Thursday, April 29, 2010


Follow summapolitico on Twitter

The most succinct parable I [the big capital letter I/ ich] have for the disintegration for Yugoslavia I have from my friend Zejlko Djucic, a Serbian, orginally from Bosnia-Herzogewina [as a kid in Germany I always thought that Herzogewina had to to have something to do with Herzog/ Duke - was it full of dukes of all kinds, maybe? - who studied theater in Belgrade and now runs the Tutato theater in the Windy City. His mother told him that - the disingration was well underway - their multi-tribal and ethnic and religious village one Sunday put out tables on the main drag and and demonstratively broke bread together -until a sniper, or the advance guard of one of those roving band
came over a hillside and shot one of them dead - whereupon they all fell upon each other.
As they say, there are tense situations. A longer, half-educated version, below:
[A]   If you regard the several thousand past human history of the region  east of
the Alps, stretching to the Black Sea and south-easterly to Greece, on the right side of the Danube and its numerous waves of occupation by the Thracians, the Celts, the Dalmations, the Greeksand Romans along the Adriatic coast, and then the incursion of a variety of Slavic Tribes, the Ottomans, and some that I forget the Balkans as they became known begin to look like a gradually changing moraine: yet the Danube continues to flow into the Black Sea, the other river, somewhat surprising for those you might expect to flow into the  Adriatic Sea all flow north or north eastlerly direction into the Danube. There was a time it appears that the region was sufficiently well forested to allow those who lived along the river banks to build those rather clunky - by compare to birch bark - dugout canoes. What held the tribes together, chiefly, would appear to have been their languages, which in the case of those known as Slovenes became a merger of Slavic and Latin and Italian and some German.
    As you approach the age of enlightenment and industrialization you noticed the formation of national entities, some of which managed to come out from whatever yoke, be it Ottoman or Austrian. Just looking at the history of a single former Yugoslav province, Macedonia
one can tell the mixture that went into its current formation.
Subsequent to the Napoleonic wars, throughout the 19th and into the 20th century
nationalism began to infuse the various tribes and regions, and as we all recall, the great Austrian writer Franz Grillparzer 

found that nationalism would unleash the worst kind of beastliness, as in fact it
did during the 19th century, but the more so with World War I. Subsequently, in 1921, the first Yugoslav Federation came into being
which was dismemembered by the combined forces of the Italian clowns under Mussolini
and the humorless German in 1941. There was created a vassal fascicst state of Croatia which outdid the Germans in their cruelty and anti-Semitism; the Kosovo Albanians
weren't much nicer. The two main Serbian opposition to the occupation, the Royalist and the Communists fought a famous partisan campaign - the football club, Partisan Belgrad may be the lasting memory of that.
Marshall Tito
became the head of a juggling act of keeping the various provinces
and autonomous regions together. Since Tito became anti-Stalinist after the
murder of his Bulgarian comrade in arms, the famous Dimitrov
Not only that of course, although the nominal founder of the Third World
option to M.A.D. he became - to use the great honest warhorse's words
"our Commie S.O.B." With his death and the renewed upsurge of ethnic and
nationalist identity formation - "ten thousand years of Thracian blood flows
in our vein" I recall reading in Bulgaria in 1980; with a world-wide surge of
neo-liberalism, the end of the cold war, the disintegration was imminent,
although described as having become "cold" in Handke's diary book Am Felsfenster Morgens
he meant peoples relation with each other - it was in fact a tinderbox. Further reason
for it being a tinderbox have to do with the the economic warfare conducted by the Reagan Administration; its two faced program of claiming to support the existence of Yugoslavia while waging economic warfare [see below] - and here the assigning of blame however, so I hope, will give way to what an analyst calls "understanding"  - i.e. I am examining a "cold case" - that dog is dead - how did he die - why does the corpse  look like that - why did so many peoples whose "goodness" and good intentions I do not question [though well I might] arrive at those conclusions [I mean I know some of the answers of course, or at least think I do] and why did they become so vengeful to anyone who disagreed with their position. and if they were editors of magazines, the New York Review, the New Republic, the N.Y. Times Magazine to mention only a few, close their pages to disagreement, including their letter to the editors space.

July 8, 1991

To the Brink, Again
Slovenias face-off with the federal army raises fears of a breakup

As in a school-yard brawl, the opening provocation was a taunt: Independence! Within 36 hours, it had turned into more than a war of words. The struggle between the secessionist republic of Slovenia and the Yugoslav Peoples Army had escalated into a bloody fight, with the two sides trading lethal blows. At least 40 were killed, and many more were injured.

While Slovenia had been proclaiming its separatist ambitions for months, few would have predicted that the situation would career to the brink of civil war. Time and again over the past year, ethnic and political tensions in and among Yugoslavias six republics and two semiautonomous provinces had threatened the country with disintegration. Slovenias quest to extricate itself from the quarrelsome federation to pursue a democratic, free-market course had been relatively peaceful and disciplined. Then came unexpected armed conflict, an eruption raising fears that Europe might be face to face with its first real post-cold war crisis. Yugoslavias breakup appeared to be at hand.

Events took off at a pace that eclipsed even the speed of Czechoslovakias breathless revolution less than three years ago. Last Monday both Slovenia and Croatia vowed to declare independence by midweek, triggering a warning from federal Prime Minister Ante Markovic, who said in Belgrade, We could find ourselves sitting on a bomb, which could blow us all up. His words proved prophetic. The following day the fuse was at least lighted. Both republics proclaimed their sovereignty. In response, during the next 24 hours federal tank columns moved toward Slovenias border-crossing points with Italy and Austria, and the 20,000 central-government troops in Slovenia were put on combat alert.

In Thursdays early-morning hours, following joyous independence celebrations that drew tens of thousands into the streets of Slovenian towns and cities, 40 tanks and 20 armored personnel carriers at a military base near Ljubljana rolled toward the republics capital to secure Slovenias largest airport. Along the way they pushed through and crushed barricades of cars and trucks erected by the Slovenes. Throughout the day federal troops traded artillery and antitank fire with small pockets of Slovenian defense forces and police at blockades across the breakaway republic. Many Slovenian fighters stood their ground, using antitank weapons to shoot down six army helicopters, firing rocket-propelled grenades at several armored personnel carriers and erecting more truck barricades in an effort to halt the tank movements. On Friday the main airport outside Ljubljana was strafed by federal jet fighters firing air-to-ground missiles, one of the few aerial bombardments on the Continent since World War II. Federal planes also destroyed a television- transmission tower and bombed a border crossing into Austria.

Later that day the army claimed to have secured all 27 border posts in Slovenia, and the high command in Belgrade told Slovenian defense minister Janez Jansa that since its objectives had been met, all action would cease. Prime Minister Markovic confirmed that a cease-fire was in effect as of 9 that evening, though outbreaks of fighting continued.

In a series of meetings with the combatants on Friday and early Saturday, the terms of this shaky truce were worked out by the foreign ministers of * Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, who had rapidly been dispatched to Yugoslavia by the European Community. The deal called for three interlocking moves: immediate return of federal troops to the barracks; a three-month suspension of Slovenias and Croatias declarations of independence; agreement by the pro-federal republic of Serbia to end its six-week obstruction of Croatian Stepjan Mesics assumption of the eight-member national presidencys rotating chairmanship.

On Saturday, however, Slovenian president Milan Kucan stressed that there would be no reversal of moves already taken toward independence, only a postponement of further steps. Said Kucan: I can see no democratic way for Slovenia to be a part of Yugoslavia. France Bucar, president of the Slovenian parliament, argued that asking Slovenia to back down was like someone breaking into our apartment, putting us against the wall, then suggesting that we share it.

As the precarious truce settled over the country, it was difficult to predict whether the bloody skirmishing had frightened both sides sufficiently to cool them down and make them resume negotiations -- or the Serbian- dominated armys heavy-handed action would provoke more resistance from Slovenia. Plainly, the Slovenes have no interest in maintaining joint tenancy of their republic -- at least under present conditions. The independence proclamation endorsed earlier in the week stated unequivocally that Slovenia would no longer be a part of the federation and that the Yugoslav constitution would no longer apply. Months earlier, Slovenia had taken other steps to distance itself from Belgrade by approving measures to create a central bank, establish a border police and issue its own currency within the year.

Last week the republic showed every sign of going farther when the Slovenian parliament voted almost unanimously for independence. Immediately the Ljubljana government announced that it was taking control of the borders with Austria, Italy and Hungary, and moved to erect police posts on the frontier with Croatia, which has been open so long that the boundary is uncertain in some places. Slovenia also recalled its representatives to the federal government and parliament, and decreed that customs duties on goods bound for Slovenia would be remitted only to Ljubljana, not to Belgrade.

The desire to carve out a separate state is deeply rooted in the Slovene soul. Because the region shares a border with Austria and, like Croatia, was for centuries part of the Habsburg Empire, the republic feels a greater historic, social and psychological kinship with Western Europe than with the rest of Yugoslavia, which languished under Ottoman rule for much of the modern era. Whereas Serbs, the countrys most populous ethnic group, speak Serbo- Croatian and use the Cyrillic alphabet, the Slovenes speak Slovenian and use a Latin script. The Serbs observe the Eastern traditions of the Orthodox Christians, while most Slovenes are Roman Catholic. We have no place in a Balkan nation, says Vladimir Mljac, mayor of Lokev, a town near the Italian border. We have no choice but to leave it.

For all the cultural differences, the main engine propelling the separatist cause is economic. As the most prosperous of the republics, Slovenia no longer wants to support less developed parts of the country and prop up wasteful federal policies. The poorer parts of Yugoslavia have commanded the richer parts for too long, says Toman Bojan, a restaurant worker in the northern seaport of Piran, which has lost its Italian tourist clientele since ethnic hostilities erupted earlier this year. For nearly a decade, Slovenes have squirmed as state funds have been squandered by the Serb-dominated federal government to suppress, among other things, the Albanian majority in Kosovo province -- a fight in which Slovenes feel they have no investment.

More recently they have been angered that the free-market reform program championed by Markovic has been undermined by other republics, including Serbia, whose leadership is still dominated by communists. Weve been sending a lot of money to Belgrade for a long time, and we never see any of it come back here, complains Slavica Saver, who owns a TV-repair shop in the village of Sempeter on the Italian border. After last weeks hostilities, Slovenes see only more evidence of the folly of sending off their hard-earned dinars. We bought them tanks and guns, says Franci Mavric, a taxi driver in nearby Sezana. Now they want to kill us with them.

Of all the republics, Slovenia seems in the best position to make a success of independence. Unlike Croatia, which has to worry about a militant Serbian minority, Slovenia has an ethnically homogeneous population. The economy, which produces 25% of Yugoslavias exports, has the potential for self- sufficiency. Although output shrank 9.6% last year, per capita production for Slovenia is more than twice the Yugoslav average and on a par with that of the poorest members of the European Community. Slovenes are not unaware of the economic pitfalls, however. Whether we can really be independent, says Bojan, depends on whether were recognized abroad or not.

Mindful of their need for foreign aid and investment, Slovenes have proceeded cautiously so as not to alienate potential donors and business partners. They know that Europe and the U.S. fear that civil war in Yugoslavia could inflame ethnic conflict in other nascent East European democracies. Even as Slovenia declared its independence, it struck a conciliatory note, expressing interest in possible forms of association that would enable Yugoslavia to stand as a loosely knit confederation.

But the army action last week added physical menace to the federal governments intransigence in discussing liberal arrangements that might accommodate Slovenia and Croatia. Serbia, the largest republic, is bent on keeping power centralized in Belgrade. Given the ethnic tensions between Croatians and Serbs in Croatia and between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, Slovenia had looked like the last place where military action would erupt. Since May weve been doing a lot of exercises, says Miran Kralj, a Ljubljana machinist and member of the Slovenian militia. But none of us expected anything like this.

Slovenia became the target in part because it pressed more than Croatia in its bid for independence. Ljubljana announced outright secession, whereas when Croatian officials declared independence, they hastened to reassure Belgrade that they still regarded their republic as part of the federation. In any case, the militant Serbian minority makes secession more difficult for Croatia. If its 600,000 Serbs have their way, it is they who will be seceding from Croatia, not Croatia from the federation. Last week four were killed in the republics ongoing ethnic struggle, bringing the years death toll to 32. With energy diverted to maintain the fragile peace, Croatias leadership has been slower than Slovenias to take administrative steps to seal its separation from Belgrade.

But the primary reason why the 180,000-strong Yugoslav Peoples Army singled out Slovenia rather than Croatia for punishment was that Slovenia was a far easier mark. With fewer than 2 million citizens concentrated in an area half the size of Switzerland, Yugoslavias northernmost republic offered a more contained target. Full-time soldiers of the fledgling Slovenian defense forces number only 300, even though the republic claims it can call on 70,000 reserves and can arm 40,000.

Given the small standing force, it is remarkable that the Slovenes did not buckle under the federal armys first assault. The army, for its part, had much to explain. The use of air-to-ground missiles on Ljubljanas airport seemed something of an overkill, given the purported objective of restricting access to Slovenia. More inexplicable still, federal jet fighters were reported to have fired on civilian trucks and trespassed into Austrian airspace.

Federal tanks also rumbled into Croatia last week, but there was no fighting. If negotiations between Slovenia and the federal government resume and Ljubljana gains some concessions, the Croatians may push more forcefully for independence. But the militarys firm action might have quelled Croatias appetite for confrontation -- which may have been the armys aim in the first place.

By weeks end in Slovenia, tensions remained high as citizens awaited the promised return of the Yugoslav troops to their barracks. Although the initial armed conflict appeared to be winding down, there was scant hope the differences could be worked out in any quick and clean way. Slovenes were undoubtedly dismayed -- and perhaps perplexed -- that Croatia alone had acknowledged it as an independent state; the U.S. as well as the European Community refused to recognize the Ljubljana government. Slovenian resentment of the armys overzealous campaign may also build. There was speculation that to ease the anger, senior officers might be held accountable for excesses of violence once order was restored.

The most encouraging sign was that many of the 500 federal soldiers taken prisoner by Slovenian forces had actually given up and turned themselves in. A lot of those who surrendered are hungry and have spent the last weeks living in an information vacuum, said Slovenian defense minister Jansa. They just want to go home as soon as possible. For Slovenes, that happy prospect cannot happen soon enough.

Reported by James L. Graff/Ljubljana


July 22, 1991

Back to Serbia TIME Trail homepage

Deadly Enmities
Serbia and Croatia are spoiling for a fight kindled by old hatreds. The skirmishing has already begun, and chaos looms closer

Any remaining hopes that the new Europe might achieve a peaceful inauguration are being dashed in the Balkans by the age-old persistence of bad blood. Slovenias bid for a separate identity had murderous results: at least 64 deaths in the course of one of the largest military engagements in Europe since World War II. But the confrontation between Serbs and Croatians, Yugoslavias two largest ethnic groups, bodes far worse: a clash that will in all likelihood compound Slovenias sorrow and the countrys problems. With the death toll already greater than in Slovenia, the looming Serbo-Croatian showdown has all the potential finally to sunder Yugoslavia and plunge the region into chaos.

The flash point of that deadly enmity over the past few months has been the secession-minded republic of Croatia, which counts 600,000 Serbs among its 4.6 million citizens. The majority of the Serbs are so well integrated that they voted in favor of Croatias independence from the federation in the May 19 referendum. More radical members of the Serbian minority, however, intent on preserving ties with Serbia, are stepping up a guerrilla war in Croatias northeastern region of Slavonia and the southern pocket of Krajina. Their goal is a Greater Serbia that would engulf Serbian enclaves that make up as much as a quarter of the territory of Croatia; arrayed against them is that republics ambition to cut ties with Serbia and form a separate nation with its borders intact. Serbs are staking their claim by military means, and they are being answered in kind. In Knin, 200 km south of the Croatian capital of Zagreb, Kalashnikov-carrying members of the Krajina militia mill about a town darkened by the shadow of war. Armored personnel carriers of the Yugoslav army rumble through streets lined with shops that have been boarded up since ethnic rioting there in May. In Glina, 140 km farther north, Croatian policemen have been cornered in their headquarters since June 26, when paramilitary forces under the command of the towns Serbian mayor, Dusan Jovic, hit the building with grenades, killing a police reservist and wounding two others. The post commander says 16 of his colleagues were taken hostage in the attack and have not been seen since. Now army tanks surround the police compound. Theyre supposed to be here to keep the peace, but their turrets are turned toward us, says the commander, who is fearful of collusion between Serbian army officers and the local Serbs. In Slavonia fire fights between Croatian security forces and Serbian paramilitary units are escalating, reaping a death toll that threatens to inure the region -- and the country -- to violence as a commonplace. Last week a policeman was killed in a shoot-out with a Serb barricaded with his wife in a house in the city of Osijek; the Serb too died, and his wife lost a hand trying to toss back a police grenade.

For centuries Croatians and Serbs have been alienated by divergent religions and cultural traditions. The Eastern Orthodox Serbs bore the yoke of Turkish rule for more than five centuries, while the Roman Catholic Croatians answered to Habsburg Vienna. Their differences didnt flare into violence, however, until they joined in a common state in the wake of the crumbling Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires after World War I. Each peoples history of Yugoslavia between the world wars consists of perceived outrages by the other. By 1934, when an assassin dispatched by exiled Croatian fascist Ante Pavelic gunned down Yugoslav King Alexander in Marseilles, the prospect of a united country of the southern Slavs was hopelessly tattered.

At the top of the list of wrongs that todays Serbs and Croatians are determined to avenge are those committed during World War II that cost the lives of an estimated 1.7 million Yugoslavs, more than 1 million of them at each others hands. The Serbs have vivid memories of Pavelics 1941 founding of the fascist Independent State of Croatia, whose Ustashi units pursued a genocidal policy against the Serbs that even the Gestapo characterized as bestial. Serbian partisans, built around monarchist remnants of the Yugoslav army, answered with merciless war on the Ustashi and Croatian civilians, often with arms provided by the Germans, who were more than happy ^ to let Serbs and Croatians kill one another.

Josip Broz Tito smothered the enmity after the war by imposing a centralist communist regime based on the principle of brotherhood and unity. Since Titos death in 1980, each side eagerly cites the dictators legacy as evidence of its own persecution. Serbs point to Titos Croatian origins and say his policy of suppressing nationalism was aimed primarily at keeping the Serbs down; Croatians cite the preponderance of Serbs in military, police and government posts as proof that Croatians received short shrift.

Every new report of deaths hardens each sides conviction of the others perfidy and gives added momentum to the vicious cycle of killings and reprisals. At the headquarters of the Krajina militia in Knin, a wiry man wearing crisp combat fatigues who gives his name only as Captain Dragan points to historys crackling presence. You have to remember that 600,000 Serbs were slaughtered here, he says, citing a figure for the civil-war toll that historians have never fully established. Theres still fear of an independent state of Croatia. Im just here to ensure the Serbs stay safe. The head of the Serbian militia, Milan Martic, the former chief of police in Knin, says he has 7,000 men in uniform and an additional 20,000 in reserve. But his biggest ally could be the Serbian-led Yugoslav army, which has been deployed in parts of Croatia since the spring, ostensibly to separate the belligerents but increasingly taking the side of the Serbs. We are working together, Martic says of the army. We have a common enemy -- fascist Croatian forces.

It is that alliance of the army and Serbian guerrillas that Croatians fear the most. As the outlines of the debacle in Slovenia became clear, the army mobilized a reported 200,000 primarily Serbian reserves and beefed up its strength at bases along Croatias eastern border, where the army is now poised to intervene on behalf of Croatias Serbian enclaves. Says Hido Biscevic, editor in chief of Vjesnik, Zagrebs most influential daily: The army and the ruling parties in Serbia want the salvation of Yugoslavia if possible, and if not, the creation of Greater Serbia.

Either option translates into war with Croatia. Franjo Tudjman, the republics nationalist leader, who was elected in May 1990, steeled his peoples will in a television address early last week. Said he: Croatia never can and never will tolerate a Greater Serbian appetite for Croatian territory.

The patchwork dispersal of Serbs and Croatians in Krajina and Slavonia makes any solution short of war hard to envision. Croatians are certainly in no mood to forgo the contested regions in exchange for peace. Mario Nobilo, a spokesman for Tudjman, points out that only 15% of Croatias Serbs live in Krajina and that there is a Croatian minority in even the most Serbian enclaves.

The prospects are even more vexing in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the buffer republic between Croatia and Serbia where sizable Serbian and Croatian minorities live among more numerous Muslims. Predominantly Serbian areas in the west of the republic last month proclaimed their own union with Krajina, across the border in Croatia. Bosnia-Herzegovina s president, Alija Izetbegovic, fearful of being left to face Serbian nationalism alone, has suggested that if Croatia and Slovenia secede, his republic will follow.

As unyielding as Croatia sounds, Serbia under its communist leader Slobodan Milosevic has proved to be unsurpassed in making enemies of all its Yugoslav neighbors except ethnically Serbian Montenegro to the south. Ethnic Albanian troops from the province of Kosovo, victims of persecution by the Serbs, have displayed little enthusiasm to do the central governments bidding against Slovenia, and could bolt en masse in the face of similar plans for Croatia. Despite the European Communitys fragile peacekeeping efforts in Slovenia and Croatia, a grim logic of retribution has taken hold in Yugoslavia, threatening to send the region careening out of control.

With reporting by Daniel Benjamin/Knin


September 30, 1991

Flash of War
The Balkans ignite a new European crisis as Serbs and Croatians open full-scale civil war

Not long ago, the reputation of the Balkans as the tinderbox of Europe seemed to have faded. Now the region is once again in flames, igniting fears of a broader conflagration. For years, Yugoslavia was the acceptable face of communism: estranged from Moscow, a pioneer of peaceful coexistence with the West, a country whose rugged Adriatic coastline attracted tens of thousands of vacationers. But last week that idyllic image was irreparably shattered. After three months of ethnic skirmishing, hapless Yugoslavia erupted in the first full-scale war in Europe since 1945. The fighting between federal forces and breakaway Croatia gave Europe and the world beyond a stark reminder of the regions capacity for violence.

The Serb-dominated Yugoslav military threw itself into the conflict with a will. Federal gunboats boomed off the Croatian coast as warplanes and artillery opened fire on targets across the secessionist republic. A massive column of federal battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and 155-mm howitzers set out from Belgrade to assault Croatias eastern wing, which borders on Serbia. In another action, two columns of federal reservists marched into Bosnia-Herzegovina, shattering the tense calm of that buffer state with its explosive mixture of Serbs, Croatians and Slavic Muslims. When an oil refinery blew up under attack in Osijek, Croatias key city in the east, it became clear that a region long dormant had loosed a volcano of passions.

For the first time, the conflict was brought home to Zagreb, Croatias capital, which howled with air-raid sirens and rattled with sniper fire. For the first time, too, the emergency came truly home to Western Europe. After the fourth attempt by the 12-nation European Community to arrange a cease-fire fell apart almost instantly, the U.N. Security Council considered an attempt at peacekeeping. There may be little time to waste. An old infection -- Europes original sin of tribalism -- is once again raging out of control in the Balkans. Since the Continents nationalist frenzies had drawn the U.S. into two world wars during this century, Washington sat up and took sharp notice as well.

In Yugoslavias strife, the E.C. has been haunted by a feeling of deja vu. More than a century ago, Otto von Bismarck gazed on another Balkan crisis -- the collapse of the empire of Ottoman Turkey -- and shrank from getting militarily involved. In the Iron Chancellors view, Germany had no interests there that would be worth the healthy bones of a single Pomeranian musketeer. Though Serbian nationalism went on to ignite the First World War, the E.C. last week seemed to feel much as Bismarck had. At an emergency session in the Hague, the Communitys foreign ministers rejected the idea of committing a buffer military force. The rejection prompted three other countries -- Canada, Austria and Australia -- to call on the U.N. to step in. When France and Germany joined the appeal, it seemed Europe was about to shirk a responsibility -- one that, in the end, might devolve on American leadership.

Yugoslavia today is not the Balkans of 1914: no great powers are struggling for advantage in the peninsula. If powerful Serbia were allowed to walk over Croatia, however, it might encourage aggression elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The Yugoslav army insisted that it wanted only to relieve its posts under siege in Croatia, but the firepower it deployed -- and its marches into Bosnia -- looked more like Serbian expansion. While Bosnia was frantically mustering a defense force of its own, two frontline Croatian towns, Vukovar and Vinkovci, came under heavy fire as tanks advanced on Zagreb.

The extraordinary nature of Yugoslavias crisis became clear when Stipe Mesic, the countrys nominal President and a Croatian, urged federal soldiers to desert and join the people. According to Belgrade news reports, moreover, federal Prime Minister Ante Markovic tried and failed to force the resignation of Defense Minister Veljko Kadijevic on grounds that the Yugoslav Peoples Army, in waging open war on Croatia, had proved to be neither Yugoslav nor of the people.

Slobodan Milosevic, Serbias crypto-communist president, has steadily usurped federal authority in championing the resistance of Serbs in Croatia. As Croatians see it, his goal is to swallow up Serb-inhabited territory in the separatist republic. Milosevic might have met his match, though, in Franjo Tudjman, Croatias fervently nationalist president. After the assault began, Tudjman offered to restore food and utilities to surrounded federal barracks in Croatia, but Kadijevic rejected the offer as inadequate and cynical. Dressed in combat fatigues, Tudjman vowed to fight and defend our homeland, and added angrily, I think it is time for Europe to wake up.

Was Europe sleepwalking? In many ways, yes, according to a number of critics. Western Europe did not want to ignore lessons of the past. If it cannot help restore order in Yugoslavia, it fears that reawakened ethnic rivalries may catch fire throughout the decommunized East. But in this, the first security challenge it has ventured to handle alone, the E.C. had to wonder finally if it was equal to the task. And strains over how to act in the East were sharpening old jealousies in the West, threatening the E.C.s cohesion.

While Germany has argued for a more decisive approach -- despite its own purported constitutional ban on deploying troops beyond NATOs boundaries -- Britain and the Netherlands viewed Bonns rhetoric as grandstanding, a ploy to extend German influence in Eastern Europe. The French, meanwhile, seemed torn between their desires and what makes sense, as a senior Italian diplomat put it. Francois Mitterrand dearly wants a distinct West European defense identity, but the French President has a Bismarckian distaste for the Balkans. These countries, he fairly snorted two weeks ago, have been at the origin of several great wars into which we were then dragged.

Jacques Delors, the E.C. commission President, lamented that the E.C. is a little like a child confronted with an adult crisis. At the same time, Lord Carrington, chairman of the E.C.-sponsored Yugoslav peace conference, voiced the widespread conviction that little more than jawboning could work. After last weeks cease-fire began to unravel, the former British Foreign Secretary noted wearily, In the end, the only thing that stops violence is when the people involved want to stop it.

