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Balkan Report: September 21, 1999

21 September 1999, Volume 3, Number 37

What Lessons Did NATO Learn From The War? NATO's supreme commander in Europe, General Wesley Clark, is upbeat on the results of the air strikes against Serbian targets. He delivered a report on the subject to ambassadors at the NATO Council on 15 September.

Even though alliance officials have not formally made details public, unidentified NATO sources told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent that key parts of the report deal with political issues. This includes the position of Russia towards the air campaign and the role of the UN Security Council in the conflict.

The most important lessons are, however, military ones. Moreover, the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and of convoys of refugees in Kosova (who had been taken hostage by Serbian forces) show that NATO must change its information-gathering techniques and better identify its targets.

The report also discusses the decision-making procedures within NATO, where the 19 member states must agree on operations by consensus. The report also notes the disproportion between U.S. and European contributions to the military effort, in which the U.S. conducted more than two-thirds of all 38,000 flights during the 78 days of the campaign.

Meanwhile, unnamed NATO officials told RFE/RL that some military personnel have criticized NATO's strategy and argued that the air strikes lasted too long. Such critics stress that the alliance should have made a credible threat to launch a ground invasion immediately after the air war began, rather than waiting for well over two months.

Another point of criticism was that NATO did not anticipate that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic would take such brutal measures against the civilian population after the beginning of the air strikes. These critics conclude that it was Milosevic's military strategy to force NATO to pay as much attention to the humanitarian situation as to military efforts during the campaign. NATO officials note, however, that the alliance was able to face both problems at the same time, which shows its high degree of flexibility.

Reuters quoted another unnamed diplomat as saying that Clark told the ambassadors that the pilots inflicted extensive damage on the Yugoslav military. The diplomat said that a number of pilots and commanders involved in the campaign were present at the briefing and "reported 181 tanks hit, of which 93 were later proved conclusively to be destroyed. ...It was an impressive report and they've clearly applied very rigorous accounting standards."

The diplomat noted that the Yugoslav army tried to hide the scale of the damage in order to bolster its propaganda claim that the air campaign was ineffective. Belgrade claimed that it lost only 13 tanks throughout the war. (Fabian Schmidt)

KFOR Concerned About Serbian Forces In Kosova. RFE/RL's Evliana Berani spoke last week with KFOR spokesman Ole Irgens:

Irgens: Several episodes over the last few days have shown worrying indications that make us believe that the recent [incidents of] unrest were organized Serbian efforts to destabilize the security situation in Kosovo. ...KFOR considers these incidents very serious and will respond in an adequate way--and if necessary also with arms.

Berani: What kind of facts can you offer to our listeners? What kind of efforts are these?

Irgens: These are unconfirmed reports and we are working hard to get to the bottom of them. We had reports about the presence of uniformed fighters, but we did not have evidence about the activities of any known paramilitary units. There is the possibility to put a picture together, but so far too many details are missing to be able to know all of its dimensions. But the incidents that I was referring to do indeed indicate that there are organized attempts to destabilize the situation.

Berani: There was a recent incident [near Gjilan on 6 September], in which Russian soldiers shot dead three Serbs. We heard that one of them was wearing a uniform. What kind of uniform was that?

Irgens: He was wearing dark pants and a black leather jacket, which we call "uniform style clothing."

Berani: But was that an indication that he really belonged to an armed police, military, or paramilitary unit?

Irgens: As I said these are all indications pointing in one direction.

Meanwhile, NATO's Clark told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina on 13 September that "one of the Serbian assailants...who was killed by the Russian forces was carrying a [Serbian Interior Ministry] ID card." Clark added that another of the dead men was wearing a "paramilitary uniform" and stressed: "We cannot permit this."

Clark said: "I am increasingly concerned by the evidence that we see of organized Serbian efforts to cause a little bit of disruption here and there and to bring increasing pressure on this fragile community. ...There is an obligation [on Belgrade's part] that these Serbian forces are out [and] are going to stay out." He nonetheless indicated that KFOR will discuss, at a later point, the possible return of some unspecified Serbian "personnel" to clear minefields, protect monuments, or monitor border crossings.

But NATO's concerns are not limited to the Serbs. London's "The Daily Telegraph" on 16 September quoted an unnamed high-ranking NATO official as saying that Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) commanders are seeking ways of keeping some of the organization intact after the demilitarization and are "squirreling away" some of its guns. (Fabian Schmidt)

KFOR General Says Things 'Going Very Well.' Major-General Pierre Giuseppe Giovanetti, who is the deputy head of KFOR, told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Tirana on 15 September that "the general situation in Kosova is going very well. That means that the level of incidents decreased [considerably]. We are sure that we will have a big improvement in the near future."

Referring to recent threats by Yugoslav Army General Vladimir Lazarevic to retake Kosova by force, Giovanetti said that the Yugoslav Army is "not a threat to NATO" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999). He explained that the June military-technical agreement between NATO and the Yugoslav authorities envisages the return of several hundred Serbian police to Kosova, but he pointed out that this is not going to happen until "the atmosphere will permit that." (Fabian Schmidt)

Serbian Unions--Divided. Just like the political landscape, the Serbian labor union scene is highly fragmented. Three key unions take stands that reflect some of the main differences among the political parties.

