This post was published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
MOSCOW, (BM) – After the death of Josip Broz Tito on May 4, 1980, the Yugoslav Empire lost the main link uniting the empire. In the further history of Yugoslavia, there were no longer any high statesmen who would pursue the line of so-called Tithonism.
A similar picture emerged in the Soviet Union. After the death of Joseph Stalin, six people led the USSR – Georgy Malenkov, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev. As a result, the country lost its power, international authority, and people’s confidence.
The examples of Stalin and Tito – “two Josephs” – show and prove that multinational empires can only be ruled by people of the highest level, training, intelligence, carriers of the idea of ”statehood”.
Mediocrity can lead a state only in a simple military-political and strategic situation in peacetime. But most likely, even in relatively favorable conditions, such a leader will undermine the authority and power of the multinational state, lead it to destruction and disintegration. The actions of the leaders of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia after the death of their leaders are proof of this. Yugoslavia collapsed 10 years after the departure of Tito, the Soviet Union – 38 years after the death of Stalin.
Bloody decay scenario
The collapse of Yugoslavia, in contrast to the Soviet Union, followed a bloody scenario. Especially acute, painful – in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). For almost four years, the civil war was in its most inhuman and bloody form. Even the initiators of the destruction of Yugoslavia by the US, the EU and NATO understood that it was time to end it.
The agreement was adopted on November 21, 1995 in Dayton, and then signed on December 14, 1995 in Paris by the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Aliya Izetbegovic, the President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic and the President of Croatia Franjo Tudjman. The end of the Bosnian War and the formation of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina were announced.
To fulfill the terms of the agreement, the UN Security Council ordered a NATO peacekeeping operation. Russia, as a party to this agreement, expressed its intention to take part in the peacekeeping operation.
At the end of September 1995, the Chief of Staff of the Russian Defense Minister, Lieutenant General Valery Lapshov, called me and said: “Lesha, get ready to go to Belgium, to the city of Mons, to the Supreme Commander of the NATO Joint Armed Forces to agree on the conditions for the participation of our troops in the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina ”. We are classmates at the Military Academy. M.V. Frunze, knew each other well.
I answer him: “Valera, are you kidding?” He laughs and says, “No jokes. The political decision on Russia’s participation in the operation has been made. But the diplomats cannot resolve the issue of the subordination of the Russian contingent. The main problem is the military aspect of our participation, while observing the principle of one-man command and avoiding direct subordination to NATO. The diplomats turned to the defense ministers of Russia and the United States and asked for a solution. The ministers agreed that Russia will send a group to Mons to study the issue. Pavel Grachev immediately told US Secretary of Defense William Perry that he was ready to give the name of the general who will lead the task force, and gave your name. Get ready. “
The Security Council instructed NATO to conduct the operation. So I became a party to the implementation of this agreement. Within two weeks it was necessary to study the situation in the Balkans, in Yugoslavia, to understand the goals and objectives of each of the participants in the peacekeeping operation and the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The study of many documents and meetings with experts made it possible to understand to a certain extent the situation in the Balkans, in the former Yugoslavia, the interests of the United States, Germany, France and the NATO bloc in general.
It has been 25 years since that time. Peacekeeping operations are currently taking place in various countries, but peace enforcement operations using troops rarely end successfully. To do this, first of all, a political solution must be found acceptable for the conflicting (belligerent) parties, and this is usually a very difficult and complex political and diplomatic process, in which the impartiality and equidistance of peacekeepers from the parties to the conflict must be ensured.
Today it is strange to hear about a peacekeeping operation in Ukraine, when for six years not a single political issue in relations with the DPR and LPR has been resolved, with the exception of periodically stopping shelling, which are not used to make political decisions, but imitate at least some activity of the Ukrainian leadership on fulfilling campaign promises to end the war.
One gets the impression that the initiators of peacekeeping initiatives, and these are the United States and some European countries, relying on Ukraine’s vassal dependence on Western handouts, have been deliberately distorting the essence of peacekeeping for six years and expect, under the guise of the authority of the UN and the EU, to achieve a settlement while completely ignoring the interests of the DPR and LPR.
Therefore, it makes sense to recall the operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its value lies in the fact that peace has been maintained in the region for over 25 years, and this is more important than all other problems.
On October 15, 1995, an operational group of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation of six people, led by me, flew to Brussels to prepare for Russia’s participation in a peacekeeping operation to enforce peace with the involvement of troops.
