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Balkan Report: January 23, 2001


23 January 2001, Volume 5, Number 6

LETTING GO. No one can doubt the patriotism or sense of national mission and grandeur of French President Charles de Gaulle. One of the ways in which he best demonstrated his visionary commitment to his country's good was to recognize when it was time to end France's colonial enterprise in Algeria and concentrate national energies elsewhere.

The post-1945 worldwide process of decolonization has not always moved along easily. Indigenous peoples have often had to fight for the recognition of their basic rights of self-determination and majority rule. Colonial powers, spurred on by large and powerful domestic lobbies, have sometimes proven very reluctant to part with one or another of their holdings.

This is as true of the post-communist collapse of the land empires of Moscow and Belgrade as it is of the post-1945 overseas empires of other countries. True, former Yugoslavia was not a purely Serbian empire in the sense that the U.S.S.R. was a large Russian-dominated state operating under a different name. But it was Slobodan Milosevic's attempt to co-opt or hijack the Yugoslav state for his own and for Serbian interests -- with strong backing from Serbian voters -- that accelerated the process of dissolution.

Whether the disintegration of Yugoslavia was somehow inevitable will likely preoccupy students of politics and history for many years to come. The important point is that old Yugoslavia is now gone, and that all the will to put Humpty Dumpty back together again -- or to hold parts of his torso together -- is bound to fail. International pressures and cajoling did not work in 1991 or 1992, and they are unlikely to hold up the further disintegration of Yugoslavia in the coming decade (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 November 2000 and 19 January 2001).

There are nonetheless those in the international community who would seek to hold back the tide. The clearest recent demonstration of this came on 22 January, when the EU foreign ministers made it clear to Montenegro that mighty Brussels wants that small republic to seek its future only "within an overall federal framework," i.e. together with Serbia.

The ministers' statement also made it clear that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica is in better graces now with the EU than is Montenegro's Milo Djukanovic. It does not seem to matter that Kostunica regularly displays Balkan "inat," or spiteful defiance, in discussing the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, while Djukanovic has pledged to cooperate with the court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 2001). Presumably it has been noted in the region that cooperation with The Hague is thus not necessarily of decisive importance for some in the West.

Why many Westerners maintain their dogged insistence on preserving what is left of Humpty Dumpty's shell is sometimes hard to fathom. Perhaps there is a desire to prove that their diplomatic failures in 1991 and in subsequent years were just an aberration. Perhaps there is a real fear that the peaceful separation of Montenegro and the independence of Kosova would somehow lead to a new Balkan anarchy and the formation of an inherently wicked greater Albania. After all, Milosevic's propaganda machine and numerous Western pundits have been pushing this line for years.

But the previous wars did not just "happen." They were instigated by a Belgrade dictator who has been consigned to the sidelines, at least for now. For their parts, Djukanovic, Kostunica, and Serbian Prime Minister-designate Zoran Djindjic have all stressed that no force will be used if Montenegro chooses to go its own way, a point also made by army Chief of Staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic.

As for the Albanians, no leading ethnic Albanian politician or mainstream political party anywhere in the Balkans is campaigning for a greater Albania as a realizable goal at any time in the foreseeable future. Mutual contacts in recent years have helped gently remind Albanians in Albania, Kosova, and Macedonia that they come from three very different societies and political cultures, which would not be easily integrated into a common polity. On a more practical note, union would mean power-sharing --- and that is something that does not come easily to politicians anywhere.

But UN Balkans envoy Carl Bildt, who has been much in the media as of late, told Reuters on 22 January that the EU ministers' statement "very clearly expresses that the international community has no interest in setting up new states in the region."

Whether the inhabitants of Montenegro or of Kosova will passively accept this "interest" of distant foreigners remains to be seen. Djukanovic wants to obtain a fresh mandate through early parliamentary elections and a referendum on independence in the first half of the year. The Kosovars have already made it clear time and again that they are interested only in independence (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 and 22 December 2000).

For their part, the top politicians in Belgrade still seem intent on holding the remnants of Humpty Dumpty's torso together. Calls for dialogue have replaced the bluster of the Milosevic era, but the message is the same: Yugoslavia must be preserved if unspeakable evils are to be avoided. But is it too far-fetched to imagine that some day, one of the leading political figures in Belgrade will show the political courage of de Gaulle, part with Serbia's last possessions, and concentrate the country's energies on the immense tasks facing it at home? (Patrick Moore)

GENERAL PAVKOVIC SAYS PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE IN NATIONAL INTEREST. General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who heads the Yugoslav General Staff, wrote in the military publication "Vojska" that the concept of each European country providing for its own defense is outdated. He argued that collective agreements are the way of the future, "Vesti" reported on 21 January.

Pavkovic stressed that if NATO and the Yugoslav government and parliament agree, it is in the Yugoslav military's interest to join the Partnership for Peace program. He said that Yugoslavia "is ready to cooperate with all countries that have a similar interest, especially with European countries but also in a broader context."

He did not specify which non-European countries he meant, but there has been much speculation in the Serbian media in recent weeks that Belgrade stands to gain by taking a cooperative rather than a confrontational stand toward the U.S. (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 January 2001).

Pavkovic added that having closer links to NATO will better enable Serbia to pursue its interests in Kosova and the Presevo region. (Patrick Moore)

TOP SERBIAN PRIZE TO RFE/RL JOURNALIST. The jury voted unanimously on 17 January to award the Jug Grizelj prize, Serbia's most prestigious distinction for journalism, to RFE/RL's Omer Karabeg for his weekly Radio Most (Bridge) series, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

Radio Most brings together individual experts and political figures from different former Yugoslav republics and with differing points of view to discuss timely topics. Most appears in English translation in RFE/RL's South Slavic Report. Most is regularly reprinted in several periodicals in the region. Collections of Most have twice appeared as books, including a collection of Serbian-Albanian dialogues on Kosova (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 December 2000). (Patrick Moore)

ON EUROPE'S FUTURE RAPID REACTION FORCE OR: WHY BELGRADE'S BANKING SYSTEM SURVIVED THE NATO CAMPAIGN. At their summit in Nice in December 2000, the EU members agreed that they will define the division of powers between Brussels and the national governments at a future conference, namely in 2004. The question of a European rapid reaction force, however, was a topic in Nice that will certainly affect the relationship between the EU and NATO already in 2001. It will also have an impact on the relations between individual European states and the new administration in the U.S. Since 2002 is an important election year for both Germany and France, it is difficult to imagine the outlines of a common European defense architecture taking shape before that date. But much can happen in the meantime.

Towards the end of 2000, there were tensions between Washington and some EU members over the future of a European rapid reaction force (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 October and 19 December 2000). Although most of the EU states involved stressed that that NATO will remain an important foundation of the continent's defense, there was a bit of equivocation from some quarters. Moreover, some officials in Washington and Euro-skeptics in Britain and elsewhere were not fully convinced that the new force would not prove to be the beginning of a fully independent capacity. But a draft report from the EU summit in Nice states that "NATO remains the basis of the collective defense of its members." For its part, the new force will "contribute to the vitality of a renewed transatlantic link...and genuine strategic partnership between the EU and NATO in the management of crises" (see the "Financial Times," 8 December 2000).

The Nice summit's decision to confirm that Europe will have a rapid reaction force by 2003 comes against the background of the Balkan conflicts of the past decade. The multinational troops are intended to react to conflicts of that nature without having to bring the U.S., as was the case in both Bosnia and Kosova. As it turned out, only NATO under firm U.S. leadership proved capable of sorting out the mess that "Europe" failed to deal with on its own in those two trouble spots.

In addition, the joint rapid reaction force is a chance for the EU to show that economic unification is not its only goal. A European defense structure is likewise important in helping define what role nation states will play in the continent's future. It can also show how serious the visions of political cooperation and unification are, and that Europe is capable of taking measures against so-called rogue states on its own.

Military planning and information-sharing will become an important topic for an ever more united Europe. How secret is national security? On which level will information-sharing become the norm among European partners? The answers to these questions will be central to future cooperation.

Planning processes have two important aspects, and so far it is unclear how the countries involved will deal with them. First, there has to be a commitment that money, infrastructure, and logistics will be provided by the EU states for the reaction force. Second, there is the question of operative planning in a concrete crisis situation.

How will it be possible to solve this problem among the European states? And how will the EU and NATO handle it between themselves? U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said that it is not wise for NATO and the EU to duplicate planning capacities. He proposed a common planning process for the 23 states -- of which 19 are member states of NATO, plus the four non-NATO states that are EU members (Austria, Ireland, Sweden, and Finland). But France, which does not belong to the military section of NATO, was very critical of Cohen's proposal. And non-EU-member Turkey has already used the French-American controversy to lobby against the EU force inside NATO, as the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" pointed out on 9 December.

While these differences involving political and military issues were under open discussion, the question of information technology remained in the background. On 29 November 2000, German General Klaus Naumann -- who headed NATO's military affairs committee during the initial air strikes on Yugoslavia -- said in Munich that the EU officials tend not to take information warfare into account when thinking or writing about the rapid reaction force. Who will develop the infrastructure to wage an information war, if necessary? Who has the right to use this infrastructure? When and how will the EU and NATO codify their relationship in setting up a common planning infrastructure?

Information warfare is a result of the perception that future conflicts will be increasingly characterized by the struggle over information systems. Data collecting, data storage, and information protection are vital aspects of electronic and industrial security. The same is true for military defense in its wider sense, and the active and passive protection of (electronic) secrets. Hacker warfare, intelligence-based methods, and psychological warfare will increasingly become different aspects of the same thing, known as information warfare. The "I Love You" computer virus showed how hacker activities can wreak financial havoc on a world-wide scale.

General Naumann pointed out that information warfare must be an important component of future military thinking. Already during NATO's bombing of Serbia in 1999, Naumann had considered destroying Yugoslavia's banking system by a hacker attack. NATO knew about Milosevic's vital financial transactions and that the banking system is, in any event, a sensitive point of the national economy.

But in the end, General Naumann decided not to propose an attack on Belgrade's banking system. He was afraid that Serbian hackers -- who had showed what they could do to some Western and Albanian websites -- would start to do the same to the computer systems of European banks. In other words: Europe was vulnerable and not prepared to counteract information attacks or counter-disinformation.

Although information warfare is a hot topic in the Pentagon, European military structures have tended to neglect that issue. But for the European rapid reaction force to function effectively, it will be crucial to prevent electronic blackmail. It would seem to be important that a European force has its own infrastructure for information warfare, or that NATO provides such systems.

The EU is in fact counting on the U.S. to share its knowledge in that and other fields, which suggests that at least some Europeans recognize that the force cannot become a truly independent capacity in the foreseeable future. French General Jean-Pierre Kelche said that in a crisis, America must be willing to function "as a coalition partner, that is, that it share information, decision-making, and risk" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 8 December 2000). (Christian Buric is a freelance writer and a consultant for strategic business communication based in Munich Christian.buric@gmx.de)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "In Belgrade, it is emphasized that continuing processes of disintegration are seriously damaging stability, and that the time has come to improve the integration of the region's countries with Europe." -- Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic. Quoted by Reuters in Moscow on 17 January.

"There are going to be no threats and no violence" if Montenegro secedes. -- Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, in "NIN" on 19 January.

"I am not protecting Slobodan Milosevic or anybody else in my country, I am only protecting the constitution of my country. There is a division of power, the rule of law... I'm not the one who is supposed to arrest and hand over people in Yugoslavia. I just have a respect toward our constitution and international obligations and that's all." -- Kostunica in Sarajevo. Quoted by AP on 18 January.

"I would like to live from my work, but unfortunately I've finished college." -- Dragan Ognjanovic. Aphorism of the day in "Danas," 17 January.

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