|Speech given to:
The Reform Club Media Group
London, United Kingdom
4 November 1998
“Yet Another Lease of Life for Milosevic”
May I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Sir David Nicholas
and the Reform Club Media Group for having invited my wife and I to join
you this evening in such splendid surroundings.
The West has yet again given Mr. Milosevic and his regime a new lease
of life. Thanks to the regimes total control of the Serbian media, Milosevic’s
state controlled machine made a theatrical display using the airwaves with
the possible NATO intervention over the tragedy in Kosovo. If he made concessions
and he was aware he would have to eventually, he would have ended up as
a traitor to the fever of nationalism that he kindled and nurtured over
the years. He provoked NATO to threaten the air strikes and then in the
last moment, he “saved” Serbia from the missiles. Yet again, the state
propaganda machine portrays him as a saviour, a great peacemaker and a
statesman. Milosevic then promptly closed down the remnants of the independent
media that wanted to reveal his game. So Serbia remains in darkness and
ignorance and the state run media is singing praise to the president. Any
hope of democratic reform is on hold and that is serious. Without democracy
in Serbia, Milosevic will continue to have a free hand and initiate more
trouble. I would like to quote an excerpt from a New York Times editorial:
“Most high level diplomats who visit Belgrade see only Milosevic and his
men, which boosts his standing and sends the message that the West does
not care about Serbia’s dissenters. Independent groups are not the solution
to the Kosovo problem, but they maybe the start of a solution to the Milosevic
After the collapse of the “evil empire” and the Berlin Wall. The West
almost certainly thought that our communist leaders in the former Yugoslavia
would be ideal to make a gradual orderly transition in implementing desperately
needed democratic and economic reforms. The West overlooked that our communists
had been scheming on how to remain in power in the “New World Order” that
no longer drew global communist emotion. Our League of Communist leaders
came up with a masterful strategy and each one them in turn used to the
full extent negative nationalism and negative religion. This allowed them
a new lease of life. A monk in Kosovo put it: “Religion in our time is
often used for political and ideological purposes. Because of its great
emotional impact, religion can help mobilise people, for good or bad”.
The same goes for nationalism.
Over the years to ensure survival and power in the “New World Order”
Milosevic enlisted his family, created militias, created loyal and crafty
opposition, created political parties, created fronts etc. All these elements
have been hard at work in doing all kinds of things such as ethnic cleansing,
creating and running mafias, closing down the media, controlling the media,
gathering intelligence both domestic and foreign, poisoning and infiltrating
institutions, intimidating people, stifling dissent in the universities
and so on.
You all remember the winter of 1996-1997, the demonstrations and discontent
when the regime had stolen the peoples vote. Many of the demonstrators
were the good citizens, students and intellectuals of Belgrade and other
cities. We should not forget the hundreds of thousands of intellectuals
and technicians who left in what might be called a “brain drain”. These
people sought a better future and security in far away lands. In the end
the great loss of the intellectual voices of reason contributed and continues
to do so to Milosevic’s power base. Everyone has been let down by political
intrigue and games both domestic and international. In dealing with crisis
such as the demonstrations, Milosevic masterfully used the technique of
having two “in” trays. The first “in” tray for urgent personal matters
such as dealing with investments, properties, funds and favours. The second
“in” tray is designed not to be handled urgently. Simply because the Milosevic
strategy is that it will go away in time. The European Union and the United
States got off the hook again thanks to the second “in” tray. There were
also big demonstrations in Indonesia and the United States Secretary of
State strongly demanded that the dictator relinquish power. Does this mean
that there are different classification or categories of regimes in the
State Department? On the other hand, is it just a question of size? Economics
or that Indonesia is the largest Islamic populated country?
There was a deal in Dayton that left Milosevic off the hook if he delivered
and represented the Bosnian Serbs at the conference table. What was decided
at Wright Paterson Air Force Base in Ohio was “peace in our time” just
like Chamberlain coming back from Munich. The war in Bosnia ended and that
was good, but it stopped there. The leaders continued to be the same bedfellows
in Zagreb, Belgrade and Sarajevo and so nothing changed. Democracy stood
no chance and was effectively put on hold so that President Clinton would
have a feather in his cap inscribed “peace in our time”. Is the United
States serious about democracy or playing another game as we have become
so used to brilliantly illustrated in many excellent Hollywood movies?
Surely the United States over simplified the situation in believing that
it was doing good in helping effectively only one side conveniently forgetting
the overall composition of Bosnia and the joint responsibility of the scheming
leaders in Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo in having created the horror in
the first place.
We are inundated with the news about Iraq and Serbia running in tandem.
How about a well put together exertion to resolve the leadership in Baghdad,
Belgrade etc? And, to get on with it for once and all so that the people
cease suffering in isolation under dictatorships and sanctions that ultimately
only benefit and strengthen the dictators. Sanctions only hurt the people
who are powerless and victims. It is as if the United States and
it allies need the Saddam Hussein’s and Slobodan Milosevic’s to justify
alliances, ordinance and to ultimately ignore the misery of the people.
I think the people of Serbia and Montenegro deserve dignity and a future
in democracy minus all the games and pawns between the Western powers and
indeed between Moscow and the West. The Serbian and Montenegrin people
have suffered a great deal from a negative Western media who in part never
understood the techniques and conniving methods used by the regime in Belgrade
to assure power and continuity.
I wish to expand a little more on why the horrors of the Wars of Yugoslav
Succession took place. We should take a hard look at the leaders of the
former Yugoslavia. The politicians in the West blissfully thought that
our leaders from the League of Communists in the post Tito period would
be capable of implementing democratic and economic reforms. Tito was considered
a hero to many in the West and very obliging as a communist when in fact
he was more oppressive than many of his fellow communist leaders. When
Tito broke away from Moscow he had no option owing to the sphere of influence
that Yugoslavia found itself in. The West would not accept Soviet access
to warm water and Moscow would not accept Western dominance over Yugoslavia.
This situation only benefited Tito personally, but it also made him a hero
in the eyes of bystanders. He ruled with total power by creating division
within the only party The League of Communists. The horrors of the Second
War and the Civil War of Yugoslavia were conveniently forgotten. The post
war years of Tito’s Marxist dictatorship are also remote today. The West
was taken in over the decades by Tito’s form of dictatorship. Visitors
were wined and dinned in palatial splendour and thus the misguided belief
that the League of Communists were capable to produce fine leaders who
care about people. To be fair I have met many former members of the League
of Communists who wanted no part of the fantasy, but only desired a job
to survive and I respect them. Over the last few years, there have been
some strides for democracy in parts of the former Yugoslavia and I applaud
this. However, the horror is that other leaders of the former Yugoslavia
turned a blind eye on their own citizens failing to recognise them as equals
regardless of ethnic origin or religion. Human rights simply do not exist
or exist simply on paper. To recognise everyone as equals would have been
against the leaders and their regimes survival code. The result as you
well know is that everyone suffered Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Jew
and many more. They lost their lives, they were maimed, they were ethnically
cleansed, they were tortured and they became refugees.
There were millions of mixed marriages throughout the former Yugoslavia
and it is well known that the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serbs and the
Bosnian Croats lived in Bosnia together in peace for centuries. Quite apart
from the fact that under the communist dictatorship of Tito -- that the
West often encouraged by omission -- not many people in Yugoslavia lived
in peace, the proposition is correct only if we telescope historic events.
Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Muslims and others lived together in a state
that was substantially different, a region that was part of a greater country
in which all nationalities were assured, at least on paper equal standing.
Regrettably as I mentioned, Tito created the six republics and the two
autonomous regions (in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia there were administrative
Banovinas with different lines). The West recognised these republics as
international entities without taking into account their constituent populations
and the crossing of borders of the constituent populations. Slovenia was
easy -- one ethnic group and one religion -- but the difficult ones were
Croatia and particularly, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia's independence
was a substantially new development, and one that challenged the existence
of Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats in that region. There
is no doubt that the communities did, could and should have lived together.
I myself have always appealed to those in power and the media on numerous
occasions for toleration and co-operation, and have denounced violence
repeatedly. The tragedy is that decades of Tito’s personalised dictatorship
deprived people of this fundamental feeling, that no amount of violence
is justified in pursuing political ends.
It the mid eighties many strategists and I predicted that there would
be civil war in what was then Yugoslavia. I spent much time talking with
politicians and institutes in many capitals trying to avert bloodshed.
I am sad that we had to witness the largest scale humanitarian disaster
Europe has seen since the Second World War. My wife, Princess Katherine,
can tell you first hand about the terrible humanitarian pain and misery
and about the relief, she has valiantly given through her charitable work
regardless of religion or ethnic origin.
If the regime leaders had been different and had received sound coaching
supplemented by calculated carrots, the tragedy would have been averted.
