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March 6, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 179
Stojan Cerovic's Diary

Dreaming of the Past

In the old days, when all believed, thought, and spoke the same things, there were some who didn't. Those who are too young to remember should know that even then when nothing was allowed and everything had to be done, some managed to retain a different stand. Some did or said what others didn't, or refused to do what the majority did. It took guts, and of course, a certain price had to be paid.

After this a period of national homogenization took place in Serbia. It didn't have to, but then again everybody thought the same, and those who didn't, had a hard time again. The majority, those from before, showed themselves when war started. In this sense the appearance of different parties barely brought a change for the better. Exceptions were few, parties like the Civic Alliance and then the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO). This however didn't affect the main direction or disturb the will of the majority.

From August 1994 when Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic broke off with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and himself, the Serbian majority split into two. The fulcrum of the political drama moved to Serbia, and judging by everything, all those foreign ministers, diplomats and special envoys passing through Belgrade must be right when they repeat that the key to peace and stability in the Balkans lies here. They are right, not because Milosevic can still do something big, like stop the war in Bosnia or prevent a new one in Croatia. The bilateral recognition of these states will not, in itself, increase stability or stop the war. It is no longer a matter of Milosevic's peace-making, but his survival.

Right, but why would anyone, except him personally, be interested in his survival? Well, because the situation has changed to his advantage. Those worse than him are endangering him. While he was irreplaceable, anyone in his place would have made a lot less damage, but as soon as he got better, he has suddenly become replaceable. Whosoever understood the rule that the worst and craziest have to rule here, now has reason to be concerned about Milosevic's health. It has turned out to be an unfavorable thing that he was so efficient in putting one over world diplomacy in the past, in making false promises and in pulling the secret strings of war. The world started to overestimate him and look on him as a monstrous master of some mysterious oriental policy in which nothing is as it seems.

It seems that Milosevic recently complained to a diplomat of resistance within the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) to the recognition of Croatia and Bosnia. I am sure that such resistance exists, but many in the West will find it hard to believe. I am sure that there are those who think that Milosevic meets every evening with Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj, and Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) leader Vojislav Kostunica and Democratic Party (DS) leader Zoran Djindjic in order to agree on how they will attack him the next day and allegedly put pressure on him, in order that he might say that he is endangered. They fear his trickery so much that they will begin to doubt his omnipotence only if someone outwits him. Just as at Talleyrand's funeral, when some of his opponents allegedly wondered what it was he had in mind.

In Serbia, however, a dangerous tension is growing in a conflict in which the forces are of equal strength, and there is a trend which might not turn out favorably for Milosevic. The fact that SPO leader Vuk Draskovic has been invited to appear in a live program on the state television First Channel is proof to what extent Milosevic needs public support, or just no opposition to the key question of the attitude to war, the peace plan and Serbs outside Serbia. In return, Draskovic had the opportunity of voicing all other accusations against the regime, which is what he did.

If Milosevic didn't have a problem here, Zoran Djindjic would see to it that the topic was quietly dropped and try something else. He is not a man who will, for the love of firm principles and convictions, insist on something that doesn't bring success. If he is still with Seselj and Kostunica, and if the road takes him to Pale (Bosnian Serb political center) every now and then, it just means that he has assessed that Karadzic's cause has a future. I do hope that he has made a bad judgement, but there is no doubt that the scene in Serbia is being prepared for a classic showdown at the top.

In this century in Serbia, it has become a habit to reach an impasse over questions of patriotism, unification and betrayal. Such impasses are not solved by elections, since no side is prepared to accept a loss in a situation when they believe that the other side is leading the people into a catastrophe. Who will allow themselves to be outvoted on the question of survival? Or the opposite, if you don't want to recognize democratic rules and accept the decision of the voters, then you will always try to present the elections as a matter of life or death. That way there is always the possibility that someone will lose their temper and take out a gun, and then the one who survives is the winner.

There has been a lot of talk here of non-parliamentary methods, of dissatisfaction in the army, and there are various shady scandals in which no one knows who is tricking whom, there is just a feeling of conflicts behind the scenes. Milosevic's position is increasingly similar to that of King Aleksandar Karadjordjevic's at the time of the showdown with the Black Hand organization, even though some in the opposition believe that his fate will be like that of Aleksandar Obrenovic. I believe that since the time of the assassination in Topcider (in May 1903 when the Serbian king was murdered by army officers unhappy with his rule, members of the Black Hand organization) to the 27 March 1941 events (demonstrations against the signing of the Pact with Germany), no one in Serbia has been capable of such crassly imbecile actions as a "group of patriotic officers". And this experience is universal and practically without exception.

With a tradition such as this and so deeply divided a country, Milosevic cannot count on getting off easily, peacefully or democratically. I don't know if there will be shooting and arrests, but it won't be easy for parliamentary life or the freedom of the press. Among the opposition, such a radicalization of developments would be to the liking of SRS leader Vojislav Seselj, and I don't understand why he is following the DS and the DSS blindly in this. He probably believes that Milosevic will recognize Croatia and Bosnia soon, and then they can all yell "Treachery!" in unison, and the socialist fortress will come tumbling down. These two parties claim that they would be better and more up to date than the socialists in all aspects, but they can't prove this with a Greater Serbia and in relations with the world. They, just like the socialists are waiting for the West to realize its mistake and apologize, and in the meantime their gaze is fixed on Russia. They feel more insulted and angrier than Milosevic and don't see why he is trying so hard to repair relations with Europe and America. And as far as Seselj is concerned, it seems that something happened while I was absent, and I can't understand why everybody is receiving him normally. He still looks like a fascist to me, but it seems the criteria have been lowered and this is now called democracy.

Milosevic has obviously received a very good offer for Krajina and Bosnia. I believe that the offer is too good for the protagonists of the war, but let's say that such a stand is irrelevant for the moment. The essence of the clash in Serbia has now been reduced to those who will accept the peace plan but not the contents of the peace plan. The national opposition believes that Karadzic should accept the peace plan and they are prepared to wait, under sanctions and isolated, for as long as necessary until he says that he is happy.

Milosevic, on the other hand can't, and wouldn't know how to present his extorted peace policy and sell it as liberalization and the joining of the great process of transformation in Eastern Europe. Instead, he is remembering old ideological slogans, dreaming of a new confrontation of blocs and deluding himself with victories of the Left at elections in Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria. He thinks that things could be as before, and it looks as if he might pass up the opportunity he has made for himself of cashing in with his tame and smiling face, as the "unavoidable factor of peace in the Balkans".

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