Der Spiegel, The Sun and “Balkan Experts”

On April 5th Germany´s Der Spiegel published a highly biased and sensationalistic article about the presence of ISIS or “Islamic State” in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the problem does exist the article gives space to one of the most notorious apologists for Slobodan Milošević´s crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and “Greater Serbian” expansionism known today, namely John R. Schindler.

Schindler has become something of a Twitter celebrity, beloved by the right, and the far-right and butt of jokes for the rest of us giving his erratic tweeting which includes warning about impending nuclear war in Europe and praising Adolf Hitler´s and Benito Mussolini´s war record, in fairness to Schindler he was saying that to make a point about how Trump was just a con-man and didn´t have the balls to become a fascist strongman like those two men, because they had seen “The Shit.”

Schindler who was forced to resign from his beloved position as nothing less than a *full professor* at the Naval War College due to among other things inappropriate behaviour including sending phots of his genitals to people as well as trying to dox someone who had written unfavourably about him, is given ample space in the article to claim that  Bosnia “is considered something of a ‘safehouse’ for radicals, and now harbours a stable terrorist infrastructure”  without the journalist Walter Mayr ever asking Schindler what he is basing this on,  given that fact that Schindler has not worked at the NSA for over a decade and has lost his security clearance it seems resonable to ask this. As well as the fact that Schindler´s propaganda tract against Bosnia and in particular Bosniaks; Unholy Terror, was eviscierated by an actual historian and genocide scholar Marko Attila Hoare. In his devastating review (read full article here) Hoare showed that John R. Schindler had based most of his reaserch on what later turned out to be esentually propaganda coming from Milošević ´s Serb nationalist media which Schindler treats as a wholly relible source.

Last year during the 20-year commemoration of the Srebenica genocide I took Schindler to task about his Srebrenica revisionism (read full article here) needless to say he has not yet responded. Of course it didn´t take long before Der Speigel´s  piece on Bosnia was picked up by conservative and isolationist media outlets including The American Intrest and the Little Englander trash rag we all know and love: The Sun. While Der Speigel tried to give an apperance of treating this as  serious journalism while citing known bigots and loons like John R. Schindler, The Sun didn´t bother with that, it took the Der Speigel piece and made it its own. Here below a comment on some of the factual inaccuracies in The Sun piece by Adnan Ćerimagić, analyst for @ESI_eu

Comment by Adnan Ćerimagić

UK newspapers The Sun published an article today under a title:

“Don’t let them in: As Bosnia bids to join EU, experts say ex-Yugoslav state is now ’breeding ground’ for terrorism”

The article is full of factual mistakes and shallow observations. Here are the most striking.

First, the article claims that Bosnia is home to three million Muslims.

“Experts said the former Yugoslav republic, which is home to three million Muslims…”

According to the 2013 census Bosnia’s population is 3.8 million. Although official and full results of census are still not published, most estimates state that Muslims make around 50 percent of population. Bosnia is therefore not the home to three million Muslims but around 1.9 million of them.

Second, the article claims that Bosnia applied for EU membership after being recognized as a candidate country by the EU.

“Bosnia has applied for EU membership after being recognised as a candidate country.”

Bosnia is not “a candidate country for the EU membership”, but a “potential candidate country.” Together with Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, as “potential candidate country”, Bosnia was recognized in 2003 by EU member states. Following Bosnia’s February 2016 EU membership application the country will first have to go through a European Commission led assessment on whether the country sufficiently complies with EU standards to become a candidate for membership. Bosnia could became official candidate country by the end of 2017.

Third, the article claims that the European Commission has pledged more than £1.1billion for infrastructure in Bosnia.

“The European Commission has pledged more than £1.1billion over the next three years to boost Bosnia’s transport links.”

It is not clear to which funds the author refers. What is clear, however, is that the European Commission definitely did not pledge more than £1.1billion over the next three years for Bosnia’s transport infrastructure.

For the sake of argument, if the author refers to EU pre-accession funding made available for Bosnia then of all the countries covered by the EU enlargement policy Bosnia is the only country that is not able to use EU pre-accession funds (so-called IPA) for transport in the period from 2014 to 2017. This is due to the fact that Bosnia does not have a state-wide strategic document for this policy area. Furthermore, total funding allocation from IPA for Bosnia from 2014 to 2017 is 165.8 million Euro. Far from £1.1billion.

If the author refers to the so-called “Connectivity Agenda” for the Western Balkans then following things need to be understood. This initiative is not focused on Bosnia, but on all six Western Balkan countries. The Agenda is based on principle of co-financing. So the European Commission committed itself to provide 1 billion Euros over a period of six years (2014-2020) with the expectation to attract additional funding of 10 billion Euros by non-EU sources. Again, this is for all six Western Balkan countries and not for Bosnia.

Forth, the article claims that Bosnia’s EU membership application in February 2016 is paving the way for Bosnia to become a full EU member state by 2020.

“Bosnian leaders are demanding candidate status by next year, paving the way to become a full member after 2020.

With plans to enlarge the European Union even further, Bosnia is now being lined up to join.”

Author’s claim that Bosnia’s application in February 2016 could lead to full EU membership in 2020 is exaggeration. Over the decades the road from application to full membership in the EU has become ever harder, complicated and longer. The fastest country in the history of EU enlargement on this road was Finland: the country applied in March 1992 and became a full member in January 1995 (less than three years). Finland, however, is more of an exception. Even for Austria it took longer to become EU member than what the author suggests for Bosnia. Austrians needed five years and five months.

The only two former Yugoslav countries that so far joined the EU, Slovenia and Croatia, needed eight and ten years to go from application to membership in the EU. Bosnia’s road will probably take even longer.

Fifth, the article claims that weapons and firearms used in January and November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks originate from Bosnia.

“Bosnian weapons were used in the 2015 terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris.

Some of the firearms used in last November’s IS attacks on the French capital, including the Bataclan theatre massacre, were also sourced in Bosnia.”

During the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack the ammunition used by terrorists was produced by Bosnian Igman Company, a state-owned factory in the town of Konjic south of Sarajevo. The ammunition was, however, produced in 1986. In January 2015 The Telegraph wrote about this and noted:

“The company is one of the five largest ammunition manufacturers in the world, supplying over 30 countries.

