Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey: Yugoslavia approaches West

The visit of President Vojislav Kostunica this week to the USA heralds a new chapter in Yugoslavia’s relationship with the US, as Belgrade pledges to cooperate more closely with the Hague court in return for a promise of financial aid and support for Yugoslavia in its fight against Albanian extremists. This is the first sign of a turn in policy by Washington, after it actively armed, equipped and trained Albanian terrorists and set marauding gangs of armed bandits creating chaos throughout the region, namely in Kosovo, Presevo-Medveja-Bujanovac and northern Macedonia. However, seeing that the situation is getting out of control, and that the Serbs are the only force in the area which can detain the Albanians, Washington now seems prepared to adopt a more appropriate policy. These talks mark “a new beginning in Yugoslav-American relations”, said President Kostunica after meeting President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice at the White House. During these talks, the US position was clearly expressed: either Belgrade cooperates more closely with the Hague tribunal, or there is no international aid package for Yugoslavia. “Cooperation with the Hague tribunal is something that is necessary for this country being a member of the United Nations and behaving as a good member of the international community,” said Vojislav Kostunica. He continued that “in quite a short time” the Yugoslav Parliament would adopt new legislation enabling the country to collaborate with the Hague. Whether or not the future of Slobodan Milosevic was discussed, Colin Powell declined to answer. Reading between the lines, this could well mean that President Kostunica was vehement in stating that this possibility was not an option at the moment, being too sensitive an issue to be pressed. The general feeling in Belgrade, confirmed by Pravda.Ru contacts in the Yugoslav Press, is that however politically motivated and intrusive the Hague tribunal is seen to be, the prospect of having Mr. Milosevic back as their President is equally bad a prospect. If Vojislav Kostunica can provide the funds Yugoslavia needs by cooperating with the Hague (and eventually handing over Milosevic), this would be seen to be a move forward. An international donor conference on financial support for Yugoslavia is due to meet in June but the United States has already made it clear that before Slobodan Milosevic is extradited, there will be no aid from the USA. The conference could go ahead, but the absence of Washington would seriously affect the benefits this conference could provide to Yugoslavia. Carla del Ponte, the Hague tribunal chief prosecutor, even accused President Kostunica of lying about his intention to extradite Milosevic and praised Washington’s position. The arrogance of this...lady... goes hand in hand with the intrusiveness of Washington’s policy around the globe. Washington and the Hague tribunal make excellent bed-mates. The relationship between them is like a master and his obedient dog, in this case, a Rottweiler, a scenario as perverse as their joint vision of the world.


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