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June 15, 1992
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 38
Military Intervention Scenarios

Description of the "Bosnian Storm"

by Milos Vasic

London, beginning of June.

"Watch out for Dubrovnik; watch for the movement of ships." This short sentence was all a man supposed to know whether or not the West is preparing something in the Balkans was willing to say to your reporter. However, this person, a retired Royal Marine Colonel (Cyprus, Borneo, Malaysia) closely related to NATO and WEU military structures and now working as a strategic analyst at the International Association for Strategic Studies in Washington, was more overt in interpreting the political context in which military action could take place. The symbolical and psychological threshold of sensitivity on the part of the international community - otherwise very high - has been crossed by the starvation and devastation of Sarajevo and Mostar, war crimes and obvious chaos which has gone out of control. Also, all of this is happening in the middle of Europe and can neither be ignored anymore, nor left to some Portuguese diplomats, Lord Carrington or Cyrus Vance to take care of. The issue has become the number one world issue: opposition politicians and the media are not accusing their governments anymore; now they are more and more resolutely demanding their governments to act. The Bosnian crisis has become an internal policy matter for the EC and the USA, and that's where it ought to begin, said our source.

The images from Bosnia-Herzegovina have flooded the planet and no-one can act dumb: it is becoming politically dangerous. The American administration is having the greatest pains, because of the elections in November. If President Bush responds to growing public opinion, fueled by brutal TV scenes and even fiercer commentaries in leading papers, he could come to regret it, as President Carter did following the sloppy hostage rescue operation in Iran. "Four coffins and international humiliation would suffice for a defeat at the elections," says an US diplomat in London. On the other hand, Mr. Bush could regret it if he doesn't do anything: his opponents at the elections would keep rubbing his nose in the Bosnian disgrace, since it is so handy and because the public is becoming increasingly sensitive to it. Besides, he could miss an opportunity to teach the Europeans a lesson about "how it ought to be done", to confirm the status of the omnipresent world power and to show to the Islamic Conference that the US is also prepared to help Moslems, even if they have no oil.

The general atmosphere in European institutions is characterized by a desire to end this dirty and unnecessary story as soon as possible, without direct participation, if possible. Nobody is prepared to go out and die in the middle of a Balkan outback, especially if military action could take a wrong course towards some kind of Balkan war (having in mind the Greco-Turkish quarrels, the Albanian question, Macedonia, etc.). On the other hand, the present situation is unbearable: the vital roads to Southern Europe and the Middle East are cut off (it is too expensive and slow to build new railroads and highways via Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria); the medieval situation in the Balkans is politically scandalous and poses a threat to Europe's future in all respects. It is clear to everyone that the present situation in B&H will create a hotbed of permanent instability in Europe, a kind of Balkan Palestine. After all, the situation is very close to this. In the meantime, Europe is looking at the USA and the USA is looking at Europe, and everybody is finding solace in the sanctions.

However, the sanctions are not of immediate help: they can be useful within the scope of Europe's long-range policy, and the determination with which the blockade of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) is being implemented indicates serious intentions. This, however, is neither of help to Sarajevo, which has been starving for weeks, nor to the leaders of the world powers, from which an immediate action is demanded.

The West is in a position to militarily intervene in B&H without firing a single bullet: since the blockade of Sarajevo is a military operation aimed at starving the city into submission, the delivery of food and medicines in not only a countermeasure, but also a challenge to the local armed formations. The matter is very delicate: whoever fires a shot at a cargo plane carrying food or a humanitarian aid convoy, will be harshly condemned by the international community and all people of common sense: such an act would be a crime against humanity and there are no excuses. Such provocation allows any kind of response. Mr. Karadzic, General Mladic and the guys with the mortars around Sarajevo (over whom the two aforementioned gentlemen claim to have control) should bear in mind this fact.

During the "Strategy '92" international conference in London, several military experts and strategic analysts disclosed to your reporter the basic elements of ready-to-use scenarios or of those which are being devised at the moment. All these scenarios are politically based on the symbolical and psychological importance of Sarajevo in the eyes of the world (i.e. voters). The experts say that fears that "Belgrade will be bombed" and so on, which are being spread by the pro-regime media, are groundless: they are all aware that the fact that Mr. Milosevic controls Mr. Karadzic is of no use either to him, or to them, for Mr. Karadzic has control over no-one anymore. Therefore, military action on the FRY territory has no political or logical grounds - as long as the Yugoslav Army stays within its territory.

