October 14, 1991 Vreme New Digest Agency No 3
Converting the Army
Since General Tomislav Simovic, the Serbian Defence Minister, announced two weeks ago in Valjevo, while comforting the reservists, the passing of the new law concerning the formation of the Serbian army, the few remaining sensible people resorted to writing
The Army advance clearly shows that its effective troops are retreating to Serbia and Montenegro: also from Slovenia, from Macedonia and soon from Croatia as well, and if the present trends continue, also from parts of Bosnia, where it has no control. Despite the offensive on the Dubrovnik region, which is of technical nature, the Army is at this moment undertaking strategic defence. Despite the enormous military potential used in Slavonija, Vukovar, Vinkovci and Osijek were not "liberated", which in itself represents a defeat: foreign military experts say that it is unacceptable for the cities in this day and age to be found demolished and beseiged. Instead their vicinity should be taken. Thus they are cut off. The inefficiency plays a big role here.
In ancient times the rulers would first check their finances and survey the enemy's territory to see whether the war will pay off. The conceptual problem of this war - the confusion and panic in decision making - will show up in the accounts.
The Army represents an armed force which has, during the last 45 years, been sistematically planned for, organized and supplied with the help of the army of taxpayers, ranging from 15 (1945) to 22 million people today. At the same time, the national wealth was increasing steadily. We should here take into account the nature of the bureaucratic systems and planned econommy: the Army had the priority from the start, primarily because of the Soviet threat of 1948 and later as an independence keeping instrument during the Cold War, the turbulent sixties and the Breznjev's seventies. The Army would get whatever the Supreme Commander thought necessary.
It was the period of the rising standard of living and the "sipping" of freedom and the civil rights, so nobody had anything against it.
Very soon, the Army became one of the strongest of its kind in Europe: for years it was listed seventh. The unabashed financial support resulted in a strategic concept, and it produced the necessary armament systems, the accompanying personnel and the formation structure. Even during the difficult years in mid eightees the Army managed to get by on its savings and to keep its theoretical "military readiness".
This was possible precisely because of the 20 million taxpayers. It would be fair to say that the Slovenes at that time have started to rock the boat, asking whether the Army expenses could be reduced, who payed the villa of Admiral Mamula etc; this was qualified as "an attack on the Army".
The disintegration of the Yugoslav Communist Party and the later developments came too soon: in no time it all went to the devil. The war found the Army without Tito and the Party.
Mr. Milosevic and the Yugoslav Communist Party did not seem like an appropriate replacement... The Army gave an approval for Slovenia to be kicked out of Yugoslavia and payed for such a decision with seriously shaken credibility and unnecessary casualties. The March decision to staunchly back Milosevic result in the loss of Croatia, and it will soon mean the loss of Macedonia and parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well; the recruits and the reservists from these regions have already declined their participation, apart from some Serbs in Bosnia. But what with the tax income and the maintaining of the Army? At this time the Army expenses are being met with additional money printing: the mint in Topcider (Belgrade) is very close to the military premises. When we add up the regular Army expenses and the cost of war in the past two months (including the daily wages and war benefits, fuel and ammunition, food, equipment, medical supplies, crutches, prothesis, coffins, the destroyed tanks, lorries, aircraft) the price is astronomically high. The figure of 68 billion dinars planned to be the half of this year's unattainable federal budget is ridiculous compared to the eventual cost of war. If the Army wants to make up at least partly for the losses, to give regular salaries and pensions, to import spare parts and repromaterial, it has only one option: hyperinflation. Mr. Milosevic is willing to consent to their desires since he has no choice. The Army in this case belongs to the one who is paying for it. The recent comments of the more distinguished Serbian officials (Mr. Dragojlovic, the Minister of Religious Affairs, and dr. Mihailo Markovic, the Vice-President of SPS /Serbian Socialist Party/) clearly show a belief that the Army is a temporary formation prior to the creation of the Serbian army. There are two direct consequences stemming from these developments: the first one refers to the introduction of the Slovenian currency, the second one is reflected in the hyperinflation of "Milosevic's war dinar", the term the economists use for the present "Topcider product". That the Slovenes had no intention of bearing the cost of war was reflected in their decision to print the money which is out of use; the logical step would be the introduction of their own currency. The creation of Croatian currency is to be expected, which would probably be followed by Macedonia: the money being printed in Topcider should be discarded with as soon as possible. Why would somebody want to pay for somebody else's war? It would be difficult to envisage a fiercer blow for Mr. Milosevic than to burden him with the whole of Army. How will 8 million taxpayers keep the military machine which was planned for 22 million taxpayers? It is inconceiable that Mr. Milosevic will lay off the surplus officer staff - he would be assassinated in no time (a similar result would be achieved by the radical reduction of salaries and pensions). There are certain answers that present themselves more readily. The conquered territories will mean additional money from the taxpayers.
