Yugoslavia 96 Continued

2. What are the broader causes?

Political analysts like to stick to a small number of stereotyped villains whom they can dress up and jiggle like puppets on strings to explain everything that goes wrong in the world. I am not an exception to this rule, and I will first examine the question of the broader causes , by rounding up all the usual suspects. Then, in

  1. It has been customary ever since WWII, in any discussion of the geopolitical strategies of the Great Powers , for persons who consider themselves endowed with exceptional perspicacity or shrewdness , to scowl darkly, point a finger at random, and mutter: "Oil".

    I have looked at this, and on the basis of my knowledge, which is all too limited, I don't see how the politics of oil enters directly as a determining factor. It ought to be pointed out, however, that if this new round of Balkan wars had broken out between the world wars, one could have readily related the reactions of England, France, Russia and the United States to another factor very closely related to oil: the importance of the Eastern Mediterranean in the operations of the Free Market, ( the French and British Empires) , with the obligation to protect shipping through the Suez Canal at any cost.

    The better part of the British Empire in Africa and the Middle East was conquered and consolidated in the 19th century to ensure the safety of the passage to India , through the Mediterranean, Suez, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. Exhibiting the same arrogance with which the United States lays claim today to controlling the governing and destiny of all of Latin America, England was celebrated for its habit of treating the entire Mediterranean as mare nostrum . Churchill's ambitions in the Balkans, already alluded to, with their outdated ring, clearly hearkened back to the Imperial Age that he understood so much better, in which it made perfect sense to fight with Turkey over the control of Palestine and the Dardenelles.

    Since then , international shipping has declined as a factor in world political economy; the reason being, of course, that it's been overtaken by jet airplanes, the functioning of which depends on: oil. The strategic focus has therefore shifted a thousand miles or so to the East, from the Eastern Mediterranean - to Iraq , for example, and all those countries down there, where the New World Order, in less time than it takes to wipe the tears away with its sleeve, will happily sacrifice thousands of lives, even its own if needs be, once its' interests are threatened. It may therefore be possible that the oil variable in the Balkan equation works in reverse: it is because there isn't any vital oil politics in the Balkans, that no-one cares about what happens there. There are in fact some rich oil fields in northern Serbia, but it's hard for me to believe that concern about these has had much effect on anyone's foreign policy.

  2. World markets? Yes: there is definitely something very murky and, shall we say, "byzantine", about our financial interests in Tito's Yugoslavia. One discovers a cast of characters as sinister as the mobsters in a B-movie , with connections to international banking, the State Department, and the C.I.A. I only know a little bit about this; but that so little information should still give off so bad an odor indicates that, even as there is no smoke without a fire, so there can be no stench without a skunk .

    Generally speaking of course, it's obvious that the former Yugoslavia must have been crawling with C.I.A. and K.G.B., and every other secret service all through the Cold War. It was the only country not only neutral, but actually friendly, to all sides. This indicates another direction in which to look in asking why the collapse of the federation was delayed for 11 years until the demise of the Cold War.

    Yugoslavia must certainly have been obliged to placate the warring camps of the "Great Theory -of -Economics Ideological Schism " by allowing their agents to use its territory as a venue for infiltration and subversion of the complementary bloc. This function, too , disappeared when the Berlin Wall came down - which suggests to me that there may have been very strong reasons indeed, why the nations employing these secret services redirected their sabotage of one another to the sabotage of their host.

    All this is , for the moment, pure speculation. What I know about the underside of America's financial involvement in Yugoslavia and after, comes from a few pages in Roy Gutman's "Witness to Genocide" ( Introduction, pgs. xxiv to xxxv):

    Although an avowed communist, Slobodan Milosevic rose to power through the Serb-controlled national bank, Beobanka, working in posts in Belgrade and New York . He is, or was, a personal friend of Lawrence Eagleburger, who was our ambassador to Yugoslavia in the 1970's.

    Afterwards Eagleburger left government service for awhile to become president of the consulting firm of Henry Kissinger Associates , which negociated important business deals between American clients and Yugoslav state-owned enterprises. He was also on the board of Yugo America, the American branch of a Serbia-based car manufacturer.

    When Bush, whose extensive CIA involvements have been thoroughly documented, became president, he appointed Eagleburger as deputy Secretary of State, and Brent Scowcroft as national security adviser. Scowcroft had a long history of connections with Yugoslavia's military; he was also vice-president of Henry Kissinger Associates.

    Together with two others, Milan Panic and John Scanlon, they formed a group inside the State Department that was nick-named the "Belgrade Mafia". One may recall that, following the recommendation of John Scanlon, ( another former ambassador to Yugoslavia) and the permission of Slobodan Milosevic himself, the Serbian-American businessman Milan Panic was sent to Belgrade in the spring of 1992 to "take over the government". In the spirit of Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, and all others who believe that possession of millions of dollars gives them Magus-like powers, he promised to "reform Serbia" through his unique combination of business acumen and down-home common sense.