Serbs and Croatians plainly were not in the mood to stop it. At the meeting Carrington conducted in Igalo, a seaside resort in the small Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, Milosevic and Tudjman glared at each other fiercely and refused to exchange a word. The agreement they signed never had a chance. When he returned to Zagreb, Tudjman fired his defense minister, Luka Bebic, for carrying out the cease-fires terms prematurely -- and the belligerents leaped at each other again.

Along with Slovenia, its sister western Yugoslav republic, Croatia on June 25 declared independence from the polyglot state cobbled together by wartime communist resistance leader Josip Broz Tito. Ancient enemies, Croatians and Serbs had dangerous scores to settle. One-eighth of Croatias 4.75 million people are Serbs, and super-Serb Milosevic offered them a cause. Serbian guerrillas have seized perhaps one-third of Croatia -- mostly in the lowland east neighboring Serbia and in the boomerang-shaped republics coastal south. The heavily Serb-officered federal military has aided and probably armed them right along, but it avoided large-scale attacks until last week.

The turning point came when Croatian militia units laid siege to Yugoslav army garrisons in the republic and cut off power, water and food supplies. Federal soldiers inside responded with artillery, shelling civilian neighborhoods around their bases at random. Yugoslav MiG-21 fighter-bombers streaked over Croatia, and gunboats threw up a blockade of the republics long coastline, pressing in with bombardments of major Adriatic ports, from the medieval stoneworks of old Dubrovnik north to Split, Sibenik and Rijeka.

Western officials did not exempt Tudjman from fault. Said a U.S. diplomat: The Croatian government is far from blameless or democratic, and it has severely discriminated against Serbs living in Croatia. But Milosevics aims are expansionist, and success on his part threatens to undo everything the E.C. stands for.

Mitterrand, on an official visit to Germany, argued that Yugoslavia must not be allowed to poison European cohesion. But beyond whatever precedent it was setting for the fragmenting U.S.S.R. and other parts of Eastern Europe, the crisis was already seeping venom into the West. The main rubs: How could the E.C. enforce a peace, and what kind of peace did it want? With French support, German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher undertook to jump- start a rusting security mechanism, the Western European Union. Consisting of nine E.C. members -- Denmark, Ireland and Greece do not belong -- the WEU was garaged soon after it was created 43 years ago, when U.S.-led NATO assumed its functions. But France sees it as a vehicle for an autonomous West European security role, and Genscher had hoped it would sponsor a peacekeeping force.

Policing a cease-fire, however, depended on gaining a cease-fire, chances for which were going up in smoke. Ultimately, the WEU was asked to study how to improve protection of the 200 unarmed E.C. civilian monitors already in Yugoslavia. The union is in a poor position to do more: it has no military command structure or troops at its disposal. Any West European force that might intervene would surely consist of British and French troops in the main, supported by NATO logistics.

Washington still insisted late last week that it was sticking by the E.C.s leadership in exploring peace options. But Britain remained opposed to sending peacekeepers without a peace to keep. Unless all of Yugoslavias factions invite such a force, said British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, an open- ended commitment is doomed. Hurd argued for economic sanctions, perhaps an oil embargo.

Would the U.N. commit troops instead, then? Though France would welcome such a move, it was not optimistic. An outside chance was that the U.N. would act by choosing to see Croatia as a discrete nation being invaded. Yet Germanys threat to recognize Croatia and Slovenia -- a threat Bonn dropped two weeks ago -- has been the biggest sticking point in Europes handling of the crisis. Among other things, Britain fears emboldening other ethnic separatists such as restive Slovaks in Czechoslovakia and Basques in Spain.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek, the E.C. President, condemned the idea outright last week. In acid remarks clearly aimed at Genscher, Van den Broek said, It is easy from behind a desk to recognize Slovenia and Croatia and leave the rest of the work aside. According to Dutch officials, moreover, their government moved to call the WEU meeting only to force gun-shy Bonn to put up or shut up on the proposal to commit troops. About Genscher, a British diplomat cracked, In his pursuit of the Nobel Peace Prize, he has been grossly irresponsible. Britain and France expect that 30,000 to 40,000 troops would be required to keep Yugoslavias combatants apart.

Yet hopes for anything short of intervention were not good. Susan Woodward, a fellow at Washingtons Brookings Institution, criticized the E.C. for waiting too long. The storm has been gathering for months, she notes, but only when fighting broke out in June did the Community attempt to set up a peace conference. Mitterrand said in Germany last week he did not see it as the end of human progress if we reconstitute the Europe of tribes. But would tribal Europe, starting in the Balkans, overtake and drown the tolerant Europe of ideas?

Reported by James L. Graff/Zagreb, William Mader/London and Frederick Ungeheuer/Paris


March 16, 1992

Back to Serbia TIME Trail homepage

Fear Holds the Balance
Amid barricades and fractured loyalties, Bosnia-Herzegovina votes for independence
By JAMES L. GRAFF Sarajevo

That the spark should fly at a wedding was cruel chance. For months Serbian politicians, both within predominantly Muslim Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Serbia, had agitated against a referendum on whether Bosnia-Herzegovina should follow Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia into independence. When the father of the groom was gunned down after emerging from a Serbian Orthodox church in the mostly Muslim old quarter of the capital, Sarajevo, the republics Serbs were ready. Within hours, they began erecting barricades of cars and buses throughout the city. Muslims followed suit, and after a night of sporadic gunfire, Sarajevo was left cut off and bristling with tension. Many feared that this was the beginning of civil war in the heart of Yugoslavia, where a jumbled ethnic mix of 44% Muslims, 31% Orthodox Serbs and 17% Catholic Croats promised a conflagration far worse than the war in Croatia.

The Serbs put up an impressive show of force. But they clearly had not reckoned with the thousands of unarmed citizens who marched on the barricades, calling for peace as hooded gunmen fired over their heads. Im not afraid of the bullets, Im afraid Ill lose my city, said Boris, 25, a student who shares his mixed origin -- in his case a Serb mother and Croat father -- with many other Bosnians. Intimidation having failed, Serb representatives reached an agreement with the government that soon brought down most of the barricades.

Amid persistent rumors of ethnic armies on the move, the air of crisis dissipated only slowly and never completely: by weeks end clashes in Sarajevo and elsewhere in the republic had left at least nine people dead. Undeterred, tens of thousands of Bosnians rallied for peace in Sarajevo and seven other cities. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, a Muslim who has shown a talent rare among current Yugoslav leaders for easing rather than heightening tension, told Le Figaro, the French daily: There is a balance of fear, and I believe that for the moment, fear is conducive to peace.

Strong support for independence among Muslims and Croats brought a turnout of 64% of registered voters, virtually all of them in favor of the referendum. Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Serbian Democratic Party within Bosnia and a close ally of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, had called for a boycott of the vote, deeming it illegal. Nevertheless, Western diplomatic sources estimated that as many as 15% of Serbs disregarded that plea and voted yes.

The referendum vote fulfills the conditions for diplomatic recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina set out in December by the European Community. But the decision about when to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovinas independence is not a straightforward one. Crucial issues of Bosnias internal organization remain unsettled and possibly explosive. The republics ethnic leaders, meeting under E.C. auspices in Lisbon late last month, agreed in principle that Bosnias external borders should be left intact, while within those borders more autonomy and political power should go to the nationalities. Talks resumed in Brussels over the weekend to flesh out specifics of that still fuzzy framework.

With so much riding on the outcome of those talks, diplomats are pondering the most opportune moment to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina. Said a Western diplomat: If we wait until after the agreement is set, we give the Serbs the chance to veto us by drawing out the negotiations. Moving to recognize beforehand, however, could further nurture the Serbs entrenched sense of being victims of history and particularly of the West. Said Karadzic: If the E.C. pushes this, no one will be able to prevent civil war in Bosnia.

In that charged climate, Izetbegovic talks of rebuilding a civil society in Bosnia, where allegiance to the state would supplant the divisive nationalisms let loose in the wake of communism. Serbian leaders deem that stance a hollow altruism, coming as it does from the leader of Bosnias Muslims, the most numerous ethnic group. You cannot tell a Serb he is first a Bosnian and second a Serb, says Milorad Ekmecic, a history professor at the University of Sarajevo and an adviser to Karadzic. There is no room in our minds to forget anything.

Ethnic Serb and Croat politicians alike are pushing for clear zones of control within Bosnia, but not even the most filigreed boundaries would separate nationalities entirely, and smaller ethnic enclaves would only serve to worsen the position of minorities. Fikret Bajric, president of the municipal council in Mostar, an ancient city 130 km southwest of Sarajevo, fears outright division would encourage the temptation to resort to genocide to make enclaves ethnically pure.

That leaves Bosnia with the onerous task of finding a so far elusive middle way between civic unity and national division. The presence of 100,000 troops of the Yugoslav federal army will complicate that process. But this weeks arrival of the command staff of the United Nations peacekeeping force for Croatia could have a pacifying influence. Though the U.N.s 14,000 troops have no mandate in Bosnia, special envoy Cyrus Vance last week stood firm on plans to headquarter the U.N. command in Sarajevo. Perhaps the presence of an international force can open eyes too long narrowed in ethnic hatreds.

August 23, 1993

A Familiar Game: Cat and Mouse
While the Serbs fine-tune their siege of Sarajevo, NATOs attack squadrons remain on the ground

Will the Serbian conquest of Bosnia and Herzegovina end with a bang or a whimper -- the crash of bombs or the fade-out of NATOs threat to attack? The answer depends on a dozen conflicting motives, but most of all on the Serbs. Once again the confident Bosnian Serbs are playing the U.N. and NATO like stringed instruments. The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, last week eased the strangulation of Sarajevo a notch, calculating how much would be just enough to make the U.S. and its allies hold fire.

The cross fire of threats, bluffs and assurances over the former Yugoslavia is confusing -- often intentionally so -- but the Serbs have obviously figured it out. They have concluded they are safe from air attack if they do not fire too many artillery shells into Sarajevo, if they allow a few small convoys of humanitarian aid to enter the city and if they pull back a bit from the mountaintops they recently captured to complete their encirclement of the Bosnian capital. They met those minimum requirements last week when they moved behind agreed withdrawal lines Saturday and allowed U.N. peacekeepers to patrol the area. It worked. NATO strike planes did not take off.

Even so, the war talk goes on. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, reversing his July judgment that Washington was doing all it could, declared flatly, It is in our national interest to prevent the strangulation of Sarajevo. In Brussels, the NATO allies worked out a list of Serbian military targets and completed arrangements on which air units would go into action and how the chain of command would operate. The allied air forces were waiting only for the order to take off.

On the heights of Mount Igman and Mount Bjelasnica overlooking the city, Serb militiamen appeared to take heed. Making a show of fulfilling Karadzics original promise to pull back, troops began to move off the mountainsides, accompanied by tanks, trucks and jeeps. As they left, they apparently set fire to several ski lodges. In the town of Trnovo, southeast of Sarajevo, hundreds of grimy soldiers lined up for tourist buses that would carry them away from the peaks they had captured after 10 days of heavy fighting. Some displayed the souvenirs of victory: a Bosnian flag, a helmet with an inscription in Arabic script, street signs from occupied towns. We follow orders, said one soldier, but men should not die for this if we are only going to give it back.

Whether they were actually giving it back was far from certain. These troops were from Banja Luka in the north, and as they moved out they were being replaced by fresh, local soldiers. Were they afraid of NATO air attacks if they did not withdraw? No, replied a self-confident Serb captain. We know you can hurt us by air strikes, but you can only defeat us on the ground, he said. You will not send your boys here to die on my soil.

NATO might not even send airplanes. When the alliance finally found common ground on the question last week, it announced that at least one more meeting would be needed before any strikes. And those it might order would be limited to the support of humanitarian relief. The real test, said Christopher, was whether the Serbs would let conditions improve within that city, so the city is not under the constant threat of being strangled.

In fact, Serb forces can threaten Sarajevo anytime they wish, even as they begin making gestures toward improving conditions in the city. Trucks carrying fuel and aid shipments were allowed to drive in. Most important, the Serb artillery bombardment from the mountains all but stopped. Across the city, thin, pasty-skinned children slowly and nervously moved outdoors to resume games that had been interrupted for months by falling shells and the crack of snipers rifles. Warily, the youngsters kept the walls of buildings between themselves and Serb positions.

Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, who had put a freeze on peace talks in Geneva, told a press conference he would return to the negotiating table this week if the Serbs were off the two mountains by Sunday. On Saturday U.N. officials said the pullback was almost complete. General Francis Briquemont of Belgium, the commander of the blue-helmeted U.N. forces in Bosnia, told a news conference, From my point of view the impasse is over.

The Serbs had argued that if they did not keep some forces on the front line, Bosnian government troops might slip back in. But both sides say they now agree on where their new lines should be. To supervise the withdrawal, the U.N. put 250 French peacekeepers into the disputed territory. They could occupy checkpoints and control roads but not the mountains themselves. However, as the blue helmets mingled with Serb units, it was clear there were enough U.N. troops there to make it even less likely bombs would fall soon on those mountaintops.

The U.N. commanders in Bosnia hope the bombs never fall. They maintain that air support would be justified only to open up blockaded areas for aid shipments or to respond to direct attacks on U.N. troops. Thus far, says a senior U.N. officer, we have been able to achieve the mission -- the movement of aid -- without encountering anything that warranted the use of air attacks. U.N. commanders consistently warn that air strikes would bring Serb retribution down on peacekeepers and aid workers throughout Bosnia. On Saturday in Vitez in central Bosnia, an area occupied mainly by Croat and Muslim forces, a sniper fired an armor-piercing bullet at a U.N. vehicle and killed the driver.

