ISSUE 12 VOL 2 MAY 31, 1995.

Current Developments in Bosnia - Opinions in Serbia

One of the key commentators of the independent Belgrade daily "Nasa Borba", Djoko Kesic, discussed in one of his regular daily columns the current events in both Bosnia and Croatia from the angle of military balance.

The reason it is hard for us to believe any notions, particularly coming as political messages from the world, that peace will come to Bosnia, writes Kesic, is that the peace has not only arrived to Bosnia in this manner on numerous occasions, but also because big powers (as they admit it themselves) cannot agree on the front and back of some kind of peace. Also, the war keeps on raging in Bosnia in full swing. Many serious analysts are seeing these peace messages as encouragement for peace moves of Slobodan Milosevic, who on the other hand will not make a "cheap sale", for the alleviation of only some sanctions.

The announcement of the unification of Croatian and Bosnian Serbs is only a harbinger of more serious conflicts and their insistence in the form of a loud message, that their fate can only be discussed in the direct negotiations with Knin and Pale.

But, a key question comes to the surface -- how much can this unification disturb the military balance of confronted sides in Croatia and Bosnia? Many military analysts will hurry to say that this military alliance has existed before, and that it has only been made public and that there is nothing new there, citing the joint Posavina and Bihac activities. They will also underline that the true test of this alliance has proven to be unfounded, since the fall of Western Slavonia left a dilemma behind -- why didn't BSA intervene, even if that warfront was so close by? This dilemma is actually embraced by another one, which is more ominous and dangerous, which speaks of a possible political game, whose price has been paid mostly by civilians.

As the Croatian war scheme is concerned, it seems that with this Western Slavonian action, comes to an end the strategy of local and limited actions by which "small bites" are made in the Serb controlled territories. Any further attacks of similar ambitions, on Eastern Slavonia or Knin, for example, would bring, not only a much stronger response from Martic's army, but would also put FRY in front of a much greater dilemma, and not only a moral challenge to enter the war. Would that be again a war in which FRY is not participating, or something else, would not be so important. Western military analysts have feared that at one point, since, in spite of the exhaustion of the Yugoslav economy, they think that in the case of an open military conflict of Serbs and Croatians, the Serbs would again come in front of Trieste. These analyses were made even with the facts that Croatia has spent a lot of money for arming its military, that the army budget of Tudjman's state has reached a fantastic sum of 5.3 billion dollars this year, and that it is being instructed by american military experts and that, even with the embargo, it has imported the most modern equipment and arms.

Kesic cites sources in the intelligence service of the Yugoslav army. who told him that the Croatian army has strengthened considerably, that it has consolidated, and that it does not operate anymore as an unruly mob of armed soldiers without a tight command coordination. But, these sources say that Croatians have been able to do this with an infantry motorized group of units of around 15,000 soldiers, while the rest is not trained fully yet, is frustrated by the unpleasant experience of the first two years of the war and is plagued with an unfavorable voluntary response to mobilization.

In the case of an open and frontal attack on the Krajina, Croatia could count on a partly or open intervention of FRY, as well as general Mladic's army. From the strategic military aspect, Croatian territory has a soft underbelly, at which the Serbian forces would cut Croatia in two parts at Maslenica, cutting the South from the main part, and Zagreb itself is only 30 km from the border.

Krajina itself would not have the strength to go alone in an eventual war with Croatia. Maritc's army, as shown by the events in Western Slavonia, falls in the category of armed population, Vance plan drew it away from the warfare, if you exclude the core of special units set up by Captain dragan. Its command corps is "sleepy" and unreliable. The destructive bacteria of corruption, profiteering, contraband and ideological clashes have infiltrated it. Military - political alliance with Bosnian Serbs, if this idea is carried through, but for what a considerable time is necessary, could stabilize Martic's army. It is a general assessment that this will go hard though, particularly due to the personal clashes in the ruling top. It is a big question what is the assignment with which general Mile Mrksic, the new Krajina defence minister came with.

