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    Copyright: All those wishing to use or publish the following text are welcome to do so, provided that they indicate the source and inform the AIM office in Paris which is interested to receive comments and reactions on the information it provides. AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SUN, 21 JAN 2001 23:21:30 GMT

    Balkan Syndrome

    Panic or Politics?

    If the ammunition "enriched" by depleted uranium was intended for ill-famed Serbs, how come it was not used more sparingly when the allies were concerned - the Bosniacs, the Croats and the Albanians for the sake of whose benefit and prosperity this ammunition had allegedly been used in the first place?

    AIM Ljubljana, January 14, 2001

    In the past few weeks, the world media have paid much attention to the news on cases of leukaemia among the NATO soldiers who participated in "peace operations" in Bosnia & Herzegovina and later in Kosovo. NATO officials have a very difficult time explaining to their own and the world public why they used depleted uranium ammunition against Serbian tanks and fortifications "in order to achieve the victory of armed peace". More liberal politicians, especially those in the opposition, both in NATO states and in other democratic countries, are exposing the militarism of the leading politicians and generals of the USA; advocates of civic society in Western democracies has raised their voices again protesting against war and use of arms in order to achieve peace in other countries.

    The general conclusion is that nuclear experts and physicians are not unanimous in the estimates of the harmful effects of depleted uranium - some minimise the threat, other exaggerate it. The voices of the ailing soldiers and their distressed families can hardly be heard, only as a daily sensation. The generals are silent. There are no vehement declarations and victorious smiles of Wesley Clark who issued the order for the use of depleted uranium ammunition in the Balkans. Mister Solana is also silent, letting Romano Prodi do the explaining, while Robertson is trying to save what still can be saved. It would be interesting to see again the boyish innocent face of the NATO spokesman Jamie Shea and listen how he would explain the side-effects of the bombing of the year before last - perhaps as an inevitable evil of every war in which the soldiers are professionals aware of the danger they are exposed to?

    It is obvious that political motives and goals lie hidden behind the media and the political campaign launched about the "Balkan syndrome". The world of politics has welcomed the scandal occasioned by the consequences of this dangerous weapon in order to square accounts with the policy which in the last decade of the past millenium paved the road for the world politics, drew borders, created obedient and submissive mini-states, causing heavy losses among civilians, having economically and culturally thrown back many nations although they had already started following in the steps of the highly developed part of the civilisation. Regardless of how hard USA President Bill Clinton tried to deny the accusations of civic society on his state being the "world policeman", that is exactly what it was. Whenever "interests of the USA were threatened" somewhere in the world, under the pretext of peace making and removal of non-democratic regimes, Washington managed to draw its allies into armed operations. This was also evident in "resolution of the crisis on the territory of former Yugoslavia". All the efforts of Europe to solve the problem on its own failed one after the other. It turned out that only American diplomats were successful - for example, Holbrooke was the one who achieved the Dayton Peace Accords. And how resolute the USA were to make peace by arms is also testified by the negotiations in Rambouillet, but as an example of an unacceptable ultimatum with the most deathly arms lying in ambush.

    The described policy was not to the liking of many allies of the USA from Europe. For the sake of unity of the western Alliance they unwillingly accepted such practice, and the officials from Washington skillfully used national interests of some of the European allies. Germany was enabled to have Bundesver secede from Germany without amendments of the constitution. Reception of Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary in the NATO was a significant concession to Germany and France, because in this way the border towards a potential enemy was moved for more than 2000 km which enabled the governments in Paris and Bonn to reduce their armed forces and re-allocate their budgets. During the latest wars in the Balkans Italy expressed considerable reserve towards its partners in the NATO and even operated as some kind of opposition within the Alliance and it openly disagreed with the policy of the Organisation, which was especially visible at the time of bombing of the FRY when it threatened that it would refuse to render services to the allies’, but primarily to American and British combat airplanes at Italian military airports... Finally, the NATO armed campaigns against the Serbs in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia and partly in Montenegro where only military targets were bombed - have not yielded expected results. And after disappearance from the political scene of the politicians who were the main protagonists in the past wars on the territory of former Yugoslavia, the other side of the coin - of the so-called democratic regimes of the West - has started to show; nowadays the voters and tax-payers in the West are discovering that they were deceived thanks to the merciless media propaganda by their own politicians who in the past thought that the Serbs were the only culprits for the bloodshed in the Balkans.

