Sean Gervasi: The Break Up of Yugoslavia

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Sean Gervasi: The Break Up of Yugoslavia

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This is an interesting interview on the break up of Yugoslavia with economist Sean Gervasi.

Gervasi also has one on the break up of the USSR which I'll add later.

The talk

The transcript (note, the transcript is unreviewed)


Harold Channer Good evening and welcome very, very much to Conversations where I'm pleased to welcome to the program Sean Gervasi, and he is a professor and academic who's concerned with economics and particularly relevant to what we want to talk about tonight, has just returned from a long stay in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and know something of that situation. And Sean Gervasi, welcome very, very much to Conversations.

Sean Gervasi Oh, thank you very much, Harold.

Harold Channer And back to New York. I wonder if you might, maybe before we go into some detail about what in the world is going on in terms of the Balkans, from your experience there and so forth, maybe you could share a little bit of your own background. You did some economics, you're interested in economics, and-

Sean Gervasi Well, I'm basically an economist, right? And I studied in Europe. Came back to graduate school at Cornell. Went into the federal government. Resigned.

Harold Channer Yeah, right, right. And were involved with the area in the Balkans, you had some reason to be concerned with that area, particularly in some of your early life experiences and so forth?

Sean Gervasi Well, I've lived a long time in the Mediterranean. My father had been a diplomat posted in the Mediterranean and covered a number of countries there for quite a long time after the war, so I was living in the mid and I know a fair amount about Yugoslavia. I'm particularly interested in American foreign policy, the economic aspects of that. And so, when things started getting really out of hand and about a year ago or more, some old friends of mine, whom I had known in the UN very well and who are Yugoslavian diplomats spoke to me and enticed me to come over to the Institute for a week or 10 days and out of that I became a research prof in Belgrade.

Harold Channer Yeah. You're a research prof at the Institute for the Study, I guess, of economic and political problems, which is?

Sean Gervasi Right. It's the Institute for International Politics and Economics, so it's concerned primarily with understanding the international aspects of Yugoslav's position and it's really been the premier research institute in Yugoslavia since 1948 or so, when it was founded. It was very large with a very substantial staff, which has now been cut in about half. It's still about 60, 70 people. But it's the equivalent of a major think-tank in the United States, obviously, without the connections and power that those have. Although many members of the government, the federal government primarily, have gone in and out of the institute and government back and forth.

Harold Channer And that's a longstanding institution, I mean-

Sean Gervasi Well, it was founded in 1948 if I remember correctly.

Harold Channer '48, yeah, right after the war with Tito and so forth. And unique position, it's interesting that they attacked on the end economic problems, problems they have in the Balkans and that is for certain. What advantage point has been for you over these last... now, we're taping now on February 24, 1993. And you've been there, you've been in Belgrade?

Sean Gervasi Well, I went to the institute in August. I was appointed in August.

Harold Channer So, you've been close to the scene.

Sean Gervasi And I've been in and out pretty much. I've been back to the States three times, but I've spent a good bit of time there over the last six, seven months.

Harold Channer Yeah. And as you said, things began to come apart, as you put it, about a year ago now as you see it?

Sean Gervasi Well-

Harold Channer Or maybe you could?

Sean Gervasi Yeah.

Harold Channer Just why don't we from in a primer sort of way...

Sean Gervasi Start slow.

Harold Channer ... maybe you could set the stage for us here, because the Balkans since in modern history, it's been a pivot point for world developments, after all the first war started there, there's been a clash of cultures.

Sean Gervasi Indeed.

Harold Channer And so, maybe you could give us a little of that historical development of the crucial nature and the geopolitical crucial nature of that that particular region filling in the general audience.

Sean Gervasi Well, actually that, it's the crucial geopolitical nature of the region, which really explains the founding of Yugoslavia in the beginning in 1918 as a State uniting the South Slav nations, the Republic of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Yugoslavia is in a very unique position in some respects because it's been struggled, it's been the focus of struggle between, for a long time, the Habsburg Empire on the one hand, the Ottoman Empire on the other. And a focus therefore of European interest because it really represented the demarcation line between the eastern Empire and the West in some sense and that demarcation line moved up and down the Balkan Peninsula wildly according to the various struggles, which were going on between the 14th, 13th century and the 19th century.
And it was really, with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Habsburg Empire in 1918 as a result of the First World War, that a vacuum was created in a sense in that area. And the Western countries, the [inaudible 00:05:51] really wanted to see a solid political entity there in order to guard against, don't forget this is shortly after the Soviet revolution.

Harold Channer That's right.

Sean Gervasi In order to guard against a very traditional Russian Soviet expansionism into the Mediterranean.

Harold Channer Yeah. This is even following the first war.

Sean Gervasi Following the First World War. I think that Yugoslavia was envisioned by the Allies at that time as a kind of bulwark against the expansion of the Russian Revolution, the Soviet revolution into the Balkan.

Harold Channer And the Yugo of Yugoslavia, does that mean unity or does it have a literal translation or-

Sean Gervasi It's the union of the Slavs.

Harold Channer Of the Slavs, as that's what literally the word means. And it brought together prior to that those ethnic identities which in various ways are being asserted, so obviously now go all the way back, the distinction of the Serbs, the Croats or...

Sean Gervasi Well, of course the-

Harold Channer ... the Bosnians and then you get into Kosovo.

Sean Gervasi Well, Bosnians that's a-

Harold Channer Macedonia-

Sean Gervasi That's a rather artificial conception.

Harold Channer All right.

Sean Gervasi It's not an ethnic conceptual at all. The ethnic groups in the area are historically the three South Slavic ethnicities if you like, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes. The first and the third being traditionally under the influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Catholic. The latter being much closer to Russia and Orthodox, but they're a very large number of significant minorities mixed in there. Significant numbers of them, too. Hungarians, Albanians, Macedonians, Montenegrins, and then there are even other peoples there, so-

Harold Channer Now, these, the Montenegrins and so forth, these would be subcategories of these three main groups if you could [crosstalk 00:07:55]?

Sean Gervasi No. Well, the Montenegrins really are very closely related to the Serbs, but the Albanians are not at all.

Harold Channer No.

Sean Gervasi Neither are the Hungarians, and the Macedonians are more complicated. There are Slavs, but they've also being in the southern part of that area, they've also lived for centuries under a strong Turkish influence.

Harold Channer Yes, indeed, yeah.

Sean Gervasi And there are Muslim, there's a significant Muslim population in Macedonia as there is, of course, in Serbia, in the province of Kosovo, where the Muslims are Albanians.

Harold Channer Yeah and then you have Skopje is to the South City, Skopje is to the south, is that into-

Sean Gervasi Skopje is the capital of Macedonia.

Harold Channer That's into Macedonia there?

Sean Gervasi Right.

Harold Channer And that's not been in the news up till now and let's hope that it does not become but...

Sean Gervasi Let's hope it's still there.

Harold Channer In any event, so there's this clash of these entities there after the first war. And then following upon the... and then there's also been a considerable German interest or the Germany interest [crosstalk 00:08:58]?

Sean Gervasi Well, there's been a historic German interest in the area. The Germans have always, particularly the South Germans, the Bavarians have always looked with some possibly cupidity on Croatia and on Slovenia. The Austrians have very close relations with Slovenia, and of course, Germany for a time absorbed Austria. They're very close culturally, ethnically, et cetera. And Germany, of course, has always been interested in particularly the dominance of, the domination of Central Europe. I mean, this is an issue that goes way, way back to the Bismarckan Empire. And possibly one might also say that Germany has been interested in having access to the Mediterranean through gaining entry into the Adriatic...

Harold Channer That's interesting, yeah, yeah.

Sean Gervasi ... via Croatia. That's not insignificant entry, believe me.

Harold Channer Yeah, right. And the Baghdad where they had a railway that went out to-

Sean Gervasi The Berlin to Baghdad railway?

Harold Channer Yeah, right, right, right.

Sean Gervasi I forget actually where exactly that passed, but it must have passed through the vicinity.

Harold Channer But that is interesting. We want to talk some about Mr. Cole's role in the more modern experience with Croatia.

Sean Gervasi Indeed.

Harold Channer But maybe we could pursue this historical development a little bit here.

Sean Gervasi Right.

Harold Channer There was then of course, the growth of Nazi Germany and there was the expansion and they moved into the-

Sean Gervasi Into the Balkans.

Harold Channer And the First World War obviously did start it, Sarajevo with the assassination of the Archduke. But bringing it up into the more modern experience was that the Balkans was an area where the Nazi forces actually experienced considerable difficulty with guerrillas that held out and fought them. And they never were really to assert themselves as powerful as they were, the [inaudible 00:10:47] on the ground against some of those guerrilla forces or am I off base on that?

Sean Gervasi No, no, no, that's absolutely right. This-

Harold Channer They fought like tigers against the German forces.

Sean Gervasi The Second World War was a very important experience in the Balkans, especially in Yugoslavia. The Germans created a puppet State in Croatia, which was called the Independent Croatian State. This was very large. It included all of Dalmatia, a lot of, well, almost all of what is presently Croatia and Bosnia as well, so it was a very large area. That was the area which they occupied. The Italians were given a piece of Montenegro and had some activities in other parts.

Harold Channer When would they have done that? What year would have been?

Sean Gervasi 1941. This is-

Harold Channer '41. It would have '41, right.

Sean Gervasi When the Germans invaded in 1941.

Harold Channer Okay, right.

Sean Gervasi They created this Independent Croatian State.

Harold Channer Puppet State.

Sean Gervasi And this is extremely important in understanding the present because the Independent Croatian State included large numbers of Serbs, firstly and as Croatia and Bosnia today do, there are about probably in excess of 2 million Serbs living in Bosnia, what is now Bosnia and what is now Croatia. They were also in those areas at that time. In fact, they were probably proportionally more of them, but the important thing to remember about the Independent Croatian state, which is remembered very sharply and bitterly today is that it was a clerical fascist state. And as a clerical fascist state, it pursued quite savage policies towards the minorities, towards Jews or gypsies and Serbs.

Harold Channer And Serbs.

Sean Gervasi And in fact, I think there's a lot of historical evidence and certainly is taken for granted now in the Balkans, that under the Nazis, the Germans in fact, gave the responsibility to Pavelić, the head of the Independent Croatian State, for carrying out a part of the Holocaust, which included the elimination of a large part of the Serb population. It was a very deliberate, racist, genocidal policy.

Harold Channer Directed at the Serbs?

Sean Gervasi Directed at the Serbs, the Jews and the gypsies and it's been recognized after the war by the United Nations as a policy of genocide. Now, in that situation, at that time, in a number of camps, primarily a camp called Jasenovac in Croatia, a very large numbers of Serbs perished and very large numbers of Serbs perished when the Ustašau, the uprising, fascist cache or a military cache attacked Serb villages and pretty horrible, atrocities were carried out. Now, there's a lot controversy, obviously, over precisely how many people were killed, but the range of estimates, I can give you, which is generally accepted, except of course by the present Croatian President, is between 300,000 and a million...

Harold Channer Good Lord.

Sean Gervasi ... of Serbs were exterminated at that time.

Harold Channer And this was done in the name of, was there a racist component to that they were directing?

Sean Gervasi Yes, absolutely, it was.

Harold Channer I mean, as there would have been against the Jews?

Sean Gervasi Absolutely. It was exactly what was directed against the Jews.

Harold Channer And yet, the Croates, Croats were Slavs.

Sean Gervasi The Croats are Slavs.

Harold Channer So, the direction against the Serbians in something other than geopolitical demonizing, it was a racist...

Sean Gervasi Right. Absolutely racist.

Harold Channer ... or ethnic argumentation.

Sean Gervasi Well-

Harold Channer And yet the Croats themselves were Slavs.

Sean Gervasi It was absolutely racist. Well-

Harold Channer So, how were the Germanic heirian appeal to be able to find fertile ground among the Croatians?

