By Vojin Joksimovich
Modern Tokyo Times
Former US ambassador to Moscow Jack Matlock, in his February 20 National Press Club presentation, cautioned against the crazed propagandistic attack on Russia and said that we have an autistic foreign policy. “Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted and repetitive behavior.” Ambassador Matlock was present at the 1989 Malta meeting when President Bush 41 told Soviet President Gorbachov: “If you remove your troops from Eastern Europe, if you let Eastern Europe go free, then we will not take advantage of it.” Ambassador Matlock felt that President Clinton lacked both vision and competence to take advantage of the Cold War end and the USSR breakup.
Ramazan Khalidov and Lee Jay Walker writing in the MTT: Terrorist and Ethnic Ripples in the Balkans: Republika Srpska, Kosovo. Macedonia and distant Syria, addressed most recent events in the Balkans “showing further signs of growing Salafi Islamist menace and the usual traits of Albanian nationalism.” Perhaps it is a good time to refresh memories of the US autistic policies in the Balkans in the 1990s and make analogies with most burning contemporary crises, i.e. Ukraine and ISIS. I am referring to the US policies in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo; part I deals with Croatia.
In 1929 Ante Pavelic formed Croatian nationalist Ustasha Party to destroy Yugoslavia and form independent Croatia. In 1941 Axis Powers (Germany/Italy) and Vatican created Independent State of Croatia (NDH) with 2 million Serbs living in that territory. Within days NDH outlawed the Serbian language and Cyrillic alphabet and began persecutions of Serbs, Jews and Roma. Mass murders began immediately and continued for the next four years. The Croatian WWII genocide was the first per capita in Europe: ~700,000 mostly Serbs, Jews, Roma and dissident Croats were slaughtered. Most notorious death camp was Jasenovac, the largest killing field per unit of territory in WWII.
Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991 to be recognized first by Germany, Austria and Vatican and subsequently by the EU (then EC) and the US. The Serb-Croat conflict in the 1990s is attributable to the 1941-1945 Croatian genocide. The Croatian government revived the rhetoric, symbolism, discourse and even some methods of the NDH. The Krajina Serbs, arbitrarily part of the communist dictator Tito’s Republic of Croatia, were determined not to live under the Croat government behaving as neo-Ustasa. EU mediators like Lord David Owen conceded that Tito’s republics were arbitrarily established and that their re-drawing should have been approved at the crisis onset. This writer considers Srdja Trifkovic’s book The Krajina Chronicle: A History of Serbs in Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia as the reference material.
The western leaders and media listed self-determination and democracy to support the Croatian independence. When the Serbian Krajina Serbs declared cessation from Croatia they were called separatists and rebels. The Croatian leadership under Franjo Tudjman refused to recognize their right of self-determination and launched the war against them in August of 1991. A cease-fire agreement negotiated between Tudjman and the Serbian President Milosevic paved the way for the implementation of a UN peace plan designed by the former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, now UN mediator. The four UN Protected Areas were established, which froze the front lines for the next three years. Meanwhile Croatia spent heavily on the weapons with the US and German assistance. In November 1994 the US and Croatia signed a military agreement. The Pentagon contracted Military Professional Resources (MPRI), retired US four-star generals, to train and direct the Croatian army.
On August 4, 1995 the Croatians launched Operation Storm over the UN cease-fire lines, the largest European land offensive since WWII involving 150,000 Croatian troops. It amounted to a massive brutal onslaught aided by the US/NATO aircraft destroying Serbian radar and anti-aircraft defenses. Subsequently the Croatian planes carried out attacks on Serbian towns, positions and refugees. 1.922 Serbian civilians were murdered. 200,000-250,000 Krajina Serbs were expelled from the ancestral lands they occupied for a half millennium defending the Habsburg Empire from the Ottoman Turk incursions in a matter of 84 hours. This onslaught was not resisted by the Krajina Serbs on orders from the Milosevic’s government in Belgrade. Massacres continued for several more weeks. Tudjman’s dream of a Serb-free Croatia was fulfilled creating a homogenous Croatian nation. At a rally in Knin he announced: “There can be no return to the past. To the time when Serbs were spreading cancer in the heart of Croatia, a cancer that was destroying the Croatian national being.”
Croatia celebrates August 5 as Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day. Several Croatian generals, including the Operation Storm Commander General Ante Gotovina, were indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for command responsibility. However, they were acquitted and ordered immediate release by the Appeals Chamber reversing convictions of the original trial chamber on the 3:2 vote. It is reasonable to speculate that the American judge acting on the State Department instructions convinced the other two judges. This writer authored: NATO Court Delivers Yet another Miscarriage of Justice: Serbs suffer another biased judgement, published by the MTT in November 2012. From the perspectives of this writer the ICTY decision amounted to that nobody was responsible for the war crimes committed not only in the Operation Storm but throughout the civil war in Croatia. Tudjman, mastermind, was not indicted and died from natural death. This crime, like the 1941-1945 genocide, remains obscured and is currently of interest mostly to the victims and Serbian historians. Extermination of the Serbs took place in the full view and support from the democratic and human rights activists in the West.
