TUE, 15 DEC 1998 00:25:33 GMT
Finally an optimistic peace of news has arrived from the region of former Yugoslavia - the war between "Farmalandia" and "Fatlandia" is finally over, at least as far as Slovenia is concerned where the drill of North Atlantic Treaty Organization is completed, in which soldiers of the forces for quick interventions for the first time in the history of this organization were drilled outside the territory of its member states.
AIM Ljubljana, 5 December, 1998
Life in Slovenia, a member of the Partnership for Peace, in the past dew weeks passed in the sign of the military, due to the drill of NATO forces titled Cooperative Adventure Exchange (CAE) '98. The manoeuvres took place in the southern Slovenian district Dolenjska and officially ended on 2 December. The last day of the joint drill was watched by the commander-in-chief of NATO forces in Europe, general Wesley Clark, along with 55 military attaches and ambassadors.
The event gave a hard time to the organizers from the very beginning; during the three-day action of reception and deployment of foreign soldires in temporary dwellings, Slovenian roads were blocked not only by foreign troops, but also their (approximately) 2,300 army vehicles which dashed around the region 24 hours a day. Apart from that, another 550 vehicles of the British army arrived by ferry via the port of Kopar, while soldiers, 6,000 of them from 18 states, arrived in Slovenia across all border crossings and airports.
The purpose of the drill was "forced use of force" in a multiethnic region". It was claimed in the beginning that it was a drill of medical corps, but it leaked from Slovenian army circles that the actual purpose of the drill was the - Balkan, or more precisely: "Slovenia, thanks to the similar configuration of the land and knowledge of circumstabces in the region was chosen to be the testing range for training of future NATO action in the Balkan. This refers to Bosnia, Macedonia, and primarily - Kosovo".
That this was in fact a dress rehearsal for the case of an intervention in Kosovo was not concealed by the commander of the brigade for quick interventions, major general John Reit. He explained to the local journalists that he had already commanded preparations for deployment of troops in Albania and Macedonia "in case of possible mediation in Kosovo". "This means that we are very actively involved in the plans; had there been a military intervention (which was prevented by the arrival of OSCE observers) we would have been transported to Albania. From there we would have offered logistic support to units which would have intervened in Yugoslavia, and we would have also had to interrupt transfer of weapons across the Albanian border and control Yugoslav army".
In accordance with the scenario prepared at NATO headquarters, soldiers of the treaty organization step in as mediators in the bloody clash between "Farmalandia" and "Fatlandia". After arranging a ceasefire, NATO is entrusted with a mandate by the UN to send in a brigade for quick interventions (Allied Mobile Forces - Land), the central role in which is played by a US parachure brigade which cooperates with units from other countries. It is characteristic of this brigade that it is trained for extremely quick action; the brigade arrives at the place of action within 24 to 48 hours after the order is issued by the command. After establishment of ceasefire, the task of the unit is to maintain peace until local elections are organized by OSCE observers. Other activities follow: capturing demolition groups, control of ammunition warehouses, intervention in case of demonstrations of the local population and similar.
Soldiers of 18 countries participated in the drill, eight of which are NATO member states. They are the soldiers from Belgium, Danemark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Great Britain and the USA, the total of 4,060 soldiers. Nine member states of the Partnership for Peace also participated - Austria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Moldavia, Poland, Romania, Macedonia and Finland, from which 280 soldiers arrived in Slovenia. The host contributed about 1500 soldiers and 110 civilians, among whom the First Brigade was especially prominent, with its 230 members of the 10th batallion for international cooperation. About 200 other Slovenian soldiers were appointed to "simulate" the enemy. There were some bizzare details: for example, it was made public that among the medical corps of the Belgian army which participated in manoeuvres in Slovenia was Belgian princess Astrid, who has the rank of medical colonel of the army and who visited her unit during the drill.
Despite efforts of the organizer, the drill did not pass without incidents. Even before the beginning, there were complications because Hungarian authorities did not allow 27 Romanian soldiers to pass through Hungary on their way to Slovenia. For that, it is necessary to procure a permit of the Hungarian parliament which was impossible to get a couple of days before the drill. Romania officially protested claiming that Hungarian border guards had "insulted" Romanian soldiers. Due to this incident, Romanian soldiers could not join Belgian mountain troops, but despite this fact, Romanian flag waved on the post during the entire drill and in the final ceremony was proudly carried by a - Slovenian soldier.
An entanglement with Croatia was not at all less unpleasant, which refused to send its representatives, although Slovenia had officially forwarded to it the invitation to nominate its observers at the drill. Zagreb did not care to conceal that it was offended by the manoeuvres on its northern state border, and its analysts assessed the affair as part of an "anti-Croatian" campaign, especially because according to one of the unofficial scenarios, the purpose of the drill could be simulation of an international intervention in case of a military coup in Croatia.