Sean Gervasi It was the clerical element, which generated the difference between the two. The difference between people who had lived under the Catholic Church for a very long time, and people who remained in the Serbian Orthodox Church. I mean-

Harold Channer And the under the underpinning of, I don't know, was it Bosnia or Muslim was there all along? These people who were living...

Sean Gervasi Well, they're-

Harold Channer ... and what was the attitude of the Croats toward those Muslims who were their haul over from...

Sean Gervasi That's an important point.

Harold Channer ... the Ottoman influence.

Sean Gervasi It's important to understand that these Muslims are ethnically Slavs. The Muslims in Bosnia and in other parts of Yugoslavia are people who are the descendants of those Slavs forcibly converted when the areas in which they lived were under Ottoman occupation. Under the Ottomans, the Slavs were of course seen as very much...

Harold Channer Lesser folk.

Sean Gervasi ... as lesser folk, precisely the phrase I was thinking of. And they were persecuted, discriminated against. In fact, very often, in danger of their lives. They were very heavily taxed, and there was a lot of resistance to the Ottoman occupation. Now, so ferocious was and it's very famous in literature, the Ottoman occupation that large numbers of Slavs did, in fact, convert to Islam, but as it were, in a more formal, in a formalistic sense, so that today, for instance, in Bosnia and in other parts of Yugoslavia, you have Muslims who are ethnically Slavs, blonde-haired, blue eyed, very tall, et cetera.
But who are in a cultural sense, still formally Muslims who are, by the way, many of them are not at all very religious, they're very modern for Muslims, but they regard themselves as Muslims in some sense. And of course, as Yugoslavia began to break up and even before that, there was a great deal of pressure put on Muslims in places like that to become more Islamic.
Now, one important point, I think, to remember about the experience of the Independent State, the Independent Croatian State during the Second World War, was that as it included a significant number of Bosnian Muslims at that time, Muslims of Slavic origin, but descendants of converted Slavs, again, those people were enlisted in, frankly, the genocidal war which was waged against other parts, other populations there. And in fact, the Muslims formed the primary elements of two SS Divisions in Bosnia, and that is one of the bitter memories which Bosnian, Serbs have of that epoch. That the Muslim population actively participated with the Croatian Ustašau in the genocidal attacks, which took place against gypsies, Jews and Serbs at that time.

Harold Channer Who at that time in that timeframe was in a certain sense, if that's the right term, backing as it were the Serbs?

Sean Gervasi Well, the Nazis. Oh, the Serbs?

Harold Channer The Serbs.

Sean Gervasi Well, as you know, the country was totally occupied by Serbia. It was totally occupied by the Nazis. There were at that time essentially two quite different groups of Serbs resisting that situation.

Harold Channer Tito being one.

Sean Gervasi There were, first of all, Tito's partisans who were of all Islamic nationalities and including some Muslims, I believe, Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the partisans were primarily, were a multi-ethnic group and obviously ideologically, unique and not at all, ideologically diverse, so ideologically coherent, around the idea of a future communist, a struggle for a communism in the future Yugoslavia.

Harold Channer It would tie it to the Soviet Union?

Sean Gervasi Oh, they were. They were had the political relationships with the Soviet Union, but the primary military backers, I would say at that time, perhaps not the primary military backers of the partisans were the Allies.

Harold Channer Yeah, right. All right.

Sean Gervasi And-

Last edited by ourhiddenhistory on Fri Apr 29, 2022 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sean Gervasi: The Break Up of Yugoslavia

Post by ourhiddenhistory »


Harold Channer I was thinking in terms of the ideological [crosstalk 00:19:28].

Sean Gervasi Oh, not ideologically, no, obviously, and obviously, the Russian-

Harold Channer Right. But we were supporting as we did, we supported the Soviet Union and-

Sean Gervasi We supported Tito. But there was another Serbian [crosstalk 00:19:35] ...

Harold Channer Yes, please. Yeah.

Sean Gervasi ... at that time that needs to be remembered because today it's a bit on the rise and that is the royalist Serbians calling themselves Chetniks, which meant, refers, that word refers to the old resistance fighters against the Turks. The Chetniks and the partisans, both fought the Nazis, but they also fought each other. So, the Second World War is a pretty hellish scene in Yugoslavia.

Harold Channer Yeah, awful.

Sean Gervasi In the sense that there's sort of a triangular warfare going on.

Harold Channer And the resistance that the Nazis and the Croat compatriots and so forth experience was persistent and consistent and well-remembered in the minds of many of the Western Europeans, who had experience in that Second War, that there was a real major force that was launched against this invasion for [crosstalk 00:20:34].

Sean Gervasi Right. The partisans, particularly the partisans at Bosnia, really pinned down a large number of German divisions and fought them to a standstill. There's no doubt about that. That was probably the most significant military opposition against the Nazi occupation.

Harold Channer I think that might be well-remembered by military advisors even as we sit and talk now.

Sean Gervasi Oh, absolutely. There are many British intelligence officers. One of them died recently.

Harold Channer Who are remembered well.

Sean Gervasi A man named Lees, who wrote about British relations with Tito, he was very much against them. He and a number of people like Fitzroy Maclean, Basil Davidson, who was an MI6 officer in Yugoslavia during the war zone, a very famous writer. All of these people are fully familiar with the intensity of that conflict and its triangular character.

Harold Channer And then there's building up among the people who inhabit that area, these historical and even contemporary, relatively contemporary experiences of deep animosity and hatred among the people who make it up, which might help account for the incredible chaos that seems to be emerging out of [crosstalk 00:21:45].

Sean Gervasi Well, I would emphasize the very precise word you used, help account, because that's only part of it. In fact, I would say that one of the remarkable things about the period from '45, until quite recently, well until '90, until '89, perhaps, is that these ancient antagonisms were very much attenuated, I would say. Some people like to say repressed, there are people like, there's no doubt that Tito was an enormously successful leader in this sense that under the slogan of brotherhood and unity, he succeeded really in composing, I would not say eliminating, but he succeeded in composing the accumulated historical antagonisms between the various groups in Yugoslavia.
And he built and the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist League built, what is surely one of the most successful Federated States in the history of the 20th century, far more successful in some respects than the Soviet Union was. It was I would have said, it was a model of federalism in many respects, and a model of federalism-

Harold Channer Almost of federalism, not confederalism. I mean, because the-

Sean Gervasi Of federalism.

Harold Channer All right. Sorry, I didn't mean to-

Sean Gervasi I'm not correcting you. I want to make the distinction because from the time of Tito's death, actually before. From the time of the 1974 Constitution, when there were clearly tendencies, possibly fostered already from outside, towards a much looser federation. From the time of that constitution, when by the way all of the Republics of Yugoslavia were already declared sovereign, right? Yes, under, under... so, that's the sense in which you can already say that there's a tendency to one sense, which you can already say, that there's a tendency to confederalism in Yugoslavia from the adoption of the 1974 Constitution.

Harold Channer The '74 Constitution?

Sean Gervasi The '74 Constitution. It was already loosening up. There's just no doubt about that.

Harold Channer Okay. Now because following the Second War, and Tito emerged and I mean, you had this Mr. Churchill with his iron curtain and you had this, but Yugoslavia, which was a nominally socialist, communist alliance country, but was unique.

Sean Gervasi Well, Yugoslavia-

Harold Channer There was a uniqueness to the rule that Mr. Tito was able to have and he had a window in a certain sense on the West, more so than-

Sean Gervasi More than a window, I'd like to say. I think something needs to be said about that.

Harold Channer But he was also, had a link to the communistic [crosstalk 00:24:25].

Sean Gervasi Well, ideologically, Tito, of course, had very close links historically with the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet Union. And in 1945, the Yugoslavs established a communist state, but I think Stalin did not regard Tito as a very good communist.

Harold Channer Well, I would think he was a reason not to. I mean, he had an independent streak.

Sean Gervasi Sure. Tito was a very strong person and very independent, and the Yugoslavs are very, very independent people.

Harold Channer The Yugoslavs, all of them, right now.

Sean Gervasi The Yugoslavs are very independent people. Under the pressure of the Soviet Union, they began to wind down joint enterprises. With the Soviet Union in the late '40s, they brought about the withdrawal of Russian military advisors, which by the way, had been with the partisans as well as British officers and some Americans, I think. And then, an interesting event in 1949, Mr. John Foster Dulles secretly flew to the island of Brijuni in Adriatic and met with Marshal Tito and offered him not just a window, but a very large foot in the door in the sense that Tito, sorry, Foster Dulles offered Tito a kind of tacit alliance with the United States to stand against possible Soviet expansionism in the Balkans.
And as a matter of fact, there was a tacit and a secret alliance between Yugoslavia after say the early '50s, from the early 50s and the United States in particular, in the framework of NATO. There are very large bases which were to be activated in the event of a conflagration between the major powers in Yugoslavia, secret bases, like the enormous-

Harold Channer [crosstalk 00:26:28] or what?

Sean Gervasi Oh, no.

Harold Channer No?

Sean Gervasi Much more serious stuff than that. A major underground military airbase in Croatia [inaudible 00:26:36]. There were other bases of that-

Harold Channer This in the '70s?

Sean Gervasi No.

Harold Channer No, no, I'm sorry.

Sean Gervasi This is from the '50s.

Harold Channer All right. All right. I'm sorry. Of course, [crosstalk 00:26:44].

Sean Gervasi So, that Yugoslavia undertook actually military obligations within the context of the NATO confrontation with the Soviet Union, for instance, the Yugoslav Forces undertook the obligation to block the movement of Soviet forces into Southern Italy from Hungary. There were very specific engagements, which were undertaken. Now, in return the Yugoslavs received enormous military assistance from the United States. Well, from NATO, but really 90% of that, the military assistance was from the U.S. Yugoslav officers were trained in the United States. Yugoslav received enormous technical assistance in its aircraft industry, in its military industry. That assistance enabled the creation of a very powerful, very modern military force in Yugoslavia. And of course, that was a NATO asset.

Harold Channer And those forces were under the-

Sean Gervasi Command of the Yugoslavs.

Harold Channer Under command of the Yugoslavs?

Sean Gervasi Right.

Harold Channer And of Mr. Tito?

Sean Gervasi Right.

Harold Channer And of Belgrade?

Sean Gervasi Of Belgrade, but in the event of a confrontation between East and West, they were to participate in activities in military actions against, aimed at the Soviet Union.

Harold Channer Now, what was the role of the Soviet Union in terms of the support, let's say militarily or the logistics or the internal logistics to the East, as it were then in a certain sense, in terms of military support and how do we begin to understand whence came the weapons that are being utilized in the Balkans now?

Sean Gervasi Today?

Harold Channer It seems from our perception to be overwhelmingly in the hands of the Serbian forces, that they seem to be...

Sean Gervasi No, that's not true.

Harold Channer ... very, very well-armed, but what was the realities of that, and what has been historically the tie to the Soviet Union in terms of arms and the arms that do appear and are there in the Balkans?

Sean Gervasi Well-

Harold Channer And so, what was... or what is Yugoslavia?

Sean Gervasi Let me start by saying that Yugoslavia saw between '45 and '81, '82, a quite a remarkable transformation really. It became an industrial state.

Harold Channer All right.

Sean Gervasi An industrialized country, not fully industrialized, still with a large portion minority of its population working the land, but nonetheless, as a semi-modern industrialized state with very-

Harold Channer Was that geographically identifiable to some?

Sean Gervasi It is. It is geo-

Harold Channer The North, up in Belgrade and Serbia?

Sean Gervasi No, not only there. There is a widespread view that the exclusive area of industrialization was Croatia and Slovenia, but it's not true. Let me just give you an example. One of the most modern industries in Yugoslavia is the arms industry, very large, by the way. I think it probably was in the beginning of the '80s or the mid-80s, perhaps the fifth largest arms industry in the world.

Harold Channer Interesting, interesting.

Sean Gervasi Exporter, sorry. I should correct myself. A very, very significant exporter of arms.

Harold Channer Exporter of?

Sean Gervasi Exporter of military equipment and arms.

Harold Channer And manufacturer of?

Sean Gervasi Well, and manufacturer. Absolutely.

