Secret War: US and EU Intervention in Yugoslavia

What’s Left 

November 8, 2002 


By Gregory Elich 

For one long decade, the West waged a fierce campaign to subjugate Yugoslavia.  Every means was utilized: support for violent secessionists, the imposition of severe sanctions, a 78-day bombardment, followed by forcible occupation of the region of Kosovo.   The Yugoslav Federation withstood it all, but it was Western covert operations that finally brought disaster. 

In November 1998, President Clinton launched a plan for the overthrow of the government of Yugoslavia.  The initial emphasis of the plan centered on supporting secessionist forces in Montenegro and the right-wing opposition in Serbia.  (1)  Several months later, while NATO bombs fell on Yugoslavia, Clinton signed a secret paper instructing the CIA to topple the Yugoslav government.  The plan called for the CIA to secretly fund opposition groups and the recruitment of moles in the Yugoslav government and military.  (2)  The effort to recruit moles in the police and army eventually yielded fruit nearly two years later, when renegade policemen aided the mob assault on the Federal Parliament. 

There were several components to the plan, and assassination was a key element in the Western arsenal.  On July 8, 1999, U.S. and British officials revealed that commando teams were training snatch operations to seize alleged war criminals and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.   As an encouragement to mercenaries, the U.S. State Department also announced a $5 million bounty for President Milosevic.  (3) 

Several Yugoslav government officials and prominent individuals, including Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic, were gunned down.  Most of those crimes remained unsolved, as the assassins managed to escape. 

Goran Zugic, security advisor to secessionist Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, was murdered late on May 31, 2000.  The assassin escaped, allowing Western leaders to place blame on President Milosevic.  Coming just one week before crucial local elections in Montenegro, forces opposing President Milosevic stood to gain from the murder, as the effect would tend to sway undecided voters in favor of secessionist parties.  A few days after the assassination, Yugoslav Minister of Information Goran Matic held a press conference, at which he accused the CIA of complicity in the murder.  Matic played a taped recording of two telephone conversations between head of the U.S. mission in Dubrovnik Sean Burns, U.S. State Department official James Swaggert, Gabriel Escobar of the U.S. economic group in Montenegro and Paul Davies of the U.S. Agency for International Development.  Excerpts of the conversations, recorded 20 minutes after the assassination and again three hours later, included comments such as, “It was professional,” and “Mission accomplished.” (4) 

The first publicly known Western plan to assassinate President Milosevic was drafted in 1992.  Richard Tomlinson, a former British MI6 employee, later disclosed the plan.  His task as an MI6 agent was to carry out undercover operations in Eastern Europe while posing as a businessman or journalist.  Tomlinson frequently met with MI6 officer Nick Fishwick.  During one their meetings, Fishwick showed Tomlinson a document entitled, “The Need to Assassinate President Milosevic of Serbia.”  Three methods were proposed for the assassination of Milosevic.  The first method, Tomlinson recalled, “was to train and equip a Serbian paramilitary opposition group,” which would have the advantage of deniability but an unpredictable chance of success.  The second method would employ a specially trained British SAS squad to murder President Milosevic “either with a bomb or sniper ambush.”  Fishwick considered this more reliable, but it lacked deniability.  The third method would be to kill Milosevic “in a staged car crash.”  (5)   Seven years later, on October 3, 1999, the third method was employed against the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, when a truck filled with sand plowed into his car, killing everyone inside except for Draskovic.  The temperamental Draskovic had been a major factor in the chronic fragmentation of the right-wing opposition, frustrating Washington’s efforts to forge a unified opposition.  (6) 

During NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, a missile struck President Milosevic’s home on April 22, 1999.  Fortunately, he and his wife were staying elsewhere that evening.  Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon was quick to announce that “we are not targeting President Milosevic.”  What else would a missile striking Milosevic’s bedroom at 3:10 AM be? (7) 

In November 1999, members of an assassination squad, code-named “Spider,” were arrested in Yugoslavia.  According to Minister Goran Matic, “French intelligence was behind” the Spider group, whose aim was the assassination of President Milosevic.  Planned scenarios included a sniper attack, planting an explosive device alongside a route they expected Milosevic to travel, planting an explosive in his car, and organizing 10 trained commandos to storm the presidential residence.  The leader of the group, Jugoslav Petrusic, had dual Yugoslav and French citizenship.  Matic claimed that Petrusic worked for French intelligence for ten years.  During interrogations, Petrusic said that he had killed 50 men on orders by French intelligence.  Matic announced that one of the members of Spider was a “specialist for killings with a truck full of sand” – the same method used against Draskovic the previous month. 

Following the Bosnian war, Petrusic organized the transport of 180 Bosnian Serb mercenaries to fight for Mobutu Sese Seku in Zaire, an affair that was managed by French intelligence.  According to a Bosnian Serb businessman, Petrusic “did not hide the fact that he was working for the French intelligence service.  I have personally seen a photo of him next to Mitterrand as his bodyguard.”  In younger days, Petrusic was a member of the French Foreign Legion.  During NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, the Spider group infiltrated the Yugoslav Army, supplying information to the French and guiding NATO warplanes to their targets. 

