bosnia report
No. 6 September - 1994
 
Major Gives the Game Away

During the regrettably long gap between our last issue and the present one, few more remarkable documents have been published than the interview with John Major which appeared in Der Spiegel on 25 April 1994. We print the relevant extracts below.

It is remarkable for three things: first, an absurd suggestion that if Western troops were to intervene in Bosnia they would have to fight against the Bosnian Army as well as against rebel Serbs; secondly, an utterly ludicrous statement about the numbers of troops needed to intervene in Bosnia (a statement which, from our own supporters who have visited Brussels and spoken to the highest-ranking NATO officials there, we know to be false); and thirdly the matter-of-fact remark that Bosnia's borders will have to be redrawn, which is in open violation of the solemn undertaking given by John Major himself at the Edinburgh summit on 12 December 1992, when he said: "The international community will not accept the acquisition of territory by force. Nor will it accept the partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina".

Spiegel: There's not much sign of joint action by the West Europeans on the Balkans. Why has the EU failed in Bosnia?

Major: I think the Community has acted jointly, but this happens under the aegis of the UN.

Spiegel: Sometimes - say, in the argument over recognizing Slovenia and Croatia - one got the impression that Western Europe had fallen back into the old stereotypes of mutual mistrust which applied at the beginning of this century.

Major: At the beginning of the sickening civil war in Bosnia there were only three options: to get out completely and simply let the combatants get on with it unhindered. The second option would have meant the Western democracies stopping the war in the former Yugoslavia...

Spiegel: ... and intervening with combat troops ...

Major: If we had wanted to do that, what would have been necessary then? No war has ever yet been won exclusively by air power.

In Iraq too it was the ground troops that finally decided the conflict. Down there in the Balkans we have to deal with 200,000 armed Serbs, Croats and Bosnians, fighting in hilly terrain. How many NATO units would we have had to put in to end the fighting? The answer the military gave was: 400,000 soldiers or even more.

Spiegel: Today, perhaps. But not nearly so many, if the West had acted two years ago.

Major: No, no. The estimate was valid for the beginning of the civil war. 400,000 soldiers. Where were they meant to come from?

Spiegel: Certainly not from Germany.

Major: Not from Germany. I know what the reason is for that. But not from other countries either. The truth is that we couldn't put in 400,000 soldiers. We, the British, have sent troops to help with humanitarian aid. And that was the third option: to work towards a negotiated settlement, and in the meantime do whatever is humanly possible to strengthen humanitarian aid.

Spiegel: And what is the result of this policy in Bosnia today? The Serbs were able to achieve their territorial aims, and a peace agreement which confirmed these conquests would also ratify ethnic cleansing.

Major: Are you asking me a question now, or do you want to have a debate with me?

Spiegel: Both. Major: We don't yet know hoÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÄw it will turn out. It is clear that the borders have to be redrawn [Klar ist, dass die Grenzen neu gezogen werden muessen]. We should get down to discussing that now. And if you argue that we should have put in combat troops, I should like to know where they were meant to have come from. Spiegel: So you won't intervene either, if the Serb aggressors extend their ethnic conflicts into Kosova and Macedonia? Major: If it gets that far, we'll concern ourselves with the problem.

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