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(E) Harvard International Review on NATO exp. by VM Raguz
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  12/23/2001 | Politics | Unrated
(E) Harvard International Review on NATO exp. by VM Raguz
Nenad: 
 
The present edition of Harvard International Review (Fall 2001) runs my piece 
on NATO expansion and the SEE states. It argues for Croatia's membership, 
BiH's neutrality aka Costa Rica, and Yugoslavia's semi-neutrality. 
 
Merry Christmas 
VMR 
 
Harvard International Review 
 
Fall 2001, Pages 26-30. 
 
 
Perspectives: Vitomir Miles Raguz 
 
Balkans in NATO: Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Yugoslavia 
 
  
 
The next round of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion is due 
in Fall 2002 at the Prague Summit of the NATO members' heads of state. Not 
surprisingly, the debate over candidates is already in full swing. However, 
almost all of the debate has focused on the so-called Vilnius Nine-Albania, 
Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and 
Slovenia-named after the Lithuanian capital where their leaders met last year 
to begin lobbying their cases. 
 
Three European states-Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and 
Yugoslavia-were not invited to Vilnius. At the time, they had not met the 
internal stability requirements to participate. Consequently, they are 
generally overlooked in the present discussions. Since then, however, all 
three have voted into office new Western-leaning governments, some for the 
first time, and thus they deserve a closer look either as candidates for NATO 
membership or as countries where NATO can play an enhanced stabilizing role. 
 
Croatia was recently included in the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, the 
antechamber for eventual NATO candidacy. This is a significant boost for the 
region's basic security. The advancement of Western security policy in the 
region should not stop there, however. Croatia should move on to the next 
stage, not only because it deserves to, but also for the benefit of regional 
security. 
 
Only two European states now remain without a formal relationship to NATO: 
BiH and Yugoslavia. BiH presents both a challenge and an opportunity to NATO. 
With more than 20,000 NATO troops in the country, the Western alliance should 
seriously consider how it can use those troops and its substantial influence 
to permanently stabilize BiH, thereby obtaining a long-desired exit for 
itself. Given the recent political developments in Belgrade, a similar 
opportunity for advancing Western interests may lie in Yugoslavia as well, 
for the first time in a decade. 
 
 
Croatia 
 
Croatia's recent inclusion in the PfP program is long overdue. Since we often 
speak of NATO membership as a reward, the delay here is curious, as perhaps 
no new state deserves this honor more than Croatia. Since the breakup of the 
Warsaw Pact, Croatia has done more to benefit Western interests than any 
other new democracy. The smooth transformation of Zagreb politics from 
one-party monolith to multi-party government was indeed a welcome harbinger 
for democratization in the region, but Croatia's positive role in the region 
predates the January 2000 elections. 
 
To begin, Croatia saved BiH. In the summer of 1995 its military operations, 
named Operation Storm, ended a carnage Europe had not seen since World War 
II-a humanitarian catastrophe for which the West could not muster an 
appropriate response. The Western capitals often unfairly take credit for 
this turnaround; in fact, the peace in BiH came only once the Croatian Army 
(HV) had established a new balance of power in the region by its summer 
operations. Everything that followed, from the first exercise of NATO air 
power to the Dayton-Paris peace agreement, was a filling-in of a diplomatic 
puzzle. 
 
"All along, the United States and its allies have been looking for a 
force-other than themselves-that could check Serbian and Bosnian Serb 
adventurism and produce a military balance on which realistic settlement 
could be built. Maybe such a force is now emerging: Croatia," wrote The 
Washington Post three days before Operation Storm commenced. At the end of 
the operation the Post added, "The Croatians argue they are not the problem 
but the solution; they claim to have created a new regional 'balance' on 
which 'proper' peace talks with the Serbs can begin. This line has been 
enthusiastically adopted by the American government, which is under pressure 
to show that the quiet political support it extended to Croatia had a 
legitimate purpose of promoting a negotiation in Bosnia." 
 
Richard Holbrooke, the main US diplomatic broker in Dayton, makes a rather 
unflattering reference to the HV in his peace negotiations diary as "junkyard 
dogs," typical to his style, but he adds that Zagreb had Washington's unsaid 
support in its endeavors in BiH out of desperation, as the only alternative 
to the risk-averse West. 
 
One military analyst at the time noted that the turnaround in Bosnia was 80 
percent the doing of the HV, 15 percent of the Bosnian Croat militia (the 
HVO), and 5 percent of the Bosnian Muslim militia (the ABiH). Interestingly, 
Britain's leading commentator, Martin Wollacott, later concluded in The 
Washington Times that the Croatian military victories in 1995 changed the 
fortunes for BiH, while the Western diplomatic initiative that followed only 
protected the Serbs. 
 