Yugoslav secret service sources revealed that the Spider group trained at NATO bases in Bosnia where “buildings resembling those where Milosevic lives were constructed…”   Money from the French intelligence service for Spider was brought to the border between Hungary and Yugoslavia by a man named Serge Lazarevic.  (8) 

One month later, the members of a second hit team, calling itself the Serbian Liberation Army, was arrested.   Their aim was to assassinate President Milosevic and restore the monarchy.  (9) 

At the end of July 2000, a squad of four Dutch commandos was apprehended while attempting to cross into Serbia from Montenegro.  During the investigation, they admitted that they intended to kill or kidnap President Milosevic.  The four said that they were informed that $30 million had been offered for “Milosevic’s head,” and that they intended to “claim a reward.”  One of the men said that the group planned to abduct Milosevic or former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and “surrender them to The Hague.”  The group planned to put them atop a car “in a ski box and transport them…out of the country.”   If the abduction failed, one of the men “had the idea to kill the president, to decapitate” him, and to put his head “in the box and to send it home” to the Netherlands. 

One of the arrested men, Gotfrides de Ri, belonged to the openly racist neo-nazi Center Party.  During the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, the Center Party sent Dutch mercenaries to fight in right-wing Croatian paramilitary units.  At the time of their arrest, the four were found with several knives, including one with a swastika, and wires with hooks for strangulation.   All four admitted that they had trained under the British SAS.  At a news conference on August 1, 2000, Goran Matic accused the U.S of being the prime sponsor of assassinations and attempted assassinations.  “It is obvious that they are recruiting various terrorist groups because they are frustrated with the fact that their military, political and economic goals in southeastern Europe have not been realized… [They are] trying to send them into the country so that they can change our political and social environment.” (10) 

Flagrant Western interference distorted the political process in Yugoslavia.  U.S. and Western European funds were channelled to right-wing opposition parties and media through such organizations as the National Endowment for Democracy and George Soros’ Open Society Institute.  The National Democratic Institute (NDI) is yet another of the myriad semi-private organizations that have attached themselves like leeches on Eastern Europe.  The NDI opened an office in Belgrade in 1997, hoping to capitalize on opposition attempts to bring down the government through street demonstrations.  By 1999, the NDI had already trained over 900 right-wing party leaders and activists on “message development, public outreach and election strategy.”  NDI also claimed to have provided “organizational training and coalition-building expertise” to the opposition.  (11) 

The New Serbia Forum, funded by the British Foreign Office, brought Serbian professionals and academics to Hungary on a regular basis for discussions with British and Central European “experts.”  The aim of the meetings was to “design a blueprint for post-Milosevic society.”  The Forum developed reports intended to serve as “an action plan” for a future pro-Western government.  Subjects under discussion included privatization and economic stabilization.  The Forum called for the “reintegration of Yugoslavia into the European family,” a phrase that translated into the dismantling of the socialist economy and turning it over to Western corporations. (12) 

Western aims were clearly spelled out in the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe of June 10, 1999.  This document called for “creating vibrant market economies” in the Balkans, and “markets open to greatly expanded foreign trade and private sector investment.”   One year later, the White House issued a fact sheet detailing the “major achievements” of the Pact.  Among the achievements listed, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Finance Corporations were said to be “mobilizing private investment,” and the Pact’s Business Advisory Council was “visiting all of the countries of Southeast Europe” to “offer advice” on investment issues.  Another initiative was Hungarian involvement with opposition-led local governments and opposition media in Serbia leading up the September 24, 2000 election in Yugoslavia. 

On July 26, 2000, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) inaugurated an investment fund to be managed by Soros Private Funds Management.  The Southeast Europe Equity Fund “will invest in companies in the region in a range of sectors.”  Its purpose, according to the U.S. Embassy in Macedonia, is “to provide capital for new business development, expansion and privatization.”  In March 2000, Montenegro signed an agreement permitting the operation of OPIC on its territory.   Billionaire George Soros spelled out what all this means.  U.S. involvement in the region, he said, “creates investment opportunities,” and “I am happy to put my money where they are putting theirs.”  Bluntly put, there is money to be made.  George Munoz, President and CEO of OPIC, was also clear.  “The Southeast Europe Equity Fund,” he announced, “is an ideal vehicle to connect American institutional capital with European entrepreneurs eager to help Americans tap their growing markets.  OPIC is pleased that Soros Private Funds Management has chosen to send a strong, positive signal that Southeast Europe is open for business.”    The final text of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe suggested that a Yugoslavia that would “respect” the Pact’s “principles and objectives” would be “welcome” to become a full member.  “In order to draw the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia closer to this goal,” the document declared, Montenegro would be an “early beneficiary.”  Western leaders expressed hope that a future pro-Western Yugoslavia would, as had the rest of Eastern Europe, be “eager to help Americans” make money.  (13) 

Western leaders yearned to install a puppet government in Belgrade, and placed their hopes in the fragmented right-wing opposition parties in Serbia.  In 1999, American officials encouraged these parties to organize mass demonstrations to overthrow the government, but the rallies quickly fizzled.  When upcoming Yugoslav Federal and local elections were announced on July 24, 2000, American and Western European officials met with leaders of Serbian opposition parties, urging them to unite behind one presidential candidate. The opposition presidential candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, was essentially hand-picked by US officials when American-run polls demonstrated that he was the only candidate capable of garnering enough support to win the election. (14) 

At the beginning of August 2000, the U.S. opened an office in Budapest specifically tasked to assist opposition parties in Yugoslavia.  Among the staff were at least 30 psychological warfare specialists, some of whom had earlier been engaged in psychological warfare operations during NATO’s war against Yugoslavia and against Iraq in the Gulf War.  (15)  Members of the student opposition group, Otpor, were invited to attend ten-day courses, beginning August 28, and again on September 11, 2000, at the American embassies in Bulgaria and Romania.   The courses, conducted by CIA personnel and propaganda experts, focused on political and public-image techniques.  (16)   In Bulgaria, the Western-financed Political Academy for Central and Southeastern Europe established a program for training the Serbian opposition.  The academy was tied to Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia, Otpor and various opposition groups.  Another Bulgarian-based and Western-financed organization, the Balkan Academy of Leading Reporters, gave “financial, technical and expert assistance” to Yugoslav opposition media prior to the election.  (17) 

On August 13 through 15, CIA Director George Tenet visited Bulgaria.  In a series of extraordinary meetings, Tenet met with Bulgarian President Petur Stoyanov, as well as the Prime Minister, Interior Minister and Defense Minister.  Officially, the purpose of Tenet’s visit was to discuss the problem of organized crime and narcotics.  However, Tenet spent a combined total of only 20 minutes at the headquarters of the National Security Service and the National Service for Combating Organized Crime.   Unnamed diplomatic sources revealed that the proposed oil transit pipeline from the Caspian Sea was also a topic of discussion. 

The driving motivation for Tenet’s visit, though, was to discuss Yugoslavia.  According to an unnamed diplomatic source, Montenegrin secession from Yugoslavia topped the agenda.  Following the meeting between Tenet and Major General Dimo Gyaurov, Director of the National Intelligence Service, a public statement was issued which stressed their “commonality of interests.”  Reports in the Bulgarian press revealed that various options were discussed with Bulgaria’s president and prime minister.  Leaked information from the meetings indicated that Tenet’s preferred option was the removal of the Yugoslav government, either as a result of the September 24 election, or by street demonstrations or an internal coup.  Another alternative Tenet discussed was a NATO military assault that would install a puppet government.  The third option was Montenegrin secession from Yugoslavia.   Were open warfare to break out over Montenegro’s secession from Yugoslavia, then the United States planned to wage a full-scale war.  Sofia’s Monitor reported that the “CIA coup machine” was forming.  “A strike against Belgrade is imminent,” it warned, and “Bulgaria will serve as a base.”  (18) 

In preparation for possible military action, the Italian army signed a lease contract to conduct training exercises beginning in October at the Koren training ground, near Kaskovo in southeast Bulgaria.  The French army signed a similar agreement, in which French soldiers and tanks would train at the Novo Selo grounds in central Bulgaria from October 11 to December 12.  Plans called for the U.S. military to lease the Shabla training grounds in northeastern Bulgaria.  All could have served as a launching pad for a NATO strike.   (19)  An amphibious training exercise with Croatian and U.S forces was conducted near Split, Croatia immediately following the Yugoslav election, and 15 British warships were sent to the region. (20) 

Tenet’s third option, the secession of Montenegro from Yugoslavia, would follow the well-tested model of swallowing Yugoslavia, bite by bite.   The paths of Yugoslavia’s two republics had sharply diverged.  Only Serbia stood in the way of the West’s grand scheme to integrate the Balkans into an economic model in which the region’s economies would be subordinated to Western corporate interests.  Serbia’s economy included a strong socialist component, and large and medium sized firms were socially owned. 

In contrast,  Montenegro had embarked on a program to place its entire economy at the service of the West.    November 1999 saw the introduction in Montenegro of the German mark as an official currency and the passage of legislation eliminating socially owned property.  One month later, several large firms were publicly offered for sale, including the Electric Power Company, the 13th July Agricultural Complex, the Hotel-Tourist firm Boka and several others.  (21)  The republic’s privatization program for 2000 called for privatization of most state-owned industries, and included measures to “protect domestic and foreign investors.”   In early 2000, the U.S. signed an agreement to provide Montenegro $62 million, including $44 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  According to the agency, it would also undertake “assistance programs to support economic reform and restructuring the economy….to advance Montenegro toward a free market economy.”  U.S. policy advisor on the Balkans James Dobbins indicated that the U.S. viewed the “market-oriented reforms of the Djukanovic regime as a model and stimulus for similar reforms throughout the former Yugoslavia.”  The U.S. also offered guarantees for private investors in the republic.  Additional aid was provided by the European Union (EU), which approved $36 million for Montenegro.  “From the first day,” admitted Djukanovic, “we have had British and European consultants.” (22) 

The Center for International Private Enterprise, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, provided support to the Center for Entrepreneurship (CEP) in Montenegro.  According to the center’s executive director, Petar Ivanovic, the organization “focuses on elementary and high schools,” establishing entrepreneurship as a new subject to be taught in schools.  As Ivanovic explained it, “Introducing young people to the concept of entrepreneurship will make them less resistant to the private sector.”   The CEP also intends to “educate government officials about the potential rewards of the private sector,” and to help them “understand the benefits of economic reform and privatization.”  (23)  According to Djukanovic, when he met with President Clinton on June 21, 1999, the U.S. president gave the privatization process a shove by telling Djukanovic that the U.S. planned to “stimulate the economy” by “encouraging U.S. corporations and banks to invest capital in Montenegro.” (24) 

Djukanovic moved steadily toward secession from Yugoslavia, indicating that he would push for separation if President Milosevic were reelected in the September 24 election.  In a phone call to Djukanovic in July 2000, Madeleine Albright promised that the U.S would provide him with an additional $16.5 million.  That same week, Djukanovic blurted out that Montenegro “is no longer part of Yugoslavia.”  He also made the astonishing claim that he considered it a “priority” for Montenegro to join NATO, the organization that had bombed his country only the year before.  The next month, Albright announced that she and Djukanovic “try and talk to each other and meet on a regular basis,” and that the “United States is supportive of the approach that President Djukanovic has taken in terms of democratic development and his approach to the economic reforms also.”  (25) 

