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June 6, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 348
Police story


by Filip Svarm & Dejan Anastasijevic

Momir Bulatovic promised to form a strong and united state security service in his inaugural address to the federal parliament. During his election campaign in Montenegro, Bulatovic worked on the idea. "I promised that the federal government would form a single security service as soon as possible, so that spies of all sorts should no longer be a threat to our citizens", Bulatovic said in Bar.

When he went to Kotor, he said that secret police would have better things to do than tail trucks carrying contraband cigarettes during his reign, and in Herceg Novi he promised that the state security service wouldn't follow voters to find out who voted against him.

He was far less specific on what exactly the unborn security service would do if it had to give up all its traditional activities such as spying on people and tailing trucks loaded with cigarettes. The new secret police would be composed of six currently in circulation: the intelligence, the counter-intelligence, the Serbian and the Montenegrin security service, the federal branch, and the investigating branch with the federal foreign ministry. The interesting thing is that a number of public security duties such as border crossings, surveillance of foreigners and issuing passports and visas would be handed over to federal authorities. The new security service would become unified not only in terms of organization, but also in terms of property, meaning that it would own all existing funds, facilities, and vehicles belonging to various security branches.

The clear objective of this operation is to extend Milosevic's authority to Montenegro, where Djukanovic has formed an autonomous and efficient security service. Not a single Milosevic opponent has had such a powerful weapon and the Belgrade regime is doing its best to get it out of Djukanovic's hands. The initial phase was discrediting Djukanovic. The Belgrade media have been writing for weeks that Montenegrin police are up to their necks in crime and corruption, and that the security service is stalking and even shooting Bulatovic's supporters. The second phase is dismantling the Montenegrin security service by setting up a new federal one. However, it will be difficult to accomplish this objective for a number of reasons.

First of all, Bulatovic has to win the Montenegrin elections and appoint a friendly police minister. The draft law needs the approval of the Serbian and the Montenegrin interior ministries to be discussed by the federal parliament.

While the conflict with Djukanovic was warming up, the Podgorica administration liked the idea of forming a sophisticated and efficient federal security service. The escalation of the conflict, however, eliminated the option that Vukasin Maras, the Montenegrin interior minister loyal to Djukanovic, could agree with his Serbian counterpart Vlajko Stojiljkovic. Bulatovic could try to squeeze the draft into the parliament without consulting Maras, but that would be a clear violation of the constitution.

In practice, we would have two armed and powerful organizations not recognizing each other as legitimate, which would very probably lead to an armed conflict. Even if he won the elections and sacked Maras, Bulatovic would still face a few problems. An organization similar to the one he wants to form existed and it was called the Council for Protecting Constitutional Order (SZUP). The Council disintegrated along with the former Yugoslavia and Milosevic thoroughly destroyed what was left of it when he sent Serbian police to invade the federal interior ministry in 1992 and subsequently dismantled the former JNA's security branch. Since then, everybody said that there were a few Serbian countries and only one Serbian police force. Ministers came and went, but only two men were basically in charge: Jovica Stanisic, the deputy state security minister, and the late Radovan Stojicic Badza, the deputy public security minister.

The idea that on SZUP's resurrection first came up before the November 1996 elections. It was put forward by Radmilo Bogdanovic, one of the most notorious Serbian interior ministers. A lot was said and written about Bogdanovic's idea, but for some reason it never came to life and remained a dead letter. However, ideas like that never really die. Just before Milosevic's inauguration as federal president, Zoran Sokolovic was promoted from republican to federal interior minister. Although JUL wanted this ministry, SPS was reshuffling its ranks and the time wasn't right. During the conflict, Radovan Stojicic Badza was acting interior minister. His execution in a Belgrade restaurant solved the problem abruptly (the authors of this article do not wish to insinuate anything) and the new minister was Vlajko Stojiljkovic, one of Mirjana Markovic's closest associates.
Stanisic, who became unpopular with Mira Markovic during the 1996-97 winter protest for his "soft" approach to the students, didn't like the choice. There was an immediate conflict between the new minister and his deputy. Stoijlkovic wanted to exercise his authority and ordered Stanisic to submit a report, but the latter was used to reporting to Milosevic only. Stanisic went to see the Boss and said he would if Stoiljkovic was his superior. Squeezed between his most loyal associate and his wife, Milosevic opted for a solution even king Solomon would have been proud of. He promoted Stanisic to national security advisor and Stojiljkovic remained the interior minister to keep Mirjana Markovic happy.

