THU, 11 AUG 1994 22:05:52 GMT
AIM, BELGRADE, August 11,1994
Milosevic's almost incredible shift concerning the crisis in Bosnia&Herzegovina cannot be described but as a final admission of the collapse of a policy and an almost farcical attempt to leave the sinking ship as soon as possible and with as few consequences as possible. The other characteristic of this shift can be summarized in a single word - failure, since Milosevic's effort did not bring about the results he wished for, and the end of the war is still not in sight.
Instead to second the decision of the "President of all Serbs", Karadzic and his followers dug themselves in and, it appears, are not considering the option whether to adopt the peace plan or not, but rather, similar to their brethren on the other bank of the Drina river, are making preparations to endure the sanctions imposed on them by Serbia for as long as possible. From that point of view, Karadzic is a much better supporter of Milosevic than Milosevic himself, since he is looking for internal reserves, claiming that they can and must endure, because, as he said to his people, "this year has been a fruitful one". One should remember how until practically yesterday, Milosevic even found oil around Serbia and claimed that no computer has yet been invented that could "be outwit the Serbian peasant".
Karadzic has simply remained true to his concept, and had neither sufficient political wisdom nor political power and space to adapt himself and the people he leads to the new situation. Therefore, with an air of a victim which knows what is in line for it, he chose to hold out despite everything, consoling himself with pride and history, and unconvincingly trying to prove that he and his fellow fighters are the ones who are now guarding Serbdom on the barricades. His "case" has become simple and can be reduced down to only two poassiblities - either to hold out in his "cosmic isolation" where only magic powers can help him, or burn down to the end.
The "case" of Milosevic, however, is much more complex. The "President of all Serbs" has got himself in a fix he has never experienced before and he will not find it easy to get rid of. By imposing sanctions on the brethren across the Drina, he annulled all his earlier patriotic speeches and created a large number of enemies among the Serbs, and in return, he seems to be getting very little or almost nothing. There are still no new friends in sight in the international community, which, according to Belgrade media, is not engaged in a general plot against the Serbs any more.
It appears, there will be no lifting of the sanctions as announced. According to Western diplomatic sources cited by independent agencies and other media in Belgrade, the international community considers that the very fact that there is a possibility that the sanctions will not be restricted should be a sufficient reward for him. UN sources also cited by independent media in Belgrade claim that any alleviation of the sanctions is completely out of the question until Milosevic accepts to deploy international military and civilian observers on the right bank of the Drina. The observers would "study the situation" for a while, and then report to the Security Council, based on which it would decide whether the administration in Belgrade really means it when it speaks about imposimg the sanctions against Bosnian Serbs, or whether it is just feigning.
More and more frequently the possibility is mentioned that there can be no lifting of the sanctions until Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) recognizes Bosnia&Herzegovina and Croatia within their internationally recognized borders. That would be an even more severe blow for Milosevic than the very decision on introducing sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs.
Recognition of Croatia and Bosnia&Hewrzegovina seems to have been the major item on the agenda of the meeting between Milosevic and the Head of the UNPROFOR Civilian sector, Serge De Melle, on Monday in Belgrade. The Prime Minister of the Government in Knin, Borislav Mikelic, the Head of the General Staff of the Army of Yugoslavia, general Momcilo Perisic, and the Prime Minister of the Serbian Government, Mirko Marjanovic, were seen entering the building where this meeting took place. This was not mentioned in the curt and bleak statement about the meeting issued from Milosevic's office. According to this extremely dry statement one can also conclude that the Serbian President is not too satisfied with the results of the talks with Mr. De Melle.
Once he decided to be cooperative, Milosevic cannot turn back. He simply has to respond incessantly to the new demands of the international community, convincing it anew that he means seriously what he says. He is, of course, now paying the price of his "I will, I will not" position in negotiations so far in which he actually kept a very small number of promises. With the help of the almighty television where he has absolute power, he might even convince the Serbs in Serbia that the major problem is that Karadzic and his followers did not fulfill any promises they made, but this will not be so easy with the world powers.
The West has certainly realized that Milosevic is in an almost impossible situation and is now insisting on exploiting this fact as much as possible. The USA are especially persistent in it, with its officials still speaking of introducing even more severe sanctions against Serbia, i.e. Yugoslavia.
Although it is quite clear that he has no equal on the domestic scene, because he managed to dismember in time all political groups and factions which were weak anyway, Milosevic's position within the country is also highly disagreeable. On Wednesday, for the first time, the Serbian Orthgodox Church quite openly stepped forward against him, criticizing him for having closed the borders for Bosnian Serbs and accusing him that after all, he wished "to wash hands in the blood of his suffering brethren".
From the very beginning, the Radicals of Vojislav Seselj and the Democratic Party of Serbia of Vojislav Kostunica, are against Milosevic's decision on the Sanctions, and the Democratic Party of Zoran Djindjic is mildly criticizing him because of it. These parties have representatives in the Parliament, but they cannot jeopardize Milosevic's position seriously. A far greater problem for him is the fact that, besides the Socialists, the strongest opposition party in the Parliament of Serbia, the Serbian Renewal Movement, and the Civic Alliance, have supported his step. Both these parties were until recently presented in the media as anti-patriotic, traitors ready to sell the Serbian interests at any time. Suddenly, they are sharing his position, and Milosevic will find it hard to explain to his supporters how come that patriots such as Seselj are actually anti-patriots, and traitors such as Vuk Draskovic are on the right side.
Even if he manages to save himself from this trap, Milosevic will have to face another problem on the next turn. The Albanians in Kosovo, headed by Ibrahim Rugova, are already taking positions in order to use the situation and win statehood. The Sandzak Muslims have also "come to life again", and there will be a number of problems in Vojvodina as well. Then, the turn will come for civil rights, freedom of the media and similar issues which are also connected with the final lifting of the sanctions against Yugoslavia.
It is, therefore, true that there is no political power in Serbia at the moment which could seriously jeopardize Milosevic, but it is also true that political circumstances caused to a great extent by his own doing, are tumbling down on top of themselves threatening to cause uncontrolled chaos. In this sense, President of Serbia is almost completely dependent on the will of the international community and its doubtful readiness to offer him at least a small piece of a carrot, besides the stick.
Karadzic, who has put everyhing at stake anyway, certainly knows this and he is waiting for his former patron to discredit himself completely in the eyes of all Serbs. In this game, he does not really expect, in case of Milosevic's fall, or in case he is forced to retreat, that the brethren from across the Drina will run to his help, but he counts on mitigation of the attitudes and readiness to suffer together.