Western support for secession extended beyond Albright meeting and talking with Djukanovic.  More than half of the population of Montenegro opposed secession, and any such move was likely to explode into violence.  In preparation for a rift, Djukanovic built up a private army of over 20,000 soldiers, the Special Police, including units armed with anti-tank weapons and mortars.  Sources in Montenegro revealed that Western special forces trained Djukanovic’s private army.   Prior to the election, Djukanovic requested that NATO establish an “air shield over Montenegro.”  One member of the Special Police, named Velibor, confirmed that they had received training from the British SAS.   “If there is a situation where weapons will decide the outcome, we are ready,” he said.  “We are training for that.”  At a press conference on August 1, 2000,  Minister Goran Matic declared that the “British are carrying out part of the training of the Montenegrin special units.  It is also true,” he added, that the Special Police “are intensively obtaining various kinds and types of weapons, starting with anti-aircraft and anti-helicopter weapons and so on, and they are also being assisted by Croatia, as the weapons go through Dubrovnik and other places.” Furthermore, Matic pointed,  “[L]ast year, before and after the aggression, a group from within the Montenegrin MUP [Ministry of Interior Affairs] structure left for training within the U.S. police structure and the U.S. intelligence structures.”   In August 2000, two armored vehicles bound for Montenegro were discovered in the port of Ancona, Italy.  One of the vehicles was fitted with a turret suitable for mounting a machine gun or anti-tank weapon.  Italian customs officials, reported the Italian news service ANSA, were “convinced” that arms trafficking to Montenegro was “of far greater magnitude than this single episode might lead one to believe.”  Revelling in anticipation of armed conflict, Djukanovic bragged that “many will tuck their tails between their legs and will soon have to flee Montenegro.”  (26) 

A violent conflict in Montenegro would have provided NATO with a pretext for intervention.  As early as October 1999, General Wesley Clark drew up plans for a NATO invasion of Montenegro.  The plan envisioned an amphibious assault by more than 2,000 Marines storming the port of Bar and securing the port as a beachhead for pushing inland.  Troops ferried by helicopters would seize the airport at Podgorica, while NATO warplanes would bomb and strafe resisting Yugoslav forces.  According to U.S. officials, other Western countries had also developed invasion plans.  (27)   Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Ambassador to the UN declared, “We are in constant touch with the leadership of Montenegro,” and warned that a conflict in Montenegro “would be directly affecting NATO’s vital interest.”  (28)  NATO General Secretary George Robertson was more explicit.  “I say to Milosevic: watch out, look what happened the last time you miscalculated…”  (29) 

What the U.S. truly wanted, though, was all of Yugoslavia, not merely another piece.  U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expected and demanded street demonstrations to topple the government if the election result did not satisfy her.  At meetings held in Banja Luka in spring 2000, Albright expressed disappointment with the failure of past efforts to overthrow the legally elected Yugoslav government.  Albright said that she had hoped sanctions would lead people to “blame Milosevic for this suffering.”  An exasperated Albright wondered, “What was stopping the people from taking to the streets?”  Indicating that the U.S. was casting about for a pretext for intervention, she added, “Something needs to happen in Serbia that the West can support.”  (30) 

Every contingency was planned for in the multifaceted U.S. destabilization campaign.  In the end, it was George Tenet’s preferred scenario that unfolded.   An electoral process distorted by Western intervention, combined with street action, finally toppled the government of Yugoslavia.   The U.S. pumped $35 million into the pockets of the right-wing opposition in the year preceding the September 24, 2000 election.  This haul included transmitters for opposition radio, and computers, telephones and fax machines for several organizations.  Right-wing media received an additional $6 million from the European Union during this period.  Two organizations under the umbrella of the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, provided $4 million for a door-to-door campaign and get-out-the-vote programs.   (31)  American officials assured opposition media “not to worry about how much they’re spending now,” because much more was on the way.  (32)  Immediately following the election, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote a bill authorizing an additional $105 million for right-wing parties and media in Yugoslavia. (33)   Organizations such as the International Republican Institute and the Agency for International Development pumped several million dollars into the pockets of Otpor, building up the small student opposition group into a major force.  By the time the election date was announced in Yugoslavia, Otpor had already printed over 60 tons of campaign material. (34) 

The week before the election, the European Union issued a “Message to the Serbian People,” in which it announced that a victory for opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica would result in lifting of sanctions.  “Even if Milosevic were to be returned by democratic vote,” stated one EU official, sanctions would remain.  This was a powerful inducement for a population impoverished and devastated by years of Western sanctions.  (35)  US State Department official William Montgomery noted, “Seldom has so much fire, energy, enthusiasm, money – everything – gone into anything as into Serbia in the months before Milosevic went.” (36) 

Before the election even took place, Western officials were accusing the Yugoslav government of electoral fraud, planting the seeds for disruption.  Throughout election day and the days that followed, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition proclaimed their candidate’s victory.   American officials encouraged the opposition to call for mass demonstrations, even before official results were announced.  Virtually every day, DOS claimed a different percentage for their candidate.  At one point they claimed 57 percent.  Two days after the election, on September 26, DOS claimed Kostunica won 54.66 percent of the vote, based on 97.5 percent of the ballots processed, but that 130,000 votes “and the votes from Kosovo and Montenegro” had yet to be processed by DOS.  The next day, DOS announced that Kostunica led with 52.54 percent of the vote.  The tally, they said, was based on 98.72 percent of the ballots counted.  This time, DOS Electoral Staff spokesman Cedomir Jovanovic changed his tune, claiming that unprocessed ballots were from soldiers and mail-in ballots. 