Historically Croatia and Ukraine have similarities. Both lost their independence early in their histories. Croatia lost its independence in 1102, while Ukraine experienced disastrous partition between 1657 and 1687. In WWII they both pursued restoration of independence by siding with Nazi Germany. The Ukrainians viciously pursued ethnic cleansing of their minorities in order to create a homogenous nation. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), currently honored by a draft law, helped the Nazis carry out the Holocaust while also killing close to 100,000 Polish civilians. Both Ukraine and Croatia were designed to suit purposes of communist rulers for internal purposes not for international borders. Last year radical Ukrainian nationalists, OUN-UPA followers, played a key role as “shock troops” in the Maidan revolution hoisting neo-Nazi SS symbols, including Sieg Heil salutes. Upon removing duly elected president from power they wanted to ban use of the Russian language to over 10 million Russians. Today Neo-Nazis are flourishing in Kiev. The Neo-Nazi march in Kiev reminded the Czech president Milos Zeman of Hitler’s Germany. Like in Croatia the US has unwittingly sided with those Neo-Nazis causing a civil war against the Eastern Ukrainians, which remain oriented towards Russia.
The relevance to the Ukraine conflict is illustrated with the statement made by Yuriy Lutzenko, leader of the Poroshenko’s bloc in the Ukrainian parliament who has openly called for a repeat of the Operation Storm in Donbass with the following statement: “After the Yugoslav army took Vukovar the Croats were obliged to accept existence of Serbian Krajina. For three years, they did not just hold on, but they developed an economy and an army. But at last in just few hours an armed attack drove separatists from the land.” Several Ukrainian officials with neo-Nazi credentials, such as the Right Sector founder Dmitry Jarosh, have announced publically that Kiev was itching for a full scale war with Russia and wants NATO involvement even if it could provoke a nuclear conflict.
Croatia did develop an army by boosting the military spending 38% GDP. With the help of the MPRI and the US intelligence agencies Croatia was able to develop military capability rapidly. Presumably Lutzenko thinks that the recently obtained IMF loan money will be used to boost the military spending, while impoverishing the population, and that the US will provide lethal weapons with associated training and intelligence to overrun Donbass in 84 hours!! Krajina Serbs did not resist because they were abandoned by the Milosevic government in Belgrade. Does Lutzenko think that Putin will abandon so called separatists like Milosevic did? Well, Russia is not Serbia and Putin has established a red line that he will not allow Donbass to be defeated and that he will not back down and Russia seems to be ready for the war.
When Ukrainian president Poroshenko appeared before the US Congress last September he pleaded for the American weapons. According to the Wall Street Journal members of his delegation met with Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon consultant, and a former Republican Senator Gordon Humphrey, who offered to use the Cold-War playbook to convince the Obama administration. In 1984 Messrs. Pillsbury and Humphrey had worked with Rep. Charlie Wilson to build the largest covert CIA operation in history in order to arm the Afghan mujahedeen to defeat the Soviets. The Reagan administration was initially reluctant to go along. The Senate Ukraine Caucus has now been launched. Publicly the senators have voiced support for Kiev and called on the administration to send arms. However, the administration is claiming that they are supporting Kiev by imposing sanctions on Russia and by providing nonlethal gear. German Chancellor Merkel and the French President Holland have opposed delivery of lethal arms and have negotiated the Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement (M2A).
Croatian economy plummeted in the 1990-1995 time-frame, downward 46%. Privatization, advised by the IMF and others, caused further damage. In 1993 the IMF provided financial aid under “certain conditions” for the economic recovery in order to further accelerate transition of the state property into private and western hands. About 40% of the IMF money was used to bring the military equipment to NATO standards. As a student this writerI spent one summer in the Croatian shipbuilding industry, which was a European leader. After the privatization, drive for instant profits resulted in burial of the industry. Agriculture and processing industry followed. Today, the economy is in terrible shape and not getting better even now as an EU member state. Recently, the Croatian finance minister Boris Lalovac explained that indebtedness is choking the economy and consumption. Using the Eurostat report the sovereign debt amounts to 140% DGP or 55bn euros. Lalovac stated that the Croatian debt situation is worse than that of Greece.
Ukraine has experienced gross economic mismanagement leading to massive privatizations creating some 100 oligarchs, which have brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy. The currency has been in the free fall. The landing rate has been world leading 30%. In the first quarter the economy contracted by 17.6%. The country needs 50bn in emergency funding. They are getting $17.5bn loan from the IMF with austere conditions. Among them tripling of the natural gas price and slashing of retirement and unemployment benefits. Secretary Kerry after meeting with the Russian foreign minister Lavrov and President Putin at Sochi this week said that the M2A was the only way forward and that he would strongly caution Poroshenko against the idea of renewing military operations. This represents a stunning development, the first official US endorsement of M2A and the first time the US has warned the Kiev regime against a military adventure.
Several months before the Ukrainian independence President Bush 41 said: “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.” This advice continues to be applicable.
______________________________________________________________________________Vojin Joksimovich, PhD is the author of three books and over 120 articles on various world affairs topics