October 30, 1995 Vreme News Digest Agency No 213

Stojan Cerovic's Diary

Taming the Bosnian Beast

The united state shall function better on paper than in real life, but at least there will be no more shooting, which should be NATO's concern

Therefore, Dayton, Ohio. I've never been, but I could describe it in detail as if I was watching it. All those parochial towns in the American Midwest are the same, as are also only villages of Vojvodina. Without necessity, a person would not stop there except, maybe, if they absolutely had to at a gas station.

And now imagine an enormous army base in Dayton, Ohio. You don't know how long you'll stay, you can't budge from there, and the only visitors you'll get are lethal Richard Holbrooke, accompanied by a Russian and a Suede, to ask you what your messages to the other two are today. So, that probably is the right place and the logical way to untangle and complete this horrible story whose beginning was much nicer, that time in Versailles. But a funeral is not the same as a baby shower. Somebody will notice that something was born this time as well, a few new states, but from my point of view they are still only small, sickly mutants, who do not bring joy even to their creators.

Come what may, we can hope that Milosevic, Tudjman and Izetbegovic will be in a great hurry to leave that forsaken spot, where nobody has ever heard of them, since people there read the local papers which write about who got married today, whose cat had kittens, whose child spilled the vinegar... When these righteous people find out that "three European statesmen" are coming for a visit in order to conclude some historical agreement, they will think that the world has gone mad, or at least that Europe has gone to the devil, if the mawkish Clinton can create their history in Dayton, Ohio.

Before Dayton, the three are to travel to Moscow, to help Yeltsin in the same way they are helping Clinton, followed by London and Paris. We must have really seemed formidable to the world at large all these years, since everyone is expressing such a wish to bring and display these beasts in their city, these fierce murderers, as they smile and shake hands. It seems as though Yeltsin was fighting a tough battle with Clinton in order to get him to agree to let the three men at least make a dash through Moscow on their way to Dayton. While London and Paris agreed to share the final scenes of the amazing show of taming the last European savages. Clinton and Yeltsin have their elections to think of, and so wish to show themselves as good animal trainers, but besides that, everyone likes to point out somebody else's bad example. And the best educational effect is achieved if the actual culprits come and testify in person that they had misbehaved and shall do better in the future. That is important for those who had so far envied them.

Since we have become unaccustomed to peacetime manners and ways of thinking, and we shall have to remember them soon, we should begin by paying attention to how other states and governments conduct themselves in our case. It is obvious, namely, that huge differences, disputes and conflicts of interests exist, but nobody even thinks of resorting to weapons. Around Bosnia, around the Serbs and Croats, complex maneuvers are being played out in which America, Russia, Europe, that is France and England, and some Islamic countries are taking part. Besides, this region is of no great significance to anyone, except as a place where an important symbolic game can be performed, feigning a confrontation, as in a video game. It will show who stands where, how strong somebody is, who is prepared for what and who shrinks from whom. Everybody tries out diverse variations, they check what they are losing and what they are gaining if they opt for one or the other ally or rival. Therefore, we are talking about the establishment of a new world structure and balance, since lots of things have to be relocated after the collapse of the USSR and global communism.

I am purposely trying to avoid saying anything more definite on this subject, being fully aware how sensitive this topic is. Namely, everybody here knows best what America wants, where Russia is headed, what will happen to Europe - and those were always highly personal questions which nobody had a right to probe. Otherwise, brothers and best friends can become estranged in an instant. (A similar question, only harder, was recently posed by the Association of Writers of Serbia, organizing a debate on the topic "Why are they killing Serbs?" I don't even dare to think what can be said in answer, when such a question can be posed.)

World powers, therefore, are engaged in defining their mutual relations, in which everybody wants to improve their position, and everyone wants to avoid a major war. Which is why everyone is trying to come out as most deserving in achieving peace in Bosnia, where the warring parties will reconcile, who is to supervise peace, who will deploy how many soldiers there and under whose command. That haggling is a symbolic compensation for war and is to show not who shall have the greatest influence in Bosnia, but to answer more important questions, like: what can Russia still manage to do, or does Europe still need America. For us, for the time being, it is enough to remind ourselves that the world is full of disputes and that war is usually regarded as the last and not only means. Judging by everything, in Dayton a temporary final solution shall be reached, whose limits are already clearly discernible. The borders in Bosnia will mostly be set where the armies are at this moment. The united state shall function better on paper than in real life, but at least there will be no more shooting, which should be NATO's concern. Afterwards, everything shall, probably, head off in a certain direction, but the most interesting aspect will be to see whether the Serbs and the Croats will compete in courting the Moslems, or whether they will whisper behind their backs. On the whole, the most puzzling thing being the future conduct of the Croats, and I would say that the Bosnian perspective mostly depends on them. Understandably, all three negotiators shall carry excess baggage with them to America, which often happens to our people when they don't know what awaits them in the outside world. They are thinking: it is easier to throw the excess baggage away, than to find themselves lacking, which is common negotiator's logic. You always have to have what you can abandon.

Judging by the amount of deadweight which the Assembly in Bijeljina has decided to foist onto Milosevic, this time the Serbian side is the one who is most concerned about what it will get at the end. That Assembly was attended by Dobrica Cosic, and Ekmecic, and Tadic, and Crncevic, and Kalajic, and Djogo, and Nogo and everybody else who likes to be close to the people at most difficult moments. They appointed a clerk and started to recite their demands, as thought up at the spur of the moment. They have decided to give the world one last chance to redeem themselves for all the injustice inflicted upon the Serbs, and demanded what Karadzic didn't have even before he returned the surplus: access to the sea and a border on Neretva. Afterwards, they probably think to accuse Milosevic for not bringing all of that back with him from America.

I don't believe Milosevic shall even look at that platform, let alone show it to someone. He has understood that he has to be satisfied for having received equal treatment. The presidents shall be accommodated in three identical apartments, from which Milosevic can deduce that nobody shall ask him to admit to aggression, to capitulate, to fly from Dayton directly to The Hague, or similar. His problem being that he cannot explain to the Serbs, because they wouldn't believe him, how badly the Serbian position is, how futile and illogical it would be to demand, after everything, that Serbs at least be compensated, or let alone recompensed. He who has declared that his political strategy was triumphant, knows best that he is negotiating from the position of main culprit who is, on top of that, defeated and who is only allowed to save face in order to, for the sake of higher interests, sign an agreement which, after all, isn't bad for the Serbs. Milosevic, also, knows better than anyone what all those diplomats who openly congratulate him, express their admiration and call him the "inevitable and main factor of stability in the Balkans" really think of him.

There are some international factors which will not allow the complete Serbian collapse, because of a local or wider balance, because a vacuum of power worries them and god knows why else. But, the trouble is that Milosevic does not admit defeat in order to maintain power, which is why Serbs do not understand why he is making concessions. That is the same type of problem which Milosevic already had while trying not to admit that there was a war, so that people were simply running away from mobilization or deserting. As if he believes that in politics it is strictly forbidden to think, say and do the same thing.