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Yugoslavia: Milosevic Provokes NATO For Own Political Ends

  • Charles Recknagel

Prague, 25 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The following is an interview with Patrick Moore -- Yugoslav analyst with RFE/RL's Newsline Service -- on the strategy Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is pursuing in his conflict with NATO over Kosovo.

Moore says Milosevic has obstructed Western efforts to broker a peace accord for Kosovo by continuing a crackdown by Yugoslav forces there, despite repeated NATO warnings that doing so will lead to air strikes.

In recent days, Milosevic has stepped up his defiance of NATO warnings by deploying additional troops in the southern Serbian province and massing troops on the border with Macedonia, where NATO soldiers are stationed.

Our correspondent asked Moore if Milosevic has followed a course of deliberately provoking NATO strikes against Serbia and, if so, why:

"There are two theories as to why Milosevic is doing this. ... The first one is that Milosevic has already written off Kosovo, or written off the possibility of maintaining his control over it, but for political reasons is unable to sign the Rambouillet accords himself. So, according to this scenario, what he has done is brought these air raids down upon his head and those of his people and then after four or five waves of air strikes, he can then go to his people and say, look, we did all we could. We resisted this. We are now under merciless bombardment [and] in order to save Serbian lives I have no choice but to sign these documents. And, so the theory goes, with that he would then cut his losses in Kosovo and still hope to retain power in a very much rump Serbia.

"The second theory is slightly more bizarre, but it takes into account certain aspects of Milosevic's own psychology and his previous behavior, namely that this is a go-for-broke [all-or-nothing gambler's] syndrome ... in which what he is doing is calling down the air strikes but at the same time creating such a bloodbath in Kosovo that if NATO truly wants to stop the bloodbath in Kosovo, they will be given no choice but to send in ground troops. And Milosevic is gambling on the assumption that there is no major Western power which is willing to pay the domestic political price to go in with ground troops and take heavy casualties from the Serbs. This is, as I say, an immense gamble, but it takes into account the fact that both of Milosevic's parents have committed suicide, his wife has attempted suicide on at least a couple of occasions, and this is a man whose psychology and whose rationale are often very difficult to figure out."

Our correspondent asked Moore to detail Milosevic's uneasy relationship with the Yugoslav army, which must take the brunt of NATO air strikes, and whether he can count upon its loyalty.

"Milosevic has never set very comfortably with the [Yugoslav] military, nor they with him. You will notice that just yesterday he purged the head of military intelligence and replaced him with a man, General Geza Farkas, who is best known for some of his -- besides being known for his personal loyalty to Milosevic and the Milosevic machine -- is known for his involvement in some rather shady business dealings.

"Loyalty counts here, nothing else, not professional qualities. In fact, Milosevic has been so mistrustful of the military throughout his career in power that he built up the paramilitary police as a sort of praetorian guard. These are the thugs who are armed with armored vehicles and extremely sophisticated weapons, which hardly any other police force in the world probably has, but these are the people Milosevic really counts on as his main base of power.

"The army is a conscript army. It contains members of ethnic minorities, including Hungarians. It also includes Montenegrins, whose government ... has made it clear it does not like the idea of their serving in Kosovo. It includes probably some ordinary young Serbs whose motivation is from Milosevic's point [of view] less than ideal, whereas the paramilitary police are the ones who really owe something to him and really can be counted upon -- if anyone can -- for loyalty. I do think that one will get a pretty good fight out of the paramilitary police, and I would be very surprised to see if they -- in any quantity, in any numbers -- broke and ran."