February 1994 / March 1994
Self-Determination or Inviolability of Borders?
Inconsistent Application of Principles is Killing
By T. W. ("Bill") Carr, Associate Publisher.
The Helsinki Accords enshrine and protect the right of all
peoples to self-determination. They also enshrine and protect the inviolability
of existing sovereign borders. The United States and many Western European
states have alternately applied one principle, and then the other, as it suits
their current policies. But the result has been to create irreconcilable
situations and, more importantly, the prospects for vast unrest throughout
Europe, Eurasia and elsewhere. Associate Publisher T. W. ("Bill") Carr puts the
Defense & Foreign Affairs
Issue 2,3, 1994.
For fair use only
Published under the provision of
U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107.
In the carpet
of conflict currently laid across the former Yugoslavia are a number of interrelated
threads, woven over the centuries by the rise and fall of past empires, each of
which was colored by differing religions and cultural values. From the Slav
Orthodox Christian kingdoms, and the Austro-Hungarian Catholic and Ottoman
Islamic empires, to the fascist Axis powers of World War II and Tito's post war
communist federation, each administration left an indelible mark which cannot
easily be erased from the minds of the people in the former and current Yugoslavias.
Today, however, Western political fashion is that self-determination is
the only criteria for nationhood. Following the demise of Soviet communism and
the start of German re-unification, Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany constantly
stated -- during the Spring and Summer of 1991 -- that Slovenia and Croatia had
the right to exercise self-determination under Principle eight of the Helsinki
Accords. At the time, however, he omitted to mention Principle Three of the
Helsinki Accords, which specifies the inviolability of existing [obviously - EXTERNAL, international]
borders in Europe. Only later, after the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia had been
achieved against the wishes of other EC member states, did Chancellor Kohl cite
Principle Three of the Helsinki Accords. He used it against Serbia (or, in fact,
the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) when the Yugoslav Federal
Forces went into action to prevent further "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs by
Croatian units in the Krajina region and other areas of Croatia -- areas within
which Serbs constituted the majority of the local population -- but which had
been deemed by the international community to be within the newly-recognized
boundaries of Croatia.
Herein lies the key point behind
all the current conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Which principle in the
Helsinki Accords takes precedence?. Is it to be Principle Three, safeguarding
the inviolability of existing European borders, or Principle Eight, which
enshrines the right of self-determined?
In most normal
European situations there is no problem; both principles can apply with equal
weight because most ethnic groups live within their own national borders. Such
conditions do not exist in the former Yugoslavia. For example, almost 30
percent of Croatia (as presently created by violating the borders of Yugoslavia),
is land where Serbs have
been the majority population for centuries. The [Serbian] people in these
areas voted for
self-determination, democratically expressing a wish not to leave Yugoslavia.
They resisted being forced
into President Franjo Tudjman's Croatia,
a nation which had previously murdered
an estimated 700,000+ Serbs in 1941-45, and commenced ethnic cleansing again in
1991. The UN had to intervene, placing the region under UN protection, a
situation which still applies in March 1994.
are replicated in Bosnia-Herzegovina, an area which has never been a nation, but
which was recognized as such at the behest of the US and a German-dominated EC.
Deeming it to be a unitary nation state, the Western powers again violated the
borders of Yugoslavia, and ignored the right to
self-determination of the Serbs who constituted 33 percent of the population,
and who owned in excess of 66 percent of the land mass of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Western powers have applied Principle Three and
Principle Eight at random as befits their own policy objectives at any
particular moment. This is seen by the Serbs as being grossly unfair, building
within them a deep resentment against the West, particularly the US and Germany.
Most Serbs -- official and private citizens alike -- cannot see any logic in the
West's one-sided actions, other than a desire to destroy the new Yugoslavia.
Their resentment became
bitter after the imposition of UN sanctions.
By any normal logic, if Yugoslavia was to suffer UN sanctions,
then so should Croatia which continues to deploy up to 40,000 Croatian troops
(67,000+ by some accounts) in Bosnia-Herzegovina almost two years after Yugoslav
Forces withdrew (in May 1992).