According to Jovanovic, on September 26, 5,093,038 ballots out of a total of 5,223,629 were processed for a total of percentage of 97.5.   Based on the total given by Jovanovic, that would have meant less than 64,000 ballots were counted the following day, when he claimed a count of 98.72 percent.  Assuming that Kostunica lost every single one of those votes, his percentage would have dropped to 52.75 percent, higher than the announced 52.54 figure.  DOS disposed of this awkwardness by issuing significantly different totals.  On September 26, Jovanovic announced that Kostunica led with 2,783,870 votes, yet on the following day he claimed that when all votes were counted, “Kostunica will have 2,649,000 votes.”  Four days later, Jovanovic claimed 2,424,187 votes for Kostunica, and then on October 2 opposition spokesman Zoran Sami lowered the total still further to 2,414,876, for a percentage of 51.34.  Later, Sami claimed the final result showed 2,377,440 votes and a percentage of 50.35 for Kostunica.  Excluded from these counts were the votes from Kosovo and refugees from Kosovo.  Western media treated DOS’s claims uncritically, proclaiming them to be based on precise and meticulous tallying of ballots, and loud cries of fraud were levelled against the Yugoslav government.  Clearly there was fraud.  The figures given out by DOS itself indicate who was perpetuating the fraud. (37) 

Despite claims made to the contrary in the Western media, the official vote count was publicized widely in Yugoslavia.  Vojislav Kostunica won 48.96 percent of the vote, falling just short of the 50 percent required for outright victory.  President Milosevic trailed with 38.62 percent of the vote.  A second electoral round for the two top candidates was called for October 8.  (38) Backed by Western officials, Kostunica and DOS refused to participate in the second round, claiming that they had already won.  DOS filed a complaint with first the Federal Election Commission, and then the Constitutional Court. They demanded, among other things, the annulment of votes by refugees from Kosovo, and from Kosovo itself, where President Milosevic led by a wide margin.   The Constitutional Court upheld the proposal by Milovan Zivkovic, a member of the Federal Election Commission, for returns from all voting districts to be reexamined so as to dispel doubts.  (39)  It was the threat of a recount that motivated the almost daily reduction in the number and percentage of votes claimed by DOS for their candidate.   The final percentage DOS announced was close to the official result.  However, DOS refused to include votes cast in Kosovo and by many refugees from Kosovo, ostensibly because polls in Kosovo closed at 4:00 PM, rather than 8:00 PM.   According to DOS, the scheduled early closing time invalidated all of the ballots cast by these voters.  Only by discounting votes from Kosovo residents and refugees could DOS claim a 50 percent victory for Kostunica. 

Over 200 international observers from 54 countries monitored the election.  The observers attended every stage of the election, including vote counting and correlation of results.  One of the observers, Greek Foreign Minister Carolos Papoulias, concluded, “Those who had announced widespread fraud, like [EU foreign policy chief] Javier Solana have been proved wrong,” and that the vote had been conducted in “an impeccable manner.”  Atila Volnay, an observer from Hungary, said his delegation had visited several polling stations and confirmed the presence of opposition representatives in electoral commissions, and that “there could be no anomalies.”  A three-person delegation from Great Britain’s Socialist Labour Party declared that the Federal Electoral Commission “did everything in its power to ensure that people were able to cast their votes without intimidation and in an orderly manner,” but that irregularities were observed in Montenegro.  “We received many first-hand reports from people who stated that they had been threatened [by Djukanovic supporters] with the loss of their jobs if they turned out to vote.”  The delegation also noted that “countless refugees from Kosovo had been deliberately excluded from the electoral lists in Montenegro,” and that the delegation “could only conclude that these tactics of intimidation and disenfranchisement were designed to benefit the so-called Democratic Opposition.” The head of the Russian delegation, Konstantin Kosachev, said that they “were satisfied that virtually no large-scale falsification of the election in Yugoslavia was possible.”  A final statement by the observers declared that “the voting process overall was orderly and smooth” and that, “in the opinion of many, was equal or superior to the ones in their own countries.”  (40) 

Given his commanding lead in the first electoral round, a Kostunica victory in the runoff on October 8 was a near certainty.  Why then, did Kostunica refuse to participate in the runoff?  As a result of the September 24 election, the left coalition won 74 out of 137 seats in the Chamber of Citizens and 26 out of 40 seats in the Chamber of Republics.  The left-led coalition already held a majority in the Serbian Parliament, whose seats were not up for election until the following year.  It would have been impossible for DOS to implement its program, as the President’s duties are rather limited.  Only a coup d’etat would allow DOS to bypass legal constraints, sweep aside the government and reign unopposed. 