Milosevic controls the official League of Unions of Serbia (SSS), which is the successor to the communist-era "transmission belt" union. It alone has the legal right to conduct contract negotiations.

The 150,000-strong Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions (ASNS) was founded in 1996 and is close to the Alliance for Change (SZP). Its leader, Dragan Milovanovic, demands the ouster of Milosevic and intends to bring it about through a general strike. He told Munich's "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" of 14 September that it does not matter that there has never been a general strike in Serbia. He believes that small labor actions could snowball into something bigger. For example, he argues that a strike by his members at Kraljevo's Avtotransport bus company could easily touch off a larger protest in the transportation sector.

The United Branch Unions (UGS) also has about 150,000 members and wants Milosevic out. But its leader, Branislav Canak, regards a strike as folly. He argues that there is nothing worse than a poorly organized strike that quickly collapses. He comments that the only effective general strike would be those of ex-workers who peddle their wares at the flea markets and sell gasoline and cigarettes on street corners. (Patrick Moore)

Party Divisions Run Deep. The differences between Serbia's rival opposition political parties often run much deeper than the well-publicized rivalries between the frequently egotistical people who head them.

RFE/RL's Omer Karabeg recently brought together two opposition mayors on his Radio Most (Bridge) program. One is Zoran Zivkovic of Nis, who belongs to Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party. The other is Veroljub Stevanovic of Kragujevac, who is a member of Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO).

Zivkovic and Stevanovic spoke to each other in a much more civil fashion than one could imagine Djindjic and Draskovic doing, had they not reportedly long ceased speaking to each other, anyway. But it was nonetheless clear that the Democrats remain convinced that the only way to bring about change is to force Milosevic from office through pressure from street protests. All else, Zivkovic argued, will follow sooner or later in the wake of the dictator's ouster. The mayor of Nis stressed that it is folly to speak of holding elections so long as Milosevic controls the media and the means of coercion.

Stevanovic holds to the SPO's position that changes must come through elections, and that it is necessary to work with disaffected people in the Milosevic camp to bring this about. The mayor of Kragujevac does not rule out street pressure to bring about Milosevic's ouster, but stresses that this approach has no guarantee of success.

Speaking in Budapest recently, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic warned foreigners not to expect too much from the Serbian opposition. But he stressed that the democratization of Serbia is something that can be achieved only by the Serbs themselves. (Patrick Moore)

The Bear Comes 'Round On Kosova? Bernard Kouchner told Reuters that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov "did not mention Russian troops leaving KFOR at their meeting on 15 September in Moscow. On the contrary, he reiterated his support for the operation."

Ivanov dismissed earlier warnings by a senior Russian Defense Ministry official that Russia might pull out of KFOR. The official claimed that the UCK will not meet its demilitarization deadline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 20 September 1999). Kouchner said: "I hope the man from the Defense Ministry is mistaken and that the disarmament...will be effective as of 19 September."

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that "despite the extremely difficult nature of regulating the situation [in Kosova], it is possible to move ahead with a political solution." Ivanov said after the meeting with Kouchner that Kouchner can count on "full cooperation with Russia," AP reported.

Kouchner noted that he has persuaded Russian officials, as well as the UN Security Council, that the German mark should be adopted as Kosova's currency. He said: "The money that is coming into [Kosova] is the money of those Kosovars who are working in Germany, Switzerland, America, and other countries. And it is primarily in German marks," ITAR-TASS reported. Some Russian officials had earlier expressed concern that the introduction of the mark would imply a challenge to Yugoslav sovereignty in the province. (Fabian Schmidt)

Britons Uncomfortable With German Command? General Sir Mike Jackson will hand over command of KFOR on 8 October. Questions remain as to why Jackson stayed in Kosova for only a few months. Rumors persist that the short duration of his tenure has something to do with his refusal in June to obey an order by U.S. General Wesley Clark to prevent the Russians from taking Prishtina airport before NATO forces arrived. At the time, Jackson reportedly said that he had no intention of "starting World War III" over the airport.

Now some of Jackson's British countrymen seem more concerned with the legacy of World War I or World War II. Voices have been raised in the British press against the idea of the 7,000-strong British KFOR serving under Jackson's successor--a German. General Klaus Reinhardt will be the first German officer to command British troops since the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, Reuters reported. (Patrick Moore)

Going Home--With Others In Charge. The UNCHR reports that some 94,500 persons have returned to their homes in Bosnia in areas now under the control of an ethnic group other than their own. Since the Dayton agreement was signed at the end of 1995, some 84,000 such persons went home in the mainly Muslim and Croatian federation, while the figure for the Republika Srpska is 10,500.