Bosnian War (1992-1995)
The disintegration of Yugoslavia after the separation of Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia was continued by Bosnia and Herzegovina, which announced on March 2, 1992 its secession from the SFRY.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has a rather confusing and complex ethnic map: according to the 1992 census, 43.7% of the republic’s population were Muslim; Serbs accounted for 34.1%; Croats – 17.3%; 5.5% considered themselves Yugoslavs due to mixed marriages. Moreover, the boundaries were not clearly marked. In each part there were enclaves, the peoples were mixed, with the Serbs having a majority in more than half of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
National demarcation began in the 1990 parliamentary elections. Their result very accurately reflected the alignment of forces in the republic: the Muslim Democratic Action Party won 86 seats, the Serbian Democratic Party – 72, the Croatian Democratic Commonwealth – 44. The main goal of the Democratic Action Party was to unite Muslims, because Islamic order can only be established in those countries where Muslims make up the majority of the population. Izetbegovic, having come to power, began to act, guided by these provisions. He embarked on a course of secession from the SFRY and the creation of a Muslim state, with the Serbs and Croats assigned the role of national minorities. This, of course, caused discontent among both, since Muslims did not constitute the absolute majority of the population, and according to the 1974 Constitution, all three peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina were considered state-forming, constituted the total population of the republic and were equal.
On March 1, 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence. In protest, the Serbs left parliament and boycotted the independence referendum in late February. The Serbs were in favor of a united Bosnia and Herzegovina and were against the withdrawal from the SFRY. However, despite the boycott, the referendum took place: slightly more than 60% of the population came to it, and about 60% of them voted for the independence of BiH. Disagreeing with this, the Serbs proclaimed the creation of the Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Serbs advocated the preservation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the SFRY, but since this did not work out, they tried to occupy territories with a predominantly Serb population, separate from Muslims and create their own state in order to join the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the future.
For Muslims, the maximum program was the creation of a unitary Muslim state, and in the event of the collapse of Bosnia and Herzegovina, try to expand the territory as much as possible and raise the Muslims of Sandzak, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro to fight.
The Croats also sought to expand their territory, annex Herceg Bosna and unite with greater Croatia.
In this context, the EU Council of Ministers on April 6, 1992 adopted the Declaration on the Recognition of the Independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In early May, Bosnia and Herzegovina becomes a member of the CSCE, and on May 22, the UN. It should be noted that as early as December 17, 1991, the EU adopted a Declaration on the Criteria for the Recognition of New States in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, which stipulated a number of conditions after which the new state could be recognized. According to this declaration, the new state was obliged to: respect the provisions of the UN Charter; to fulfill the commitments formulated in the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris, especially in matters of the rule of law, democracy and human rights; guarantee the rights of ethnic and national groups and minorities; respect the inviolability of all borders, which can only be changed peacefully and with mutual consent; acknowledge all relevant commitments related to disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, as well as security and regional stability; solve all problems related to the legal heritage of states and regional disputes through negotiations.
The EU and its member states also demanded from each Yugoslav republic (before its recognition) to give firm constitutional and political guarantees of the absence of territorial claims to any neighboring EU member state and the obligation not to conduct hostile propaganda against any neighboring EU member state.
Despite the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina did not fulfill most of the conditions, its independence was recognized. This was done for political reasons, a big role here was played by the pressure from Germany, which played the main role in the EU and sought to demonstrate a new status after the unification. The foreign policy goals of a united Germany were formulated by German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who said that “the Germans now, more than ever, need territory. We want to turn Central Europe into a conglomerate of small states completely dependent on Bonn. These countries will be completely dependent on German capital and will become puppets of this great power.”
Germany in the Yugoslav conflict pursued the goal of regaining control over the northwestern part of the Balkans and the northeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. With the existence of a unified Yugoslavia, it was impossible to realize these goals, since the SFRY has always been an opponent of German expansion in the Balkans. Therefore, Germany provided support to the separatists, who, having come to power, could become allies of the FRG and the conductors of its policy in the Balkan region. Pursuing its policy, Germany put pressure on the EU countries so that they recognize the independence of the Yugoslav republics. For the sake of preserving the unity of the EU, its members were forced to agree to the recognition of Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This policy of the international community led to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which began one day after the recognition of its independence.
The conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina is characterized by a strong influence of the international factor, at this stage – mainly from European and Islamic countries and organizations, with the hidden support of the United States. Croatia actively intervenes in the conflict, helping the Bosnian Croats with troops and weapons. Muslims were assisted by Islamic countries, which, despite the embargo imposed on September 25, 1991, supplied them with weapons (mainly through Croatia). Yugoslavia helped the Serbs at the first stage of the war (before the introduction of sanctions). In addition, the Serbs used the weapons of the Yugoslav People’s Army that remained on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This gave them a significant advantage, allowed them to deploy active hostilities and capture a large territory.