Bullets have been stolen from Igman stockpiles in the past. But Mr Marjanac (Zivko Marjanac, Bosnia’s deputy defence minister) emphasised that the bullets were produced almost thirty years ago – and it was impossible to establish how they reached France.”

The assault rifles used by terrorists in November 2015 Paris attacks were produced in Serbia. Not Bosnia! And director of the Serbian Zastava (Banner) Arms factory in the city of Kragujevac told Reuters:

“We have checked seven, maybe eight serial numbers received from the police in our database and found that guns from that particular batch were sent to military depots in Slovenia, Bosnia and Macedonia.”

Sixth, the article then notes that radicals assemble at dozen of places in Bosnia undisturbed by authorities.

“German investigators believe there are a dozen places where Salafists have assembled radicals undisturbed by the authorities.”

Which “German investigators”?

Article also refers to high youth unemployment, UK tax payers money being sent to Bosnia and concludes with a following quote:

“The only way Brits can be sure Bosnian terrorists won’t come here freely, and our money will not be sent there, is by voting to leave the EU on June 23.”

This post is too short to explain how a decade long credible, strict and fair EU accession process for Bosnia is in interest of both the UK and Bosnia. And Europe. And how the EU (and the UK) could (and hopefully will) support positive transformation in/of Bosnia.

This article is only one in series of many shallow and factually wrong articles on Bosnia. When foreign and local observers write about Bosnian political, security, social or economic problems then almost everything is allowed. The storyline is dominated by big words and not that many facts. They cannot be bothered by details.

What is sure is that more articles such as this one will follow. The question is if the Bosnians will have enough capacity, strength and knowledge to counter factual mistakes and shallow observations. And while doing that find enough time, energy and knowledge to identify and tackle real problems. Credible, strict and fair EU accession process for Bosnia would help.

The Murder of the Ribić Family

Just before Christmas 2015 Bosnian media reported that four young girls, sisters had been identified by forensics experts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their remains had been exhumed from a large mass grave on a mountain called Crni Vrh (Black Peak) overlooking the town of Zvornik. According to forensics experts; 628 human remains were found in that particular mass grave. Prior to the discovery of the mass grave in Tomašica near Prijedor in the fall of 2013, Crni Vrh was the biggest primary mass grave found in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to DW.com the mass grave, found in 2006, was over 40/5 meters wide and three meters deep. According to clothes and documentation, ID-cards found in the mass grave, the victims were mostly Bosniaks executed by local Serb forces between April and June 1992 in Zvornik.

However, the four girls identified in December last year were part of the small Roma community in Zvornik, as Muslims their names were enough to put them in the crosshairs of the local Serb forces carrying out the “cleansing of Zvornik”. The four sisters were part of a ten member Roma family from the village of Skočić executed by Serb forces. In the Ribić family, aside from the four identified sisters, two more sisters were executed along with one brother and their mother and father. The remains of the mother and father have been identified and they have been laid to rest. Only one member of the family survived the execution, then 8-year old Zijad (Zijo) Ribić who spoke to Bosnian media in a televised interview in December.

Zijad (Zijo) Ribić´s intreview with FACE TV in December

According to Ribić a group of Serb soldiers came to their house looking for money, gold, anything of value. The Serb soldiers started beating up members of the family and raping the female members of the family. Afterwards the family was loaded up on a truck and taken to Kozluk, a Bosniak majority area with several settlments in the north west area of Zvornik that was “cleansed” in the spring and summer of 1992. Once there, the Serb soldiers told them to get out of the truck. According to Zijad his mother was eight-months pregnant at the time. One of his sisters was raped at the execution spot and the last thing Zijad remembers was the gunfire and someone stabbing him in the throat with a knife. The next thing he remembers was waking up on a pile of bodies. Three years ago the bodies of his mother and father were identified by forensics experts, while two of his sisters and a brother, 2 years old at the time, remain unidentified. Aside from the nine members of the Ribić family, 20 more members of the Roma community in Skočić were murdered by Serb forces during the “cleansing” of that village.

The murderers of the Ribić family were identified as being members of a local paramilitary unit called “Simini četnici” (Sima´s Chetniks) led by Sima Bogdanovič. According to Slobodna Bosna; The unit had been part of the “Yellow Wasps” (  Žute Ose) paramilitary unit operating under the command of  Vojin Vučković in the Zvornik municipality when in the second half of May 1992, several members decided to seperate and form their own unit under the leadership of Sima Bogdanovič. Due to the killings taking place in the Zvornik municipality that spring and summer, the Bosniaks of Skočić decided to leave by the end of June 1992, leaving about 30 Roma civilians in the village.

Bogdanovič died during his trial which took place in Serbia, while other members of the unit were acquitted, their guilty verdicts overturned by the Serbian war crimes court claiming there was not enough evidence despite the testimonies over among others Zijad and other survivors from the village. As well as two members of the former JNA. ( Yugoslav People´s Army).

Marina Kljajić who monitored the trial for the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Fund said after the acquittal that the court established that all the acts of murder for which members of Sima´s unit were charged with  did indeed take place, but that the prosecution failed to produce sufficient evidence for a guilty verdict. That´s why the court ruled in favour of Sima´s Chetniks. The Serbian war crimes court squashed the first verdict, after the appeals court in Belgrade decided that there had to be a re-trial. During the first trial, two members of Sima´s Chetniks; Zoran Stojanović and Zoran Đurđević recived 20 years for the murders, while Tomislav Gavrić and Zoran Alić were sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Đorđe Šević and Dragan Đekić got five years and Damir Bogdanović got two years.

Zijad stands by the coffins of his newly identifed family members.
Zijad stands by the coffins of his newly identifed family members.

Kljajić believes that the prosecutors of the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor´s Office did a poor job, that they did not present concrete enough evidence regarding all the accused men, thus enabling the acquittal on appeal. According to Kljajić; “this also sends a bad message to the survivors who are expecting justice, justice isn´t that a court establishes beyond a doubt that the crimes did take place but that the prosecution failed to prove it.”

The unit entered the village, members of the unit destroyed the village mosque, while others were abusing the members of the Roma community in the village. Some were severely beaten; one person was killed on the spot while the rest of the village was taken to Malešići, part of the Kozluk area, and later to Hamzići where they were executed. Zijad Ribić was the only one who survived the executions. Three girls from the village were taken as sex slaves and forced into slave labour for the members of the unit. That charge was included in the indictment. The three girls later testified during the trial of the Sima´s men.

