In the assessment of numerious experts, “The Nature of the Wars to Break Up Yugoslavia” (orig. “Karakter ratova za razbijanje Jugoslavije) by Professor Radovan Radinović, PhD, retired military general, is a seminal work which largely explains what it was that went down on the territory of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and what led to the bloody breakdown of the country. General Radinović’s book, who was the first dean of the Military Academy in the former Yugoslav People’s Army, explains the essence of the armed conflict in this region, our region, but it also introduces the wider public to the lesser known details from the era.

In these days of reminiscence on the criminal Croatian military operation “Storm”, 27 years ago, Novosti brings an excerpt from the book, pointing to the true nature of Croatia’s war against the Republic of Serbian Krajina.

After establishing full military control over the area of Vukovar and the city proper, the Yugoslav People’s Army General Command had no remaining ambitions in the regard of further conflicts with Croatia, nor was it aware of the lethal consequences to the Serbian people in Croatia, as well as the peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that would follow in the years to come.

As a matter of fact, the political and state leadership of the rest of Yugoslavia, minus the already seceded Slovenia and Croatia, had no meaningful concept of how to proceed with clearing up the crisis in Yugoslavia, that is, in the remaining sections that had not yet been established as independent states —- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. They especially did not have any sort of a sustainable political concept for resolving the Serbian issue in Croatia. And by then (late November 1991), the urban Serbs in Croatia had already been either killed or exiled, or they had moved out by themselves out of fear under duress, which amounts to the same thing. The Serbs who had territorially and politically constituted themselves into the Serbian autonomous region where Serbs were the majority — Dalmatia, Krajina, West Slavonia, East Slavonia, Baranja and West Srem, would unite into an independent political entity under the name of the Republic of Serbian Krajina.

Even though any remotely educated person understood that Croatia and the Republic of Serbian Krajina by definition could not survive as separate, mutually opposed and enemy states, as there was only enough space for one, the leaders of the then-Yugoslavia and Serbia had not come up with anything coherent that would go toward the final resolution of the crisis — under the condition that the Serbian people be permanently politically and physically protected. That practically means that they had to enter into serious, lengthy and torturous political conversations with Croatia — mediated, naturally, by the institutions of the international community which are very unfriendly to us, no matter what that term involves.

Instead of that, the Krajina Serbs’ illusion of their political independence was met with support. But nothing was done on the matter apart from symbolically marking the ethnic borders, in the way that the Yugoslav People’s Army went out to those so-called borders, minus Western Slavonia, the largest part of which fell into the hands of the Croatian military authorities, and they cleansed it of Serbs and all traces of their existence in that centuries-old habitat of theirs. Krajina was left to flail politically between various sets of authorities who fought one another for the support of Belgrade, lulled into the illusion that Serbia would defend them from the Croatian aggression, while Croatia was gaining more and more support and sympathies from the powerful foreign factors to reintegrate into its state and political space the territory where the Republic of Serbian Krajina was founded.

In the absence of any valid and sustainable political strategy towards the Krajina Serbs and their state and legal status without or within Croatia as an independent state, what the Yugoslavian political leadership did was send a letter to the President of the United Nations Security Council on November 26, 1991 (that is, less than 10 days after the fall of Vukovar), asking the Council to make a decision to deploy peacekeeping forces to Yugoslavia. Borislav Jović, Slobodan Milošević and Branko Kostić did this on the behalf of Yugoslavia, without either the military leadership or the  Federal Executive Council, which still existed and functioned in some form, ever being notified of it at all.

Commenting on the decision, that is, on the letter, respected professor at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law Smilja Avramov said that by doing so, the Presidency of Yugoslavia had renounced on its basic prerogative to use its own armed forces and left the defense of the country to a foreign military.

In response to the aforementioned letter by the Presidency of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the UN Security Council passed the Resolution No. 727 on January 8, 1992, approving the deployment of a group of liaison officers — a group of around fifty observers — with the mandate to oversee the compliance with the ceasefire between the Yugoslav People’s Army and the Croatian army. This effectively kicked off the process of the implementation of UNPROFOR’s peacekeeping mission, whose plan was developed in December 1991 by Cyrus Vance, former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United States of America. The Presidency of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia accepted the plan on December 31, 1992.

The precise and extremely detailed description of the UNPROFOR mission was adopted in the UN Security Council Resolution No. 743 on February 21, 1992, and Resolution No. 749 on April 7, 1992. The process of deploying the so-called blue helmets of the United Nations could start on that day. The UNPROFOR headquarters was originally set up in Sarajevo, but — as war had been looming there as well — the headquarters was first transferred to Belgrade, and then to Zagreb, where it remained until the end of the mandate.

The basic concept of the peacekeeping operation as worked out by Cyrus Vance was as follows: in Croatia, in the territory majority populated by Serbs, that is, where the Republic of Serbian Krajina was established as a Serbian political entity, determine areas to be put under the control of the UN forces (UNPROFOR). Those areas will be demilitarized, and their population protected from war operations. The territories chosen as such were: East and West Slavonia and Krajina (Dalmatia, Lika, Banija and Kordun).

