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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

    MON, 22 AUG 1994 18:15:14 GMT

    Interview with Jelko Kacin Minister of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia


    Slovenian Defence Minister, Jelko Kacin, speaks about ex-Minister Janez Jansa, the participation of Slovenia in " Partnership for Peace" and the dilemmas about joining NATO, the war in B&H, arms scandals as well as the brief war in Slovenia and its course.

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    The strategic duties of Jelko Kacin, Defence Minister of Slovenia since March when Jansa fell out of power, are the international activity of Slovenia aimed at its integration into the European security system and work within Partnership for Peace, personnel problems and the accompanying ailments, logical for this transformation of the Territorial Defence into an Army, as well as the raising of public confidence in the work of the Defence Ministry, as the image of this department has been constantly deteriorating in recent months. Kacin sees the solution for the B&H war in the world's forcing the Serbian side to accept a peaceful settlement as a political philosophy. He does not consider the ten-day war in Slovenia a farce. In his view, the YPA was mistaken in its assesment of the strength of the Slovenian Army, while according to the available data the top political and military leadership in Belgrade did not reckon with the scenario of Slovenia's winning independence peacefully, but rather did everything to keep Slovenia within Yugoslavia.

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    After all the imaginable illegal acts in which the former Defence Minster, Janez Jansa, was involved in the last two years, in late March the Slovenian Parliament relieved him of office. That same night, the deputies appointed Jelko Kacin to his post with 48 votes in favour and 39 against. A young man with a military education (Faculty of Social Sciences, Department for Total National Defence and Social Self-Protection), a level-headed diplomat and a media figure from the times of the aggression on Slovenia, a democrat by political conviction and not an exhibitionist like Jansa.

    - You are familiar with the "interior" of the Defence Ministry skyscraper at Kardelj Square in Ljubljana. After Slovenia gained independence you were Jansa's first deputy. Which strategic duties did you have to take over as the new minister.

    - At the very start I was faced with three major tasks. First, the international activity of Slovenia aimed at its integration into the European military security system. This is closely linked to the project "Partnership for Peace" which was signed precisely at the time I assumed the function of defence Minister. On the basis of that document we launched intensive activities to approach NATO. It was not easy to win such positions, as many European countries, by inertia regarded Slovenia within the geopolitical area of the former Yugoslavia. We found that untenable. What was once is no more. Therefore, we also reject the embargo on the import of arms which was imposed on the former Yugoslavia. Slovenia is neither the former Yugoslavia, nor some new Yugoslavia, nor Srboslavia, for that matter.

    Also, the Republic of Slovenia never was nor will ever be involved in the Bosnian - Herzegovinian tragedy. The protagonists of that conflict are well known to everyone, so that we could not accept the events in B&H as an argument against our ambitions to join the European Union. The other delicate subject that required my attention was personnel policy and the attending problems, only logical in the transformation of the Territorial Defence into an army. This required a major effort on the part of the whole Ministry in searching for motivated personnel, in educating and specializing staff both in the country and abroad. Much secondment was required for the most responsible posts and we had to enhance mutual trust. My third pressing concern was to raise the confidence of the public in the work of the Ministry of Defence because the renown both of this Department and of the Territorial Defence had been constantly falling over the past few months.

    - According to your information, is the untying of the "Gordian knot" in Bosnia and Herzegovina near?

    - That depends on the balance of military power on the ground and on the political will of the directly opposed factors on the one hand, and on the same will of the world powers, on the other. I am the Defence Minister of a sovereign state which, in a similar crisis, adopted a peace initiative (The Brioni Session after the ten-day war in Slovenia) which enabled the peaceful settlement of the military conflict and thanks to which we recently celebrated the third anniversary of peace and of the economic development of our state. Peace is the elementary prerequisite for a transformation from a state at war to a state of progress.

    - And? Do you see that ray of light in the tunnel?

    - If the world forces the Serbian side to accept a peaceful settlement as a political philosophy, then the pacification of Bosnia and Herzegovina may be expected and that is much more important than any truce.

    - You mentioned the ten-day war in Slovenia. Three years after, there are still speculations that it was a farcical war, because allegedly generals from Belgrade just wanted an excuse for a frontal attack on Croatia and later on Bosnia and Herzegovina. Slovenia did not, it is claimed, interest them.

    - It is easy to be a general after the battle is over and everyone has his own interpretation of the 1991 June events. The then YPA (Yugoslav People's Army) was precisely instructed to block Slovenia's road to independence and as seen, it failed to accomplish that. If it had succeeded in our Republic it would probably have succeeded in stopping all other processes of gaining independence in the former Yugoslavia and sufferings such as the ones in Bosnia now, would have spread to the entire territory. The YPA failed in Slovenia because it miscalculated our strength. Milosevic's generals soon realized that and in panic sought possibilities for an "honourable" retreat. We were sufficiently politically mature to allow that and the YPA, as a defeated army, withdrew from our territory. All available data show that the political and military leadership from Belgrade did not count on a scenario of Slovenia's peaceful gaining of independence, but rather tried to retain our state within Yugoslavia at all costs.

    - Having learned that lesson Slovenia is persistently knocking on NATO's door, trying to hide under the umbrella of what is known as the collective defence system. But, it seems that not everything is developing as planned!

    - Accession to NATO would be acceptable for us if it provided guarantees that NATO would intervene on our behalf if our state were endangered. There are no such guarantees for the time being. Bosnia and Herzegovina knows best what would have happened to it if it had not defended itself. Thus, over the long term, Slovenia must rely on its own defence, on domestic defence capacities, on its own economic stability and political wisdom. It must develop good neighbourly and other relations with all states and international fora, which enhance our security. If Slovenia wishes to join NATO it would have to decide on that by referendum. In order to organize a referendum we should have to know for certain whether it is possible for us to join NATO.

    For the time being NATO is not too eager to admit new members and Slovenia is not on the priority list of states that NATO wants under its auspices. That is why we have signed the "Partnership for Peace" which, on the basis of equitable partnership enables our cooperation with NATO and vice versa. This document enables cooperation with all countries signatories. The first results have already been recorded with the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Albania... In this way we are strengthening our military potentials, training personnel, stepping up mutual confidence, exchanging observers at military drills and joint manouvers are possible in the next stage.

    - Can tense relations with Croatia escalate to the level of endangering the military security of Slovenia?

    - We have done everything to show Croatia too, that our country is an island of stability and peace in this part of Europe. We are particularly keen on good neighbourly relations. But, everything is possible in politics.

    - Slovenia cannot do without scandals, so that it made up the one on Bosnian-Herzegovinian weapons confiscated at Maribor Airport. The Ministry of Defence (headed by the ex-Minister Jansa) was directly involved.

    - It is obvious that this affair was used for political purposes. It was launched with that aim. I know of no country in the world in which the minister of defence on the territory of his own state so spectacularly "discovered" weapons and accused the entire state and political leadership of allegedly being involved in such trade. I am sure that this inflicted much political harm on Slovenia.

    - If the claim of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian official Hasan Cengic to the effect that the then Defence minister Janez Jansa, on no grounds, retained a "Bell" Bosnian-Herzegovinian helicopter worth over US $4 million, is true, do you intend to return what is not Slovenia's?

    - That issue is a matter of agreement between two states. Both states are recognized international subjects which must respect the current state of international relations, implying an embargo on arms deliveries. As far as I know, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have certain mutual obligations.

    - A foreign observer in Slovenia gets the impression that most Slovenians have no understanding for your ideas related to the defence power of the state. A veritable scandal broke out when it leaked out that the Defence Ministry was buying military helicopters.

    - This is primarily a matter of a political settling of accounts with Jansa's successor. His supporters cannot stomach that and are attacking me. As for the public at large, I think that rationality is gaining ground, that most people are thinking with their heads rather than their hearts. They have every reason to wish to know about the medium-term military plans, the size of our budget, the precise procedure for the selection and purchase of military equipment. It is my task to harmonize all the activities of the Ministry of Defence with the decisions of Parliament and the laws in force in Slovenia. That is my daily job.

    - General Janez Slapar, until recently chief-of-staff of the Slovenian Army and one of its founders once stated that some members of the First Special Brigade called "Moris" on a number of occasions informed him that this formation was, on Jansa's orders, preparing a coup d'etat. Did such a danger threaten Slovenia?

    - Such opinions did in fact exist, not only in the public, but in military circles as well. I personally do not know all the particulars of the work of the Ministry while it was headed by Janez Jansa. As the present Minister I can say that the "Moris" is an integral part of the Territorial Defence of Slovenia and that its only task is the defence of the country. I can guarantee that currently no TO formation has any other ambitions. Should they arise, we have mechanisms to prevent them - from personnel to all other measures.

    - You are still remembered by the public for your brilliant management of the information war against the then Army of the SFRY. Was your role really planned in advance, or did you find yourself in front of the cameras by accident?

    - The media produce events. An event which happened without the presence of the media did not happen. Information is the most deadly weapon, I am quite sure of that. We knew that when it was necessary and you yourself reminded of the effects.

    Zekerijah Smajic AIM