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November 17, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 267
The Balkans

Sloba's Keepers in Wintertime

by Ljiljana Smajlovic

There are no vital American interest in the Balkans, that is, until now no one has been able to identify them. However, Dayton brought American soldiers to the Bosnian soil, and together with them, part of America's credibility. Americans now have an indubitable interest on the terrain of the former Yugoslavia: to successfully complete the mission as agreed upon in Dayton, with a minimum number of American casualties.

To achieve that they need Slobodan Milosevic. They know it, and we know it. The Serbian opposition has looked into this idea to its final logical consequences and is now accusing the Americans for openly rooting for Sloba's triumph at the elections.

It is mostly true that the administration in Washington is strongly relying on Slobodan Milosevic's cooperation in the post-Dayton period. In a couple of instances, that cooperation has already been modestly rewarded, amongst other things by lifting the sanctions, so that even hints have been given indicating that Milosevic could, with greater effort, possibly bring about a normalization of relations with the USA, which obviously means a lot to him. The chief of the USA mission in Belgrade Richard Miles's sojourn throughout Serbia seems to be a part of such hints. His visits to state and privately owned companies, political parties and humanitarian organizations throughout the country illustrate the fact that relations between Washington and Belgrade are not as bad as they were a year ago.

Ipso facto, this autumn Washington on the Potomac did not await the expected victory of Slobodan Milosevic's party at the elections with consternation and aversion as was demonstrated on a few occasions during his previous election triumphs. On the contrary. Washington awaited the results of the federal elections with a philosophical calmness and serenity, and are now, with even greater serenity, anticipating Milosevic's next move - his entering the YU-scene. VREME'S sources claim that John Kornblum has at least on one occasion during the last month stated in the presence of his associates that it is in USA's interest for the present President of Serbia to become the President of Yugoslavia. It would be in our interest on account of Serbian cooperation with The Hague tribunal since Milosevic is giving excuses that the extradition of the indicted is not part of his authorization, that it is an issue of the federal level of decision-making, as John Kornblum allegedly stated. Such an excuse shall definitely cease when Milosevic himself steps onto that level.

It should also be stated that, directly prior to the Dayton talks, Richard Holbrooke was explaining to everyone who could not comprehend it on his own all over the American capital, therefore turning it into part of general knowledge in Washington, that the Bosnian-Croat advance towards Banja

Luka had to be stopped, since the influx of refugees into Serbia would "destabilize Milosevic".

All of that still does not necessarily mean that a dispatch was written at any time or anywhere in the State Department nor a decision made that Slobodan Milosevic should be actively assisted to achieve victory at the elections. The opposition is mostly flattering itself when they believe that the Americans have assessed that Milosevic is in need of their intervention in order to win, therefore introducing Richard Miles as a trump card. It seems that the State Department does not in the least bit believe that Milosevic's party could lose on the elections so that analysis of whether Vuk Draskovic would implement the Dayton agreement with less or more vigor than Milosevic were not even made in Washington.

Denying theories by which Miles's presence at business firms served as some kind of support to Milosevic, Nicholas Berns stated at a press conference at the State Department: "Absolute rubbish! The USA do not support neither Milosevic nor his party. We are not interfering with these elections. And as you are aware, we have our own misunderstandings with Mr. Milosevic. We are not supporting him on these elections."

A cynic could, naturally, say that they did not support him since they had assessed that Slobodan Milosevic (who has, from the "Balkan butcher", together with Tudjman been promoted to the position of a Dayton guarantor and "our man in the Balkans") would win even without their support. If nothing else, Washington did not shudder at the results which they had anticipated. Besides that, American experiences in this part of the world show that open American interference with the elections and political process often turns out to be counter-productive from the standpoint of American interests. A poll of the USIA (United States Information Agency) shows that from all European countries the strongest anti-American sentiments are expressed in Yugoslavia (around 80 percent of the polled last spring in the public opinion research expressed a dose of anti-Americanism). Such a sentiment most definitely exists amongst the hundreds of thousands of new voters of Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party. Yugoslavia is by no means similar to Albania, in which a few years ago Sali Berisha won following an election campaign in which the American ambassador stepped onto election platforms together with him. The support and consideration which the Americans have demonstrated towards some opposition candidates in the last few years in our country was known to end as the kiss of death. It is more than debatable whether Richard Miles would have improved the rating of the opposition on November 3 if he had previously stood together with Vuk, Vesna and Djindjic on the square of Trg Republika.

