B o s N e t - Sept. 16, 1995
PARTITIONING BOSNIA: ANALYSIS OF THE U.S. PEACE INITIATIVE
While amorphous in all but its central components, the new U.S. diplomatic initiative to halt the fighting in Bosnia would cede de facto control over much of the country's territory to Croatia and Serbia. Although it would nominally preserve Bosnia's sovereignty under a greatly weakened and yet to be defined central authority, the plan would effectively partition the country approximately into halves controlled by a Bosnian-Croatian federation and a Serbian entity. If Serbian forces are not demilitarized or cut off from support from Belgrade, partition is unavoidable.
The plan differs from the Contact Group map primarily by allowing Bosnian Serb confederation with Serbia and a swap of key territories. A Serbian withdrawal from Croatian territory in eastern Slavonia would be effectively postponed through interim arrangements for United Nations administration of the region.
Inducements to accept the plan include air strikes against selected Serbian targets, termination of sanctions against Serbia, the promise of tens of thousands of United States and other foreign troops to implement the plan, pledges of large-scale economic assistance, and threats of an UNPROFOR withdrawal and termination of the arms embargo.
If effected on the ground, the plan would reduce Bosnia to a truncated archipelago with difficult to defend western and eastern enclaves. The survival of the new state would be largely dependent upon outside aid and the good will of its stronger neighbors. Serbia and Croatia could easily further reduce Bosnia's territory through military action. In addition, they could isolate it economically in order to force it to accede to political demands.
By accepting ethnically-based, forcible purges of populations, the plan would lead to further this time, internationally sanctioned ethnic cleansing. Muslims would likely become increasingly dominant in government-controlled areas, while their influence in Serb- and Croat-controlled regions would be virtually eliminated.
It is conceivable that granting hegemony to the Serbian aggressors and introducing U.S. and other foreign ground troops would halt the fighting and create conditions for reconstruction of hostile, but non-irredentist neighboring states. It is more likely, however, that, by rewarding aggression, the plan would:
- foster a continuation, if not escalation, of ethnic enmities; - not be backed with sufficient inducements and support to prevent a return to military adventurism, political extremism, and economic decline; - freeze Serbian gains on the ground and, after a momentary pause, lead to renewed Serbian terrorist attacks on civilians and Bosnian and Croatian attempts to re-capture lost territory; - encourage Serbia to escalate persecution of non-Serbs in Kosovo and other areas of Serbia, thereby possibly expanding armed conflict in the region; and - embolden would-be aggressors beyond the region by accepting the forcible alteration of borders and population purges based on ethnicity.
WHAT IS THE PLAN?
While a few basic principles have been agreed to by the parties in Geneva, the Clinton Administration's new "peace plan" has been more accurately described as a "laundry list" or inventory of ideas and proposals it is offering to the various negotiating parties. The Administration apparently hopes to find an acceptable match of proposals that will ultimately form the basis of a final settlement. This approach is similar to that employed last year by the Contact Group countries (Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States) with their "take-it-or-leave-it" map. Then, the mediators had a specific map that would have split Bosnia between Serbian occupiers and the Bosnian Federation, with the latter controlling 51 percent of Bosnia. Beyond the map itself, however, there was no specific plan, merely issues and concepts to be discussed. The mediators, therefore, had significant room for maneuvering, since they had committed no details to writing. At the same time, the approach created confusion even among the parties as to what was actually on the table and agreed to by the Bosnians and their Croatian partners.
Numerous press reports and other sources have revealed, however, the basic outlines of what the Administration's envoys now are presenting, including territorial swaps, political arrangements, and commitments concerning enforcement of the potential agreement.
The Map: The plan is based on the Contact Group 51%-49% partition formula, but several land "swaps" would consolidate Serbian gains in eastern Bosnia, widen the vital Serbian supply corridor in northern Bosnia and, in exchange, give the Bosnian government control over Sarajevo and its immediate environs. Even the 51-49 formula, however, could be changed upon mutual agreement of the parties. The map envisioned under this scheme would:
- Legitimize Serbian conquest of two of the three eastern enclaves, Zepa and Srebrenica, and cede control of Gorazde, the remaining eastern "safe area," to the Serbs, who would then have full control over eastern Bosnia. - Widen the northern Posavina corridor, which includes the Bosnian government enclave of Brcko, thereby providing the Serbs with a more defensible corridor for supplying Serbian forces in northern and western Bosnia and providing a lifeline from Serbia proper to those areas. - Provide narrow corridors or highways connecting Bosnian government-held lands in central Bosnia with the enclaves of Brcko in the north and Bihac in the northwest, effectively rendering them indefensible islands dependent upon Serbian and Croatian good will and protection. - Give the Bosnian government control over Sarajevo and its immediate environs, and connect them to Government-held territory in central Bosnia.
