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May 4, 1992
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 32
Anton Bebler, a Military Expert

The Sixth Balkan War

by Svetlana Vasovic

Anton Bebler, Ph.D., professor from the Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana and the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, is considered to be one of the best military experts in Slovenia. Many specialists from the Slovenian Defense Ministry's Institute for Strategic Studies and CSCE's Conflict Prevention Center carefully examine his analyses and prognoses. This specialist in Yugoslav affairs and Balkan armies explained to VREME the logic of the conflicts and the conquerors' appetites in war-ridden Yugoslav territories.

The fighting in B&H is escalating, while the Security Council, the "blue helmets", and the CSCE are helplessly standing by. Has the Yugoslav crisis, in actual fact demonstrated the inability of world powers to intervene in a violent border "retailoring"?

Amongst the great powers, there is not a single one willing to send its troops to this area, for in contrast to the Gulf War and the occupation of Kuwait, significant interests are not involved, the region has lost in importance after the disintegration of the Eastern Bloc. The greatest danger facing the West is the threat to the social stability of Western countries in the vicinity of Yugoslav territories which could arise from a river of refugees. A cause for alarm would be if l.5 to 2 million refugees were to cross former Yugoslavia's borders and head for Europe. If the consequences of the Yugoslav war, to which I refer to as the Sixth Balkan War in this century, threatened Western European social stability, resolute action of the international community would follow.

Since you do not expect concrete military action against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or Serbia, what do you expect will happen?

It can be expected that UNPROFOR's mandate will extended to the whole territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, I suppose that Serbia will not only agree to that, but propose it after capturing the most important strategic points in B&H. In that way, Serbia could put everything that it has taken over (some 60 to 65% of Bosnian-Herzegovinian territory) under UN protection, with Serbian authorities in charge. Therefore, it is very possible that the prevailing logic will be turned upside-down, and that Serbia will become an ardent peace-making nation. Mr. Milosevic is currently playing the grand role of peacemaker, together with his foreign minister Jovanovic and others.

Implementing diplomatic and economic sanctions against Serbia is possible, however, the West has not yet reached consensus on that issue. There is no doubt that it will opt for some relatively inexpensive and simple measures which could additionally harm Serbia. The easiest solution for the West could be to freeze the so-called National Bank of Yugoslavia's hard currency reserves and deposits, to freeze the funds of Serbian banks and leading foreign trade companies, to impose an embargo on direct trade with Serbia, but leaving the possibility of indirect trade (through intermediaries). It is highly unlikely that an efficient oil embargo could be imposed, above all because it would be difficult to implement. It is comparatively easy to control the shipping going through the port of Bar, but not to establish control over the Danube river. It is difficult to obstruct shipping of Romanian of Soviet oil, or of any oil purchased by privately-owned companies coming by train from the port of Salonika (Greece). Practically, it is very exacting to apply to a continental country, surrounded by a number of other countries. If Serbia were an island in the middle of the ocean it could be implemented quite easily. It is easier with Libya, with only two or three channels to export oil which can be blocked quite quickly. In the case of Serbia it is difficult to cut off railway traffic, for other countries would be affected (Greece, etc.). It is easier with air transport - it would be enough to place a ban on all leading airlines to fly to Belgrade or any other airport in Serbia and vice versa for Serbian, i.e. Yugoslav planes. Still, this could also be eluded by charter companies which are not government-owned or members of IATA. Hence, there are "holes" everywhere. I suppose that there are not many tourists flocking to Serbia at this moment, neither are Serbs rushing to fly all over the world. Practically, an air-traffic embargo would not hurt Serbia much. Of course, there are other ways of harming Serbia.

So, in the end, it turns out that, Mr. Milosevic's politics are successful, neither sanctions or world powers can hurt him in any way, all threats remain a dead letter, the fighting continues, people are being killed, entire populations are migrating.

You should ask yourself, however, whether the position of the entire Serbian nation, including the Serbs living outside Serbia proper, is better today than it was in 1987, when Milosevic launched his policy. The answer is negative. Has security been established for these people? No! Are they living in a welfare state? No! Do they have a higher standard of living? No! We could go on like this forever...

It is probably easier for you to tell us something about the new Slovenian army?

There were no serious discussions concerning that issue in the Slovenian parliament, and no document on its doctrine has been adopted either. It is important that a consensus amongst the relevant structures handling such matters exists. Our army is professional, small, approximately half the size of the effectives that the JNA had in Slovenia, instead of 22-24 000 soldiers, there are around 12,000 in the regular forces. In some segments, the weaponry is completely different, there are far less heavy weapons and tanks.

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