Slovenia was not spared polemics occasioned by such large-scale operations of foreign and its own army on its territory. The reason for this was the fact that Slovenian army exercised its right given to it by Slovenian law on defence and confiscated vehicles of the civilians, under the pretext of "mobilization". There were quite a few Slovenian citizens who were caught by surprise when they realized that the law on defence prescribes something that is called "material duty" which the citizens must abide by not only in case of war, but also in case of a military drill. And while the affected individuals organized themselves and demanded from the Constitutional Court to nullify the incriminated parts of the law (the valid law on defence unlawfully limits human rights not only in case of war, but also in peace), the army joyfully "mobilised" vehicles it found interesting, regardless of complaints of civilians that no compensation was paid to them in case of damage of their precious wheels.
There is the drastic case of a private entrepreneur from Dolenjska whose jeep was taken by the Slovenian army which he refused to accept and offered to "lend" another of his cars - also a field vehicle, Lada Niva. The responsible officers of the army replied that the offered "trade" was out of the question, since the jeep was suitable for the representative needs (transportation of foreign officers). The owner retorted that Slovenian army had a sufficient number of its own (not at all cheap) Puch vehicles for the "needs of representation", and threatened that he would sooner demolish his own Pajero with a hammer than hand it over to the army for driving around foreign officers. The controversy was not settled although NATO tried to relieve tensions by manifesting generosity - paying for damage inflicted on civilians' vehicles by the soldiers. Participants in the drill managed to cause 25 traffic accidents; in eight cases civilian vehicles were involved in the incidents and the others were crashes of military vehicles.
For and Against NATO
One should not have had any doubt that Slovenia would give big publicity to the NATO drill on its territory marking it as a great foreign political success of the Slovenian army and diplomacy. Discussions about Slovenia joining the NATO were intensfied. During the recent visit of Romanian president to Slovenia, his colleague Milan Kucan declared that by the end of April Slovenia wished to get an answer when it would be invited to join the NATO as a full-fledged member. Media devoted special attention to CAE '98 drill for other reasons as well - Slovenia considers the opportunity to be in company of NATO as a chance to finally show that it is "something else", something that can separate it from the troublesome Balkan which is the target of the North Atlantic alliance.
That is why all resistance to the military drill and to membership of Slovenia in NATO was pushed to the margins. Everything can be brought down to several anti-NATO posters ("We do not want American terrorist organization!", "NATO fuck off"), the authors of which are the young of the leftist United List. That this is a new orientation of the whole society was confirmed by the president of Slovenia Milan Kucan who on the occasion of the recent holiday of territorial defence declared that "Slovenians are a military nation". Slovenian flattering the North Atlantic alliance is sometimes grotesque. This is best illustrated by the recent event in the United Nations, where Slovenia was one of the initiators of the Resolution on the World without Nuclear Weapons. The first committee of the UN General Assembly which deals with disarmament and safety issues, adopted the mentioned resolution which was rejected by all nuclear powers except China; severe opponents of the document were diplomacies of the USA, Britain and a few other countries. The reason for Slovenia's renunciation of its own initiative was a sign which arrived from Clinton's administration whose first criticism was suffered by prime minister Janez Drnovsek during his recent visit to the USA. There were those who were sorry when the resolution was abandoned, so it was heard from the Slovenian Ministry of foreign affairs that there was nothing in it that would be directed "against NATO". This did not prevent certain members of the NATO to exert pressure on Ljubljana to give up on its own idea; their main argument was Slovenia's request to join NATO, and it finally took the bait.
On top of everything, in honour of the NATO military drill, the procedure for removal of the minister of defence was temporarily suspended; thanks to it, Alojz Krapez remained at the post for a while longer although prime minister Janez Drnovsek had demanded his resignation a few weeks ago because of the scandal caused by Krapez's illegal moving into a military apartment. NATO drill unexpectedly prolonged Krapez's ministerial mandate since Drnovsek estimated that it was not wise to introduce personnel changes while NATO was in Slovenia. This unexpected grace did not satisfy Krapez; discontented because Drovsek had no time to recieve him and talk with the departing minister about his possible new job and other "personal problems", towards the end of the drill Krapez "withdrew" his resignation and caused a collapes of the procedure which was resolved only after a few of his humble demands were met... Disgrace was not avoided because it was observed that the minister of defence was not present at the end of the NATO drill in Slovenia which was commented on by the media as a big "disgrace for the state".
In the end, a piece of good news - the war between fictitious Balkan states, "Farmalandia" and "Fatlandia", is definitely finished. There can be do doubt that creators of similar happenings, regardless of whether they are coming from the former Yugoslav space (let us remember the drill "Bedem 91" which was a simulation of a NATO attack on former SFRY) or the Western alliance, are unforgivably slow in their "war games". Indeed, ever since 1993 when in Hochenfeld miliary base NATO fought the battle against invented enemies: "In Hochenfled military base, state called Danubia was invented which incredibly resembled former Yugoslavia. The state consisted of three republics: Juraland, Sovenia and Visokia. Sovenia and Visokia seceded from the old union in 1992. Now American soldiers are training how they would intervene in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Real actions of the infantry, the air force and tank units are simulated", Turkish journal Turkye described the NATO drill at the time. For understandable reasons this scenario was not applicable in 1998 on the territory of the already independent "Sovenia".