In her book, “The History of the Yugoslavian Crisis” (orig: “Istorija jugoslovenske krize”), Jelena Guskova — as a seasoned expert in UNPROFOR, given that she had herself been its officer for a period of time, as well as an acknowledged scientist and publicist who was very well versed in the Yugoslavian crisis — wrote that UNPROFOR had a total of 8,332 members as of April 24, 1992, of which 7,975 had been soldiers and officers. Bearing in mind the length of the space that required protecting, close to 1,000 kilometers between the Hungarian border and the Adriatic — at a first glance, one already gets the impression that this was above all an observation mission, rather than a mission that was supposed to enforce peace in an area that had until recently been in the throes of an armed conflict. The forces varied in size later on, but when their mandate was extended to include Bosnia and Herzegovina, then it had become even more clear that they were insufficient in number and quality to secure peace in such heated circumstances.

However, the UNPROFOR mandate itself had not been especially promising. Namely, it was the UNPROFOR’s duty to protect, rather to impose or establish peace when a conflict did break out. From there it follows that the UNPROFOR had never gotten involved in a conflict between opposing sides until after the conflict was finished, always explaining itself with the excuse that it was not its mandate to arbitrate and extinguish conflict, but merely to oversee peace when and if conflict occured.

That was a God-given mission for what Croatia was planning to do when the time came, which is to finally beat the Serbs in Croatia in combat, thus finally resolving the Serbian issue in Croatia. And that final solution was derived from the anthology model of the Ustasha dignitary and Croatian author Mile Budak from the time of the Independent State of Croatia — kill a third, Catholicize a third, exile a third. This did end up being the epilogue of the final resolution of the Serbian question — to the embarrassment of both modern-day Croatia and all of its powerful Western mentors, from Germany to the United States. These countries, that is, their leaders, as well as Croatia and its leaders and their followers all have their hands stained with the blood of the innocent Serbs killed in Croatia in this campaign to create a “new world order” following the fall of communism. Alas, leaving the emotions aside, let’s go back to the facts.

First, a few words on the Republic of Serbian Krajina’s acceptance of the Vance plan. Right on the start, the leaders of that Serbian entity had been opposed to accepting this plan, and this whole so-called UN peacekeeping mission, at all. They had plenty of reasons to be skeptical, given that the so-called international community that put this mission in motion had shown an excessive amount of bias during the escalation of the Yugoslavian crisis, which had to have caused the a priori suspicion of the Serbs from Krajina. Both their intuition and the prior practical knowledge of the foreign factor’s behavior had mandated caution and demanding guarantees that they would not be left at the mercy of Croatia, as they had known intimately what would be waiting for them there.

The policy of Belgrade was entirely confusing and without any signs of serious strategic thought. Its only goal was to jettison the problem of the Republic of Serbian Krajina as soon as possible and turn it over to the care of the United Nations, that is, to the UNPROFOR. And that was akin to leaving cabbage in the care of a goat, or a lamb in the care of a wolf. What followed was a lot of debate, as well as empty promises. The debate was inching towards the claim that the UNPROFOR would guard the territory of the Republic of Serbian Krajina against a Croatian armed aggression, which was notoriously false (given that there had been no such provision in the UNPROFOR’s mandate), that is, that Yugoslavia would never allow the Serbs in the Republic of Serbian Krajina to fall victim to the Croatian aggression. That, too, was notoriously false, since it was clear to any remotely educated person that Serbia, that is, FR Yugoslavia, had no objective ability to exert direct military influence in a potential new armed conflict between Croatia and the Republic of Serbian Krajina. All of the promises were false, and, which is particularly regretful and shameful, those making the promises knew ahead of time that they would not be able to deliver.

For those very reasons, in the end of this 1991 and the first half of 1992, someone should have demanded at any cost to finally resolve the status of Serbs in Croatia, with appropriate guarantees from the world organization. Most likely, assessments at the time had said that the strategic, political and international conditions for a final resolution of the Serbian issue in Croatia were unfavorable and that it would be better to postpone it until a more favorable time. That had been a mistake, given that Croatia had been at its weakest at the time, and thus the most willing to make all possible concessions, everything short of the limit of the Republic of Serbian Krajina’s independence.

The Serbian national leaders in Serbia had stuck their heads in the sand and left Krajina to the care of the UNPROFOR, which was not remotely concerned with its protection, instead focusing on feigning a peacekeeping mission the scope of which saw unparalleled crimes against the Serbian people — starting from the Miljevac Plateau, to the Medak Pocket, Dinara, Glamoč and Grahovo, to “Flash” and “Storm”.

The UNPROFOR watched all of that happen without a care in the world, at the same time assisting and in every way encouraging the reintegration of the Republic of Serbian Krajina into Croatia, including through armed means. To the author of these lines, it is inexplicable how the people in Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who had served on key positions in politics, military and the police at the time, can bear to carry on their conscience this shameful cross that we figuratively refer to as leaving the Republic of Serbian Krajina to its fate and devaluing the lives of that part of our people who were led to a false hope that their motherland would not abandon them nor leave them unprotected, at the mercy of the bloodthirsty new Ustasha.