by Ljiljana SMAJLOVIC
No doubt, the honeymoon is over, as is testified by the most recent analyses of the leading institutes, and the best known "think-tanks" in the West, which deal with our part of the world, such as the US Institute for Peace in Washington and the International Crisis Group, with headquarters in Brussels. Both institutions timed their latest reports about the situation in our country for late March, probably because the end of March is the American deadline for the fulfillment of conditions for the continuation of financial assistance of the US, and consequently at that time the interest for our region is at its peak.
Experts of both institutions are very concerned for the fate of reform in our country, as is, by the way, most of the Serbian public. The difference is that the ICG is much harsher in its assessment and openly advocates that Serbia be denied future financial assistance, while the USIP uses more moderate vocabulary and suggests that "currently Serbia is more of a chance than a problem" for the international community.
Thus, for example, the director of the USIP, Daniel Serwer, is a veteran diplomat, who until 1998 worked as a highly respected official in the intelligence service of the State Department, and before that, between 1994 and 1996, was the American envoy to the Muslim-Croat Federation in BH. Our public is aware of the American policy at that time (cobble together an alliance between Croats and Muslims in Bosnia at all cost, so that they could together attack Serbs), and consequently very few will be surprised to find out that Daniel Serwer was since the first days of the bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999 one of the few open proponents of the idea that NATO could uproot the sickness known as Serb nationalism only by militarily occupying Yugoslavia after the bombardment and imposing on it a military occupation similar to that of Germany or Japan after WWII. In the interview published in The New York Times on May 11, 1999, Serwer claimed that Milosevic's regime was "deeply rooted" and that Serbia would be unable to "cleanse" itself from that evil. The same theory was advocated in that article ("How To Cleanse Serbia" by Blain Harden) by the president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Sonja Biserko, who later joined the USIP in Washington.
Serwer has been known in the Yugoslav public since 1998, when together with Slavko Curuvija, Boris Karajcic, and Milan Panic he testified in the Senate about the need to increase the American assistance to the democratic forces in Serbia. Later the program of his institute was abused in the showdown of the regime in Belgrade with the opposition and the free media (Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serb Radical Party downloaded it from the Internet, put a CIA logo on it and proclaimed it for a CIA plan for the destabilization of the country). Serwer's colleagues from the American administration took his advice, increased the assistance to the Serbian opposition and the media many times and thereby assisted the overthrow of Milosevic in 2000.
However, even when he testified in front of a Senate committee, Serwer did that with the remark that he was expressing his own, rather than USIP's views. By the way, the USIP insists that every document leaving the institute include a disclaimer that "the USIP does not advocate particular policies", despite the fact that it obviously advocates very specific policies. The International Crisis Group, whose chief creator and architect is here, also, well-known Morton Abramowitz, is a completely different, new sort of non-governmental organization which does not refrain from open advocacy of certain concrete political moves. Abramowitz is also a veteran US diplomat. Before he became an "independent expert" he headed the State Department intelligence service (US SID, the Service for Intelligence and Documentation, within the State Department), where Serwer headed the European department.
The ICG does not hide that is was created both to provide analysis and to advocate and lobby the public and governments to achieve specific policies and results. The president of the ICG, former Australian Prime Minister Garrett Evans, last year, in a conversation with journalists of "Washington Post" described his organization as a "functional equivalent of a ministry of foreign affairs", openly stating that the organization was created with the goal of being more powerful, or at least efficient, than some ministries of foreign affairs. The ICG is supposed to be a herald of a new type of diplomacy, which aims to act preventatively. At the time when Morton Abramowitz set up the ICG, in 1994/95, he was the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (yet another organization fighting for peace) and his role model was the report of the Carnegie Commission from 1913. The ICG tries to focus on cause of crises, instead of on their symptoms. It has about ten analysts, only in the Balkans, a few in Africa, and all together 18 offices at various crisis spots all over the world.