Constitutional and Political Arrangements: These are probably the most critical and, yet, least defined aspects of the plan. So far, the parties have agreed to preserve a "unitary" Bosnian state at least for now comprised of two autonomously governed "entities" the Bosnian Federation and the "Republika Srpska" that would have separate constitutions and be allowed to forge "parallel special relationships" with neighboring countries. While key issues concerning the powers and structure of the central authority including parliamentary, executive, and judicial institutions and powers of defense and customs are yet to be negotiated, the Serb-controlled territory would have virtual autonomy, with a largely symbolic central authority that would nominally preserve Bosnia's "sovereignty" and "territorial integrity." This central authority apparently would have little or no real control over Bosnia's present borders, customs, or defense beyond Government-held areas. The United States has also suggested that residents of the Serb-controlled territory would also have the right to hold a referendum on independence in five years.
In addition, Serbia is being asked "eventually" to recognize Bosnia's and Croatia's borders and governments in return for an immediate termination of international sanctions, which were originally linked to ending Serbian occupation of Bosnian territory.
Eastern Slavonia: The U.S. plan calls for UN administration of the remaining Serb-occupied region of Croatia for three years, after which time a permanent settlement based on Croatia's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be reached. The negotiators hope that Serbia's "eventual" recognition of Croatia and its borders will, de facto, resolve this dispute.
United States Commitments: The United States is also committing to enforce the agreement and (re)build Bosnia's infrastructure and military. It would send up to 25,000 ground troops as part of a NATO contingent of up to 50,000 to enforce boundaries based on the new map. The troops would remain between nine months and three years, although some might remain as "monitors" after an initial withdrawal. In addition, the United States is committing to provide the Bosnians with hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term economic and military assistance. This package of short-term protection, enforcement of the plan, and long-term assistance is designed to address concerns about the rump Bosnia's military and economic viability.
WHY IS THE U.S. FINALLY LEADING?
The Clinton Administration's new peace plan for Bosnia comes at a moment when not only the United States and its European allies, but also Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia are in position to see more clearly the likely consequences of an extended war in the region. The U.S. and European abandonment of the UN-declared "safe areas" of Srebrenica and Zepa and their civilian populations to Serbian forces had greatly undermined Western credibility and increased pressure for a reversal of current Western policies. At the same time, Croatia's successful counter-offensive to re-capture the Krajina and its joint campaign with the Bosnian Army in Bosnia's Bihac region had demonstrated that Serbian territorial gains could be easily reversed by adequately armed forces. Croatia's successful re-armament along with the growing impatience of the U.S. Congress and Islamic and non-aligned nations with Washington and Europe's failure to protect or defend Bosnia demonstrated that, in the long-term, time appeared to be on the side of Serbia's victims.
Rather than build upon the Croatian victory by helping to turn the tide decisively in favor of the victimized nations, the Administration has instead thrown the use of NATO air power and the full weight of U.S. diplomacy behind a settlement that would freeze most of Serbia's territorial gains in place. In so doing, the President and his foreign policy team appear to be motivated primarily by domestic calculations rather than fundamental strategic and foreign policy interests:
- Britain and France had made clear that they would not stay in Bosnia for another winter under current operating conditions. While the altered situation on the ground following Croatia's liberation of the Krajina and the Serbian capture of Srebrenica and Zepa had rendered a large American troop deployment to assist in UNPROFOR's evacuation less likely, a withdrawal would still almost inevitably lead to an end to the arms embargo and, in the Administration's analysis, more fighting.
- It also had become clear that, unless the ground situation in Bosnia stabilized or the Administration was making substantial progress toward a settlement, the Congress would probably override the President's veto of the Dole-Lieberman bill to end the arms embargo against the Bosnian government. This would be the biggest foreign policy defeat for an American president in more than a decade and, in the Administration's calculation, lead to more fighting.
- The President's political advisors believed that domestic political and public opposition to President Clinton's handling of the Bosnian conflict was likely to grow as the Presidential campaign began. White House advisers, with whom the new U.S. initiative originated, may have concluded that a quick settlement (of virtually any sort) would be preferable to continued fighting (of any sort). They also may have concluded that a serious attempt, even if belated and ultimately unsuccessful, would be better politically than continued inaction. As a result, the Administration either had to find a way to keep the UNPROFOR troops in place or obtain a quick settlement.
INCENTIVES AND DISINCENTIVES: GETTING TO THE TABLE AND BEYOND
The plan does not satisfy the strategic goals of any party completely, although it comes closest to realizing those of Croatia and Serbia. In an effort to entice or compel cooperation at the negotiating table and in the implementation phase of the agreement, the United States is presenting a number of positive and negative inducements to Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia in order to win agreement to the settlement.
Serbia: Air Strikes, Sanctions, and Land. Intermittently since August 30, NATO has launched air strikes on selected Serbian targets. While the thousands of sorties represent the largest use of air power since the war in Bosnia began, it appears that they were used primarily to ease the siege of Sarajevo and induce the Bosnian Serbs to agree to negotiate and accept the newly proposed territorial division. Accordingly, the strikes have been directed at a small number of targets that, if destroyed, would not adversely affect the Serbs' ability to hold territory. While the strikes have decreased the Bosnian Serbs' ability to command and control their troops in the short term, very little weaponry has been destroyed. Virtually all of the targets have been around Sarajevo, in territory that the Administration is asking the Serbs to relinquish under the new partition map, or areas through which the UN might withdraw. For example, the strikes undoubtedly softened Serbian positions around Sarajevo and Tuzla, while few strikes have been conducted around Banja Luka and Brcko, where the Serbs would keep land or get more territory under the new map.
Serbia itself is being offered a termination of international sanctions in return for its "eventual" diplomatic recognition of Bosnia and Croatia. Throughout this year, the Administration had advocated a suspension of UN sanctions against Serbia in exchange for Belgrade's full diplomatic recognition of its neighbors. After Serbian President Milosevic refused several months ago to accept the offer already a weakening of the Contact Group's 1994 ultimatum, which called for tightening the sanctions, the Administration offered sanctions relief in exchange for mere recognition of Bosnia's borders. Milosevic could have thereby acknowledged the existence of Bosnia as a country while at the same time continuing to treat his Bosnian Serb proxies as its rightful government. Nevertheless, he still balked.
Now, in exchange for promising to grant recognition and securing Bosnian Serb acceptance of the plan, UN sanctions against Serbia would be terminated. The new offer represents a return to the original Contact Group concept in that it demands that Serbia recognize Bosnia and its government within its internationally recognized borders. At the same time, however, it significantly weakens the original Contact Group position by offering Milosevic outright termination, rather than mere suspension, of sanctions in exchange for recognition. This is critical since Russia would almost certainly block any attempt to re-impose the sanctions.
The timing of the termination will be central to the issue. Administration officials have suggested that Milosevic would not have to recognize Bosnia and Croatia immediately. In light of his record, however, rewarding him for yet another commitment rather than deeds is naive at best. Anything less than a firm, detailed, non-negotiable proposal also makes it likely that Milosevic will demand changes in his favor at the last minute.
In addition, by offering Milosevic a termination of sanctions under these conditions, the United States is dramatically lowering the threshold for Serbia's reentry into the international community. While recognizing his neighbors at some point, Milosevic will retain at least de facto control over at least 49 percent of Bosnia and, perhaps, part of Croatia. He can also be expected to continue his material and financial support for the Bosnian Serb military, which is, in reality, part of the Serbian armed forces under Belgrade's command. His ongoing support of Bosnian Serb and Croatian Serb forces is a clear violation of the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and numerous international treaties. It is also a violation of resolutions demanding, generally, a cessation of his interference in Bosnia and Croatia, the disbanding, disarming, and withdrawal of Serbian forces in Bosnia, and, specifically, the termination of his re-supply of Serbian forces outside of his own borders, which were the original conditions for terminating sanctions. (See, inter alia, UNSC Resolutions 752, 757, 820, and 943.)