During his interview with FACE-TV Zijad also expressed disbelieve at the appeals court´s decision saying that both he and the girls were there and that they showed that they knew everything about the men indicted for the murders and sexual abuse. According to Zijad it´s as if his and the three women’s testimonies simply didn´t matter.  He was hit hard by the decision of the court and remembers the laughter of the accused in the courtroom once they heard the verdict.

Aside from the testimony of Zijo and the three girls, now women, two members of the JNA, former Yugoslav People´s Army testified at the trial. The two men had according to Zijad protected him from Sima´s Chetniks who were looking for him as he was the only survivor of the massacre. According to Zijad they refused to hand him over despite the requests from Sima and his men. Zijad says that the JNA-men told Sima that they would hand him over to the proper authorities, thus protecting him from a certain death at the hand of the unit. According to Zijad the two men left the JNA after the Serb takeover of Zvornik.

As for Zijad, he was transferred to a children’s home in Montenegro where he stayed until 2001 when he returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, moving to Tuzla where he still lives and works as cook after completing a cook training program. He´s deeply disappointed in Bosnian institutions whom he doesn´t believe anymore after all the failed promises that they would do something about his case, to try to get some justice for his family. He´s also deeply disappointed in the local Roma representatives who he says have visited him making promises as well but not being able to help him in any concrete way.

A total of 3,936 people were killed or went missing in the Zvornik municipality between 1992 and 1995, according to the Research and Documentation Center. Zvornik was attacked by JNA ( Yugoslav People´s Army), members of Serbian State Security, The Red Berets, as well as various paramilitary units working under the auspicious of Serbian State Security, including Arkan´s Serb Volunteer Guard, Vojislav Seselj´s Chetniks and other units including Radovan Karadžić´s Bosnian Serb extremists. Zvornik was the second town in Bosnia (after Bjeljina) to come under attack.

According to Edina Bećirević´s critically acclaimed study: Genocide on the Drina River, “the calvary of Bosniaks  in Zvornik manifested itself in different ways, from torture, to rape, to mass executions to mass exodus” (page 22,) According to Bećirević as a border town it was Zvornik´s fate to be attacked by Serb forces on the other side of the Drina river. Despite being in the overwhelming majority the Bosniaks of Zvornik were not prepared for war, Bećirević says, and were surprised by the soldiers and the cannons attacking the town from the other side of the Drina river, in Serbia as well as the hatred of their neighbours who did not stand idly by, on the contrary, many played an active role in the genocide.

According to Bećirević a large portion of the Serb population took an active role in the crimes being committed, some offered logistical support to the attackers, other simply by looking away, which as Bećirević notes is a form of passive participation when it comes to the crime of genocide. She cites survivors from villages around Zvornik who say that “local chetniks” as well as their Serb neighbours took part in looting their homes, sexually abusing them, beating and murdering non-Serbs.

The initial attack on Bjeljina (1th of April ) was according to Bećirević a warning to those championing Bosnian independence, and the activities of the JNA and other units from Serbia were intended to deter Bosnian leadership from further seeking independence. (The killing spree by Serb forces under Željko Ražnatović-Arkan in Bjeljina was captured by then young photographer Ron Haviv ) while the attack on Zvornik came few days later (April 8th 1992) taking place two days after the international community had officially recognized Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign state. Bećirević notes that one of the six strategic goals of the Bosnian Serb leadership was the removal of the river Drina as border between “Serb lands” (page 25, 26, Genocide on the Drina River)

Another aspect of genocide is the physical eradication of cultural heritage. As American journalist and political commentator Chris Hedges noted in his book ( War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning ) when it came to Zvornik, the town had once had a dozen mosques, and 60 % of the population was Bosnian Muslim ( Bosniaks), by the end of the war, it was 100 % Serb. Hedges writes that in Bosnia, The Serbs desperately trying to deny the Muslim character of Bosnia, dynamited or plowed over libraries, museums, universities, historical monuments and cemeteries but most of all mosques. Hedges recalled how Brano Grujić, the Serb-appointed mayor (The Bosniak mayor of Zvornik was removed after the takeover) telling him and other journalists how “there were never any mosques in Zvornik”.

Hedges wrote that “no doubt Grujić didn´t believe that. He knew that there had been mosques in Zvornik, but his children and grand-children would come to be taught the lie. Serb leaders would turn it into an accepted historical fact. There are no shortages of villages in Russia, Germany or Poland where all memory of the Jewish community is gone because the physical culture has been destroyed”. (page 76)

Excerpt from the documentary Death of Yugoslavia, dealing withe Serb attack on Zvornik with commentary by among other Vojislav Šešelj, leader of the Serb Radical Party who´s paramlitary unit, at the request of Slobodan Milošević  took part in the attack. As well as Spanish writer and politican Jose Maria Mendiluce´s comments, Mendiluce as a member of the UN Refugee Agency witnessed the attack, including the JNA artillary firing into Bosnia from across the border, as well as seeing several lorries full of bodies being taken away from the streets of Zvornik.

This post has been uppdated and edited 2016-02-02 & 2016-02-04

The Norwegian Yugoslavia-Syndrome

IbsenHandkeThis article originally appeared in Norwegian on the website of VG Nyheter as a part of the debate on the controversial decision to award Peter Handke The Ibsen Award. Written by Balkan-expert and senior adviser to The Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights; Aage Borchgrevink This article has been translated and published with the author´s permission. 

In its decision the jury shies away from the problematic aspects of choosing Handke and concentrates on his work. The jury has also avoided what they call “the polemic” I asked for a debate on the award. Is it only in Norway that it´s so easy to differentiate between the aesthetic and the political?

20 years ago the wars in the former Yugoslavia created; The Bosnia-generation: Intellectuals who wanted intervention in case of serious crimes. In Norway you saw very little of that. Few Norwegian newsrooms covered the war thoroughly and the premise of interpretation was left to those Norwegians who themselves were involved. Lessons of the genocide were filtered away.