In the meantime democracy arrived in Serbia and James Lyon moved to Belgrade, where he still works for the ICG. Officials of this organization frequently complain of still not having the influence they desire on the policies of great powers, but their score in Yugoslavia is not to be underestimated, at first glance. Morton Abramowitz was a strong advocate of the punitive policies with respect to Belgrade during the Kosovo crisis in 1998, and then in Rambouillet totally abandoned all pretence of neutrality and entered the castle as an official advisor to the Albanians delegation led by UCK commander Hashim Thaci. Abramowitz advocated issuing of ultimatums to Serbs and bombardment. The American leftist critics refer to him as "eminence grise of the NATO for humanitarian interventions". Later the ICG strongly advocated that the UNMiK take control of the "Trepca" mine away from the Serbs (which UNMiK did soon afterwards). It is interesting that the ICG justified its demands that "Trepca" be taken over as soon as possible by asserting that if that was done while Milosevic was still in power the future democratic authorities could blame Milosevic for that takeover.
However, in recent years, the ICG had much more success in promoting punitive policies against the Serbs than in analyzing the Serb political situation or forecasting future developments (although it is still unclear whether Colin Powell will follow their recommendation and deny every further assistance to the FRY). The analysis from August 2000 is probably the worst and most shameful failure that any organization of that kind has ever experienced in this region (the name of the author of that analysis is until this day a well-kept secret). Everything in the report was wrong. The assertion that "the regime is stronger than ever", and that Slobodan Milosevic could stay in power "indefinitely"; that "most Serbs do not respect opposition leaders"; that voters are "passive and indecisive"; that "the SPO and the Serb Radical Party could profit from the 24 September elections", including the stupidities that "people are scared to discuss politics in public" and that "the media have abandoned all pretense of professionalism"...
It is interesting that the abovementioned analysis from August 2000, where Serbia is described in worst possible terms (ICG analysts do not see at that point light at the end of the tunnel), very little space is given to the Yugoslav Army. However, the section dealing with the YA reserves a few compliments for officers. According to the ICG analyst, the middle ranking officers, allegedly, after their experience in Kosovo are "dedicated to peaceful solution of all future crises". "They do not want, nor would support, a new war or use of the army for the suppression of public dissatisfaction of demonstrations. Parts of the Officer Corps could participate in a coup, or even carry out a military coup. In that case the attitude and role of military units stationed in Belgrade would be of major importance," the ICG report claims. And then continues: "Low ranking officers do not support the Radical Party anymore nor its leader Vojislav Seselj, like they used to in the past. This could be very significant, can open space for more positive interaction between officers and conscripts serving the mandatory military service. Conscripts from the University and other schools bring ideas that mostly support the opposition and the democratic transformation of the Serb society. Those changes in the military limit its usefulness for the regime and could significantly endanger the plans to keep the military as a back up instrument of repression."
Therefore in the report about the situation in Serbia on the eve of the September 24, 2000 elections, the only hope detected by the ICG in the Serbian society centers on the Yugoslav Army. In August 2000, the Army is not a corrupt, criminal organization, even though it's still under Milosevic's command. However, a year and a half later that same army has, according to the reports of the ICG, gone through a remarkable transformation, while being under command of the new democratic authorities. According to the ICG's March 28, 2002, report, the Yugoslav armed forces are no less than "nationalist, conservative and corrupt" and demonstrate intentions "to protect important elements of Milosevic's legacy". And Serbia, under the democratic authorities, according to the ICG, cannot decide "whether to turn towards Europe or adopt reactionary policies similar to those in Belarus"! The anger of the analysts was provoked, naturally, by the arrest of Momcilo Perisic. However, one should not conclude from the fact that the ICG blames Vojislav Kostunica, the Army that he controls to a certain extent and his cabinet for all evils, that Zoran Djindjic has a better standing with the ICG. It seems that from their point of view he is only a lesser evil and Djindjic and Nebojsa Covic deserve special criticism for referring to all Albanians as "terrorists", "before, and especially after September 11".
A book by a group of authors "Exiting the Balkan Thicket", has just been published by the Cato Institute in Washington. The book proposes a whole spectrum of scenarios for the Bush administration for an exit from the Balkans, and the vice-president of the Cato Institute, Ted Galen Carpenter, claims that the US in the past developed everything but democracy in the Balkans. Steven Schwartz, on the other hand, claims that reflexive anti-nationalism prompted the West to in Bosnia and Kosovo embrace former Communist politicians and adopt an extremely authoritarian approach.