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March 11, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 429
The International Community and Milosevic

Minor Leagues

Third rate politicians with second rate jobs getting first rate salaries is approximately how a French paper once described the people who have been entrusted by the international community with the resolution of problems which have resulted in the disintegration of the SFRY.  The French noted this when it was discovered that high representatives of the international community in B&H have achieved fairly meager results, but have far higher salaries than any president of any state, including the presidents of the most powerful and richest countries in the world.  At the time that this observation was made, the Kosovo experience was not yet on the horizon.  Had it been on the horizon, the third rate quality of international representatives (various high and low officials, commissars, envoys, chiefs of civil and military missions) and the policies which the international community implements through them here would certainly have been that much more poignant.

The first rate consequences produced by third rate politicians and the official policies of their countries (this time it is not so much an issue of the results achieved by local politicians who do not even amount to your average construction workers league) are becoming so apparent that certain analysts claim that the behavior of the international community could certainly be included among one of the pillars, or at the very least, supporting beams of Milosevic's regime.  Since the sanctions began and right up to last year's bombing, everything was officially directed against those holding power here, but usually ended up spurring them on and having a positive effect on them.  The same people who implemented sanctions and who ordered the bombing also made various deals and agreements with Milosevic for which the people eventually paid the price.
ELECTIONS ARE COMING: The impulse for reviving the entire story about the all-too-frequently harmful policies conducted by the international community is the recent printing and distribution of the American warrants with the faces of Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, all of who are on the list of Hague Tribunal suspects.  The fact that they are on the Hague Tribunal list has been known for some time, so that the question which is naturally posed is why are those warrants being printed only now.  One of the possible explanations is a matter of principle, pointing to the conclusion that the international community wants to issue a reminder, this time with the American warrant, that none of the potential visitors to Hague has been forgotten and that, as the case of the Croatian General Tihomir Blaksic clearly shows, the Hague fishermen's net is not only reserved for the small fry.  Those who doubt the west's insistence on principles should remember that the anniversary of the NATO bombing of the FRY is approaching, and as time draws on, it looks ever more like a senseless act of madness.  Many reputable western magazines and newspapers are drawing such conclusions in recent days and weeks.  Perhaps that is why the warrant which includes Milosevic could have as its objective to draw attention away from an unpleasant anniversary and toward the Serbian culpability in the entire scenario.

The fact that the west hardly behaves in a principled way when the Balkan Region is at issue has been proven time and again.  From the very beginning of the conflicts in the former SFRY, it was precisely the international community which permitted national leaders with very suspect legitimacy to become respectable partners in international circles, only to direct some of them later to the Hague; then it demonstrated surprising alacrity in giving recognition to states which resulted from the disintegration of the SFRY, despite the fact that many of them did not fulfill even the basic democratic conditions stipulated in the documents drawn up by that selfsame community; everything that the Serbian opposition did throughout the decade was persistently ignored in the West; every political "agreement" with Milosevic and every stay by Mr. Holbrooke in Belgrade was inevitably followed here by a new wave of repression directed at all those who disagree with the policies of the regime,  was followed by the closing of independent media houses and the adoption of laws fit for a horror film, all of which was swept under the rug...

Something similar appears to be happening today when the same individuals who until yesterday were legitimate negotiators and the only partners on the Yugoslav side are now being declared undesirable - that is to say, only desired by the Hague.  Thus, for instance, the Americans, who never actually acknowledged the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, are vehement in their claims that Kosovo is a part of Yugoslavia, and not of Serbia.  The KFOR and UN peacekeepers came to Kosovo with the express purpose of maintaining the multiethnic makeup of Kosovo.  But they are in fact privy to ethnic cleansing, rising crime, political extremism and violence which is all too frequently directed against the peacekeepers themselves.  Or let us take the episode from October of last year.  In that instance the representatives of the Serbian opposition were invited to Luxemburg where they were expected to sign a declaration which, among other things, required them to promise to deliver over to the Hague Tribunal all those suspected of war crimes, one they come to power.  Those same people who have no control over the army, the police, nor over any other instruments of power were being required to do something that some thirty thousand SFOR soldiers, armed to the teeth, have been sucessfully failing to do, or even to attempt to do - i.e. to arrest some of the individuals on the list of Hague Tribunal suspects.  Republika Srkpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik was asked to do something similar (can you or do you want to make those arrests) in one of the western capitals, to which his answer was: if well paid and well quiped western soldiers are unable to do this, how can my very poorly paid and very ill equipped soldiers be expected to do this?

People who have stronger memories will remember that similar posters to the one being printed now were printed in the Fall of 1998, prior to the election in Republika Srpska, when Karadzic's face appeared on warrants pinned to virtually every lamppost in that Republic.  The apparent objective was to remind voters not to vote for Karadzic's parts, SDS.  It turned out that the SDS survived as the strongest party in the Republika Srpska Parliament, with Nikola Poplasen having been elected president instead of Biljana Plavsic.  This probably happened because of the all to aggressive and loud attempt by the international community to suggest to voters who they should vote for.  Regular, or even early elections, might occur this year both in Serbia and the FRY, and analogies with the Republika Srpska situation in 1989 seem very apt.  This seems the reason why the Serbian opposition, which is trying to win partners in the west, is not all too happy about the recently printed posters.

Ph.D. Vojislav Kostunica, one of the most adamant critics of the international community, stated recently that this move is forcing the regime into applying greater pressures against the democratic opposition.  Kostunica noted several months ago that when we are at issue, western leaders frequently behave like supporters of "Marxismus vulgaris," according to the principle "the worse it gets, the better it is."  Supposedly, the worse the situation gets in Serbia, the more likely it is that democratic changes will occur.  And this has been so for ten years already.

President of the Democratic Alternative, Nebojsa Covic, claims that the printing of warrants at this time is "a mistake which will practically sentence Serbia to a battle for life or death."  When VREME asked him to elaborate on this position, Covic said: "Such a decision and a list of other similarly ill-considered moves by the international community have forced the the Serbian regime into sticking by the logic of 'either we stay in power or we lose our lives.'  Mildly put, this is a horrible decision and a very dangerous game that is being played with out people and our state.  It is simply incredible to me that the West keeps making so many mistakes for such a long time, and that all this is accidental."

Nebojsa Covic points to the fact that Dr. Radovan Karadzic was once the only face appearing on similar warrants printed by the same people.  At that time Belgrade advised him to resign in order to save the state and his people.  Now Karadzic and his former advisor find themselves side by side on the same warrants.  "I know no one, regardless of who that may be (and I know how this guy thinks), who would call a fair and democratic election under conditions in which his face appears on warrants pasted to every lamp post in town," the President of the Democratic Alternative states, adding that he personally fears a scenario which the international community appears to be forging.  "These are merely attempts at forcing us into internal conflicts along the bordering hot spots in the South of Serbia, in Kosovo, in Montenegro, Vojvodian, Sandzak...  And later to march in as triumphant rescuers, and not as occupiers."

PINOCHET MODEL: Ph.D. Dusan Janjic, Director of the Belgrade Forum for Ethnic Relations, agrees that many moves made by the international community defy logic.  In the case of the printed warrant which looks fairly comical in terms of technical execution, he sees a message that the international community has no intention of stopping its prosecution of those suspected of war crimes, as well as another form of political pressure on Milosevic who is clearly being forced into a corner.  "It is clear that the international community is not targeting him directly but is using existing crises to narrow his range of operations.  This is yet another factor contributing to the radicalization of our internal political crises," Ph.D. Janjic tells VREME, noting that the tightening of the noose around the FRY President is at the same time a message sent to his socialists who are increasingly nervous at the prospect of less and less power.  Still, the impression is that the west is counting!

 on them in the future, but without Milosevic.  "They are trying to put him in a position of no choice.  All this does not mean that at one point the 'Pinochet model' will not be applied," Ph.D. Dusan Janjic states.

