The 12 months ahead will decide the fate of Yugoslavia

JOURNAL DE BELGRADE - Samedi 7 octobre, 12 heures
Belgrade Journal – Saturday, October 07, 2000, noon

MICHEL COLLON

The big news took place last night. All the international media spoke of it. Milosevic recognized the victory of Kostunica in the presidential voting.

Then there is that news they’re not reporting but which could turn out to be still more important for the eight crucial months ahead. The attempt of the opposition to seduce certain Montenegrin parliamentary representatives to form a new governing majority failed.

While it still has to be confirmed, the next Yugoslav government should be composed of the Milosevic’s party, the SPS (Socialist Party of Serbia), its traditional ally the YUL (Yugoslav United Left) and the Montenegrin deputies of the SNP lead by Momir Bulatovic.

Will we be then in a situation of dual power? No, because the legal powers of the president are less important than those of the Yugoslav government, and still less important than those of the Serb government, which has responsibility for the largest part of the governmental budget.

Kostunica president and Milosevic prime minister?

Kostunica president and Milosevic prime minister? This surrealist scenario that we had envisaged a few days ago, this scenario would be Washington’s nightmare. And that’s why the West is in the process of doing all to definitively eliminate Milosevic and his party from political life.

            Since I’ve been in Belgrade, I’ve looked at BBC, CNN and a German broadcast. All present a caricatured image of an entire people united against a dictator. Reality is different. Milosevic retains an important base of support – the opposition is not contesting the results of the parliamentary elections – and what exists is a country divided in two camps, after months of pressures and enormous campaigns from the outside.

            As I wrote earlier, the opposition leaders have looked to create a “Bucharest syndrome.” Milosevic has done all he could to avoid falling into this trap. He waited in a war of attrition, a war of nerves, as he did during the preceding confrontations unleashed by the opposition in 1991 and 1996-1997, which he was able to survive. “In any case, we didn’t want to send the army and provoke a bloodbath,” government officials told me.

            Wouldn’t he have been better off recognizing immediately Kostunica’s victory. Many people, even those in his camp, believe this. “The people believe that he was trying to maneuver and they didn’t like that,” Ivana explained to me, though she was someone who voted for Milosevic.

            But to the Kostunica camp, we could ask another question: Why did they refuse the second round of the elections when it seemed certain they would win? We think that Washington and the opposition leaders were trying to bring about the “Bucharest syndrome” in order to definitively eliminate Milosevic from the political scene.

But is only Milosevic involved in all this? No. It concerns an entire current of Yugoslav society, which is resisting the takeover by the multinational corporations. On November 17, 1998, the official British news agency Reuter mentioned a poll of 300 companies that stated that “privatization raises no enthusiasm in Serbia, the workers fear massive layoffs. No new companies have been privatized since the new privatization law was adopted a month ago.

Besides, the desire to eliminate Milosevic does not involve Yugoslavia alone. Why is Milosevic Washington’s chosen target?

 “Because he symbolizes resistance to the New World Order and he could give the wrong ideas to other forces in the Balkans,” answered Ljliljana, an official in a ministry. “In Washington’s eyes, Milosevic is a dangerous virus and could contaminate the Balkans.”

Clinton and the demonization of the Serbs

At present, Kostunica is faced with two problems. The first one immediately: The burning of parliament was not understood or approved by his own supporters. “Even NATO spared this symbol,” people said here angrily. “Hitler had burned the Reichstag as a provocation before the Second World War. And RTS television had been bombed by NATO, leaving 16 victims. The memories of this are still fresh. It’s infuriating.”

Second problem: the burdensome congratulations from the United States. Yesterday, I heard Bill Clinton’s speech. Its substance: “This victory is ours, it is the outcome of U.S. combat over the last 10 years. We stopped Milosevic from continuing the attack on Croatia, Bosnia and other countries. With the demonstration in Belgrade, we ended for good the threat from a person who  is responsible for hundreds of thousands of victims.”

What? Milosevic killed so many people? Alone? Clinton should be assured that no Serb thinks about it this way. Practically all continue to believe that their country had been attacked by the great powers that supported extremists like Tudjman [Croatia] and Izetbegovic [Bosnia] and who showed themselves unjustly against Serbs. Certain of them – and this includes those among those who voted for the opposition – even criticize Milosevic for not having been firm enough and not having fought to the end.

This discourse by Clinton is a continuation of the policy of demonizing the Serbs, who are presented as monsters, because it is evident that if there were “hundreds of thousands of victims,” a large number of Serbs are criminals, and the witch-hunt will begin with all the selectivity and arbitrariness of which Washington is capable.

Besides, Washington has no intention of giving justice to the Serbs. For example in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner just announced that he would have to remain there for a generation and that U.S. troops would stay there “without doubt for 10 years.” (Washington Times, September 30)

Even under Kostunica, the Serbs won’t be able to enjoy peace, because the U.S. needs a situation where a permanent “low-intensity” conflict exists. This situation permits them to maintain tension in a region, and pressure against a country. To believe that the USA is in Kosovo to re-establish peace and help the Albanians, that’s like believing that Hitler had occupied Czechoslovakia because of his love for the Sudeten German minority. Pretexts, pretexts. … The only thing that matters to the great powers is to occupy strategic regions.

The 12 months ahead, before the elections in Serbia, will be decisive. Will Yugoslavia become a colony of the International Monetary Fund and NATO? If they want to reverse the current electoral tendencies – especially among the youth – Milosevic and his allies will have to promote a still more socially conscious policy, an ever firmer struggle against privileges. And a strategy of communication more effective toward the youths. But the progressive forces of the entire world will also have a role to play to unmask the actions of Washington behind these elections that were not truly free.

posted7 October 2000

 

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