" Yugoslavia divided - 1941 - Croatia's [Roman Catholic USTASHI]
fascist regime allies with Nazis and organizes a campaign of
forced conversion [to Roman Catholicism] or annihilation
of the Serbian Orthodox."
From - U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT - 6/12/95
LOST IN THE BALKANS CONFUSED BY THE CHAOS IN BOSNIA ?
HERE IS WHAT IS HAPPENING- AND WHAT THE STAKES ARE
Twenty-nine of their armored vehicles have been captured by Bosnian Serbs. So every time one of the white-painted personnel carriers rumbles up to the gate of a United Nations base in Sarajevo, blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers must search it for Serbian infiltrators. Sent to protect the people of Bosnia, United Nations peacekeepers now protect little but themselves.
How did it come to this? Four years after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, America and its allies seem lost on a road that switches back and forth through the treacherous mountains of Bosnia. The recent flurry of activity -- from the taking hostage by Bosnian Serbs of some 400 U.N. peacekeepers and the shooting down last week of a U.S. warplane to President Clinton's pledge to send American troops to help the U.N. reposition troops, the European plan to create a "rapid-reaction force" to safeguard peacekeepers and renewed efforts to break the diplomatic stalemate -- provided no clearer map to peace. There are many questions in the Balkans -- and so far, few good answers:
Are U.S. troops heading into Bosnia? The shooting down last week of a U.S. Air Force F-16 over Bosnia was a harsh reminder that some American military forces already are involved in the Balkan war -- in a NATO mission to enforce a no-fly zone in the region.
The Clinton administration remains reluctant to send ground troops to the Balkans -- but last week the president inched a step closer to doing so. Arguing that America must stand by its allies, Clinton offered to dispatch U.S. ground forces to help move besieged U.N. troops to more defensible positions. Until then, Clinton had only considered sending American soldiers and marines into Bosnia if a peace settlement were reached, or to help the U.N. evacuate its peacekeepers and their equipment if the Bosnian mission were abandoned. Clinton's advisers, however, stress that there are still a lot of "ifs." The U.N. must first decide to rearrange its forces; it must decide if it wants NATO's help; NATO must agree to help; a mission for American troops must be defined, and the U.S. Congress -- where Republican presidential aspirant Bob Dole leads the opposition to the administration's Bosnia policy -- must be consulted.
Still, preparations have been made. A 2,000-strong Marine Expeditionary Unit is in place off the Balkan coast (map, Page 37), ready for missions ranging from commando-style hostage-rescue raids to helicopter evacuation of besieged peacekeepers. An additional 1,900 American troops are training in Germany for possible deployment to Bosnia. The Pentagon is loath to be drawn into the Balkan mess. Senior officers argue that if U.S. troops are killed there, America will be committed to a fight it hasn't the stomach for. Civilian officials, however, deny that America is being drawn inexorably into conflict.
What are the wider stakes for America and its allies? Washington is walking a diplomatic tightrope. Unwilling to make anything more than a temporary commitment of U.S. troops to Bosnia, it nevertheless recognizes the need to do something or else risk serious breaches in the trans-Atlantic alliance. Fractures already have appeared. France and Britain, which have the largest peacekeeping contingents in Bosnia, resisted Washington's calls for airstrikes to pressure Bosnian Serbs, fearing reprisals against their troops. Indeed when airstrikes took place last month, the Serbs grabbed peacekeepers as hostages against further raids.
Last week's pledge to send U.S. ground troops may prove too small an ante to restore American credibility. Solutions to the drama, in fact, are taking place outside traditional NATO channels: A French-inspired emergency force would bypass NATO entirely. Lord David Owen, who resigned last week as Europe's chief mediator for Bosnia, complained of "too much lecturing from across the Atlantic and not enough action from the United States of America."
Is there any hope for peace? Peace talks have been failing in the Balkans for three years. While Sarajevo's weary residents position wheelbarrows under drainpipes to catch drops of water to wash dishes, the so-called "contact group," -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Germany -- keeps trying to sell the peace deal it has pitched to all sides for almost a year. It would divide Bosnia-Herzegovina into two roughly equal autonomous regions. The plan was accepted by the Bosnian-Croat federation last summer but rejected by the Serbs.
As the Serbs see it, peace would mean surrendering a third of the land they now hold, leaving them with a statelet that has few economic resources, no access to the sea and no automatic right to join a "greater" Serbia, their chief ambition. The cautious international response up to now also has led the Serbs to believe that the West will always blink first. Contact-group governments want to convince Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to help break this deadlock. Swallowing hard - - because Milosevic is widely considered to be the architect of the Balkan wars -- mediators have offered to suspend economic sanctions that have crippled Serbia's economy if Serbia recognizes Bosnia-Herzegovina. This, it is hoped, will isolate the Bosnian Serbs and force them to agree to peace.
So what is likely to happen? If the Bosnian Serbs don't deal, the West is left with three choices: to fight, to flee or to muddle along after resolving the current crisis. There is little enthusiasm in the West for a wider war. "I do not favor sending our troops into combat there," President Clinton told a town meeting in Montana last week. "All it would do is get a lot of Americans killed and not achieve the objective."
France and Britain have opted to get tough and started to create a 5,000-strong fighting force of commandos, armed with attack helicopters, antitank weapons and artillery. But that force is primarily designed to protect the peacekeepers, not to fight the Serbs. In the long run, European governments probably will be left no way out but to get out. "I do not believe this humanitarian intervention can be extended through a fourth winter," Owen told Britain's House of Lords last week. "If there is not a peace settlement by the autumn of this year, then the U.N. forces, I fear, will be forced to leave." France's new president, Jacques Chirac, is said to want to decide the matter one way or another by the end of the summer. One senior American officer doesn't take seriously all the talk about reconfiguring U.N. troops. "Consolidate and reduce, that's shorthand for consolidate and bug out," he says.
The United States is committed to sending up to 25,000 troops to help NATO withdraw the peacekeepers. It is a task that keeps military planners -- not to mention Clinton's domestic political advisers -- up at night. Roadways are controlled by Serbian militias, and downed bridges make some impassable. Therefore planners would prefer to fly out, although that risks the shoot-down of a cargo plane full of peacekeepers.
What becomes of the people the U.N. is supposed to protect? News photographers in Sarajevo say they can no longer snap dramatic pictures because weary civilians dodging whistling mortar shells no longer betray any emotion. They have seen it all.
The remaining peacekeepers are paralyzed. U.N. observation posts in the eastern Bosnian enclaves of Gorazde and Srebrenica are vacant, the U.N. heavy-weapons exclusion zones have disappeared, aid convoys have halted and the humanitarian airlift to Sarajevo has been shut down. A U.N. pullout, however, could bring even more suffering. None of the combatants seems powerful enough to win outright, yet the war could drag on for years. Bosnia's government troops are flush with ammunition and have recently launched several offensives, making limited gains. The Serbs are even better equipped.
Europeans fear the war could spread: to Macedonia -- where some 500 U.S. peacekeepers are stationed -- to the region of Kosovo within Serbia and culminate in all-out combat between Serbia and Croatia. That could send new waves of refugees across European borders.
The United Nations Protection Force, for all its shortcomings, has been a finger in the dike for Bosnia's Muslims, delivering food and medicine while occasionally keeping Serbian mortars and artillery at bay. Sarajevo's citizens cannot help but feel, however, that the governments of the West care more for their own troops than for the suffering inhabitants of Bosnia's capital. Twice a day, Mira Hadzimehid, youthful at 60, stocks a pram with water canisters and walks the 5 miles to a water pump near the Miljacka River. She has had enough of the war that took the life of her daughter's fiance. The news of French, American and British troops coming to the rescue does not hearten her. "They are coming to help UNPROFOR, nothing more," she says. "If they wanted to help us, they would have done it a long time ago." United and divided: a Balkan history Today's conflict in the former Yugoslavia has roots in centuries-old ethnic and religious rivalries. Yet in strife-torn Bosnia different religions and nationalities comfortably coexisted for extended periods. There and in some other mixed-ethnic areas, resentments over economic disparities and the ambitions of political leaders have stoked animosities.