Bosnia was about the international community’s role. “While impartiality and neutrality are hailed as virtues in diplomacy, as the complexity and ambiguity makes it purely intellectual,” wrote philosopher Arne Johan Vetlesen, “ Then are all these virtues to be considered – at least potential – vices in an actual situation where genocide is the phenomenon we are facing and have a responsibility to decide”

Vetlesen wrote this in his attempt to debate Bosnia with UN´s former peace negotiator Thorvald Stoltenberg. There are many reasons why Stoltenberg is one of the country´s most respected statesmen, that is perhaps why so few have talked about how controversial his effort in Bosnia really was. Critique of Stoltenberg has usually been referred to the debate slits in niche media; Stoltenberg has rarely responded.

«Appeasement» was the word Nobel Prize winner Kofi Annan used to describe Stoltenberg’s peace negotiations, Stoltenberg’s view of the war, that all parties were equally at fault and that Serbs were made scape goats is not only controversial but also flies in the face of any serious historical account. Verdicts rendered at the War Crimes tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) showed that the clear majority of the crimes were committed by the Serb side.

Yet Stoltenberg has been a chief witness in the description of the Bosnian War, especially at NRK ( Norwegian State Television)  which has created two uncritical documentary projects about Stoltenberg , The Peace Warrior and The Balkans in the blood. Stoltenberg was also expert in NRK Brennpunkt revisionist documentary on Srebrenica in 2011, A Town Betrayed, (Izdani Grad) The film was the first program to be brought down in both the Press Complaints Commission ( PFU ) and the Investigation Committee , the Swedish equivalent of PFU.

Another factor which has paved the way for Handke´s Ibsen Award is the cultural elite´s instinctive moral compass. When tens of thousands were being slaughtered during the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Croatia during the beginning of the 90s there were few protests and petitions. It was only after NATO attacked Yugoslavia during the spring of 1999 that the cultural elite rose up in protest, not against the Serb forces and their ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, but against the NATO-operation to stop the abuses. To many Norwegian “opponents of war” the wars in the Balkans only became visible once the United States intervened.

Handke defined the problem of Yugoslavia in the language, and protests against the black and white image of the conflict he thinks he sees in the media. Here he´s one the same page with literature professor Arild Linneberg´s critically acclaimed book; 13 Boring Essays about War and Literature, from 2003. Handke is also defended by his publisher Karl Ove Knausgård who writes: “If you read what Handke actually said at Milosevic´s funeral and what he has written about Serbia it´s about nuancing the one sidedness of the western media coverage of the conflict”

And nuance is always good right? Doubt is our product, gentlemen, said an executive in the tobacco industry to the marketing department. And just like the tobacco industry´s counter attack against science was about taking advantage of the medias estimable desire for balance in their columns, in order to sow doubt and prevent action, so were Slobodan Milosevic´s efforts to nuance the image of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Milosevic complained in 1999 that Western journalists depicted the wars as black and white, and wanted just like Arlid Linneberg more ambiguous shades of gray…

Poetic ambiguity can also serve the interests of power. There is no moral snow white point outside of politics, not even for playwrights. We are all intertwined, the language is tainted. Handke or Knausgård should perhaps be less concerned about ”complexity and ambiguity” per se, and more concerned with judicial reviews. Although all sides committed crimes in Bosnia, one cannot nuance statistics from the ICTY without getting into bad company.

Maybe this isn´t that new for artists? Hamsun, Celine, Mishima, Ezra Pound: Many great artists have been fascists. Their writing lives on. But I’m not sure if Ibsen himself would appreciate getting into this company, and he would hardly appreciate the jury´s attempt to kill off the debate. The Ibsen Award is also created by the Norwegian government, and although the jury is independent, giving him the award represents an official Norwegian tribute to Peter Handke.

The moral juxtaposition of the victim and the perpetrator and the conspiratorial description of reality given by people like Handke plays straight into the political debate in Bosnia today, and is used to maintain yesterday´s view of the conflict, which is the basis for the political power in much of that dysfunctional country. The Ibsen Award thus has a political significance, which the jury should recognize.

There is no unassailable wall between literature and politics, not even in the case of Handke. It is the jury’s silence on these issues, more than the actual award, which makes the event an embarrassing affair.

150 years ago Henrik Ibsen dissected his time´s bourgeoisie on the stage. If he came back today, short stature and bearded, what would he write about? Perhaps a jury consisting of ‘Pillars of Society’ (name of an Ibsen-play) toying with the explosive attraction of a contrarian writer, who all run home and switch off their phones as soon as cries of real misery emerge from the background.

The intellectual and the totalitarian – a sad affair

Peter Handke at the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic
Peter Handke at the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic

This article appeared on Friday 19.9.2014 on the website of VG Nyheter in Norwegian as a part of the debate about the controversial decision to award the prestigious Ibsen Award to Peter Handke. Written by professor Øystein Sørensen of Oslo University.

On Sunday, Austrian Peter Handke will receive The Ibsen Award. Handke is one of today’s best-known playwrights. He is also one of those that has downplayed and excused war crimes and genocide in the Balkans. Among other things, he made ​​his mark with a funeral speech for Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian ex-president who was charged with genocide and that certainly would have been convicted of it too.

Handke follows a long and sad tradition. A new book: Intellectuals and the Totalitarian looks into this tradition. It looks at how some intellectuals in different ways and at different times have embraced, legitimized, excused and explained away some of the worst regimes and ideologies mankind has experienced.

In a more conceptual sense, it is a question of intellectuals who have embraced and advocated totalitarian ideologies, or at least have been willing to defend and understand totalitarian regimes because of the ideas they have been based on.

What and who is an intellectual? There is no shortage of proposals for definitions. Here’s a suggestion: Intellectuals working with ideas, their business begins and ends with ideas.

These ideas can in turn be more or less original and good, they may have greater or lesser impact and more or less directly influence on human life and history. But the result of an intellectual’s efforts is ideas. Brain Surgeons and engineers are not intellectuals as such, as brilliant as they might be at their field. They operate brains and construct bridges – the result of their driven activities is something tangible. Adam Smith produced ideas but he never ran a business himself, Karl Marx produced ideas but he never operated a Gulag, and so on.

