Early bird tickets for Baltimore’s BEST party on sale now!

No Peace in Sight for Yugoslavia


Paris. -- The European Union governments are making one more attempt to bring a settlement to Yugoslavia. They demand territorial concessions to Bosnia by Serbians and Croatians. The Bosnians are then to surrender. Sanctions on Serbia would be lifted, and Croatia and Bosnia would be given funds to reconstruct their economies and resettle refugees.

None of this looks likely. At a Geneva meeting Monday, the three peoples at war agreed only to resume direct negotiations. None has changed its position, although all are under new pressures. Meanwhile, the Serbian military in Bosnia has introduced fragmentation munitions into its shelling of regions north of Sarajevo. No doubt these will make their appearance elsewhere, furthering the indiscriminate murder and wounding of civilians. Serbian shelling of Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities, and Croatian shelling of Mostar, continue.

The Bosnian Serbs' commanders are not disposed to give up land they have taken from Croatia and Bosnia, and some continue to talk of further territorial expansion in Bosnia. The Croatians are determined to re-establish themselves in the part of their country now held by Serbian forces. It is most improbable they will make peace with Serbia without the return of Serb-held Krajina, a return the United Nations also has vainly demanded.

Serbia's propagandists in Western Europe again are talking about Albanian-populated Kosovo, inside Serbia, as "a sacred Serbian land systematically occupied, usurped, ravaged, its population massacred, forced into Islamic conversion or expelled, its churches profaned . . . by a foreign people ferociously hostile to Serbs . . . (supported by foreign journalists and politicians who are) professional instigators of the murder of the Serbian nation." The obvious implication is that something will be done about this.

The Belgrade government is not at ease with what is happening. United Nations sanctions have crippled the country, imposing grave hardship on the people, who during the first year of the war could celebrate Serbia's conquests in indifference to the horrors being imposed upon their former fellow Yugoslavs outside Serbia.

Now President Slobodan Milosevic, who calls the sanctions "genocide," is caught amid the popular suffering and unrest the sanctions have caused, the extreme nationalist political forces challenging him in the forthcoming national elections, the feeble democratic forces to his left, and the Bosnian and Croatian Serbs who denounce any compromise in their program for creating a Greater Serbia. Serbia's military commander, General Ratko Mladic, rejects even the territorial compromises Mr. Milosevic has previously offered, saying "the (new) frontiers have been traced with Serbian blood and no one has the right to erase them."

So, in the West, the question is asked as to what to do now. The European plan is not going to be accepted unless it is imposed. Is anyone in the West prepared to impose it? The Clinton administration, despite many brave threats and fine warnings of what it might do in Yugoslavia, has in fact ruled out any action.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher said in a news conference Nov. 22 that the United States would do nothing about Yugoslavia until there is an agreement among the warring parties there "that is fully consensual." Forget the United States. The Europeans threaten intensified sanctions and an end to humanitarian aid. The latter chiefly affects the Bosnians, already the victims.

In principle, what might be done? It seems to me that two logical courses exist, neither of which will be taken. The first is to accept the results of Serbian and Croatian aggression and impose the present European plan for Bosnian surrender. This would mean committing air power to strike anyone who interferes with humanitarian convoys, continues to bombard civilians or resists the territorial concessions demanded of Serbs and Croatians by the Europeans.

The other logical course -- long ago rejected -- is to give arms and political support to the victims of aggression so long as they wish to continue to fight against that aggression. That would mean arms and material aid for Bosnia (since Croatia, as well as Serbia, is an aggressor in Bosnia). But it will not happen.

I have not written about Yugoslavia in recent weeks because I have not wanted to contribute to any illusions that may survive among those victims of aggression that anyone will help them. The European powers have put forward a plan to end the war, but they will not enforce it, and without enforcement it will not happen. They offer Serbia lifted sanctions and Bosnia the territorial concessions they want, and they threaten to withdraw their U.N. contingents if the plan is not accepted. None of this is enough. As for the United States, it will do nothing.

Accordingly, this will be another terrible winter in Bosnia, and a newly terrible one in Serbia. There is a poster, unsigned, appearing in recent days on walls in Paris. It says, "Bosnia wishes you a Joyful Christmas, and a Happy New Year."

William Pfaff is a syndicated columnist.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad