The trial on Milosevic is delayed due to the illness of the ex-president of Yugoslavia. It will resume on April 8. The doctor of historic science, the director of the Center for the Balkan crisis studies of the Institute of Slavonic Studies Elena Guskova talks about the situation in the Hague and Yugoslavia.
The major question is whether or not an international body can judge a politician or a leader of a country for correct or incorrect policy. Milosevic should be considered a politician. He is a very strong, charismatic, authoritarian personality. He was in the center of all the events that were happening in the Balkans. However, at the same time, he made a lot of mistakes as a politician. This happened for many reasons: because of his personal qualities and the difficult situation in which he found himself. There was huge pressure on Milosevic: from different structures of the UN and from the leaders of different countries. One has to bear in mind that he was not getting any support at that. He could not elaborate a policy on the ground of Russia’s sympathy and support, for example, on the grounds of a jointly developed strategy and tactics.
Speaking about the mistakes, it should be said that he has had very difficult relations with the Serb people in Croatia and Bosnia, since 1991. These are separate territories at the present moment that do not have close links with Yugoslavia. The difficulties of these relations caused much damage to the cooperation between the different parts of the Serbian nation, and this is his responsibility in front of his people. I am not using the verb “to judge;” I say he is “responsible.” It is up for the country to choose the way of carrying this responsibility.
It is totally evident today that Milosevic is being judged in order to justify the crimes of NATO's activities in the Balkans. This is not only about the year 1999, and not only about the bombing. This is also about 1994 and 1995, when NATO was striking the Serbs only. It became obvious that the UN took the side of one of the feuding parties (on behalf of NATO) in the international conflict. The UN is being condemned now, and it hardly survived in this conflict as an organization. That is why the West has to prove that its actions had reasons. Furthermore, the Hague Tribunal will be able to expand its authority in the nearest future, since the USA has plans to spread the activity of the tribunal on other countries the USA has problems with. The Americans are talking about the countries of the "Axis of Evil," which pose a potential threat, and this body is a very good instrument to put pressure on those that are not obedient. The Hague Tribunal will most likely hurry up in order to be through with the Balkan trial and start working on its expansion.
The present trial is often called “the second Nueremberg. I think there is nothing in common here, because the use of this notion is the deliberate attempt to compare the events in Yugoslavia with the fascism of the World War II. Therefore, the shadow of fascism is cast on the Serbs and NATO’s actions will be justified in this case too. The Hague Tribunal is judging presumably the Serbs. Charges have been brought against Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Serbian republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina; against Milon Martic, the president of the Serbian Krajina in Croatia; against all the generals of the Serbian Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including General Mladic; and so on and so forth. None of the belligerent countries have such a long and extensive list. Croatia also waged war in Bosnia and Herzegovina; even its regular army was there. Croatia stayed on the territory and took part in the military actions despite the decisions of the UN’s Security Council. Look at the atrocities by the Muslims on Bosnia’s and Herzegovina’s territories. They pale in comparison with the brutality of the Turkish people on this territory, when they impaled people and fried children on fire. Who is responsible for that today? Only the Serbs are, if you follow the actions of the tribunal.
The negative attitude to Yugoslavia, to Serbia in this case, is explained with the fact that it was the last bulwark of communism in Europe, which had to be removed. Secondly, the Serbs exercised too much of their independence and resistance to the circumstances that pressed on them. They were trying to preserve the federation, to resist the NATO’s actions, and they remained standing after the aggression of 1999.
Another reason was the fact that the Yugoslavian army was one of the strongest in Europe, it ranked fourth. NATO could not realize its plans without destroying this army. The Balkan region is very good for military exercises, and there are lot of fine army bases there, awell-developed infrastructure, and there is an opportunity to storee nuclear wastes, and Milosevic was against all of that. Finally, the Serbs belonged to the orthodox civilization, which was also a reason for those events to happen.
There is a different attitude to the former Yugoslavian president nowadays, as always. Here are just a few facts that are never mentioned about him. For example, there was an opposition press during Milosevic’s stay in power, together with the pro-presidential press. The opposition press was working very actively, preparing the public opinion for the need of changes in Serbia. I was a witness to the events when the people were singing anti-Milosevic’s songs in the center of Belgrade for many days, from morning till night. They were signing those songs, and no one was arresting them, so it was allowed to speak out. However, the system was irritating at lot of businessmen, those who would like to have freedom of trade and those who would like to have another kind of development of the country. However, what democracy could there be if there were tough sanctions, total political isolation? The Serbian students were not allowed to go to the West, and no country would hire a Serb specialist. So a multi-party system was out of the question, and the people had to survive. In addition, this authoritarian organization helped the country to get back to life rather quickly after the bombing of 1999. The bridges, railways and other objects of infrastructure were not hard to restore, because the funds were basically concentrated in one place. All the rest was difficult to achieve. The new government can not cope even with that now.
There is no opposition press now, although the government says it is running the democratic policy. All those mass media outlets that show a nationalist tone are closed. One can not speak about the Serbs as a nation in Yugoslavia today like it was during the period 1945-1991. This is a very unhealthy situation. Delivering Milosevic was a big shock, but the people coped with that. However, today, when Milosevic raised the questions that had already gone into the background and when he started talking about the facts of extremely negative attitude of a lot of international organizations to the Serbian people, his popularity increased a lot in the country. Everyone acknowledges now that they are listening to his speeches with great interest.
The corruption charges that have been brought against Milosevic in his fatherland are not developing in Yugoslavia, although it became the reason for his arrest in Belgrade. The new government wanted to prove the corruption of his family and punish him for that. There certainly can be some proofs found. If Milosevic’s guilt is proved, then the government has to make a decision pursuant to the laws. If not, then he should be released. Nevertheless, this is not a subject for discussion at the Hague Tribunal.
Although incumbent President Voislav Kostunica had the election motto “Serbia comes first, democracy comes second,” and specialists referred to him as a moderate nationalist, Serbia is not a presidential, but a parliamentary republic. The prime minister plays the most important role here. Moreover, Kostunica is not the President of Serbia, he is the President of Yugoslavia. That is why Kostunica is rather limited in his authorities.
This man is very honest, buut he has to face conditions in which he must look for a compromise. He ran out of patience and expressed his opinion about the Hague Tribunal several days ago. His opinions are different from those of the premier in this respect, which has been happening on other issues too lately. However, Kostunica will most likely leave rather than being blemished. He is still standing for the things that he considers the most important for Serbia: democracy freedom, parliamentarism, private business. Anyway, Serbia is now under the total influence of the West, which proves that Kostunica is very restricted in his opportunities. Serbian Premier Zoran Djindjic plays the main role in Yugoslavia today, and the correlation of the political forces is not in Kostunica's favor nowadays.
The intrigues in the administration, very weak legislation, the absence of money, - this all complicates the gradual development of the country. Kosovo’s unresolved issue is still on the agenda together with the south of Serbia, and the relations with Montenegro. So, unfortunately, our center for studying the Balkan crisis will have a lot of work in the future.
Elena Guskova The Doctor of Historic Science, the director of the Center for the Balkan crisis studies of the Institute of Slavic Studies
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov