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Donald Trump and the Yugoslav Wars

Whilst Donald Trump denies giving the interview to a Serb journalist in which he supposedly apologised for US action towards Serbia, had he done so he would only have given an apology that is deserved and overdue.

Donald Trump alleged gave an email interview, via his campaign staff, to a Serbian magazine called Nedeljnik. In the interview Trump is alleged to have apologised on behalf of the United States for Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of the then Yugoslavia.

However, the Trump campaign has claimed the interview is a forgery and Nedeljnik have pulled the piece.

In spite of this, Vladimir Rajcic, the actor who claims to have sent the questions and received the answers from the Trump campaign maintains the interview is legitimate and he’ll soon prove so. It remains to be seen.

The Western mainstream media responded with predictable idiocy. They misrepresented the true nature of the civil wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s and more importantly neglected to mention why the wars happened. Here are the key facts.

In  1974,  in response to the increased demands of non-Serb nationalities of Yugoslavia, Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito proclaimed a New Constitution which gave further autonomy to the six main federal republics as well as virtually analogous status to two autonomous provinces within the Serb Republic—Kosovo and Vojvodina. 

This went some way to quell the nationalist agitations of Bosnian Muslims, Croats, Slovenians, Montenegrins,  Macedonians and ethnic Albanians—but this came at the expense of disproportionately disenfranchising the Serb population of Yugoslavia. 

In Yugoslavia as a whole, Serbs were the ethnic plurality.  Apart from the Serb Republic, within the Yugoslavian Federation Serbs lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Macedonia.  However because of the republic based voting system enshrined in the 1974 Constitution, substantial Serb minorities in all republics except Serbia effectively had their votes made redundant due to the block votes of other ethnic groups that comprised the majorities of individual republics. 

Compounding this issue was that in spite of their status as provinces within Serbia, Kosovo and Vojvodina had an autonomous voting position within Yugoslavia that was rather similar to the positions of the official republics. 

So whilst minorities in Serbia were given autonomous provinces which thus amplified their political grievances before Yugoslavia as a whole, very substantial Serb minorities  in places like Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia were afforded no such autonomous status. 

Thus Serbia had to concede part of its political territory and likewise its Federal influence to ethnic minorities within Serbia, but no other republic was required to concede political territory or influence to the Serb minorities within their borders. 

After Tito died in 1980 semi-latent nationalist agitations arose again—but this time it was the Serbs who were agitating as it was they who felt that the 1974 Constitution had enshrined an anti-Serbian bias into Yugoslav politics for the sake of keeping minorities in the Federation. 

Serb grievances came to the fore in Yugoslav politics in the year 1986 when the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts published a Memorandum.  The Memorandum accused the provincialism of the 1974 constitution of disproportionately weakening the political influence of Serbs within the Federation. 

Keen not to fan the flames of any nationalist insurrection which would put at risk the fragile integrity of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, the Serb republic’s leader, publicly denounced the Memorandum.  So did Radovan Karadzic.  However formal denunciation by Serb Communist officials did little to palliate Serb fears.

By the middle-late 1980s things became even more ominous as Kosovo became the epicentre of a new political tug-of-war. 

Not content with being an autonomous province within Serbia, the Albanians of Kosovo began agitating with ever more vigour for full republican status.  Coming at a time of growing Serb alienation from Yugoslavia this caused Serb frustration over Kosovo to grow tenfold.  Kosovo being after all the place where Serbia traces its historic origin, it was a gross anomaly for many Serbs that it was not a fully integrated part of Serbia. 

At around this time impromptu Albanian militias in Kosovo began a concerted terror campaign against the Serbs of Kosovo—this over ten years before the NATO war on behalf of the Albanians of Kosovo. 

It was becoming clear that by 1990 that the forces most likely to break up Yugoslavia because of entrenched discrimination were not Slovenians, Croats or Bosnian Muslims but Serbs.  It was the Serbs who were suffering from diminished voice in the affairs of Yugoslavia and who had to face apparent antipathy from other nationalities together with sectarian attacks on Serb civilians.

