July 27, 1992 Vreme News Digest Agency No 44
Affairs In the Army
The Purge Continues
by Milos Vasic and "Vreme's" team of reporters
The arrest of general Vasiljevic was not just a break with the times of defeat; it also continued paving the way for the Yugoslav Army to assume a new role
Major general Aleksandar Vasiljevic was one of the 38 generals who were hastily retired in May. He learned about this in the field, from people who had watched television; he also found out that his assistant, major general Simeon Tumanov, had been retired and that his commander and protector general Blagoje Adzic had resigned. General Vasiljevic was the head of the Yugoslav People's Army Security Service Administration, known as "KOS", perhaps the most powerful intelligence service in former Yugoslavia. General Vasiljevic was arrested because he had published his recollections in the form of a six-part interview to the weekly magazine "NIN" and was charged - to start with - under the provisions of the penal code referring to terrorism, the undermining of the country's defense system and taking bribes. General Vasiljevic's memoirs and trial - if it takes place - will be just an additional illustration of the sad chaos in which one of the most powerful armies in Europe defeated itself, without anyone's help. The responsibility of the Yugoslav People's Army Security Service Administration does not lie in possible bribery, car stealing or the participation in massacres of civilians; the real responsibility has to do with the fact that, for the sake of petty politics, it cynically sacrificed the essential interests of the Service, the Army and the State. In this, "KOS" was just part of the story.
At the time when it all started, general Marko Negovanovic, the now retired Serbian defense minister, was the head of the Yugoslav People's Army Security Service Administration. General Negovanovic never explained the army's defeat in the ten-day war in Slovenia; perhaps no one asked him to... General Vasiljevic became head of the service at a moment of panic, when the war had already broken out and when no one understood anything. His memoirs clearly show that the Yugoslav People's Army and secret services of the Serbian police cooperated in arming and getting up in arms the Serbs outside Serbia; one can even see occasional alliances with Alija Delimustafic, the interior minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina; then there are some dealings with Mr.Zeljko Raznjatovic, known as Arkan, and other protagonists in the darker side of the war; one also suspects various financial operations, subversions and terrorism.
What were the practical consequences of all that? This is what younger officers in the Defense Ministry now insist on. The matter started unwinding with the "Opera" and "Labrador" affairs, the two sides of the same forged coin, they say. They didn't say, however, that these two affairs represented the culmination of the perfidious conflict between the security services of the army and the air force. It was the air force that launched both operations; "Opera" was of an active type (diversions, spreading misinformation, psychological war), while "Labrador" was of a passive-intelligence nature (infiltrating agents and setting up networks in Croatia).
It is clear that general Vasiljevic first lost the internal battle for controlling the army's secret service, certainly not only because of what the regime's press accuses him of: an unauthorized exchange of prisoners, "terrorism", bribery. All this will, hopefully, be clarified at court.
The most important remark refers to the Supreme Command Council's internal intrigues: generals Vasiljevic and Tumanov - according to "Vreme's" sources - deliberately manipulated general Blagoje Adzic, supporting his "personality cult" and playing on the vanity of this ill-tempered and uneducated man, they say. This allegedly started much before general Veljko Kadijevic resigned. General Vasiljevic gives an extensive account of the guard's aborted coup in September 1991. The story about the guard officers who refuse to obey orders, want to dismiss the federal secretary, do not inform their commanders about a mutiny and do not even manage to carry out the military coup is typical of former Yugoslavia: everything is feeble, clumsy, dumbfounded and confused.
A lieutenant-colonel has told "Vreme": If the Yugoslav Army has any intention of surviving with any kind of moral credibility, if a future is to be ensured for all the honest officers - and so it should; if the new state (whatever it may be like) wants the army to be the key element of its stability - then we must break with the real socialist past, with dense and obedient communist generals, with personality cults. The Vasiljevic case, he says, is the beginning; there will be no more such mighty people in the army. The army must clean its face smeared by incapable people, careerists, crude brutes (he mentions Adzic) and officers involved in politics. The Yugoslav army didn't bat an eyelid when Mr.Milan Panic appointed himself defense minister and thus became the first civilian to occupy this post. A few evenings ago, general Zivota Panic, chief of the General Staff, dressed in a camouflage-shirt and visibly resentful, told Belgrade Television's journalist that the Yugoslav navy is capable of defeating the Sixth fleet; one could see that not even the journalist, let alone general Panic, believed in that. People in the army hope there will be no more of this.
Milos Vasic and "Vreme's" team of reporters