1999/12/26 16:02 Slovenia and NATO
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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SUN, 26 DEC 1999 16:02:35 GMT

    Slovenia and NATO

    THE ARMY WITHOUT GUARDS

    AIM Ljubljana, December 15, 1999

    Recently the General Staff of the Slovenian Army has issued an unusual statement; the statement, or better said, the admission revealed that "unidentified perpetrators have stolen a large quantity of arms from the army depot in Postojna". The case was immediately taken over by the Military Intelligence Service and crime inspectors, but their efforts, at least until now, bore no fruit. Although information are scarce, the first piece stated that only a "dozen pieces" of different arms and "several machine guns" of old production were on the list of missing weapons. The public was reassured by the claim that mostly stolen were pistols. However, the curiosity of the media was far from satisfied, and very soon after that a shocking fact was revealed that over 100 machine guns and semiautomatic machine guns, as well as 50 pistols and 10,000 bullets were stolen from the Postojna barracks!

    Even more interesting is the way in which the action was carried out - the thieves had cut the fence wire, walked into the depot, brought a large truck, loaded the arms on to it and disappeared into the unknown direction. There is no doubt that they were very well informed about the situation in the barracks. Crime-investigation experts are trying to calm down the local public with claims that the loot "is not for home use" and is probably intended for sale at western markets where the price of a kalashnikov is as much as DEM 1,500 per piece.

    The theft did not only cause alarm because of the safety (namely, the arsenal is sufficient to arm a smaller phalanx), but reopened the question of the organisation of the Slovenian Army and Defence Ministry. The problem of low security in barracks and ammunition depots dates back to the times when the YPA (Yugoslav People's Army) left Slovenia - the last soldier of the Yugoslav Army left on October 8, 1991; the mentioned date is festively marked each year - and along with glorifying words there are always less commending reports on the lack of materiel and guards which should watch over a large number of remaining military facilities in this once strategically important part of SFRY.

    From the formal and legal point of view these facilities are not yet the Slovenian property. Even according to the Fundamental Constitutional Charter, the first act of the independent state of Slovenia, military facilities have only been handed over to the Slovenian Defence Ministry for "management" until an agreement is reached between all former republics on the succession of SFRY. In the meantime, the temporarily obtained treasure should be somehow preserved, which for official Ljubljana represents a hard task as its military manpower has been radically reduced due to the decline of birth rate, as well as the growing number of conscripts who opt to serve civil military service.

    No wonder that the Slovenian Army is suffering from a chronic lack of soldiers; the local analysts point out another shortcoming - those young men who decide to join the army have to spend disproportionately long time in the course of their short service (six months) on sentry duty, so that very little is left for training. The problem could be solved with alarms and sensors, as well procurement of cameras for monitoring army depots. However, the Army complains of not having enough money in the budget for such expenditures. But, this does not prevent the Slovenian Army to keep a firm hold on what it got in 1991. Inter alia, the famous spa "Rimske toplice", as well as recreational and vacation facilities in Crnomelj are falling to ruin instead of being used for economic benefit...

    The scandal revealed another sore point of the Slovenian Army - the problem of discipline and order. Some commentators have even mentioned the former "occupying" YPA, for which the present system and the Slovenian public never had a kind word, even back in the late eighties; pointing to the difference between the present "democratic" organisation of the Army (which makes no secret of any mess it makes) and the onetime authoritarian army (in which a similar scandal would have never reached the public), something else was observed. "When we, who have served in the old YPA, heard of the last theft it made out hair stand on end! Nothing worse could have happened in the peace time. In those times the possession of arms was a sacred thing. They would raise hell for each lost belt and soldiers would be harassed for weeks, as well as the entire chain of command, if anything similar happened. And here now whole crates of guns disappear and the Slovenian Army has no comment," bitterly concluded Marko Pecauer, editor of the "Delo", remembering his army days in the YPA.

    Wanting to present itself as radically different from the former YPA, the Slovenian Army went too far abandoning fundamental and universal rules of all armies of the world; should then one worry that its history (in the last nine years) reminds of the "Adventures of the Good Old Private Schweik". First, the Slovenian Army has no right to try civilians (like the YPA had in the case of the Ljubljana foursome - JBTZ). Moreover, for that matter, it has not right to try anyone. Military affairs are in the jurisdiction of civil courts which are overloaded with cases, so that the boycotting of recruitment commissions has become a favourite and unpunishable pastime.

    There were many affairs in which lack of army discipline and organisation were transparent; the first stain, immediately after the winning of independence, was cast upon the Defence Ministry by rumours about smuggling and re-sale of arms (primarily to warring brothers on the South), which have not been clarified until today. True, the media have discovered that several dozens of tanks and similar larger pieces of equipment were also missing, to which the Defence Ministry laconically responded that all tanks were used as targets in live-ammunition firing practice?! In all fairness, only four tanks were used for this purpose, while photos were taken of the remaining tanks still carrying the "Slovenian" register numbers, somewhere on the Bosnian battlefield...

    During target practice from Israeli-made howitzers, the shells fell on the nearby settlements; one charge went off prematurely; in the meantime members of the Honorary Guard of the Slovenian Army totally disgraced themselves when they stood at attention saluting the guests at the competition for Miss Slovenia, organised by the women's magazine "JANA". After that, the "singing major" of the Slovenian Army (Troha), tried to attract attention to dozen examples of malversation and abuse of service position by going on hunger-strike in front of the Parliament building. After that the Defence Ministry tried to improve its rating and made several dozens of promotions, so that Slovenia recorded a true "hyper-inflation" of high-ranking officers and the state got several dozens of so called generals. And that was not all - the Parliament approved a handsome army budget which was soon squandered...

    Yet another story is the behaviour of all Defence Ministers individually . It is general conclusion that they have all openly abused their position; it started with Janez Jansa. It is still unclear to whom and how did he sell arms and where has the money ended; after that Jelko Kacin "ravaged" duty free shops with his credit card and surrounded his house with army loot - he used the fence from old barracks which was torn down in the city centre. Tit Turnsek was fired because of the "Zavrc affair" when the Slovenian intelligence vehicle with expensive, sophisticated German equipment ended up in Croatia. His successor did not learn anything from others and illegally took a flat and - consequently lost his position. After that came the current Minister Franci Demsar, who used cunning; for the time being he keeps out of the public eye and leaves all hard decisions to his associates.

    Numerous problems troubling the Slovenian Army were firstly called "growing pains" of a young state. As times goes by, both the media and the public are showing less understanding for new affairs which are shaking the pillar of the Slovenian state. It is clear that the Slovenian Army will have to do much, and after a decade of "drill", be able to stand side by side with the Czech, Polish, Hungarian - which thanks to their good rating, have already become NATO members.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)