The world community has taken a clearly expressed anti-Serb position. It proclaimed the Serbs the aggressor, although it is difficult to talk about any aggression during the civil war. All actions were of a clear anti-Serb and anti-Yugoslav character. Citing the fact that the FRY is providing assistance to the Bosnian Serbs, the UN on May 30, 1992 imposed sanctions against Yugoslavia. The international community turned a blind eye to the fact that the Croatian army was fighting on the side of the Bosnian Croats, and did not impose any sanctions against Croatia. All the conflicting parties seized territories and carried out ethnic cleansing, but they blamed the Serbs for everything, despite the fact that they suffered from the cleansing even more than Croats and Muslims.
The Balkans are a traditional sphere of Russia’s interests, but in the Yugoslav crisis it took a rather strange position: until the beginning of 1992 it advocated the preservation of the SFRY, but did not take independent steps. Then Russia’s policy changed dramatically, and following the EU, it recognized the independence of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the future, she was never able to develop an independent position and obediently followed in the wake of Western politics. Russia has not defined its foreign policy priorities in the Balkans, limiting itself to statements about its desire to cooperate with the West. Such passivity and ignorance of traditional Russian national interests in the Balkans led to a complete loss of initiative by Moscow and turned Russia into a leading country.
Moreover, Russia obediently joined all anti-Serb measures, voting for the sanctions, which allowed it, according to the then Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, to find itself “for the first time in history in an unprecedentedly favorable international environment during a period of severe internal trials.” Of course, the internal political situation in Russia was difficult, but it would be more beneficial, including for international prestige, to take a more balanced and nationally verified position.
In such “favorable conditions” my group had to defend our interests. But in such conditions the entire Russian diplomacy was forced to work, headed from October 11, 1990 to January 5, 1996 by Andrei Kozyrev, who currently lives in the United States and in his speeches expresses confidence in the impending collapse of the “anti-Western” regime of modern Russia. The modern Foreign Ministry, headed by Sergei Lavrov, primarily defends Russia’s national interests while simultaneously trying to establish cooperation with the West to the extent that the latter will not harm our interests.
To some extent, I entered a political path unusual for a professional military, but working with NATO for two years under the leadership of an outstanding Russian diplomat Vitaly Churkin gave me a certain understanding of many political issues. The meetings with Vitaly Ivanovich were weekly and dealt with many practical issues of relations with the leadership of the alliance and representatives of NATO member states as partners in the operation in BiH. Some assistance was also provided by the representative of our Ministry of Defense at the Russian Embassy in Brussels, Colonel Alexander Bartosh, who was part of the NATO liaison group headed by Vitaly Churkin. Together with Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, we prepared my first speech in Russian political practice at a meeting of the NATO Military Committee, where in the summer of 1996 I had to single-handedly fight off very acute questions from the military representatives of the alliance countries about our position in BiH.
Mass media (including, unfortunately, Russian ones) played an important role in shaping the image of the Serb aggressors. They waged a real information war, accusing the Serbs of all mortal sins and calling for an end to the Serbian aggression. This further strengthened the position of Croats and Muslims in the eyes of the world community. We can say that in the wars in the Balkans, foreign and some of the domestic media gained experience in waging information war and later in all conflicts and wars they already ran “ahead of the locomotive”, often provoking their beginning, misleading world public opinion in the interests of the customer. Subsequently, the media began to turn into an important instrument of the global hybrid war.
The collapse of the Wence-Owen plan
So, the UN is trying to resolve the conflict, various peace plans are being developed. Croatians are supported by Germany, England, France, Muslims – by Muslim countries and the EU. As a result, the Serbs are imposed on options that are most beneficial to the Croats and Muslims.
The next plan for a way out of this situation was proposed in the fall of 1992 by the co-chairs of the ICFY (international conference on the former Yugoslavia) – the special envoy of the UN Secretary General and former US secretary of state for foreign affairs Cyrus Vance and the EU commissioner David Owen. During the negotiations, they promised to work towards “the establishment of a lasting and just peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” In Geneva, in December 1992 – January 1993, Wence and Owen presented a plan for a peace settlement, including a set of treaties: on the cessation of hostilities and demilitarization; about the constitutional structure; map with new borders; humanitarian treaty. As is often the case, the road to hell was paved with good intentions.
The plan did not take into account many of the demands of the Serbs, which aroused strong objections from them. By the beginning of 1993, the Serbs controlled 70% of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and according to the plan they were supposed to give up a significant part of this territory. Although they received more than they wanted in March 1992, their territory was divided, the cantons did not border either Serbia or each other. Moreover, these territories were economically backward. The Serbs also insisted on changing the status of the provinces, believing that they should receive more independence. The Wens-Owen plan did not allow the creation of a Serbian state. However, by refusing to sign the plan, the Serbs did not stop negotiations, believing that the proposed option for a peaceful settlement should become the basis for further discussion.