For a surprisingly long time, Milosevic maintained a rather anti-climactic silence in the face of Serb protests.  Milosevic did at long last move to attempt to ameliorate the Serb grievances as proffered in the 86 Memorandum by putting the leadership of Kosovo, Vojvodina and Montenegro under the direct control of the Serbian leadership. 

This re-organisation in Kosovo led to mass riots and a general strike by ethnic Albanians.  Violence against the Serb minority in Kosovo forced many to flee the province.  It did not help that Croatia and Slovenia supported the anti-Yugoslav and anti-Serb riots in Kosovo. 

By 1990 things had passed the point of no-return.  In attempting to correct the inequities against Serbs inherent in the 1974 Constitution Milosevic was forced to make a Hobson’s Choice.  He could maintain the anti-nationalist Communist line, which in reality buttressed inequities against Serbs within the Federation, or he could promise to do what he eventually did, which was try to defend the safety and security of Serbs within Yugoslavia even if this meant alienating other minority groups throughout Yugoslavia, who were at this time gaining encouragement both from the crumbling of the USSR (Yugoslavia’s friend) and from the rise of a united Germany (in the case of the pro-German Slovenes and Croats) and of international Islamism (in the case of Bosnian Muslims and Albanians). 

In 1974 Tito had been forced to concede Serb rights to minorities in order to save Yugoslavia. 

In 1990 Milosevic was forced to correct the anti-Serb nature of the 1974 Constitution in order to preserve Yugoslavia. 

The methods were different but the aim of both Tito and Milosevic was the same—to preserve the integrity of Yugoslavia.

It was a difficult choice for Milosevic—for he was a man that thought twice before doing what he did—unlike the NATO allies who didn’t even bother to think at all before putting a blood soaked nail in Yugoslavia’s grave.

The fact the word ‘Balkanise’ has entered the English language is testament to the fact that the West’s intervention in the Yugoslav civil wars destroyed a once peaceful and prosperous state, tearing it into a handful of shaky pieces of an ethno-political jigsaw puzzle.

The wars have left a still largely unrecognised Republika Srpska at loggerheads with an impoverished Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose only great achievements since the 1990s has been the building of Wahhabi mosques, funded by Saudi Arabia.

As for Croatia, many beautiful coastal countries have a tourism industry,.   In Croatia it is the other way around. Far-right elements in government and systematic corruption are troubling indeed.

Macedonia has recently seen protests as tensions run rife with a sizeable Albanian minority.

Kosovo, which even some European countries do not recognise as a sate, is best recognised as a mafia state which still has a significant population of totally disenfranchised Serbs who NATO abandoned after the 1999 bombing campaign.

Many in Montenegro regret splitting from their more prosperous neighbour Serbia in a hastily prepared 2006 referendum.

Meanwhile, although Serbia is still tentatively an EU applicant, more and more Serbs see their destination economically and geopolitically with Russia for more reasons than one.

Non-Yugoslav Albania meanwhile has become a NATO member but it remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. So much for expecting wealth as a reward for coming out of ‘splendid isolation’!

Although it is likely that the Trump interview is a fabrication, what’s more important is that Trump could have plausibly said the words ascribed to him.

Whilst the words Donald Trump and ‘humility’ rarely find themselves in the same sentence, Trump’s acknowledgement that the Washington establishment have got it so wrong for so long, is indeed tantamount to an expression of regret, stopping just short of sorrow.

In the mid 1990s, when Bill Clinton began meddling in Bosnia, the then UK Foreign Secretary Sir Douglas Hurd warned John Major not to follow his American counterpart, stating that doing so would ‘only level the killing field’.

Whilst Hurd may be best remembered as the man who voted for the Maastricht Treaty without having read it, cautioning Britain against a Yugoslav military adventure was his finest moment.

Voices of reason like Hurd are largely absent in post-Blair Britain. Perhaps they won’t be in post-Obama America?

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