On the other hand, for Balkan conditions, Karadzic's army has a high military order in spite of military losses in the last few months, and is weaned on military successes. The advantage of Karadzic's army is in the continuous four - year war experience and a command corps lead by general Mladic, possibly the most able military operative in this war.

The army top of the Izetbegovic army has been often changed, is underschooled and currently boosted by instructors from US. Its ambition is to take over the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is highly unrealistic, but the forces of the army of general Rasim Delic grow daily. On the other hand, general Mladic's army ran into the trap of large space and is bearing this task with less and less efficacy.

The war between Croatia and Krajina is probably frozen in this phase. For that reason , Radovan Karadzic needs the state and military union more than Milan Martic. Part of Martic's army could cover the empty space of Mladic's military operative. But even with such help, the war in Bosnia can hardly come out of a stalemate. The equilibrium could only be disturbed by a wider intervention of the Croatian army on the side of HVO, which was tolerated by the international community so far, and still does, since a large number of Tudjman's soldiers is fighting in the Glamoc, Kupres and Orasje areas of Bosnia. Considered from that side, the key of further military escalation is in the hands of Croatia and its possible intention to openly meddle in the Bosnian war, the patience of Serbia, ie FRY, to watch all this without open participation, which could happen if Serbs across the Drina river start losing the war.

There are a million soldiers under arms on the territory of former Yugoslavia. This number depends on the oncoming events, and it could be multiplied by two or four, depending mostly on the interests and intentions of the international community; will this war will be concluded, contained or will it spread to Kosovo and Macedonia, and even wider?

This last premise is possible, but not highly probable. Most open possibility is the continuation of the controlled war in Bosnia, with a more open participation of the Croatian army, which will, with stronger and stronger Muslim forces, as the West believes, persuade Karadzic to accept the Contact group plan. All possibilities are open, having in mind that politicians and arms producers have one logic, while every soldier in any of the trenches - thinks of only one thing -- when will all this be over, concludes Kesic.

Source: Belgrade independent daily "Nasa Borba" through the Radio B-92 e-mail news service

One of the chief commentators of the Belgrade weekly "NIN", Stevan Niksic, analyses in his article in the magazine's May 18 issue the consequences of the three years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After three years of the waged war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, states Niksic, everything is still contestable, from the question when and who started it, to the one what is the sum of the material loses (human is unmeasurable) of these three years of the conflict.

The list of questions could go on and on. Still, there are no good and precise answers. Actually, the offered and available answers drastically differ, which is probably logical, or it might not be, depending on whose sympathizers, which side, formulates them. But it is visible now that these differences, just like the conflict line in Bosnia and Herzegovina, do not go any more exclusively by the line of national differences. The level of national homogenization in Bosnia and Herzegovina today seems to be lower than during the period of first multi-party elections, just before the breakout of the conflict.

If by chance the same elections were held now on the territory of the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the party of Radovan Karadzic (SDS) would probably get a lower percent of votes than last time, the party of Alija Izetbegovic (SDA) also, since the Bosnian Muslims are even more visibly divided than the Bosnian Serbs. For example, the Muslim authorities in Sarajevo, who call their compatriots Bosniaks and not Muslims, obviously cannot speak in the name of all Muslims from the Cazin area (Northern Bosnia - Bihac pocket), where there are a lot of supporters of Fikret Abdic, at one time the most popular politician in Bosnia. On the other side, he states that he is not a Bosniak but a Muslim, and denies any legality to the ruling Bosnian team in Sarajevo. Also, Izetbegovic cannot speak in the name of the Muslims from the Tuzla area, who even previously did not completely vote for him.

It is also hard to guess where would go the votes of hundreds of thousands of refugees (a number of 2 million refugees is in circulation) of different nationalities. It is indicative that on the list of traitors According to the valid nomenclature in Sarajevo are practically all those Croats, Serbs and Muslims who have left Sarajevo in the previous years of the war. Everybody who, sooner or later, left Sarajevo, Mostar, Tuzla, Zenica has his side of the story about that.

