Leading Article: Serbs still need outside pressure

Share
Related Topics
THE CHANCE of ending the war in Bosnia is in danger of slipping away. The Bosnian Serbs have rejected the federation offered by the new alliance of Muslims and Croats. Serbian forces have been pounding the Muslim enclave of Gorazde, which was declared a UN 'safe area' almost a year ago. Savage ethnic cleansing continues with atrocities such as those in Prijedor last week. The UN is also drawn into ethnic cleansing when it is asked to rescue beleaguered minorities.

The most visible response by the West so far has been its refusal to send the reinforcements requested by Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Rose. A case can be made for saying that the presence of more Nato troops would contribute to freezing the situation, whereas a just settlement still demands Serbian withdrawals. As a signal, however, the refusal must be read by the Serbs as further evidence that the West's commitment is at best half-hearted.

It is, therefore, important to keep up as much pressure as possible, especially by working on the differences between the Bosnian Serbs and the leadership in Belgrade. The more militant Bosnian Serbs are persuading themselves that American attention will soon wander, that divisions in the Western alliance will again paralyse action, that the Russian presence will inhibit Nato air strikes, and that Vladimir Zhirinovsky will become president of Russia before the 1996 elections, and come rushing to the rescue of Greater Serbia.

Fortunately, a different reading of the situation is beginning to impinge on the leadership in Belgrade. President Slobodan Milosevic seems to realise that time is no longer on the side of the Serbs. The Muslim-Croat alliance is holding, strongly backed by the Americans, Germans and Russians. Muslim forces are becoming stronger and better organised, whereas Serbian forces are suffering from shortages and low morale. In serious fighting, the Serbs could be driven back. At the same time, the sanctions against Serbia, although full of holes, are adding to strains in Belgrade and threatening the position of Mr Milosevic.

If Western pressure can be maintained, it should reinforce the spread of realism in Belgrade by showing the Serbs they can only lose by continuing to fight. It is also time for the Russians to play their hand more firmly. When they sent troops to Sarajevo, their main concern was to be acknowledged as a power with interests in the region. So far, they have behaved constructively. Indeed, they have disappointed the Serbs, who did not realise the largely phoney mythology of Serbian solidarity would take second place to Russia's national interest, which is to avoid a Balkan war.

Nevertheless, the Russians can only really earn their place at the table by delivering the Serbs to a settlement. With the West leaning hard on the Croats, and ready to press the Muslims to settle when the terms are right, there is just a chance of ending the war by the summer. It will be lost if outside pressure is not maintained.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot