Shooting Down Hope in Yugoslavia

January 11, 1992

The dismemberment of Yugoslavia is becoming harder to avoid. So, despite a cease-fire in Croatia, is an escalation of the fighting. The extremists of Serbian nationalism are driving events forward.

When a Yugoslav air force plane shot down a European Community helicopter, with the deaths of five European cease-fire monitors, someone was trying to shoot down hope for peace. Particularly at issue is the proposed Yugoslavian evacuation of all Croatia in the United Nations cease-fire plan.

Serbian revanchists do not agree with that. Gen. Veljko Kadijevic, the Yugoslavian federal defense minister, did agree to it. The air force plane that destroyed the peace-keeping helicopter mocked his orders, and the 66-year-old veteran of World War II quit, citing health. His successor is Gen. Blagoje Adzic, who is more of a Serbian hard-liner. What with desertions by troops and resignations by officers of different ethnicities, the federal armed forces are more Serbian than ever.

The Serbian militia in Croatia has shot down previous cease-fires and opposed U.N. peace-keepers, putting it at odds with Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic, who has agreed to peace-keeping and who in the present strife counts as a moderate. The Serbian minority in Bosnia-Herzegovina responded to that republic's declaration of independence of Yugoslavia by declaring their own ethnic state. That sets the stage for the tragedy of Croatia to be repeated in worse fashion in Bosnia.

With European recognition of independent Slovenia and Croatia imminent, what will be left of Yugoslavia will be smaller and more Serbian. The position of non-Serbian minorities will be more tenuous (the reason for the Bosnian secession on behalf of its Muslim and Croatian populations).

Serbian grievances, like the others, are not without foundation. But Serbian militancy and Serbian revenge for crimes committed by other people's grandparents 50 years ago are digging a great hole for the lesser Yugoslavia or Greater Serbia that will survive. It will be the poorest and the most friendless of the successor states to Yugoslavia. The winners will be losers.

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