Kostunica’s campaign manager, Zoran Djindjic, called for a general strike.  “We shall seek to paralyze all institutions, schools, theaters, cinemas, offices,” and “call everyone onto the streets.” (41)  DOS supporters throughout the country heeded his call, bringing segments of the economy to a standstill, while mass demonstrations sprang up throughout Serbia.  Madeleine Albright’s cherished scenario became reality, as demonstrators demanded the removal of the government.  According to opposition sources, as many as 10,000 armed DOS supporters joined the final mass demonstration in Belgrade.  The assault on the Federal Parliament and Radio Television Serbia was led by a group of specially trained squads of former soldiers.  Velimir Ilic, opposition mayor of Cacak, led the assault.  “Our action had been planned in advance,” he later explained.  “Our aim was very clear; take control of the regime’s key institutions, including the parliament and the television.”  Ilic also arranged prior contacts with turncoat policemen, who assisted Ilic’s soldiers.  (42)  It is probable that the CIA was involved in the planning of the well-coordinated attacks.  After armed squads forced their way into the Federal Parliament, they were followed by a drunken mob of DOS supporters, who rampaged through the building, smashing furniture and computers and setting the Parliament ablaze.  Police were beaten and drunken gangs, many armed with guns, roamed the streets.  Ambulances taking injured police to hospitals were stopped by DOS activists, who demanded that the injured policemen be turned over to them.   After Radio Television Serbia in Belgrade was seized, it too was torched.  Throughout Serbia, offices of the Socialist Party of Serbia and Yugoslav United Left were demolished.  Socialists were threatened and beaten, and many received threats over the telephone.  In Kragujevac, ten socialists were tied and abused for hours.  DOS thugs forced their way into the home of Zivojin Stefanovic, president of the Socialist Party in Leskovac.   After looting and smashing Stefanovic’s belongings, they set his house afire.  (43) While roving gangs overturned and burned police vehicles, vandalized buildings and beat people, Kostunica announced, “Democracy has happened in Serbia.  Communism is falling.  It is just a matter of hours.”  (44)   Establishing their democratic credentials, DOS activists systematically seized left-oriented media throughout Yugoslavia.  Left-wing newspapers, radio and television stations were reoriented in support of the right.   A formerly rich and diverse media culture, representing the entire political spectrum, took on overnight a hue of uniformity, churning out praise for DOS. 

Gangs of DOS thugs forcibly removed management at state-run factories and enterprises, universities, banks and hospitals in towns and cities all across Serbia.  Government ministers were pressured to resign, and DOS established a crisis committee to perform government functions, circumventing the Federal Parliament and government ministries.  DOS officials openly threatened to call forth more street violence as a means of pressuring the Serbian Parliament to agree to new election, one year ahead of schedule. 

Western officials couldn’t hide their glee.  American and European corporations were waiting to snatch up state enterprises.  The economic program for DOS was drawn up by an organization named Group 17 Plus.   Their plan, called Project for Serbia, called for a rapid transition to a full market economy.  Immediately following the coup, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development promptly announced plans to open an office in Belgrade.  “It’s important that we be there quickly,” explained the bank’s spokesman Jeff Hiday.  “We suspect there will be a lot to do with privatization and restructuring.”   (45) 

Days before the coup, President Milosevic warned that DOS was an instrument in NATO’s campaign to impose neocolonial control over Yugoslavia.  Milosevic pointed out that neighboring countries already under Western dictate “have speedily become impoverished in a manner destroying all hope for more just and humane social relations,” and that Eastern Europe had seen a “great division into a poor majority and a rich minority.”  Inevitably, he said, “That picture would also include us.”  (46) 

Alone and isolated, Yugoslavia resisted imperial domination, withstanding Western-backed secessions, sanctions, war, and covert operations.  Against all odds, they remained independent and committed to an economy in which socially owned property played a primary role.   The most powerful forces on the planet were arrayed against them, and yet they held out for a decade.   The NATO-backed coup swept all that away.  In one of his first acts as President, Kostunica joined the Balkan Stability Pact.  His privatization minister, Aleksandar Vlahovic, announced a plan for the privatization of 7,000 firms. .  “I expect that four years from now socially-owned capital will be completely eliminated,” Vlahovic explained, and that privatization of the largest firms would be underway by then.  (47)  The millions of dollars that the West stuffed into the pockets of DOS officials will pay handsome dividends. 


1) Paul Beaver, “Clinton Tells CIA to Oust Milosevic,” The Observer, November 29, 1998.
Fran Visnar, “Clinton and the CIA Have Created a Scenario to Overthrow Milosevic,” Vijesnik (Zagreb), November 30, 1998. 

2) Douglas Waller, “Tearing Down Milosevic,” Time Magazine, July 12, 1999. 

3) Michael Moran, “A Threat to ‘Snatch’ Milosevic,” MSNBC, July 8, 1999. 

4) “Yugoslav Official Accuses CIA of Being Behind Montenegro Murder,” Agence France-Presse, June 6, 2000.
Aleksandar Vasovic, “Serb Aide Says CIA Behind Slaying,” Associated Press, June 6, 2000.
“Yugoslav Information Minister Accuses CIA of Complicity in Zugic Murder,” Borba (Belgrade), June 6, 2000. 

5) Statement by Richard Tomlinson, addressed to John Wadham, September 11, 1998. 

6)  “Serb Consensus: Draskovic Crash Was No Accident,” Seattle Times News Services, October 13, 1999. 

7)  “NATO: Milosevic Not Target,” BBC News, April 22, 1999. 

8) “Serbs Allege Milosevic Assassination Plot,” Reuters, November 25, 1999.
“France Plots to Murder Milosevic,” Agence France-Presse, November 26, 1999.
“SFOR Units Involved in a Plot to Kill Milosevic,” Agence France-Presse, December 1, 1999.
Gordana Igric, “Alleged ‘Assassins’ Were No Stranger to France,” IWPR Balkan Crisis Report (London), November 26, 1999.
Milenko Vasovic, “Belgrade’s French Connection,” IWPR Balkan Crisis Report (London), November 26, 1999. 