The pressure points - judging from what could be heard - will be Dubrovnik and Sarajevo (later on, perhaps even Mostar). The first move will be an attempt to deliver food and medicines to one of Sarajevo airports - Butmir (civilian) or Rajlovac (military). If it is assessed that this is too dangerous, the aid will be parachuted or dropped in low flight on flat surfaces. In the case that the planes could land, coordination between the local UNPROFOR troops and an arriving escort is not excluded in order to bring aid by truck into the city. Any of these approaches exposes General Mladic's army to different temptations: the Sarajevo valley is narrow and surrounded by hills held by General Mladic's men; a big cargo plane with food and medicines is a nice target, especially if it's without a fighter escort. It can be expected with almost absolute certainty that the first humanitarian aid flight to Sarajevo will mark the point from which there is no turning back: if anyone fires a shot or (God forbid) downs the cargo plane with food and medicines - the response will be "fierce" and efficient. A fighter sweep of all Serbian positions around Sarajevo could be expected under the protection of electronic countermeasures similar to those used during the Gulf War (or maybe even stronger). This would be followed by the following question coming through diplomatic channels: have you had enough or do you want some more? The next step in the escalation would be the landing of airborne troops, under protection from the air, in order to secure the airhead, and to expand the security zone around the airport and the corridor towards the city. This would be followed by massive arming of forces loyal to the legal government in Sarajevo, because this is the only long-term way to let the local factors take care of the situation. At the same time, the opening of the Dubrovnik theater of operations could be expected: since that is Croatian territory and waters, the Western navy forces should appear there with the consent of Zagreb authorities, and this is an especially delicate issue. Once in front of Dubrovnik, the Western fleet will have a choice: the easiest thing would be to disembark two or three marine battalions for a holiday in the sun and wait to see whether Mr. Vucurevic (President of the so-called Serbian Autonomous Region of Herzegovina) and Generals Perisic and Damjanovic would resist the temptation of firing a mortar shell or two at "Serbian Dubrovnik. If they don't resist, and as far as we know them - they won't - planes from aircraft carriers from Italy and Greece would enter the scene. The next step would (necessarily) be to take control over the road and railroad between the port of Ploce and Sarajevo (via Mostar and Konjic), which are of vital importance to the survival of the legal B&H authorities, since they are the only link with the sea and the world. However, before establishing this corridor, the West should first resolve a political problem with Zagreb, i.e. Mr. Tudjman's regime would have to recognize the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and even more than that, to consent to free traffic between Ploce and Sarajevo, without asking any questions or setting preconditions.

How could the worst (described above) be avoided? Solutions exist, they are being considered, but everybody agrees that they are from the realm of political fiction and pies in the sky. Since we live in such times (everything is possible), we should mention these possibilities as well. The most elegant solution to the B&H crisis would be an agreement between the FRY and the world that the Yugoslav Army should perform some kind of police action aimed at disarming the wild para-military formations, enforcing law and order (at least to a certain degree) and opening the roads and railroads. This would pave the way for negotiations between all parties involved and ultimately, for a permanent solution. It is interesting that this idea has independently been put forward by objective political analysts, both in London and Belgrade (in the beginning of June). This idea, however, remains in the realm of fiction, for it requires a statesman of genius to implement it, and this is exactly what we lack here. Therefore we are doomed to sloppy, third-rate solutions.

First of all, the Yugoslav Army (YA) has to finally dissociate itself from, and make a clear distinction between, itself and the Territorial Defense of the Serbian Republic of B&H (General Mladic's forces). General Boskovic, the head of the YA Security Directorate, told a Montenegrin paper last week that "the YA does not have any connections" with the Serbian forces in B&H, but this claim still has to be proved. If the YA makes an attempt to deliver food and medicines to Sarajevo, this could be taken as proof.

Another, indirect, way relies on democratic changes in Serbia, if they ever happen. A democratic government in Serbia would have to re-formulate the national interest, renouncing the pathological obsession for seizing and ethnically purging multinational territories. Such a government would have to make it very clear to Serbs living outside Serbia that they have been fooled with promises of Greater Serbia. However, this process would be painful and slow, and time is running out and the course of the events speeding up.

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