Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will West Spark War within War? A NATO Invasion of Kosovo Could Spark a Civil War in Yugoslavia's

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will West Spark War within War? A NATO Invasion of Kosovo Could Spark a Civil War in Yugoslavia's

Article excerpt

For weeks, the big question in Montenegro was whether the Federal Army of Yugoslavia would attempt a coup to bring this vociferous democracy back into the fold of Slobodan Milosevic's regime in Serbia.

Journalists flocked to this ragged corner of the Balkans on "coup watch." Television commentators argued endlessly over whether Mr. Milosevic could really afford a military coup in the smaller of the two republics that make up postwar Yugoslavia - and the civil war that would likely ensue here as a result of it.

The prevailing theory was that he couldn't. With the prospect of 200,000 NATO troops converging in Kosovo, analysts reasoned that the Yugoslav president would not risk opening a second front in Montenegro. Political analysts and ordinary Montenegrins now say that any ground attack by NATO could well solve Milosevic's problems here by plunging Montenegro into a civil war of its own reluctant making. The civilian population is under increasing pressure to take sides: with the Federal Army if they are for Milosevic and the Yugoslav Federation, and with the police if they are for Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic and Montenegrin independence. Mr. Djukanovic is Western-backed, and a Montenegro under his control has been viewed by the West as a bright spot in the troubled Balkans. How Milosevic gains ground Both sides within Montenegro have condemned NATO's attack, but so far only the core pro-Milosevic camp has come to the conclusion that the daily bombardments are a good enough reason to join Milosevic in his war against the West. The Milosevic camp could gain with a ground invasion, observers here say. The physical presence of NATO troops on what, after all, remains Yugoslav soil, is likely to have a much heavier psychological impact on the Montenegrin people - whose national consciousness was formed over 500 years of constant war. "With NATO troops on the ground it will be much easier for the pro-Milosevic forces to touch on a nerve when making their customary accusations of cowardice," a Western observer said last week, requesting anonymity. Apart from that, the observer added, "things will reach a critical point {in Montenegro}" as soon as the first NATO invasion troops get to Albania and Macedonia. "If the government insists on its neutrality, and the Army sees that it has sufficient backing from the population to act," he said, "it might try to take control of the police," a 10,000-strong force that answers only to the Montenegrin government and that has resisted attempts by the Federal Army to incorporate it in its ranks. A precarious balance At a pro-Milosevic rally in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, last week, Momir Bulatovic, the federal prime minister, told a crowd of 10,000 people that the conflict between the Army and the police had to stop. …

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