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Balkan Report: December 30, 1998

30 December 1998, Volume 2, Number 51

Nothing on the Cheap. Sub-freezing temperatures and heavy fog have helped the latest cease-fire in the Podujeva area of Kosova to hold. When the fighting will resume is anyone�s guess, but most observers feel that it is a question of �when� rather than of �if.�

The Serbian forces are as well-equipped as ever, and last weekend made no bones about calling out up to 100 tanks, allegedly to help round up �terrorists� following the shooting of a Serbian farmer. The UCK, for its part, seems to have drawn some lessons from the trouncing it received last summer, and by all accounts has resupplied itself with a more sophisticated and high-tech armory than was the case before. The days when a prominent Western diplomat could dismiss the UCK as �low-IQ warfare� may well be over.

Meanwhile, the international community�s response to the Christmas violence has been to negotiate and to send in another hundred unarmed civilian monitors. The force of events has quickly imposed on the �verifiers� a role that neither they nor anyone else wanted for them, namely that of peacemakers or peacekeepers.

But the question remains about the prospects for Kosova in the coming weeks or months. Many members of the international community seem to be hoping against hope that the key lesson of the conflicts in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia will prove irrelevant, namely: when Belgrade�s dictator commits aggression against one of his neighbors and opens a Pandora�s box, the resolution of the conflict will not come easily or through talk alone.

Is Montenegro Next on Milosevic�s List? A group of independent Serbian journalists recently visited the headquarters of RFE/RL in Prague to discuss the possibilities for the democratization of Serbia. In the course of the round table debate, some of the editors suggested that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has already written off Kosova and is preparing to crack down on Montenegro�s self-assured leadership under President Milo Djukanovic (see �RFE/RL Balkan Report,� No. 46).

RFE/RL�s South Slavic Service�s �Radio Most� (Bridge) program last week brought together two leading Yugoslav political analysts to discuss that possibility. Both Aleksandar Fatic of Kotor and Miroslav Hadzic of Belgrade agreed that Milosevic may indeed be preparing to bring Podgorica into line. They also concluded that he would be unlikely to use the army to launch an outright attack on Montenegro, lest this lead most Montenegrins to rally around Djukanovic and prompt an anti-Milosevic backlash among the many Montenegrins in the army itself.

The two experts both felt that Milosevic may well use other tactics. Fatic noted that Milosevic may try to stir up his supporters � who are the followers of Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic � and recreate the street violence that Bulatovic tried to use one year ago to prevent Djukanovic from taking office. In this scenario, Belgrade would try to manipulate internal divisions within Montenegrin society and turn the north against the south. After the violence continued for some time, Hadzic added, Milosevic could then declare a state of emergency and send in the paramilitary police, who have served him well in Kosova and who include veterans of the ethnic cleansing campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia.

But could Milosevic get away with it? Fatic argued that Milosevic would be playing with fire, because Montenegro has a well-developed sense of national identity and because the security forces �enjoy an especially high degree of support from the population.� Fatic added that even the pro-Bulatovic north would resist Serbian forces, and that, with some help from the outside, Montenegro could defend itself well.

Hadzic, however, did not share Fatic�s optimism that the international community would intervene quickly. On the contrary, Hadzic argued, the West became involved in the successive crises in the former Yugoslavia only after the warring parties had already carved out their political and territorial objectives.

Will Western behavior in and around Kosova in the coming weeks add weight to his argument?

Drug Bust in Macedonia to Herald New Policy? Customs police on the Greek border on December 24 discovered the largest illegal shipment of marijuana in Macedonia to date. The cannabis, which was hidden on a truck, has a street value of $1.5 million. An RFE/RL correspondent in Skopje said that the bust reflects the seriousness of the new government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski in cleaning up smuggling and corruption. The correspondent added that the marijuana haul is but the �tip of the iceberg,� and that observers expect the authorities to launch further drug busts in coming weeks.

Quotes of the Week. UNHCR Sadako Ogata in Belgrade on December 22, on Kosova: �Further confidence-building measures are required.�

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, as cited by Interfax from Moscow on December 28: "The blame lies with those who provoked these conflicts - first of all the Kosovo Albanians, or, to be more exact, extremists and separatists� Their aim is clear: that Kosovo secede from Yugoslavia. Russia and most of the international community oppose this."

Local UCK commander in Llap, quoted by AP on December 20: �We have learned from our mistakes. We are trying to form a professional army.� The same article quoted unnamed foreign experts as saying that the UCK has recently smuggled in �significant amounts of anti-tank rockets, anti-aircraft guns, shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, and long-barreled sniper rifles that can pierce armored vehicles or take a man�s head off from three-quarters of a mile away.� The article closes with a quote from a UCK fighter: �Now we know what we need to fight against the Serbs, and we have it. We are ready to start guerrilla actions again soon.�

Serbian top civilian official in Kosova, Zoran Andjelkovic, to AP on December 27: �State authorities are prepared to deal with all those jeopardizing the territorial integrity of our country.�

Serbian Vice Premier Milovan Bojic, cited by Tanjug on December 28: "There is no hand in Serbia that would sign secession or displacement of Kosovo from Serbia's constitutional order."

Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, in Skopje, as quoted by Reuters on December 22: �A Slavic minority does not exist for Greece. We are Orthodox and so are you, that is what must link us, and I am convinced that in 30 years� time we will have many mixed marriages � let�s make love, not war.�

Arben Xhaferi, president of the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), which belongs to the new Macedonian governing coalition, to Reuters on December 17: �We are asking for progress on rights, in matters of education, language and employment � not making a plea for a greater Albania. If we do not have step-by-step progress, we could face the same situation as in Kosova. I will begin to lose my credibility and my function in society, just like [shadow-state President Ibrahim] Rugova has� We accept living in Macedonia and cultivating our rights within this state, but there must be progress� Fortunately, I believe there is a readiness by our coalition partners to act.�

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, opening a bridge across the Sava on December 22: �The reality is such that Croats, Muslims and Serbs live in this area and they should find solutions to live together and avoid conflicts.�

And on that note, �Balkan Report� wishes all its readers a very happy New Year.