In a Memorandum to the
US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, in January 1993, the US
Serbian Unity Congress stated: "The Serbs want the same right which the world
has recognised for other Yugoslavs (eg: Slovenes and Croats), to live together
in their own national state, or in one single autonomous unit of a larger
political entity. The Serbs fought for that right in
the First World War, they
were granted it by their political allies (France, UK, Italy, US), and
gave it up
when asked for form the original Yugoslavia in 1918. They now insist on
taking out of Yugoslavia the
internationally-recognised Serbian territories (as agreed in the London Treaty
of 1915) they originally sacrificed to form Yugoslavia. In particular, the Serbs
reject the partitioning of former Yugoslavia along the lines imposed by
Hitler in 1941, and reimposed by Tito in 1945
[ie: internal administrative
boundaries -- Ed.] . . . This is unacceptable because, first it reduces
one half of Serbs to the status of national minorities in states that openly
threaten their nationhood and even their physical existence: and second, it
isolates rump Serbia from its traditional geopolitical alliances."
The memorandum went on to state, "The Serbs view their
role in the on-going civil war as strictly defensive-preemptive. They are not
invaders of anybody's territory but defenders of their own homesteads where they
have lived for centuries."
Unquestionably, the Bosnian Serbs in their
"defensive-preemptive" actions have been trying, with varying degrees of
success, to force from Serb territory the Moslems living in urban townships such
as Tuzla, Srebrenica and Maglaj. These Muslim urban enclaves within Serb-owned
countryside, have been subjected to siege and intermittent bombardment in an
attempt to force the inhabitants to leave for sanctuary in Muslim-held
Little attempt has been made by the Serbs to
actually take the towns by frontal assault. Although saving the lives of young
Serbs, their protracted siege tactics have given the Western media many
opportunities to present the Muslims as helpless starving victims of Serb
aggression and "ethnic cleansing".
In a 1993 interview,
Biljana Plasic, the Bosnian-Serb Deputy President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, spelled
out to me the reasoning behind their actions.
She said: "After all the underhanded betrayal by President [Alija]
Izetbegovic prior to
the illegal recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the US and EC, and the
subsequent slaughter of Serbs in the border regions with Croatia . . . in which
Izetbegovic colluded with the Croats . . . there can be no living together in
"There has been too much
bloodshed. There are too many killings to be avenged on all sides. How can we
sleep soundly ever again in the same village with people who previously came by
night to kill Serbs while they slept? There is only way forward. There has to be
a separation of the people into three areas."
cohesive land areas where each ethnic group can live and practice their own
religion. I am not happy about what is necessary and I wish we could reach a
swift agreement with the Muslims to exchange territory and population without
any further fighting. Every time we try to talk with them about exchanging
people they refuse. They are expecting the United States to intervene against us
with force, so they keep on holding Serbs hostage inside their towns, and they
go on fighting and staging events
for media like CNN, the BBC and The New York Times," Mrs Plasic said.
"One thing is for
sure, no matter what happens, we are not going to live under the domination of
Better to fight than give in to such people. They would only
kill us anyway. Perhaps in a hundred years from now our great grandchildren may
once more live together in harmony."
The Balkan ethnic powderkeg
Throughout the Balkans there exist
many potentially-explosive situations similar to those current in the former
Yugoslavia. The Helsinki Accords
principles of self-determination and inviolability of borders are lying in wait
to trap the unwary, or to be exploited by countries pursuing their own
In northern Serbia, south of the border
with Hungary, is a large Hungarian population living in Vojvodina. Just to the
east, in Romania, in an arc curving from Timisoara, south to the port of Orsova
on the Danube, lives a very large Serb population. This area of Transylvania was
originally Serbian until sold to Romania by a Serbian Duke in the second half of
the 18th Century. Northeast of this Serb-populated region in Romania is another
area of Transylvania housing more than two-million Hungarians. Overall, this
northern belt, stretching from Slavonski Brod and Osijek (Serb areas of Croatia)
in the west, through the Vojvodina region of Serbia, and eastwards across
Transylvania along the Romanian-Hungarian border, is probably the most
ethnically diverse in the Balkans. The potential for territorial disputes and
"ethnic cleansing" is enormous.
Other areas, perhaps
with even greater potential for ethnic conflict, are
Kosovo and the Sanjak
region of Yugoslavia. Here the problem is an
explosive mixture of religion and nationalism with roots reaching back in remote
history and the Tito era. Adjacent to Kosovo is Muslim Albania from whence came
95 percent of the present day population of Kosovo. Tito's
parents were from Croatia and Slovenia, and during his Administration,
Tito maintained power in Yugoslavia, not by just holding back
economic development within Serbia, but by taking positive action to counter the
strength of ethnic Serbs; a strength which is derived from the size and
geographical spread of the Serbian population.
Serbs out of their religious heartland Kosovo, the place where they had fought
their most historic battle against the Ottoman Turks. At the same time, Tito
encouraged Albanian Muslims to move into the area vacated as a means of
soliciting favour from Middle East Muslim countries. When subsequent
discriminatory action and violence drove Serb families out of Kosovo
he did nothing to prevent the exodus. Today a situation prevails where US officials say
that if Serbia "invades" Kosovo then the West must attack Yugoslavia using the full might of
NATO. It seems these officials do not realise that Kosovo is an
integral part of Serbia. How can a country attack itself?
In effect what
they really mean is that self-determination is paramount; Principle eight
overrule Principle Three of the Helsinki Accords. This is the direct opposite of
the situation in the Krajina, where
the same officials say Croatia's
Hitler/Tito-generated borders are paramount; Principle Three overrrules
Principle Eight. Is it any wonder the Serbs feel aggrieved and are bewildered by
Western logic, or rather the lack of it? Just like the Muslims in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Albanian Muslims draw encouragement from Western
statements and threats against Yugoslavia over Kosovo.
British politicians such as Paddy Ashdown, leader of the opposition
Liberal Democratic Party, warn constantly that if the West does not "stop
Serbian aggression in Bosnia and Croatia", then Kosovo will be Serbia's next
target for aggressive "ethnic cleansing". Such a domino theory is not valid in
the Kosovo situation. Trouble will only erupt as a result of
by the Muslim population within Kosovo, or from outside interference. In such
circumstances, Yugoslavia has a choice of action. It
can withdraw from its own territory, or it can take forceful action to suppress
civil unrest, knowing full well that the latter will result in heightened media
attention on a massive scale, followed by political demands for the UN Security
Council to take military action against Yugoslavia.
In addition to migration
to Kosovo, large numbers of ethnic Albanians moved east into what was then the
Yugoslav region of Macedonia (now an independent state), while others moved
northwards and now form a Muslim enclave in the Sanjak area of Yugoslavia.
An analysis of actions in
this region indicate that Albania harbours a desire to create
a Greater Albania.
To the existing state would be added the western part of what is now the Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), a strip of northern Greece from
Igoumentsa on the Adriatic coast eastwards to Kastoria and Florina, plus Kosovo
and westwards to include the Sanjak in Yugoslavia.
March 12, 1994, Germany announced that 30,0000 Serb refugees would soon be
repatriated to the former Yugoslavia on the grounds that they did
not qualify for refugee status. Significantly, none of the refugees to be
repatriated have passports from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,
indicating that they are, in all likelihood, Albanians. Intelligence reports
reaching Defense &
Foreign Affairs indicate that intermingled among these 30,000 will be
some 5,000 "Serbian" Albanians from Kosovo who have
received military training at an
abandoned US military base at Landstule in Germany. Their task is to move into
Kosovo where they will be joined by fellow Kosovo-born Albanians who have been
receiving military training at a Saudi-funded "refugee camp" established in
Albania in June 1993. The true purpose of the Albanian refugee camp was revealed
to BBC World Service correspondent Misha Glenny in July 1993 by a Bosnian Muslim
Commander in Sarajevo.
