Saturday, August 13, 2005

Milosevic Crushed Part II – The Regional Ramifications 2000

Milosevic Crushed Part II – The Regional Ramifications 2000

By Michael Karadjis

October 2000

The rise to power of Vojislav Kostunica may have somewhat ironic effects on a regional level. Western governments were aiming essentially at a “palace coup” against Milosevic to keep much of the regime intact, representing as it does the bulk of the Serbian capitalist class.

The success of a western-backed rearrangement of the Serbian regime under a less tainted Serbian nationalist like Kostunica now opens considerable questions about the future of western policy towards a number of regimes they had been playing with to pressure the Serbian elite to remove Milosevic.

.The Montenegrin regime of Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists (PDS) has courted western support for its drive to establish greater republican autonomy within the Yugoslav federation. Montenegro and Serbia are the two theoretically equal republics in the federation.

While supporting the regime, western powers have warned Montenegro not to go any further, as they oppose outright independence.

Milosevic, however, has effectively abolished the federation, by unilaterally changing the constitution several months ago – in the current presidential elections the president was directly elected by the whole Yugoslav population, rather than selected by the federal parliament.

The relevance of this is that Montenegro, being smaller than Serbia, was thus reduced to having only a tiny voice in selecting a president – when the president was selected by the federal parliament, it had a greater voice, because the election of the parliament took place on a federal basis, giving a fixed block of seats to representatives from Montenegro.

From a formally equal republic in a federation, Montenegro has thus been transformed into a province of a unitary state.

The Montenegrin ruling coalition therefore boycotted the elections – a boycott heeded by 75per cent of the electorate - despite pressure from the US and the Serbian opposition to take part to help defeat Milosevic. While Milosevic had scrapped the constitution regarding the presidential vote, he had not done so regarding the vote for the federal parliament.

As such, the Montenegrin boycott enabled pro-Milosevic parties to keep control of the parliament, because the entire bloc of Montenegrin seats – 50 out of 178 – were automatically taken by the Montenegrin opposition Socialist National Party (SNP) of Momir Bulatovic, despite it only attaining some 20 per cent of Montenegrin votes.

Kostunica denounced Djukanovic for this boycott, calling it “selfishness and treason.” Yet none of the Serbian opposition leaders have ever offered anything better on the Montenegrin issue, least of all Kostunica who in almost every speech talks of the “unitary state of Serbia and Montenegro. Indeed, Kostunica openly stated that if he won, the need to be allied to more autonomous-minded Montenegrins would disappear – he would offer the position of federal prime minister to the SNP. In other words, he would do the same as Milosevic, who has illegally sustained the SNP in power in the federal government despite it having lost the Montenegrin elections three years ago – the original cause of the Serbia-Montenegro crisis.

If the SNP takes up the offer and Kostunica thus presides over a more unitary arrangement, the cries of the government of tiny, poverty-stricken Montenegro may quickly be transformed from a “beacon of democracy” into a mere annoyance to western governments.

Likewise with Kosova - while western governments remain strongly opposed to Kosovar independence, they have had the problem of how to force the Kosovars back under a regime which last year tried to physically eliminate them. With Milosevic out of power, this task will become more simple – the Kosovars will simply have to recognise “international legitimacy.”

Any vague suggestions among western leaders of eventual Kosovar independence – made here and there to pressure Milosevic – will dissipate with a western-backed Serbian nationalist regime in power.

Kostunica, while deploring Milosevic’s tactics, has never differed with the regime that Kosova is but a province of Serbia. He has even advocated moving Yugoslav military forces back into the province. Interestingly enough, the leadership of the most hard-line faction of Kosova Serbs, those partitioning the northern city of Mitrovica, came out squarely on the side of Kostunica. The UN’s facilitation of Kosovar Serbs voting in the Yugoslav election made it clear that the UN still sees Kosova as part of that state.

And if the Kosovars remain recalcitrant, the threat of partition, of losing the economically valuable north, now hangs more firmly over their heads. In June, the UN administration gave the Serbs the right to set up their own ethnic-based security forces within their majority regions. Perhaps an inevitable consequence of the inability of Kosovar Albanian leaders to stem revenge attacks against the Serbs by the traumatised population, but nevertheless a step towards a partition in which the Albanians have more to lose.

The Serbs were also given the right to set up local governments in their enclaves – a good thing in itself, except that the local governments set up by the Albanians have been regarded by the UN as illegal “parallel institutions” without official recognition.

Most likely, the outcome will be a mixture – the Serb regions, particularly the north, will simply attach themselves to Serbia proper, while the rest of Kosova is forced by the “international community” to accept formally remaining in Yugoslavia with some new version of impoverished “autonomy.”

Finally, there is Bosnia, which was partitioned into two republics, officially still in one fictional Bosnian state, by the US-inspired Dayton Accords of 1995. This allowed a Serb Republic - Republica Srpska (RS) – to be set up in half of Bosnia from which Milosevic and his Chetnik allies in the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) had brutally expelled a million Moslems and Croats.

The government of RS underwent a similar transition in 1997-98 to that perhaps taking place in Serbia now, as the highly corrupt SDS leadership around Radovan Karadzic was replaced by more pragmatic nationalists. First his loyal lieutenant Biliana Plavsic performed an acrobatic conversion of chauvinist extremist to “moderate”, then the new regime of Milorand Dodic was jointly installed by the US and Milosevic.

Milosevic at that time was in conflict with the ultra-right, who regarded gaining “only” half of Bosnia to be a betrayal. Dodic and Milosevic both understood that Dayton by its very logic was working for them, as the economies of Serbia and RS were more and more fusing, so there was no rush for wild Chetnik schemes for immediate formal unification of Serbia and RS, which would create regional headaches.

However, the uprising in Kosova pushed Milosevic back into alliance with the ultra-right, whose horrendous and destabilising tactics in Kosova led to NATO’s aggression in 1999. This confronted the Dodic regime with a dilemma – on the one hand, NATO bombs radicalised Bosnian Serb nationalist opinion, but on the other there was little economic sense in continuing economic fusion with a country being bombed and then denied reconstruction aid.

However, if like-minded “reformed” nationalist regimes are now in power in both countries, and the reconstruction sanctions on Serbia are dropped, this interruption in the fusion process may end. The natural tendency of Dayton to entrench the partition of once multi-ethnic Bosnia and the de facto fusion of ethnically cleansed “Serbian lands” will resume.

Dodic is far from a Bosnian integrationist - he most recently opposed a Bosnian proposal to amend Dayton so that all three Bosnian nations would be constituent in both halves of Bosnia, preferring the current constitution in which only Serbs are a constituent nation in RS. And Kostunica was always among the block who opposed Dayton from the right.

The problem with Milosevic was that bourgeois Greater Serbia could only be created by engulfing the region in a decade of ethnic slaughter, and so to have allowed his regime to gain everything it wanted would have looked somewhat crass. Ironically, now that Milosevic has done the dirty work on behalf of his class, new “moderate” representatives of the same class, who sat back and kept their hands relatively “clean”, may be in a better position to complete the Milosevic program.

No comments: