic to the Serbian cause and for Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). The President of Serbia figures he will survive that, as their are not dangerous. The tactics is well thought out as usual: Milosevic never makes the same mistake twice.

The third threat to Karadzic may well be something that resembles an announcement of ``the personnel changes'' in the ranks of the Yugoslav Army (VJ): there is already such rumor circulating in the corridors of the Yugoslav Army Headquarters and Chiefofstaff of the Yugoslav Army General Momcilo Perisic has been visibly nervous these days, while informal sources among the members of the Socialist Party of Serbia made references to ``belligerent generals.''

Karadzic's situation is not easy: under pressure to accept the division of Bosnia, giving 51 per cent to the Moslems and Croats and 49 to the Serbs, he still has to survive politically (if not physically as well). Even if he had been unable to arrange a comprehensive ceasefire, some four months of truce would have suited him perfectly fine: he could hastily hold the elections and strengthen his position, there would be no time for any one to stop him.

The Bosnian side has different problems. The primary problem is the same as it has been over the last two yearssurvival, where the length of the ceasefire plays an important role. The Bosnians have learned about diplomacy and have become skillful players (the maneuver with Gorazde provides an excellent example). In Geneva they opposed a long lasting cesefire as they realized that Karadzic would only benefit from it but keeping in mind that the summer would give them enough time to rest, supply and regroup themselves for the continuation of fighting. And they have done well in the war lately: after the Gorazde crisis they consolidated the territories, opened the lines of communication and snatched the chunks of the Bosnian Serb territory. The Croats are their other problem. They have been forced into the federation with the Croats, which is only a sort of relief.

The Croats are also facing the music at the moment. There might be a problem since Croatian President Franjo Tudjman is not capable of ridding himself of the blackmails of the war lobby from Western Herzegovina, which is a yet another proof that he hasn't learned from Milosevic as much as he should have. The ceasefire can prove to be useful unless it lasts too long: Croatia also shouldn't be given a lot of time to think it over whether it should fulfill its obligations in the new federation with Bosnia or not.

Finally, the Bosnians have one practical reason why to object a long lasting ceasefire: they are on the strategic offensive. The necessary momentum of the offensive would be disrupted by a prolonged ceasefire. In the eyes of the Bosnians last year was marked by the trend of their own strengthening and the trend of weakening of the Bosnian Serb Republic and Serbia. The time will tell whether they are right. However, this is their perception of the trends and it represents a political fact that ought to be taken into account. Concerning the future of Bosnia Herzegovina in strategic terms, all of its territory remains to be disputable both from the Serb and the Bosnian point of view.

Effectively, the talks about percentages and maps are only of temporary importance for both sides. If this ceasefire holds, and one shouldn't bet on it, both sides will emerge if not stronger then at least refreshed, the international community will have time to think of something, while Milosevic will get a chance to nail Radovan Karadzic.

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