The new Croat-Bosnian
An intelligence picture is taking shape
regarding US diplomatic moves during mid-March 1994 in brokering a peace between
the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Croats and Croatia. There now seems little
doubt that, contrary to the publicly stated US view that this is a first step
towards peace in the former Yugoslavia, the unstated (and possibly
de facto) US aim is to create what amounts to
a Muslim-Roman Catholic alliance
capable of taking on the Orthodox-Christian Serbs militarily in
Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Knin and Krajina, the disputed territories along the
Serbian/Croatian border. Over the past 18 months, the US has taken a firm grip
on Albania (see Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy,
October-November 1993: "Albania has come to resemble an American training
academy. The poorest country in Europe is fast becoming an American
In the Balkans, the US Government, in collusion
with the German Government, appears to be forging
a Croat-Muslim alliance
in order to bend the Serbs to its will.
Arms have also been flowing into the
alliance countries from Germany and many Islamic countries. [See Defense
& Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy issues from December 31, 1992, to
January 31, 1994, and The Arms Transfer Tables in this edition.
Substantial additional transfers of weapons into Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina
are also know to have occurred during this timeframe.]
Other reports which added to the intelligence picture included one by
Robert Fox, Bosnian correspondent of the London-based newspaper, The Daily
Telegraph. He reported on December 29, 1993, that the Bosnian Muslim Handzar
division had moved into the mountainous region around Fojnica: "Up to 6,000
strong, the Handzar division glories in a fascist culture. They see themselves
as the heir of the Ss Handzar division,
formed in 1943 to fight for the nazis."
Fox goes on to quote UN officers: "Surprisingly few of those in charge of the
Handzars in Fojnica seem to speak good Serbo-Croatian. Many of them are
Albanian, whether from Kosovo [the Serb province where Albanians are the
majority] or from Albania itself." Fox states that UN sources on the spot told
him: "The Handzars are trained and led by veterans from Afghanistan and
Pakistan. The strong presence of native Albanians is an ominous sign. It could
be that the the seeds of war are spreading south via Kosovo and into Albania,
thence to the Albanians of Macedonia."
believes that "hardline elements of the Bosnian Army, like the Handzar, appear
to have the backing of an increasingly extreme leadership in Sarajevo,
represented by Mr Ejup Ganic, Foreign Minister, Mr Haris Silajdzic, Prime
Minister, and Mr Enver Hadihasanovic, the new Army chief'.
When the Sarajevo market place
massacre happened at 12.02 hrs on February 5, 1994, the US immediately used the
event to move the UN Security Council into issuing a 10 day deadline ultimatum
to the Bosnian Serbs to pull back their heavy artillery and mortars from the
hills above Sarajevo, or face NATO air strikes. At the time, the UN Commander,
British Lt.-General Sir Michael Rose, said it was not possible to say which side
had fired the alleged "mortar round". However, it has been alleged by a number
of unnamed UN sources that a subsequent confidential UNPROFOR technical report
showed it was more likely that the Muslims
staged the event to evoke UN military action against the Serbs.
A letter from EC peace
mediator Lord Owen to EC foreign ministers, containing statements that the
Bosnian Muslims were probably behind the event was shown by French Television
1 on February 18. When challenged by the French authorities, TF-1's
Washington-based reporter, Ulif Gose, and TF-1's Foreign Affairs editor, Bernard
Volker, stuck by their report that said an UNPROFOR investigation had shown the
mortar was fired some 1.5 kilometres inside Muslim lines, a notification of
which Lord Owen had repeated in his letter to the EC foreign ministers.
Despite all this, and a continued denial of any
involvement by the Bosnian Serbs, the US has continued to blame only the Serbs,
and pressed ahead with its so-called peace brokering
alliance of Croats and
[Defense & Foreign Affairs'
evidence of this incident is that, in fact, the explosion may have occurred as a
result of a ground-placed device, planted in the Muslim marketplace by
Hizbollah mercenaries on behalf of the Izetbegovic Government, and not as
a result of a mortar attack. See January 31, 1994, edition.]