Now we have Peter Handke as an example of an intellectual who lives in a free and democratic society. On the whole , people like him can mean what ever they want, without it having a particularly large impact. They can even get awards. That is a problem in itself, that so many that live with free speech and by free speech have rallied behind, defended and made excuses for some of the worst atrocities by some of the most bloody regimes.

There will be fierce competition to blink out any totalitarian regime that has been worst for the purposes of the intellectual (and vice versa ) . A strong candidate must obviously be the Communist Pol Pot regime in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

Glasses

Among the many grotesque aspects of this regime was that intellectual be killed only by virtue of the fact that they were intellectual . The ideological rationale was , in brief, that the regime should build a new awareness in the population , a new communist man , from scratch. Among the many grotesque aspects of this regime was that intellectual be killed only by virtue of the fact that they were intellectual . The ideological rationale was, in brief, that the regime should build a new awareness in the population, a new communist man, from scratch. The idea then was that intellectuals from the old Cambodia would have strong mental ties to the former regime and therefore had to be cleared away. A spectacular feature of the Pol Pot regime´s rise to power in 1975 was that the capital Pnomh Penh was emptied of people, people who were forced into the countryside. How to distinguish who´s an intellectual under such conditions ? Apparently there was an rule of thumb, glasses – people with glasses were presumably intellectuals and had to be killed.

It ‘s just that the entire leadership of the regime, people who carefully thought out, planned and arranged to carry out the genocide in Cambodia, were  intellectuals themselves. Some of the most prominent was educated in Paris and had thoroughly thought out in advance how to build the new society and creating new people in Cambodia. Some of the foremost used  glasses.

In this story naturally intellectuals in the West who praised , defended and excused the Pol Pot regime also belong. Intellectuals who were at a safe distance from what actually happened ( although some of them did attend carefully arranged tours to Cambodia), which did not have to worry about being killed and not felt that they needed to take some moral responsibility for what the killers did. In Norway this was particularly true for the intellectuals in and around the Maoist party AKP. (ml)

The party’s chief ideologue Tron Øgrim hailed for example the regime in Cambodia as particularly advanced on a Marxist scale, with a “specific and creative application of Marxism – Leninism .”  Øgrim could opt for a “light and relaxed ” atmosphere in Cambodia, with the enthusiastic masses who joined the party leadership , the evacuation of towns and collectivization of land in the countryside. AKP and Øgrim was also, especially internationally, in prominent company.

Trapped by ideas 

So why have so many been so wrong , have made such monumental and grotesque errors and been so arrogantly mistaken?

Here we need to of course make a point that one should not generalize. It is certainly not the case that all intellectuals have been ensnared by totalitarian ideas. Some have shown great personal courage in combating not only these schools of thought, but already existing totalitarian regimes. Yet it is strikingly many people we are talking about. Handke is not a special case.

The answer is obviously complex, among many explanations, let me highlight one set: Human intellectual activity revolves around ideas. Many of them think big ideas about liberation , peace , justice and happiness. Many other things too. They can easily be captured by these ideas. They may be convinced that they have found magnificent solutions. They will probably be convinced that they will be good. what they want is good. Not least, they will certainly be convinced that they know better than others when they hold on to their grand ideas. And before they know it , they risk not only become prisoners of ideas, but prisoners of history.

A shameful award

Ivar Amundsen
Ivar Amundsen

This article appeared originally in Norwegian on the website of VG Nyheter on Sunday 21.9.14 as a part of the debate about the controversial decision to award the prestigious Ibsen Award to Peter Handke. Written by Norway´s honorary consul to Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ivar Amundsen.

 

Handke has declared himself as an unabashed supporter of the Serbian fascism that led to the wars in the Balkans after the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 90s. He doted to the Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbian leader in Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic. Both were predominantly responsible for the carnage in Bosnia that took over 100,000 lives and both were sent to Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. Handke visited Milosevic in prison there and hailed him later in a speech at his funeral.

In 1996, Handke was asked if he was touched by at all by the Bosnian people’s suffering during the war. He replied: “As far as I am concerned, you can take and put that up your ass.” Statement came just months after the Serbian genocide of 8000 Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica. Two years later he said the Serbs had suffered more in the last eight years than Jews had done throughout the twentieth century. That made Peter Handke a hero among extreme Serb nationalists.

Giving the award to Handke has given rise to a massive criticism in Norway and internationally; especially in Bosnia where this is perceived as a Norwegian sanctioning of war crimes and an insult to the victims. It is a scandal for the government, for Norway, and it draws Henrik Ibsen’s name in the mud. Helsinki Committee organized last Wednesday a seminar on the issue in the House of Literature, but no one from the  jury or culture ministry had the courage to show up.

Jury chairman, Per Boye Hansen, has sat quiet as a mouse and watched the criticism rise. Last Tuesday he came on the pitch. Surprisingly enough he didn´t fall to the temptation to separate Handke’s writing from his extreme statement which are in violation of international law. On the contrary, he made clear that Handke political views were taken into consideration and not disqualified him. Pure words for money!

Here Boye Hansen’s reasoning is actually correct – but the conclusion is wrong. All parts of Handke´s personality should of course fall into consideration – but that should also disqualify him.

The jury has demonstrated extremely poor judgment and morality and has been commended for its decision by an ill-advised minister of culture. The award to Handke should be taken back and the jury for The Ibsen Award deprived of their duties. If it is still being given to him in the National Theatre today at 17:00, those who choose to be present to experience the session will do so with a bland taste in their mouth.

