SAT, 26 DEC 1998 20:38:46 GMT
AIM Zagreb, 15 December, 1998
"Had SFOR raided Martin Brod with its armoured vehicles, I was ready to send not only police there, but resistance would have been offered by the army as well". This unbelievable statement which reveals that Croatia was on the verge of a war with international peace forces was given by Franjo Tudjman at the opening of the war school Ban Josip Jelacic, the highest military education institution in Croatia. This statement shows that the relations of Zagreb with the international community and its peace forces in B&H have reached the low point to which only Radovan Karadzic had descended when he kidnapped UN "blue helmets" and tied them to television posts and radar transmitters.
What was the immediate cause of this sharp, not to say snarling Tudjman's reaction? Twice already in the past period, he has given vent to his anger with the international community, accusing it of pressure which it had started exerting last year and which reached a climax on the eve of Bosnian parliamentary elections. The aim of the pressure was not just anything but "to destable the HDZ, the party responsible for creation of Croatia", which means that to say the least, it wishes to overthrow him, Tudjman, from power, and then probably renew some kind of Yugoslavia, because only in that way it could correct what his party is "responsible" for.
Indeed, to students of the newly opened military school - and they are all generals who have acquired their ranks in war and postwar promotions, without any formal military education - Tudjman said that the pressure from abroad was diminishing. With its allegedly principled policy, Croatia supposedly forced the world to give up on its scheming goals, so that "they have officially informed us that the USA and Europe are counting on stable Croatia such as it is". But Tudjman would not have been Tudjman if he had not introduced a new dramatic turn into this childish discourse, assertions which are impossible to check, and probably it is not even worth trying because as usual they are mere hysterical fantasy.
Like for instance, it is true that the international community cannot do anything in B&H without Croatia, but nevertheless, the world "did not give up on its policy, but now they want to achieve it with subtle and long-lasting methods". In this context, he uttered a series of new panic-stricken fabricatons, such as the allegation that no country in the world was covered by such a "dense network of intelligence services like Croatia" (which, indeed, could be true if he meant the services he himself had founded). So that, "all these representatives of Europe and America, all kinds of humanitarian, newspaper and non-governmental organizations, all that is in the service of preparation and creation of some new Croatia".
However, the fact in this hundred times repeated idle talk which might contain even more truth than he would publicly like to admit, is Tudjman's statement that names of "five or six" generals of the Croatian army were in unpublished indictments of the Hague Tribunal, along with an unspecified number of "people who are not in the army". The fuming head of the state could not resist saying what the mentioned were accused of, although of course just vaguely, having listed that these were operations in which "we were liberating our country of the aggressors, of the criminals" - "Flash", "Storm", Gospic. It is, therefore, easy to conclude that the Hague indictments most probably refer to crimes against civilian populatrion at the time of the great exodus of the Serb population in 1995 but also at the time of the war in Croatia in 1991.
In this context, Tudjman obviously made a slip of the tongue when he mentioned Gospic, because no military operation known under that name to the public has ever taken place, nor was there a military operation in Gospic which would stand out as especially significant for the outcome of the war in Croatia. But it is well known that perhaps the biggest places of execution have been revealed there and mass graves of Serb civilians, which, with great deal of foundation but so far by just the independent Croatian press, certain Croatian generals (Norac) are accused of, but also a certain number of civilians (primarily Tihomir Oreskovic, until recently head in Perusic municipality).
Tudjman is, therefore, retelling something that - contrary to his custom - is firmly founded in developments of the past few years, and immediately reveals what he intends to do should the Hague indictments of generals and other persons be officially handed to Croatia. He will obviously at some sensitive point in the relations with neighbours and the international community increase tensions until they are about to break. And then, in hysterical noise, he will gather the Croats closely around himself, thanks to the assessment which he is truly an expert in that small totalitarian empires have no stronger and more efficient shield against foreign pressure than their own people.
It is especially interesting that Tudjman declared some kind of neutrality concerning the latest pressure on Slobodan Milosevic who is also having increased worries because of the Hague Tribunal lately. Croatia should not interfere in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia, he said unconvincingly (but which was not in the least less frightening) explaining that it had finally resolved the Serb issue, and there was no need to "strain relations with the opponent we defeated". It is in fact quite probable that Tudjman is discreetly supporting Milosevic's refusal to extradite Sljivancanin, Mrksic and Radic, because this provides him with the pretext to refuse cooperation with the Hague Tribual too. This kind of connected retreat in respect to the international tribunal is applied from the very beginning, and it should not at all cause surprise if Belgrade and Zagreb were in fact coordinating their moves about it.
Moreover, when their latest vexations with the Hague Tribunal are put in the context of the incident in Martin Brod, it strikes one that Croatia has open questions with Yugoslavia concerning borders, but they are now left alone, but those with B&H are stirred up to red heat, as for months and years they were before with Slovenia. Indeed, when one knows the frame of mind of Milosevic and Tudjman, one would not be surprised even if these two planned to create a case at the Yugoslav-Croatian border in order to blackmail international mediators together, and the most appropriate for that would be synchronized action on both sides of the tightrope - Prevlaka.
Prevlaka is convenient for such speculations because of a parallel that can be drawn after the incident in Martin Brod. Clinton's envoy for implementation of the Dayton accords, Robert Gelbard, declared that Martin Brod was for B&H what Prevlaka was for Croatia, that is, Bosnian territory the possible controversial aspects of which should be resolved only by negotiations, and not by force or threat with force. Gelbard revealed that the recent incident in Martin Brod was not the first, because a similar happened three months ago, when Croatian police took an IPTF patrol into custody. At the same time a letter was published addressed by Carlos Westendorp by diplomatic mail to Tudjman in which he convinced him that the international community was ready to protect sovereignty and return of refugees in Martin Brod even with SFOR.
By escalating tension in this bordering town, Tudjman made such a hazardous move that it became clear that much higher stakes were in question than just Martin Brod, the place which even major Croatian patriots had to look for in the map when it was made public that an incident had almost occurred there.