However, this meant the problem was brushed under the rug rather than solved. It re-emerged when relations between Belgrade and Podgorica became strained. While JUL wanted Djukanovic's head, Stanisic and his friend Milorad Vucelic tried to mediate in the conflict. It didn't work and Milosevic turned to his counter-rally strategists. Rumours had it that Stanisic was about to be sacked for becoming very unpopular with his boss, too. Things became even more complicated when the situation in Kosovo got out of hand. That's when  Colonel-general Aleksandar Dimitrijevic came into the limelight, for he was not too well known until then. Col-gen. Dimitrijevic is the head of a service officially called the Yugoslav army's security branch and unofficially known as the counter-intelligence service (KOS).

Dimitrijevic came to power after the retirement of general Nedjeljko Boskovic, the man who set up the Opera affair and dismantled the KOS for Milosevic. Dimitrijevic thus inherited only a shadow of what the KOS was, and his first job was to keep together what was left. The first and most important thing, though, was to stay on good terms with Milosevic and Mira Markovic, especially the latter. The effort finally bore fruit; when he became the federal president, Milosevic rediscovered the KOS as a kind of a supplementary branch to Stanisic's security service. Dimitrijevic now had direct access to Milosevic and a rank equal to the head of the Yugoslav Army General Staff, Momcilo Perisic.

His rise in the military structure was just as amazing. Many people believe that he is running the General Staff and that his formal superior has become a mere figure.
The aggravation of the Kosovo crisis brought about a glittering promotion for General Dimitrijevic. State television was all over him and he even wrote a comment which was published by all state-controlled media. The comment was long and a bit confusing and it looked like a stack of traditional phrases combined with something that resembled Zen-Bhuddism. Many observers saw it as a subtle criticism of the police force and Stanisic himself. Stanisic's conspicuous absence from the ceremony in the interior ministry building reaffirmed rumors that he was about take a fall.

Not only JUL would have liked to see Stanisic go down. One must not forget that Stanisic was the first employer of Vojislav Seselj and his radicals. That almost cost them dearly in 1993 when they clashed with the Socialists. They were saved by the fact that the security service had other plans for them. Although Stanisic reconciled with KOS some time ago, there are still quite a few people there who can't forget the way he had humiliated them by shutting them out.

The evaluation of police and army actions in Kosovo began at the same time and with the same purpose. Police raids in Likosani and Prekaz brought about civilian casualties and consequently EU sanctions. The army, on the other hand, eliminated 16 armed Albanians near the Morina border watchtower with no casualties of its own, and no one in the world had any serious objections to what happened. Some observers jumped to the conclusion that the police Milosevic had built up for so long was clumsy and inefficient, while the starving and poorly equipped army was a symbol of efficiency and professionalism.

Not quite. The reasonably high scores attained by the army is a result of the fact that it had been trusted with guarding the borders while the police was given the impossible task of doing everything else. Apart from that, one should be completely in the dark to believe that Milosevic would send his most trustworthy associate down the drain just like that. Stanisic coordinated a good deal of Serbia's (non)involvement in the Croatian and Bosnian wars. If he wanted to, he could send  half of Serbia's political elite to the Hague Sheveningen jail for war criminals and the other half to Serbian prisons on charges of corruption, theft, and embezzlement. You don't retire a man like that or send him to a foreign country as an ambassador. The best Milosevic could do is find a balance between Stanisic and Dimitrijevic by bringing them into a wider frame. The resurrected SZUP, as promised by Bulatovic, could be an organization with a wider frame, which brings us back to the beginning of our story.

If he persists in his quest, Bulatovic will face opposition not only in Stanisic, who doesn't like anyone standing between him and the Boss, but also in Dimitrijevic, who won't accept the superiority of a civil institution over his military security service. Apart from all that, the man in charge of the new body would have an incredible amount of power in his hands, and it is less than probable that Milosevic can trust anybody that much. Therefore, Maras and his associates still have no reason to fear Bulatovic's "promise to deliver". The people who dismantled the federal security service are the last people on earth who can put it back together. 

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