David N. Gibbs’s bogus complaint

This article has been re-published  from Greater Surbiton Blog with the permission of Dr Marko Attila Hoare. For those who are not familiar with the topic, three years ago a debate raged over Dr Hoare´s review of David N. Gibbs book First do no Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. As you see for yourself in the article(s) below Gibbs was soundly beaten and exposed as a disingenuous scholar and in the end a Milosevic-apologist. And as is always the case with Milosevic apologists and genocide deniers once they run out of arguments they resort to various forms of intimidation. That is the case with David N. Gibbs who having failed to properly respond to the criticism against his book has resorted to intimidation. But, don´t take my word for it,  in order for the readers to get better acquainted with the debate I have posted links to Dr Hoare´s  entire dissection of David N.Gibbs  book and the tactics used by Gibbs. I highly recommend that you read the links below in order to see how disingenuous scholars use their titles in order to spread lies about the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

The Bizzare World of Genocide Denial

First Check Their Sources: On David N. Gibbs and ‘shoddy scholarship’

First Check Their Sources 2: The myth that ‘most of Bosnia was owned by the Serbs before the war’

First Check Their Sources 3: The myth that ‘Germany encouraged Croatia to secede from Yugoslavia’

 

Posted on Greater Surbiton 12 april 2014

Three years ago, as readers may recall, David N. Gibbs of the University of Arizona responded to my criticisms of his Srebrenica-genocide-denying propaganda tract First do no Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia with an article published on ModernityBlog, entitled – in his characteristically hyperbolic style – ‘The Second Coming of Joe McCarthy’. What followed was a public debate in the comment boxes of the blog, in which Gibbs was comprehensively defeated on every point: he was unable to counter either my criticisms of his work, or my refutations of his criticisms of my own work. So weak, underhand and disingenuous were Gibbs’s attempts at discussion that the proprietor of the venue – where Gibbs had himself chosen to publish – graciously apologised to me personally for allowing him to post there: ‘I made a mistake by allowing David Gibbs a guest post. At the time I thought he was a reasonable academic who deserved a right of reply, however, subsequently I have had time to reflect on my poor judgement.’

I then published further articles exposing the way in which Gibbs distorted and manipulated source material to construct his fictitious narrative of the war in the former Yugoslavia. I refuted his attempt to justify Serb-nationalist territorial claims in Bosnia and his attempt to blame the break-up of Yugoslavia on a German imperialist conspiracy. I could have gone on to demolish the rest of his book as well, but that would have taken weeks of my life, and I felt I had sufficiently exposed its worthlessness as a supposed piece of scholarship. In January 2011, Gibbs admitted his inability to counter my refutations: ‘In what follows, I will make no pretense that I answer all of Hoare’s allegations, which I find impossible, given the huge quantity of his charges.’

Unable to win in a public debate, Gibbs then attempted to intimidate both me and my institution, Kingston University, in order to silence me. Out of the blue, nine months after our debate, he submitted a bogus complaint against me to my university containing fraudulent allegations. When Kingston inevitably failed to uphold his ‘complaint’, he published an attack on me, on Kingston and on my faculty dean on the far-right website Antiwar.com. He then sent increasingly threatening emails to my institution, which nevertheless continued to reject his ‘complaint’. Let us be clear on this point: despite what Gibbs insinuates, no part of his bogus complaint against me has ever been accepted by Kingston University.

This week, he is attempting yet again to intimidate Kingston University in the hope of silencing me, through a further bogus public complaint published on the anti-Semitic website Counterpunch .

The essence of Gibbs’s ‘complaint’ is that he is unhappy that I have I refuted much of his book. Instead of attempting to counter my arguments, he has simply restated his already refuted claims and portrayed my exposure of their fallaciousness as some sort of legitimate grievance. I am not going to waste my time re-stating points to which he was unable to respond the first time around. I have already refuted at length his wholly fantastical claim that the break-up of Yugoslavia was engineered by Germany; his wholly disingenuous claim to have engaged with existing scholarly literature by Michael Libal, Brendan Simms, Richard Caplan and others that contradicts his own arguments; his wholly spurious denial that he blames the Bosniak side for the Srebrenica massacre (I have dealt with his victim-blaming over Srebrenica twice already); and many of his other claims.

David N. Gibbs
David N. Gibbs

As regards arguments to which I haven’t previously responded, Gibbs’s formal statement condemning Milosevic is little more than a disclaimer in the style of ‘I’m not a racist, but…’. For those who are not familiar with the way these people operate: they rarely deny the crimes of Milosevic and the Serb forces altogether, but usually make an opening gambit along the lines of ‘Of course Milosevic and the Serb forces were guilty of terrible atrocities, but…’ before proceeding to regurgitate the Great Serb propaganda narrative putting the blame for the war on the Croats, Bosniaks and Western imperialism. There is little that is original in Gibbs’s version of this narrative; it has previously been presented in book form by Diana Johnstone, Michael Parenti, Kate Hudson and others, and before that via magazine format by the people behind Living Marxism.

Of course Gibbs does not devote much space in his book to explaining how Milosevic ‘made a central contribution to Yugoslavia’s demise’. No mention of the fact that Milosevic and the Serbian and JNA leaderships were the principal separatists in the break-up of Yugoslavia; that Milosevic’s ally Borisav Jovic recorded in his diary that he, Milosevic and the JNA’s Veljko Kadijevic agreed in June 1990 to work for the forcible expulsion of Slovenia and a dismembered Croatia from Yugoslavia; that Kadijevic in his published memoirs admits that the JNA was working from this time for the ‘peaceful’ exit of Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia; that Serbia’s constitution of 28 September 1990 declared: ‘The Republic of Serbia determines and guarantees: 1) the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia and its international position and relations with other states and international organisations’; that the following month Serbia imposed customs duties on imports from Croatia and Slovenia; that on 16 March 1991 Milosevic publicly announced that Serbia would no longer recognise the authority of the Yugoslav Presidency. Instead, Gibbs defends Milosevic as ‘a strong advocate of maintaining both Serbia and Yugoslavia as socialist’ (Gibbs, p. 65). And he makes clear that he blames the war in Croatia on the Croatian side: ‘The Croatian war had its origins with the nationalist forces that were unleashed during the election campaign of 1990, when Franjo Tudjman’s HDZ party came to power.’ (Gibbs, p. 87). And so on and so on.

Contrary to what Gibbs claims, I have never insinuated that he is ‘an extreme anti-Semite’. Gibbs pretends to deduce this supposed insinuation from my comparison of the myth that Germany brought about the destruction of Yugoslavia by engineering Croatian and Slovenian secession (a myth that he upholds) with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In other words, I am comparing an anti-German libel with an anti-Jewish libel, and Gibbs deduces from this that I am therefore accusing those who uphold the anti-German libel of being anti-Semitic. It really is difficult to believe that even Gibbs is quite so logically challenged that he can take his argument here seriously. Moreover, his faux outrage at the fabricated ‘insinuation’ is undermined by the fact that he has chosen to publish his latest attack in an anti-Semitic publication.

