Prague, April 4, 1997 (RFE/RL) - Croatian President Franjo Tudjman recently gave an interview to the U.S. weekly Defense News in which he outlines his views on regional and security issues.
Tudjman sees Balkan political and strategic questions as mirroring a clash of Western, Eastern Orthodox, and Islamic civilizations. He argues that these cultures are not compatible under one political roof and that consequently the former Yugoslavia was doomed to failure. By the same token, the Croatian president warns that any attempt to resurrect Yugoslavia will ultimately destabilize the Balkans, the "powder keg... where three civilizations face each other."
And Tudjman sees many efforts afoot to "reestablish the former Yugoslavia at whatever the cost." As is typical for his public statements on the subject, he is reluctant to name names. He simply refers to "people from the Balkans who invested a lot of money" in such projects, as well as to "the European Union, which has three or four different policies."
He also criticizes Washington for trying to force Croatia, which he stresses belongs to Central Europe, into a Balkan framework. Tudjman was referring to recent U.S. efforts to promote regional cooperation in Southeastern Europe, even though Washington included other Central European countries -- namely Hungary and Slovenia -- in the project. But for Tudjman -- and apparently for the Slovenes, who also refuse to sign on -- the plan smacks too much of "an economic association which would possibly lead to a political association, (and hence is) unacceptable."
The Clinton administration, Tudjman continues, should not take what he calls a "superficial approach to the Bosnian problem and the Balkans." By this he means Washington should not overlook the clash of the three civilizations in the region and hence tendencies among "some Bosnian leaders to have the country follow the laws of the Koran." The Croatian president adds that the Muslim leadership nonetheless realizes that it needs ties to the West and hence accepted a federation with the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina and special ties to Croatia as well.
His country, Tudjman says, has "assumed responsibility (for) calming the situation in Bosnia" by signing the Dayton agreement, but he does not elaborate. He does not even hint at the widespread criticism of him from Washington and Western European capitals that he has not brought to heel the Herzegovinian Croats, whose behavior in Mostar and elsewhere has been a key obstacle to breathing life into the Croat-Muslim federation.
On the contrary, Tudjman portrays his country's regional role with the bravado typical of his speeches on the subject. A military historian by profession, Tudjman says that history has taught Croatia to rely on itself and its own military; he takes Israel as a model. "We have established our strength, and Serbia can no longer dictate (to) the area... We have objectively become the most stable factor for peace in the area."
He also feels his country is a prime candidate for NATO membership. "Croatia, in terms of military modernization, is closer to NATO than (are Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia) because Croatia's armed forces were developed (according to) the Western model during the war (with Serbia) together with U.S. instructors. So, it meets all the conditions to enter NATO."