The Croats agreed to the plan because they received additional territories that would make it easy to join Croatia in the future.
The Muslims did not agree with the map of the division of the republic and demanded an increase in their territory. They tried to drag out time, to get the condemnation of the Serbs by the world community.
The negotiations dragged on, and the international community increased pressure on the Serbs. The Wens-Owen plan failed not only because of the intransigence of the Serbs. Immediately after the signing of the plans, the Muslim-Croatian Federation (IHF) crackled – they could not divide the territory among themselves in Central Bosnia. But the international community only put pressure on the Serbs.
Dayton Accords: How It Was
After the failure of the Vence-Owen plan, a new stage in the negotiation process began – the role of the United States increased. Back in 1991, a new NATO strategy was developed, the idea of controlling and settling military-political crises was put forward. If it is not possible to prevent the crisis, then the use of the alliance’s troops was envisaged, including in regions beyond the boundaries of its zone of influence. Thus, NATO received an important argument in favor of its continued existence – the use of the alliance as a peacekeeper – a military guarantor of crisis settlement.
The situation became even more complicated after Bill Clinton came to power in the United States, who took a tough stance towards the Serbs and demanded to punish them as aggressors. In addition, Clinton opposed the Wence-Owen plan, which had a strong impact on Muslims who refused to sign the documents.
The United States and NATO stepped up their policies in the Balkans, began to carry out forceful pressure, bombed Serbian positions, and eventually imposed their own version of a peaceful settlement on Bosnia and Herzegovina – the Dayton Accords.
By intervening in the Bosnian conflict, the United States declared its goal to establish a lasting, just peace while maintaining the unity of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. But this is an official statement, and the main task was to increase the sphere of influence, and it was also necessary to demonstrate the effectiveness and necessity of NATO in the new conditions. When the main enemy, the Soviet Union, was gone, it had to be urgently replaced with a set of new threats and challenges that could not be dealt with without the United States and NATO. The US tried to disrupt the negotiations when the EU was leading them so that everyone could see that the Europeans cannot deal with the conflict without America’s help. European countries completely fell into the wake of American foreign policy, and the UN (with a rather spineless policy of Russia) could only legitimize the actions of the States.
In the Bosnian conflict, Washington took a sharply anti-Serb position. With the emergence of the United States on the political scene in the Balkans, the pressure on the Serbs ceased to be only political and economic and became military. Plans were being drawn up for air strikes against Bosnian Serb territory. At the first stage, they were supposed to be applied only to suppress firing positions, at the second stage, they planned to bomb infrastructure and supply facilities. At the same time, for the first strike, the authorization of the UN Secretary General and the NATO Council was needed, and for the subsequent ones – only the NATO Council. Demands for bombing increased especially since February 1994, after the explosion at the Merkale market in Sarajevo. According to many sources, it was a provocation by Muslims, but both the EU and NATO seized on yet another reason to increase pressure on the Serbian side.
The bombing of Serbian positions began in April. The decision on them was taken by the commander of the UN forces, and the NATO forces were implemented, and this took place without consulting the Russian side. At the same time, attempts to peaceful settlement of the conflict did not stop. On April 25, 1994, a contact group on BiH was formed, it included the USA, Germany, France, Great Britain and Russia. On August 4, she proposed a plan, according to which the Serbs received 49% of the territory of BiH, the Bosnians and Croats 51%, but negotiations were interrupted after the terrorist attack on the Sarajevo market, in which the Serbs were accused. Since neither the UN nor the EU was able to succeed, the initiative was finally seized by the United States. A new stage of negotiations began under their auspices.
A prominent role in the preparations for the negotiations in Dayton was played by Richard Holbrooke, the US Deputy Secretary of State for Europe and Canada, who managed to seat Slobodan Milosevic, Aliya Izetbegovic and Franjo Tudjman at the negotiating table.
On February 28, 1994, the United States began to attract aviation to combat the aircraft of the Republika Srpska and destroyed five attack aircraft, and from November NATO aircraft bombed the Udina airfield and Serbian positions. On July 11, 1995, the Bosnian Serbs, led by Ratko Mladic, captured Srebnica and killed 8,000 Muslims. In response, the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued arrest warrants for Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic – effectively decapitating the Bosnian Serbs.
On 28 August, an explosion at a market in Sarajevo killed 28 people. According to NATO, the Serbs were the culprit. From 30 August to 14 September, following the Serbs’ refusal to withdraw heavy weapons from the Sarajevo region, NATO launched Operation Deliberate Force, using aerial bombardments of Republika Srpska targets. Richard Holbrook on October 5 announced a two-month truce and began peace talks. On November 21, it was announced the development of the Dayton Agreement, signed in Paris on December 25, 1995. The end of the Bosnian War was declared and the modern constitutional structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina was determined.
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