the carnage of September 11, the Balkans became of secondary
concern to the makers of U.S. foreign policy. American media
seem content to ignore the Balkans for a while, save for noting
the Empire's vehement denials of their Muslim allies' liaisons
with Osama Bin Laden and other radical Islamic movements,
and the pledge to continue
its Balkans policy on the same path it was following prior
to Black Tuesday.
of the peninsula, however, have no such luxury. To them, every
day is a reminder of US policies that have made the Balkan
peninsula what it is today: from the fractured remnants of
the former Yugoslavia, through the economic wastelands in
Bulgaria and Romania, to the drug and crime ridden territories
of Albania, Kosovo and northwestern Macedonia.
has been a year, less a day, since the Empire's Balkans bogeyman
was forced to resign from office under popular pressure. Slobodan
Milosevic's fall from power and grace in Serbia was hailed
by the US as the end of a dark age, and a bright new beginning
for all. One year later, with Milosevic set
up for a show trial at the hands of the Hague Inquisition,
there are no signs of dissipating darkness, and the promises
of new beginnings ring strangely hollow.
characterized by special circumstances that other Balkans
states lack, Serbia's plight is exemplary of the difficulties
they all face. If nothing else, the privations and destruction
of the past decade have stripped away all of the nonsensical
trappings of post-Communist transition, highlighting the existential
challenges set before the entire peninsula.
PROMISES, FALSE PREMISES
"Democratic Opposition of Serbia" (DOS) came to
power on October 5, when Milosevic conceded defeat in the
Yugoslav presidential elections to DOS candidate Vojislav
Kostunica, after an angry mob of DOS supporters protesting
official vote counts sacked the federal Parliament and the
state-run broadcasting corporation. Disdainful of his partner/rival
Djindjic's fondness for paramilitaries and mobsters, Kostunica
sought to avoid civil war by securing the loyalty of Yugoslavia's
military and the Serbian police. He then went to see Milosevic
and accepted his abdication. Within a day, the "October
Revolution" was over.
questions remained, though.. The U.S.-backed regime in Montenegro,
Serbia's partner in the dysfunctional Yugoslav federation,
refused to recognize the legitimacy of the elections, or the
federal government. The federal government, howeverwas the
only government DOS had taken over, since the elections in
Serbia were not scheduled until December. For the next three
months, DOS committees ruled Serbia as a shadow government,
until its eminence grise Zoran Djindjic was officially installed
as Prime Minister.
the campaign leading up to the September 24 elections and
the October Revolution, both Kostunica and his coalition partners
promised liberty and prosperity to the war-weary masses. Those
promises were backed with millions of dollars in direct aid
given to DOS by the United States. Balancing this was the
threat of renewed war, as a US fleet ran war games off the
Yugoslav coast during the election. But while liberty and
prosperity markedly failed to materialize, the threat of war
did not; within months, Albanians in regions adjoining the
still-occupied province of Kosovo began a campaign
of violence aimed at secession from Serbia.
then on, broken promises piled up. Instead of supporting free
enterprise, the Djindjic government effectively monopolized
oil and cigarette trade, introducing severe sales taxes while
abolishing price controls. The impoverished population sank
into abject misery as prices skyrocketed and jobs vanished
into thin air.
week, the Bosnia-based news magazine Reporter offered
a glimpse of the ruling coalition's "accomplishments,"
as they faced the "silent rage of the people" after
one year in power (link in Serbian).
cites statistics from a recent poll taken by the Institute
G17, a rabidly pro-Western group of statist economists, which
indicates that 40% of Serbs think they are worse off now than
they were before, while only 10% say that things have improved.
In the first 7 months of 2001, retail prices rose 26%, and
the inflation rate was 31.7%. But perhaps the most telling
statistic was a 20% drop in industrial production compared
to the period immediately after the devastating NATO assault.
a disaster, DOS has been only marginally more successful politically.
Soon after October 5, Yugoslavia a founding member of the
UN in its previous incarnation was admitted as a brand-new
member, thus officially relinquishing succession rights. Within
months, DOS authorities accepted the terms of succession dictated
by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), consenting to a
division of former Yugoslav assets that put Yugoslavia on
equal footing with former members of the Yugoslav federation
that had seceded, illegally and often violently. The new regime
also agreed to repay Serbia's portion of the Yugoslav debt,
tripled by exorbitant interest charges over the past decade,
as Yugoslav assets lay frozen under US and UN sanctions.
June this year, when Djindjic's government complied
with American demands and transported Milosevic from a
Belgrade prison to the ICTY in The Hague, the government sought
to justify the political fallout by claiming that such an
action was a necessary precondition to receiving millions
of dollars in foreign aid. In exchange for violating both
the Serbian and Yugoslav constitutions, and dismantling the
Yugoslav Supreme Court, Djindjic received not a single red
cent; all of the promised aid, if it actually existed, went
to Western bankers as payment for Yugoslavia's bloated debt.
Pyrrhic success was the end of Albanian banditry in Presevo,
supposedly engineered by Djindjic's envoy for southern Serbia,
Nebojsa Covic, a former Milosevic apparatchik. The bandits
only gave up when NATO told them to. Even then, they chose
to cross into Kosovo rather than use the promised amnesty.
