Serb against Serb

August 06, 1994

Power, not peace, is the objective of Slobodan Milosevic as his dream of a "Greater Serbia" blows up. His every move is designed to preserve his supremacy in Belgrade even though his policies have wrecked the economy of the rump Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) and unleashed vicious ethnic wars in Bosnia and Croatia. For the international community, however, peace -- not power -- must be the goal. If that requires cynical exploitation of the loathsome Mr. Milosevic, so be it.

The fact is that, in the parlance of espionage, Mr. Milosevic has been "turned." Not by good will. Not by persuasive argument. Rather, the Serbian president has been "turned" against his allies in Bosnia by United Nations sanctions and by the pressure of a Russian government grown immune to pan-Slavic appeals.

With the plight of his countrymen undermining his position, Mr. Milosevic this week broke his ties and any semblance of civility with a Bosnian Serb leadership that is now his enemy. No weapons of war would cross over the Drina River to the Bosnian rebel command, he vowed, after it had defied his demand for acceptance of a partition plan drawn up by the western powers and Russia.

No matter how vituperative are the insults now flying between Belgrade and the Bosnian Serb headquarters at Pale, hatred is a relative commodity in the Balkans. Much as they now ostensibly abhor one another, the Serbian factions hate Muslims and Croatians more. Mr. Milosevic promised once before, in May 1993, that he would stop supplying a civil war that has taken 200,00 lives. It was all a cruel charade. The world has every right to be skeptical, to insist on actions not words.

But because the struggle for power between Mr. Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is real enough, with the stakes nothing less than supremacy of all the Serbs, the Bosnian Serbs are cornered as never before. Isolated from all the world, they are heating up hostilities around Sarajevo, even sneaking off in dead of night with heavy weapons that were put under United Nations control last February. American, Dutch and French aircraft have responded with air strikes -- air strikes more prudent and justified now that Moscow's position has stiffened against the Serb cause.

These dramatic developments call for follow-up steps: stationing U.N. observers on the Bosnian border to make sure no weapons flow to the rebels; continued enforcement of economic sanctions against the Milosevic regime; refusal to change the partition map one iota or to accept the phony referendum Dr. Karadzic is using to play for time.

This newspaper continues to oppose either multilateral or, worse, unilateral American action to lift an international arms embargo so that weapons could be channeled to the Bosnian Muslims. This would only intensify the war. The answer now is to reduce the level of conflict by applying unrelenting pressure against all the various Serbian elements in this Balkan tragedy until they accept peace.

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