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September 6, 1997
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 309
The Serb Half of Bosnia

Loans from the Republic

by Ljiljana Smajlovic

Republika Srpska is practically divided in two. That is, for now, the only tangible sign of the fierce conflict between Biljana Plavsic, President of Republika Srpska, and Momcilo Krajisnik, Republika Srpska MP in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, waged over political supremacy of Serbs. One television transmitter (on Kozara) and seven police stations (in Prnjavor, Prijedor, Banjaluka, Mrkonjic-Gradu, Srpcu, Laktasi and Gradiska) changed political hands at the end of August going into Biljana Plavsic's control under protection of SFOR armed transport vehicles. With that, a new, possibly unstable power balance between two camps has been established, with its representatives sitting restless, each in their half of Republika Srpska.

Momcilo Krajisnik is no longer master of all his transmitters and police stations, even though he continues to keep an enviable tally. In TV-transmitters, he continues to lead five to one (Pale continues to control Duge Njive near Doboj, Udrigovo near Majevici, Zep near Zepa, Trebevic near Sarajevo and Gatacku Bjelasicu), and police stations all through Posavina, Semberija, Podrinje, Romanija and throughout East Herzegovina, Dervente and Prnajvor all the way to Gacka and Trebinje, continue to support Krajisnik.

The new disposition of mastership over public property to all accounts continues to maintain a shifting balance of power between Pale and Banjaluka. The victorious campaign of the President of RS aimed at the pillars of Pale authority (TV-transmitters and police stations) has been stopped with ease through mere throwing of stones (notwithstanding armed vehicles and NATO Pact soldiers armed to the teeth) once attempts were made to overstep the imaginary borders of the Banjaluka region. Up to that point, the flag of Biljana Plavsic was powerfully and convincingly heralded by SFOR. While the action for taking over control lasted, New York Times continued to report in an orderly fashion how police stations were changing hands and going Biljana Plavsic’s way: first NATO armed transport vehicles would block streets to allow the forces of Predrag Cirnanic to progress without being disturbed. After that, SFOR would announce a new status quo of legitimacy, along with its intention to guard with force this newly established law and order in Republika Srpska.

There was no need for force until some people began thinking that the taking over of control is going so smoothly that it would be a pity to stop without reaching Pale. By the middle of last week, in a dramatic escalation of international intervention, armed transport vehicles were dispatched toward Brcko, Mijeljine and Doboj, and toward TV-transmitters in Duga Njiva and Udrigovo. When American national radio sent word back home toward the end of last week that American soldiers in Brcko are in the most precarious of positions because of the anger of citizens who came to Bosnia to protect it, it was too late for force. In the military, political and diplomatic confusion which ensued, Washington decided to consolidate that which had been won so far, to wave the Dayton Agreement, and to stay put until things settle down.

Until the stoning in Brcko, America did not take much notice of the increasingly frequent statements in Western media by unnamed international representatives, anonymous UN employees and unidentified heads of human rights organizations who were warning that the action of international support for Biljana Plavsic is unconstitutional and goes well beyond the Dayton Agreement, and that SFOR intervention on her behalf is outside the Security Council mandate. Americans basically took on the role which in former days was played by JNA in Bosnia and Herzegovina: We are not participating in the conflict, but only keeping watch so that civil war does not break out between the representatives of opposing factions. And if it seems that we are not objective, that we are favoring one side over another, do not believe your eyes, but rather believe what we say.

Everyone knows that there is a small chance for a replay of Somalia in Bosnia, but that does not prevent the specter of Mogadishu from passing through the American capital and disturbing the sleep of its generals and politicians. In Republika Srpska, neither Biljana Plavsic, nor Momcilo Krajisnik would like, even in their worst nightmares, for American troups to leave. Without them Plavsic would have to fear Krajisnik, and Krajisnik would have to fear the Muslims and Croats, who by now are better trained and armed. However, Radovan Karadzic’s protégé and the guarantor of his continued influence in Republika Srpska decided at the beginning of this week upon a decisive, hazardously desperate game in which, putting literally everything on one card, he blackmailed the Americans into giving up the transmitter Udrigovo, giving in return, from the point of view of propaganda, insignificantly small concessions. His propaganda machine has been considerably lessened, but as consolation he has been left with the knowledge that Biljana Plavsic, with the transmitter on Kozara, will be convincing only those citizens of the Banjaluka region who are already convinced of the correctness of her policies. And what’s even better, the agreement regarding the return of the transmitter on Udrigovo into Pale hands had been jointly signed with the American General Shinseki. "I believe in military honor", stated Krajisnik on Monday evening — the same Krajisnik who in Belgrade’s Hyatt had been called a liar only three days earlier by Clinton’s Special Envoy Robert Gellbard. Already by Tuesday, it was apparent that even the General believes him, as Krajisnik’s television programs were transmitted starting at 10 a.m. throughout his new political territory.

Of course, the stones from Brcko did not accomplish the entire job for Krajisnik. American policy stumbled on its own priorities. While the military action of taking over control lasted in the Banjaluka region of Krajina, the local elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina loomed dangerously near. The American objective of having Biljana Plavsic win over the Krajisnik/Karadzic tandem in the fight for power, collided with the even more pressing American objective of having the local elections successfully concluded. For their part, the Government in Pale had been planing for some time now to boycott the elections, ever since they concluded that with the enforcing of rules which would permit registration of voters who are refugees elsewhere, that they would most likely lose out to SDA (eventually helped out by HDZ supporters) in Brcko, and maybe even Srebrenica.

If it is known how much the Americans want for these elections to be held on schedule, having already been postponed once (and if the frequency with which in the past several days, planes carrying high American, European and Russian officials have been landing at Surcin’s Airport, with those same officials scurrying to talk to President Milosevic, is any indication), than the logical conclusion would be that the Belgrade-Pale-Washington-Moscow connection is witness to extended elections haggling. On Wednesday, Beta reported that the threesome Milosevic-Vestendorp-Cline is awaiting the arrival of Krajisnik, who could probably be persuaded by the Americans to cede in the local elections scheduled for September, as long as they promise him that presidential elections will be held along with the parliamentary elections in RS.

Russians joined the whole charade because they cherish every opportunity to look important, to appear as the indispensable link in a chain. They probably do not have enough negotiations leverage to prevent the deal from being closed without their involvement, but they prefer to emphasize their self-importance and to dither with the impatient and suddenly anxious Americans.

The only one more lucky than them is the President of SRY who is receiving visits from all these important guests right before parliamentary elections — that these guests are not carrying any of the customary presents is of little importance. BBC noted once more that things simply cannot be accomplished in the Balkans without the involvement of this man. His fictional flight to Banjaluka served the same purpose — to maintain the illusion of his indispensableness in negotiations.

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