Ottoman Rule, 14th-19th century Serbia bristles under Turkish rule, while the Bosnians embrace Islam, the Turks' religion. Serbs trace the start of their quest for nationhood to their defeat by Turks at Battle of Kosovo in 1389.
Redivision, 1878 to WWI As the Ottoman empire weakens, Serbia and Montenegro are freed from Turkish rule; Austria-Hungary occupies Bosnia-Herzegovina. 1914: Bosnian Serb nationalist assassinates Archduke of Austria in Sarajevo, triggering World War I.
Birth of Yugoslavia, 1929 Yugoslavia is established and the country is divided into nine districts, ignoring historical boundaries; Serbs dominate the government. Serbian King Alexander assassinated in 1934 by Croatian terrorists.
Yugoslavia divided, 1941 Croatia's fascist regime allies with Nazis and organizes a campaign of forced conversion or annihilation of the Serbian Orthodox.
Tito Rules, 1945 Marshal Tito re-establishes Yugoslav nation with collective leadership, but regional economic disparities breed discontent. By 1991, Slovenes earned nearly four times as much as most Yugoslavs.
The breakup, 1991 Slovenia and Croatia proclaim independence in 1991. Fighting breaks out between Serbs and Croats in Croatia. In 1992, fighting begins in Bosnia. In 1992, Bosnia declares independence and fighting begins. The disintegration of Yugoslavia raises fears among ethnic minorities.
USN&WR -- Basic data: Twentieth-Century Yugoslavia by Fred Singleton, Shepherd's Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd; Compiled by Julie A. Corwin and David S. Merrill
Bogged down in Bosnia The current phase of the conflict dates from March 1992, when a majority in Bosnia-Herzegovina voted for independence. The Bosnian Serb minority rejected the vote and, backed by Belgrade, began a military campaign to force Muslims and Croats out of the Serb areas and isolate Sarajevo, the capital, from the rest of the country.
Rapid-reaction force: France, Britain, and other West European countries are discussing the creation of a 5,000-strong rapid reaction force, likely to be based at the Croatian port city Split. It could come to the aid of U.N. peacekeepers on short notice.
U.S. troops: Fighter aircraft are ready for action aboard an American carrier in the Adriatic. A Marine unit is available for a host of missions. Some 500 American peacekeepers are deployed in Macedonia.
Shoot-down: A U.S. F-16 Fighter was shot down by a Serb missile; it had been patrolling the skies over Bosnia. Who's fighting whom?
In Bosnia-Herzegovina loosely-linked government and Croat forces are opposed by Bosnian Serb forces who control 70 percent of the territory. The international community has been pressuring leaders of the new Yugoslavia -- the former republics of Serbia and Montenegro -- to cut ties with the rebel Serbs and to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina.
U.N. PEACEKEEPERS 22,000 U.N. troops are supposed to help deliver aid and protect major cities but they are increasingly being forced to the sidelines. [-------] [US Navy, Marine and NATO forces in Adriatic]: USS Theodore Roosevelt; USS Arleigh Burke; USS John Rodgers; USNS Big Horn; Fast-attack submarines; HMS Illustrious (British); Foch aircraft carrier (French); USS Kearsage; USS Nashville; USS Pensacola
USN&WR -- Basic data: United Nations -END QUOTE- By Bruce B. Auster; Samantha Power; Robin Knight; Fred Coleman; Tim Zimmermann