Gibbs claims ‘I have never objected to serious condemnation of Milošević’s crimes, in the media or elsewhere.’ But this is untrue. Gibbs wrote in his book: ‘Another feature of the Balkan conflict was the tendency of the Western media needlessly to exaggerate the atrocities committed by Serb armies… Atrocities committed at Serb-run detention camps were presented in sensationalist fashion, for example, and they became “extermination camps” comparable to Auschwitz. President Izetbegovic himself encouraged these interpretations. Yet, in 2003, shortly before his death, Izetbegovic conceded that “there were no extermination camps” in Bosnia. He also conceded that his previous claims to the contrary had been deliberate misrepresentations, intended to outrage Western public opinion and thus trigger Western military intervention against the Serbs.’ (Gibbs, p. 216) So Gibbs has accused the Western media of having ‘exaggerated’ Serb atrocities and presented them in a ‘sensationalist fashion’ (NB Gibbs’s claim regarding Izetbegovic rests not on any credible source, but solely on the self-serving testimony of Bernard Kouchner, who had been a minister in France’s pro-appeasement government during the war in Bosnia).

Gibbs claims ‘Another one of Hoare’s techniques is the use of faked quotations, wherein he fabricates quoted statements, which he attributes to me.’ This is another falsehood, and represents Gibbs’s desperate attempt to deflect attention away from my point-by-point refutation of his book. Here is what he writes:

‘In the above Modernityblog posting, for example, Hoare attributes to me the phrase “creating the hatred,” which he presents as a direct quotation. The implication is that in my view the Bosnian Muslims were “creating the hatred” in the Srebrenica area. In fact, this is a fake quotation. This phrase “creating the hatred” appears nowhere in any of my writings. Then in a later posting, he attributes to me the quote “created the hatred,” which once again implies that in my view the Muslims had created the hatred in Srebrenica. But the quoted phrase appears in none of my writings, and the essence of its meaning corresponds to nothing I have ever said.’

Naturally Gibbs doesn’t provide any link that would allow his readers to check whether indeed I had said what he claims. In fact, this is what Gibbs wrote in his book: ‘The Srebrenica safe area had an especially brutal history, and it was besieged by Serb forces throughout the war. It is important to note, however, that Muslim troops also behaved brutally. Especially problematic was the Muslim commander Brigadier Oric, who based his forces inside Srebrenica and conducted forays against Serb villages in the surrounding region. One UNPROFOR commander later described Oric’s activities as follows: “Oric engaged in attacks during Orthodox holidays and destroyed [Serb] villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the [Srebrenica] region… [etc.]“‘ (Gibbs, pp. 153-154).

So Gibbs quoted an UNPROFOR commander as saying that the actions of Naser Oric’s Bosnian army ‘created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the [Srebrenica] region…’. Gibbs treated this claim uncritically, using it to substantiate his attribution of blame for the Srebrenica massacre to Oric’s Bosnian forces. He is now trying to conceal the fact that he wrote this passage, perhaps because he is aware of how shameful it is.

I cited this passage from Gibbs in my first ever post about him, and gave the quote in full. Readers are invited to check what I wrote about him against what he wrote in his book, to see if I cited him accurately. The discussion at Modernity blog was Gibbs’s response to that post. Readers are invited to read the exchange and judge for themselves whether my subsequent references to his statement were accurate or not.

Gibbs continues: ‘And there is yet a third fake quote, in the title of one of Hoare’s reviews: “First Check Their Sources 2: The Myth that ‘Most of Bosnia Was Owned by the Serbs Before the War.’” The first part of the title (“First Check Their Sources”) is a play on words from the title of my book, which is First Do No Harm. The embedded phrase in Hoare’s title (“Most of Bosnia Was Owned…”) is presented as a direct quote, with quotation marks. This quote is yet another fabrication, which falsifies both the literal wording of my book and also the substance of my stated views.’

As Gibbs knows very well, the part of the title in quote marks was not ‘presented as a direct quote’; nowhere did I claim that Gibbs had used those exact words. It was an entirely accurate paraphrasing of the position common to Gibbs and others like him, who do indeed claim that ‘most of Bosnia was owned by the Serbs before the war’. The exact words Gibbs uses are provided in detail in the article in question, with page numbers given. Again, readers are invited to read the article and decide for themselves if it was an accurate paraphrasing. Readers will note that Gibbs was wholly unable to respond to that article, so we may reasonably assume that apart from his quibble over my use of quote marks in the title, he accepts the validity of what I wrote there.

Finally, Gibbs claims ‘Due to Hoare’s tactics, the public understanding of Yugoslavia’s breakup has been fundamentally distorted, due to a climate of intimidation and fear, which has prevented genuine scholarly debate.’ But my ‘tactics’ simply involved writing a negative extended review of Gibbs’s book, exposing its poor scholarship and genocide denial. By contrast, here are Gibbs’s tactics, in his own words: ‘Every time in the future that I am forced to respond to Hoare’s attacks, I will emphasize the role of Kingston University in helping to make these attacks possible. I will especially emphasize the roles of Vice Chancellor Weinberg and Dean McQuillan, who are Hoare’s academic supervisors. Up to this point, there has been too little accountability with regard to Hoare’s conduct. It is time to correct the problem.’

I leave it to readers to make up their own minds about who is guilty of trying to intimidate. Gibbs has revealed himself as a bully with no respect either for truth or for freedom of speech. Neither Kingston University nor any other university worthy of the name will uphold a bogus, malicious complaint published on an unsavoury extremist website; one aimed solely at distracting attention away from an unanswerable refutation of poor scholarship, and at silencing legitimate criticism through threats and smears. But I am not going to be intimidated. I should like to take this opportunity to reaffirm what I have written about Gibbs, and to assure readers that it will not be retracted or taken down.

Vad skiljer Slobodan Milosevic och Vladimir Putin åt? Svar: 22 år

Den här artikeln publicerades av Radio Free Europe 11 mars 2014. Skriven av Nenad Pejic. Pejic är just nu chefredaktör för Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Han var tidigare chef för RFE / RL: s Balkan Service.

Slobodan Milosevic inför tribunalen i Haag
Slobodan Milosevic inför tribunalen i Haag

Av : Nenad Pejic

Nu när jag sitter och tittar på nyheterna och ser bilderna från Krim så kan jag inte låta bli att få en känsla av Déjà vu . Det är nästan som om jag återupplever Jugoslaviens sönderfall och början av kriget i Bosnien Hercegovina.