If Serbian forces refuse to accept the plan, the Administration has vowed to:
- lift the arms embargo against the Bosnian government; - launch a large-scale strategic bombing campaign against Serbian targets; and - support the introduction of tens of thousands of troops from countries friendly to Bosnia to come to its defense.
This approach assumes that Britain and France will agree to these steps, yet their cooperation has by no means been guaranteed. In addition, it envisions measures that, in accordance with the UN Charter and other specific international decisions, should have been taken three years ago. Indeed, the Administration has repeatedly committed itself to provide for Bosnia's defense. Numerous valid UN Security Council resolutions including, for example, UNSC Resolutions 824 and 836 called for protection of Bosnia's civilian population against Serbian attack. Resolution 752 called for all forces except the Bosnian Army to disarm, disband, or withdraw from Bosnia. Unfortunately, these and other commitments were not honored.
Croatia: Land, Dominance of Bosnia, and Acceptance by the West. Inducements for Croatian cooperation appear, on the surface, more limited than those offered to Serbia. In part, this is because Croatia has accepted every proposed settlement for Bosnia and has consistently been offered more than it might deserve given the limited size of the Croat population in Bosnia. It is also because Croatia already accomplished its major military goal of recapturing the Krajina and western Slavonia from Serb occupation forces. A closer look, however, reveals an impressive array of "incentives" being offered to Zagreb, including control over Bosnian territory, economic and political hegemony over most of the rump Bosnia envisioned in the plan, and first steps toward greater acceptance by the West.
Under the U.S. plan, the Bosnian government-Bosnian Croat Federation would hold 51 percent of Bosnia's territory. Yet the Federation has not reintegrated Croatian-held lands, where Croatian forces maintain their own border crossing checkpoints, Croatian currency is used, and political and military control remains firmly in the hands of separatist Croats. Therefore, the plan would effectively grant Croatia and its proxies in Bosnia de facto control over more than thirty percent of Bosnia. Bosnian government-held territory, moreover, will be effectively dependent upon Croatia for its economic, political, and military survival. Virtually land-locked and surrounded by Croatian and Serbian forces, the rump Bosnia will have to cultivate Croatian good will for trade and protection. The U.S. plan, in effect, would make the Bosnian Federation the successor to the Bosnian Republic, thereby making the continued participation of Bosnian Croat areas in the Federation necessary for its survival. This dependency could ultimately make Bosnia a protectorate of Croatia.
In addition, Croatia has been offered economic and military assistance, including participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program and, reportedly, closer ties to the European Union.
Bosnia: Long-Term Economic and Military Assistance. The Clinton Administration is promising to give Bosnia hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction and military assistance if it accepts the plan, thereby implying that such assistance would be withheld if Bosnia rejects the plan. While large-scale contributions from European nations could conceivably be withheld to "punish" Bosnia in such circumstances, the Administration's description of the U.S. component may mislead the Bosnian government. U.S. assistance efforts will likely be spearheaded not by the Administration, but by Congress, where Bosnia has enjoyed its strongest international support. A Congressional aid package for a multi-ethnic, undivided Bosnia is very unlikely to be adversely affected by a Bosnian refusal to accept the current partition plan. Congress is already on record in support not only of lifting the arms embargo against Bosnia, but also of providing arms to the Bosnian government. Even Senators Helms and McConnell and other strong critics of foreign aid support assistance to Bosnia.
However, they as well as other prospective donors and investors are far less likely to support either a poor and internally fractured Bosnia or two or three separate Bosnian economies. Indeed, they can be expected to block assistance efforts to Serbia and the Bosnian Serb "entity" as long as ultra-nationalists and other non-democratic figures remain in control. In addition, they will be unlikely to support assistance packages if their effectiveness, utility, and even delivery cannot be reasonably guaranteed.
Perhaps because it intends to use its planned reconstruction assistance program as a threat as well as an inducement for the Bosnians, the Administration has thus far not consulted with the Congress on this issue. Nevertheless, the proposal should be subjected to close scrutiny. So should the proposal to introduce U.S. and other foreign troops to implement the plan. The Administration has also not consulted with Congress on this issue, yet Members are likely to object almost as strongly to the use of U.S. troops to divide a UN-member country as to assume a combat role.
