The Exit Strategy

As nobody on this planet really openly contests Kostunica's victory in FR Yugoslavia's federal presidential elections any more, we should now focus on how to make that victory operational, i.e. how to transfer the results of the elections to a functioning new Serbian/FR Yugoslav government.

And we do have a problem here: the incumbent government of Slobodan Milosevic does not want to leave office. Traditionally for Slobo, he behaves as if nothing happened (check the Elephant joke at the end of this article), calmly preparing his victory (due to the legitimate boycott by the president-elect) in the second round of elections.

Dress Mira Markovic! What would happen if George Bush didn't want to leave the White House in 1992, when he lost to Clinton? I am sure the U.S. Constitution has provisions for such unlikely situations. The Congress would take charge and 'organs of repression' would remove the embarrassing incumbent from the premises. But in Serbia, we are witnessing the first democratic elections and the formalities of transferring power are not yet worked out in such an orderly fashion. The police and army are still insecure about their loyalties - for centuries the national interests were narrowly identified with the will of the absolute leader - the king, the communist party general secretary, the president, and as long as that absolute leader is alive and in good health, the 'organs of repression' were supposed to be loyal to him.

In democracy that rule changes. They are supposed to be loyal to the country and its elected leadership, which changes periodically with elections. We will see now if the police and army in Serbia will pass that crucial test in transition of any country from the rule of man to the rule of law. Kostunica, being a law PhD, knows that well, perhaps much better than me, and in his historic speech he already called the army and the police to show their loyalty to their nation instead of to one man and his family.

The other thing that changes in democracy is what happens to a deposed leader - while in a non-democratic society he gets imprisoned or slaughtered, sometimes together with his kin, in a democracy he gets back to his home, opens a law practice or write memoirs. The fate of Slobodan Milosevic is however more complicated since he is an indicted war criminal wanted by the ICTY in The Hague. Therefore, nobody expects he shall step down without putting up a fight.

Dress Mira Markovic! Recently we witnessed a series of creative, hilarious and outrageous ideas and actions on that front. Milosevic's wife Mira traveled to Moscow, perhaps trying to arrange for her family to come there, but after not being let into Kremlin, she suffered a mild nervous breakdown and returned home. Russians don't see future in Milosevic any more. Hardly anybody does. Putin would be most comfortable with Milosevic as a prime minister of Yugoslavia, at least more comfortable than with Milosevic as an exile in Russia, the idea suggested by the German diplomats, and hoped for by Mira, obviously. But Serbian people would not be comfortable with Milosevic as a prime minister - that's something that SPS/JUL would like to negotiate down with DOS - Kostunica as a figure-head president and Milosevic as power-wielding prime minister - that was in the works from the beginning - Kostunica should and would not accept that. The more amusing is a prospect of Milosevic as an ambassador to China - a sarcastic suggestion by David Owens - to join his son Marko. This actually, is not as crazy as it sounds. Milosevic would get protected from the ICTY by the diplomat office, and by the country who supports his family. Serbs would get rid of him and he'd be far enough so he can't stir up any trouble - this is an old-fashioned way of getting rid of political opponents in a civilized manner: send them as ambassadors to the opposite side of the planet. It is questionable however would China go through trouble with the US over accepting such a deal, because the US does not give up the demand that Milosevic has to eventually end up in The Hague.

Dress Mira Markovic! Therefore, the situation is rather grim. The prospects of at least temporary violence in Serbia next month are high. And Milosevic will ultimately end up in house arrest in Serbia before Christmas. Kostunica, true to his word, will not send him to The Hague immediately - I guess Serbs will have to settle their claims against him first, so the negotiations about his extradition will probably come up later, when his image is going to be tarnished enough among ordinary Serbs, so that the extradition goes unopposed. But since this must be obvious to Milosevic family, they can't be expected not to fight. Unfortunately, no democratic government in the world came about bloodlessly (check out the American and the French revolution...). I don't think NATO intervention would be sought or needed, however, since I expect that more (about 3:1) of the police and army will support Kostunica in the upcoming fight.

Yeltsin, Clinton and Milosevic were entrusted to keep a white elephant. And each night one of them had to stay home to keep an eye on the critter. First night Boris stayed and Bill and Slobo went out. When they hailed back passing the bottle of scotch, they found Boris and the elephant both knocked down by vodka. Next day it was Billís turn to stay home and when Boris and Slobo were carried in by their aides after a drunken night, Bill, Monica and the elephant dozed off in a pipe dream with the elephantís snout still in the cigarís place. Third day Boris and Bill went out, while Slobo stayed home. At around 2 am, they returned, in a quite happy mood, and Slobo was still up, watching CNN. There was no elephant, though. So, Bill asked: "Where is the elephant, Slobo?", and Slobo replied, calmly with some hint of surprise, but generally forgiving, assuming that Bill is drunk - "What elephant?"
back to the top

Balkans Pages