Europe’s distrust of US policy in Bosnia – two press articles from August 1994

Agence France Presse — English 

August 6, 2004 Friday 6:46 AM Eastern Time 

HEADLINE: Milosevic accuses the West in interview from UN prison 


Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, in a newspaper interview from his prison at the UN court in the Netherlands published Friday, accused Western governments of putting pressure on judges at his war crimes trial. 

Milosevic gave the interview to a journalist from the French daily Le Figaro, despite the UN court’s strict rules that defendants should not speak to the media. 

The paper said it was conducted in the office he is using to conduct his own defence, which it said is equipped with a telephone, fax machine and a computer but not Internet. 

Milosevic, who was dressed in sandals and without a tie, told the paper “the judges of the court had received instructions from Western governments who have sworn to ruin me.” 

“This trial has been hatched by the NATO powers,” said Milosevic, who apparently gave the interview in “near-perfect English” to the French paper, presenting himself as the victim of a “political trial”. 

He claimed that the Srebrenica massacre, where 7,000 Muslim men and boys were slain by Serb forces in 1995, “was an immense strategic error of the Bosnian Serbs, with whom I was having a very bad relationship at the time”. 

However he also said that the fugitive wartime Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, who faces charges from the court including genocide for his role in Bosnia ‘s 1992-1995 war, was not responsible for the massacre. 

“I do not think that he could order such a thing that goes against Serbian military honour like executing prisoners of war. It’s true that he was seen in Srebrenica on the televsion pictures… but I think that he left and the murders were not a result of his actions.” 

Despite continuing health problems Milosevic has been doggedly conducting his own defence against more than 60 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1990s wars in the Balkans .

The wearying task has clearly taken its toll, and the trial has been delayed over a dozen times as Milosevic has fallen ill. 



Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 

August 5, 2004 Thursday 

Final Edition; All Editions 


HEADLINE: U.S. allies consider Bosnia a case of U.S. abandonment 

BYLINE: ELIZABETH SULLIVAN, Plain Dealer foreign-affairs columnist 

BRUSSELS ,BELGIUM — “You have no idea how deeply difficult it was for us, and how much soul-searching we had to do before we sent our troops,” said the politics writer during a break at a recent conference on the terrorism war. 

But German reporter Hans Michael Kloth was not referring to Iraq . He was talking of an earlier conflict, when many Europeans began seeing America not as an essential partner in Europe’s security, but as an obstacle. 

For most Americans, Bosnia and Kosovo are yesterday’s wars. But in Europe, an increasing number of people see these conflicts as the first time America bullied and cajoled its allies to do its bidding while leaving a hangover of serious security issues, including al- Qaida’s first major inroads in Europe. 

That sense of betrayal and manipulation only has intensified because of Iraq .

Moreover, the Bosnia headache soon will be Europe’s headache alone, as NATO prepares to pull out by year’s end from a country that still lacks any national sensibility and where corruption is the chief engine of the economy. 

Nearly 1 million Bosnians who fled their homes during the 1992-95 war have yet to return. Elected officials can be — and are — removed from office with a stroke of the pen by a non-elected international “high representative,” while most of NATO’s remaining energy goes into the hunt for war criminals. 

Yet when the war ended, finding war criminals was far down the U.S. list of priorities. Former U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke was proud of his 1996 deal persuading the Bosnian Serbs’ wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, to drop out of politics and disappear, even though Karadzic already had been indicted on war crimes. 

Karadzic now has a $5 million bounty on his head, and Holbrooke recently called him, and his wartime general, Ratko Mladic, “the bin Laden and Saddam of Europe.” He denies issuing Karadzic any kind of war-crimes immunity. 

U.S. officials, meanwhile, also want to reduce the American troop presence in nearby Kosovo — a goal merely put on hold after several days of riots in March, when ethnic Albanian mobs intimidated many NATO troops into inaction while they torched hundreds of Serbian homes, churches and monasteries. Nineteen people died, about half of them Serbs, including at least one immolated inside a church building. 

For some in Europe, it’s just more evidence that Washington is wont to start brush fires based on short-term goals but without any plan for how to contain the flames. 

What’s more, many of the diplomats who beached NATO on the Balkan shoals under President Bill Clinton now are part of Democratic presidential contender John Kerry’s kitchen cabinet on foreign policy — including Holbrooke. 

Holbrooke openly advocates independence for Kosovo, despite the post-war violence against Serbs. It’s an invitation to more conflict in an area where such redrawing of borders would open up a hornet’s nest of competing claims involving Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Albania .

Meanwhile, British and French troops who served as U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia are still angry that even while they were on the ground, U.S. diplomats in Croatia were giving the green light to an Iranian arms-for-Bosnian Muslims pipeline to ship weapons to one of the factions, in violation of U.N. sanctions. 

A network of Islamic charities and ex-Afghan and Iranian mujahedeen serving with the Bosnian Muslims provided cover for al- Qaida recruitment and training. 

According to the 9/11 commission, at least two of the 9/11 hijackers learned the “ jihadist ” trade in Bosnia .

For Germans, the 1999 Kosovo air war waged by NATO was their first combat since World War II. It was a wrenching decision in a land that had adopted a “defense-only” military posture after the Nazis were defeated. 

“In the end, we felt we had no choice,” said reporter Kloth, of Hamburg , who writes for Der Spiegel magazine and was participating in a German Marshall Fund journalists’ conference. 

“The need was too great” because of the suffering of Kosovo Albanians. 

But so was the backlash after the war, when Kosovo Albanians turned the tables and began murdering ethnic Serbs and ambushing busloads of kids. 

Two highly critical German TV documentaries portrayed Germans as being manipulated into the war by U.S. officials intent on toppling Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. 

Should he win in November, Kerry will make the job of re-establishing trust with America ’s traditional allies in Europe that much harder if he brings back the architects of Bill Clinton’s failed Balkans policy. 

Sullivan is The Plain Dealer’s foreign-affairs columnist and an associate editor of the editorial pages.