9) “Lt. Testifies at Milosevic Trial,” Associated Press, April 26, 2000. 

10) Aleksandar Vasovic, “4 Accused of Milosevic Death Plot,” Associated Press, July 31, 2000.
“Dutchmen Arrested, Accused of Plotting Against Milosevic,” Agence France-Presse, July 31, 2000.
Email correspondence from Herman de Tollenaere, quoting from NRC-Business Paper of August 1
“Arrested Dutchmen Admitted Plans to Kill, Kidnap Milosevic,” BETA (Belgrade), August 17, 2000.
“Dutch Espionage Terrorist Gang Arrested in Yugoslavia – Minister,” Tanjug (Belgrade), July 31, 2000
“Yugoslav Information Minister Says U.S. Behind Dutch ‘Mercenaries’,” BBC Monitoring Service, August 1, 2000. 

11) “NDI Activities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia-Montenegro),” NDI Worldwide Activities, 

12) “Britain Trains New Elite for Post-Milosevic Era,” The Independent (London), May 3, 2000.
The New Serbia Forum, 

13) “Final Text of Stability Pact for Southeast Europe,” June 10, 1999.
“Southeast Europe Equity Fund Launched July 26,” U.S. Embassy, Skopje, Macedonia, July 27, 2000.
“The Stability Pact for Southeast Europe: One Year Later,” White House Fact Sheet, July 27, 2000. 

14) Michael Dobbs, “U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition,” Washington Post, December 11, 2000. 

15) “Federal Foreign Ministry Sends Memorandum to UN Security Council,” Tanjug (Belgrade), October 4, 2000.
“US Anti-Yugoslav Office Opens in Budapest,” Tanjug (Belgrade), August 21, 2000. 

16) “CIA Training Resistance Members in Sofia, Bucharest,” Tanjug (Belgrade), August 25, 2000. 

17) Elena Staridolska, “Daynov Academy Trains Serbian Opposition,” Standart News (Sofia), August 29, 2000.   Konstantin Chugunov, “We Report the Details: Our Little Brothers Have Bent in the Face of NATO,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Moscow), August 23, 2000. 

18) “Bulgaria – Press Review” BTA (Sofia), August 12, 2000
“Bulgaria – Us CIA Director’s Visit,” BTA (Sofia), August 15, 2000
“CIA Did Not Tell Us the Most Important Thing,” Trud (Sofia), August 16, 2000
“Bulgaria – Press Review,” BTA (Sofia), August 14, 2000
“Bulgaria – Press Review,” BTA (Sofia), August 16, 2000 

19) Mila Avramova, “Italians Lease Training Ground for 400,000 Leva,” Trud (Sofia), August 9, 2000
Michael Evans, “Balkans Watch for ‘Invincible’,” The Times (London), August 26, 2000. 

20) “U.S. Forces Travel to Croatia for Amphibious Exercise,” Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), September 12, 2000.
“U.S. War Game in Adriatic, U.K. Navy in Mediterranean,” Reuters, September 16, 2000. 

21)   Ljubinka Cagorovic, “Montenegro Assembly Scraps Socially-Owned Property,” Reuters, November 13, 1999.
“Montenegrin Government Prepares to Privatise Economy,” Tanjug (Belgrade), December 25, 1999. 

22)  Central and Eastern Europe Business Information Center, “Southeastern Europe Business Brief,” February 3, 2000.
Central and Eastern Europe Business Information Center, “Southeastern Europe Business Brief,” April 27, 2000. Anne Swardson, “West Grows Close to Montenegro,” Washington Post, May 24, 2000. 

23) Petar Ivanovic, “Montenegro: Laying the Foundation of Entrepreneurship,” Center for International Private Enterprise. 

24)  Statement by Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, “Important Step in Opening New Perspectives For Montenegrin State Policy,” Pobjeda (Podgorica), June 22, 1999. 

25) “Albright Renews Montenegro Support,” Associated Press, July 13, 2000.
“Montenegro Wants to Join NATO and the EU,” Agence France-Presse, July 10, 2000.
Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Department of State, “Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic,” Press Stakeout at Excelsior Hotel, Rome, Italy, August 1, 2000. 

26) “Montenegro Ahead of Elections: Boycott and Threats,” BETA (Belgrade), August 9, 2000.
“Montenegro and Elections – Boycott Becomes Official,” BETA (Belgrade), August 17, 2000.
Phil Reese, “We Have the Heart for Battle, Says Montenegrin Trained by SAS,” The Independent (London), July 30, 2000.
“Yugoslav Information Minister Says U.S. Behind Dutch ‘Mercenaries’,” BBC Monitoring Service, August 1, 2000.
“Yugoslavia Says British SAS Trains Montenegrins,” Reuters, August 1, 2000.
“Information Minister Sees Montenegrin Arms Purchases, Croatian Assistance,” BETA (Belgrade), July 31, 2000.
“Foreign ‘Dogs of War’ Training Montenegrin Police to Attack Army,” Tanjug (Belgrade), August 9, 2000.
“Montenegro: Camouflaged Military Vehicles Seized in Ancona,” ANSA (Rome), August 21, 2000.
“Montenegro: Traffic in Camouflaged Armored Vehicles: Investigation into Documentation,” ANSA (Rome), August 22, 2000.
“SAS Training Montenegrin Police,” The Sunday Times (London), October 1, 2000. 

27) Richard J. Newman, “Balkan Brinkmanship,” US News and World Report, November 15, 1999. 