For many Europeans, the humanitarian issue seems easier to understand than the political and military mess in the warring states of former Yugoslavia. Pictures of a suffering, five-year-old Irma Hadzimuratovic, dying from shrapnel wounds in Sarajevo, touched off a wave of sympathy. British Prime Minister John Major called up a plane to fly her to London for treatment. After two operations she was in critical but stable condition in a childrens hospital.

Her plight prompted Major and Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt to announce they would fly out 41 more war victims. Major denied he was acting only because newspapers and television had given the suffering so much coverage: I can definitely say that we have been looking for some time at what we can do to help the seriously ill people in Bosnia. So far, the help he and some other NATO leaders envision does not include bombing the Serbian artillery that inflicted the civilian casualties.

Reported by Edward Barnes/Sarajevo, Jay Branegan/Brussels and Robert Kroon/Geneva


November 6, 1995

Let No More Children Die
The presidents of Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia come to the U.S. to give peace a chance

The conference, once supposed to open on Halloween, will begin instead on All Saints Day. And though planners resolutely refused the temptation to crack any jokes about that timing, the symbolism is as appropriate as it is unintentional. Presidents Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Franjo Tudjman of Croatia are unlikely ever to be candidates for canonization. But they can at least avoid going down in history as the hobgoblins who condemned the Balkans to an endless immersion in hell if they agree on a way to end the bloodshed in Bosnia.

Such an outcome is, to put it most mildly, not assured. All the arrangements for the so-called proximity conference, at which the U.S. will play both host and mediator, are based on a perceived necessity to contain the three Presidents impulses to devilry. The meeting is being held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio, largely because it is a site where the men can be held in near isolation. There they will be unable to hop a taxi to a TV studio and in a few minutes be on camera denouncing one another, as they might in Washington or New York City.

Moreover, the Dayton scenario offers a chance to bring the principals together where possible and shuttle among them when there is an impasse. A conference center at the base, named after comedian Bob Hope, will be available on the chance that they will eventually proceed from proximity to togetherness. But initially, at least, they will stay in separate generals quarters, chosen to head off any arguments as to who got the poshest accommodations. When direct talks fail, they will negotiate through U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, who can move from one group to another, as he already has for almost three months. Secretary of State Warren Christopher can drop in quickly as and if needed.

Diplomatic chest thumping continued right up to the eve of the meeting, and no one could be sure whether it represented only the usual staking out of maximum positions or something more ominous. Izetbegovic, in an interview with the New York Times, said he would sign nothing unless he was assured that Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic would be dismissed as leaders of the Bosnian Serbs--presumably by Milosevic, who is representing both his own country and the Bosnian Serbs at the talks. Karadzic and Mladic cannot attend in person, since they are indicted war criminals wanted for trial in the Hague.

American officials were more worried that Tudjman might torpedo the proximity conference. The Croatian President made it clear to U.S. President Bill Clinton in a meeting last Tuesday that he would attend for only a few days and then leave the negotiating to his Foreign Minister, Mate Granic. Worse, he was muttering about taking eastern Slavonia by force if it is not returned to Croatia peacefully in a month or so. The oil-rich territory was seized by rebel Serbs in 1991; negotiations for its return are under way outside the Dayton conference. Clinton, according to State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns, personally remonstrated with Tudjman about giving up the idea of using force. With good reason: it could pit the Croatian and Serbian armies against each other in the bloodiest war yet to tear the former Yugoslavia.

The negotiators are expected to spend at least half their time defining the nature and powers of a government that will preserve Bosnia as a single country--but will be composed of two distinct pieces, a Serbian Republika Srpska and the already existing Muslim-Croat federation. These entities are also to be given latitude to forge links with Serbia and Croatia proper.

Cynics suggest the eventual formula can only cloak a de facto partition, but Izetbegovic and the U.S. State Department swear they will never agree to any such deal. To create a true state composed of two (or maybe eventually three, given the abiding tensions between Muslims and Croats) discrete and often hostile parts, however, ranks not far below the difficulty Christian theologians have faced in reconciling the idea of one God with the Holy Trinity. Holbrooke provides one hint of potential resolution: Given the lessons of history, Bosnia is not likely ever to have a strong central government. A loose federation, a weak presidency, seems to me inevitable.

Everyone has agreed on a roughly 49-51 split of Bosnias land between the Serb entity and the federation. But fierce disputes rage about who gets which specific pieces of territory. The width of a strip of land called the Posavina Corridor, which connects Serbia with the Bosnian Serbs, is the most contentious of these quarrels.

Finally, if nothing else scuttles the talks, there is the status of Sarajevo--considered by Holbrooke to be the Jerusalem [the most intractable problem] of the Bosnian situation. Muslims want an undivided city to serve as the capital of both Bosnia and the Muslim-Croat federation. Serbs want to divide it into ethnic sections, possibly separated by Berlin-style walls.

The negotiators do not have endless time to solve these conundrums. The cease-fire is scheduled to last 60 days. There is no formal deadline on the proximity conference, which is supposed to be followed by a full-fledged peace conference in Paris. But a State Department source asserts that if it is deadlocked after two or three weeks, that will mean it has run into troubles too tangled for a proximity conference to resolve--leaving open the question of where they could then be taken up.

In any case, Holbrooke intends to drive the participants at the same breakneck pace he has been forcing since mid-August. Over the weekend he was polishing a full draft of a proposed peace treaty that Christopher expects to put before the three Presidents as soon as talks begin. Holbrookes tempo has some critics, notably in the French Foreign Ministry. They contend it results in the papering over of contentious details that may crop up later to wreck a seeming agreement. Holbrookes answer is that stopping to iron out all the details is a sure formula for having negotiations--and war and bloodshed--drag on forever.

As recently as early July, it would have seemed sheer fantasy to think that in four months, all sides would be meeting with a real cease-fire in effect and at least the broad outlines of a settlement agreed on. But it was precisely because all concerned were forced then to peer into a terrifying abyss that they began pulling back from the brink.

In particular, Clinton in July concluded that what an American diplomat calls the Presidents muddle-through policy was leading to disaster. The supposedly U.N.-protected safe areas of Srebrenica and Zepa had fallen to the Serbs, touching off some of the worst massacres of the war. The U.N. peacekeepers were on the verge of pulling out in despair--and of calling on Clinton to make good on a promise to send up to 25,000 U.S. troops to cover their withdrawal. That raised the prospect of sacrificing American soldiers lives in the inglorious--and politically hard to defend--cause of assisting a retreat.

National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Peter Tarnoff began holding daily meetings to map out a more forceful U.S. policy, sometimes with Clinton sitting in. Holbrooke had long been arguing for such a policy and, acting through his deputy, Robert Frasure, had begun to put some elements into place. Before he was killed in a Bosnian road accident on Aug. 19, Frasure spent endless hours with Milosevic--whom he described half-fondly as a Mafia type--and came close to a deal: the Serb President would restrain the flow of arms to his fellow Serbs in Bosnia and try to get them to agree to a settlement in return for a lifting of the international sanctions that were strangling Serbias economy.

Meanwhile, Jacques Chirac, the new French President, began putting a stop to talk of a pullout by the U.N. peacekeeping force (which included more soldiers from France than from any other country) and put together the Rapid Reaction Force designed to fight back against Serb provocations. On July 21 came what Holbrooke describes as a turning point that is so often overlooked. At a conference in London, the U.S. and major allies decided to scrap the dual-key system that had given U.N. civilian officials a veto over air strikes. NATO commanders could, and later did, begin a sustained bombing campaign against Serb forces besieging Sarajevo.

Then, in early August, the Croats launched a lightning offensive that drove rebel Serbs out of Krajina, dealing them their most jolting defeat in the wars that followed the breakup of the old Yugoslavia. Christopher insists that the U.S. did not condone the Krajina offensive, but another American official confides that Washington gave Tudjman if not a green, then at least a blinking amber light. Says Holbrooke: Like it or not, Tudjman drew some new lines on the map that we couldnt have achieved with diplomacy.

A Holbrooke aide adds that we saw the Croats and the Bosnian Muslims coming together. It is a most uneasy alliance: Izetbegovics government has accused Croatia of undermining its sovereignty, while Tudjman has reportedly sneered at Izetbegovic as just another ayatollah. Nonetheless, since Krajina the Serbs have faced the possibility that they might have more to lose on the battlefield than at a peace conference. In fact, their area of control has shrunk from roughly 70% of Bosnia last summer to about 49% envisioned in the peace plan. Also, the ghastly ethnic cleansing engaged in by all combatants has produced more homogeneous populations on all sides of the battle lines.

Hard on the heels of the Krajina offensive, Lake and Tarnoff toured European capitals to sell the American peace plan. Holbrooke met them in London on Aug. 13 and was dispatched to negotiate with the combatants. In the next frenzied two months, he visited Belgrade 16 times and Sarajevo perhaps six (even he has lost the exact count). Most of the time Holbrooke flew in a USAF Gulfstream Falcon, a reasonably comfortable, though crowded, 10-seater with a decent working table. Flights in and out of Sarajevo, however, were on a specially equipped windowless C-130, outfitted with electronic gear, chaff and flares to deflect ground-to-air missiles. The lanky Holbrooke would try to snooze on impossibly uncomfortable red-webbed hammock seats.

This was no great hardship since he hates to go to bed. Reporters are likely to find him in the early hours of morning roaming hotel corridors in his bare feet, looking for someone he can drag into his room to chat with while keeping one eye on CNN. He power naps for 15 minutes or so, sometimes during meetings while supposedly listening to a translation. Aide Rosemarie Pauli-Gikas is assigned, among other tasks, to pinch him awake at the right moment.

His approach is high decibel as well as high energy; he once snapped at Izetbegovic, who was quibbling over the points of an agreement: Were not going to have a peace conference without a cease-fire, and if we get a cease-fire, well have a peace conference. So you decide here and now. Serbs use the term to get Holbrooked to mean being subjected to the diplomats badgering; Holbrookes staff jokes that the Serbs agreed to a cease-fire just to get him to shut up for a while. Nonetheless, the approach paid off in a lightning series of agreements: Aug. 30, Milosevic announced he had Bosnian Serbs accord to negotiate for them; Sept. 8, broad settlement was reached on constitutional principles for a new Bosnia; Sept. 14, Bosnian Serbs agreed to withdraw heavy weapons from around Sarajevo and allow U.N. access; Oct. 5, a cease-fire agreement that seemed finally to have taken hold; and now the proximity talks.

Can that pace be kept up? The omens are not entirely favorable. One indispensable condition for peace does finally exist: a battlefield stalemate that all sides would run a big risk trying to break. On the other hand, the three Presidents are coming into the talks with very different goals that will not be easy to reconcile. A senior U.S. official sums them up this way.

Izetbegovic: His goal is limited--to survive. Basically, he wants a single state under a revolving presidency in which he is the dominant factor.

Tudjman: His major objective is to recover the last sliver of his land not under his control, eastern Slavonia. He probably wants to cleanse his land of non-Croats as well. He wants to control, at a distance, the Croatian parts of Bosnia.

Milosevic: Hes tough to read. Being bright and tricky, hes dangerous. He wants an end to the immediate fighting. He wants the sanctions lifted. Our great fear is that after a so-called decent interval hell try to absorb all of Bosnia. He may try for an Anschluss.

Holbrooke is coldly realistic. What Ive got is agreement on vague principles, he says. Thats a long way from peace.

Reported by J.F.O. McAllister and Elaine Shannon/Washington and Bruce van Voorst/Bonn


June 14, 1999

Why He Blinked
Milosevic may have capitulated, but there is little reason for exultation among the alliance

If personal survival is your war aim, then surrender is always an option. We will never know exactly when the decision took root in the contrarian lobes of Slobodan Milosevics brain. But three weeks ago, his body language changed. For weeks, whenever he received Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Serbian leader would loll arrogantly back in his seat and hold forth, filling the room with his self-serving discourse. Since launching a diplomatic shuttle on April 14, Chernomyrdin had spent dozens of fruitless hours with Milosevic, most of them listening. Then on May 19, the Russian detected a subtle shift. During a seven-hour chat, Milosevic kept leaning forward, paying attention, listening intently, as if hoping to hear something he could latch on to.

Last Thursday he evidently did. Serbias truculent, unpredictable leader startled the world by abruptly accepting all of NATOs demands, almost the exact terms he had rebuffed on March 23 when he set off the air war. Now he had decided to stop it. It took him just over six hours of businesslike question-and-answer with the emissaries to make up his mind and formally capitulate.

Such a relief. In a test of wills in which one side had all the weapons but both underestimated the others staying power, Milosevic cracked first. The chilling spectacle of NATO slamming 20,000 bombs and missiles into Yugoslavia can come to a merciful end. Bill Clinton proves--again--to be the luckiest President alive. At nearly the exact moment that Clinton gathered the Joint Chiefs to confront the unpalatable implications of a ground war to salvage the stalemated air campaign, Milosevic handed him victory.

Victory? The word is technically correct. The Serbs will be out of Kosovo, NATO in. The alliance can be proud it hung together, stuck to its demands and lost not a single soldier in combat--an amazing, unprecedented zero. The West stood up against the obscene barbarism of ethnic cleansing, drawing moral lines for the world. Serbias war machine has been mutilated. Air power vindicated itself.

But it would be wrong to exult. NATO miscalculated when it entered the war and waged it with self-imposed limits. The armed confrontation failed in its primary aim. Air strikes were undertaken to save Kosovos Albanians from Serbian wrath, but the offensive that NATO launched gave Milosevic the opening to rampage through the province. It took 72 days of death and destruction to arrive back where the combatants had started: at the original precarious prescription for safeguarding the Kosovars. Except that now 855,000 of them have been expelled from their wasted homeland, thousands have died, and untold others have been subjected to atrocious crimes. No one can say how many will dare to go back. If they dont, Milosevic will have succeeded in his primary goal of cleansing as many Albanians from his nation as he could.