Even if they were to remain in "Great Serbia", they are either poor (Krajina and Bosanska Krajina, Eastern Herzegovina) or rich but inhabited with armed and hostile population and have been mercilessly demolished (Slavonija etc). No claims can be made on the poor ones since their economy is shattered. It would be difficult to impose claims on others even to the amount of keeping public order and peace. Financial help of the Serbs throughout the world helped feed the poor and the disadvantaged regions up to now, But without the Serbian money this will prove to be insufficient.
The state of the Serbian economy needs no particular description. The new face of the Balkans will severely restrict the access to the traditional goods, services, capital and labour markets. The true impact of the war induced crushing of tourism is yet to be evaluated. The 4 to 6 billion dollars did not benefit only the Croatians. The costs of restructuring the economy of Great Serbia or "the rest of Yugoslavia" will also be astronomically high.
The Army in the meantime was left without a certain quantity of expensive military potential (airplanes, helicopters, tanks, armour vehicles, artillery, lorries etc). That has allegedly been compensated for by the import of the Eastern European and other weaponry through the port of Bar (Montenegro). According to some reports, helicopters type Mi- 17V6 were seen hovering the Croatian battlefields: each costs at least a million and a half dollars. Are they part of the denied deal between General Kadijevic and Marshal Yazov? In this day and age you cannot have anything for free, so somebody had to pay. With whose money? If Serbia is to acquire an army in this fashion, stripped of what the Slovenes and the Croatians have taken, it will be left with a poweful armed force which will be difficult to get rid of. Since it was left without its last and only Supreme Commander, the Army resembles the Roman Pretorian Guard towards the end of the Empire. The Army has not yet begun to appoint sergeant majors Tzars (Mr. Sejdo Bajramovic /Federal Presidency member from Kosovo, former sergeant major/ does not count), but nothing is standing in its way.
If it wins, Serbia will burden itself with more problems, instead of having solved them. If it has solved anything at all, apart from the survival of the regime that only knows how to rule Serbia from the outside.
The projected future frontiers of the "Great Serbia" are derived from the recent Army offensives and extrapolated from the public statements of Serbian politicians known to be "the mouthpiece of Milosevic". Let us start with the South: the Southern Dalmatia (Dubrovnik) has been promised to Serbs from Herzegovina and Montenegro by Mr. Mihalj Kertes, Mr. Milosevic's faithful servant, MP and the man responsible for arming and organizing the Serbs in Bosnia & Herzegovina within the framework of the plan "RAM" (RAM meaning: the Frame); "Dubrovnik will be the capital of the Serbian state of Herzegovina", stated Mr. Kertes a month ago. Dr. Milan Babic, the head of the Knin state (SAO Krajina) stated in July that "Serbia covers all of the Eastern Herzegovina, to the left bank of the Neretva river". Zadar was hailed as "a Serbian city" by Mr. Milan Martic, "Minister of Interior" of Knin on August l8th, as well as Karlovac and Petrinja. The line Karlobag-Ogulin-Karlovac-Virovitica was first laid down by Dr. Vojislav Seselj and supported by Gen. Stevan Mirkovic, ret, former Chief of Staff, JNA, now one of the most prominent spokesmen of the SKPJ (League of Communists - Movement for Yugoslavia; so called Generals' Party). The line Karlovac-Virovitica incidentally covers the only oilfields in Yugoslavia. The entire Slavonia represents probably the best agricultural soil in Europe.
The catch in this enterprise is - of course - of ethnical nature: inside the projected "Great Serbia" borders will remain at least a million of angry and well armed Croatians; if the plan "RAM" is to be fully activated, there will be even more Croatians and a few hundred thousand hostile Moslems.
The key to this state of affairs is Bosnia and Herzegovina. If we watch the developments there, we'll be able to get the first warnings. Bosnia & Herzegovina has the major part of the Yugoslav military industries on its soil; without it, the Army will grind to a stop in a week.