 
Controversies 
 
Croatia's positive role that year has been overshadowed by the often 
confusing and unpopular policies of its past government, led by Franjo 
Tudjman. However, the recent political changes in Zagreb allow for a 
reconsideration of Croatia's role without having to refer to its previous 
leaders' style of governing and understanding of democracy. 
 
Croatia's positive role has also been overshadowed by two recent decisions in 
the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY): Blaskic 
and Kordic, in which Croatia was found to have been involved as an aggressor 
in BiH in 1993. These decisions, however, are unlikely to stand the test of 
time, and should be reversed. The ICTY judges disregarded the case law on 
this issue, which required "command and control" of a country's forces in 
foreign territory. The decision also included a spurious argument that, while 
Croatia's own forces were neither present nor involved in fighting in central 
Bosnia, its forces stationed further south in Herzegovina-forces that were 
securing the isolated Croatian cities of Dubrovnik and Split-relieved the 
Bosnian Croat militia from fighting the Bosnian Serb militia, thus allowing 
these forces to engage the Bosnian Muslim militia in central Bosnia. 
 
In fact, the ICTY does not even have the mandate to decide on the question of 
international conflict, which is the domain of the International Court of 
Justice. The decisions in the two cases say more about ICTY than about the 
conflict in BiH. The ICTY appears to be more focused on creating new 
international criminal law, often far different from present international 
and any domestic law, rather than on dispensing justice and promoting truth 
and reconciliation in BiH. 
 
This type of convoluted but policy-driven common wisdom about Croatia is not 
new. For instance, the view that Croats joined the Axis en masse in World War 
II, while the Serbs were the sole members of the Allied Partisan movement in 
the former Yugoslavia, was promoted for five decades. The objective was to 
discredit and discourage Croat self-determination, which threatened the 
stability of the favored communist regime of Tito and its unitary Yugoslavia. 
However, a reconstructed history of World War II shows that the Croats, and 
not the Serbs, initiated and provided the top leaders and disproportionate 
number of soldiers to the anti-fascist movement. 
 
The politicized description of Croatia's role in BiH in 1993 will not endure 
as long. It should take historians much less time to deconstruct the present 
fallacy than it took them to disprove the one from World War II. In addition, 
the International Court of Justice may play a role should Zagreb seek a 
ruling there. Similarly, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in BiH-which 
is about to emerge-will bring forth new evidence removed from emotions and 
the logic of war. 
 
The truth is that Croatia was indeed involved in BiH, though not out of 
altruism or expansion. Like most states that act across borders, it was 
pursuing its own security interests. For Croatia this meant limiting the 
costly refugee outflow from BiH, and, most importantly, protecting its 
sliver-like Dalmatian coast. Zagreb's control of the coast ran on average 
less than 10 miles inland, stretching 250 miles from Dubrovnik to Zadar. 
These and other key population and economic centers were undefendable other 
than from neighboring Herzegovina. 
 
Zagreb thus supported and financed the Croat-majority entity in BiH, called 
Herceg-Bosna, as an indispensable buffer zone. At the outset this zone was 
the only form of resistance to Belgrade's gains in BiH. Many point out 
correctly that if there had been no Herceg-Bosna in 1992, there would be no 
BiH today. Zagreb allocated about 10 percent of its military budgetfor the 
needs of Herceg-Bosna. Moreover, it allowed its ports, airports, and roads to 
be used for the benefit of the ABiH. Zagreb even served as a broker, with 
the blessings of Washington, in the arming of Sarajevo by the regime in 
Tehran. 
 
No less important, Croatia minimized the migration effects on the stability 
of Europe by keeping one quarter of all BiH refugees in Croatia, while at the 
same time housing an equal number of its own displaced persons. It spent in 
excess of US$1 billion dollars for the care of refugees alone. Only Germany 
and perhaps Sweden spent more. 
 
Four years later, during the Kosovo crisis, Croatia opened its airspace to 
the NATO alliance no questions asked. It could have demanded a substantial 
consideration, given its strategic importance for overflights and the 
hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tourism and shipping revenues due to 
the air raids. One London investment bank estimated the loss at US$1.5 
billion, a sum equal to seven percent of the country's GDP. The Western 
alliance spent hefty amounts to stabilize the other countries in the region 
for hard-currency losses due to NATO intervention. However, Croatia came 
cost-free. 
 