    For some peculiar reason, Panic appointed Scanlon as his national security adviser during his brief term in Belgrade! Certainly one of the strangest 'ministerial cross-fertilizations' in modern history. Anyone can read between the lines in this caper and recognize that in a great many countries, Yugoslavia certainly being one of them, the American ambassador is always the local director of C.I.A. operations. Eagleburger, a former ambassador, was deputy secretary of state; Scanlon, another former ambassador, was now Serbia's national security adviser! And we must keep in mind, that at the time this ridiculous charade was being carried out, Serbia had already been plundering Bosnia for two months. I myself can draw only one conclusion from the evidence: that our C.I.A., with the connivance and knowledge of the Bush administration, was working with Milosevic for the victory of Serbia against the human race.

  3. Weapons; the Arms Industry; the Arms Race.

    The factor of armaments is certainly one of very great significance in any analysis of the political situation in the Balkans. This citation from David Rieff echoes what can also be learned from every other source:

    "It was logical that one of the initial focal points of Mladic's operations would be northern Bosnia. All of Bosnia-Hercegovina had been a military and industrial center before the war. Both Croatia and Serbia were too close to the frontiers of Warsaw Pact nations. Tito, fearing a Russian invasion almost to the last, had determined that were the Russians to invade, Yugoslav forces would have to withdraw into the Bosnian mountains, and so he stockpiled arms and built bases there. The largest of these was the complex of military bases and underground airfields - said to be one of the largest and most modern such installations in Europe - near the town of Bihac , in the northwest. (David Rieff, op. cit, pg.81)

    Let us pause to examine the implications of this - and allow some time for these implications to sink in. Recall again that my project in these articles is to attempt to relate the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and the manner in which it has occurred, to the ending of the Cold War. When Tito broke with Stalin in 1948, the belligerence of the Soviet response gave him every reason to fear a Russia invasion, along the lines of the ones that did occur later in Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. He also recognized that this fear, very reasonable at first, was custom-made for the purposes of ingratiating his regime with the Western nations. Not only was he able to appeal to their manifest, many time virulent, anti-communism, and to their century-long fear of Russian expansionism, but he also promised a steady, dependable market for that Western pillar of greed and economic stability, the arms industry.

    During his 35 year rule, Tito used the potential threat of a Russian invasion to convert Yugoslavia into one of the largest, (and perhaps the most concentrated) , arsenals in the world. A similar situation had developed in Iraq and Somalia which goes far in explaining why we invaded the former and occupied the latter. The termination of the Cold War implied that some way had to be found to eliminate the huge caches of arms that had accumulated in certain key countries. It appears that the policies of the Bush and Clinton administrations , perhaps in collaboration with Gorbachev himself, were based on the perception that it was simpler to let the Yugoslavs use the arms to destroy each other, than to force one's way in to clean them up. If there is anything to this insight, then it may also point towards a deeper level of understanding about the origins and the persistence of the arms embargo, levied against the republics in September of 1991.

    It is the arms industries themselves, whom one would normally imagine eager to enroll new clients, who have an interest in maintaining the embargo until enough of Tito's arsenal is destroyed so that it no longer constitutes a threat to world stability, ( as it certainly did before the outbreak of war), but who would not be adverse in starting up their traffic once again in the likely case that the peoples of that region have not yet slaked their thirst for killing. One can argue as well that the Russians are as eager as the rest of the world, to see this belligerent capability dispersed; recall that it is they who had been its intended recipients.


  1. SLAUGHTERHOUSE: BOSNIA and the Failure of the West: David Rieff; Simon and Schuster, 1995

  2. A WITNESS TO GENOCIDE: Roy Gutman,Macmillan,1993

  3. A Paper House: The Ending of Yugoslavia
    Mark Thompson, Pantheon Books, NY 1992

  4. Balkan Babel: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia from the death of tito to ethnic war Sabrina Petra Ramet; Westview Press,1996

  5. KHRUSHCHEV - A CAREER: Edward Crankshaw; -VIKING, 1966

  6. KHRUSHCHEV: Roy Medvedev; Anchor Press,1983

  7. Soviet American Rivalry: Thomas B . Larson; Norton, 1978

  8. The Dynamics of World Power: A Documentary History of United States Foreign Policy 1945-73: General Editor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.; Walter LaFeber; Vol II, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union ; Chelsea House; 1973

  9. BROKEN BONDS-YUGOSLAVIA : Yugoslavia's disintegration and Balkan politics in transition: Lenard J. Cohen; Westview Press,1993

  10. SARAJEVO-A WAR JOURNAL: Zlatko Dizdarevic;Fromm International, 1993

  11. PORTRAITS OF SARAJEVO: Zlatko Dizdarevic; Fromm, 1994

  12. The Iron Curtain: Churchill, America and the Origins of the Cold War: Fraser J. Harbutt, Oxford UP 1986

  13. Beginnings of the Cold War: Martin F. Herz; Indiana University Press, 1966

Part 2