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Balkan Report: March 29, 1999

29 March 1999, Volume 3, Number 12

U.S. Generals Say Ground Forces Could Protect Kosovars. Several active and retired top U.S. military commanders told "The New York Times" of March 30 that NATO could assemble a force of up to 40,000 troops and send them to Kosova "within days" to protect civilians from further attacks and atrocities. One general warned against overestimating Serbian military strength. Another suggested that the main problem preventing sending in ground forces is the lack of political will on the part of many key Western leaders. Some generals noted that NATO could use ground troops to set up "safe havens" for refugees in Kosova. General George Joulwan, who is NATO's former top commander, argued: "if the killings continue, how can you have 12,000 NATO troops [in Macedonia] ten miles from where the atrocities are being committed -- and do nothing?"

Elsewhere, a top Croatian expert suggests that NATO forces are already present on Yugoslav territory. Elite units from the U.S., the U.K., and France have been "going about their business throughout [Milosevic's] Yugoslavia for weeks," retired Croatian General Ante Roso told "Vecernji list" of March 30. He added that they are conducting unspecified secret operations "that will not be reported in CNN or Sky News." The Zagreb daily's own reporter added that most of Yugoslavia's MiG's are intact but are physically unable to leave their underground hangars due to damage from bombing on the surface.

Turning to broader questions of strategy, retired General Antun Tus told "Vjesnik" that NATO seeks to destroy all Serbian heavy weapons between Kragujevac and Kosova in order to "isolate" Serbian forces in the province. The previous Friday, retired Croatian General Martin Spegelj, who is one of the region's senior military commentators, told "Novi List" that he expects that NATO attacks will become "even more intense" in the coming days. The Croatian generals know very well of what they speak: as officers in the former Yugoslav army (JNA), they spent long years reviewing every possible scenario for a foreign invasion of their country.

Montenegro Steers Own Course. The Foreign Ministry in Podgorica said in a statement on March 27 that the Belgrade authorities did not consult or inform Montenegro about the recent decision to break diplomatic relations with several key NATO countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 1999). The statement added that Montenegro does not consider itself bound by that decision. The text stressed the importance of keeping open channels of communication to the key NATO countries in order to reach a political settlement. The previous day, parliament adopted a resolution that "obliges all parties in parliament and state bodies to work to preserve domestic peace as well as political, religious, and ethnic tolerance in Montenegro," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

As NATO bombs continued to hit Montenegro, President Milo Djukanovic warned on March 29 that the "spiral of violence is spinning out of control" and appealed to Western leaders to stop the attacks. He stressed: "It is no longer important whose violence was the cause and whose violence was the consequence. In this hell, innocent people are being hurt." Djukanovic noted that Milosevic's "insane policy" has hurt the "Serbian people" more than anyone else. The Montenegrin leader stressed: "It is necessary to end NATO air strikes and open talks. Not even the staunchest [domestic] opponents of Milosevic can understand the international community's stance towards him." Djukanovic also criticized the international community for treating Milosevic as their main negotiating partner in the region for many years.

RFE/RL Increases Broadcasts to the Crisis Region. RFE/RL'S South Slavic Service increased its daily programming in Serbian by three and one-half hours on March 24. The new program is called "Crisis Update" and can be heard from 2:00-5:30 am on MW (mediumwave).

RFE/RL also doubled the length of its broadcasts in Albanian to Kosova to make a total of one hour per day. Albanian-language programs can now be heard from 8:00-8:30 pm on MW and SW (shortwave), as well as from 9:00-9:30 pm on SW. Six local FM affiliates carry programming in both languages in Montenegro, including "Crisis Update."

The South Slavic Service broadcasts over 13 hours of original programming daily. Interest in foreign broadcasts rises sharply in the former Yugoslavia in times of crisis. Foreign broadcasts have become all the more important recently because of the Serbian authorities' crackdown on the independent media. Another key factor underscoring the continued importance of foreign broadcasts is the decision of some non-state media -- such as Radio B-92 and Beta news agency -- to draw closer to the Milosevic line following the start of the air strikes.

Quotations of the Week. "Serbia's mounting aggression must be stopped. There is strong unity among the NATO allies. We all agree that we cannot allow President Milosevic to continue the aggression with impunity." -- U.S. President Bill Clinton, March 22.

Europe "cannot accept on its soil a man and a regime that, for nearly 10 years, has conducted ... operations of ethnic cleansing, murders, and massacres, of destabilization in the entire region, resulting in more than 200,000 deaths and millions left homeless." -- French President Jacques Chirac, March 29.

"Clobba Slobba" -- headline in London's "The Sun" on March 25.

"Do not let anybody tell you that the air strikes are causing the exodus � It is the program of ethnic cleansing [by Milosevic's forces] that is causing the exodus and NATO action is the only way to stop that program." -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair, March 30.

The bombing is a "direct threat to European security." -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a phone call to Milosevic on March 29.

Milosevic "knows the army professionals see a discrepancy between Serbian and NATO military power and that they are not entirely lined up behind the government line -- freedom or death." -- Unnamed Belgrade political analyst to Reuters after Milosevic appointed loyalist Geza Farkas to head army chief-of-staff security.

"It seems that in the Balkans the real price of peace is war and we along with our strategic partners are ready to pay this price." -- Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko on March 24.

"Every time Milosevic has [sought to invoke] Serbian history, he has imperiled your future." -- President Bill Clinton in an address to the Serbian people, March 25.

Serbian forces are "killing Albanians for the sake of killing Albanians." -- BBC, March 27.

"Genocide has begun." -- German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, March 28.

"The biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II." -- NATO spokesman in Brussels on March 28.

"Don't quarrel with Serbs, ever." -- Arkan on German NTV, March 29.