The so-called "Covic Plan" was then adapted by NATO
and imposed on the Macedonian government, eviscerating the
country's sovereignty in the process.
along, the issue of Kosovo remained an open wound. While DOS
was consolidating power in Serbia, Albanian separatists were
doing the same in the NATO occupied Albanian province, under
the aegis of OSCE and the UN. Kosovo now has a provisional
"Constitution," and "elected" local authorities,
with elections for a "legislative assembly"
coming up in a month.
and Yugoslavia under DOS have resembled nothing so much as
a dancer who tries to dance to a three-beat waltz in two-step.
Having come to power on the coattails of Kostunica's popular
appeal, Zoran Djindjic runs Serbia as his personal fiefdom.
Djindjic's popularity is still in single digits, but Kostunica
cannot match his power and influence, as the "extradition"
of Milosevic amply demonstrated. Of the 18 parties in DOS,
most are loyal to Djindjic, without whom they would have little
or no access to power. Kostunica's unwillingness or inability
confront Djindjic both after Milosevic's "extradition"
and after the recent murder of a former security official
who claimed to have evidence of government corruption, has
severely damaged the President's reputation and tarnished
his legalistic image. Kostunica and his party are now on the
sidelines of Serbian politics, their only claim to power resting
with the dysfunctional Yugoslav federation.
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is neither federal, nor a republic,
and much less Yugoslavia. Its two "republics," Montenegro
and Serbia, largely act like independent states. Milo Djukanovic's
regime in Podgorica has not yet officially broken with Belgrade,
mostly because it lacks a solid pretext and sufficient popular
support. Nonetheless, Montenegro continues
to sabotage any talks about Yugoslavia's future. Serbia's
preeminent classical liberal (libertarian) Kosta Cavoski opined
this week in the Belgrade daily Glas Javnosti ("Public
Voice") that Djukanovic is likely counting on Djindjic
repudiating Yugoslavia, while putting the blame on Kostunica.
Both US and British ambassadors to Belgrade visited
Djukanovic last week and "attempted to persuade"
him not to secede. Yet Montenegro still receives almost $100
million in US aid, only a little less per capita than Israel
and much more than Serbia.
U.S.-backed government in Belgrade is not yet an obedient
Imperial vassal, though it harbors
such aspirations. Since the US already has a favorite
Balkans satellite the Albanians ambitions of various
sycophants may go unrequited for quite some time. Imperial
policies benefiting Albanians at the expense of Serbs or anyone
else are likely to continue. Based on this, and on DOS's performance
over the past year, what sort of future is Serbia likely facing?
begin, a cursory analysis of October 5 reveals major overlaps
with the two revolutions that most influenced Serbian political
history the 1789 French
Revolution and the 1917 Russian
Revolution. In both cases, revolt came on a wave of rising
expectations, during, or in the aftermath of, costly wars.
Both times, the "monarch" was initially spared but
later executed (or in Milosevic's case, merely handed over
to the executioners). After the initial takeover, power was
seized by radical elements (Jacobins, Bolsheviks) and used
to terrorize political opposition and suspected "loyalists"
of the old regime. The only thing Serbia missed was a civil
war. It remains to be seen if it will manage to dodge the
last revolutionary phase dictatorial takeover by a Napoleon
or a Stalin.
thing is certain: DOS is not likely to survive for long. It
is a motley coalition of disparate parties, with divergent
aims and strong personal rivalries between leaders. Vojvodina
separatists united with Sanjak separatists, monarchists, politically
correct neo-liberals, Christian democrats, and republicans,
initially through US funding and now by a common lust for
power. DOS will most likely fracture once its leader, Zoran
Djindjic, decides he no longer needs the coalition to stay
is the key to understanding not just Serbia, but the Balkans
today. He embodies the spirit of anti-liberal statism, popularized
throughout Eastern Europe by US and European intervention
after the collapse of Communism. Djindjic has no ideology
save power, and no principle save strength. As such, he sees
serving the most powerful country on the block the US,
in this case as a prerequisite to staying in power. The
history of the past decade certainly lends credence to his
for the citizens of Serbia much like those of any other
US vassal in the post-Communist world that means consolidation
of state power in the hands of a corrupt elite, with a chaotic
legal system and severe restrictions on domestic enterprise,
almost assuring the ongoing descent into poverty.
in the 20th century, Serbia created a stable, liberal
constitutional monarchy, with flourishing commerce and
industry. It embraced the lessons of the Enlightenment and
the industrial revolution, while preserving the freedom of
farmers and merchants that made the liberation from Ottoman
Turks possible. This system, however, could not withstand
the Austrian invasion in WW1, the chaos of postwar Yugoslavia,
Nazi occupation in WW2, and the 1945 Communist takeover. Destructive
in their own right, both Nazism and Communism harbored special
hatred for the Serbs and their economic, cultural and political
sixty years after the Nazi invasion, Serbia has to crawl out
of the ashes under the guidance of Zoran Djindjic, who did
a Ph.D. on increasing
state power in times of crisis while studying in Germany
and finding inspiration in "socialism" of a distinctly
present regime in Serbia, like all other regimes in Eastern
Europe (save perhaps Belarus), is built around the twin pillars
to the Empire and statist supremacy. Such circumstances
are adverse to normal economic development, and hostile to
political options that value liberty and private property.
There are no guarantees, only chances, that Serbs and others
will overcome these economic and political restrictions once
the first pillar the Empire's ongoing presence is removed.
It has been stated
here before, and ought to be stated again, that such a
development has absolutely no chance while the Empire continues
to occupy parts of the Balkans, and keep the "peace"
in them through supporting terrorists and self-styled "democrats"
of decidedly fascist leanings.