The largest group of returnees was the Croats, of whom 39,600 went to Muslim-held areas and 719 to the Republika Srpska. Some 9,800 Muslims entered Bosnian Serb territory, while 21,500 Serbs went to the federation, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 10 September. (Patrick Moore)

Another Nessie Story? Wartime Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic recently gave a speech in Srebrenica. He was in the company of his long-time ally Momcilo Krajisnik, Reuters reported on 15 September, quoting the Muslim daily "Dnevni avaz." Karadzic allegedly praised the "heroism" of Serbian forces during the 1992-1995 war and urged Serbs not to leave the town "where the most glorious pages of Serbian history have been written.

In Sarajevo, a spokesman for the Office of the High Representative said that the story is "incorrect, according to the information we have." The spokesman suggested that the report was intended as "propaganda," but "Dnevni avaz's" editor stood by his report.

Srebrenica was the scene of the largest massacre in post-1945 Europe after Serbian forces captured it from the Muslims in July 1995. An agreement between the international community and Bosnian Serb leaders specifies that Karadzic is not to make any public appearances. Unconfirmed reports occasionally appear in the regional or international media that he has been sighted in Belgrade, Montenegro, or eastern Bosnia. He is one of the most wanted war criminals sought by the Hague-based tribunal, along with Milosevic and General Ratko Mladic. (Patrick Moore)

Soros Gets Order Of Skanderbeg. American financier George Soros promised in Tirana on 10 September to donate money to rebuild destroyed schools and print textbooks for children in Kosova, AP reported.

Soros has been funding a similar education project in Albania, where he spent about $17 million in 1998 on building new schools and renovating existing ones. During his visit he pledged to fund half of a new $4 million education project in Albania.

Soros said he received support from Albanian officials for his suggestion to establish a free-trade zone in southeastern Europe, including the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, and Moldova. Soros said "We'll have a new vision for this region. ...This is the only way to avoid conflicts."

Albanian President Rexhep Meidani awarded Soros the country's highest decoration, the Order of Skanderbeg, for "his great contribution" to the development of Albania, Reuters reported. Soros' Open Society Foundation has spent about $13 million annually on different projects in the field of social development since it opened a branch in Tirana in 1992. (Fabian Schmidt)

Albanian Premier Pledges To Restore Rule Of Law in The North. Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, visiting Tropoja on 14 September, promised residents that he will restore the rule of law there, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Majko said that it is necessary that the government and opposition communicate with each other and put an end to rhetoric of hate and "politics of the street." Majko accepted his administration's responsibility for the delayed implementation of public order in Tropoja region. He stressed that it is unacceptable that Tropoja is becoming an "oasis of crime."

Majko added that the state needs its citizens' support to be able to function normally for the benefit of all. He rejected the view that there is antagonism between Albania's north and south. He further thanked the citizens of Tropoja for helping border guards and refugees during the Kosova conflict. Tropoja was especially hard hit by the Kosova crisis because lawlessness made it a "no-go area" for most international aid organizations over the last two years. Consequently, little international assistance has reached the area.

An RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported that the Doctors without Borders were nicknamed "Doctors without Cars" after visiting the area, because several of the organization's vehicles were stolen there. Special police forces took control of Tropoja only last month after a spectacular ambush by unidentified criminals, in which four people were killed and 20 others injured. Those killed are believed to have been well-known local criminals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August 1999). (Fabian Schmidt)

Dispute Over Albanian Academy's Kosova Book. The Albanian Academy of Sciences put out an encyclopedic book about Kosova in September. The book summarizes basic data about the economy, politics, geography, ethnography, education, and culture of the region, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. The head of the Academy of Sciences, Luan Omari, told RFE/RL that the aim is to give the Albanian public insights into the neighboring region because most Albanians do not know much about Kosova.

The Democratic Party daily "Rilindja Demokratike" criticized the book, arguing that it does not pay enough attention to the Kosovar shadow-state and instead focuses on the UCK.

One article in the book argues that the non-violent approach to resistance of shadow-state leader Ibrahim Rugova played into Belgrade's hands. The article adds that while Belgrade did not recognize the Kosovar shadow state, it allowed it to operate at the grass-roots level because the shadow state did not seriously challenge the regime's basic policies. Another article says that the Movement for the Liberation of the Republic of Kosova, based in Switzerland, played a key role in forming and financing the UCK. But the article also states that in 1998 the UCK controlled 80 percent of the territory of Kosova, which is an exaggeration.

Omari acknowledged that some of the facts given in the book may not be exact. He stressed that it is a collection of contributions by different authors and that not all of them will necessarily come to the same conclusions. (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations Of The Week. The government "does not have time to respond to mindless criticism from compromised politicians and leaders of tiny political parties." -- Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic, in Belgrade, reported by "Danas" on 15 September. He also referred to opposition leaders as "Lilliputians."

"In the most shocking revelation, we found that funds to provide gravestones for victims of the Srebrenica massacre were stolen" by a top local official. -- U.S. House International Relations Committee chairman Benjamin Gilman, on 15 September in Washington, referring to rampant corruption in Bosnia. Quoted by AP.