Belgrade isn't fit to help
by Washington Post
The improper arrest of a US diplomat in Belgrade has dramatically demonstrated that the Yugoslav federal government and military establishment remain entirely unfit for Western support and cooperation.
The US Embassy staffer was arrested by military police as he allegedly accepted secret documents from a senior official in the Serbian government, then was illegally held incommunicado for 15 hours and physically assaulted. Western officials said some secret documents were planted on the official; but even more revealing are the reports that the information allegedly being transferred was evidence against the former Serbian ruler Slobodan Milosevic, who is now on trial before an international tribunal. The Yugoslav federal government under President Vojislav Kostunica is already guilty of an almost complete failure to cooperate with the tribunal. Now the indication is that it was ready to arrest and rough up a US diplomat who may have tried to obtain evidence that the government has withheld in violation of a United Nations resolution. The episode should greatly simplify a Bush administration decision due by the end of the month on whether to certify that Yugoslavia has met congressionally mandated conditions for receiving further US aid. Quite simply, it has not.
Not only has it not cooperated with the tribunal, it has also failed to meet other conditions requiring it to release ethnic Albanian political prisoners and stop funding the Serbian army in neighbouring Bosnia. Kostunica has willfully blocked action against the 20 indicted war criminals who live in his country, and he has continued to allow the military and police establishments created by Milosevic to operate with impunity, led by the same commanders who practised genocide in Kosovo. It was military intelligence forces who arrested the US diplomat and a former Yugoslav general. Kostunica publicly sanctioned this illegal procedure and the bogus charges behind it. Reimposing sanctions on Yugoslavia and blocking its efforts to join or obtain financing from Western institutions would be painful only because the governments of Serbia and Montenegro, the remaining components of Yugoslavia, are led by pro-Western reformists who have worked hard to lead the country out of Milosevic's decade-long nightmare of nationalist aggression. Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic of Serbia went around Kostunica to deliver Milosevic to The Hague a year ago; he has strongly criticized last Thursday's arrests and called for imposition of civilian control on the military.
But making concessions for the sake of Djindjic essentially means ratifying the agenda of Koštunica, who wants to restore Yugoslavia's international standing without repudiating Milosevic's poisonous and repugnant nationalism. That is an increasingly dangerous position. With the help of his well-placed supporters in Belgrade, Milosevic has been using his trial to broadcast his demagoguery to Serbia, where his case is covered daily on television. Serbs must understand that acceptance by Europe and the United States will be impossible unless they reject Milosevic's appeals and demand a government that will once and for all abolish his legacy.
This Washington Post editorial appeared in the International Herald Tribune, 22 March 2002