The Serbian people have paid dearly in lost lives, lost jobs, lost hope, yet the leader responsible still rules Yugoslavia, no less prone to stir up trouble--though surely less able--than he ever was. The West has acquired an unstable Kosovo protectorate that will require intensive military and political care for years to come, and an immense bill, in the billions of dollars, to reconstruct the ravaged economies of Europes Balkan quarter. The truism is the same for this as for every war: the peace is going to be harder to win.

First come the inherent perils of doing deals with Milosevic. The very speed of his capitulation made everyone suspect a trick. From Washington to Brussels, officials urged caution, but the Pentagon privately believed the agreement was the real McCoy. Unwilling to be caught wrong, Washington insisted the bombing would not actually stop until the Serbs have satisfied NATO they are carrying out the stringent terms for withdrawal of 40,000-odd troops from Kosovo. NATO wants verifiable deeds, not seductive words from a leader who has cheated on virtually every agreement he has ever made. We are looking for implementation, implementation, implementation, said State Department spokesman James Rubin. Belgrade passed a symbolic test Thursday night when General Dragoljub Ojdanic, the Yugoslav army chief of staff, personally called NATO commander General Wesley Clark to request that alliance officers meet Serbian officers to discuss cease-fire mechanics.

More telling will be their faithfulness in following through. NATO brass convened over the weekend with their Yugoslav counterparts on the Macedonian border to map out a detailed end to the hostilities and tell the Serbs to get cracking, brooking neither prolonged negotiation nor trumped-up delay. Once that meeting concludes satisfactorily, Belgrade has 48 hours to pull air-defense missile batteries back 15 miles inside Serbia, and seven days to roll all its tanks and troops home. NATO reconnaissance planes will be watching vigilantly to determine whether the withdrawal is serious, complete, irreversible, said NATO spokesman Jamie Shea. The dust on the tracks of those Serbian forces moving out will be the test of whether we can trust Milosevic. If Belgrade cooperates, a bombing halt was possible as early as Sunday. If the Serbs hesitate or renege, the bombing will go on with renewed vigor.

NATO too will have to accelerate smartly to march its 50,000 peacekeepers into Kosovo right behind the departing Serbs--perhaps as early as Tuesday. A sizable British force is on hand in Macedonia, and the leading edge of the American contingent--2,000 Marines--is nearby in the Adriatic, but it could take a month for all 7,000 G.I.s to deploy. The peacekeepers need to move fast to prevent the armed and independence-minded troops of the Kosovo Liberation Army from swarming into the vacuum. Milosevic has shuffled off the problem of demilitarizing the rebels to NATO, and it wont be easy. It is our expectation, insisted Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that the K.L.A. will cooperate and accept an agreement that promises self-rule but does not give them independence or even the future referendum promised at Rambouillet. Kosovar cooperation was mistakenly taken for granted in those negotiations too.

The wars brutalities make it inconceivable for many Albanian refugees to accept even the most nominal Serbian sovereignty. It will be impossible for us to live together, says Rifat Veseli, a young Kosovar arguing with his friends in tent C-71 at Macedonias Stenkovec camp. How can Western leaders expect me to wake up and say good day to a Serb? While K.L.A. officials are paying lip service to the deal, the likelihood of patching together a political structure for real cohabitation is dim.

NATO has plenty more devilish details to iron out if the settlement plan is to work. The two-page, 10-point agreement left key issues unresolved, including sensitive questions of command. For weeks Moscow not only insisted on participating in the peace force but tried to place its troops in charge of Kosovos northern quadrant, where many Serbian holy sites lie. Washington refused for fear that would effectively partition the province. Now the diplomats are wrangling over just what role the Russian troops will play and who will command them. Russias proud military men oppose the settlement, making it harder for Moscows troops to be tucked comfortably under NATOs unified command.

The ambiguities over Kosovos political structures are especially ripe for the sort of chiseling Milosevic does so well. But for the moment, the time had come to cut his losses. It had been easy to ride out the first 30 days of air strikes, when bad weather and alliance timidity limited the damage Serbia suffered. But he was feeling the pain in the second month, says a U.S. intelligence officer, as NATO racked up 350 attack sorties every 24 hours. Bombs and missiles had blitzed much of Serbias heavy industry, energy sector and transport network. Citizen morale crumbled under water shortages and power outages as NATO hammered the countrys electric grid. Protests broke out in the smashed industrial cities of the south.

U.S. intelligence spotted Serbian soldiers in Kosovo steadily slipping away from their posts. A K.L.A. offensive lured Serbian tanks out of their hiding places, massing them into cannon fodder for allied warplanes. Even the gruesome pictures of Serbian civilians mauled by errant bombs failed to crack NATO determination. Now Clinton was holding serious discussions about ground troops, a possibility Milosevic thought had been safely discarded. Perhaps most critical of all, the Hague war-crimes tribunal finally indicted him on May 27, placing his very life in jeopardy if he ever slipped from power. He recognized he wouldnt prevail, says a U.S. official, and began to put out peace feelers.

The denouement was accelerated by inspired diplomacy that paired the sympathetic Russian Chernomyrdin with the neutral Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari. Chernomyrdin had had no luck penetrating the complex, impulsive, stubborn character of the Serbian leader. But he concluded that you could, eventually, do a deal with Milosevic if you could help him save face. Early in May, at breakfast with Vice President Al Gore and Albright, Chernomyrdin suggested he needed a negotiating partner with stature in Europe but no connections to NATO. If I have someone from the West with me, I have a better chance of getting this done, he said. Mother Boss, as the Russian calls Albright, immediately thought of the solid, no-nonsense Ahtisaari. Not only did he have years of experience in international negotiation and the cachet of Finlands assuming the presidency of the European Union, but Washington was sure he would not sell out the alliances conditions.

Ahtisaari was a welcome addition to the team soon nicknamed hammer and anvil in State Department circles. Chernomyrdin didnt much cotton to his uncompromising American interlocutors, and he shared the general Russian suspicion that NATO leaders, particularly Clinton, were driven less by concern for Kosovars than by the desire to show the rest of the world who is boss. Washington worried that Chernomyrdin was soft-pedaling NATOs demands in Belgrade, and wasnt sure he relayed back an accurate reading of Milosevics intentions.

The toughest negotiations over the peace plan took place between the U.S. and Russia, quarreling over ways to bring the war to an end. But Milosevics change in body language encouraged Chernomyrdin to plan another trip to Belgrade last week, even with no hope of a bombing pause. Washington wanted Ahtisaari to go along, figuring he could clearly convey NATOs demands, while the Russian followed his own script, fudging on two that Moscow opposed: all Serbian forces must be withdrawn and NATO had to form the core of the peacekeeping force.

By Monday, Chernomyrdin surprised the State Department. Tired of having each plan rejected by Milosevic or Clinton, he wanted to go to Belgrade with a final take-it-or-leave-it document, every word of which he and Ahtisaari would agree on. The Russian shocked Washington again in the first hour of talks Tuesday with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Chernomyrdin announced Moscow acceded to the removal of all Serbian troops. Then he proposed a style change: instead of referring generally to NATOs demands, the document should spell out everything in full, including footnotes specifying the mechanics of withdrawal.

Deciding on these kinds of details took hours. Talbott, Chernomyrdin and Ahtisaari haggled on through the night over two other issues--how fast the Serbs had to leave and how central NATO would be to the peacekeeping force. Washington held out for a swift timetable, and Strobe just hammered to make sure the document had NATO at the core, says a senior U.S. official. When the exhausted diplomats reconvened Wednesday morning, Ahtisaari threatened to pull out if there was no agreement, and Chernomyrdin conceded. Now Moscow had sided with NATO, leaving Milosevic isolated.

Compared with that marathon, the talks in Belgrade were swift and matter-of-fact. On Wednesday night the envoys and Milosevic talked for 4 1/2 hours. Chernomyrdin never veered as he read from the prepared script. Ahtisaari went over it in detail, explaining why each demand was not negotiable. Can we make improvements in the text? Milosevic asked. Absolutely not, Ahtisaari shot back. This was NATOs best offer, and not a comma could be changed. Hoping to soften the Finn, Milosevic invited him to dinner. Lets not have dinner, answered Ahtisaari. Instead, the Serbian leader should go back to his advisers and consult them on accepting NATOs ultimatum.

In hindsight, Serbias calculating boss had probably already made up his mind to take the next offer. By 9:30 p.m. he summoned his rubber-stamp parliament to a special session Thursday morning to provide some political cover for his capitulation. Lawmakers approved the deal overwhelmingly the next day.

Milosevic has emerged with his skin intact, as well as his uncanny knack for turning defeat into personal victory. NATO, he felt, had flinched at the ground war needed to drive him from power. He could brag how his little nation had stood up to the worlds most powerful military alliance and nurse Serbian victimhood.

Yet even if there is no real political opposition to challenge him now, he cannot rest easy. He will try to put a worth-it-all face on defeat by claiming this peace agreement is more favorable than the Rambouillet plan, since it gives Serbia uncontested sovereignty over Kosovo. But with no troops there to enforce it, his legal ownership is a sham. And he was forced to swallow the humiliation of admitting foreign soldiers onto Yugoslav soil. The ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party voted against a deal it denounced as a total sellout. Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, idol of the hard-liners, could quit the government. Ultimately, Milosevic will have to deal with the dawning realization among his suffering citizenry that after he let Serbia be ruined, he handed over Kosovo. He betrayed us with war, said Croatian Serb Dragan Miljanic, 62, idling in a Belgrade street. Milosevic only cares for his own skin.

This war has burned nearly everyone it touched. Washingtons uneasy relations with China and Russia have been poisoned. Beijing will take a long while to get over the insult of errant bombs dropping on its Belgrade embassy, and lingering resentment could hamper the peace plan as it moves into the U.N. Security Council. Washington feels heartened that it managed to draw an angry Russia back to NATOs side. Moscow, says a senior French official, made a difficult and courageous choice in choosing pragmatic cooperation with the West over emotional solidarity with Serbia. Though Chernomyrdin is reviled at home for kowtowing to the West, Russian diplomacy gained considerable credibility in allied capitals, where officials hope the process will strengthen wavering ties. But there is still a lot of fence mending to be done. Russians in the policy elite and on the street now regard the alliance as a sinister force bent on aggression: Who is next after Yugoslavia? is not just a rhetorical question.

The West can claim no victory worth the name until the Kosovars go home. In Bosnia, despite four years of NATO policing, the vast majority of Muslim refugees have not returned. If even a portion of exiled Kosovars, some scattered from New Jersey to Australia, refuse to go back, Milosevic again gets away with the evil practice of ethnic cleansing. The fighting may stop, but that is insufficient to make ethnic Albanians feel secure as long as he reigns in Belgrade. Kosovo is a wasteland where many who return will find nothing but dead relatives, mass graves, destroyed homes, slaughtered livestock, poisoned wells and a hard life. The West has promised billions to reconstruct the province, most of it put up by Europe. The costs will be staggering, says a senior Washington official. Whatever estimate there is now, triple that. But before the exiles can even think of leaving their camps, the alliance needs to build shelters for millions and prepare to feed the population for at least a year.

The West cannot ignore the fact that ordinary Serbs are collateral victims too. NATO estimates its bombs killed 5,000 and wounded an additional 10,000. Serbia lies in rubble, about 500,000 have lost their jobs, and wages have been officially reduced to 1,000 dinars ($60) a month. There are no sources of revenue to pay out pensions or army salaries. To repair shattered rail lines, bombed-out roads and sunken bridges alone will cost about $1 billion. The countrys four largest industrial sites are totally destroyed; nine more are severely damaged. Two oil refineries went up in black acrid smoke, along with most of the fuel-storage facilities, leaving Serbia having to import high-priced refined fuel. Without foreign cash, says Belgrade economist Mladjan Dinkic, a return to pre-Milosevic prosperity would take 41 years.

While an indicted war criminal presides in Belgrade, Serbs can expect no money from international investment or mini-Marshall plans. There is no question of dealing with Milosevic, said British Prime Minister Tony Blair. There is no place for Serbia in the true family of nations while he remains in office.

As the generals buckled down to finetune the peace plan, the world kept its fingers crossed that the bombs would soon stop falling. But in the capitals of the NATO alliance, two words haunt political leaders: Saddam Hussein. Just like the war in the Persian Gulf, this one has come to a halt but not a conclusion. As long as Slobodan Milosevic hangs on to power, there will be no permanent peace for the Balkans.

Reported by Jay Branegan, Mark Thompson and Douglas Waller/Washington, Dejan Anastasijevic/Vienna, James L. Graff/ Cologne, Paul Quinn-Judge/Moscow and Gillian Sandford/Belgrade

October 14, 1996

Back to Serbia TIME Trail homepage

Bodies of Evidence
As Bosnias mass graves are excavated, the innocent and the guilty alike find denial is the safest path

The fighting has stopped in Bosnia, but the agony continues. Thousands of missing people, desperately sought by their families, are undoubtedly lying in unmarked graves while their murderers--and the witnesses to their murders--continue to deny their death. Yet until each side admits to its crimes, there is little chance that Bosnias warring factions will ever be able to forgive one another and live together again in peace.