Plans for military assistance should also be subjected to scrutiny. These should fully address the timing of receipt of arms, training, and other aid. They should also fully explain measures by which the Contact Group states intend to ensure that Serbian forces in Bosnia are demilitarized. Since this is unlikely, an alternative approach would be to cut off military support from Serbia. If Serbian forces are not diminished in either of these ways, the country will be effectively partitioned regardless of the strength of any constitutional, civic, or governmental arrangements under the plan. Serbian military control will guarantee political and economic control as well.
If the Bosnian government refuses to accept the plan, the Administration envisions withdrawing the UNPROFOR mission and lifting the arms embargo against Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. The Bosnian government will have to decide whether it finds that, as winter approaches, UNPROFOR troops can serve a useful purpose. In recent months, they clearly had not. They abandoned Srebrenica and Zepa to Serbian forces. In Srebrenica, they did not even act to prevent the separation and detention of civilian men and boys, thousands of whom were apparently systematically murdered by Serbian forces. Shortly thereafter, they withdrew from Gorazde. They allowed Sarajevo airport to remain closed to humanitarian flights for five months. In Bihac, they took no action to halt or even address a ground assault that combined Serbian forces launched in late 1994 and that ended only when the Bosnian and Croatian armies broke the siege of the enclave without UN protection or assistance. More recently, however, the Rapid Reaction Force has responded forcefully to Serbian attacks and participated in NATO attacks on selected Serbian targets around Sarajevo.
ANALYSIS OF THE PLAN
This plan is the latest in a series of international peace plans that have offered progressively more strategically important territory to the Serbs at the expense of the surviving Bosnian entity's political, economic, and military viability. Indeed, virtually all concessions from the previous plan are made to the Serbs, while virtually all sacrifices are being asked of the Bosnian government. With the Serbs still in a dominant position militarily at least while the arms embargo against Bosnia remains in place and NATO remains unwilling to use air strikes to eliminate Serbian weaponry, the United States is primarily concerned with finding terms acceptable to the Serbs. The Serbs, therefore, know that they will be offered increasingly favorable terms, and accordingly, can be expected to harden their negotiating stance. The Bosnian government and their Croat allies, meanwhile, remain highly susceptible to U.S. and international pressures.
Several key factors will make agreement on the plan difficult to obtain.
- NATO air strikes have avoided threatening the Serb's ability to hold the two-thirds of Bosnia they now control. - The Bosnian Army is better trained and commanded and believes that time is on its side. - Even if the Serbs prove willing to give up land at the table, many analysts doubt there is a 51-49 division that can satisfy their ultimate territorial goals. - Such a division is unlikely to yield a viable truncated Bosnia, especially given the probable archipelago-like nature of such an entity under a de facto partition. - Even if a map is agreed upon, constitutional and political arrangements have proven to be the most difficult hurdle in past negotiations. And, - Even if a full agreement were signed, enforcement would require NATO, including U.S. forces, to be willing to use force to compel the Serbs to withdraw to the 51-49 line; this is highly unlikely.
The Map: Territorial "Exchanges"
The new plan, which abandons any remaining pretense that the June, 1994, Contact Group map was a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer to the Bosnian Serbs, represents a major shift in the Administration's position regarding a territorial settlement; the Administration has become even more "pragmatic" about a carve-up than former European Union negotiator David Owen. In order to achieve "defensible" territories and internal borders, the Administration is now apparently willing to countenance large-scale territorial swaps and changes to previous partition maps. Unfortunately, the Serb-controlled territory will be made more defensible, while the Bosnian Federation and certainly Bosnian government-held lands would remain a highly vulnerable archipelago, defensively and economically.
Three Eastern "Safe Areas." A major military goal of the Serbian aggressors in Bosnia has been to consolidate control over an ethnically purified eastern Bosnia, including the main water and land routes through the region. The conquest of Zepa and Srebrenica and the suggested surrender of Gorazde under the U.S. plan would satisfy this strategic war aim and, in and of itself, accomplish the creation of a Greater Serbia that incorporates lands that were previously inhabited primarily by non-Serbs. The area would be fully defensible if rid of the remaining Bosnian government enclave, especially given its long border with Serbia proper.
The offering of Gorazde at the negotiating table also represents the final abandonment of the original "safe areas" and of the UN/NATO commitment to defend them. For now, however, the Bosnian government remains firm in its refusal to give up any territory, especially Gorazde.
Brcko. Since the Serbian attacks in the Krajina and Banja Luka in the earliest days of the war, the narrow and extremely vulnerable Posavina corridor has provided the essential land link between Serbia and its proxies in Bosnia and Croatia. While its closure would inevitably deal a severe blow to the Serbian war effort, the Bosnian and Croatian armies have been able only to narrow, not close, it through ground action. The United States and its allies, in spite of numerous empowering resolutions and UN Security Council demands, have refused to use air power to assist in cutting off the corridor.
Now, rather than closing it or freezing current front lines, the Administration is actively seeking to widen from about 1.5 miles to perhaps five or ten miles wide at its narrowest point and secure the corridor, thereby fulfilling a key war aim that Serbian forces have been unable to achieve on the battlefield. By strengthening this link between Serbia and its forces in Bosnia the geographical fulcrum of a "Greater Serbia" the Administration fundamentally undermines its claim that the new plan preserves an undivided, unitary Bosnia.
By enhancing the Serbs' ability to hold and defend the Posavina corridor, the U.S. plan would also make Federation territory in the north more vulnerable. Under the Contact Group map and the earlier Owen-Stoltenberg plan, Brcko would have been linked to central Bosnia by a short overpass. As incredible as that concept might have appeared at the time, such an arrangement through a widened Posavina corridor would appear to be completely unworkable. A similar arrangement, however, may also be contemplated for linking Bihac in the northwest to central Bosnia. It is not clear how the Administration envisions making these links even remotely defensible.
Sarajevo. The only strategically significant territorial withdrawal being asked of the Serbs involves Serb-held land around Sarajevo. A divided Sarajevo or an entirely ultra-nationalist Serb Sarajevo has been a major war objective of the Bosnian Serb forces since 1992, when their self-styled leader Radovan Karadzic told the U.S. Ambassador to Belgrade of his vision of a Sarajevo divided by a "new Berlin wall." Until now, the Contact Group states had advocated UN administration of Sarajevo for a two-year period. The Bosnian government had supported the notion in principle, but, on 18 August, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic stated that Bosnia was no longer willing to "have Sarajevo administered by the United Nations." Since then, the Bosnian government has sent less clear signals about its intentions.
Even if Sarajevo remains divided or is placed under UN administration, a Serbian withdrawal even a partial one would increase the capital's defensibility. The key issue, however, is how far Serbian guns would be withdrawn and how much territory would be returned to the Bosnian government. If Serbian gunners remain in the surrounding hills, or even within long-range artillery range, the Serbs will retain the ability to lay siege to the capital in the future. Even the NATO heavy weapons exclusion zone, which extends twenty kilometers (12.5 miles) from Sarajevo's center but excludes the Serb-controlled city of Pale, would leave such artillery well within range of the capital, and snipers and smaller mortars not included in the exclusion zone arrangement would remain within easy reach.
Constitutional and Political Arrangements
Autonomy and Possible Independence for Serb-Held Regions. The plan effectively partitions Bosnia into two separate entities. It offers virtual autonomy for the approximately 49% of Bosnia that would remain under Serbian control. It would apparently provide for only a pro forma central government. The allowance for "special relations" with neighboring countries means the ability to conduct foreign relations or to form a confederation, either of which would seriously threaten if not destroy Bosnia's sovereignty. The plan's provision for separate constitutions will likely result in separate border controls, customs, and military forces all of which would further erode Bosnia's sovereignty. As noted earlier, Serbian military control over 49 percent of the country virtually guarantees political and economic partition. The United States is also advocating that the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia should have the right to hold a referendum on independence in five years.
The net result would be the rewarding of more than three years of aggression and genocide with half of a multi-ethnic UN member state's territory. This plan would freeze in place not only Serbian territorial control over half of Bosnia, but also its authoritarian political control over the population remaining in these areas.
Granting Serbia and its proxies this level of control and authority over half of Bosnia might compel Croatia and its proxies in Bosnia to re-think their participation in the Bosnian Federation. Aside from continuing pressure from the U.S. and Germany to remain in the Federation, the potential for Croatian hegemony over what essentially could become a Bosnian Federation satellite of Croatia would be the most convincing reason for not abandoning Bosnia and effecting a three-way partition.