Croatia is BiH's principal security partner. Two-thirds of BiH's border is 
with Croatia. It is the primary transit country for international forces and 
supplies to this landlocked country, and Croatia's many ports and roads along 
the Adriatic are BiH's lifelines to the outside world. Bringing NATO to its 
borders will enhance BiH's attractiveness to investors and stabilize its 
trade routes. This is true for both of BiH's entities, the Federation and 
the Republika Srpska. The latter's capital, Banja Luka, is only a two-hour 
drive from Zagreb, a substantial European trade and communication center that 
BiH still lacks. From this perspective, the long-term security of BiH and the 
region would be best served if NATO leaders took the next logical step and 
included Croatia among the next round of new members. 
 
 
Bosnia and Herzegovina 
 
While Croatia is now on the road to membership, BiH remains handicapped even 
for PfP association, primarily because it has more than one army: the Serb 
army and the Muslim-Croat army. The latter is segregated below the battalion 
level. For NATO to accept a country with multiple armies would be a precedent 
that it is not ready to accept. Recently NATO has encouraged the three sides 
in BiH to form a unified army. The Serb side is not ready to accept this 
solution, seeing it as a fundamental revision of the Dayton peace agreement. 
The recent political rebellion of the Croat community and the withdrawal of 
the Croat component from the Muslim-Croat army, only adds to the complexity 
of the BiH problem. 
 
The Croat walkout, which was prompted by election-law changes rather than 
military matters, points to the problems caused by back-door revisions of 
Dayton that are intended to centralize the state. The Western powers now 
favor such a policy in general, although it has proven to be destabilizing in 
the short term. Moreover, the history of BiH tells us that centralization 
also fails in the long term. Contrary to popular wisdom, decentralization is 
a much more viable and stabilizing policy for BiH, a position that was argued 
convincingly by BiH's former defense minister, Miroslav Prce, in the Winter 
2001 issue of the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs. 
 
Just as Croats turned away from Sarajevo because of new election laws, the 
Serbs would also just as quickly turn away from state institutions if any 
attempt to centralize the BiH armed forces materialized. The Bosnian Serb 
opposition to this model compels us to look for other solutions. 
 
 
Alternative Solutions 
 
The formation of three territorial guards with common command authority, 
combined with the demobilization of heavy weapons, may eventually become 
acceptable for all three sides. With this solution, a NATO umbrella and 
sub-regional non-aggression treaties between BiH and its two neighbors, 
Yugoslavia and Croatia, may be necessary to maintain stability. This should 
be the first phase of a substantial decrease in military spending in the 
Balkans. 
 
 
Other solutions are also on the table, including proposals to demobilize BiH 
altogether; to restructure the country's security needs along the Costa Rican 
model; or to reduce the two existing armies into two small professional 
armies. The last option is either a unified army, which is unacceptable to 
the Serbs, or two armies, which is unacceptable to NATO and the Croats. 
 
Many also point out that complete demilitarization is more likely in BiH than 
a unified army. Complete demilitarization would certainly be most beneficial 
to BiH taxpayers. They are already overburdened with post-war reconstruction 
costs, and the experience of the recent war certainly calls into question 
whether spending for arms has any purpose at all. 
 
More importantly, ordinary BiH citizens, unlike the governing elites, dismiss 
outright the thought of a unified army. They argue that if it came to war 
with either Yugoslavia and Croatia, local Serbs and Croats would abandon ship 
either to fight alongside one of the two, or sit idly by until their own 
homesteads became endangered. As pointed out in 1999 by Jacques Klein, the UN 
special envoy for BiH to the Council of Europe, too many BiH citizens still 
have a problem identifying or associating with BiH. This reality is simply 
not conducive to crafting ambitious national-defense programs. 
 
As an alternative to a unified or divided army, BiH may be able to adopt the 
example set by Costa Rica. The Costa Rica model would require complete 
demobilization, a NATO umbrella, and non-aggression agreements with 
neighbors. It would be coupled with an expanded police force, border police, 
and state disaster-relief corps. This solution has worked for Costa Rica for 
50 years, and it may offer the best prospects for BiH. 
 
NATO would be wise to consider how it can use its enormous resources and 
moral force to move BiH to follow Costa Rica's direction. It is difficult to 
see how BiH can pursue any other model, given the extraordinary amount of 
resources it currently wastes on military spending. BiH now spends 40 percent 
of its budget for defense, compared to Europe's average of around two 
percent. Clearly, there is no room to maneuver here, nor will the 
opportunities for international subsidies continue for much longer. 
 
BiH's future lies in a neutrality similar to that of Costa Rica. Moreover, 
future NATO membership is only theoretical, since the Serb side has the 
constitutional right of veto on this issue, and it has not expressed 
interests beyond the PfP association. But NATO can provide BiH with a future, 
thus enhancing the region's stability by being realistic rather than 
chimerical. The latter policy will force NATO to remain stationed and active 
in BiH for decades. The former will stabilize BiH using its own economic 
resources, free of arms that could be used to ignite passions, and create an 
early exit opportunity for NATO. 
 
 
Yugoslavia 
 
After facing the might of NATO over Kosovo, it seems improbable that 
Yugoslavia would want to join the Western alliance at all. The new leader of 
Yugoslavia, Vojislav Kostunica, has never addressed this issue directly. 
However, his public discourse on the subject of NATO intervention suggests 
that he would want to sue NATO for damages and war crimes before considering 
a partnership. Belgrade's traditional affiliation with Russia is also a 
crucial factor. In short, Yugoslavia may prefer neutrality. This is 
consistent with recent remarks from Kostunica's cabinet. His aides suggested 
that PfP association would be acceptable, but membership would be out of 
question. 
 
However, a group of Yugoslav army officers, led by wartime general Momcilo 
Perisic, have called not only for Yugoslavia's membership in the PfP, but 
also for early NATO membership. This may be a window of opportunity for the 
West, if it is willing to offer carrots and exercise patience. However, as 
Perisic is considered a war criminal in both BiH and Croatia, a more credible 
partner in Belgrade will be needed. 
 
One of the carrots that would be welcomed concerns the upgrade of the ICTY. 
Belgrade is not very happy with the ICTY's work so far, but neither is anyone 
else in the region. This regional discontent may make it easier for the 
Western powers to reform the ICTY to the pre-1995 standards of international 
law . 
 
Belgrade will look for other incentives as well, in particular regarding 
reconstruction assistance. Further, it will seek to gain advantages for the 
Serbs in Kosovo, to continue special relations with the Serb entity in BiH, 
and an early EU candidacy, which is something that Belgrade would treasure 
much more than NATO membership. 
 
 On the military side, the Belgrade elite will most likely prefer to keep an 
open-door policy to Moscow for historical and religious reasons. The 
Tito-style strategy of "equi-distance" was very profitable for the former 
Yugoslavia, and the new Yugoslavia is likely to play the same game. But 
Serbia's "quasi-neutrality" (that is, its de facto economic alliance with 
Brussels coupled with military cooperation with Moscow) need not raise 
suspicions in the region, especially if Romania and Bulgaria are granted 
early membership. 
 
     
 
Vilnius 6+2+4 
 
With the expansion of the European Union and NATO to Eastern Europe as far as 
the Baltics and the Black Sea, the new Balkan states no longer play the 
strategic role for the Western powers that the former Yugoslavia enjoyed 
during the Cold War. Back then, the former Yugoslavia was a territorial and 
political dividing line between the East and the West, an ideological 
splinter in the Warsaw Pact, and a staging ground for covert operations. This 
is no longer the case. 
 
Some argue that the new Yugoslavia will still remain a strategic point of 
interest for the West, given its close relationship to Moscow. Surely 
Yugoslavia can be grouped with the "Russia-sensitive" sub-group of the 
Vilnius Nine, along with the Baltics, Romania, and Bulgaria. But the new 
Yugoslavia's importance declines as its neighbors to the east, Romania and 
Bulgaria, become members. 
 
    Croatia belongs in a sub-group with Slovenia. By admitting either 
country, NATO gains an ideological surrogate whose military preparedness is 
top-notch, even if their strategic importance is minimal. NATO experts say 
that relative preparedness of both countries matches that of Spain when it 
joined in 1982. 
 
Croatia also comes with important advantages over Slovenia. Expanding NATO 
membership to Croatia aids the stability of the fragile Balkans. At the 
minimum, it secures supply lines to BiH. NATO also gets a winning 
combat-experienced army into its ranks. Policy-makers will probably not 
overlook the popular support for NATO membership that runs at 70 percent in 
Croatia, compared to 50 percent in Slovenia. Croatia has done the yeoman's 
task for the West for at least a decade. It should get the recognition that 
it is due. 
 
Finally, BiH can probably be grouped with Albania, Macedonia, and Slovakia. 
All will require costly programs to rationalize or upgrade their armed forces 
to Western standards; all should be pursued with equal vigor. Even if these 
countries are of little global strategic value, they are important because 
without NATO leadership they may fall prey to regressive political and 
economic forces that are inherently destabilizing. The situation in BiH 
offers a historic opportunity to transform the present international 
administration into a viable state, allowing the Allies to draw down and 
redirect the huge resources they have invested into BiH over the years. 
 
 
Vitomir Miles Raguz was Ambassador of BiH to the E.U. and NATO from 1998-2000. 
distributed by CROWN (Croatian World Net) - CroworldNet@aol.com 
 
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