När Rysslands propagandamaskineri hävdar att trupperna på Krim utan några id-märken är spontant samlade ”självförsvarstyrkor” som består av oroade medborgare så kan jag inte låta bli att tänka på likanande ”självorganiserade” beväpnade grupper som började sätta upp barrikader runt om i Sarajevo i mars 1992.

Precis som på Krim så saknade dessa grupper några emblem. Det de hade var däremot splitternya Kalashnikovs, de var utomordentligt väl samordnade när det gäller kommunikation och de hade militärdisciplin. Likheten är kuslig och olycksbådande för de som var i Sarajevo under den tiden.

Vad skiljer då Slobodan Milosevic från Vladimir Putin? Svar: 22 år. Det är en och samma man med två skuggor med samma ”modus operandi” som skiljs av drygt två decennier. Faktum är att hade Milosevic varit vid liv idag så hade troligtvis stämt Putin för plagiarism. Den ryske presidenten kallar de beväpnade männen på Krim för ”volontärer” eller ”frivilliga” som skyddar de etniska ryssarnas rättigheter. Under 1990-talet använde sig Milosevic av exakt samma ord för att beskriva likanande väpnade grupper som han hävdade bara skyddade etniska serber. Putin hävdar att Ukrainas suveränitet borde respekteras samtidigt som han gör allt i sin makt för att underminera den. Milosevic pratade också om att Bosniens territoriella integritet ska respekteras samtidigt som trupper under hans kontroll gjorde allt för att dela den nyligen suveräna staten.

Bägge ledare använder religion som bränsle för att spä på konflikten och rättfärdiga militär intervention. Rysk media rapporterade nyligen – (Det visade sig vara falskt) att Kaves klostret i Kyiv hade vandaliserats. Serbisk media 1992 hävdade (Det visade sig också vara falskt) att serbiska kyrkor och kloster hade blivit vandaliserade. Putin testar väst för att se hur de ska reagera, han räknar också med att splittringen mellan USA och Europa kommer minska risken för något som liknar ett samlad och koordinerad svar, Milosevic gjorde samma sak 22 år sen.

Sen har vi de kusliga likheterna mellan Putins och Milosevic retorik. När demonstranterna i Kyiv besköts av krypskyttar, var det få bosnier som inte la märke till likheterna med vad som hände i Sarajevo 6 april 1992–när demonstranter besköts och belägringen av staden började. Den ryska rapporteringen av krypskyttattacken liknade också den serbiska rapporteringen från Sarajevo två decennier tidigare, då var det också så att demonstranter sköt på varandra. Rysk media har också rapporterat om ett påstådd ”flyktingsvåg” med ca 650 000 människor som vällde över gränsen till Ryssland från Ukraina. När det bosniska kriget började så hävdade serbisk media att flyktingar vällde över in i Serbien.  I bägge fall så slog FN fast att så var inte fallet, men det spelar ingen roll.

Både serbisk och rysk media har förlitat sig på förfalskade bilder som ett sätt att illusterara och förstärka det de har hävdat. Rysk media använde sig av bilder från den tungt trafikerade gränsen mellan Polen och Ukraina. Serbisk media 1992 använde sig av bilder där flyktingar försökte komma undan, det är bara att flyktingarna försökte komma undan Milosevic styrkor.

Den politiskt och emotionellt laddade språkbruket som rysk media har använt för att beskriva de nya makthavarna i Kyiv där man stämplar de som ”fascister” och ”anti-semiter” liknar väldigt mycket det sättet som serbisk media beskrev sina motståndare. Kroater stämplades som ”Ustasha” och Bosniaker som ”Mujaheddin”

Det är så här krig börjar, det är så här man mobiliserar folk att hata i ett samhälle. Vanliga medborgare utsätts för daglig dos av fruktan och propaganda som till slut eroderar tilliten som finns mellan olika etniska grupper, olika nationaliteter. 1992 lurades serber av Milosevic till att tro att han försvarade och räddade deras belägrade nation genom att “erövra territorier och städer.” Likaså tror en majoritet av ryssar enligt opinionsmätningar att deras militär räddar Krims ryska befolkning genom att annexera Krim. Det är betydligt lättare att tro än att ställa frågor.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

Det finns också en kuslig likhet mellan hur både Milosevic och Putin kom till makten. Ingen av dem var invalda, Putin utnämndes som premiärminister 1999 av dåvarande presidenten Boris Jeltsin, som nämnde Putin som sin efterträdare. När Jeltsin steg åt sidan ett par månader senare, Putin blev president. På samma sätt så började Slobodan Milosevic politiska uppgång, då han 1986 utsågs till chef för det serbiska kommunistpartiet. Bägge ledares första tid präglades av utnyttjandet av en etnisk konflikt: i Milosevic fall, Kosovo, i Putins, Tjetjenien.

Bägge etablerade pseudo-demokratier med hårt styrda statliga medier och falska oppositionspartier. Bägge sökte att stärka sin ställning med ”spontana” pro-regim rallyn. Bägge använde sig av ”patriotiska” ungdomsorganisationer för att trakassera sina motståndare. När det gäller Milosevic blev det : ” Det socialistiska ungdomsförbundet” och för Putin: ”Nasi”

Både Putin och Milosevic styrde samhällen där de statliga institutioner var svaga, där korruption var utbredd, rättssäkerhet frånvarande, och säkerhetstjänsten politiskt bemyndigade.

Men medan parallellerna mellan Putin och Milosevic inte går att förneka, behöver detta inte nödvändigtvis betyda att man vet hur berättelsen kommer sluta för Putin.

Milosevic kunde ägna sig åt sina militära äventyr i “bara” åtta år, innan NATO enades mot honom i Kosovo 1999 och han störtades av en folklig revolution ett år senare.

Men Putin har en fördel som Milosevic saknade. Ryssland, till skillnad från Serbien, är en viktig geopolitisk aktör med en plats i FN: s säkerhetsråd, en kärnvapenmakt och en viktig leverantör av energi till Europa. Om, utan tillgångar som dessa, Milosevic lyckades plåga sina grannar I åtta år, hur länge kommer Putin att kunna göra det?