Branko Kapur knows the problem--and is part of it. A Serb refugee from the Sarajevo suburbs now controlled by Muslims as part of the Dayton accords, Kapur fled last winter to the little village of Grbavci (known to its inhabitants by its old name, Oraovac) in Serb-held Bosnia. There he and his wife Petra and their three little girls took up residence in a house formerly occupied by Muslims. It was little more than a ruin, but the surrounding fields and the little garden with its fruit trees held out the hope of a more peaceful existence after the horrors of war.

Then, one morning last April, the Kapurs were awakened by the sound of helicopters. Looking outside, they saw U.N. and U.S. military vehicles pulling into their driveway. Out stepped soldiers from IFOR, the NATO-led peace-implementation force, and some official-looking foreigners. A translator told the frightened family that a team from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague had arrived to look into allegations that hundreds of Muslim men from Srebrenica had been shot to death and buried behind and in front of the Kapurs home.

In August the team returned to dig for bodies. For three weeks the stench of rotting flesh pervaded the small house as the forensic experts unearthed more than 160 bodies. Although they may return in the spring to dig in the front, the experts and their IFOR guards are gone now, and the village, some 65 km from Srebrenica, is back to what passes for normal. But Kapur, a 31-year-old former locksmith, finds it close to impossible to acknowledge that his family is living beside evidence of what may be the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II. He keeps the horror of what transpired outside his door--where his children traded fresh plums for exotic foreign rations--locked deep inside. If I had known of those, uh, those alleged bodies buried here, I would never have brought my family to this place, he now insists. If these were mass graves, they would look different, he says, gazing out his kitchen window to the garden. Branko, how do you know what mass graves look like? asks his wife. It is ridiculous, he continues, undeterred. The Muslims claim that we killed 8,000 of their people from Srebrenica. That is impossible. Thats just too many people. Petra, 35, tells him, Branko, you shouldnt talk about things that you dont know about.

When Kapur is told the forensic experts discovered the remains of more than 160 bodies behind his house, he insists, We havent seen anything ourselves. Petra Kapur, stunned by confirmation of the find, murmurs softly, Oh, my God. Kapur says hes often asked if the investigators had found anything. I always say I dont know.

In the Republika Srpska, it is best not to know about such things. Denial, for the innocent and the guilty alike, is basic. Most Serbs believe their side behaved no worse than their Muslim and Croat enemies during the war, and that they are misunderstood victims. But what much of the world accepts is that many of Srebrenicas men were massacred in July 1995 after Bosnian Serbs overran the U.N.-protected safe haven. Some 15,000 tried to escape to government-held territory through the woods, but were attacked and many were captured. A few others fled with the women, children and elderly to a nearby u.n. base and were separated from their families. Up to 8,500 men are still missing and are believed to have been killed.

Three who survived the Grbavci massacre claim 2,000 were taken to a primary school on July 14, three days after Srebrenica fell. From the school gym, an unknown number were put in groups of 15 to 20, blindfolded and driven to the area next to what is now the Kapurs home. There they were shot and their bodies plowed into a pit. Investigators now believe the 2,000 figure may be an exaggeration, but theres no doubt that they recovered more than 160 bodies--many wearing blindfolds--from behind the house.

Recalling a program on Bosnian government television, Kapur said he was moved by the story of a Muslim who had lost his family as well as a leg in the war and is now a Sarajevo beggar. Its the same on our side. No aid, no help, no support. I nearly cried watching this program, he says. Sometimes he even seems willing to accept that he might be living at two mass grave sites: I cant imagine it, but who knows? But his main defense is one that is now echoed far and wide across Bosnia: Fortunately, I wasnt here.

The same cannot be said of others in Grbavci. But then, no one saw anything that July day when the blindfolded men of Srebrenica went to their death.

Reported by Alexandra Stiglmayer/Grbavci


March 16, 1998

A Volcano Explodes
Serbian forces launch a rampage of vengeance in Kosovo, setting off fears of another, wider war

For the past nine years, experts on European security have pointed fingers of caution, sometimes alarm, at the remote upland region of Kosovo. They have warned that this southernmost province of Serbia, though on its face an implausible fulcrum for any balance of power, constituted the hot spot most likely to trigger a broader, completely unpredictable European conflict. For a decade, nothing much happened in Kosovo except for intermittent acts of violence amid steadily rising tensions. Even as Yugoslavia disintegrated from warfare in Croatia and Bosnia, Kosovo managed to keep a lid on its seething internal resentments. All that changed last week following a single clash that seemed to burst the pressure cooker in one dramatic explosion. What began as an ambush by insurgents on a Serbian police patrol quickly turned into a ferocious crackdown resulting in at least 50 deaths and a security sweep bearing some of the earmarks of Bosnian-style ethnic cleansing.

This is ultimately a very, very scary scenario, declared Kris Janowski, spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in Geneva. We are alarmed because we have seen it all before. Yet what happened in Bosnia, for all the shocking atrocities of that war, never really threatened the peace of Southeastern Europe as a whole. Kosovo does. With a population more than 90% ethnic Albanian, these highlands--considered by Serbs to be the cradle of their own civilization despite the preponderance of non-Serbs there--adjoin Albania to the west and Macedonia to the southeast, both tinderboxes in their own right involving security concerns of Greece and Turkey. As Serbian armed forces mounted an offensive in full battle array late last week within a sealed-off zone of central Kosovo, Albania put two reserve battalions on alert, and some 20,000 ethnic Albanians staged an angry mass demonstration in Skopje, Macedonias capital. Troubleshooters for the United States, Britain and Germany warned Serbian authorities to back off.

Just how much death and destruction the paramilitary police were inflicting on the cordoned-off sector of Drenica was still unknown late in the week. Although the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said 20 armed militants were killed and a terrorist base destroyed in the village of Donji Prekazi, the sweep, scheduled to last until Sunday, also stirred widespread panic. Kosovo Albanians apparently were either fleeing villages in wholesale numbers or being deliberately removed. Television in Belgrade, Serbias capital, showed scenes of a bulldozer razing a house, apparently the home of a liquidated Kosovo Liberation Army leader named Adem Jashari.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, visiting the Balkans as the crisis erupted, issued stern cautions. But he got nowhere in an edgy meeting with Slobodan Milosevic, President of Yugoslavia, which now consists only of Serbia and little Montenegro. It was Milosevic who revoked Kosovos autonomy in 1989, and last week he told Cook, in effect, to butt out of an internal affair. At his departure from Belgrade, Cook remarked acidly, I wish I could say that I leave here more hopeful than when I arrived. The U.S. threatened to withdraw four diplomatic privileges it had just awarded to Yugoslavia and to reimpose economic sanctions. Robert Gelbard, the U.S. special envoy, warned of very serious action, and commented: We simply wont brook any violence.

If Albanians were fleeing villages, they had powerful reasons. The incidents that set off Kosovos explosion the previous weekend amounted to what witnesses described as a police massacre of 24 villagers, including 10 members of one family. As events could best be reconstructed, the mayhem started as a police car was chasing suspected rebels on the road to Likosane, a Drenica hamlet about 40 km northwest of the provincial capital, Pristina. The car was ambushed by the Kosovo Liberation Army, a pro-independence force that had managed to turn Drenica into a virtual no-go zone for Serbs. A backup patrol was then hit as well, losing four officers in all.

At that point, paramilitary police with at least 30 armored vehicles and two helicopter gunships swooped down on Likosane and the nearby village of Cirez. An onslaught started with house-to-house searches and executions. By Monday, bodies were piled in grisly heaps. Xhemshir Nabihu and his pregnant wife Rukije lay dead on the floor of a ransacked house, the womans head having been blown off by gunfire. The bodies of four brothers in the Gieli family bore powder burns around their wounds, suggesting shots at point-blank range. Muhammet Xela, 79, was executed alongside his brother Naser.

The Ahmeti family took the brunt of violence. When the police arrived, said Mirsie Ahmeti, 24, her father shouted that the doors were unlocked and invited them in. Instead, armored personnel carriers smashed through the compounds gates. They broke windows from the yard, aimed rifles at us and ordered us to lie face down on the floor, she said. Police then led outside all 10 male members of the family and a guest. We heard screams and shots, Mirsie recalled. Later, they locked us in a small room and we stayed there all night and the day after, until the police left. According to the sole surviving Ahmeti male, Xhevdet, who was in Pristina at the time, the invaders took away $3,000 worth of gold, 10 kg of meat, a satellite TV receiver and a car radio. Before leaving, a neighbor said, the officers drank and sang all night in a house next door. Trying to explain the killings, a police source said, Bullets were coming in from all around. Our boys just went wild.

Further wildness, with worse consequences, was precisely what Western governments were trying to prevent. Cook called an emergency meeting in London of the Contact Group on the Balkans, a gathering that includes the U.S., Britain, Russia, France, Germany and Italy. The U.N. Security Council decided to postpone debate until the Contact Group met. Russia, however, is opposed to leveling economic sanctions on Milosevic again, leaving the West hamstrung. The K.L.A. was not a widely popular movement in Kosovo until Serbian violence broke down the doors. At the mass funeral in Likosane last week, a young man surveyed the crowd and remarked somberly, They are all K.L.A. now.

Reported by Dejan Anastasijevic/Likosane, Barry Hillenbrand/London and Douglas Waller/Washington

Back to Serbia TIME Trail homepage

TIME Europe home

E-mail us at


April 12, 1999

Terrain of Terror
As thousands of refugees pour out of Kosovo, the world confronts the awful cost of hate

For nearly his entire life, Dervis Audaja, 54, lived on the same block in the Kosovo city of Pec, developing close friendships with his neighbors, a mix of ethnic Albanians and Serbs. Now all that is gone forever. Early last week Serb paramilitary units drove into his neighborhood, went to the door of every Albanian home and gave the residents 10 minutes to pack their belongings and go to the Korza, the citys main square. From there most of the crowd of 15,000 were herded into the local sports stadium, where they spent the night in silent fear, half expecting to be mowed down in a mass execution or placed in the way of NATO bombs.

The next morning, the Serb police told the Albanians they could go home safely. But by then most of their houses were in flames. Audajas home was already ashes; still, he was determined to stay in Pec. He moved in with relatives next door and asked his Serb neighbors for protection. I asked them, What have I ever done in 50 years that would make you burn my house? They told me it was outsiders. But by Tuesday, more Albanian homes were burning, and Serb soldiers lined the hills surrounding the neighborhood. Audaja, his trust shattered and his possessions gone, put his paralyzed daughter into a wheelchair and began walking away from Pec. He pushed his daughter for 13 hours before a truck stopped to offer them a ride. In a place where your neighbors burn your houses, there can be no survival, he said last week, fighting back tears as he sat in the corner of a factory in Rozaje, Montenegro, where some 50,000 displaced Kosovars passed through last week. His daughter was propped nearby, in clothes covered in dirt and soot, with no food and little hope.

For the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians like Audaja who desperately fled their homes last week--traversing miles of winding mountain roads afoot or on tractors or atop mules--the world seemed to have come apart. By weeks end, according to the U.N., more than 300,000 refugees had crossed into neighboring Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro since the bombing campaign began on March 24. On Saturday, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said at least 200,000 to 300,000 more Kosovars were heading for the border. At the Montenegro boundary, one column of refugees awaiting entry extended in an unbroken line of misery for 20 miles. Late last week, fearing internal instability, Macedonia closed its borders, with thousands of Kosovars still waiting to get in.

What the refugees left behind was a Serb spasm of looting, terror and executions; what they encountered on the other side of the frontier was a teeming mess of poverty, hunger and disease. In Rozaje refugees drifted through the streets, hungry and shell-shocked; some would come across small obstacles and simply stop and weep. Doctors scrambled to prevent the crowding and dismal sanitation from causing a tuberculosis epidemic, but their efforts seemed of little use. People dont even have spoons, so everyone eats from one bowl. Women are giving birth next to men with TB. It is an epidemiological bomb, said a local doctor. Added another: This is hell.

If so, the refugees had already come face to face with the devils. In many villages early last week, Serb paramilitaries surrounded Albanian homes, broke down doors and ordered villagers to pack up and go. Some refugees said they were lined up and commanded to yell Serbia! Serbia! and give the three-finger Serb victory salute. Go to Albania. Thats your country, Serb troops told a group of ethnic Albanians hiding in Mamusa, a village 22 miles from the Albanian border. And say hello to Bill Clinton. You will never see Kosovo again. Serb paramilitary forces were said to have committed grisly atrocities. There were reports of summary executions in at least 20 towns and villages. According to the State Department, Albanian men in Djakovica were systematically separated from women and children. Thirty-three bodies were later found in a nearby river. Refugees said Serb forces rounded up and executed 150 Kosovar men in the police station in Kacanik. Kosovars who made it to the border had their identities erased by Serb border authorities, who confiscated citizenship papers, financial records and car license plates.

Throughout Kosovo, the cleansing of the provinces 1.8 million Albanians was swift and brutal. Arife Bajrami, 30, who fled to Kukes, Albania, from Izbice, in central Kosovo, said Serbs told residents to assemble at the local schoolyard. The Serbs demanded money from the women in exchange for their lives. They made us walk for two hours to another village, then they marched us back again, just making fun of us, Bajrami said. We had no food. I saw one old lady die on the road. As she trudged along the muddy road to Albania, local Serbs shouted, Your land will be ours now! Where are your husbands? We will kill you all.

In Pristina, the Kosovo capital, black-masked Serb police dragged Albanians out of their homes, force-marched them to a railroad station and packed thousands into locked trains bound for Macedonia. Says a senior State Department official: The numbers are staggering. We have a huge humanitarian disaster on our hands. The roads leading out of Kosovo were trails of suffering. At least 500 elderly Albanians, too sick and weary to go on, were abandoned by the roadside on the way to Rozaje. On Friday NATO spokesman Shea reported that a six-mile line of some 25,000 refugees had formed on the border with Macedonia. Were seeing ladies in slippers, children with no shoes and socks, he said. In Albania the refugees dismal plight was further prolonged by the authorities cumbersome registration procedures. Even as refugees flowed over the borders at the rate of 20,000 a day, officials warned of many more ethnic Albanians still displaced from their homes in Kosovo, trapped in the killing fields and unable to make their way out. Last week Serb units reportedly shelled internal refugees forced into hiding in the Pagarusa Valley.

Living conditions for the refugees in Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro are wretched. In Rozaje three large factories have been turned into human warehouses, and refugees have packed into the towns 10 mosques. Soiled blankets are the only source of warmth. I cant do anything, says Delija Kurpejovic, the lone aid worker in the overwhelmed town. There is no more room in the town. There is nothing to eat. It is a cataclysm. In Macedonia malnourished refugees jostled for the few loaves of bread, water bottles and protein biscuits tossed to them by relief workers. Sick arrivals lay untreated. The region in which the refugees have sought haven is the poorest in Europe, and while relief workers have responded admirably to the human influx, their provisions will be depleted within days. The White House has rushed $50 million in aid to Albania and Macedonia. The European Union will provide $11 million for aid to refugees, along with $17 million in economic aid to the surrounding countries. Germany has committed $15 million.

But getting help to those who most need it is another matter. Relief organizations, for example, say they have enough food in the Balkans to feed 400,000 people for six months. And yet in Kukes, tens of thousands of refugees living in open fields have already gone without food for several days. The crisis is compounded by the departure of international relief officials from Yugoslavia shortly before the NATO bombing began. Most aid agencies stockpiles of food, shelter and medical supplies remain locked down in Belgrade.

The humanitarian crisis could grow even more dire if Milosevic moves against the pro-Western leadership in Montenegro, the junior republic in the Yugoslav federation. The massive refugee surge also poses dangers for Macedonia, where the economy has sputtered and tensions run high between the countrys Serbs and Albanians. Ethnic Albanians make up one-quarter of Macedonias population. Some Albanian agitators aspire to break away from Macedonia to form a greater Albania. The arrival of 100,000 new Albanian refugees may lend the movement strength. Last week many refugees in Macedonia found shelter in the homes of ethnic Albanians. We will scrunch 40 refugees into every room if we have to, said the mayor of Studenitan, a suburb of Skopje. But we will not abandon our ethnic brothers. However magnanimous, that kind of talk may only serve to incite the increasingly belligerent Macedonian Serbs.

For all the pain they have already endured, all the tears shed and horrors witnessed, the Kosovars displaced last week could face an even bleaker future. Europe has found it hard to absorb the large number of refugees flung out by the Balkan wars, and Germany, France and Italy have expressed reservations about the Kosovars western migration. And no one believes the Kosovars will be able to go back to their villages anytime soon despite the suggestion last week that NATO was considering the establishment of a protected Albanian enclave within Kosovo once the Serb offensive is halted. But if NATOs campaign against Milosevic ends in a stalemate, the refugees wont go home, says John Fredricksson, associate director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees. The only way refugees will go home is to an independent Kosovo.

There are some Kosovars, hardened by last weeks sorrows, who seem determined to wait it out. For them, things cant get much worse. Qamil Jupaj, 28, huddled with thousands of other refugees in Kukes, told of Serb soldiers burning his house and whipping him with their guns. They asked me for money. My mother stepped forward and said, Why do you ask him for money? He doesnt have any. They hit her in the face with the gun. He paused. If I didnt die yesterday, Ill never die.

Reported by Edward Barnes/Rozaje, Altin Rraxhimi/Kukes, Anthee Carassava/Gorno Blace, James L. Graff/ Brussels and Douglas Waller/Washington


May 17, 1999

Hits and Misses
NATOs air campaign has begun to rack up an ugly record of accidental civilian casualties

For weeks, NATOs war against Serbia seemed a polite affair, marked by strict rules of engagement, pinpoint attacks on army units and lots of examples of NATO planes returning to base with all their bombs because they couldnt be sure of dropping their payloads on the right place. Last week that changed. Across 70% of Yugoslavia, elevators creaked to a halt, faucets dribbled, stoves cooled and TVs blackened. Traffic lights and tram lines were out, and pump failures forced Serbs to the Danube River for water to flush their toilets. And as the bombing expanded, so did the civilian casualties. On Friday night an allied warplane--most likely a U.S. B-2--dropped a load of bombs on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing four and infuriating the Chinese. That bombing bungle followed a week of occasional misses and offered a reminder that in the heat of a massive bombing raid, even a 99.93% hit rate against military targets can still wreak tremendous civilian damage.

The strategy behind this extension of the NATO air war against Slobodan Milosevic has a devilish design: to break the spirit of the Serbian people by depriving them of modern conveniences. When military planners refer to bombing them back to the Stone Age, this is what they have in mind: everything from bridges to television stations has become a target. Many Serbs are now living by candlelight, eating food that doesnt require refrigeration and sleeping--if they can sleep at all--with the uneasy knowledge that 0.07% of NATOs bombs do go astray. Not surprisingly, as the allied target list grew, Serbian cockiness--like the paper targets once boisterously pinned to Serbs shirts--seemed to crumble amid the rubble.

Why wait until Day 40 to turn off the lights, especially when crippling the power grid also helps shut down the air defenses that threaten allied pilots? NATO officials say such sites--while on their target list from the wars first night--didnt win political approval until the recent NATO summit in Washington. Taking on such politically sensitive sites is fraught with peril for the allies: Belgrade ensures that the ruination caused by every misaimed bomb is televised worldwide, while the wholesale horrors wrought by Belgrades paramilitaries in Kosovo are hidden from view. And while allied mistakes may be rare, if the war is literally brought into your living room, NATOs overall accuracy is small consolation. Inside Yugoslavia, at least, it is becoming harder for many to see the distinction between targeting civilian life-styles and targeting civilians.

As talk of a possible peace agreement ricochets around Europe, the U.S. has dispatched nearly 200 more planes to the theater--bringing the total to about 1,100--to keep the pressure on Milosevic and his people. Even after the hit on the Chinese embassy, Pentagon officials insisted they had no intention of slowing the pace of the raids. NATO is determined to continue this campaign--and to intensify this campaign, said Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon.

But the Pentagon did say privately that NATO would be taking a closer look at what went wrong in the case of the Chinese embassy. The warplane, Pentagon sources said, didnt miss what it was aiming at. The problem, evidently, was that it was aiming at the wrong thing, because mistaken coordinates had been fed to the planes targeting computer. It was a peculiar mistake to make. The Chinese embassy is a distinctive building that stands pretty much alone, with open space on three sides. Rows of high-rise apartments and lines of shops are at least 150 yds. away. How NATO came to believe this was the weapons-procurement center, which actually sits across the street--and was supposed to have been the warplanes target--had Pentagon officials fuming and frustrated.

That didnt ameliorate feelings in Beijing, where the streets were packed with furious protesters. In New York City the Chinese demanded, and got, a midnight meeting of the U.N. Security Council, an unusually urgent tactic that smelled of cold war fustian but served to let them express their outrage within hours of the attack. Speaking after the attack, President Clinton called the embassy bombing a tragic mistake.

But if military officials are considering tweaking their tactics to limit collateral damage, they have no plans to dump the overall strategy of using the expanded bombing to try to generate anti-Milosevic sentiment in Yugoslavia. Says NATO spokesman Jamie Shea: I would hope that he would start getting some echoes up from the grass roots over the next couple of weeks that the population is decreasingly behind him on this and they would very much like this to be solved.

While Americans are spoiled when it comes to wars duration--one great European conflict wasnt called the Hundred Years War for nothing--NATO and the Pentagon say they are pursuing a methodical strategy that ultimately will prevail. The U.S. is, however, pulling some of its power punches in the air war by using soft bombs against the electrical network. F-117 fighters lob missiles filled with gobs of gossamer graphite strands that spark massive short circuits as they flutter across power lines. In some places Yugoslavia was able to restore power seven hours after the attack. But NATO simply responded with another round of short-circuiting. Why did the Pentagon use such bombs? NATO politicians are still hoping for a quick peace and dont want to completely disable Milosevics struggling nation. Soft bombs can make the Serbs lives miserable in the short run--a couple of months, say--without making them hopeless in the long run.

These soft strikes also disrupt the Yugoslav militarys computers as well as crippling its command-and-control efforts. Inconveniences like this will continue as we intensify the air campaign, Pentagon spokesman Bacon says. There is one easy way to stop them, and that is to meet NATOs demands for a settlement. But the loss of power was more than an inconvenience for the 4,000 Yugoslavs who, Belgrade says, need dialysis or other life-saving electricity. They found themselves depending on hospital generators starved for fuel. Allied officers say continued strikes on the Yugoslav power system are likely, along with additional attacks on road and rail networks. But attacks on waterworks and sewage-treatment plants would harm civilians too much, so they have been kept off NATOs target list. The allies are also bringing sophisticated munitions into play. Last week, in an attack that mistakenly hit a market in Nis, NATO used cluster bombs that disperse bomblets over a wide area. While cluster munitions are ideal for targets like airfields, they can--and do--inflict heavy casualties if they go astray in dense urban areas.

And NATO is stepping up its attacks on so-called leadership targets, hurling huge 5,000-lb. bunker busters from B-2 bombers against buried command posts last week. One such strike against the brains behind the brutality, as NATO commander Wesley Clark calls it, targeted Milosevics national command center at Mount Avala just outside Belgrade.

Just how much effect these bank shots--trying to generate enough anger among Yugoslavs to push Milosevic to change his strategy--will have remains uncertain. Some military experts, like retired Air Force Colonel John Warden, a key architect of the gulf air war, think the attack strategy is just right. Without electric power, production of civil and military goods, distribution of food and other essentials, civil and military communication, and life in general become difficult to impossible, Warden says. Unless the stakes in the war are very high, most states will make concessions when their power-generation system is put under sufficient pressure or actually destroyed.

This isnt a new debate, however; military planners have been struggling with it since World War II. Is it really possible to bomb a nation to the bargaining table? A 1994 study in the Air Forces Airpower Journal suggests it may not be. The study cites vain American efforts to bomb the North Koreans into an agreement during the Korean War. Those raids concentrated on Pyongyangs electrical grid to little effect. Wrote Lieut. Colonel Thomas Griffith: While it is possible to measure how many planes attacked the target, the tonnage of bombs dropped and even the results of the raid in terms of destruction to the physical structures, it is far more difficult to determine the actual impact of the raid on the opposing nation.

Yet by the end of last week there were signs that Milosevic might be preparing his citizens for a deal with NATO. State-controlled TV led its evening broadcasts with stories about diplomatic efforts to end the war rather than about the conflict itself. More important, the Yugoslav press claimed that Serbian forces had wiped the Kosovo Liberation Army from Kosovo. While this was manifestly untrue--Western reporters visited K.L.A. soldiers inside Kosovo all week--the fact that Milosevic was touting the victory suggested he might be looking to declare himself a winner and end the bombing. If not, as the weather continues to clear over Serbia this week, he can expect a further expansion of the NATO raids--and devastation for a whole new set of targets.


May 24, 1999

On the Outside Looking In
Two young Serbs worry about the demonization of their nation

In the corner of the small apartment Ranka Blagojevic shares with her brother Milan in Cologne, Germany, a dried-out Christmas tree sits baking in the April sun, tangled in a string of unlit bulbs. We couldnt get it out the door, the 27-year-old medical student laughs. Now if we move it, well have needles all over the apartment. Then she turns somber. You know whats interesting? I didnt celebrate Christmas until I came here. I remember thinking it was a nice tradition, and wondering why religion didnt play a bigger role in Yugoslavia.

That was 1989. When I came to Germany, I was proud to be Yugoslavian. It was a beautiful, friendly country. Then the war in Bosnia started, and from one day to the next, I wasnt allowed to be Yugoslavian anymore. People wouldnt accept that answer. What are you, anyway? they would ask, Serb, Croat, or Muslim? She looks over at her crumbling tree again. Sometimes I think religion is the greatest enemy of mankind, worse even than nationalism.

The widening attack on Yugoslavia has stirred up memories of the war in Bosnia, when Ranka was in Cologne and Milan was still back home in the Bosnian town of Prijedor. The Serbs in todays Yugoslavia never had a war, she says. The Bosnian Serbs had a war. We know what its like. She knows how mistrust becomes abject fear, and how injury begets hatred. Its easy to sit here and say those people just need to be rational. During the Bosnian war, I used to sit in Germany and think My God, why cant they come to a peaceful solution? But after six weeks of being there, I found myself just as overcome with anger as everyone else. We have no right to judge anyone.

Both Ranka and Milan say they feel theyre being judged. And they blame a moralizing tone that has crept into much of the popular press. During the Bosnian war, I read the Serbian press in Bosnia, the German press in Germany and had my own experiences in Prijedor, Milan recalls. It was like three different stories. Says Ranka, Nothing is ever black or white. Seeing enemies creates enemies.

Milan remembers what happened in his home town and wonders how it relates to Kosovo today. It didnt start out as neighbor against neighbor, he recalls. It was orchestrated by outsiders, nationalist organizations, who sent paramilitaries into different cities to stir up trouble. Serbian soldiers came to a friends apartment and said they would kill him if he didnt tell them which apartments had Muslims in them. One day I was literally playing soccer with Muslims and Croats, and the next day paramilitaries start showing up. Then guns start coming out. A lot of our neighbors were prepared, which gets you thinking. People who used to greet you on the street and invite you over for dinner had guns under their tables, and you go home and wonder if these people are going to be waiting for you next time, so you avoid them. People begin separating themselves.

Ranka worries that the moral tone of the conflict is adding to the cycle of hatred and bullying. When Serbian soldiers went into Kosovo, Milosevic told us he was fighting the K.L.A., she says. Now we know its gone way beyond that. When NATO went into Yugoslavia, they told us they were fighting Milosevic. Now these humanitarian bombs are destroying factories, passenger trains, the entire infrastructure of the country and the lives of the people who live there. Milosevic has enough money. He can go to Russia when the end comes, but these people will suffer for decades.

She wants people to see all sides, and to acknowledge that no one has a monopoly on evil or goodness. People hear Im Serbian, and they say, My God! Murderer! she says. This is different from the Bosnian war, when I felt people at least tried to differentiate between the three groups. She raises some disturbing questions. What would happen if the foreign population of Berlin grew to be 80% of the city? What if this 80% said, Now we want to be part of another country. Thats how we see Kosovo, but Im almost afraid to say this because someone might read it and go start attacking foreigners in Berlin, because that kind of nationalism is everywhere.

She says NATO is fighting to preserve European unity, and she remembers the early days of the Kosovo conflict. This whole thing started because Serbia was afraid of losing Kosovo. Maybe there were provocations, like in Bosnia, and in 1992 the K.L.A. started attacking Yugoslavian police. What NATO calls freedom fighters were in reality paramilitary terrorists who said they wanted to take Kosovo away from Serbia. I believe nato when they say that Milosevic attacked innocent Kosovars, and I believe it was wrong to do so. So do all the Serbs who were marching in the streets of Belgrade, protesting Milosevics policies, the protesters we didnt hear of here in Germany, the innocent Serbs who are huddled in their cellars with their families right now. How many Kosovars opposed the K.L.A. before Milosevic started cracking down? How many Serbs opposed Milosevic before the bombs started falling? I know its been reported, but no one wants to feel it. Thats what scares me. The hatred is coming here, too.


August 16, 1999

Still High on Hatred
The victims in Kosovo now are the Serbs, fleeing vengeance and unwelcome even in Serbia itself

Nightmare follows nightmare. The purging of Kosovos ethnic Albanian majority by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been halted by NATO bombs and the presence of KFOR, the United Nations security force. But peace, as always, is proving much harder to win than war. Fear and hatred remain. All that has changed is the refugees. The Serb population of Kosovo--more than 200,000 at the outset of Milosevics campaign of violence--is fast disappearing from the region. Despised by the returning Albanian Kosovars, they are also facing rejection from their fellow countrymen as they flee into Serbia proper.

The tables have turned against the Kosovo Serbs, and its almost certain that the innocent are suffering the sins of their evil brothers, says Ron Redmond, spokesman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in the capital, Pristina. Of the perhaps 50,000 Serbs remaining in the province, many are too old, too sick or too poor to flee. But the forces that scare them into wanting to do so have not faded with the U.N. presence. A Belgrade-based non-government group, the Center for Peace and Tolerance, claims that in the past month Kosovos Serb community has suffered more than 50 murders, 200 kidnapings and 5,000 cases of violent robbery and expulsion. Albanian Kosovars are quick to say that such numbers pale compared to the organized purges by Milosevics army and military police, but, as Kosovos U.N. administrator Bernard Kouchner points out, it is the role of the winner to protect the loser.

Dragitsa Blagojevec is in the latter category. A 54-year-old unemployed widow, her apartment block in Pristina was taken over by young armed thugs after the Serb forces withdrew. Blagojevec watched them enter and leave the flat of her new neighbor, a returned ethnic Albanian Kosovar, and feared to go out for food. After four days with almost nothing to eat, she knelt before an icon of Saint Nicholas and prayed. She thought she had been answered when that night two Serbian friends of her late husband appeared at her door bearing flour and a carton of milk. But the thugs ruling the building turned miracle back to nightmare: they pistol-whipped and kicked the visitors, partly stripped Blagojevec, jumped on her right leg and put a pistol in her mouth, threatening to kill her if she stayed in Kosovo. The Albanians have no limits in seeing us suffer, says Blagojevec, discussing with a group of other elderly Serbs plans to try to leave their homes. I will walk out of Kosovo if I have to, says Blagojevec, even though her right leg is bandaged and Serbia proper is more than 20 km away.

Dejan Backovic, director of the Center for Peace and Tolerance, says, I tell them to stay, to trust KFOR, to work with them. But we all know that when night falls its terror time for non-Albanians. The same night that Blagojevec was attacked in her flat the list of violence in the capital included: the gang rape of a 65-year-old Serb woman a kilometer from Blagojevecs block; the strangling of Lubica Vujovic, a 78-year-old Serb woman; the shooting of an unidentified Serb man; the murder of Serb Momcilo Milenovic and the kidnaping of his son, 15.

There is an organized attempt by militant Albanians to purge Kosovo of its Serbian people, says Father Sava, of the Orthodox Church. Given the depths of mutual hatred, halting such an attempt is easier said than done. The U.N.s Kouchner says angrily, This revenge must stop. Otherwise all the soldiers in the world will not be able to protect the little Serb lady who wants to go to the bakery. He adds, Every murder and abuse of a Serb is a victory for Milosevic. Protecting the Serbs is the best weapon against him.

That sound argument, however, does not outweigh Albanian thirst for vengeance. Further confounding logic, many Serbs left in Kosovo remain loyal to the man who caused their plight. At a meeting in a refugee camp in Kosovo Polje, in the heart of the province, some 350 Serbs pledge their support for the man accused of war crimes. I may not have seen a penny of my pension for months, says Leposava Mitic, a 55-year-old widow from Djakovica. I may not have money to buy cigarettes. But I know Milosevic is good. Hes giving us something to eat, and he is the real guarantor of our security.

For the Serbs who have fled--as many as 180,000 according to some estimates--there is little brotherly love awaiting them in Serbia. After nearly three months of NATO bombing, the Milosevic government has no money to rebuild for its own people, let alone to care for the influx of refugees. It seems to want to make life so uncomfortable that they will return to Kosovo, as their presence in Serbia is evidence of NATOs victory. Milosevic is also unlikely to want to undermine Kosovos status as part of Yugoslavia by permitting all the provinces Serbs to flee, evidence for which is his governments refusal to allow refugees to register as residents in a town, or to receive pensions, or for their children to attend schools.

When the exodus began, the state-controlled media completely ignored the Serb refugees choking the roads. Then the government began trying to bus them back, and the Milosevic-controlled RTS television showed busloads of returning Serbs. Foreign journalists, however, were unable to locate these volunteers.

Local governments in many central Serbian towns are in the hands of parties opposing Milosevic, and there is scant sympathy for the refugees. In Kragujevac, a city of 200,000 people 160 km from Belgrade, 80% of the local workforce is already jobless because the main employer, the Zastava car plant, was destroyed in the bombing. Even before that the plant was struggling, so the arrival of 15,000 Kosovo Serbs was hardly welcome. Many of them are living with relatives who fled earlier troubles in Kosovo.

In Kraljevo, just to the south, there are 20,000 Serb refugees living with relatives, with host families they have never met, or crammed into schools or other public buildings. In a half-built house on the outskirts, 10 people sleep in a room 3 m by 4 m, the youngest a girl aged three, the eldest a man of 58. From villages near Pec and Klina, they are afraid to be named in case they can return there one day. We have nowhere else to go, says the mother of the young child. We will stay here in winter as well. That will be tough; water pours through the roof when it rains, and there is only a small stove for cooking.

In the public refuges, conditions are just as bad. In the citys Vuk Karadzic school--shut for summer vacation--the smell of urine seeps from toilets used by 250 people. They sleep in the classrooms and corridors, among them 113 children. Another 120 people camp in the school grounds, sleeping in buses or tractor trailers. We left behind a house, cattle, wheat, says Milosava Dabizljevic, 63, who sleeps with her husband Djuro in a tractor trailer covered with a makeshift roof. We have been here for two months, she says. We dont have anything to cook on. We eat half a loaf of bread, some tomatoes. Nothing else.

About 3,000 of the Kosovo Serbs are repeat refugees, having already been made homeless from the earlier wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Many of them had been forced to Kosovo by the Milosevic regime to try to rebuild their lives there. They and the other refugees fear being ordered back there prematurely.

Goran Svilanovic, leader of the opposition Civic Alliance of Serbia, was born and raised in Kosovo, but he refers to the return of the regions Serbs as a kind of dream. He blames the international community. They have not prevented war crimes; they have not prevented looting; they did not prevent Kosovo Albanians from being purged; and now they have not prevented Serbs from Kosovo being pushed out again. What we have in Kosovo now is a region unsafe for anyone living there. One of Milosevics top lieutenants, Deputy Prime Minister Ratko Markovic, told the Belgrade weekly paper Svedok recently that the Serbian people are painfully taking in the truth that the Serb state has been banished from Kosovo. Serbia does not have sovereignty in Kosovo.

For the Serb refugees, however, survival weighs far more heavily than sovereignty, especially with winter in mind. The U.N.s Kouchner says plans are being drawn up for their return to Kosovo, but the earliest date mooted is some time next year. And the UNHCRs Redmond is dubious about the proposal. For starters, we dont know whether it will be voluntary, he says; plus we dont know who Belgrade may be chucking out with the civilians.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Stajkovic huddles in the basement of his house in Kosovska Kamenica, in eastern Kosovo, one of the declining number of Serbs staying put. Every day they threaten to kill me, as they did my two cousins, he says. But Id rather kill myself than leave. This is my home. This is my land as well. Anywhere else, those last words might indicate a wish to share, but that quality remains tragically thin on the ground in Kosovo.

Reported by Anthee Carassava/Pristina and Gillian Sandford/Belgrade


May 29, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 21

Headed for a Showdown
Belgrades latest effort to smother the independent media has reawakened Serbias fractious opposition

The noise from the corridor at 2 a.m. startled Boris, a technician for Belgrade-based FM station Radio B2-92. Seconds later, armed police broke down the studio door. They wore camouflage and ski masks, Boris recalled some eight hours following the raid last Wednesday, after he and several colleagues were released from police custody. They said we were a terrorist station, and that the government was taking over.

The police simultaneously swooped on two other radio stations, a local television outlet and a newspaper — all in the same building in downtown Belgrade — practically smothering the remains of the free media in the Serbian capital and triggering a wave of protests across the country. The regime has taken the country into a state of emergency, declared the Serbian opposition in a joint statement. On Wednesday evening, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in central Belgrade, occasionally throwing rocks at the police. Slobodan, Slobodan, kill yourself and save Serbia, they chanted. The police eventually dispersed the demonstrators with batons and tear gas, but the protests continue. It may be over for tonight, but well be back tomorrow, and the day after, until we prevail, said Ivan Marovic, 26, the spokesman for the student movement Otpor (Resistance).

The growing popularity of Otpor may be what prompted Milosevic to stop tolerating a limited number of opposition outlets to keep up the pretense of democracy. Founded in 1998, the organization was virtually unknown until some months ago, when it started rapidly gaining supporters. Its logo — a clenched fist — is now scribbled on walls and fences throughout Serbia — and more and more people brave police harassment by wearing it on T shirts and buttons. Apart from an estimated 20,000 activists, Otpor has no identifiable leadership and no political platform other than the overthrow of Milosevic by peaceful means. Its support comes from Serbias silent majority — people who dislike the government, but who also distrust the traditional opposition, for its lack of unity and its occasional flirtations with Milosevic. We work with the opposition parties, but we are not a party ourselves, explains Marovic. We act as a catalyst to bring others together and trigger the reaction.

The reaction may have started. In the weeks preceding the crackdown on the free media, Milosevics officials started describing Otpor as terrorists and a nato-sponsored fascist group, and the police started bringing in and questioning the activists. Accusing us of being terrorists was really dumb, says Marovic. Nobody believes that. But when a mentally disturbed security guard assassinated Bosko Perosevic, the governor of the province of Vojvodina, on May 13, the government quickly accused Otpor and the Serbian Renewal Movement — the party led by the maverick politician Vuk Draskovic — of being behind the killing. Four days later, those media outlets which expressed doubts about the governments version were shut down for inciting terrorist activities.

Instead of weakening the opposition, Milosevic gave it new focus. As the protests continued, spreading to some 20 towns throughout Serbia, Draskovic told demonstrators in Belgrade Friday night that he and the two other main opposition leaders will go to Russia and ask President Vladimir Putin to pressure Milosevic to end the media crackdown and call elections. He appealed to the crowd to show restraint to avoid further clashes with Milosevics heavily armed riot police. No radio or television station, and no position of authority, is worth spilling even a drop of blood for, he said. But patience is thin. I dont care about Draskovic and his maneuvering, said Zoran Smiljanic, 42, an electrical engineer. I have three kids. Unless we kick Milosevic out as soon as possible, they will have no future. And if we need to fight with sticks and stones, so be it.

The overwhelming feeling is that change in Serbia is under way, peacefully or otherwise. This is the beginning of the endgame, says Milan Milosevic, an analyst for the Belgrade-based political weekly Vreme, adding that his namesakes regime is too weak to maintain power. Such predictions have been made before. But this time, the Belgrade strongman will need all his survival skills to contain the tide of discontent.



No comments:


About Me

My photo
MICHAEL ROLOFF exMember Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS: "MAY THE FOGGY DEW BEDIAMONDIZE YOUR HOOSPRINGS!" {J. Joyce} "Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben] contact via my website