THU, 13 APR 2000 23:20:52 GMT
Bad opinion of the state of the Slovenian Army voiced by high American officers is still the subject of numerous discussions. Milan Gorjanc, a retired colonel of the Slovenian Army and lecturer of strategy and tactics for many years, as well as director of the Slovenian Centre of Military Schools, gave to AIM his comments on the situation of the Slovenian Army.
AIM Ljubljana, March 26, 2000
Same as all other armies in states that have emerged on the territory of former Yugoslavia, the Slovenian Army (SV) developed from the Territorial Defence and remnants of the YPA (Yugoslav Peoples' Army). It took the organisational structure and military doctrine form the first one, and from the second some arms and, what is much more important, the badly needed knowledge. In contrast to other armies, the Slovenian Army never waged a war, although "heroes of the patriotic war" have proclaimed the four-day conflict between the police and TO, on the one, and YPA, on the other side, a ten-day war, which the cynics claim was no more than a good barroom brawl. A brawl that could have been avoided but, in that case, wouldn't have, like a chain reaction, triggered off all other armed conflicts in other parts of that state, wars with much more serious and tragic consequences for the ordinary people.
From the very beginning the Slovenian Army has been shaken by numerous affairs and scandals. However, the greatest hotbed of crisis was not the Ministry itself, but the defence system of the Army. It can be said that the mentioned Ministry was always in the focus of media attention, but also that parties have used it as a bargaining chip in their mutual settling of accounts. Be it as it may, the crisis has come to a head and the military structure is threatening to burst at the seams.
Petty politics and lack of adequate experts have forced the Slovenian General Staff to ask the American Army, i.e. a group of second-class officers to evaluate the combat readiness of the Slovenian Army. The invited officers came to Slovenia and negatively assessed its readiness. A comment of a journalist of the leading Ljubljana daily, "Delo" (Work), to this assessment was "bad, worse, disastrous".
How serious is the crisis of knowledge and self-confidence of the Slovenian Army is best seen in the fact that this analysis was commissioned from the allies despite the existence of the Slovenian (enormous) General Staff, three Corps Commands and Inspection Service which is under the command of Major General Albin Gutman, former Chief of General Staff (who doesn't have a day of military education - with the exception of Reserve Officers School in Ljubljana, which he attended in the days of former YPA, and who is a teacher by profession!).
The mentioned assessment caused a heated reactions among experts. After this, the Chief of General Staff, Major General Iztok Podbregar, pilot in the former YPA any without higher command training or troop or war experience, spent the next several months trying to convince the media that the grade given by the American instructors was preliminary and partial. And then, the same group of Americans recently came again to Slovenia and confirmed their original assessment.
This poor condition was further aggravated by external "diversions" like the one that happened late last year in Postojna when a group of deft criminals (which was the official version) entered the barracks with a truck and took over 150 guns, several automatic pistols and a large quantity of ammunition - altogether the entire war reserve of a company. The case remained unsolved, thieves have not been discovered to this very day, and the General Staff still doesn't exactly know which type and what quantity of arms and ammunition were taken. Several lower ranking officers were relieved of their command, including two officers of Albanian nationality, but with Slovenian citizenship, who were educated during the YPA times.
The reason for their demotion was found in an article which claimed that the stolen arms ended up in Kosovo; as if with all those hundreds of thousands of guns Kosovo needed hundred and fifty more. All the same, it appears that for the Slovenian politics too, the Albanians have become scapegoats for all failures and ignorance.
And then, several weeks ago, Chief of General Staff relieved of command 32 high-ranking officers (from the General Staff) demoting them to lower duties. It thus happened that he transferred the only (!) educated officer of ABHO profession (anti-biological and anti-chemical warfare) and chief of branch for many years, to the post of deputy commander of a brigade, but only on paper, while a YPA signalman and master of chemistry by profession, who didn't even attend the ABHO or some other School for Reserve Officers, is actually in command of this branch. Is it necessary to add that the basic soldiers' kit doesn't even include a gas mask? The reason for this is that the procurement of masks was politicised after a fiasco when over 800 thousand useless Russian protective masks were procured which skilful arms traders bought in a tied deal in 1991. The Army took them over and stored, "forgetting" to pay Nicholas Oman, a distinguished importer and honourable consul of Liberia, smuggler of radioactive materials and arms, a man from Interpol's APBs...
Among the demoted Slovenian officers were also four who received the highest education in the Slovenian Army - a six-month General Staff course and Military Academy - in YPA. It thus happened that a lieutenant colonel, a special brigade operative with Military Academy degree and completed General Staff course, ended up as deputy commander of a battalion which is going to be disbanded these days. On the other hand, Chief of General Staff is attending that same course, part time, only now.
