WED, 08 JUN 1994 21:47:35 GMT
The shadow of conflict
AIM, Belgrade, June 6, 1994
What links, and what separates Milosevic and Karadzic? Unsuccessful attempts of Belgrade to discipline Bosnian Serbs so far. Enchantment of Serbian opposition leaders with Karadzic and his influence in Serbia. Possible preparations for a conflict between Pale and Belgrade? What does Milosevic rely on, and what does Karadzic?
There is much between the President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic and the President of what likes to be called Republic of Srpska, Dr. Radovan Karadzic. The differences commence at the very way they look: Milosevic is buttoned up like any laywer or a bankar, and Dr. Karadzic is dishevelled like any psychiatrist or a poet. Neither are their political beliefs the same: the first is an atheist, a socialist, a leftist, and the other is none of that. Their styles of ruling are also different: Slobodan Milosevic addressed the deputies in the Parliament of his state only a few times (for formal reasons mainly) - Dr. Radovan Karadzic, on the contrary, failed to appear at the sessions of his deputies just a few times. Further on, while each public appearance of the Serbian President, being more than rare, becomes a special event for the media, it is difficult to determine who the leader of Bosnian Serbs did not give an interview to in just a single day. Finally, judging by the public diary of Mirjana Markovic, the wife of President Milosevic, one may get the impression that she is by no means a fan of Dr. Karadzic; what Mrs. Karadzic thinks about the Serbian President, is a mystery. And yet, there is a lot these two Serbian leaders have in common. For instance, they both like Russian malcontents and opponents - Milosevic the likes of the former deputies of Hazbulatov and Rutskoi, while writers-machinegunmen such as Edward Limonov or the ultra-rightist Vladimir Zirinovski suit Dr Karadzic better. They also both like all the Greeks in power very much, so much, that although they are the men infamous for having dissolved Yugoslavia and Bosnia&Herzegovina, they offered Greeks a conferderation. But, more than anythiong else, they both love Serbs, but Serbs in a single state, whatever it may take, and whatever the cost may be (the sanctions, the world record in hyperinflation, misery and empoverishment), and when it comes to that, their relations, regardless of all the differences, were harmonious for a long time, simply brotherly.
And yet, the mentioned unification is taking excessively too much time, and money-bags are no brothers, and that goes for Serbian money bags, too, especially because they are growing thinner and thinner. Milosevic is by now ready to legalize what has been accomplished and at least ease the sanctions; if necessary, he will sacrifice the twenty per cent of the territory controlled by Bosnian Serbs the world demands from him. Dr. Karadzic knows it only too well, just as he knows that such an outcome would make a winner out of the Serbian President, but that it would seriously question his own political survival; he would be the one, and not Milosevic, who would have to deal with revolts of those "sold out" from Ozren, Kupres, or Jajce; he would be the one who would have to answer for abondoning the "sacred Serbian land" so much blood was shed for... Besides all that, being a president for two years has become sweet, why should Dr. Karadzic withdraw only for the benefit of further strengthening Milosevic's position. Therefore, are they beginning to get in one another's way, and is settling of accounts between the two to be expected?
For quite some time now, the political gossip deals with who is who in the Republic of Srpska, to be precise, is Karadzic's position firm, does he control general Ratko Mladic or does Mladic control him, and generally speaking, who, among the leaders of Bosnian Serbs, may jeopardize his position (Chairman of the Praliament, Momcilo Krajisnik, Member of the Presidency, Biljana Plavsic, or perhaps some of the regional "hawks", such as Bozidar Vucurevic). There are also speculations about the extent to which Milosevic (when speaking of his power, the issue of most of the discussion is who among the Serbian politicians support him) can in fact influence Dr. Karadzic. Namely, the Serbian regime has in the meantime become a hostage of the Serbs across the Drina River - primarily those in Bosnia&Herzegovina. Until the war is going on there, in other words, while there is no readiness in Pale for making any major concessions to the Muslims, Milosevic's hands are tied, at least when the economic embargo is concerned; regardless of the optimism prevailing at the moment thanks to "Avramovic's" dinar, there is a number of predictions that the third winter under the sanctions would lead the Serbian economy to a total collapse, which would not only extremely weaken the Serbian military negotiating position (when the sanctions were introduced, the world community figured it would have happened much earlier), but it could lead to completely unpredictable internal political consequences, as well.
It cannot be said that Milosevic is not taking it all into account, neither that he did not try to discipline Dr. Karadzic on several occasions. The best example was last year's disgrace connected to the Vance-Owen's plan. Milosevic believed that, as the greatest Serbian authority on both sides of the Drina river, would after all convince the Bosnian Serbs to accept it. But, as they refused to be impressed, pressure was exerted: the letter of the four Presidents (Serbian - Milosevic, Montenegrin - Momir Bulatovic, Yugoslav - Dobrica Cosic, and Greek - Constantin Mitsotakis) appealing to reason, but threatening as well between the lines, their attendance at the session of the Parliament, and Milosevic's statement that the extremely belligerent Biljana Plavsic ("should six million Serbs be killed, at least the other sicx milion will live freely") should be put in a mental hospital, calling the session of a parliament of "all Serbian lands", on the model of Stalin's Information Bureau... It was all in vain. It turned out that general Mladic's word, at least in Pale, was final and executive, that Mrs. Plavsic could afford to refuse to shake hands with the President of Serbia in front of the cameras, that the deputies of the Parliament of the Republic of Srpska could boycott the "all Serbian" assembly. The whole affair too full of humiliation for Milosevic, ended just in forbidding Mrs. Plavsic to enter Serbia and in refusing passage to several trucks from across the Drina, and then everything was quickly forgotten.
Milosevic, in any case, did not attempt to exert again any similar pressure on Bosnian Serbs. To what extent his regime became the hostage of Pale became obvious during the crisis around Gorazde; he was simply forced to answer for something he could not control at all. It is difficult to say what was the share od Dr. Karadzic in it, in other words whether he was dictating the tone behind the scene, or he himself was also pressured by the war lobby in his own ranks - general Mladic, Krajisnik and others who had possibly let him know that noone is irreplacable.
Nevertheless, in the meanwhile, Dr. Karadzic, became a possible uniter of the ever disunited Serbian opposition.
As soon as misunderstandings concerning the adoption of the Vance-Owen plan began, Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, true to his belief in Greater Serbia, took sides with the Bosnian Serbs. It is important to stress that at the time, the Radicals were in extremely good relations with the Socialists, and thet they were the second party in the Republican and the Federal Assembly according to the number of deputies, i.e. that the Socialists could not have ruled without their support. The very minute he took sides with Dr. Karadzic, Vojislav Seselj disappeared from the state controlled media. But, that did not shake him in the least: with great pomp he took off to the Republic of Srpska, met with its leaders, held rallies, awarded his Chetnik dukes, and it was all regularly carried by Pale Television cameras. The outcome of this commotion was that the Radicals obtained political credibility, necessary for their future conflict with the Socialists.
Almost at the same time, the leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica, also expressed unreserved support to Dr. Karadzic, and remained firm about it as he is concerning majority of issues. Finally, Zoran Djindjic, the chief of the Democratic Party, after a significant success of his party at the latest parliamentary elections in Serbia, could not resist the call of the Republic of Srpska. Probably expecting considerable publicity benefits, he found himself in Pale in the night of the "Sarajevo ultimatum", where there was night skiing, and an ox was roasted, and demonstrated that, when the Serbs on the other side of the Drina are concerned, he perfectly fits their policy. Reactions of these parties to the crisis in Gorazde, approving in advance all the moves of Bosnian Serbs brought additional strength to their leaders. The only relevant party leader who did not show any enchantment with Dr. Karadzic, was Vuk Draskovic (Serbian Renewal Movement). But, the solutions he is offering for termination of the war in B&H sound quite utopistic to have any tangible consequences.
So far, Dr Karadzic avoided the support of the Serbian opposition, or, he was extremely selective towards it: he praised Milosevic and the Socialists when elections were approaching, and a part of the opposition in critical moments when it was important to demonstrate unity of "all the Serbs of the world". But, it is much more important that the opposition did not avoid to give him support; namely, it was obvious that Milosevic did not have anyone to rely on, like his Mile Martic as an unquestioning executor of orders in the Krajina, nor could he remove anyone by a decree like he did in the case of Milan Babic, the President of the Republic of Serbian Krajina at the time, when he opposed the Vance plan, while Dr Karadzic seems to be able to count on having support for his policy in Serbia. Especially since the incident in the Federal Assembly, when Seselj practically became the leader of the opposition, and since rumours are growing that early federal elections are approaching, and that the Socialist Government of Serbia is surviving solely on the corruptibility of its new coallition partner - the New Democracy. This means that the Republic of Srpska influences more (or at least equally) the political life in Serbia, than the other way round.
Such trends could hardly be attractive for the President of Serbia. If speculations that he is ready to accept the division of B&H according to the most recent proposal (49 per cent for the Serbs, 51 for the Muslims and the Croats) have any foundation, it is not clear at all how he could ever force Karadzic to accept it, too. Namely, should the leader of Bosnian Serbs agree to it, and his message is quite unambiguous - "We will agree, but if we are given Tuzla and Sarajevo" - all the pressures from Serbia will almost certainly meet with a broad front of those who will be accusing of treason and demand responsibility for the policy which led the state to the worst position in its entire history. There is also the question whether the opposition in Serbia is hoping for such course of events as the only means, unverified until now, in the struggle against the Serbian President? Although there is still no official confirmation of the existence of a conflict between Milosevic and Karadzic, it is obvious that something is happening in silence.
The recent visit of Dr Karadzic to Subotica, if that might have any meaning at all, was not carried by state television, which would have been completely unthinkable before. Then, Goran Percevic, an official of the Socialist Party of Serbia, announced the foundation of a Committee of his party in the Republic of Srpska. There are rumours that Mladic's soldiers, especially around Brcko, are running out of artillery ammunition - i.e. that the supplies from the FR of Yugoslavia are considerably reduced. All that seems to anticipate a replay of the Jahorina Assembly in 1993, but this time thouroghly prepared directly from Milosevic's office. But, Dr Karadzic is not passive either: his statement that he would not condition peace by lifting of the sanctions against Yugoslavia, and that his Serbian Democratic Party is active in Serbia as well may lead to a conclusion that he is ready for completely independent policy. But, there are great chances that the suspected conflict can be smoothed out, i.e. that both of them are intensely searching for a political safety-belt they could throw to each other. If for no other reason, then for the possibility that the Serbian opposition could affect the outcome of their conflict.