Sir Roger Braithwaite:
"I am ashamed of the British politics towardCroatia and BiH"
Sir Roger Braithwaite Vjesnik interview
translation by Hilda M. Foley
March 19, 2005
Vjesnik, March 16, 2005
Antun Kresimir Buterin
On the Eve of March 17: Sir Roger Braithwaite, foreign policy advisor of former British Prime Minister Major: "I am ashamed of the British politics toward Croatia and BiH
If Europe would have had wiser leaders in the beginning of the 1990's we certainly would have acted better at the beginning of the war in former Yugoslavia.
Sir Roger Braithwaite is a respected British diplomat with a rich experience. During the Cold War he served in Warsaw, Jakarta, Rome, Bruxelles and Washington. From 1988 to 1992 he served as Ambassador in the USSR, afterwards the Russian Federation, and after his return to London became the foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister John Major as well as becoming president of the joint intelligence council, having served previously in the military intelligence. In the Vjesnik interview, Braithwaite critically assessed the stand taken at that time by Great Britain and the world regarding Serbian aggression in the nineties.
Croatians, and they are not the only ones', view very critically Britain's role in the war in former Yugoslavia. How did you experience Yugoslavia's bloody collapse?
- It was a painful time for all of us. We all comprehended the horror which was occurring, but no one knew what to do about it. We tried to come up with a thoughtful answer, but it did not exist. At that time, a number of problems emerged in the world: the collapse of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War ... we were all tired, so that the problem of Yugoslavia just crept in somehow. Since we did not believe in getting the support of the British population for a larger military intervention, we sent units to deliver humanitarian aid to at least help some people to survive.
But what about the embargo on arms which was of direct help to the Serbs? Whom did you want to help with this?
- Look, there was a general opinion -( I know what you will say to that) - that the Serbs were not the only ones guilty of the war. I am aware that we are reproached for this, but the British did not at that time support the Serbs. If nothing else, this at least did not exist in the narrow circle of people around Prime Minister Major. We reasoned, if there were more arms in the area, there will be more innocent victims. That is why we installed the embargo. It was not an easy decision and I understand the Croatians' view that it was not a fair one, but our motive was good and honest. Perhaps the British were wrong for lacking understanding of the situation, but we were not pro-Serb oriented.
Many in Croatia still have the same impression even today.
- I know, but believe me, I was there and never heard such a thing. We were almost convinced that the Serbs were the most responsible for the war, to be precise Milosevic, but we also believed that the politics of the Croatians were bad. We did not believe your president Tudjman, we knew about the plans to divide Bosnia, and Izetbegovic also lied to us. The general consideration was therefore that they all lied, that they are all more or less guilty and that the real victims are the ordinary people, Croatians, Serbs and Muslims. In the end, during Oluja Serbs were expelled in the greatest numbers. But, this was Milosevic's fault, I cannot deny it, but the fact is that they all experienced tragedy. We wanted with our policy to limit such a tragedy happening to ordinary people.
But it seems you are forgetting again that the war was conducted exclusively on the territory of Croatia and Bosnia and that is the base of everything, the beginning and the end of the story.
- Yes, you are right, I agree with you. I repeat, today I am not at all proud of our policy, it was shameful and inefficient. I am convinced - that if the Europeans, or at least the British and the French, had acted in 1991 or 1992, we would have with quick intervention stopped the war in the very beginning. If there would only have been enough political will and an adequate yet not too large a military force. If Europe had at that time stronger politicians, wiser leaders, things would certainly have been better, and we would have carried it out better. Instead, the war finally ended in 1995.
Yes, and this thanks to the Croatian action "Oluja".
- There were more facts that led to the ending of the war. First, the Bosnian Serbs got tired and out of breath, and the Croats and Bosniaks succeeded to arm themselves after all. The pivotal move of it all was Srebrenica. After that no one could sit any longer with crossed arms.
A similar situation occurred in Vukovar, but back in 1991.!
- Eh, in Vukovar... You know, I have Serbs in my family, my son is married to a Serb. In her family a young man deserted the Serb army exactly at Vukovar, because he did not approve of the attacks. I repeat, I am not proud of our politics at that time. Even though we had instruments at our disposal, it was inefficient, but not pro-Serb. Would Europe have been able to agree politically and use the instruments? I don't know, and I am now skeptical. For the sake of truth, we have not even tried, and that is shameful! Srebrenica was the cup that spilled over.
Croatia is apprehensive because of the uncertain beginning of the negotiations with the EU, during which Great Britain again with great obstinacy, practically to the point of intolerance, insists on the extradition of General Gotovina. Why Great Britain again?
- There are many factors. First, we all think that the EU is the solution for the Yugoslav problem - for the Croats, the Serbs and the Slovenes, when they finally come to their senses. Second, if we already hunt for Karadzic and Mladic, then we also have to hunt Croats and Bosniaks. Otherwise, it will and already has led to great resistance by the Serbs.
Why did you not fear resistance by the Germans in 1945?
-I we shall discuss history, the Serbs will never find peace within themselves until they forget about the Kosovo Field, until they reconcile with their history. In contrast Croatia has already done this to some extent. We have a similar experience with Ireland. As soon as Great Britain and Ireland joined the EU we were able to confer mutually. It took us 35 years, but now it is a reality. The EU gives the countries of former Yugoslavia and the Balkans in general, the chance to stop thinking of the past . And that is in the interest of Europe and all Europeans.