The contours of a third Balkan war are emerging. In the western part of hitherto peaceful Macedonia, Albanian radicals—an oddball ragtag army of disgruntled KLA rejects and wild students—has pushed into Tetovo in a bid to force the Macedonian government to accept the federalization of the country. Kosovo rumbled. The West, as usual, fumbled. Its representatives—ill-trained conscripts, self-important dim-witted diplomats and paper-shuffling dead-end bureaucrats—were long on rhetoric and short on everything else. Everyone was again taken completely by surprise. Violent Albanian extremism is likely to spread to Greece and Bulgaria. The Preševo accords in Serbia are not worth the fire which will undoubtedly consume them.
Yet, Macedonia and Preševo are a diversion, a first salvo, a side-show. The real Balkan War started elsewhere with the unravelling of the Dayton Accords.
On 5 December 2000, CER published "The Fifth Horseman," in which I wrote:
Not surprisingly, this has succeeded only in alienating the people and casting all moderates as quislings. The backlash was evident in the abysmal failure of the ideals of clement reason and ethnic co-existence in the last elections. While paying lip service to the defunct Dayton accords, the fusty puppets of Karadžić and his creed ascended in both the Croat bit of the improbable Croat-Muslim Federation and in its nightmarish sister, Republika Srpska. The West, enamoured of its own abstractions and confabulations, seems to be inured to the recurrent and thundering message that Bosnia is an untenable and tenuous proposition. An eruption is afoot.
The new leaders of the new Croatia are adept at singing the tunes the West likes to hear. They keep their distance from their Bosnian-Croat brethren with the same unmitigated zeal that they applied to the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs with the murderous help of now shunned ones. Yet, should Bosnia be reduced to ethnic smithereens, Croatia, as well as Serbia, are not likely to sit idle and watch their compatriots slaughtered by Afghan and Saudi mujaheedin or harried by each other. A re-ignition of the war in campestral Bosnia—and all bets are off, including the Dayton wager. Another Serb-Croat encounter will rock the very foundations of the hallucinatory "New Order" in the Balkans.
The imminent Serb-Croat war is a logical result of the in-fighting between Koštunica and Đinđić. The latter, having used the former to depose of Milošević, is now backstabbing, a bit of a Balkan reflex. Fighting for his political life, Koštunica teamed up with the outcast elements in Republika Srpska, a nominal part of the fictitious American-sponsored state of Bosnia. On 5 March 2001, he signed a declaratory accord between Yugoslavia and the Republika, similar to the Russia-Belarus document of confederation. Thus, the classic Serb beauty contest ("I am more nationalist than you are") has commenced.
This event, thoroughly overlooked by the Koštunica-enamoured Western media, was preceded by the corrosive disintegration of Bosnia and the slow demise of the Dayton Accords. When the Croat National Assembly declared self-rule in five cantons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wolfgang Petritsch, the Western dictator in Bosnia, fired Ante Jelavić (of the HDZ, the Croatian Democratic Union) from the tripartite presidency of the protectorate and banned him and others from future political activity. These sagacious acts will surely lead to the formation of a Croat underground government.
In the meantime, more than 10,000 Croat soldiers deserted en masse from the VF (the Bosnian "army") and formed the First Guard Corps. The police forces are next. The country is being effectively partitioned.
If the 22,000 troops of the West will oppose these developments by force, another war is a certainty. In such a war, the West's inexperienced and casualty-shy soldiers are bound to be massacred. Moreover, both Serbia and Croatia are likely to join the war to defend their own. The current regime in Croatia is far from the HDZ's Bosnian thugs and their inane agenda, but it cannot afford to be seen to be abandoning Croats under a Moslem and Serb siege. The Croat Parliament has already mooted an elaborate plan for the cantonalization or confederalization of Bosnia—an absolute abrogation of the Dayton Accords.
Montenegro and Vojvodina are next. One by one the actors in this Greek tragedy enter. The old, worn scenery is set. The script is known, the motions automatic, the end result inevitable. Welcome to the Balkan theatre of the absurd.
Sam Vaknin, 24 March 2001
Also of interest:
The author is General Manager of Capital Markets Institute Ltd, a consultancy firm with operations in Macedonia and Russia. He is an Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia.
DISCLAIMER: The views presented in this article represent only the personal opinions and judgments of the author.
- Archive of Sam Vaknin's articles in CER
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Sam Vaknin's Website
- Return to CER front page