28) “Clinton Warns Milosevic ‘Remains a Threat to Peace,” Agence France-Presse, July 29, 2000. 

29) “NATO’s Robertson Warns Milosevic on Montenegro,” Reuters, July 27, 2000. 

30)  Borislav Komad, “At Albright’s Signal,” Vecernje Novosti (Belgrade), May 18, 2000.

31)  George Jahn, “U.S. Funding Yugoslavian Reformers,” Associated Press, September 29, 2000.
Jane Perlez, “U.S. Anti-Milosevic Plan Faces Major Test at Polls,” New York Times, September 23, 2000.
“U.S., EU Generous to Foes of Milosevic,” Associated Press, October 1, 2000. 

32)  Steven Erlanger, “Milosevic, Trailing in Polls, Rails Against NATO,” New York Times, September
20, 2000. 

33) “U.S. House Votes to Fund Yugoslavia’s Opposition Movement,” CNN, September 25, 2000. 

34)  Roger Cohen, “Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?” New York Times Magazine, November 26,       2000. 

35)   Geoff Meade, “Cook Backs EU Over Oust Milosevic Message,” London Press Association,         September 18, 2000. 

36) Roger Cohen, “Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?” New York Times Magazine, November 26,

37) “DOS Claims Kostunica Leading Milosevic with 54.66 to 35.01 Percent of Vote,” BETA (Belgrade),
September 26, 2000.
“DOS Announces Kostunica Clear Winner with 98.72 Percent Data Processed,” BETA (Belgrade), September 27, 2000.
“Federal Electoral Commission – DOS Election Staff Misinformed Public,” Tanjug (Belgrade), October 3, 2000.   “Who Lies Kostunica?”  statement by the Socialist Party of Serbia, October 11, 2000. 

38)   Federal Republic of Yugoslavia web site,   “Total Election Results,” and “The Federal        Elections Commission Statement.”   Both statements were removed following the coup.
“Final Results of FRY Presidential Election,” Tanjug (Belgrade), September 28, 2000. 

39) “Yugoslav Constitutional Court Holds Public Debate on DOS Appeal,” Tanjug (Belgrade), October 4, 2000.
“DOS Requests Annulment of 142,000 Kosovo Votes,” BETA (Belgrade), September 29, 2000. 

40) “Contrary to EU Claims, Yugoslav Elections a Success: Greece,” Agence France-Presse, September 26, 2000.
“210 Observers from 53 States Commend FRY Elections,” Tanjug (Belgrade), September 27, 2000.
“Foreign Observers Say Elections Democratic and Regular,” Tanjug (Belgrade), September 25, 2000.
“Yugoslav Elections – a Lesson in Outside Interference,” Socialist Labour Party statement.
Broadcast, Mayak Radio (Moscow), October 2, 2000.
“‘A Fair and Free Election,’ International Observers Say,” statement by international observers. 

41) Misha Savic, “Milosevic Will Take Part in Runoff,” Associated Press, October 5, 2000. 

42)  Richard Boudreaux, “A Mayor’s Conspiracy Helped Topple Milosevic,” Los Angeles Times, October         10, 2000.
“Cacak Mayor Says He Led Assault on Yugoslav Parliament,” Agence France-Presse, October 8, 2000. Jonathan Steele, Tim Judah, John Sweeney, Gillian Sandford, Rory Carroll, Peter Beaumont, “An Outrage Too Far,” The Observer (London), October 8, 2000.
Gillian Sandford, “Army Units Claim Credit for Uprising,” The Guardian (London), October 9, 2000. 

43) “Information for the Public,” statement by the Socialist Party of Serbia, October 7, 2000.
“Group of Demonstrators Demolished the House of the District Head,” BETA (Belgrade), October 6, 2000. 

44)   “Protesters Storm Yugoslav Parliament,” Associated Press, October 5, 2000.
“Good Evening, Liberated Serbia,” The Times (London), October 6, 2000.
“Milosevic’s Party HQ Ransacked by Protesters,” Agence France-Presse, October 5, 2000. 

45) Jelena Radulovic, “Yugoslavia’s Kostunica Sets Economic Goals for New Government,” Bloomberg,
October 7, 2000.
“Brains Behind Kostunica Have a Plan,” Sydney Morning Herald, October 2, 2000.
Stefan Racin, “Yugoslavia’s Opposition Outlines Economic Plans,” UPI, September 27, 2000. 

46) “Yugoslav President Milosevic Addresses the Nation,” Tanjug (Belgrade), October 3, 2000. 

47)  Beti Bilandzic, “Serbia Eyes New Privatization Law by April,” Reuters, January 28, 2001. 

Recent Elich 

Zimbabwe Under Siege 

See also The Politics of Survival 

Gregory Elich can also be read at SWANS. From his biograpgy on SWANS: Gregory Elich has published dozens of articles on the Balkans and East Asia in the US, Canada and Europe, in such publications as Covert Action Quarterly, Politika, Der Junge Welt, Dagbladet Arbejderen, Science&Society, Swans, and other publications. His research findings on CIA intervention in Yugoslavia was the subject of articles in newspapers in Germany, Norway and Italy, including Il Manifesto. He has been involved in peace activities since the Vietnam War, and was coordinator of the Committee for Peace in Yugoslavia. He was a member of a US delegation visiting Yugoslavia after the NATO war, and a member of the Margarita Papendreou delegation, the first to fly on a Western national airline to Baghdad in challenge to the sanctions. 


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