Harold Channer Manufacturer of small arms? Not, not, not, no?

Sean Gervasi No, no, no, no.

Harold Channer No, no, no?

Sean Gervasi Really, the Yugoslav's manufacture everything from tanks to sophisticated electronics for and avionics for modern [crosstalk 00:30:07].

Harold Channer Let me ask you another question that I should have had right at the tip of my tongue.

Sean Gervasi Right.

Harold Channer I don't have it. What population are we talking about? Do you happen to know?

Sean Gervasi In Yugoslavia?

Harold Channer Of Yugoslavia?

Sean Gervasi 25 million.

Harold Channer About 25 million, and they had built up an industry, one of which was in arms. All right.

Sean Gervasi Now, it's important to remember that after the building conflict tensions, if you like, with the Soviet Union, the Yugoslavs removed their arms industry and concentrated it, where? In Bosnia. 70% of this very modern arms industry is in Bosnia today, and was in Bosnia when Mr. Izetbegović declared the independence of his Republic in April 1992, April of last year, right?

Harold Channer Okay. Well, yeah.

Sean Gervasi Now, most of the areas, which are occupied by the Muslims, are areas which have large portions of that 70% of the Yugoslav arms industry.

Harold Channer What percentage would you say, you've brought this point up that's new to me. What percentage of the arms that are there in terms of the fighting on the ground or in the air, in what was, in Yugoslavia had been domestically produced? And what percentage would you, just off the top your head [crosstalk 00:31:21]?

Sean Gervasi The vast majority.

Harold Channer That's been from outside and from where outside and what are the realities of it?

Sean Gervasi Vast majority.

Harold Channer Vast majority, domestically produced?

Sean Gervasi Produced domestically. Some of the stuff under license for instance. The Yugoslavs produced Soviet T52s, et cetera, but produced their own versions of the 72 called M84. They produced that themselves.

Harold Channer Fifth largest in the world you said they were.

Sean Gervasi My recollection is that it was the fifth largest arms exporter at a certain stage, maybe the mid-80s. I could be wrong, maybe six, but-

Harold Channer Right. Significant, yeah, absolutely.

Sean Gervasi it's a significant producer of modern arms and equipment.

Harold Channer Now, apart from that, then if we were to look at that, and you said we had armed the partisans in the Second War, and there had been this ideological tie-

Sean Gervasi Helped.

Harold Channer Helped. And there had been this ideological tie of the Soviet Union, communism. There was this quasi-ties to NATO. There were ties back to Moscow and so forth. And I'm just in a certain sense curious as to the when you said domestic and not to avoid it, but those that were not domestically produced and what has been the reality of supply lines and geopolitical supply lines of...

Sean Gervasi Supply lines today?

Harold Channer ... externally generated materials that would support a war effort?

Sean Gervasi In the present conflict?

Harold Channer With leading up to and within the present conflict?

Sean Gervasi There are two principles external sources of arms in the Yugoslav conflicts today. There are two conflicts essentially.

Harold Channer All right.

Sean Gervasi One between Croatia and the Serbian populations of Croatia and Bosnia, and one between, on the one hand Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, and a part of the Croat Army in place in Bosnia and the Army of the Republic, the Serbian Republic of Bosnia, which includes 35,000 regulars, perhaps 40,000 and 35,000 irregular troops. And they're roughly matched in size. The Croatian army has between 45,000 and 50,000 men and weapons inside Bosnia today. That's something that's not much talked about. It's-

Harold Channer These are regulars like-

Sean Gervasi Oh, those are regular members. Those are brigades of the regular Croatian Army.

Harold Channer And they would have overall been part of an overall Yugoslav Force that would have been there previously?

Sean Gervasi Right.

Harold Channer And they've divided them all-

Sean Gervasi Well, no, no. They weren't there previously. No, these troops are troops-

Harold Channer Because there had been a military, Yugoslavic military...

Sean Gervasi Right. Well-

Harold Channer ... presence and established order and so forth.

Sean Gervasi That withdrew from Bosnia in the Spring of 1992.

Harold Channer Withdrew to and where would-

Sean Gervasi To Yugoslavia.

Harold Channer To Yugoslavia.

Sean Gervasi Right.

Harold Channer All right.

Sean Gervasi Now, some of that, some of the people who might have been stationed in Bosnia in the Yugoslav Army before that might have withdrawn to Croatia. Many Croatian officers, for instance, left the Yugoslav Army with the outbreak of the war between the wars in Croatia in the spring of 1991, a year previously. They were then integrated into, became part of the Croatian Army. Now, it's that army which actually invaded Bosnia last year.

Harold Channer I see you, but you had said that there were two sources of outside or just the-

Sean Gervasi Two sources, two primary external sources of arms today. One is Germany. Germany, for instance, is perhaps this week completing the delivery of two squadrons of MiG-21s to Croatia. It has provided military advisors and weapons of many kinds, more light weapons, I think. There are rumors about German Leopard tanks being used in Bosnia. They hadn't been confirmed so far as I know, but there's no doubt that the Germans had a very large hand in equipping and preparing the Croatian Army in the end of '90, the beginning of '91.

Harold Channer And those links would have gone back through time, ain't it?

Sean Gervasi Well, the political-

Harold Channer Mr. Cole was very, very quick to recognize [crosstalk 00:35:29].

Sean Gervasi The political relationships. Well, I would say that Mr. Cole's recognition of the seceding Republics is without any doubt what precipitated the wars in Yugoslavia.

Harold Channer Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sean Gervasi It didn't start them, but it turned them into major international conflicts.

Harold Channer All right. We can go on to that because it's getting tiresome.

Sean Gervasi We can come back.

Harold Channer But the source.

Sean Gervasi Right. The other source of arms going into Bosnia today is a pipeline from the major Islamic countries, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are obviously competing against each other for influence in the Bosnian Muslim company.

Harold Channer Is that reaching significant dimension, as far as you know?

Sean Gervasi Yeah. It's not insignificant. The number of volunteers I don't think is really very large, maybe 400 or 500 in Bosnia now, but it's not insignificant and the arms are becoming significant, and the military advisors. Also by the way, I forgot to mention that the Turks are very, very important in this great power game that's going on.