Judging by what Edwin Mroz, Director of the Institute East-West in Prague, said in his recent interview for the Vijesti weekly magazine of Podgorica, such a solution is not at all outside of the realm of possibility.  Mroz also thinks that the position of the FRY President is very bad as far as the west is concerned, although, at the same time, he points out that the west must do a lot more than what it did thus far in order to show that it is serious about wanting to change the situation in Serbia.  "I would like to see some kind of agreement being made with Milosevic, for that is the only way for him to leave in peace.  At this moment such a departure from politics by Milosevic is not acceptable to western powers...  I think that the Serbian people has suffered enough and that Milosevic should accept the finding of a peaceful solution to the crisis," Edwin Mroz told the Vijesti weekly, suggesting between the lines that it is a pity that the world gave up all options of influencing the President of Yugoslavia, only putting the stick on the table, without any carrot.  The pasting of warrants on lampposts means and an end to all communication, although, admittedly, it never excludes the secret forms of communication.

IT COULD BE EVEN WORSE: Nebojsa Medojevic, an economist from Podgorica and a member of the G-17, is quite direct in associating the policies of the international community toward the FRY with the vitality and the long life of Milosevic regimes.  At a recent meeting in the capital of Montenegro, Medojevic noted that only the policies of the international community had been more harmful than the official policies of the Milosevic's regime.  In his interview with VREME, this economist also stated his impression that the international community is clearly not interested in a peaceful transition in this region, nor is it interested in offering support to the opposition.  However, Medojevic insists on a difference between the behavior of the USA and that of the EU.  According to him, the Americans are constantly in search of a partner with whom to "strike a deal," in search of bosses who will carry out their interests.  They are not too interested in democracy, but only that the main political actors should be working for them.  European policies, on the other hand, are increasingly aware of the need for supporting democratic processes and the development of democratic institutions as the only guarantees of stability of a society.  "For years Milosevic was the only partner for the Americans.  If we analyze the moves they made, then it turns out that everything they did was contrary to what they supposedly wanted to do - that with every new move they merely strengthened his position and power.  Whether this was their actual policy or whether he managed to fit into what they desired, I cannot tell.  What I do know is that they got a second Aviano near Urosevac and that under normal conditions such a decision could not have been made without regular democratic procedures in parliament.  After the NATO aggression and everything else that later happened in Kosovo, the Belgrade regime got enormous space for manipulation.  They can convince the people now that the bombing was not intended to punish the regime by the people at large.  They can claim that the entire world is against Serbia, and they can present reform as an incredible success under given conditions," Medojevic state.

Virtually all of our interviewees noted that the policies of the international community can be boiled down to the phrase - why do you say the opposition, when you mean the regime.  In this light, recent moves could be interpreted - why are you talking about democratic elections and working toward a state of martial law.  Ph.D. Srdjan Bogosavljevic, Director "Strategic Marketing," noted several characteristic elements in the policies of the international community toward the FRY.  They rely more on superficial impression than on proven facts.  They base their policies on false information received from suspect sources.  Then they have incompetent people who make bad decisions that result in many mistakes which, as a rule, bring political profit to those who are otherwise claimed to be "undesirable."  Ph.D. Bogosavljevic also mentions that switch-on delay in the international community and the slow learning curve in the international community - the civil war in B&H could have been avoided or stopped through eventual bombing, but the lesson learned there was applied in a completely different situation in Kosovo, where standard secession was at issue.

"There is hardly any consistency in their policies.  Everything is subject to election cycles, momentary interests and narrow horizons, which leads to inconsistency.  The best example of this is the Dayton Agreement.  There was a big hurry in those negotiations because of the election campaign that was upcoming in the US, and there was not much patience or time to devote to Brcko, so that this problem still remains.  Even now you can hear that something significant must happen here until spring, which probably has more to do with their election cycle, than with ours," Ph.D. Bogosavljevic notes.

Whatever happens, third rate politicians will receive first rate pay for working in this region for sometime to come.  Life has lost all criteria sometime ago.

Mutual Sin

"I was convinced that the best path toward a peaceful transition is reliance on people in the regime who did not bloody their hands, but who managed to acquire capital and are now looking for a safe haven and for a possibility to earn a profit.  I thought that this was the weakest cog in the wheel.  By drawing up a list of people who are close to the regime, the international community forced many of them to forge far stronger ties with Milosevic and thus created the strongest possible coalition of mutual sin.  They forced them into fighting for their life, into self- survival, causing everything to become radicalized to such a degree that a peaceful transition is simply impossible," Nebojsa Medojevic told us.

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