Bosnia Needs Democratic Neighbours
by Morton I. Abramowitz
The West may be approaching a turning point in Croatia and Serbia. Popular
dissatisfaction with the authoritarian leadership of Franjo Tudjman and Slobodan
Milosevic is rising. Demonstrators in Zagreb and Belgrade are protesting their
leaders' latest obscenities against democracy. The side we Americans take in the
emerging struggle between the two dictators and their own peoples could determine the fate of the Dayton agreement.
Dayton will never work if Serbia's rulers remain utterly opportunistic and corrupt, its media under rigid state control and its economy a catastrophe. Nor can
Dayton survive if virulent nationalists continue to hold sway in Croatia. An exclusive emphasis on Bosnia ignores the fact that it is Serbia and Croatia that
will largely drive events in Bosnia, that only a prosperous and democratizing
Serbia and Croatia can counteract the nationalist virus in both countries and
reduce the risk of their absorbing most of Bosnia when allied forces depart.
We and our allies have refused to face that fact. Instead we have coddled Mr
Milosevic and Mr Tudjman because they were seen as crucial to achieving the Dayton accords and carrying them out. That might have been justified if they delivered. But they haven't. They have largely lied to us since Dayton, frustrating
the return of refugees, manipulating electoral processes and harboring indicted
Mr Tudjman and Mr Milosevic have not helped peace survive; the West has helped
Mr Tudjman and Mr Milosevic survive. We have invited them to international gatherings and fawned over them, lending them domestic political cachet to bolster
their waning popularity.
We have made Croatia into something of a regional power house. Mr Tudjman wields
a lot of sticks while we force-feed him carrots. And almost weekly since Dayton, US officials have carried their red carpet to Belgrade, giving Mr Milosevic
every reason to think he holds the key to our Balkans policy. The British have
been even worse in playing up to Mr Milosevic. In Belgrade, their ambassador is
widely regarded as his handmaiden.
Meanwhile, the Germans have concentrated on courting Mr Tudjman, overlooking his
authoritarian indiscretions - like virtually eliminating the independent media
and protecting indicted war criminals, such as Dario Kordic, who lives in a Zagreb apartment - and pushing stubbornly ahead on Croatia's admission to the
Council of Europe. When it comes to European allegiances to various Balkan countries, as one unusually candid American official put it, 'we're back to the beginning of the 20th century'.
While the West remains mired in old-think, many people in Serbia and Croatia increasingly realize what we do not - that Mr Tudjman and Mr Milosevic are albatrosses, that they are ruining their countries and that political change is necessary. SerbÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌðian citizens are fed up with the pervasive corruption, mendacity and
statist policies that have led to drastic declines in living standards; they
sense they are not likely to get out of their rut if Mr Milosevic stays.
Morton Abramowitz is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace