The man who fanned the flames of Serbian nationalism and let
them burn down Yugoslavia is celebrating 10 years in power this
month. In the ashes that remain of "Greater Serbia," Slobodan
Milosevic has retained his grip on power - and his position as a
guarantor of the Dayton peace agreement.
But presidential elections yesterday in Montenegro, the tiny
republic that, with Serbia, comprises rump Yugoslavia, could shake
that hold if Westward-looking challenger Milo Djukanovic topples
Mr. Milosevic's proxy, Momir Bulatovic.
Milosevic, who became president of rump Yugoslavia after his
second term as Serbian president expired in July, saw his domestic
stature seriously bruised in the opposition protests of last
winter. Recent Serbian elections further eroded the power of his
Despite these domestic setbacks, Milosevic has remained
indispensable for the Balkan peace process. Last month, Milosevic
appeared to have resolved the bitter power struggle that threatened
to split the Bosnian Serb republic.
In separate meetings with Bosnian Serb President Biljana
Plavsic and her arch-rival in the Bosnian presidency, Momcilio
Krajisnik, Milosevic brokered an agreement that paves the way for
parliamentary and presidential elections in the Bosnian Serb
republic later this year. The two leaders were back in Belgrade
Oct. 13 for in a meeting that confirmed parliamentary elections
would be held later this year.
"Milosevic wants to present himself with the
Krajisnik-Plavsic agreement as the only person who can create peace
in Bosnia, but he's the man who started the war in Yugoslavia,"
says Ognjen Pribicevic, a researcher at the Belgrade Institute of
Social Sciences and author of a recent book on Milosevic. He
credits the Serbian leader's continuing success with political
Milosevic began as a rising star in Yugoslavia's Communist
Party apparatus but soon adopted nationalistic rhetoric in the late
1980s. Under his regime, Serbs living in Croatia and Bosnia were
encouraged to fight for the dream of a Greater Serbia. Only when
United Nations sanctions against rump Yugoslavia began to bite and
the Bosnian Serb leadership became disobedient did Milosevic take
on the new role of peacemaker.
Milosevic's economic and military ties to the Bosnian Serb
leadership of Radovan Karadzic made him a useful partner for the
international community. Two years ago, Milosevic signed the Dayton
agreement on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs.
While Milosevic has managed to retain power, it has come at a
price to Yugoslavians. Battered by socialist mismanagement and a UN
embargo, the economy is a shambles.
The democratic process in Yugoslavia - once the most liberal
of Eastern European countries - has been damaged by Milosevic's use
of state media as a propaganda machine and his successful
marginalization of the opposition.
Dejan Anastasijevic, a staff writer for the independent
Belgrade weekly Vreme, calls Milosevic "a brilliant tactician, but
lousy strategist. …