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NO 113-114

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Helsinki Charter No. 113-114

November - December 2007


Kosovo - The Final Curtain


By Stipe Sikavica

Will Serbia go at war for Kosovo for the third time? The question is far from being naive. That is testified by the rhetoric (and not only rhetoric) that has been polluting the anyway too much saturated media and political arena in Serbia. Here is an example of such rhetoric:

"...The administrative borders between Kosovo and Metohija, and Serbia should be closed for people, goods and everything other for three days. A monitoring mission composed of the representatives of the member-states of the Shanghai Organization for Cooperation such as China, Russia, India and Pakistan should be invited...All reservists in Serbia should be mobilized for three days to check their combat-readiness, education, etc. Maneuvers should be organized in the areas bordering on the Province of Kosovo and Metohija with the participation of the observers from the Shanghai Organization for Cooperation. Mass protests should be staged in Belgrade and other towns in Serbia to demonstrate that the Serbs really do care for Kosovo and Metohija..."

If you have missed to read the above phrases in domestic press back on December 4, 2007, you should have thought this is about some "combat orders" issued by some belligerent "strategist" Serbia abounds with today. But you would be wrong. Those were some quotes of the lengthy statement by the bishop of Raska-Prizren, Artemije. His statement once again testified that dignitaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church wholeheartedly participate in the official Belgrade's policy. And not in any policy but in the most sensitive security policy. True, judging by the above quotes bishop Artemije did not directly call on the Serbs to wage another war for "the holy Serbian land, " but did recommend a demonstration of power - a demonstration that could easily start the fire of war.

But if bishop Artemije did not directly call on the Serbs to go at war, someone else did. On the very same day, the omnigenous adviser to Premier Kostunica, Aleksandar Simic, without batting an eyelash, told the audience of the RTS "Question Mark" show that a war was "a legal mean" by which Serbia could "defend Kosovo and Metohija. " In other words, Serbia can deploy its troops in Kosovo! Of course, that was not his personal view, but the standpoint taken by an official political option. Having resolutely supported Simic's thesis shortly after it went on air, high officials of the Premier's party, Milos Aligrudic and Dragan Sormaz, lifted any doubts about the intention of Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia accompanied by supporters of the New Serbia headed by Velja Ilic & Co. not to rule out arms in the process of "settlement of the Kosmet crisis."

Until then the Serbian Premier (together with his associates, advisers and prompters) has not bothered to speak up and explain the meaning of his version of the phrase "Serbia will safeguard Kosmet by all available legal and political means. " (Unlike Kostunica, Tadic's political current has crossed out the Army from the list of "all available means" by which Serbia would defend Kosovo.) And now with this mask thrown off even political blind men must be aware that Vojislav Kostunica and his party lack minimal capacity for democratic progression. And for so long Boris Tadic and his Democratic Party have been pushing them in the cohabitation cart for the sake of the alleged "democratic bloc!"

About the same time when Simic's statement provoked a public polemic of sorts, the Serbian parliament was deliberating two key draft laws dealing with security sector: the law on the army, and the defense law. What dominated this so-called parliamentary debate was the tone of MPs trying to outwit each other in the issue of whether or not the Serbian Army should once again go at war for Kosovo, rather than a search for the answers to vital questions of the country's defense system. MPs from the Serbian Radical Party, Dacic's Socialists and the MPs from the so-called populist coalition, without exception, were wagging a war from the parliamentary rostrum (and probably counting on cannon fodder as usual) at all costs. It's almost incredible that those people would not accept the simple fact that Serbia was unable to "defend Kosovo and Metohija" even at the time it possessed a far bigger arsenal and a far bigger military power than today. (Let alone the consequences of another war catastrophe!)

True, it is still unclear whether belligerent assessments and calculation by today's Serbian strategists count on a "big advantage" they could not have relied on in "the Second Battle of Kosovo." Namely, do they count on Russia as a powerful ally? The two-edged statement by Radical's actual leader, Tomislav Nikolic, only added to the dilemma. In an interview with the Associated Press Nikolic said, "Serbia would protect the Serb population in Kosovo with its military power" and finished the phrase by shrewdly using the back door, just in case, "if NATO could not /protect it/. " Continuing his "security analysis, " this major aspirant to Serbia's presidential throne in the upcoming election said, "If the Americans have their military base in Kosmet, Russians should have their base too. " According to Nikolic, a Russian base would establish a"military balance" and "the Serbs would be safe."

It is only logical that battle cries in the Serbian parliament and belligerent statements by Serbia's opinion makers encourage domestic para-military formations that have been "in a heightened state of alert" for some time now and would gladly wage a war in Kosovo (and indulge in plunder). In early December, the commander of the paramilitary unit called "Tsar Lazar Guard, " certain Hadzi Andrej Milic, made no bones about the plan for his armed gang in the event "Shiptars" proclaim independence. They would march into Kosovo, as he put it, kill everyone on their way, leave a wasteland and "spare not even women and children. " Such bestial statements would never be published were they not wholeheartedly supported by the entire strata of Serbian "patriots."

Ever since Martii Ahtisaari came public with his Kosovo plan Serbia has been under the pressure of some variant of the state of emergency. The so-called ordinary citizens witness the symptoms of this state day in day out, and can hardly find a safe place. The trouble is that we have not even begun developing the practice of citizens' organized protest against the violation of fundamental human rights. On the other hand, it seems that citizens have become immune to various threats, intimidation of all sorts, arrests, unsolved murders and similar phenomena our tabloids are brimming with.

As the D-day for the settlement of the final status of Kosovo nears, the pressure of this variant of extraordinary state grows stronger and stronger, while official proclamation of the state of emergency seems to be in the air. The ideologists of Serbian nationalism and masterminds of the fatal Kosovo policy now want to put the blame on ideological and political opponents, "domestic traitors" and even on members of ethnic minorities. Isn't the brutal assault at the launch of the ninth edition of "Hour Glass" published by RTV B92 on December 3, 2007, in Arandjelovac an illustrative testimony of such an intention? That was the second in the series of "performances" by the fascist group from that part of Sumadija within 15 days only! And the assault not only took place in the presence of legitimate officials but also with their active participation. The president of the Topola municipality, certain Dragan Jovanovic (party comrade of infamous Minister Velja Ilic), himself organized fascist bestiality of "Serbian patriots" in Arandjelovac.

As for the army, the majority of its ground forces are concentrated in the so-called administrative boundary with Kosovo. Frequent provocations from both sides of the boundary are to be expected but not a new war in Kosovo. The reason why is quite simple - apart from crazy schemes irresponsible ideologists and politicians, nationalistic patients, thieves and adventurers of all sorts propagate, there are no prerequisites for a war. Besides, the so-called bloc of patriotic forces - dominated by some members of the Club of the Serbian Army General and Admirals - long ago marked the head of the General Staff, Gen. Zdravko Ponos, guilty of "destroying our army with the so-called reform by NATO standards." Logically, the army so "destroyed" cannot "defend Kosovo" the way it "defended it in 1999. " Ponos effectively retorted in the latest issue of the "Defense" magazine, "An army does not rattle the saber but has it. " And will use it only should someone provoke a conflict threatening to spread over the administrative boundary, in South Serbia.

There is no telling whether Serbia's political and intellectual elites are capable of recognizing security risks, let alone properly react to them. True, the assumption that the regime could take this unfortunate country at war is rather far-fetched. But the regime (the executive branch in particular) has at its disposal a strong, legal instrument: the state of emergency. What makes things worse is that the newly adopted military laws rather loosely define the state of emergency (moreover, they "mix" it with the state of war), which opens the door to the government to "act at will. " And the first targets are well-known. All in all, citizens of Serbia will be experiencing uncertainty in the months to come. Unfortunately, this will be their Christmas card from the regime they have elected on their own.


NO 113-114

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