It is the evening of Tuesday 24 March 1999 as I write this. NATO warplanes have been despatched from bases in England and elsewhere with a mandate to bomb Serbia. As yet no shots have been fired in anger. But what will happen if NATO starts raining bombs on Serb military and other targets? What will the response from the Serbian strongman, Slobodan Milosovic, be? And would the Serbian military give as weak a performance as the Iraqi army did against the Allies in the Gulf?
If I were to put myself into the mind of the wiley dictator I would have a well-thought out plan up my sleave. I would try to create as much public sympathy for myself both by posing as a tiny helpless country as well as showing the world that little Serbia is capable of heroic deeds of bravery. The Serbian military is not to be trifled with. It is well equipped and has been in combat. It also has a passionate MOTIVATION, which is intense nationalism and the ultimate driving force: DEFENCE OF THE HOMELAND AGAINST PERCEIVED AGGRESSION.
NATO will, after a while, face more obstacles than Serbia. If NATO cannot achieve its objectives quickly it risks a world war. Russia will not remain in the sidelines for long. Hungary, recently a member of NATO, will wish to intervene directly in the north if its minority in the Vojvodina is threatened. Milosovic will not wish to give NATO free access to his borders through Macedonia where a sizeable UN contingent is based and might very well invade that country. This could provoke the Bulgarians which has ethnic ties with the Macedonian slavs who also inhabit the south-west portion of their own country who might also be tempted to intervene. And Greece, the only Orthodox Christian member of NATO, might well have second thoughts about waging war on a religious comrade.
I would not wish to be a NATO General for all the tea in China in such a conflict. You can be sure that in the midst of a conflict that it would take little prompting of the Bosnian Serbs to ingnite the Bosnian conflict again, and this would in turn draw in Croatia who, along with Serbia, might be tempted to try a partition of Bosnia between them. If the Albanian army got involved trying to defend Kosovo-Albanians, it too might risk a Serbian invasion.
The Russians are already offering technical and military hardware support to the Serbs, making it clear just where they stand. And this could be the prelude to full military engagement and a Third World War.
Also do not underestimate Saddam Hussein. A conflict in which NATO was embroiled in the Balkans might provide the perfect opportunity for him to attempt more mischief in the Middle East. I would not be at all surprised if there have been Iraqi-Serbian contacts. Germany's old nightmare of yesteryear, a war on two fronts, could easily become NATO's nightmare today.
At the back of my mind is a vision which has still not been fulfilled - of a giant missile being launched from Saudi Arabia. The Iraqi affair is not yet over. And if I were the Iraqi dictator, I would seize at any opportunity to make mischief while NATO was occupied in another war.
We need to pray that this conflict does not start, and if it does, that it ends exceedingly quickly. I fear greatly if the bombs start falling. And I fear even more if NATO prolongs any attack. I believe this NATO engagement is doomed to failure. NATO might, of course, successfully call Milosovic's bluff, but given his past record, I think this is unlikely. He is not to be under-estimated. The reputation of NATO is also at stake with the world watching on to see if little Serbia will blow rasperries with at it impunity.
If you wish to understand the mind of the Serbian government you have only to look at the map below which has come from their official website. They still have ambitions on Croat territory in Slavonia (coloured dark grey) and have coloured the Serbian Republic (Republika Srpska) in Bosnia nearly the same colour as Yugoslavia itself. The dream of a Great Serbia is no more dead in Serbia as the dream of a Greater Iraq is in Iraq!
Laget: 24. mars, 1999
Oppdatert: 24. mars, 1999
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