SUN, 14 JUL 1996 17:28:51 GMT
Serious Shifts in the Army of Yugoslavia
Head of General Staff Momcilo Perisic declared resignedly in mid June that he had no intention of answering questions of journalists, because "...it is better not to talk at all than speak about something which is already known. Things which should necessarily be said would hurt many." This was interpreted as the annopuncement of retirement of Momcilo Perisic, which will, all things considered, most probably indeed take place by the end of the year. Perisic's discontent dates back from the time Slobodan Milosevic introduced the blockade on the Drina. Allegedly Slobodan Milosevic commented on the resignation he had offered at the time by saying that Perisic should have also returned all the ranks he had got during all these years.
AIM Belgrade, July 10, 1996
Belgrade weekly Nedeljni Telegraf recently reported that 126 commanders of corps and troop officers of the Army of Yugoslavia warned in writing Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic that extradition of general Ratko Mladic to the Hague Tribunal "would be another large and immeasurable defeat of the Serb people".
Among the signatories of the petition, as Nedeljni Telegraf claims, were a few generals of corps, but Milosevic has not answered this letter to this day. However, well-informed sources close to the General Staff of the Army of Yugoslavia claim that they have not even heard of the mentioned letter, and that even if it existed it could have been created only by the officers dissatisfied with the latest personnel shifts within the Army of Yugoslavia (VJ).
New Military "Personnel" Policy
The same sources remind that two months ago high officers in charge of morality, legal issues and security, discussed the stance which the VJ should take concerning extradition of officers accused by the Hague Tribunal. In what at moments turned into a vehement discussion, two trends were predominant - the first advocated the thesis that Yugoslav officers should by no means be delivered into the hands of international justice, but if investigation proved that they had committed a criminal act or war crime, they should be tried in the country. The opponents claimed that time had come to obey the will of the international community. The destiny of general Ratko Mladic was also discussed on the occasion, so one party tried to win support and impose a resolute stance towards state authorities.
Those who are more loyal claimed that there was no joking with Milosevic and reminded the others that "everyone knows who keeps the money". The result of the consultations was a compromise - to wait for the decision of the political leaders and abide by it. This caused commotion among the commanding officers, especially those who had combat experience. However, nothing indicated that it had even occurred to anyone to address Slobodan Milosevic with a petition. As it was said, "the letter, i.e. the petition, had there been any or not, is just a reflection of a very bad situation in which Yugoslav armed forces are".
In the meantime, a few generals retired, but a few were promoted, by a decree of the Supreme Council of Defence. The fact that makes this, so far the smallest, castling in the generals' corps, specific is retirement of general Bora Ivanovic and promotion of general Dragoljub Ojdanic. Bora Ivanovic is known for the spectacular breakthrough from the surrounded military barracks in Vukovar, after which he was very quickly promoted to the rank of a general. In the meantime, he was involved in illegal trade with fuel and state-owned construction material. During the investigation which followed, ammunition was also mentioned, as well as contacts with the man of confidence of all Serb secret services, Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, who was at the time the sovereign ruler of the region around Erdut. After a hint that a scandal might break out, President of the FRY Zoran Lilic, swiftly interrupted the proceedings. Retirement of Bora Ivanovic is interpreted as an attempt of the state to sweep the disgrace under the carpet as a bad housewife, and forget about it as soon as possible.
Dragoljub Ojdanic was transferred from the post of the commander of the First Army to the post of deputy head of the General Staff of VJ. In fact, this is not a real promotion, because the post of the commander of the most powerful formation of Yugoslav armed forces is far more important than the office in Kneza Milosa street downtown Belgrade. The real reason for this tranfer is, as analysts claim, intimate connections of general Ojdanic with the top echelons of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the Yugoslav United Left (JUL).
