Will the U.S. economic crisis spark a war in the Balkans? Part One

A new repartitioning of borders is brewing in Europe... KP correspondent Dmitriy Stepshin headed to the Republic of Serbia to visit the country as the people prepare for independence
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Doomed "democratic" union

The Balkans waited nearly 15 years for the U.S. economic crisis. They concluded wisely that sooner or later the "champions of democracy" in the U.S. and their European pals would one day have too little time to worry about their small, artificially molded satellites. The U.S. knew about the pending financial crisis and refused to temporarily forgo their pivotal role in the Balkans without first leaving the Europeans something to remember them by — a time bomb called independent Kosovo. The bomb wasn't at all simple, as it turned out later. It had dispensing warheads that resounded loudly far and wide — even reaching the Caucasus. And after taking the Kosovo precedent into account, many of the world's unrecognized and half-recognized nations began asking the European community one very logical question: "Why is it okay for the Albanians, but not for us?" Europe hasn't yet been able to provide a persuasive answer because it simply doesn't know what to say.

The U.S., the last global empire, made a fiendish calculation. While struggling through the future economic crisis, they realized, Europe could finish its integration processes and ultimately become an international "center of strength." Instead, they decided, it would be wiser to keep Europe occupied with peacekeeping, hundreds of thousands of refugees, humanitarian aid packages and missions and investigating mass graves.

The same thing happened in the 1990s when the U.S. used the fervent Balkans to prevent Europe from becoming the continental authority after the fall of the Soviet Union. The first split was the creation of the strange, quasi-state known as Bosnia and Herzegovina. As tour guides often boldly admit in their introductions: "The state structure of the country is the most complex in the world." Bosnia and Herzegovina is composed of two completely autonomous sections — the Muslim-Croat Federation and the standalone Republic of Serbia. This mix of "bulldog and rhinoceros" was artificially established during negotiations in the American city of Dayton in November 1995. The country has a unified government in Sarajevo, which international observers closely monitor. Both parts of the country have their own police. And as 13 years of coexistence have shown, the three peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with their different religions and lifestyles, have nothing in common except for their currency, passports and hatred for one another.

Country of "war criminals"

The landscapes in the Republic of Serbia rings of European serenity. After about an hour driving alongside the rows of neat, white houses, with their brick roofs, and insulated glass cowsheds, I couldn't help but haze. It seemed as though the land had gone untouched by war since the creation of the world. But when looking closer, I began to see accurately plastered bullet holes on the blinding white walls. The window apertures were covered in pock marks, and it's clear people had been angrily shooting here for a long while.

On public buildings, I often saw posters reading: "Carrying and demonstrating weapons is prohibited." And in the capital, Banja Luka, the impressive arena of governmental buildings looks like a small-scale copy of Moscow City. Architectural attributes of authority are a common trait for states with unclear statuses. I saw the same thing in South Ossetia before the Georgian Grad missiles had been dropped. The state house in Tskhinvali was big enough to house the parliaments of half of the nations of Europe.

But I should add another important detail. Crowds of young men swarmed the streets, who were around 18 years old. These were the "children of the war," a trace of the demographic explosion that resulted when an ethnicity's defense mechanism was triggered. As a rule, men aged 30-40 wore their hair trimmed noticeably shortly. Nearly every second or third wore an M65 army jacket or military pants. My companion caught my stare.

"These are all war criminals," he said. "Each and every one of us, according to Brussels, are war criminals. But on the other hand, there were only angels then... With machine guns, of course..."

Late that night, we stood on the outskirts of Banja Luka. My companion kept talking about what I had seen earlier that day.

"You see that block over there?" he asked. "It was once built for officers of the Yugoslavian army. But today only 'war criminals' live there. How about we go over and talk to them?"

The restaurant we headed towards looked as though it had closed for a long time. But after a tentative knock at the door, a heavy curtain swung aside, and through the window we saw all hullabaloo. Everyone inside already knew the "Rusi voynik jurnalist" (ed. "Russian war journalist") who covered the events in Kosovo was coming. Our investigatory features on the "Kosovo killers," which were published in KP, had a loud resonance in Serbia and the Republic of Serbia (see. KP's March 12-14, 2008 issues, or on kp.ru). Anyone who wasn't able to read the actual articles or the Serbian translations caught the television specials on the issue.

They told me why the restaurant looked so hidden. It didn't have a license to work at night, they said, so the "war criminals" were forced to keep their cover while out on the town, as they were afraid of the police. It sounded funny. Behind the bar counter sat a police officer deep in thought, drinking coffee. Across from him was a computer connected to a cash register. The screen saver didn't look at all like the intelligent bartender standing before me. In the photo, he had no glasses, was clean-shaven and held a machine gun up to the sky.

Deyan, with whom I spoke at the bar, was pardoned by the Republic of Serbia. He was a major "war criminal." He had set fire to a car belonging to "Doctors Without Borders." For some reason, a German intelligence officer had been riding inside. It turned out around 500,000 German marks were hidden in the minibus — payment for Muslim mercenaries based in the town of Bikhach, which was protected by UN peacekeepers. Where else would such a large sum have been headed during a war across a combat zone? Deyan said with a smile that God must have wanted him to earn an honest living. When he set fire to the vehicle, he hadn't known about the money. The details only came to light many years later when the international community began investigating the deplorable incident to one's cost.

"Everyone was really sincerely happy when Russia acted on Ossetia's and Abkhazia's behalf," Deyan said. "For the first time, someone answered the Americans and their hangers-on the right way. We didn't doubt Russia... Well, we stopped doubting, more exactly."

"But what would have happened if Russia had kept silent?" I asked.

"Then you would have had the same thing there that we have here," he replied. "The international protectorate, limited sovereignty, and all the people who fought would in the war would be war criminals. They would have thought up a Srebrenitsa for the Ossetians and Abkhaz, too, and they would have been justifying actions they didn't commit for the next 10 years. And in this case it's easier for the guilty to just die."


Читать русскую версию: Кризис разбудит войну на Балканах?

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