Another convenient incident to help move US policy forward
occurred when it was alleged that two USAF F-16 fighter aircraft had shot down
four "Serbian" Super Galeb ground-attack aircraft caught attacking a
Bosnian-Muslim munitions factory. Two other "Serbian" Super Galebs
escaped by fleeing into Croatian airspace. There is doubt that this incident
ever took place. There are a number of questions never answered in any of the
reports at the time, or subsequently. Why was it not disclosed which airfield
the "Serbian aircraft" flew from and returned to? Surely the Boeing E-3A AWACS
can track all movement over the entire fomer Yugoslavia? That is the reason for
their deployment. Secondly, why did UNPROFOR monitors based at Bosnian Serb
airfields not identify which airfield the aircraft operated from? Thirdly, why
has the media not shown the wreckage of the four aircraft shot down? This should
not be a difficult task when the AWACS and US fighter crews could pinpoint where
the "Serb aircraft" were downed. There is also the point that the Bosnian Serbs
have consistently said they have not lost any aircraft.
When a senior Italian Government Minister was asked during an interview
whose aircraft were involved, he replied it was of no importance; only the
One can only conclude there is
considerable doubt about the validity of the reports of the incident; even it
did happen, there are still unanswered questions as to the ownership of the
attack aircraft. It would not be normal for Bosnian Serb aircraft to flee into
Croatia -- hostile enemy territory -- to escape US fighters. They would gain
increased protection by fleeing into Yugoslavia, not Croatia. Only Croatian
aircraft are likely to flee into Croatian airspace.
US Balkan policy and the Helsinki Accords
US was humiliated by the Yugoslavs on three occasions recently. On the first
occasion, the Serbs rejected a Serb-born American, Milan Panic, as the Prime
Minister of Yugoslavia. Secondly, US Secretary of
State Warren Christopher was totally rejected in his overtures and demands made
to Belgrade during his visit there in 1993. And, finally, so too was State
Department Special Envoy Ralph Batholomew when he issued dire military threats
against Yugoslavia in 1993. The US Government
is now firmly entrenched in its anger toward Belgrade, and is clearly involved
in some discreet strategic moves to further isolate the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia, even though it has complied
with all the requirements of the United Nations for a lifting of the UN
sanctions. The US appears to be preparing to resist any lifting of the UN
Longer term, the US seems to be staking out a position in the Balkans, possibly because
the situation in the former Soviet Union is so uncertain. Russian President
Boris Yeltsin's health is very poor and he is unlikely to be in power much
longer, which will probably result in a more nationalist leader taking over. The
US and Germany are competitors on the global scale, but at present in the
Balkans at least, there appears to be
collusion. Germany is exerting influence
over its traditional area of Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, while the US
takes care of Albania, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.
The US Government appears to use the right of
self-determination and the inviolability of international borders purely for
furthering US policy, both short-term tactical, and longer term strategic. In
the Balkans, the US Government is not consistent when applying the principle of
self-determination to the Muslims and Croats on the one hand, and the Serbs on
the other. The two principles also appear to be interchangeable in terms of
application and importance.
A relevant parallel to
watch will be the US Government's reaction to the unfolding situation in
Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that, under international law, Northern
Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. Neither is there any doubt
that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland have expressed a democratic
wish to remain a part of the UK. If, however, one goes back in history, ignoring
the present position of the province in the UK, and holds a referendum in the
whole of Ireland, then probably a majority would be in favor of Ireland
becoming a unitary state. Take the logic one step further and hold the
referendum across the whole of the UK and Ireland, both north and south, and the
outcome is not predictable. Would a self-determination vote result in the
Republic of Eire (Southern Ireland) being forced to once again become part of
The parallel in the former Yugoslavia between the
Bosnia-Croatia-Serbia-Kosovo situation and the UK-Northern Ireland-Eire
situation is very real.
For domestic political reasons,
US President William Clinton was prepared to risk US-UK relations to some degree
by allowing the leader of the outlawed Irish Republican Army's political wing,
Sinn Fein, Jerry Adams, to visit the US to present the case for the
terrorist organization. Similar situations involving self-determination could
arise in the future in the US itself with the Hispanic populations in Florida,
southern California, Texas and elsewhere.
given time and a high birth rate, could demand the right to self-determination
as "suppressed peoples, suffering under white American domination". Their cry
would be little different from the of the Muslim Albanians in Serbia's