bosnia report
New Series No. 3 March - May 1998
Montenegro After the Coup Attempt
by Stanko Cerovic

Things being the way they are in the Serbian-Montenegrin Federation, something evil or wrong is always bound to occur. Such is the kind of state it is, this remnant of Yugoslavia for whose existence no one has yet found a real reason. Its reality has been in constant collision with the name of the former state, which did have considerable reasons to exist and was nevertheless destroyed. Such is the nature of the regime in Serbia, whose only policy is to conceal the responsibility for its crimes and mistakes. It is panic-stricken at every demonstration of common sense in the public life of Serbia or Montenegro. Such a leader is Slobodan Milosevic, who has no equal in Europe, at this century's end, in the art of destroying, undermining and inflicting misery upon his own and other peoples. Such is the psychological condition of the nation, through which wander lost groups of people stunned by the disintegration of the state and by an unacknowledged defeat in war that they never dream of acknowledging.

In such a state, which can scarcely be called a state, misery follows in the footsteps of misery without any prospect of improvement until the regime in Serbia is changed. The one positive event has been the failed coup attempt by Milosevic's supporters in Podgorica: the price of the coup's failure has not been as high as what we have been used to paying under this regime. What is happening in Montenegro is something that is in any case inevitable: the process of confronting mistakes is being completed, a tyrannical regime is being replaced, new forms of governance are being sought after the destruction of Yugoslavia.

The first lesson of the failed coup is, so to speak, technical: Milosevic can be resisted only by force. Nobody finding himself in Milosevic's orbit has saved his skin for free. Milosevic will go on destroying wherever he feels softness and weakness, until he encounters resistance. He will stop only when he senses that his adversary will go further than him.

Mile Dukanovic's greatest advantage has been to have understood this. That is why he has survived - and certainly helped many others to survive. This is important for Montenegro, but important also in the process of changing the regime in Serbia. The Dukanovic-Vujanovic partnership is tough with the Serbian regime, and superior to it in every way. The Belgrade regime is indeed beginning to look ridiculous in relation to Podgorica. However, Milosevic will be forever tempted to use force to subdue Montenegro, or banish it from the Federation as soon as possible, simply because it will unmask - at home and abroad - the monstrosity of the Serbian leadÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ er's politics. But if Montenegro is saved, this will give encouragement to Serbia.

Role of multinational Bosnia
The failed coup has not by itself destroyed this little Yugoslavia. The Montenegrin authorities reacted well, the Americans were sharp with Milosevic, the Army no longer trusts his orders to defend the frontiers of a state that he, its master, destroys in person - and then shifts the blame onto the Army for his own ineptitude and crimes. But the coup attempt did demonstrate one unavoidable truth about this state: that it is an illusion sustained by the inertia of the former Yugoslavia. The destruction of the former Yugoslavia is being completed, despite the wishes of many, because there is no longer any real reason to prevent it. Yugoslavia was a Serbo-Croat state founded upon the national intermingling in Bosnia. When such strong and profound links were broken, at the price of horrendous crimes, what could be the basis for such an insignificant federation as this to survive? Not a single nationalist in Serbia has ever seriously considered keeping the name Yugoslavia for the Serbian state, for whose sake the former federation was indeed destroyed. Is it possible to imagine Serbia once again reconciling itself to federal institutions and Yugoslav symbols, just for the sake of Montenegro's rocks and half a million Montenegrins, just for the sake of the port of Bar and a few dozen kilometres of sea coast? There is all of that and better in Greece. But it is equally unrealistic to expect the Montenegrins to disappear, to sacrifice themselves for no reason, especially if they are being subjected to a nationalist politics.

There are two logics at work in the Serbian-Montenegrin Federation, which need not be opposed to one another as the Serb and Croat nationalisms were, although they have no binding common interest in being in one state. A common state is simply not necessary. The only reasons for its existence might be the closeness of Serbs and Montenegrins, and the presence of a great many of the latter in Belgrade. But that closeness could be better preserved without the conflict of interests provoked by this unnatural - and in Serbia unaccepted - federation. For the Montenegrins, equality in the federation is all-important, because a federation that does not respect equality is no a federation but a prison. But Serbia, which is so all-powerful in that federation, has almost no interest in sharing its sovereignty with Montenegro.

The reality of the Serbian-Montenegrin Federation has become visible simply because Dukanovic has insisted upon common sense and real politics. From behind the slogans and nationalist dreams, this reality is emerging. Confronted by it, the Serbian authorities - confident of their rights - are seeking to liquidate their federal partner by force. The reality is being unveiled, but the foundations of this state are nowhere to be seen.

There is another important reason why the process of the federation's decomposi- tion is accelerating: the existence of this irrational state prevents Serbia from confronting its own problems, thus prolonging the life of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, for whom blabbering about the Yugoslavia he has destroyed has remained the most important propaganda tool for keeping Serbia in submis- sion. Serbia will confront Milosevic when it has to confront itself. The sooner the better, since Milosevic may finish Serbia itself off in order to avoid such a confrontation.

It would be better to draw geographical, political and economic lines between Serbia and Montenegro, and then open up possibilities for collaboration and communication between them, than to sustain a federation without prospects in which Milosevic can always commit crimes.

Because the settling of accounts between Serbia and Montenegro is only the final stage of an already finished process of destruction of Yugoslavia, it does not depend on political parties or social forces, and nationalism does not play an impÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ ortant role. The pragmatic approach adopted by Dukanovic is useful in these circumstances, because it avoids extremes; at the same time it is effective because it allows what is real to be revealed and followed. The present government is more Montenegrin than all others to date, simply because it is pragmatic and realistic. If it manages to continue in the same measured but nonetheless firm vein, despite the poverty of material and human resources at its disposal, its politics will disclose a real country with which many people will be able to identify.

Stanko Cerovic is a Montenegrin writer living in Paris, where he works for French radio. This text is translated from a longer article in Monitor (Podgorica), 30 January 1998


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