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[balkans] Links: IREX Policy Paper Serbia at War

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  • Florian Bieber
    Below is the summary of a discussion on Serbia and the war in Kosovo from IREX, for the full text go to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 23, 1999
      Below is the summary of a discussion on Serbia and the war in Kosovo from
      IREX, for the full text go to

      IREX Policy Papers
      Serbia at War
      Washington, DC May 12, 1999
      Conclusions and Recommendations

      Milosevic and Serbian Politics Consequences of the Bombing Campaign What
      Should Be Done Participants
      Conclusions and Recommendations
      The war against Serbia will have lasting effects on the entire region. Not
      all of these wereexpected when the war began. The strongest effects have
      been on Serbia itself. PresidentSlobodan Milosevic has been strengthened by
      NATO's bombing campaign as people haverallied around him. But the bombing
      may have also engendered internal threats to his positionthat could be
      activated after the war ends. In particular it has empowered a Serbian
      publicthat could be turned against him and raised the profile and
      confidence of the army, which wasnever fully on his side.

      The bombing has created threats to the stability of Montenegro and
      Macedonia. Neither iswell equipped to cope with the refugees that have
      crossed their borders. Nor is Bosniawhere the fragile Dayton Accords have
      been made weaker still. Fears of a coup are rampantin Montenegro; the
      ethnic imbalances created by the Albanian refugees may tear apartMacedonia.
      Albania, on the other hand, has had its unity galvanized by the influx of
      itscompatriots. The influence of the Kosovars will long be felt in Tirana,
      which may bode ill forpeace and stability in the region.

      NATO will have to choose between negotiation and de-escalation of the
      conflict on the onehand and escalation and the introduction of ground
      troops on the other. It has not devised a coherent long-term strategy to
      take it out of theconflict and create stability in the region after. Such a
      strategy would have several components.

      An approach to a postwar Serbia that many argue must become democratic. The
      political forces within Serbia are already jockeying forposition, but how
      NATO and the United States will approach these forces is by no means clear.
      This approach should be part of a strategy for the region. This would
      include support for the countries of the region that must manage theinflux
      of refugees. It would include strengthening ties between the Serbian
      opposition and like-minded forces elsewhere in the Balkans. The political
      status of Kosovo must be determined. There are no easy choices here. An
      independent Kosovo would leave Serbsresentful. A Kosovo autonomous within
      the Yugoslav Federation might be unworkable and foster irredentism in
      Albania. Other optionsworth consideration are the partition of Kosovo and
      an exchange of parts of Kosovo for parts of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia.

      Milosevic and Serbian Politics
      Slobodan Milosevic is the central figure in the drama being played out in
      Belgrade. Warren Zimmermann, the last American ambassador toYugoslavia
      before it broke up, described a duality in him. On the one hand he can be a
      "raving" nationalist determined to break up Yugoslavia.On the other, he is
      a genial host and amiable personality. He carries the duality of a "good"
      and "bad" Milosevic into policy.

      Participants found other characteristics important as well. He is a
      skillful liar, and his mendacity has been described as a constant. Yet as
      he hasbecome increasingly isolated, he may believe his lies. He can be a
      gambler, a break-the-mold politician. Yet he is capable of following
      acautious, well-thought-out strategy. It has been said that Milosevic is a
      good tactician and a lousy strategist. His strategic vision is often
      clear,however, though he has failed at times because that vision can be
      more than he can reasonably be expected to attain. His failures,
      however,have usually been in conflicts against other Yugoslavs. When he
      deals with the international community he has been more successful.

      In the longer term, an indictment could weaken Milosevic, but only if it
      were part ofa broader strategy to stabilize the region after the fighting

      At the time of the forum, the International Criminal Tribunal for
      Yugoslavia (ICTY) had not yet handed down its indictment of Milosevic
      forcrimes against humanity. The participants did discuss effects that such
      an indictment might have. An indictment, they said, would lead theSerbian
      people to rally around the president. But this would have a short-term
      effect. In the longer term, an indictment could weaken Milosevic,but only
      if it were part of a broader strategy to stabilize the region after the
      fighting stops.

      Others saw a similarity with the situation of Radovan Karadzic, the
      indicted leader of the Bosnian Serbs. Under the terms of the
      DaytonAgreement, he cannot hold public office, though he remains
      influential. If an indictment of Milosevic got him out of office, it would
      be a stepforward even if he, like Karadzic, refuses to go away.

      Prominent as Milosevic is, he is but one of several forces at work in
      Serbia. The attacks by NATOhave united them. All the same, there are
      fissures in this unity that will widen after the bombing stops.In fact, one
      participant recently returned from Serbia argued that there are two wars
      being waged inSerbia. The obvious one is the military struggle with NATO.
      The second one is for the future ofSerbia; for its soul, as the participant
      put it.

      On one side of this second war stand the radicals within the Serbian
      leadership. This group, analliance between left and right, is willing to
      break with the West and ally itself with Russia and China.They are not
      willing to negotiate. They view the West as perfidious. The United States
      in particular,in their view, has a master plan with the sole goal of
      getting them and Milosevic out of power.

      On the other side stand those convinced that the war has been a disaster
      for Serbia and that theradicals will leave Serbia isolated and
      impoverished. They remain joined with their compatriots in thefirst war,
      the military one. Yet they favor dialogue and negotiations and are
      positioning themselves towage the second war after the first one ends.

      The hope for these moderates lies in the two major weaknesses of Milosevic
      described by one participant. The first is that the very act ofopposing
      NATO has given the populace a sense of empowerment. Milosevic has tried to
      keep them apathetic, but now they believe they cando anything. Their anger
      is focused on NATO, but with the end of the conflict it could be redirected.
      Second, the army has never been in Milosevic's pocket, but it now has a
      central role in Serbia. It has inherited the mantle of Tito's Partisans
      ofWorld War II and has a new self-confidence. Moreover, it believes that it
      must be involved in the future of the country. Both the military andthe
      security agencies are divided, but most are aligned with the moderates.

      All the participants believed that the opposition to Milosevic was worthy
      of support. Ways of supporting it should be found, several argued,even
      though Western support could compromise its recipients in the eyes of other
      Serbs. There was sharp disagreement over which parts ofthe opposition the
      West should support. One argument was that assistance should be given to
      anyone who supported democratic procedureand the rule of law, no matter
      what outcome they sought for policy.
      But another argument was that the West has tended to support middle class
      liberals able to fill out the paperwork demanded by foundations.Yet, the
      argument continued, these people rarely spoke to the Albanians-opposing
      even the autonomy of Kosovo-and were unwilling toconfront the regime before
      the fighting began. They were also ineffectual, unable to get votes or
      popular support.

      There was agreement that the opposition to which the West gives its support
      to must be able to attract people as most of the current oppositionhas not,
      perhaps by using social issues like the wages and pensions that the
      Milosevic regime has not paid. There was also agreement that linksbetween
      the Serbian opposition and like-minded groups elsewhere in the region
      should be encouraged.
      Consequences of the Bombing Campaign

      The bombing campaign against Serbia has had effects felt strongly
      throughout southeastern Europe and beyond, as Russia and China haveopposed
      NATO's intervention, worsening their relations with NATO and the United
      States. There were other consequences not foreseen byNATO when the campaign
      began, and more than one participant expressed the view that because of
      this NATO had changed its goals.

      In Serbia, the NATO campaign has united the populace. Milosevic has been
      able to consolidate his position and his hold on power. As notedabove,
      however, there are fissures in the Serbian polity that may weaken his hold
      later. The campaign accelerated the Serbian campaign todrive the Muslims
      out of Kosovo. It has undermined both the democratic movement and the
      independent media in Serbia.
      The Serbian economy, which was about the size of metropolitan Baltimore,
      was already weak, but it has become much weaker. The cost ofthe damage
      could run to $100 billion. An additional 500,000 Serbs have become
      unemployed, raising unemployment to four percent. Thecapacity of the
      country to refine oil has been eliminated, and several other industries,
      including machine building, have been destroyed. Even theblack market has
      shrunk. In order to finance the war, the state has closed schools and
      halved pensions.

      In addition to the economic effects it has suffered as the other part of
      the Yugoslav Federation, Montenegro is threatened with politicalinstability
      and must find a way to manage an influx of refugees, which now make up 15
      percent of the population. The bombing has outragedthe opponents of
      President Milo Djukanovic. It has also roused the ire of not a few of his
      supporters as well, who had hoped that hispro-Western policies would spare
      them the bombing. Tensions have risen as rumors and fears of a
      pro-Milosevic plot have spread.

      The assaults of the Serbs have created enormous sympathy for the Kosovar
      Albanians in Albania. The country has drawn together, and theentire
      political spectrum has become more nationalistic. Yet the country, the
      poorest in Europe, can ill afford the 427,000 refugees that havecrossed the
      border. Moreover, the Kosovars will be able to exert strong influence over
      decision making in Tirana for years to come,particularly if a resolution of
      the conflict is delayed or comes at the expense of the Kosovars.
      The war is also increasing Western influence in Albania. NATO has moved in
      because of the war and the World Bank has extended a credit of$30 million.
      The Albanians see this as another opportunity to reconstruct their economy
      along Western lines.