Harold Channer And there's great feeling among a good deal of the Muslim world as they see as we have seen, a great deal of the... well, this term has come up, the ethnic cleansing.

Sean Gervasi What seems to be the persecution of the Muslims?

Harold Channer What seems to be the persecution of the Muslims by an overwhelmingly powerful Serbian force has been able to exert itself.

Sean Gervasi Well-

Harold Channer And were you're aware of the Western presses?

Sean Gervasi I am.

Harold Channer And perhaps you see things differently than that?

Sean Gervasi Well, it's very difficult to be on the spot and to...

Harold Channer Terrible, terrible pictures of suffering.

Sean Gervasi ... at the same time be willing to-

Harold Channer Rape camps and so forth.

Sean Gervasi But you have to look at all of this stuff very carefully. Let me remind you about the incubator incident.

Harold Channer In Kuwait, yeah.

Sean Gervasi Right. Let me remind you about the fact that there's a vast official propaganda mechanism at work in every major western country, which emanates from the government, which organizes mass propaganda campaigns. Look. There's a part of the directorate of operations of the Central Intelligence Agency that deals with these things and hundreds of people are employed there, similarly in the United States Information Agency, similarly in parts of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
So, let's start from the fact that official propaganda is a fact and that there are massive mechanisms for organizing that. The question at issue here is when we look at what we have seen in the media in the West during the last year and a half, as far as Yugoslavia or whatever you wish to call the various parts of it, is concerned, are we dealing with honest, objective reporting or are we dealing with to a very large extent with officially inspired and indeed fabricated propaganda?

Harold Channer All right. Officially inspired and fabricated propaganda on the part of whom?

Sean Gervasi Primarily on the part of Germany, I would say. The Germans have a very great interest in this situation. Let me just sketch that very briefly, okay? At the end of the 1980s, as you know, the communist regimes in Eastern Europe were really disintegrated under various kinds of pressure.

Harold Channer Yes, the world changed [crosstalk 00:38:56].

Sean Gervasi Under various kinds of pressure, so-

Harold Channer And the centrifugal forces that are exerting themselves in Yugoslavia, there is a relationship between that fact and the...

Sean Gervasi Well-

Harold Channer And the fact that there is this difficulty emerging in Yugoslavia.

Sean Gervasi Well, yes and no.

Harold Channer In a larger capitalism.

Sean Gervasi Let's just start with the fact that this was a fact in the end of the '80s, all right? Now, 1989, Germany was reunified, that made Germany far and away the most powerful country on continental Europe.

Harold Channer Oh, there's no doubt. Yeah.

Sean Gervasi Okay?

Harold Channer That's the engine of Europe. Yeah, it will be [crosstalk 00:39:32].

Sean Gervasi Now, we also have to remember that Germany at that time and this was particularly accentuated by the process of unification, had already experienced as the United States and France and Britain and Italy and other Western countries have, long years of economic dislocation, slowing of the economic growth, rising of unemployment, Germany today has more than 10.5% unemployment.

Harold Channer Well, yeah, they're absorbing Eastern Germany.

Sean Gervasi Well, they had higher employment before they absorbed Eastern Germany. The Eastern Germany has created an absolute economic cataclysm for Western Europe because of the manner in which it sought to absorb.

Harold Channer You don't think they'll get their act together and unify Germany?

Sean Gervasi Absolutely out of the question. Well, it depends on what you mean. Economically, there's no way in which they can make it viable, but that's an economic question we can look at if you want.

Harold Channer Yeah, that's a whole another couple of hours of discussion.

Sean Gervasi That's another hour's discussion.

Harold Channer But that is a big important thing, but go ahead. I'm sorry to interrupt.

Sean Gervasi That is an important thing. So, we have the disintegration of the Eastern European regimes, by the way, the death of Tito was 1980, which is a not insignificant date and...

Harold Channer Yeah, right. Of course, yeah.

Sean Gervasi ... an important factor contributing to this situation. We have long years of economic stagnation and dislocation in the West. By the way, that was transmitted to Yugoslavia through reductions in trade, reductions in investment, reductions in immigrant remittances, et cetera, so that Yugoslavia through the 1970s was affected by the economic crisis in the West, which deepened and deepened from 1972, 1973. When Germany absorbed the Eastern Germany, West Germany absorbed the Eastern Germany, that economic difficulty was really greatly enhanced.
We then saw, actually, it had begun well before that, a rise of a new kind of nationalism in Germany, which hasn't been seen there in a long time. And if you look at the German debates, which have been going on for some time now, they are fairly hair raising. German academics, historians, et cetera, are really debating a new how bad Hitler was. That's the tenor of the debate. There's a massive, there's a very large revisionist debate going on in Germany, which has accompanied by, been accompanied by and I think, facilitated the rise of nationalism. And we have also the rise of the right wing extremist groups. By the way, I have to remind you-

Harold Channer Skinheads and whatnot, and these kind of-

Sean Gervasi Well, like a Dolce Alternativa. These groups which are essentially street combat groups...

Harold Channer Yeah, or rough-ins, do you think?

Sean Gervasi ... but they're financed through the electoral system because when you create a political party in Germany, you get subsidies from the electoral system in order to fill your candidates.

Harold Channer You think these street rough-ins and the people doing fire bombings of immigrants and shouting out slander roust, and so forth, are supported by the government, officially by the government?

Sean Gervasi Officially by the government. That's a complicated question.

Harold Channer Or are they just these affected individuals who are lashing out...

Sean Gervasi No, no, it's much more systematic than that.

Harold Channer ... in an escape-goating way the inference [crosstalk 00:42:38].

Sean Gervasi They're supported by important figures in the industry and they are supported by people in the government, in very discreet ways, obviously. Well, just to give you an example.

Harold Channer Great wording.

Sean Gervasi There are two deputy Directors of the Federal Ministry of Defense in Germany, of Federal Ministry of the Interior of Germany, an enormously important department in Germany, who are actually members of Revanchist Eastern parties, particularly Sudeten, Sudetendeutscher parties, which in any case...