Unlike the U.S. plan, a comprehensive plan that would truly preserve Bosnia's territorial integrity and sovereignty would include precise descriptions of the following integral political and military processes covering not only Bosnian-Croatian Federation territory, but also Serb-held territory:
- central government authority over border controls, customs, foreign policy and national defense; - demilitarization of the areas not under government control, including precise procedures for removal or, better still, destruction of weaponry; - removal of paramilitary governors appointed by Serbian forces; - apprehension, arrest, and extradition of indicted war criminals present in the territories; - guaranteed right of return of all refugees; - creation of conditions conducive to the return of refugees; - establishment of democratic civil authority; - valid election of new democratic leaders after the return of refugees; - restitution of property to its rightful owners; and - an effective and efficient program for economic aid and reconstruction assistance.
Mutual Recognition. By calling for Serbia's "eventual" diplomatic recognition of Bosnia and Croatia, the United States apparently believes that full partition will be impossible, or at least unlikely. As with its support for the Contact Group's 1994 map, the Bosnian government seems to have backed the recognition scheme primarily because it thought that the Serbs would refuse. Nothing in Milosevic's past performance or that of the Contact Group, for that matter suggests that such recognition, even if granted quickly and unconditionally, would ever be more than a paper promise.
Croatia's aggression against Bosnia in 1993 demonstrates that recognition does not guarantee borders. In 1992, Croatia became the first country to recognize Bosnia's independence and borders. One year later, Zagreb launched its own campaign for a Greater Croatia carved from Bosnian territory. Belgrade can be expected to behave even less responsibly, especially if sanctions have already been terminated.
The plan would establish a framework for resolution of what the Administration calls the eastern Slavonia "situation" i.e., Serbian occupation of part of Croatia's territory. Serbian forces have controlled the region for four years.
Following its successful re-annexation of its Krajina region, Croatia refrained from a similar offensive to retake eastern Slavonia, in part because it would be militarily more difficult and because it could have led to overt Serbian Army involvement in the conflict. Since the new U.S. initiative was launched, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has stated that he will give the plan three to four months to achieve a satisfactory conclusion to the occupation. He claims that, if the plan fails, he will take military action.
Whether the Administration will actually pressure Milosevic to give up the last remaining parcel of Croatian territory under his control remains to be seen. So far, Administration officials have sent discouraging signals. While acknowledging that eastern Slavonia is part of Croatia, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, the leader of the U.S. delegation, has stated that the region is "different" from other disputed Croatian territory because it borders Serbia. He has also downplayed its significance by pointing out that the occupied region constitutes only four percent of Croatia's territory. Yet that four percent is, in addition to being very fertile agriculturally, the most oil-rich parcel in the Balkans. The issue was so contentious during the Geneva talks that it was taken off the agenda. The international community has, however, been more supportive of Croatia's territorial integrity and sovereignty than it has been of Bosnia's.
Even if U.S. mediators are able to forge an agreement all can sign, implementation will depend in large part on a series of U.S. commitments, including the pledge to send up to 25,000 American ground troops as part of a NATO contingent to enforce the map's provisions. The Administration's commitment itself is suspect. Congress' willingness to send U.S. troops to effect what is considered by many to be an unenforceable and immoral ethnic partition and to serve as "apartheid police" is being severely questioned. Indeed, the House recently passed an amendment that would deny funding for any troop deployment to the former Yugoslavia unless it was to assist in a UN withdrawal. Even if U.S. troops are deployed, Serbian forces should be expected to resist withdrawing to their 49 percent boundary, thereby placing U.S. troops in the position of having to use force on the ground to ensure compliance.
CONCLUSIONS: PROSPECTS FOR SUCCESS
Few close observers of, or even participants in, the negotiating process believe a partition plan like the one envisioned in the current U.S. initiative will bring peace to Bosnia and the Balkans. Many, in fact, believe this approach will encourage more fighting and "ethnic cleansing" and will, ultimately, have a destabilizing effect. The plan faces enormous stumbling blocks at every turn.
The negotiating obstacles are considerable. Agreement on the 51-49 split does not ensure that the parties will agree on how to draw the map. In fact, the Bosnians agreed to the 51-49 division in part because they could not envision a map under such a split that would be acceptable to the Serbs. Even if agreement were reached on a map, the Bosnians and the Serbs still have diametrically opposed concepts of what are acceptable constitutional and political arrangements for post-war Bosnia.
