Letter: Defiant Serbia

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Military action to "encourage peace" in Kosovo is widely supported in newspaper editorials, while the public seems little concerned.

Behind these positions there appear to be two unspoken premises: first, that the Serbs "deserve it" because they have not been sufficiently punished for the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, attributed to Serbia's "expansionist" aims; and second, that there is little prospect of Nato casualties, the public having grown used to frequent and almost casualty- free "strikes" against Iraq.

Against the first case it should be pointed out that Serbia lost the earlier wars, and as a result supports more than 700,000 refugees, mostly Serbs expelled from their homes in Croatia and Bosnia. The sanctions imposed on Serbia in 1993 resulted in the highest recorded inflation, reducing the economy to 40 per cent of its prewar level. Serbs in Croatia have fallen from 17 per cent to less than 2 per cent of the population.

In the second case, the Serbs have better air defences and considerable combat experience and would almost certainly inflict casualties on any invading forces and probably down a few planes as well. Britain and America have a tradition of entering wars they expect to win with ease; Serbia has a tradition of fighting for generations against enemies against whom they expect to lose. Call it foolhardiness or bravery, no one should doubt Serbia's resolve to defend itself at whatever cost.

BRIAN POCOCK

London W6

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