"Greater Croatia is here to stay"
"Unmarked graves. Still, Tudjman has come close to achieving a goal that eluded even the Fascists who ruled Croatia during World War II: elimination of Croatia's Serb minority. In August, Croatian troops launched a huge offensive that drove 170,000 separatist Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia into neighboring Bosnia and Serbia. Hundreds of mostly elderly Serbs who stayed behind have been found dead in their homes with bullet wounds in the back of their heads, or buried in unmarked graves - - often, say U.N. human-rights investigators, by men wearing Croatian Army uniforms."
From-- US NEWS & WORLD REPORT -- 11/13/95
THE BIGGEST WINNER IN THE BALKANS FRANJO TUDJMAN
IS BUILDING GREATER CROATIA
Balancing a cigarette between the tips of her fingers, Esma Djulkic, a Bosnian Muslim housewife, manages a wan smile. Djulkic is relieved that the Bosnian Serbs have been driven from the hills overlooking Bihac, where she and 120,000 other Muslims were trapped for three years. And she is glad to be back in her home town of Kulen Vakuf, 20 miles south of Bihac, even though the retreating Serbs looted her house, leaving little more than Cyrillic graffiti on an unhinged door in her living room.
But Esma Djulkic is puzzled that she and the other Muslims of western Bosnia are still surrounded by foreign troops -- from neighboring Croatia. She points to a bridge spanning the Una River, where a half-dozen Croatian soldiers with machine guns stand behind a chest-high wall of sandbags and a flag bearing Croatia's red-and-white checkerboard coat of arms. "I have no idea why they're not letting [our] people across," she says.
The Croatian troops are there because the Bosnian government invited them into Bosnia last summer to fight the Serbs. Yet today, thanks to their summer successes, Croat troops control almost a third of Bosnia-Herzegovina. So far, they show little willingness to share that land with their Bosnian government partners in the U.S.-brokered "federation."
Instead, the Croats are blocking thousands of Muslim refugees from returning home -- for what Croat officials call "security reasons" -- and preventing Bosnian government troops in Bihac from linking up with forces in central Bosnia.
While global attention has been riveted on Serb atrocities and territorial conquests, piece by piece the "Greater Croatia" long sought by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman has steadily taken shape. Tudjman has never admitted his goal publicly. But he has expressed disdain for the idea of an independent, multicultural Bosnia-Herzegovina: Sitting alongside a British parliamentarian at a dinner earlier this year, he scribbled a map of Bosnia divided in two. The word Croatia was scrawled across the western portion and Serbia across the eastern.
Plans built on sand. Croatia's expansionist appetite has now assumed wider implications as peace negotiations continue near Dayton, Ohio. "The American plan rests on the assumption that the Muslim-Croat federation is solid," says a United Nations official in Zagreb, the Croatian capital. "Maybe that plan is built on sand." Tudjman's ambitions now concern Bosnian officials almost as much as those of the Serbs. "Croatia [is] trying to keep all options open," warns Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey. The great danger is that Muslims and Croats could renew the fierce battles that raged between them in 1993 and 1994.
U.S. diplomats acknowledge the risks but believe the relationship can be managed. "Some see this glass as half empty," says U.S. ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith, architect of the Croat-Muslim partnership, "but I see it as half full." Galbraith points out that the federation's military victories helped bring the Serbs to the bargaining table.
Washington also believes that Tudjman understands he will be ostracized if he continues to give the federation short shrift. But the Clinton administration is hedging its bets: Plans to train and arm the Bosnian Army are proceeding with the Croats in mind as well as the Serbs. "We want to create an environment after a peace agreement whereby there is a rough equilibrium among the three," says a senior State Department official.
On the ground, however, there are ample signs that Greater Croatia is here to stay. In Croat-dominated western Bosnia, Tudjman-controlled radio and television monopolize the airwaves, Croatian kunas are the currency of choice and telephone lines run to Zagreb, not Sarajevo. Bosnia's 300,000 Croats were even allowed to vote in last week's Croatian parliamentary elections. The Bosnian government protested, but the vote went ahead and pro-Tudjman candidates won every seat outside Croatia. Inside Croatia, Tudjman's HDZ party won easily too but did less well than expected as voters reacted against the president's strong-arm style.
Unmarked graves. Still, Tudjman has come close to achieving a goal that eluded even the Fascists who ruled Croatia during World War II: elimination of Croatia's Serb minority. In August, Croatian troops launched a huge offensive that drove 170,000 separatist Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia into neighboring Bosnia and Serbia. Hundreds of mostly elderly Serbs who stayed behind have been found dead in their homes with bullet wounds in the back of their heads, or buried in unmarked graves - - often, say U.N. human-rights investigators, by men wearing Croatian Army uniforms.
Thousands of Serb homes have been looted and destroyed since the August onslaught. Their black, roofless hulks dot the Krajina countryside, often standing next to Croat homes torched by Serbs in 1991. U.N. monitors have reason to doubt President Tudjman's claim that he is doing all he can to stop the killing and prosecute the guilty. In the village of Ljiljci, for instance, the body of an elderly Serb man cut into pieces was found by Croatian police, who ruled the case a suicide.
Only one bit of Croatia proper remains outside Tudjman's grasp: Eastern Slavonia, an oil-rich province bordering Serbia. Separatist Serbs still control the region, which Tudjman has vowed to retake by force if any agreement reached in the peace talks does not return it to him -- raising the specter of a second all-out war between Croatia and Serbia, which have the two biggest armies in the former Yugoslavia. It remains to be seen whether Tudjman's determination to achieve his dream of a Greater Croatia outweighs the risks of that nightmare.
By Paul Glastris; Tim Zimmermann