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BosNet Digest V5 #45 / Jan. 29, 1996

From: Nermin Zukic <n6zukic@SMS.BUSINESS.UWO.CA>

Bosnia-Herzegovina News Directory





    January 29, 1996 Issue No. 8

    THE BALKAN MONITOR - Analysis and Opinion from the Balkan Institute


    In the coming months, Americans will increasingly view the horrific crisis in Bosnia through the prism of the American troop deployment. Already, our television screens are filled with whiz-bang images of U.S. helicopters dropping state-of-the-art pontoon bridges into the Drina River and scenes of our troops grilling T-bone steaks and drinking Pepsi-Cola in Tuzla.

    If all goes well in the short term, the twelve-month deployment will be lauded as a successful exercise of U.S. leadership to halt the slaughter in the Balkans. After all of the 20,000 U.S. soldiers have been deployed and the zone between the Bosnian Army and the Bosnian Serb forces is fully patrolled, however, the sad truths of what the Administration wrought in Dayton will inexorably resurface.

    The plan's partitioning of Bosnia along ethnic lines rewards almost four years of aggression and genocide by Serbian forces directed, supplied, and financed by Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. It will leave a Bosnian mini-state that is politically and economically unviable and militarily indefensible.

    On paper, the Dayton Accords provide conditions for peace and security in Bosnia. Yet there are no enforcement mechanisms for their critical political and social provisions and the strategic instability that U.S. forces will leave behind in a year.

    Other aspects of the agreement are contradictory, inadequate, or vague. While a "unitary state" is preserved, the new central government will have limited powers over foreign affairs and currency issuance. At the same time, effective control over the military is given to the two ethno-"Entities" that will comprise the new Bosnia. Moreover, the Bosnian Serb Republic, which remains committed to merging de facto or de jure with Serbia, will have veto power over any proposed action or decision by the central authority. The appearance: unity. The reality: partition.

    Refugees are given the right to return or "just compensation." This departure from international law, which guarantees the right of return regardless of compensation, reflects an unspoken understanding that they will not return to Serb-occupied areas as long as the Serbian forces that "ethnically cleansed" them remain in control i.e., indefinitely. Moreover, those refugees who do return will be significantly disenfranchised: under the Dayton-negotiated constitution, they can only be represented by ethnic Serbs in the central Presidency and upper house of parliament.

    Investigation and punishment of war crimes are minimum requirements for reconciliation and reduction in the desire for revenge. Commitments for cooperating with the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal, however, are vague and are already being ignored by Serbia and Croatia. After balking, the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) now seems prepared to provide military escorts for some war crimes investigators. Unless Congress and Tribunal supporters persuade the President to demand more, however, this assistance is likely to be provided on a small scale and only on a case-by-case basis. Even with full funding, a lack of serious political and evidentiary support from the U.S. and its allies could still doom the process to irrelevance.

    While the Dayton accords create new internal boundaries for Bosnia, they leave the three most difficult territorial issues unresolved. Serbs in Sarajevo's suburbs fiercely oppose the city's status as a unified capital under Federation control. Determination of control over the strategic Posavina corridor has simply been postponed. After a one-year "binding" arbitration, a decision can be expected just when U.S. troops are withdrawing. To the east, Gorazde's road link to Sarajevo and survival could easily be severed soon after IFOR departs. In any case, the Bosnian government cannot defend its new internal boundaries militarily.

    On the issue of Bosnia's defense and very survival, the Administration has tragically forfeited the chance to restrain Europe's most aggressive and destabilizing regime and restore Bosnia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. It could have embraced Congress' efforts to lift the arms embargo and aid Bosnia in its self-defense. The result would have been a more stable peace that the Bosnians could have defended without U.S. troops.

    Instead, American intervention is saving Serbia from military defeat and securing for Milosevic his central war aim: a Greater Serbia under his own control. With the lifting of sanctions - including the arms embargo - against Serbia and America's commitment to implementing the accords limited to one year and restricted to enforcing the "zone of separation," Milosevic can re-build his country, modernize his military, and fight another day.

    He will be further aided in his work by the Accords' arms control provisions. In order to make its verbal commitment to arm and train the Bosnian Army less burdensome, the Administration imposed an arms control regime under which Serbia would reduce its forces by twenty-five percent. The regime would also limit the Bosnian Army to less than one-eighth the size of combined Serbian-Bosnian Serb forces. If Bosnian Croat forces remain allied with the Bosnian Army (a tenuous proposition, at best), the ratio would only be lowered to a four-to-one advantage. Even including the entire Croatian Army on the side of the Bosnians would only reduce the ratio to just under two-to-one in Serbia's favor. This makes arming and training the Bosnian Army all the more critical, especially given the seemingly impossible task of defending an indefensible territory once U.S. troops leave.

    Thus, the Dayton Accords will likely mark a mere pause in Bosnia's decline. At best, that decline will be arrested through massive military, political, and economic assistance that will preserve a truncated Bosnian state encircled by hostile neighbors. At worst, Serbian and Croatian supremacists will ensure that the American-made mini-Bosnian state follows the short-lived Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the oblivion of history.