It is a similar case with Croats from Western Mostar, as well as the leadership of "Herzeg Bosnia", which keeps insisting on the special autonomous status of the territories under Croatian control in Bosnia and Herzegovina and only conditionally accepts the alliance with the ruling Bosniak - Muslim team in Sarajevo, while they are guaranteed the confederation with Croatia. But, on the other side, a larger and larger number of Croats in Croatia more openly criticizes president Tudjman and his ruling HDZ party that they are succumbing to the pressures and blackmail of the "Herzegovina lobby", which could have as a consequence that the Krajina Serbs demand and get for themselves a certain status as the Croats from Herzeg Bosnia.

Three years on, there is in evidence the tendency of the main actors of the military conflicts in Bosnia nad Herzegovina to ignore the elementary facts and to act as totally blind for anything that is not in accordance with their ambitions. For example, Radovan Karadzic insists that Bosnia and Herzegovina does not exist as a state. He speaks only of former BiH. The fact that this state is recognized by more than 80 percent of the countries in the World, including the great powers, permanent members of the UN Security council, does not mean anything to him. Karadzic still insists that his army still has in its regular formations 1,5 million of Serbs, and that 350,00 of them are active, even though it is highly probable that these numbers are highly incompatible with actual state of affairs. Most of the independent analysts and experts estimates that Bosnian Serb army now has five times less soldiers than Karadzic mentions and that, as the Bosnian army is getting better armed, the war luck could change.

But, for the truths sake, all the numbers concerning this ware are another story. If all of them that were mentioned in the last three years were true, it would come out that there is not a living soul in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It seems that the least sense for reality is shown by the Bosnian leaders in Sarajevo. In a recent interview for the spanish paper "El Pais", Bosnian prime minister state that "we are resisting the aggression from Belgrade". The same day, all press agencies were reporting on the attacks of the government troops on the positions of the BSA on Vlasic and Majevica. In other words, Haris Silajdzic still refuses to admit he is in a war with the army controlled by Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. He chose to insist on what suits him due to political and diplomatic reasons: that he is in war with Slobodan Milosevic.

Since leading world countries are more and more counting on a peaceful role of Milosevic in the Bosnian war, it is possible to conclude that by stating that "he is resisting the aggression from Belgrade", in a peculiar way, he is rubbing the nose of that same international community and is tell ing it that Bosnia is ready to go to war against the whole world if it is necessary. Isn't this the same formula used by Radovan Karadzic and his followers, since the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs often lead a war against the whole world. Attempting to answer the question why the US has insisted on the integrity of bosnia and Herzegovina, throughout, the author thinks that this is probably due to the fact that the author of this strategical viewpoint, former US ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmermann, at the time when he envisioned this plan, was the supporter of the idea of multiculturalism and the idea of ethnic cooperation. He also probably believed in the possibility of some sort of reconstruction of Yugoslavia (which definitely disintegrated at that point), but this time on different basis. He seems to have been convinced that this could be done through Bosnia and Herzegovina, and not through Serbia, as the integral element of the Yugoslav community.

Why the US did not defend in the same manner the idea of multiculturalism and multiethnic unity when Yugoslavia was in question, why did it decide to defend the idea of joint life in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo and Mostar, and did not insist that much to persuade Slovenians, Bosnians, Croats and others to live in the Yugoslav union, remained unclear. The Serbs and Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina would get, according to that concept,the possibility to have some form of loose confederal connections with their national compatriots in Serbia and Croatia, which would mean that the greater part of Yugoslavia would be connected again, in some form of a new community of sovereign states in the region of former country. In such a construction, the Bosnian Muslims (the Bosnian/Croat confederation) would be more closely tied with Croats, and in the end, probably integrate into Croatia, which was to represent a form of concession, to the opponents , particularly among the Europeans,of the formation of a separate Muslim state in the Balkans.

In the end, it would only remain that Macedonia, and maybe Slovenia join this state. After three years of the war, many unrealistic plans and sick ambitions have drowned in blood, and their authors and protagonists now show the irresistible tendency to forget all this as a bad dream. They would give everything to drag themselves out of this war, but they do not know how.

Source: Belgrade weekly NIN, May 18, 1995.

In its issue of May 1, Belgrade weekly "Vreme" carried an indicative analysis of its military expert Filip Svarm concerning the internal situation in the top leadership of the Bosnian Serbs.

After full three years of war and refusal of all peace plans, the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs have found themselves in an almost complete political isolation. It seems also that the war luck is turning its back on Bosnian Serbs. In many areas, fighting is intensifying and the members of the Army of BiH seems to have made visible gains (the author cites the situation at the time).

Searching for the answer to the question "what now", it seems there is an evident split between the military and civil leaders of the Bosnian Serbs. Karadzic seems to think that they can go on in this manner and that, sooner or later, the international community or the government in Sarajevo will get tired and sign the deal on Bosnian Serb terms. General Mladic, it seems, does not believe in that anymore. He insists in the formulation of optimal war goals, and, based on them, finishing the war on the basis of negotiations.

Wanting to prove that, if he does not get the wished concessions in bosnia and Herzegovina, Karadzic is announcing reciprocal actions - "whatever the international community does against us, we will do the same against the international community".

In difference to Karadzic who refuses to recognize the UN Security Council and threatens with the third world war, general Mladic met Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, in the company of (then) prime minister of Krajina Borislav Mikelic and the leader of recently self - proclaimed Republic of Western Bosnia Fikret Abdic. It is not known what they talked about; it is only known that one lieutenant colonel of the Yugoslav army brought into the building of the Serbian presidency a batch of maps. Was it the question of overseeing the military political problems and search for military help or about one more "run" through the maps of the contact group as the means of overcoming the current differences among the Serbs and no so enviable situations on both sides of the river Drina. It was clear though that Mikelic is the most loyal Serb politician to Milosevic on the other side of Drina, that Abdic's political fate depends on Serbian interests and that the leaders in Pale did not know a thing about this meeting. That is why the president of the Bosnian Serb parliament Momcilo Krajisnik was not able to downplay the importance of this meeting which came right after the direct clash between the Bosnian Serb civil and military leaders at the last session of their parliament with the statement that general Mladic is often in Belgrade because his family lives there.

On the other had though, it is hard to believe in Mladic's nonchalant spontaneity during the crux of the Bosnian army offensive on mt. Treskavica. There are estimates that the mentioned meeting in Belgrade was a particular pantomime for Karadzic. But, many have considered the initiation of the legal procedure against Karadzic, mladic and former Bosnian Serb police chief Mica Stanisic in the War crimes Tribunal in the Hague as renewed pushing of each other in the lap. It is considered that both of them, if they were put in a situation in which they do not have anything to lose, could attempt a desperate offensive in the form of "all or nothing".

What will happen further: in the "Serbian Republic", on one side there is poverty which is bleeding more and harder on the warfronts, and on the other, a richer and richer caste of "businessmen" and civil authorities. The dissatisfied army has been insisting for a long time on the introduction of extraordinary measures, accusing the businessmen that they are in discrepancy with war goals. Instead of investments in the acquisition of ammunitions they are investing in private affairs. It is also thought that general Mladic has been calming down for a long time the dissatisfaction within the army ranks, but that he came to the conclusion that with such civil authorities, maybe not at the moment but later on, he is heading for a military defeat. To boot though, Karadzic and Mladic, if they want to keep their power it is clear that something has to be changed.

Source Belgrade weekly "Vreme", May 1, 1995.

Monitor Index War Zone MediaFilter