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Bosnia: Bildt Presents A Picture Of Conflicts

  • Anthony Georgieff

Copenhagen, 24 November 1997(RFE/RL) -- The Bosnian war was between Serbs, Croats and Muslims but the conflict also affected relations between America and Europe, says the former international mediator in the Balkans Carl Bildt in a book just published in Sweden.

Bildt is a former Sweden's Prime Minister who served for several years as a special representative of the international community appointed by the so-called "contact group" (Britain, France, Germany, U. S. and Russia) in the Balkans. After his term of duty expired, Bildt assumed leadership of the Swedish right-of-center 'Moderaternas' Party.

There were no saints in that war, writes Bildt. The war was as much the result of force demonstrated by the opposed parties in Bosnia as it was a clash between leading personalities in the respective sides. Bildt writes that intrigue and divers, often unrelated, interests provided the impetus for the many failed attempts to bring a diplomatic end to the conflict.

Europe contributed much more than the USA to the alleviation of the humanitarian disaster in Bosnia, Bildt says. But he also says that it was Washington that put its foot down to stop the war. France and Britain wanted to achieve that goal, but were unable to do so without America's help.

The UN Security Council made a series of rush and unenforceable decisions such as the establishment of the so-called security zones around certain areas in Bosnia, Bildt says; no one respected these zones. Srebrenica, for example, became a symbol of the inability of the international peacekeeping forces to act against the aggressive Bosnian Serbs.

Bildt recollects some interesting and at times amusing details. In September 1995, at a time of NATO bombardments of Bosnian Serb positions, the foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia and the rump Yugoslavia are meeting in Geneva. Substantial effort and time were put into deciding whether Nikola Koljevic, at the time vice-president of the Bosnian Serbs, should be allowed to take the floor. Koljevic finally gets to speak just to say that he was not authorized to say anything. This, according to Bildt, gives Muslim Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey the chance to say in that Koljevic spoke at the meeting. All other participants agreed that he did not say anything...

During the hectic preparations for the Dayton summit, where peace agreement was eventually brokered, Richard Holbrooke, former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Ivanov and Bildt himself were preparing to fly from Belgrade to Sarajevo. There was a French plane waiting to take off, but Holbrooke refused to embark. The others decide to stay with him, out of courtesy. Holbrooke waited for an U. S. aircraft to arrive. Holbrooke, according to Bildt, could not accept traveling in a plane that doesn't have USAF painted on it.

Bildt acknowledges that had it not been for the intervention of the United States, Bosnia would have by now been erased from the maps. But he adds the Americans often made decisions that had little to do with Bosnian reality. Many Washington's decisions were dictated by domestic political considerations.

Bildt concludes that Europe must find a focus for themselves in the aftermath of the Balkan wars. "The U. S. will continue to be a superpower with global interests and ambitions. Russia is still a considerable force. The Europeans may therefore risk that unless they strengthen themselves, decisions about their future may be made in Washington, possibly after consultations with Moscow," Bildt says.

Bildt has recently been involved in campaigns in favor of strengthening European institutions, including the Amsterdam Treaty. His critics in Scandinavia say that his book about the Balkans may be designed to suit his purely domestic agenda.