General Ojdanic is also known to be very close with the leadership of the Ministry of police of Serbia, primarily with Radovan Stojicic Badza, assistant minister of internal affairs of Serbia. That is why it is believed that Ojdanic's promotion is closely connected with secret policy of the Serbian police which can be brought down to taking control over personnel policy in VJ. It is assumed that Ojdanic's role is in fact to supervise work of the head of the General Staff Momcilo Perisic, in order to prevent any possibility of opposition to Slobodan Milosevic.
How serious things are is illustrated also by the latest statement of the head of General Staff given during the regular annual meeting with journalists on the occasion of the Day of the Army, June 16. On board the ensign-bearing ship of the River Navy flotilla "Kozara", Perisic resignedly declared that he had no intention of answering questions of journalists because "...it is better not to talk at all than speak about something that is well-known. Things which should necessarily be said would hurt many". Those present almost in unison interpreted this as an announcement of retirement of Momcilo Perisic which will, all things considered, most probably take place by the end of the year.
Who will be Perisic's Successor
In military circles, Perisic is seen either as a modest man, or a bankrupcy manager whose task is to command and not ask much, to be satisfied with the meagre budget which is insufficient even to feed the army.
Discontent of Momcilo Perisic dates back from the time Slobodan Milosevic had introduced the blockade on the Drina, and it reached its climax when Krajina fell. Slobodan Milosevic allegedly commented on the resignation which the head of the General Staff had offered at the time by saying that Perisic should have also returned all the ranks he had been given in the past years.
It seems that the most serious candidate for the post of the head of General Staff is the commander of Air-Force and Anti-Aircraft Defence Ljubisa Velickovic, who did not take part in the war, since he was the head of the Federal Flight Control Administration when the war broke out, where he was promoted to the rank of a general. Velickovic has the advantage because, as claimed, he is by origin from Pozarevac, he is completely loyal to the political leadership and deserves credit for pacification of rebellious military pilots who are not too friendly towards him.
All things considered, whoever takes over command of Yugoslav armed forces will not have a pleasant duty. Vienna agreement on reduction of military facilities in the Balkans will take a big part of the largest military dump (waste in the Balkans off Yugoslavia's hands, but also force it to face the enigma what, where and how to deal with officers and non-commissioned officers who will remain without their jobs.
It is believed that a good deal of personnel from technical services will comparatively easily find employment outside the army. The police will "buy" some of the troop officers, but the state will have to take care about the greatest part of the discharged military men.
Nothing came of the military agreement with Russia which was with much pomp announced by minister of defence Pavle Bulatovic and recently discharged head of the Russian General Staff Pavel Grachov. Although the embargo on armament import has been lifted, a new obstacle appeared in the form of limited funds. Reinforcement of the air-force with a few MI24 helicopters, new MIG 29 planes, engines and spare parts will partly be imported on account of former debts of the Soviet Union to former SFRY. Everything else, as sources of the Russian ministry stated, would depend on Yugoslavia's bank accounts and, as the Russian like to say, "hard currency".
The navy is slowly sailing towards breaker's yard, with a tendency to sell whatever can be sold to private owners for trifles and to reduce its numbers to those which can fit into the new war port Valdanos - two or three frigates, several submarines and other minor vessels.
The army will continue to depend on the skill of local mechanics to maintain the existing combat equipment and systems which are hopelessly out-dated. Pompous undertakings such as production of a new type "Vihor" tank are not mentioned any more.
There are simply no capacities which are capable of establishing production assembly-lines. Military industries are producing nothing, they are almost solely limited to maintenance of the existing resources. Reduction of capacities is planned. Even industry "Crvena zastava" in Kragujevac has announced reduction of production and discharge of workers.
Formulation of a new doctrine of use of armed forces in the new territory and the new political surroundings has also been planned. Although announced three years ago, this process has not been completed yet. All things considered, murmur about Ratko Mladic, Veselin Sljivancanin and comrades, as well as the remaining "national-patriotic" forces, are just external manifestations of a serious sickness. The army has evidently, completed the role which was intended for it. Nowadays, the party in power seems to need it less and less. The police is much more important.
(AIM) Aleksandar Vasovic