Prague, 17 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Slobodan Milosevic came to power in what used to be Yugoslavia by fomenting conflicts, and only remains in power thanks to conflicts.
Ten years ago he came to power following the eighth session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Serbia. He forced an effective purge within the party, casting out all opposition.
His next step -- mostly in 1988 -- was to purge state TV, which then promoted the theme, "Serbia Must Be Unified." Backed by ample TV exposure, organized groups toured the country, pressing this theme.
Milosevic went to the autonomous province of Kosovo with lavish promises, but then set up a military dictatorship which is still in effect.
He continued to provoke conflicts. One helped him to discard the leadership of Vojvodina province in 1989, and another helped him to get rid of Montenegrin leaders in 1990. Making the most of a growing nationalism he created, Milosevic made belligerent promises in Gazimestan (Kosovo) and coined another slogan calling for the "Preservation of Yugoslavia."
There were missteps. Milosevic started a war against Slovenia in 1991 and lost it. Slovenia is today one of the most developed of all former communist countries, on the threshold of the EU and NATO.
The very same year he sent his troops to Croatia, seizing what was supposed to become part of a Greater Serbia. He lost there, too. In spite of human rights abuses, lack of free media and other anti-democratic stands, Croatia is advancing rapidly and is far more developed then what is left of Yugoslavia.
In 1992, Milosevic started the war in Bosnia. He couldn't win this one either. Foreign analysts think that he would have been completely defeated if the war had lasted longer. Together with Croatia's Franjo Tudjman, he sought to carve up Bosnia. But Bosnia survives, a sovereign entity.
Milosevic started all these conflicts in order to unify Serbia, he said. But Serbia now is divided more then ever. He started the war claiming to preserve Yugoslavia, but he actually caused it to change unrecognizably.
Freeing Yugoslavia from Milosevic's policies and their consequences will be a long-term task. And it can't even start until he relinquishes power, until his nationals start talking in public about crimes organized and committed in the name of defense of Serbia, and about genocide and criminality. The ruling party and its opposition must enter open debate, for example, on the arrests of indicted war criminals. Not until then can the process of liberation from Milosevic begin.
Even now - absurdly, considering his actions and his failures - he is the most popular politician in Serbia.