    Marshall Harris and Stephen Walker, Balkan Institute Directors


    - - by Carol Hodge

    After three years of UNPROFOR fudge in Bosnia, many hailed the arrival of the NATO implementation force (IFOR) last month with relief. Yet problems are already surfacing.

    Both Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian government failed to meet deadlines for the exchange of prisoners; there is no open access to many of the mass grave sites in Serb-held areas; and Sarajevo is still under siege and its citizens vulnerable, as the recent civilian kidnapping and tram-shelling incidents illustrated. And nobody seems to be doing much about it.

    The framework for peace (of a sort) was laid down in Dayton, but already seems to be coming apart at the seams. What has happened to U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry's "biggest, toughest, and meanest dog in town," as he depicted the NATO force?

    Misunderstandings proliferate among the international agencies, and "High Representative" Carl Bildt, appointed specifically to liaise between them, continues to maintain a low profile.

    All in all, post-Dayton Bosnia is a scene of some confusion and international impotence. It is disturbing for British troops on the ground who, caught up in the middle of the confusion, have been accused of turning a blind eye to systematic attempts to destroy evidence of war crimes.

    Aside from the complexities (and implicit contradictions) within the Dayton Agreement, two main difficulties seem to be emerging in its implementation. The first concerns the different emphasis placed by America and Britain on interpretation with regard to the War Crimes Tribunal and arms control.

    That Dayton was not going to put an end to this international impasse on Bosnia was already apparent from a comparative reading of the U.S.-drafted deal reached in Ohio and the conclusions of the Implementation Conference in London two weeks later.

    Take, for instance, the War Crimes Tribunal. The Americans emphasized cooperation with the Tribunal as a "binding and enforceable obligation in all nations" and underpinned by U.S.-sponsored Security Council resolutions. The British statement on implementation did not mention the Tribunal. It merely referred to human rights protection in general terms. More specific emphasis was placed on the elections, scheduled for nine months hence, and reconstruction.

    In other words, addressing what has happened in Bosnia over the past four years - ethnic purges on a massive scale - has been relegated to the background by the British government in favor of a "forward-looking" policy and moves toward "peace and prosperity."

    There is a clear dichotomy between the American and British (and sometimes French) views on the future configuration of the Balkans. And even if Clinton wanted to go along with the British, he would be pulled up short by the Congress, which was against sending a massive ground force to Bosnia in the first place, and which preferred instead to arm the Bosnians (who have in recent years built up a potentially formidable force) and offer air support where needed.

    This leads to another problem over which America and Britain are likely to clash in the coming months: the question of (as the Congress would have it) arming and training the Bosnian-Bosnian Croat Federation, and (as the British put it) arms control measures to "encourage a balance of forces in the region, at the lowest levels consistent with security." The two countries with the majority of forces in the region are saying different things, and the end result is likely to be another fudge.

    Another related problem in implementing Dayton is the Milosevic factor. The Serbian leader, who is the instigator of, and prime mover behind, all the wars in former Yugoslavia, has paradoxically been brought in as an active partner in the peace process, and the international community depends on his cooperation in order for the peace to endure. Yet this situation gives rise to all kinds of problems.

    Take, for instance, the failure to exchange prisoners. The Bosnian government, before handing over all Serb prisoners, insists on knowing the whereabouts of 20-25,000 missing Bosnians. These will probably be accounted for once the mass grave sites are investigated, as Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck intimated during his recent visit to Srebrenica.

    But full investigation of the mass grave sites, especially those linked to war crimes committed in 1992, is likely to implicate Milosevic directly. He can therefore be expected, whatever he says at the moment, to resist strongly any meaningful examination of evidence at the international level.

    It was the Yugoslav National Army, virtually purged of non-Serbs and acting with Serbian paramilitaries based in Belgrade, that carried out a combination of aerial bombardment and terror campaigns throughout Bosnia and forced people from their homes. This led to the setting up of concentration camps and the murder of tens of thousands of civilians.

    Milosevic was behind this operation and the systematic plan to set up Serbian provinces in Bosnia in 1991 and arm the Serbs in Bosnia, long before Bosnian independence.

    One of the questions the international community will eventually have to answer is to what lengths it is prepared to go in order to appease Milosevic and maintain a tenuous peace on the ground in Bosnia.

    Unless the authority of NATO is imposed at every juncture of its operation, it is likely not only that Bosnia will go under, but NATO, too.

    - --

    Carol Hodge is a research associate at Glasgow University in Scotland. A version of this article originally appeared in the Herald (Glasgow).

    The Balkan Monitor is a publication of the Balkan Institute. The Institute is affiliated with the Action Council for Peace in the Balkans.

    PO Box 27974, Washington, DC 20038-7974 Phone: (202) 737-5219 Fax: (202) 737-1940 E-mail:

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