In all truth, what should also be mentioned are rumors which are circulating in Washington how Miles has incurred the private displeasure of a certain number of people in the State Department who felt that he has acted in an incautious manner when he allowed his diplomatic itinerary to coincide with Milosevic's interests. The result of Miles's visits benefited the government, which could have been expected, but it seems as though that risk has not been previously calculated. Which is why high-ranking American guests in their fleeting visits to Belgrade, such as Shattuck and Kornblum, in the last seven days always meet with the independent press and opposition leaders. On Tuesday afternoon in Belgrade, John Kornblum, during his meeting with the journalists, energetically stressed that a number of things need to occur in Yugoslavia before the relations between the two countries are normalized and before the USA chief of mission is replaced by an ambassador (besides implementing the peace plan for Bosnia and bringing about improvements in Kosovo, another condition is a "feeling that Yugoslavia is turning into an open, democratic society"). However, it was evident from further discussions that something is going on in the mutual relations of the two countries. Namely, Kornblum voiced his thoughts out loud in front of the journalists about whether the opening up and liberalization of the country is best brought about by punishing Yugoslavia when it is not accomplishing what is asked of it, or whether positive moves should be rewarded as well. Following suggestions from the journalists to normalize relations, open the IMF and give the people a chance to see that not only the outer wall of the sanctions are to blame for the country's slow development, but to rather look towards government measures instead of foreign stipulations for the delays and stagnation, Kornblum said in passing: "Yes, we are well acquainted with that argument, we really might take up such action at the end." He also added that Yugoslavia could play an important role in the region, present a vital factor in the wider area and that it is simply not a country which it would be possible to write off.

However, as far as Richard Miles's problems with the local public are concerned, they partly stem from the fact that the last American ambassador in these parts who had also approached his job in an exceptionally dynamic manner was Warren Zimmerman. (In the meantime, during the war in Bosnia, the USA chief of mission in Belgrade was Rudolph Perrina, having spent the war years in utter diplomatic isolation, acting mostly behind the scenes.) However, Zimmermann was an ambassador of different times, when following the collapse of the Berlin wall, America made an appearance in Eastern Europe dividing all political forces in each individual country in accordance with the white-black principle "democrats versus neo-communists". Americans goals of then were very simple: in each country political forces which could one day defeat former communist forces are to be supported. Therefore, firstly Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia were originally seen as countries in which the communistic structure was truly demolished and where America's main goal was not to help one party of the political scene against another, so that American policies in those countries were in keeping with those estimates. In Albania, Bulgaria and Romania, on the other hand, the local political forces were identified in accordance with the principle "anti-communists versus former communists" and all the American efforts went towards aiding the former to defeat the latter at the elections. Naturally, Yugoslavia then acquired an exceptional position as a country in which the communists have not yet even become former communists, that is neo-communists. Which is why even Warren Zimmermann did not hide his political favorites, he publicly abhorred Milosevic and openly supported the opposition, shying from any political move which would enable Milosevic to hide behind the shield of American acceptance. Yet Zimmerman was an ambassador in a country which had not yet removed the communists from power. Richard Miles became chief of mission in a country which stands as one of the guarantors of Dayton. He might not have had the intention to aid Milosevic, yet he certainly did not publicly do anything to hinder him. Zimmermann had a completely different list of priorities.

Yugoslavia did not become a post-communist country, not even in the Bulgarian sense of the word, yet it became a "post-Dayton" one. To the joy of Slobodan Milosevic and his maintenance of power.

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