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May 29, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 191
Stojan Cerovic's Diary

Harmony at the Bazaar

Just as we were on the road to forgetting why the Serbs entered this war in the first place, someone in Knin mentioned unification again. Yes, that's the word we heard at the beginning. It sounds strange and silly now, as if it was a long, long time ago when all the Serbs stood up and swore that they would never bow down, that they would all die if need be, and wage war against all, and suffer all that was necessary in order that the centuries-old dream might be realized.

There must be something about the word "unification" when it managed to fire the people and burn down all those houses and cities. But the fuel seems to be at an end, because if this were not the case, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic wouldn't be making deals with the Americans. He now offers, in the recognition of Bosnia, precisely this shopworn story of unification in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. He didn't succeed this time, but sooner or later, he'll get the job done. He just has to convince those who don't trust him at all that he will no longer get involved in unification and similar big undertakings, and that he will slowly start dismantling what he has done so far, but he can't put everything back as it was.

Milosevic's problem lies in the fact that he can't find a good replacement for unification. He's not even being offered the role of Liberator From Sanctions, and he doesn't much like the idea of becoming a partially pardoned offender after being the Uniter. This could turn out to be risky. Not all in Serbia have understood that it was all in vain, because they haven't been told so clearly. They've only been told that the Serbs are right, that they have won, but that it would be best to forget everything now. Those who don't understand this logic are now clinging to Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj and others who are warming up the leftovers of the myth of victory and treachery.

There are still some who call for Serbian unity with the help of the slogan "God and Unity" which is supposed to sound like the very core of the deepest national experience with life and history. The Serbs agreed some five-six years ago over Milosevic, as never before. The way people can agree only over evil: when they are preparing to do evil and when they are given promises that it will be worthwhile and blessed. It was obvious that the Devil's will was more in charge of this unity than The Lord's, and it was easy to assume where it would lead. All that was needed was to look at some old German and Italian documentary reels. The greatest misfortunes are born from the greatest unity.

The easily planned and beautifully drafted big Serbian state now consists of three, or five mostly temporary and provisional parts. There is no longer one leader, but two or three everywhere, and they are doing their best to trip up one another. Unification has definitely fallen through, while Knin and Pale are barely standing on their feet and slowly losing all hope of the future. Serbia hasn't definitely determined its Western borders, and it doesn't know what to do about Kosovo, so that this shapeless and chaotic state is governed by inspiration. The strength of the alliance with Montenegro is nearly in proportion to Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic's authority.

In order to appease the bitter and distressed Serbs, convinced of the correctness and justification of unification, it must be admitted that this right does exist, just as a man has the right to grow three meters tall, or to possess all he likes and believes to be his due. Children would never believe many of the claims which were made here - that there were no borders and obstacles to such rights; that others didn't exist or weren't important. Then a terrible and unbearable injustice happened. The Serbian right clashed with others' rights, its will with other wills, and its force with other forces.

The current outcome is well known, and the prospects can be just a little or a lot worse. All Serbian leaders, and probably a good part of the people are aware of this now. This is why the story of unification seems so unreal and false. It is probably just another desperate bluff which is supposed to prolong the lives of small, temporary statesmen à la Martic and Karadzic, and of creating the impression that they are still in the game and making moves.

I haven't made a careful count of the number of times that Knin and Pale announced the possibility of unification so far, but someone has noticed that Serbs resemble Arab states in this matter. In fact, the local attitudes have become rather Oriental: a bit of fighting, followed by fraternization, promises and oaths of friendship, affectation and unification. This time they claim to be serious. The Assembly in Banja Luka was enthusiastic and unanimous, which I find very suspicious. Nothing has ever come of such acclamations. And didn't the Bosnian Serbs, before this alleged decision, show to what extent Serbian unity lay on their hearts - while the Croats carried out the "peaceful reintegration" of Western Slavonija.

Had they really cared, they could have tried to unite when they stood better and were on the rise, and their opponents were still trying to consolidate their positions. All wished to have their own principality, but they were dependent on Milosevic who held them back after coolly calculating that unification would drag him into a big war, with very strong prospects of bringing the ire of the world powers down on his head and of losing.

Karadzic and Martic now speak of unification, not because they're charmed by the idea, but out of fear. Not so that the Serbs might live together happily ever after, but in order to save their skins. This motive is a strong and serious one, but it doesn't mean that it is necessary to hurry with the printing of new Geography books with a map of this new state. It is true that they will be more stronger together, but each will also make new enemies. In such situations statesmen of their calibre and scruples only try to outmaneuver one another, and in this the stronger one usually turns out to be the more skillful statesman. Karadzic would love to take over Krajina's arms and militarily fit percentage of the population. He is less interested in other things, least of all in picking a fight with the Croats. The prospects of such a unification would consist in moving Martic and his company to the Bosnian side and in the gradual surrender of Krajina to Croatia, probably under worse conditions than could be achieved without unification and in cooperation with international arbitrators.

This unification doesn't improve or save anything, but in fact, leads to the abandoning of Krajina and is a slap in the face of the international community and all those who spent all that money, energy, prestige and political capital in searching for a compromise and a peaceful solution. If we're talking of national betrayal, then I don't see that anyone can surpass the uniters. I don't see how Karadzic can make plans on unification and at the same time tell the world that he is ready to discuss the Contact Group's plan. It would be better if he were to lie about the first, because if the opposite is the case, it can only mean that he has reached the conclusion that there is no way he can save his skin. And then everything can go up in flames and the nation can share his fate. Verbally, Martic and Karadzic continue to see eye to eye only with Seselj and all those radical and concerned participants of the national symposium in Kosovo. They demand an immediate proclamation on the unification of all Serb lands, and that Serbia immediately, formally and officially proclaim as aggressors two internationally recognized states. Seselj can't wait any longer. He wants to see bombs dropping on Belgrade. Let this be called supreme patriotism or treachery, but let it be known where it all leads and what it looks like. Those who follow him don't like the way Belgrade looks right now and want to rebuild it from its very foundations.

Finally, even if he recognizes Bosnia and Croatia, I'm not sure that Milosevic has given up on the idea of unification. He probably hopes and would like to promise that it will be part of his long term strategy, but first he must improve relations with the world. People close to him believe that the most difficult part of the job has been finished in Bosnia, and that the Serbs could stop shooting. In future it would probably be enough to reject all cooperation, boycott all agreements, to play dumb and impossible until everybody gets fed up and lets them go where they please. I don't believe that this could succeed, and I fail to understand why someone would wish unification and a state which would owe their existence solely to their indigestibility as a civilization.

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