9 December 2004, Volume
MILITARY COOPERATION OF THE WEST BALKAN STATES
'From The River Vardar [in Macedonia], To Mount Triglav [in Slovenia]'
(from a song about the "brotherhood and unity" in former Yugoslavia)
By Srdjan Kusovac (with contributions from Goran Vezic, Jasna Vukicevic, and Gezim Baxhaku)
Is cooperation held up by the fact that some countries have made more progress toward Euro-Atlantic integration than others? Zoran Dragisic:
(of the Faculty of Civil Defense in Belgrade): A comprehensive regional agreement is necessary precisely because some countries are not members of NATO's Partnership for Peace program or NATO itself. If they were all members, then a regional pact would be superfluous. A regional agreement is being held up by domestic political considerations within the various countries concerned.
There is another aspect to the story about military cooperation in the west Balkans, namely the problem of Kosovo. That region is in many ways a gray zone due to its temporarily undefined status. Analyst Naim Maloku told us that the nominally civilian Kosovo Protection Corps [TMK] will eventually play a role similar to that of all the other military forces in the region.
According to NATO military doctrine, each state must do its part to provide for regional security. The future of the Kosovo Protection Corps is to be the military force of Kosovo. Whether it will be organized like the American National Guard or like something else is a matter for future discussion.
General Blagoje Grahovac blazed the trail for regional military cooperation about two years ago, when such an idea seemed revolutionary. He wrote a study entitled "Defense Problems in the West Balkans: Advancing to Meet the Future."
There is no better way to establish mutual reconciliation and confidence than by removing the source of the greatest fear, namely in the realm of the military.
Countries should set up military structures that they can afford and that correspond to the real challenges, risks, and threats they face. Serbia and Montenegro -- especially Serbia, whose military policies were a destabilizing factor in the region -- should take the lead in cutting the size of their armed forces....
Another point that General Grahovac made is that all states in the region should give up compulsory military service:
A conscript cannot do anything, he just "eats up" government money to no useful purpose. But the most important thing is that he represents a systematic effort to impart a martial spirit into society as a whole. The west Balkans, including Albania, could generate up to 196,000 conscripts per year. If 100,000 or more were actually drafted, this would go a long way to imparting a military spirit throughout society. And it is well-known that wars are not launched by professional armies but by civilian bodies, insufficiently civilized and democratic, but sufficiently militant. This is why I am proposing that we abandon the draft.
The third point Grahovac made is something the political elites seem unable to swallow.
We should promote the creation of joint armed forces or a common defense system on the territory of the west Balkans, or more precisely of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania. Why? As I have just said, what we have here is immense fear and mutual distrust.
There is no better way to establish mutual trust than by creating joint armed units. For instance, if it were politically possible to create a joint battalion and put it under KFOR command in Kosovo, I am convinced that such a battalion would be able to fulfill its tasks as well as learn about NATO standards and rules of conduct. After a battalion, the same thing might be done with a brigade or an entire corps. This would enable all concerned to cut costs as well as establish mutual trust.
My idea was that NATO become coordinator of the project, with Partnership for Peace, Slovenia, and Greece in a secondary role. There are more than enough reasons to do this, and the project has been well received in international forums. However, the suggestion has fallen on deaf ears in Serbia....
General Grahovac concludes for RFE/RL that while elaborating the project he had no illusions about the way his idea might be accepted in some circles.
My study ended with these words: in the beginning, the majority will be against this idea. During an intermediate period, the majority will be for this idea, and at the very end -- which will be in the year 2007 -- the majority will be sorry that the idea did not appear and materialize much earlier. This is the only way forward.