Harold Channer Yeah, yeah. We shouldn't get too far from here.

Sean Gervasi ... these connections exist, but most important of all of these things, Germany began consciously rebuilding its cultural and economic links into and efforts to, it penetrate Central and Eastern Europe, systematically, and Southeastern Europe, Yugoslavia has always been one of the areas which had been in historically, in German Imperial sites. And with the reunification of Germany and the rise of nationalism and all that that's been accompanied by, we have seen a definite clear, clearly defined, traceable German effort to resume its dominance in Central Europe, particularly East Central Europe, that is to say, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. And the Czechs, for instance, maintain that-

Harold Channer Well, Czechoslovak.

Sean Gervasi Right. The German-

Harold Channer That's just divided up again now.

Sean Gervasi Well, yes, but the Czechs maintained that the Germans played a critical role in precipitating the schism in Czechoslovakia, that separation of Slovakia. And there's very good reason for believing that. I mean, the Germans, don't forget, had historic ties to the Slovaks. They did in Slovakia, during the Second World War, very much what they did in the Independent Croatian State. It wasn't quite as horrible, but there were Slovak fascists. The Germans supported them. There was a Nazi puppet state in Slovakia, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. What I'm saying is that a lot of the ugliness that we saw in the 1930s and the 1920s in Western Europe and in Germany in particular, really is resuming now.

Harold Channer That's very, very worrying. I mean, that's another... that's very worrying to hear, yeah.

Sean Gervasi But it is an important element here in understanding what's happened in Yugoslavia because the Germans really helped to precipitate that. They helped to precipitate the war between Croatia and Yugoslavia, the secession of Croatia, and they have armed, assisted, advised, et cetera, guided the independent, the new version of Independent Croatian State under Mr. Tudjman.

Harold Channer And do you think that the hand of Germany and then that the Serbian for... I wonder if you could put this into perspective for this last year or so that the Serbian activity was a reaction to that or what?

Sean Gervasi Okay, Serbian activity. Let's go-

Harold Channer We've people like George Shultz and ex-President Reagan, and all sorts of people at the very highest authority in this country condemn what you see...

Sean Gervasi The Serbs.

Harold Channer ... on television. People talking now about the Bosnians who have suffered. Today, as you and I talk on February 24, they're airlifting airdropping supplies into Bosnia, that suffering Bosnian people, and in the minds of the American people, the Serbian Forces have been ruthless and an aggressive force that ought to be confronted, even on to talking about the use single use of airpower against Belgrade Forces and so-

Sean Gervasi There's no doubt that we are.

Harold Channer And what is the reality as far as you see, all of these, which you obviously can see, is the perception that is felt by many of the leadership and much of the general society in this country. And we feel frustrated that we're not able to go in because our military advisors tell us, we get ourselves into another sort of Vietnam quagmire, and we mustn't enter militarily? And do you think we might and some of these questions that are so much in the thinking of the American people now?

Sean Gervasi Well, I think it's important.

Harold Channer Put some of that in perspective for us.

Sean Gervasi I think it's important to come to the situation today to the Vance-Owen Plan Mark, too.

Harold Channer Yeah, Vance-Owen.

Sean Gervasi The version generated by the Clinton Administration, the new proposals to go into Bosnia with the position of the United States Military, but the background, let's just say something about that. There is a conflict in Bosnia, a major conflict in Bosnia border, just as there is in Croatia, between Serbs and Croatians. Both of those conflicts were precipitated by a very simple fact, the secession of these States from Yugoslavia, without attention to regulating the status of Serbs in Croatia and in Bosnia. This is a very serious question because of the historical background, which I mentioned, the Independence Croatian State and the genocide conducted against various populations, the Serbs in particular, between 1941 and 1945.
At the time that Croatia declared its independence in June of 1991, there were 700,000, 750,000 Serbs living in parts in the Cronus, as they're called, which, by the way, is the geopolitical heart of Croatia. There were 1,300,000; 1,400,000 Serbs living in Bosnia at the time that Bosnian Independence was declared in April of last year. These secessions took place in a manner which raised the historic fears, historically justified fears of the Serbian populations of these areas that they would be the target of genocidal persecutions again.
Why? When Mr. Tudjman became the President of Croatia, declared its independence, passed legislation which purged Serbs from government service, changed property rights of Serbs living in Croatia, mandated the purge of Serbs from the universities, the media, et cetera, in the name of democratization but nonetheless, and began this in addition, right wing extremists in Croatia carried out military attacks on Serbian communities. And the Serbs resisted. That's how the war in Croatia began. That's why the Yugoslav Army intervened in Croatia.
Now, again, remember that the Muslims in Bosnia sought to create, stated so, still do and it's a very important issue which is denied in this country, a Fundamentalist Islamic State in the middle of Europe. And that also ignored the historic rights of Serbs to be considered an equivalent nationality, as they had been before Croatian succession in Croatia, with equal rights to other members of the population and as they saw it, expose them once again to the threat of genocidal persecution.

Harold Channer Where would this entity be? This Muslim-oriented entity?

Sean Gervasi In Bosnia.

Harold Channer Where geographically? In Bosnia.

Sean Gervasi In Bosnia.

Harold Channer In the whole of Bosnia?

Sean Gervasi Yes. The secession of Bosnia took place when the Muslim population of Bosnia was 44% of the total, 44% of the total, a minority. By the way, that's against the Constitution of the Bosnian Republic itself. The Bosnian Republic-

Harold Channer You mean, to set up a-

Sean Gervasi Secession without the consensus of the three principal nationality groups is against the Bosnian Republic's own constitution in 1992, okay? So, all of these things that were done were totally illegal. The illegalities in themselves frightened the Serbs. The determination of the Croatians to discriminate against and to leave the Serb populations out of equivalent consideration constitutionally as happened in Bosnia that really began to raise all these old fears, and the Serbs reacted. The Serbs reacted by saying, "Okay, we will ourselves choose to secede as a Serbian nationality in Bosnia, in Croatia, from these Independent Republics, and become members of Yugoslavia and accede to membership of Yugoslavia." That's really what they would like to see, but they would like this whole thing, by the way, it could be settled very simply...

Harold Channer How?

Sean Gervasi ... by, according to the Serbian populations of these Republics, the same rights and privileges, the same property rights, et cetera, as belong, according to their constitutions, to all of the citizens. What has happened with the Croatian and the Bosnian secessions is that mono ethnicity has been declared as the only right and proper basis for self-determination. But this is complete Balderdash. It's historical nonsense. It's legal nonsense, and frankly, it's only because it serves the strategic interests of outside powers, powers not part of that region, that this has been tolerated. And that around this, a whole series of myths have been created, which create the impression, which you were describing a few minutes ago.

Harold Channer Well, yeah, and which is a very widespread one here. It makes one think a little bit of Cyprus where the Turks and the and the Greeks had fought and so forth, then they divided the island into two groups and rather than mixing, because they-

Sean Gervasi Right. It doesn't make any sense economically at all, of course.

Harold Channer It doesn't make sense economically, but it did make sense in the sense that they were killing each other and fighting over these ancient animosities. And there are some attempts now then to try and divide the people in the area of Yugoslavia into groups, so because in the sense or the... one would think there's a sense that these groups simply cannot get along together.

Sean Gervasi Well, let me raise a further irony in this situation.

Harold Channer Unless there's this overpowering force of unity, Tito or something that would hold them together and-

Sean Gervasi Well, I think that's a false perception. I have to tell you, because I think there has been a very great effort to work at the stimulation of nationalist tendencies in order to fragment Yugoslavia.

Harold Channer Nationalist tendencies, in this case being Yugoslav?

Sean Gervasi No, no. Croatian, Slovenian secessionism, Bosnian secessionism, Muslim fundamentalism.

Harold Channer Well, yeah, but-

Sean Gervasi All of these, including Albanian secessionism, all of these nationalities have been appealed to, to some extent financed, cosseted, assisted, directed by outside powers in order to bring about the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

Harold Channer Well, we have it not only in Yugoslavia, we have it in all kinds of places in the world. You've mentioned before Czechoslovakia. We have it in Tajikistan. We have it in Kyrgyzstan.

Sean Gervasi [crosstalk 00:54:37].

Harold Channer We have all sorts of entities and ethnic entities on the subcontinent of India. We have it in Africa. We have it all over the place, these ethnic groups which are asserting themselves, as nations, which had previously been part of a nation, an ethnic group was part of a nation. There was unity, but there seems to be ethnicity, I'm not sure exactly what we mean by that, this is a whole another program, is becoming the basis of political sovereignty in the minds of many.

Sean Gervasi Well, you see the problem is-

Harold Channer And there's this tremendous centrifugal force, which is exerting itself on a worldwide scale and one wonders how many nation, we used to say nation state, we don't say ethnic state, but the ethnicity seems to want to become the basis of political sovereignty in the modern world.

Sean Gervasi Which you see, this is impossible.

Harold Channer And it becomes economically unworkable, but I just wonder if-

Sean Gervasi Apart from the economics, however-

Harold Channer I mean, apart from the-

Sean Gervasi A part from the economics.

Harold Channer It's not just in Yugoslavia does it exert in itself.

Sean Gervasi No, I understand that, but let's look at the example of Yugoslavia apart from the economics, obviously, the successions of shattered Yugoslavian infrastructure totally, destroyed the linkages between industries across markets, et cetera. It's an economic catastrophe for the secessionist states, right?

Harold Channer Yes, right, right, right, right.

Sean Gervasi But then there is a further paradox, a very bitter irony, actually, which is that, while for I would say, for simple geostrategic convenience, various powers, including the United States and Germany, in particular, by the way, resisted very long time by the Netherlands and France and Great Britain behind the scenes, they fought bitterly to prevent Germany from doing what it did inside the European community. While these powers decry the impossibility of holding a nation of many ethnicities like Yugoslavia together, what they are doing is creating mini Republics with the same ethnic contradictions and puzzles. Bosnia is not a state with 80% or 85% or 90% Muslim population, there's only 44%.

Harold Channer Which is going to compound the problem.

Sean Gervasi Right. So, the problem here and the same is true of Croatia. It has an enormous Serbian population. Okay. There is no way in the world that you can draw a map of Yugoslavia, which will contain a really large majority of any individual ethnic group, so it's not possible. It's so intermixed.

Harold Channer Okay. We only have about two minutes left. I wonder Vance-Owen Plan, Owen-Vance or Vance-Owen Plan and really quickly, what and just sum it up now, what's going to happen there? We got about a minute and a half.

Sean Gervasi Well, it's clear that there's a strong desire on the part of some U.S. politicians to involve the United States in this war or at the very least, to prolong it. Prolonging this war serves a very important strategic American purpose, which is it's totally disrupting the European continent at a critical moment when it's trying to move towards political integration. That's a very important consequence. Germany, Italy and other European countries have suffered tremendously from sanctions, right?
But there is a very great danger here that the so-called minor military assistance to these so-called humanitarian efforts can explode into a major conflict and the Yugoslavs are now telling the United States behind the scenes that they really are risking a major conflagration, which could place them in the same situation that the Germans found themselves in when they tried to occupy the country in the Second War.

Harold Channer Yeah, that's why there's so much [inaudible 00:58:16]. We could go on talking for hours. Thank you.

Sean Gervasi Sure, we will.

Harold Channer Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure. Sorry, we're really short of time.

Sean Gervasi Lots of fun.

Harold Channer Sean Gervasi, who has filled us in very, very admirably only just sort of whetted our appetite. There's so much to learn.

Sean Gervasi Touching the surface.

Harold Channer It makes us want to go and get the books and so forth, and your pleasure to have had his perceptions. Thanks again very much, Sean, for coming in.

Sean Gervasi Thanks so much. Thanks, Harold.

Harold Channer We on Conversations invite you to tune in again next week. We'll be coming back next week, same time. That's it for this particular program. Again, thank you very much and have a good night.

Sean Gervasi Thanks.

Harold Channer We'll see you next week.

Sean Gervasi Okay.

Harold Channer Good night.

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