Why did the West not have a prepared modern type Marshal Plan? On the other
hand, why was the West not equally firm with all the leaders of the former
Yugoslavia? There were no saints or angels. The leaders did not have far
to go in our history in firing up and using negative nationalism and negative
religion. Remember the ability to use the state-controlled media as a superlative
instrument to inspire hatred and drum up nationalism in living colour thanks
to a modern television system and not to forget radio.
There were two empires in our region in recent history they remained
for hundreds of years, the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
These two Empires left legacies and departed late in modern historical
terms. After their demise, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
simply did not have the luxury or time to consolidate democratic institutions.
It was my grandfather who changed the name of the country to Kingdom of
Yugoslavia in 1929. Yugoslavia means South Slavs. The brief interval between
the two World Wars saw the rise of fascism, the Great Depression, then
the onset of the Second War coupled with the Civil War in Yugoslavia. At
the end of the war there followed close to five decades of communism, and
finally the last ten horrific years. All these negative events proved to
be disastrous for the people of the former Yugoslavia and neighbours. In
the end, drummed up hatred got the upper hand. We are witnessing today
after decades “on hold” the beginning of the end of medieval history in
South Eastern Europe and the regimes taking full advantage of this fact.
Under Milosevic’s rule the people have paid a heavy toll after 10 miserable
years of what started from a speech in Kosovo inflaming the use of negative
nationalism and religion. He has been in part responsible for the dismemberment
of former Yugoslavia, the start of the war in Slovenia, then Croatia, then
Bosnia, and now in the Kosovo region. There is no doubt that he has benefited
along with his co-workers who are still the leaders of Croatia and Bosnia.
These leaders have used and continue to do so the same techniques and methods
to remain in power. The West has fallen for all of the dirty tricks and
provided simplified solutions that have only given further leases of life
to the regimes. I am convinced that should one of the regimes topple. There
would be a domino effect heralding in a new era of democracy in South Eastern
Europe bringing hope for the people and future generations to mend their
lives. Will the West really rejoice and approve of democracy in the region?
A few days ago, an historian at Belgrade’s Institute of Serbian Studies
put it. “Since the international community has accepted the realities of
Milosevic being in power and even though it blames him for everything that
happened, they always, and this is the third time they’ve done the same
thing, accept Milosevic as the main and only partner to negotiate some
kind of solution. I do not really understand how you can find a solution.
Reach an acceptable compromise with someone you consider most responsible
for the crisis”. The historian’s point is valid. Until Serbia is at peace
with itself there will be no lasting peace in the region.
Many people ask me what does the situation in former Yugoslavia have
to do with the United States or the European Union. My answer is that the
region is an integral part of Europe and important link in the European
brotherhood of nations. Belgrade is only a few minutes away from London
by plane. Various large immigrations over the decades and their descendants
from the region populate the United States. Western democracies do have
a moral responsibility to champion human rights and democratic principles
not only at home but also throughout the world. It is thanks to fine journalists
like yourselves that we are able to read about and enjoy the fruits of
democracy. At the dawn of a new century the Western democracies cannot
be selfish and watch others rot and suffer under modern dictatorships.
It is vital that the West dutifully defends democratic principles and human
rights, and come to the rescue of those who suffer.
As journalists, you are well aware of the abundance of elections in
Serbia over the last ten years. What is the point of having elections when
the people have been fed a load of attuned material, with the sole advantage
of ensuring perpetual continuity for the regime? I do not recommend anymore
instant elections until there is freedom of the media and basic human rights.
I think as journalists you will sympathise in what I have said. People
have the right to know, partake in politics and deserve respect. As part
of a plan, there must be a “cooling off period” allowing fundamental reforms
like those undertaken in Spain after the Spanish dictatorship of Franco.
The King appointed Suarez as the interim Spanish Prime Minister who in
turn implemented initiatory reforms and only thereafter, elections took
place. Spain has valiantly moved ahead and I believe we can do the same
providing the regime does not enjoy any more Western gifts of further leases
of life. Ambassador Holbrooke take note, but after all, he is only following
Finally, the tragedy and pain is far from over. Milosevic will need
some more nationalism to ensure his power base and he might ignite one
or more of several areas. I am thinking particularly of Vojvodina. On the
other hand, Montenegro or even on the side Macedonia. There is simply no
shortage of hot spots.
Thank you for your attention. It will pleasure to answer your questions.