    After the fall of Milosevic's regime, humanitarian aid was delivered to the Serbs, but it quickly became clear that the Serb refugees from Croatia, B&H and Kosovo have received much less than the Croat, Bosniac and Albanian refugees. There is The Hague Tribunal which for the sake of "purification from the original sin" on the one hand exerts pressure on Croatia and demands responsibility not only from generals and direct perpetrators of crimes, but also of the ruling team there, while on the other hand, foreign minister in Clinton's administration (Mrs. Albright) allows the possibility of trying Milosevic in Serbia. There is also a hint of the possibility that Biljana Plavsic will be allowed to defend herself from freedom. Comparatively favourable diplomatic treatment of the new authorities in Belgrade by European allies of NATO, caravans of Western politicians and entrepreneurs on their way towards Belgrade, but also the hardly noticeable (although powerful) pressure on the other states created on the territory of former Yugoslavia to make contact with Kostunica's administration, establish relations and continue negotiations on succession - all that speaks in itself of the awareness of the European Union that it had let itself be easily drawn into the war in the Balkans, that these wars inflicted damage not only to the population of former Yugoslavia, but also to whole of Europe (war engagement, accommodation of refugees, interruption of economic communications, traffic, loss of political credibility due to the support offered to quasi-democratic regimes...).

    The democratic public personified in the advocates of civic society, and progressive and liberal politicians are increasingly pressuring their governments to turn to the Union and to have Europe shape the destiny of its citizens on its own. The “Balkan syndrome” is a welcome argument for this group, in its opposing the American domination, to mobilise the inert masses of voters and urge the ruling teams in the countries of the EU to draw diplomatic and political moves in the direction of a self-reliant Europe. At this moment in power in almost all the Western-European countries are the politicians who have sprung from social democracy, labour movement, protection of the environment or liberalism. Therefore the pressure exerted by the public suits them, because in this way they are offered arguments against the policy of “preservation peace by the use of arms”, retaliation and stirring up wars in small states. The media and the political campaign in Italy against the use of ammunition with depleted uranium should be observed in this context. The reason for that is not just the biggest number of the dead and ill soldiers, but also the political and economic interest of Italy to ensure a deeply-rooted and firm position for itself in the Balkans which is its zone of interest.

    The change of the administration in the USA also works in favour of European catharsis. By the nature of their foreign policy, the Republicans aim at shutting themselves within the American continent which they believe contributes to protection of their vital interests. The future President Bush has already announced that in his era the primary interest of the USA will be the Middle and the Far East. This means that Europe will be left to its own resources. The future Bush’s foreign minister general Powel was remembered for his sharp criticism of the NATO campaign in B&H and Kosovo. Even if he somewhat mitigates his stands, there is no doubt that for the purpose of protection of American interests and policy he will make an effort to lead the USA as painlessly as possible away from the past military and political episode. It is almost certain that the USA will reduce their presence in SFOR and KFOR and that the presence of American soldiers outside the barracks where they are stationed will be reduced to a symbolic measure. Marked as the main culprit for the “Balkan syndrome”, America will have to “repent” and withdraw a part of its soldiers, apparently reducing the political influence on peace forces and their operation. By shifting the burden of peace maintenance in B&H and Kosovo on its European allies it will disburden its budget and force European states to loosen the purse strings. It will also leave the disliked local politicians to Europe – to reconcile them and restrain them in their political and nationalistic aspirations.

    Nevertheless, the USA will be present in the Balkans through their allies in the NATO – Italy, Greece and Turkey; in this way they will maintain control of the region and restrain their colleagues in the European Union in expansion in the Balkans. It will, therefore, be the same old story once again – like so many times before, the misfortune of ordinary people will be used for political purposes; soldiers suffering from leukaemia will, it seems, be the sacrifice needed to purge Europe after the prolonged agony of the Balkan bloodshed... It causes concern that the “democratic West” is silent about the data on the possible victims of the “Balkan syndrome” among the civilian population. How many Bosnians or inhabitants of Kosovo will be victims of leukaemia? How big is the risk for the people living there or the people returning to their homes which are in the vicinity of the targets hit by depleted uranium ammunition? Finally – if this ammunition was intended for the ill-famed Serbs, how come it was not used more sparingly when their allies were concerned – the Bosniacs, the Croats and the Albanians for the sake of whose benefit and prosperity this ammunition was allegedly used?

    Milan Gorjanc

    (AIM Ljubljana)