Also interesting is a piece of news carried recently by the local media - in less than three years Chief of General Staff has managed to win his master's as well as his doctor's degrees from the Faculty of Organisational Sciences in Kranj, which is known to the Slovenian public as the "Kranj Sorbonne" and in professional and scientific circles enjoys the reputation similar to that of one-time higher party schools, provided for local apparatchiks and party secretaries who lacked formal education. The mentioned faculty aspires to become the military academy of the Slovenian Army. Podbregar defended both his theses on subjects from the so called modern military personnel management, i.e. peace-time operations, on which, incidentally, doctors members of the commission are "supreme theoreticians". By the way, Podbregar has not published a single professional or any other paper.
However, this is nothing compared to the affair that is presently shaking the Slovenian public and which is closely connected with the army and defence; a scandal with the re-sale and smuggling of arms for the Croatian and Bosnian armies in the 1991-1994 period has resurfaced. All that happened during Janez Jansa's ministerial term, when enormous quantities of arms and ammunition of the former YPA were sold for a good sum of money to Croats and Moslems. The problem is that those transactions were carried out without any accompanying documentation on quantities and prices, so that there is no trace of what happened to the money that was charged for that.
The mentioned smuggling operation is being investigated by a competent parliamentary commission, presided over by a professor of mathematics from Maribor, also delegate of Drnovsek's party (LDS) to the Slovenian Parliament. Until now it has finally managed to force Jansa to admit that arms were sold for cash. On the basis of a book written by Halilovic, Chief of General Staff of the Moslem Army of B&H, we can only guess what amounts changed hands. In his book he reprimanded Hasan Cengic for selling arms which he bought for DEM 250-300 a piece, to non-combatants, for as much as DEM 1,100-1,500.
It was proven that Cengic came several times to see Jansa and other political potentates in Slovenia (1992-1993), which he personally testified to before parliamentary commission investigating arms smuggling. In the meantime, the Defence Ministry persistently refused to hand over the documentation demanded by the parliamentary commission so that its President threatened the Minister with criminal charges; but, the surprise came from Croatia - wishing to unmask the smuggling and war-profiteering activities of Tudjman's Cabinet, the new authorities sent the entire available documentation on deals that included Slovenia.
And, while the public and the media spend time guessing what will be Jansa's and the Ministry's next move, the Slovenian Army is having hard times with staff. In contrast to armies of states that have emerged after the disintegration of SFRY, the Slovenian Army did not take advantage of the modest personnel potentials of the former YPA. Many Slovenians officers of the YPA who did not defect to TO on July 18, 1991, later did not get jobs in the SV despite their professional potentials and now work as guards, vegetable salesmen or inn keepers, and some are even successful private entrepreneurs.
Almost all YPA officers who were born in other parts of our former homeland and had families in Slovenia, which was why they transferred to TO on time, in 1991, were mercilessly expelled from the Slovenian Army in spring 1993; most of them went to early pensions or were forced to leave the Army and now hold some of the above mentioned jobs. A YPA lieutenant-colonel of Croatian nationality, an exceptionally capable officer, teacher of the former Chief of General Staff in the Reserve Officers School, today is a labourer.
The Slovenian Army has ethnically and ideologically purged its ranks already under Jansa. Several officers were sent to the USA to be educated there in order to cover the professional personnel shortage. Thus, an officer who was given a rank of major just before his departure, was sent to the Command-General Staff College. While in YPA he only completed the School for Reserve Officer and had neither experience, nor military or professional knowledge. After his graduation Slovenia was unable to take advantage of his knowledge because he is currently posted as a liaison officer in the Partnership for Peace Command in Mons, Belgium.
Second example: a reserve officer, mechanical engineer by profession, without any previous knowledge or experience, was sent to the famous American war school - "War College" When he graduated, he was not needed in Slovenia and ended up as a military attaché in Washington. Isn't this proof enough that the Slovenian military top brass do not hold the American knowledge in high esteem? It should also be noted here that almost 80 percent of officers still have the same rank they held in the former YPA, while in the last ten years several ignorant, inexperienced soldiers without any war credits and work have managed to reach the rank of second lieutenant and general.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the dissatisfaction within the Army is enormous. Military doctors are threatening that they would go on strike. Capable officers and clerks are leaving military service and looking for better jobs in civilian services. Only the change of government might bring radical changes.
However, as things stand now, the allies are neither interested in having a true, organised Slovenian Army. How would then they be able to walk around Slovenia, enjoying the blessings of vineyards, giving free advice to "straw officers" along the way?