Balkan Express
by Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic is traveling. He will return with a new column next Thursday, April 4.

March 21, 2002

Once Upon A Country
Yugoslavia, RIP

Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.

- Homer's Iliad, Book 1

It took the Achaeans ten years to finally overcome the defenses of Troy, and then only with a ruse of a large wooden horse, which the gullible Trojans brought into their city ignorant of the warriors hidden inside.

Eleven years is what it took the Empire to destroy Yugoslavia, through wars no less – and oft more – bloody, treaties no less false, speeches far more cynical and goodwill no less treacherous than those in the first epic of the Western civilization.

On March 14, 2002, the leaders of Montenegro, Serbia and Yugoslavia sat down with the European legate Javier Solana – who three years ago headed a vicious attack on their country – and agreed to kill Yugoslavia, erase her from the map, bury her name and legacy, and in her place establish… well, nothing, really.

Yugoslavia, RIP

The "state" that Vojislav Kostunica, Zoran Djindjic and Milo Djukanovic signed, and Javier Solana concocted in some political petri dish, is now "Serbia and Montenegro," just as all the US State Department maps read all these years the Empire refused to recognize the state led by Slobodan Milosevic. Busy with the usual malicious rehashes of fabricated history, reports in the West gave few details. What did emerge, however, is telling. Apart from cartographic convenience, other aspects of the treaty unmistakably identify its greatest benefactor.

Both Serbia and Montenegro will have their own Presidents, their own currencies, customs and financial systems. Theoretically, the defense and foreign affairs should be under joint jurisdiction. But military service would be served only in the conscripts' home states, effectively creating separate Serbian and Montenegrin armed forces. Ambassadors to, say, the UN would rotate between Serbia and Montenegro, creating de facto separate foreign policies. So the joint legislature and the joint President it chooses would have nothing to do.

Normally, a powerless government is a good thing for people's liberties. In this case, however, the governments of two republics would retain the near-absolute power they currently have, and the "federal" government would simply be there for show and to waste the impoverished taxpayers' money.

The Undead Union

Finally, the agreement is only valid for three years, whereupon any member of the "union" that secedes is guaranteed recognition by the EU. The way it was framed, secession is pretty much automatic unless both partners decide otherwise. If Djukanovic stays in power, or is replaced by one of his more rabidly separatist allies, there is no chance Montenegro's regime won't opt for recognition.

The new "state" is but a vampire, an undead monstrosity which is destined to live for three more years until the EU mercifully stakes it through the heart. Meanwhile, it will subsist by sucking blood from the people on which it was imposed.

Follow The Money

The official excuse of European and American meddlers in the issue was that Montenegro's secession would embolden the Bosnian Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo and northwestern Macedonia. The papers are very fond of it, as are government, NATO and UN spokespeople. As usual, this is utter nonsense.

Unlike the Bosnian Serb Republic, Kosovo or northern Macedonia, Montenegro used to be a constituent member of the old Communist federation, with a full right to secession. This right was retained even under the now-dead Federal Yugoslav Constitution. No one in Serbia has ever disputed the existence of that right, merely the character of those who advocated its use. And even so, at the end of last October Serbian politicians were perfectly happy to stand aside and let Montenegro's voters choose their fate. This is where Solana and the Empire intervened.

Three months later, Solana accomplished yet another "triumph of Western policy," right after his vaunted "peacemaking" in Macedonia. And here is why.

One of the provisions of the treaty was that both states would continue to pay their foreign debt jointly, and if one could not shoulder its share, the other would have to. Some took this to mean that Serbia got a raw deal, since Montenegro has only 650,000 inhabitants and a lot more foreign debt. Others think Montenegro got cheated of its rightful recognition now. But it is really the EU creditors who are profiting from this deal, at the expense of them both. Whatever happens, Europe will get its pound of flesh…


Solana's concoction, admittedly, is better than civil war, the Black Plague, or some form of apocalypse. So is just about anything else.

With Serbia and Montenegro as independent states, their politicians could no longer scapegoat the other republic for all the ills of their misrule. People in both countries would have been forced to actually shoulder responsibility for their rulers and their actions. Many in Serbia think that without foreign subsidies and smuggling, Montenegro would be as economically viable as Nauru, minus the phosphates. They will have to wait for three more years to see if they were right.

Historically long separated, the two lands have spiritually always been one. Only recently did Djukanovic's regime embark on a campaign of carving out a separate ethnic, religious, cultural and even linguistic identity. His followers' virulent separatism would shock their ancestors, who considered themselves Serbs and wrote great epics to that effect. Even the last king of Montenegro, Nikola Petrovic, wrote of "Serbs no longer being slaves" in his famous ode Onam', Onamo ("Yonder, Over There").

It no longer matters, it seems. The "two eyes in one head" have finally been gouged out. Driven by their lust for power and dazzled by Imperial favors – whether just promised or actually delivered – the people who swore to protect and defend Yugoslavia decided to kill it. The fact that they did so with the help of a man who led the NATO aggression in 1999 only adds insult to injury.

The dead, however, feel no pain. Only the living.

The General's Papers

Only a day after Yugoslavia was dissolved, it was betrayed. Military security officers arrested the retired general Momcilo Perisic as he met with an American diplomat in a roadside inn south of Belgrade. The military claimed Perisic was passing classified documents to the American, leading to rampant speculation that the former general, a bitter foe of Slobodan Milosevic, was trying to turn over evidence of the former president's involvement in alleged atrocities in Kosovo.

The US was "outraged" and issued a "sharp rebuke," but that was to be expected. No state – especially not the Empire – ever admits to espionage, as there is something inherently dirty in the whole process. Usually the pattern is denial, followed by expulsion of the compromised diplomat and a gentlemanly agreement not to bring the matter up again. Again, the Empire does not follow the custom. It will most likely attempt to pass this off as an "unwarranted detention," demand an official groveling apology and maybe even the sacking of those responsible. Serbia is a vassal, after all – how dare it have the temerity to arrest Imperial legates as they go about their business!?

Perisic's fate is less certain. He went out of his way to meet with the US diplomat, so they were probably not just out for coffee and sports talk. If the Yugoslav – or whatever it will be called – military produces materials they claim Perisic was passing to the Americans, he may be damned in the court of public opinion and even tried for treason.

Passing classified documents to the Americans, while legally treasonous, pales in comparison to what Perisic's boss – Djindjic – has done over the past year or so. Thus throwing Perisic to the wolves might help Djindjic cloud the issue, so the general may yet rue the day he threw his lot in with the "pragmatist" Prime Minister.


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