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Unbound from the 35-year dictatorship of Tito and the strong arm of Communist control, Yugoslavia once again has erupted in ethnic strife. Before peace efforts can begin to be implemented effectively, the world must understand the region’s recent history and recognize Belgrade’s role in the current conflict.
The Yugoslavia I entered in 1980 as a naval attache was made up of six unnaturally allied republics with two autonomous provinces that were included within the political boundaries of Serbia. These ethnically and culturally diverse lands had been held together since World }Yar II by the charisma and repression ot Yugoslav Pies- 'dent Josip Tito. The recently deceased military dictator Was-—despite his human and political excesses and h's masquerade as a doctrinaire communist—
Gloved by a large crossaction of the Yugoslav Population.
A master of political opportunism, Tito seized advantage when a corrupt Serbian royalty collapsed under the Nazi German invasion. The hlarch 1941 Belgrade coup against the Serbian regent triggered the illusion of Yugoslavia by the outraged Nazis in April of that year. The Jugoslav Army capitulated only 11 days later hut nonetheless delayed the German invasion of Russia until June.
The ensuing guerrilla Warfare waged by Tito’s Artisans and the Royalty Chetniks effectively Prevented the Germans from subduing more than the major cities and lsolated areas of Yugoslavia into a perma- Uept occupation.
Most of the Royal Yugoslav Army survivors
of the 1941 capitulation were moved to concentration camps in Germany, Austria, and Poland, where thousands died. These unfortunate Yugoslavs became targets of some of the most inhumane treatment meted out by the Germans to military prisoners of war. Yugoslavs were lumped together with Russians in the deranged Nazi plan to eliminate the Slavic race.
When the survivors of the German camps were released
Slovenia * LJUBLJANA
Bosnia a\ nd Hercegovina
I I Albanian GUI Montenegrin
I I Bulgarian EU Muslim
I I Croat l—I Serb
I I Hungarian IHI Slovak
EE3 Macedonian □ Slovene I .1 No majority present
Based on opstina data from 1991 census.
Hungarian, 1.9 Montenegrin, 2.5 Yugoslav, 5.4a ^
Macedonian, 5.9 \
Albanian, 7.7 Slovene, 7.8 V \ Muslim, 8.9
Other, 3.9 Serb, 36.3
Vojvodina wtonomous rprovince)
a Yugoslavs are those persons who listed tltemselves as such in the 1981 census. S. They are dispersed across the country.
Proceedings / June 1993
Assignment in Belgrade
goslav National Army (JNA) still was officered by Tito’s closest senior officers. General Veljko Kadijevic, Defense Minister at the start of the civil war in 1991, graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, had been on Tito’s personal staff. The colorful Yugoslav Navy Commander Admiral Tihomir Vilovic was Tito’s navy aide and close associate, and Rear Admiral Zvonimir Kostic was Tito’s.personal aide, by his side at his death.
The emphasis of U.S. Embassy Belgrade reporting during that time was supposed to be the total nonalignment of Belgrade and the disdain by the Yugoslav National Army
It is said that personal involvement in the Balkans, however slight, results in permanent impairment of some portion of the human character. Hence, the four years I spent as naval attache in Belgrade began a long involvement in the affairs of that region that persists as the current tangle there continues.
My arrival in Yugoslavia in 1980 coincided with the period of official mourning after Yugoslav President Josip Tito’s death. The world waited for the collective presidency he established to unravel, allowing each republic to emerge as an independent state. The Yu-
in 1945 and tried to make their way back to Yugoslavia, tens of thousands were massacred near the border by Tito’s Partisans. Varying accounts number those slaughtered on the Austrian/Slovenian border from 20,000 to 40,000, depending on whether you believe the Serbs—the predominant nationality in the royal army—or the Croats. In any case, the returning remnants of a royalist Yugoslav Army could hardly have been tolerated by Tito, whose Communist Partisans were on the top of the heap when the war ended in 1945.
Tito had used Stalin’s coattails to catapult his Partisans to victory under the banner of communism, against both the occupying Germans and the Royalist Chetniks (Mikhailovic and his Serbian officer corps). He was wooed by Winston Churchill and supplied by the British and eventually the Americans.
Stalin’s support for Tito cooled toward the end of the war, as the Soviet dictator gazed longingly at the Yugoslav ports on the Adriatic. The Russian quest for warm-water ports fueled the West’s worst fear: that Yugoslavia might fall into the warm bosom of the Warsaw Pact, either by force or by gentle seduction. Serious concern over the growing Soviet fleet taking possession of the excellent ports of Rijeka, Split on the central coast, and Tivat on the strategic Bay of Kotor in the south catapulted the navy to the forefront of the post-war equation of Balkan geopolitics. The Soviet focus on the Adriatic seacoast of Yugoslavia became a key issue for the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.
After Tito’s split with Stalin in 1948, the use of Adriatic ports remained a key issue of the Cold War until the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Soviet naval presence in the Adriatic had been made relatively permanent by the continuous repair of a submarine tender and two diesel attack submarines in the port of Tivat. The Soviet Navy’s active participation in warship visits to the Yugoslav Adriatic ports became a key diplomatic frontline contest with the U.S. Navy—one that made the naval attache job in Belgrade a rich and intriguing experience’
The West, in delight over Tito’s break with the Communist bloc, hastened to his side with economic and military assistance. Many Yugoslavs still remember the U.S. aid packages sent in the post-war years. Fewer remember that U.S. economic assistance built a number of roads, including the grand coastal highway that links the coastal cities from Rijeka in the north to Ulcinje on the Albanian border in the south. Fewer still recall the hundreds of U.S. tanks and other surplus military hardware that poured into the country to keep it on the right side of the new Iron Curtain.
Courting Tito was difficult, however, and a rift soon
viet watch officer further complained of my presence near the ships, the gendearme asked me for my identification. When I produced my diplomatic ID, he showed it to the Russian stating, “I told you he was from the Embassy.”
The Russian responded indignantly, “Comrade, he’s from the American Embassy, not ours!” During another Soviet visit, this time in Dubrovnik, the Italian attache and I motored too closely to a moored Soviet submarine. A voice in the Croatian language on a loud-hailer pierced the quiet harbor afternoon: “You in the small boat, what is your business?” We beat a hasty retreat as we noticed a group of Yugoslav surveillants in a small police launch cast off from a nearby seawall and head our way. Thanks to a faulty engine, they came to an abrupt halt and sat dead in the water in the central harbor as we disappeared quietly into a crowded fishing anchorage nearby.
P. A. Huchthausen
with Israel off limits and Egypt closed to them since 1972, the Soviet fleet was limited to liberty in Syria, Libya, and Algeria. A Soviet port visit to Dubrovnik, Split, or Rijeka was a genuine treat for the Russians, as well as an observation feast for the NATO naval attaches in Belgrade.
The NATO attaches dedicated a great deal of effort to observing the Soviet ships and their crews in the Yugoslav ports. Given the secrecy shrouding all Soviet military operations, the NATO attaches in Yugoslavia became the only Western military observers with a regular window for close-range scrutiny of operational Soviet naval forces. We boarded their ships often as visitors.
During one Soviet navy visit to Rijeka, the Canadian attache and I were arrested at Soviet navy request and escorted from the port area by a local gendarme. When accosted by the Yugoslav policeman and asked where I was from, I responded, “From the embassy,” and he released me. When the So
f°r the Soviet military machine. As an attache, I found that initially difficult to support. In the midst of ltle Cold War, the Soviet navy routinely used Yugoslav airspace with 'mpunity to fly reconnaissance and fissile-configured medium-range Jet bombers from air bases in the Soviet Union to bases in North Africa in support of their Mediterranean Fleet.
During this period, both the U.S. and Soviet navies had active port visit programs under way in the Jugoslav Adriatic. The purpose of these visits for the Sixth Fleet was ft only to show the flag but also f° enjoy the unique window on socialism that Yugoslavia offered.
We were careful that the Sixth f leet conducted an equal number °f visits with the Soviet navy, to ensure Yugoslavia remained truly Uonaligned. Adriatic ports became Popular liberty calls for both the H-S. and Soviet fleets in the Mediterranean. Since NATO had a eorner on all the classy ports on lhe French and Italian rivieras and visited Turkey and Greece, and
developed. The U.S. continuation of reconnaissance flights along the Adriatic coast spurred Tito to shoot down several U.S. military aircraft. This cooled relations to the Point that the United States not only slowed economic assistance but insisted that all U.S. World War II dead be returned from graves in Yugoslavia.
During his 35-year rule, Tito, himself a Croat, managed to keep a lid on the ethnic strife between Serbs and Croats. His tactics were as ruthless as those of the Nazis, Ustashe, and Chetniks he defeated in World War II.
He set a time bomb with the Serbs by carving the two Provinces Vojvodina and Kossovo out of Serbia and giving them autonomous status. He further embittered the Serbs by denying them rule over the Serbian enclaves in Bosnia and Croatia that were wrenched from Austro-Hun- gary during World War I and from the Nazis during World War II. Instead, he granted all six Yugoslav republics equal status in his collective leadership. As a result, Bosnia under Tito received for the first time in history status equivalent to Serbia and Croatia. This simmering issue of the minority enclaves later would spawn the cries for “Greater Serbia” and ethnic cleansing.
The diverse ethnic groups scattered throughout Yugoslavia—normally a healthy ingredient for a country Messed with so rich a variety of nationalities are the source of today’s problem. Only 6 million of the total 9 million Serbs in the Balkans live in Serbia. The remain
ing one third are spread throughout other regions. Of the total 4.5 million Croats in the Balkans, nearly one fifth live outside of Croatia. Tito’s own actions made renewed strife inevitable once central control of his communist system dissolved along with all the other Eastern European states
Tito and his generals from the wartime Partisan days created one of the few relatively independent Communist states of the Cold War era. The economy was reasonably sound, and the tourist trade—especially on the
coast___ was growing rapidly. But most important to the
West, in the midst of the Cold War, Yugoslavia was independent of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet and Yugoslav militaries, however, shared the close camaraderie of joint training, attended each other’s professional military institutes, and used common Soviet weapon systems. All Yugoslav officers spoke Russian. The senior defense leadership of the 1980s, Ministers Lyubisic and Mamula included, had been educated in the Moscow Voroshilov Staff College and also spoke Russian.
Post-Tito Cold War and the Naval Ingredient
At Tito’s death, the Yugoslav National Army was a Soviet-trained and Soviet-equipped army. However, defense cooperation between the U.S. and Yugoslav militaries had
begun to improve again in the 1970s. Several Yugoslav Army officers attended our Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, and Yugoslav naval officers later began to attend our Naval War College. We also sold them some Mark 44 torpedoes and a few TPS-53 air traffic control radars. We began an exchange of senior officer visits and lectures that included precedent-setting visits to Belgrade by U.S. European Command Deputy Comander-in-Chief General W. Y. Smith and Commander-in-Chief U.S. Naval Forces Europe Admiral William J. Crowe in 1983.
Nevertheless, two symbolic factors stuck in the craw of most senior U.S. Defense Department officials and precluded closer ties in the 1980s: Yugoslavs still wore a red star as an insignia, and, in tactical exercises, they depicted their army in red markings and the aggressor’s in blue.
This distrust turned even more hostile when the focus shifted to the training of terrorists in Yugoslavia. There was growing evidence that terrorists—the majority from Libya—were training in Yugoslav military centers. The training varied from basic military discipline to handling explosives but was general enough to make it difficult to mark it as definitely terrorist related. There was, however, ample evidence that members of some of the most notorious terrorist groups had received training in Yugoslav schools.
In domestic affairs, the Yugoslavia of the 1980s hardly resembled the satellite Communist countries of the Warsaw Pact. Yugoslavs enjoyed relatively open borders, freedom of travel internally, and, with their workers self-management, a form of comparative economic independence. They also had select rights to certain blatantly capitalist private enterprises, such as restaurants and family owned and operated bed and breakfast businesses. Yet millions of Yugoslavs flocked to Western Europe, to earn hard currency. They took low-paying jobs in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and other Western countries but generally saved or sent their remittances home. Most important, they were learning Western business practice and were gaining a leg up on the other Eastern European Communist countries.
In foreign relations, Yugoslavia became a key player as a founder of the nonaligned movement. Although a toothless alliance, it became a vocal force to which the world eventually gave reluctant attention until the collapse of one entire side of the aligned world in 1989.
Power within the leadership of the League of Communists and the Federal Collective Presidency began to decentralize after 1980. The League of Communists (the Yugoslav Communist party) after Tito’s departure lacked the strong arm of party discipline enjoyed by the Soviet party and other more doctrinaire Communist parties, such as the PCR of Ceausescu’s Romania. The disciplinary arm of the League in Yugoslavia had been Tito’s personal leadership. Hence, when Slovenia first broke the rules in 1982 (requiring the League’s collective leadership to change yearly) and demanded that their leader stay for two years, nothing could be done. It was the beginning of the end for Tito’s collective leadership legacy.
Communist central control and the strong arm of the
Yugoslav National Army (JNA) continued to keep the lid on open strife until 1991, when the remaining shards o1 communism disappeared in the Soviet Union and then M' bania. The remnants of fear and police control dissolved completely. In revulsion to the continuation of a norni' nally Communist system and the growing advocacy of •' Greater Serbia under Slobodan Milosevic, Slovenia and Croatia seceded.
The JNA’s attempt to force Slovenia’s return failed after a short fight. The small, well-equipped, and superbly trained Slovenian army overwhelmed and captured large numbers of the JNA. This was followed by the resufflp' tion of mutual annihilation between Serbs and Croats—-t0 “protect” pockets of ethnic Serbs living in the newly ere- ated independent states—which spread quickly to Bosnia'
Belgrade’s Role and Intervention
Tito’s concept of the defense of Yugoslavia against an outside threat from either the Warsaw Pact or NATO waS a defense-in-depth, with the small number of main force JNA conventional maneuver battalions (armored and an' titank) fighting delaying actions, while the Territorial Ve' fense Forces of each of the six republics and local home forces combine to fight prolonged World War II-style guerrilla actions. Enough arms and ammunition had to be stashed in the hinterlands of all the republics and the two autonomous provinces to support an all people’s d£" fense for years. The existence of the arms caches makes an arms embargo or blockade by air and sea much lesS relevant today.
An additional element crafted in Tito’s time to counter potential intervention was a strong Yugoslav Navy. Its role in conflict was clearly defined to Admiral Crowe (the'1 Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, and head of NATO’s Southern Command) during his visit to Yugoslavia in April 1983. The former Yugoslav Navy Chief and Commander of the Naval and Military District of Split, Admiral Tihomir Vilovic, stressed to Admirrd Crowe that his navy—armed with Soviet and Swedish made antiship missiles—forming a defensive system interlacing the 1,400 Adriatic islands, could seal off the rugged Yugoslav coast to any major naval power con' templating seaborne intervention.
However, the All People’s Defense designed for YU' goslav ground forces dissolved with the 1991 departures of Slovenia and Croatia. The Yugoslav Navy, now an ineffective remnant of its former self, is bottled up mostly in the Bay of Kotor/Cattaro, able to operate only as far aS Cavtat, south of Dubrovnik.
A full year has passed since the first clashes began h1 Bosnia between Serb, Muslim, and Croat fighters. Ye1 most observers still are unwilling to recognize that the war in Bosnia was planned and is being directed by the top political and military leadership in Belgrade through the general staff of the Yugoslav Army. .
The Yugoslav Army reorganized quickly after the brie' and unsuccessful fight waged when Slovenia and Croati" left the fold in June 1991. By December, it had completed the transition into an all-Serbian force and began the re'
Jugoslav Army units fighting openly in support of the Bosnian Serbs. Units from the Yugoslav Army already are eUgaged in the Serb offensive in eastern Bosnia. The commander of U.N. Protection Forces on the ground in March this year reluctantly concluded that the Serb forces threatening to overrun eastern Bosnia will not cease action without Belgrade’s authority and sought direct interVention by Slobodan Milosevic and his Yugoslav Army literal staff.
. The International Court of Justice in The Hague, in a judgment on 8 April 1993, implicitly recognized that Belgrade is directing and supporting Serb military and paramilitary forces in Bosnia. The court’s judgment issued
deployments that would ensure that Serbian domination 'n Bosnia could be achieved quickly. The rapid movement bY the Yugoslav Army into Bosnia, code-named Rahm by tbe Belgrade general staff, was accomplished allegedly to Protect all minorities in a possible future conflict, should Bosnia break away from Yugoslavia and declare indePendence. During the redeployment process, Belgrade c°vertly provided large Quantities of arms to the *°cal Serb military forces rapidly organizing in Bosnia.
^is included more than ^00,000 small arms and assault weapons taken from Croatia during the fighting there.
This set the stage for the Se'zure by Serbs of some 20% 0f tf,e Bosnia territory. iSerbs make up roughly 31%
the population of Bosnia.)
Without the redeployment of the Yugoslav Army into the hastily created Second Yu- |°slav Military District of Sarajevo before Bosnia de- eiared independence, the ^edgling Serbian Republic °h Bosnia, which declared its existence on 14 January 1^92, never could have conquered such a large part of “°snia once large-scale lighting commenced.
The reluctance of the United Nations, the European Community, and the United States to acknowledge the distressing fact that Belgrade still controls the Serb enclave fighters preludes effective action to !t°p the conflict. Even more dressing is the appearance strong legal words of censure against Belgrade but stopped short of taking immediate action for compensation. Although not an organization noted for precipitating action through its legal judgments, the court’s findings nevertheless reflect a strong, worldwide consensus and damning evidence against Serbia.
Until the world deals with Belgrade, efforts to enforce a lasting cease fire and to implement the Vance- Owens Peace Plan or any other formula are—like the U.S. airborne relief effort— doomed to sabotage at will by the Serbs in Bosnia.
The road is open to compel adherence by both Serbian and Croatian leadership to an externally imposed truce, policed by effective peacekeepers: taking direct control of the defense mechanisms in both Belgrade and Zagreb.
This must be done to sever the heads from the semiautonomous ethnic Serb and Croat paramilitary forces fighting in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vo- jvodina, and soon in Kossovo. Serb enclave fighters depend in the long run on Belgrade for much of their food, clothing, and access to weapons and ammunition, just as Croat fighters depend on Zagreb. The key to the situation lies in the fact that Belgrade remains the cultural, religious, and political center for all Serbs, as Zagreb is for all Croats.
Intervention to stop the violence need not consist of the complex insertion of U.N. or NATO forces into the disputed hinterlands. This will only lead to infinite irregular warfare, especially in Bosnia, where the U.N. forces now are struggling fruitlessly to contain local paramilitary fighters.
The inability of the Germans to subdue local forces in that terrain during the last world war should be sufficient proof of the futility of the present U.N. Protection Forces employment. Piecemeal intervention by U.N. forces in those rugged areas will continue to be as ineffective as the embargo of arms, oil, and other materials declared but left unenforced on the Danube River.
The strategic advantages of the ground corridors to Zagreb and Belgrade from the north through Vojvodina
and from the east via the Danube River are well known to military students. Swift intervention by international forces could achieve rapid success with relative impunity, if decisive action were taken by the United Nations and European Community using NATO and Eastern European troops. This could lead to immediate cessation of hostilities by paramilitary Serbs and Croats, who would be cut off from their chief sources of material and political and moral support.
Only this extreme
measure can gain the undivided attention of all semiautonomous Serb and Croat military formations in the Balkans. It must be done soon to preclude the impending explosions in Kossovo and Macedonia, which, if allowed to occur, risk the involvement of Albania, other Islamic nations, Greece, and Bulgaria. Fortunately, the traditional Russian support for Serbia now plays a role only in the domestic politics of Yeltsin’s hard-line opposition in the anachronistic Russian Parliament and is of little geopolitical impact.
Before taking these measures, Belgrade must be given
carefully crafted ultim3' turns by the United N3' tions that outline a timetable of increasing sanctions. These should be enforced and should culminate—if the aggres' sion is not halted in all Balkan locations—in the seizure of Belgrade’s mil' itary infrastructure by 3 coalition of NATO an1 other Eastern Europe311 military forces.
Fears about intervefl' tion in the Balkans base11
international meddli1^ should not hamper dec*' sive action. The Unite3 Nations, Europe, and the United States already are involved; and half-baked aC' tions—like the historical meddling of great powers i*1 the past—merely contribute to the worsening of an already bad situation. Doing nothing is itself a form of intervefl' tion—acquiescence to one side in the conflict. Wh3t happened to the hard-learned lesson that neither benign neglect nor appeasement halts the determined aggressor-
Captain Huchthausen was the U.S. naval attache to Yugoslavia an3 Romania from 1980 to 1984.