      The other country most strongly affected by refugees is Macedonia; 231,200
      refugees have crossed the border into this country. But whereasthey elicit
      sympathy in Albania, they threaten to make Macedonia unravel as they raise
      strong ethnic passions and upset the country's delicateethnic balance. One
      participant said that the longer the conflict lasts, the smaller the
      chances that Macedonia will survive as an independentcountry. In addition,
      it has lost the key buyer of its exports and the main transit routes to the
      lucrative markets of Western Europe.

      The effects of the war on Bosnia have dismaying implications for the
      future. The war threatens to undermine the already shaky Dayton peaceplan.
      That threat will increase if Serbia's neighbors and the factions within
      Bosnia are drawn into the conflict. Like its neighbors, Bosniaattracted
      thousands of refugees before and during the bombing campaign-18,000 Kosovar
      Albanians, 20,000 Sandjak Muslims, and 18,000Serbs and Montenegrans. Also
      like Albania and Macedonia, it does not have the resources to take care of

      What Should Be Done

      There are two roads for NATO to follow to end the conflict, according to
      the participants. One is negotiation and deescalation. The other
      isescalation and the introduction of ground troops. They speakers disagreed
      strongly on the value of each road. Some believed that negotiationwould
      lead NATO and the United States to strike a tainted bargain with Milosevic
      that would sell out the Kosovar Albanians and leave Serbiaa threat to peace
      in the region. Others saw ominous parallels between the actions of the
      Clinton administration and those of Lyndon Johnson ashe sank into the
      morass of Vietnam.

      Most agreed on several things, however. They saw no long-term strategy on
      the part of the United States and NATO, but they believed that itwas vital
      that policymakers have a vision of what the region should look like after
      the war and conceive of a plan for realizing it. That plan, theyagreed,
      should be regional in nature. At the same time, many derided what they saw
      as an arrogant tendency to view the region through theprism of Western
      culture. The West, they said, has provided support only for those who seem
      most familiar, treated the people of the regionwith moral condescension,
      and foisted its political and economic ideals on nations that may not share

      There was also agreement that the future of Serbia was a key to the future
      of the entire region. Without a stable, democratic Serbia, there can be no
      lasting peace in the Balkans said one participant, echoing Zoran Djinjic, a
      leader of the Serbian opposition. Several participants alsobelieved that
      Milosevic must be removed from power before the region could become stable
      and Serbia democratic. There was agreement thatturning Serbia toward
      democracy would be no easy task. It would require more of the United States
      than it has given before; aid tonongovernmental organizations would not be
      enough. The opposition would have to be helped in any case and an effective
      approach devised.Some said that Kosovo would have to be detached from
      Serbia; the options are Kosovo or democracy, said one. Another participant
      said thatdemocracy would come to Serbia only if it was occupied, as Germany
      was after World War II.

      The question of what should be done with Kosovo evoked several answers. Few
      believed that Kosovo could remain a part of Serbia after theevents of the
      last few months. The Kosovar Albanians would not accept it and Tirana would
      become irredentist. On the other hand, Serbia willseethe with resentment if
      Kosovo is ripped away from it. One participant saw a protectorate over
      Kosovo for three or five years as the onlyworkable option. Others favored a
      partition of Kosovo, with part going to Serbia. Yet it was unclear to
      others that a boundary could be drawnthat would be acceptable to the two
      sides. Still another participant proposed that a part of Kosovo be treated
      for a part of the RepublikaSrpska in Bosnia.


      Panel 1
      Effects of the War on Serbia

      Kendall Myers, Coordinator of European Area Studies, ForeignService
      Institute (FSI)
      Robert W. Hansen, Chief of the Southern Europe Division, Officefor Analysis
      of Europe, Bureau of Intelligence and Research,Department of State

      John Treadway, Professor of History, University of Richmond
      Bogdan Denitch, Professor Emeritus, City University of New York
      Obrad Kesic, Director, Office of Government Affairs, ICNPharmaceuticals
      Julie Mostov, Director, Institute for the Humanities, DrexelUniversity
      Louis Sell, Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center forScholars

      Panel 2
      Effect of the War on the Region

      McKinney Russell, Senior Coordinator for Academic &Training Programs,
      International Research & Exchanges Board

      James Gow, Visiting Scholar, Institute of War and PeaceStudies, Columbia
      University, and Reader in War Studies, King'sCollege, London
      Elez Biberaj, Chief, Albanian Service, Voice of America
      Roderick Mackler, Program Officer for Kosovo, United StatesDepartment of
      Robert Hayden, Director, Center for Russian and EastEuropean Studies,
      University of Pittsburgh
      Paul Tibbitts, Economist, PlanEcon, and Manager, EastEuropean Automotive

      Florian Bieber

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