If you were Slobodan Milosevic, here's what you'd be thinking

Share
Related Topics
DEJA VU all over again? So it would seem, six years after the Bosnian conflict began. Once more, history is repeating itself as tragedy, as Serbian security forces seal off and "cleanse" tracts of Balkan countryside.

Slobodan Milosevic, the last despot of old Eastern Europe, purveyor of his own patented blend of failed socialism and rancid nationalism, is again playing at war, this time in Serbia's mostly Albanian province of Kosovo.

Entire villages are laid waste, hundreds may be dead, while tens of thousands of refugees are reported fleeing for sanctuary in neighbouring Albania proper. As in 1992, the West wrings its hands and threatens sanctions, but seems no more willing than before to risk blood and treasure to put an end to the rampage.

Such is the former Yugoslavia, as viewed by the world - a place incapable of change, where mediaeval hatreds invariably triumph over new millennium reason. But stop for an instant, pretend you are Mr Milosevic and consider the former Yugoslavia from the vantage point of Belgrade. The panorama is one of unrelieved disaster.

The vision of the Greater Serbia you dangled before your people is a mockery. You are virtually isolated within Europe, your economy is a wreck. Thanks to the conflicts you helped unleash, Slovenia has gone, Croatia has gone, Macedonia has gone and Bosnia has gone.

Apart from Serbia itself, only tiny Montenegro remains of the six republics of Tito's federation - and last weekend you watched as your man in Montenegro was roundly defeated by a reformer, Milo Djukanovic, who says he will carry his market-oriented economic policies, and his strategy of rapprochement with Europe, into Serbia itself. And this time you cannot complain the elections were rigged. On the streets below you the mutterings are starting: why not a reformer here as well?

And contrary to appearances, this time Nato will be no pushover. True, in Brussels yesterday, the alliance was taking its time. But, and you know it, Nato has learnt the lesson of Bosnia - that words unbacked by deeds, the bluff which you can call, only guarantee disaster. And this time the stakes are higher.

Bosnia was ghastly, but there was never great danger of the fighting spreading much further afield. This time it just could: to Albania, obviously, and to Macedonia where a quarter of the population is ethnic Albanian, and thence to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. An unlikely scenario, admittedly, but another reason why Nato will act to contain the conflict and - as a last resort - intervene to stop it.

Yet the nationalist passions you have stoked propel you forward.

Your best bet, you have calculated, is this early, large scale and ruthless strike against the insurgents. That way perhaps you will able to restart "negotiations" over the future of the province from a position of strength.

But will your people stand for much more of this, especially if the Western allies cut off the outside investment that was the best chance of hauling your economy out of the doldrums? Sooner or later they will find out that the Western powers do not advocate independence for Kosovo along Bosnian lines; merely a return of the special status the province enjoyed until you removed it in 1989. Small wonder then, if the Belgrade newspaper report is true, you've just had to sack 100 Belgrade policemen who refused service in Kosovo. Nationalism no longer blinds all eyes.

You are, in short, in a sorry pass, engaged in a war of no profit, with the progressive Mr Djukanovic on your doorstep. None of which portends your immediate demise. You are a tactician and survivor of great cunning, ready to do the worst to achieve your ends.

But history's wheel is coming full circle. In Kosovo, you fired the starter's gun for this round of Balkan wars. In Kosovo they will end - and, perhaps, your own malign political career as well.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Media, Advertising and Communications Manager

£55000 - £58000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

English Teacher needed for long term cover

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay TBA: Randstad Education Reading...

Primary General Cover Teachers needed

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Year 2 Teachers needed for day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: out of time, polling and immigration and old words

John Rentoul
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past