Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How Milosevic intervened in Bosnia and Croatia

B92 has recently aired a documentary "The Unit". It tells the story of how Milosevic intervened in Bosnia and Croatia.

It began after the Plitvice Lake incident at the end of march 1991. Here for the first time the Croats for the first time enployed their army against the Krajna Serbs. The battle itself was unconcluded but it was clear that the Krajna Serbs were in the long term not able to resist the Croat army.

So Milosevic - who until then only verbally had supported the Krajna - now felt the need to give some kind of them military support. He had also more opportunistic reasons to do so: on march 9 1991 there had been protests and riots in Belgrade led by Draskovic. Supporting the Krajna was a nice diversion of the attention. The result was the MUP Special Operations Unit (JSO), a.k.a. the Red Berets - the subject of this 3 part tv documentary. The Tigers and the Scorpions were subunits of the Reb Barets.

This unit - that included Franko Simatović-Frenki and Arkan - operated in rather small units of 40-60 soldiers. Their strategy was to go to a place, wreak chaos and train local militia to take it over.

The whole unit was never bigger as 3000 men. The soldiers were on short time contracts - so people who developped some conscience could easily be sent home.

I expect the people at ICTY to watch the documentary with mixed feelings. On the one hand it shows that Milosevic indeed had an active role in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. On the other hand there is not a trace of "Great Serbia".

6 comments:

Pierre Vis said...

You can discuss about the term of a 'Greater Serbia', but the corridor which the Serbs made through Bosnia right on to the Croatian Krajina shows at least that the Serbs had the intention to unite all Serbs in one country, being a Greater Serbia, or whatever you want to call it..

Wim Roffel said...

Once you have a military conflict it is not more than logical that you want to maintain your supply lines. It would have become very difficult for Milosevic to support the Krajna if there was no connection with Serbia under Serb control.

But I doubt whether they started the war in Bosnia in order to keep the connection. Their first reaction to the independence of Bosnia was to conquer a corridor inside Croatia - territory inhabited by ethnic Croats. So to me it seems more probable that developments in Bosnia itself were the main reasons for the war there.

But maybe a next B92 documentary will tell us that.

Pieter said...

"But I doubt whether they started the war in Bosnia in order to keep the connection."

I agree. A more likely reason is that the Bosnian Serbs didn't want to live in a country wchich they no longer dominated. They knew that Croats & Muslims (with different goals) supported independence of Bosnia..

Wim Roffel said...

Bosnia has had Muslim dominance since the Ottoman period. When the Turks left Muslims owned 99% of the land and formed the overwhelming majority of the city population. Most Serbs were poor tenant farmers.

Since then Bosnia has gone through different times. At some times Muslims were discriminated. But mostly not. Tito had a quota system to guarantee that jobs were evenly divided over the different ethnic groups. As usual this kind of policy was resented by the dominant group - in this case still the Muslims. To make it even worse from their point of view the quota were not adapted fast enough to take into account the Muslim population was growing faster as the Serb population.

But even after 70 years of Yugoslavia the Muslims still dominated the cities while many Serbs were marginal farmers. And politics too was dominated by Muslims. So your line about Serbs no longer dominating makes me only wonder what you are talking about.

When Bosnia became independent it was against the wish of the Serbs and without consultation with them. So the Serbs had good reason to fear that they would treated in the same bad way as happened in Croatia at that time. But the Muslim government refused even token gestures towards the Serb worries. Instead we saw defiant gestures like the fraudulent independence referendum with its 99.43% yes votes.

WARchild said...

Milosevic needed an excuse to intervene in a sovereign country. The Plitvica incident provided one: allegedly to defend the Serbs there. Of course, the part of the story you skipped was that Serbs were already provoking a Croatian reaction having already cleansed Croats of the area and stopping state of Croatia from establishing control over its territory. The lame excuse Serbs used was that Serbs couldn't be dominated by Croats. Today they live in refugee camps in the bosom of Mother Serbia.

Wim Roffel said...

If you follow the ICTY you will know the recent testimonies that the cleansing of the Krajna Croats had probably to do with their tendency to side with the Croat police/army when these tried to regain control of the area.

This is still a matter of discussion. But it sounds like the logic of a civil war.