This plan has a greater chance of getting to the point of initial agreement on a framework or settlement, however, than any previous international initiative. This is true primarily because it offers Serbia more favorable territorial terms for a settlement and because it has the full backing of the Administration. Indeed, the United States and its allies have presented President Milosevic and his Bosnian Serb proxies with increasingly attractive offers, from the Vance-Owen plan in early 1993 to the sanctions relief-for-recognition variant on the Contact Group plan earlier this year. In spite of Milosevic's orchestration and uninterrupted support of the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs' war effort, the new plan offers him sanctions relief, half of Bosnia, negotiations that will allow him to prolong Serbia's occupation of Croatia's Eastern Slavonia region, and a largely unconditional entree into the community of nations. The plan grants, ratifies, and legitimizes most of the Bosnian Serbs' war aims, including a contiguous territorial entity, at least two of the eastern "safe areas," a more defensible Brcko corridor, and confederation and the likelihood of eventual secession or federation with Serbia proper. They have already won recognition of their previously self-proclaimed status as the "Republika Srpska."
Bosnia and pro-multi-ethnic officials within its leadership would emerge as the clear losers, yet the Sarajevo government will be under extraordinary Western pressure to end the war and accept the plan. Hard-liners in the ruling SDA party may add to the pressure on moderate officials and army commanders who prefer to continue to defend the country and re-capture territory. These supporters of a Muslim-dominated state and single-party rule will be particularly tempted to agree to the plan, which offers them even greater power over a state that would be instantly cut off from much of its non-Muslim population. It also offers them the chance to add a rich reconstruction effort to the governmental, military, and industrial functions that they have increasingly dominated in recent months. But they may find reconstruction of their mini-state complicated by its proximity to a pariah mini-state and by potential donors' confusion and skepticism.
At the same time, countervailing pressures could send the American delegation back to Washington empty-handed. Within Serbia, hard-line nationalist pressures of Milosevic's own making will prevent him from accepting any settlement that could be viewed domestically as a sell-out or cut-off of his proxies in Bosnia and Croatia. The immediate prize of sanctions relief may not be enough to guarantee maintenance of his tight grip on power. In Croatia, Tudjman's restoration of sovereignty over the Krajina region may have made his re-election virtually inevitable, yet acceptance of a deal that would give even more official sanction to Serbia's occupation of Eastern Slavonia would revive strong public and army pressures on Tudjman and his tight circle of leaders. In Bosnia, a majority of officials remains committed to a multi-ethnic, democratic nation including all of its internationally recognized territory and embracing all non-Muslims committed to the same ideals. Over the past year, their political stock has fallen in direct proportion to the Clinton Administration's failures to honor its commitments to protect and defend these principles. Their success now in rejecting de facto partition or in winning more favorable terms for a settlement will be largely determined by the army's continuing will to fight.
Assuming that some kind of agreement on partition is reached, the Serbs should be expected to resist withdrawing to the new lines unless forced. U.S. and NATO troops, if they indeed materialize, must be prepared to force them back. If the U.S. and its allies are not prepared to do so which is likely then the agreement will likely fall apart and we will revert to the present situation, but with U.S. troops caught in the middle. Western will would then be tested perhaps more strongly than at any point to date as the United States and its allies contemplated arming the Bosnians and launching a bombing campaign to halt the Serbian war machine. If the Serbs did withdraw, enormous forced and voluntary population transfers, including new "ethnic cleansing" by Serbian forces, will certainly result, affecting tens of thousands of civilians throughout the country. The fate of those involved in or resulting from mixed marriages, as well as Jews and other minorities, would be of great concern, since the rump Bosnia that resulted would be overwhelmed by the influx of Muslim refugees and could become dominated by elements in the ruling SDA party that would prefer a mini-state for Muslims loyal to the party.
The precedents established by the U.S. and its international partners would have far reaching effects. In Serbia itself, the Belgrade regime would likely be emboldened, if not compelled, to step up "ethnic cleansing" and persecution of non-Serbs in Kosovo, the Voyvodina, and the Sanjak. Other parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union may seek to resolve their border and minorities disputes in a similar fashion to Serbia. The resulting instability in the Balkans and beyond will dramatically impact upon U.S. interests throughout Europe.