September 23, 1998
Under the orders of President Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav Army continues its campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. NewsHour correspondent Charles Krause examines the Yugoslav president and his politics.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
Will Russia survive its economic and political crisis.
September 2, 1998:
Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin meet in Moscow.
August 31, 1998:
A look at how Russians view the crisis.
August 31, 1998:
Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin meet in Moscow .
August 31, 1998:
The Dow falls 512 points.
August 27, 1998:
The Dow falls 357 points.
August 26, 1998:
Russia's economic situation drives down markets around the world.
August 24, 1998:
Boris Yeltsin sacks his government.
July 13, 1998
International lenders agree to loan Russia over $22 billion.
May 28, 1998
Russia's government tries to maintain the value of the ruble.
April 24, 1998
After two tries, Sergei Kiriyenko is confirmed as Russia's Prime Minister.
March 23, 1998
President Yeltsin sacks his cabinet.
The Russian Government Information Network.
International Monetary Fund.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Since 1991, tens of thousands of men and women have been killed -- and hundreds of thousands more displaced -- in what was the former Yugoslavia. First, there was the shelling and destruction of Vukovar by the Yugoslav army in Croatia -- then the massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica -- and the bloody siege at Sarajevo in Bosnia. And now, again, charges of ethnic cleansing, hundreds of thousands of more refugees and a looming humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. There are many historic causes for the hatred and instability that have consumed the Balkans for most of this century.
But there's also general agreement among western historians and diplomats that it was Slobodan Milosevic, who unleashed the current wave of nationalism and ethnic violence -- exactly 11 years ago. It was then, in April 1987, that Yugoslavia's communist leadership in Belgrade sent Milosevic to Kosovo, a remote mountainous region where the Serbian Orthodox Church had its beginning. Serbs call Kosovo their Jerusalem, and it was there in Kosovo that Milosevic re-ignited religious and nationalist passions throughout the Balkans when he threatened reprisals against Kosovo's Albanian majority. Virtually overnight, Milosevic became a hero to the Serbs and six months later their president. It's a job he's held in one form or another ever since.
TEOFIL PANCIC: He succeeded in making a myth of himself.
The first "post-modern" dictatorship?
CHARLES KRAUSE: Teofil Pancic is the editor of Vreme, Serbia's most respected independent news magazine. In New York recently, he recalled Kosovo's political importance.
TEOFIL PANCIC: Within a year you could see Milosevic's posters and pictures, photographs everywhere, in the buses, in the shops, in all kinds of places. Nobody ordered people to have that pictures, but they just fell in love with him because it looked like he is, finally somebody is, protecting Serbian interests.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Today a decade later, his critics in the United States and elsewhere say Milosevic is responsible for most of the carnage and war crimes committed in the Balkans. They also say he's become a dictator whose only real interest is to retain his personal power.
CHARLES INGRAO: He is totally dedicated to his own personal advancement and survival. I think he's extremely, totally immoral.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Charles Ingrao is a professor of history at Purdue University who's written extensively on central Europe.
CHARLES INGRAO: The Serbs break down into two groups, those who dislike Milosevic and those who despise him. The reason he stays in power, because he has created over these last five-six years a fascist state. It's not a totalitarian state where you cannot breathe without having the government looking at you. It is a fascist state where you control enough of the state apparatus and enough of the media that you make sure your control of the government is not questioned.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Pancic calls Milosevic a "post modern dictator."
TEOFIL PANCIC: He avoids to use terror when he doesn't have to. So in kind of normal situations, he is not using terror. He is using propaganda and all other things like that. But when something serious happens, then he uses terror. Like you have a situation in Kosovo, like you had demonstrations - big demonstrations in Belgrade a year, a year and a half ago. He doesn't have any problems -- any problem to send the police to his own people. It doesn't matter are they Serbs, or Albanians, or somebody else. I mean, in that way we are all equal. You know, we all can be beaten by the police.
RADMILA MILENTIJEVIC: I think it's a wrong, absolutely -- he's not a dictator.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Radmila Milentijevic is one of Milosevic's strongest and most outspoken supporters. She served as Serbia's minister of information until last March.
A strong leader, not a dictator?
RADMILA MILENTIJEVIC: My experience with President Milosevic has been that he is -- yes, he is a very charming man, entertaining, relaxed, very pleasant, but also very tough. He is a strong person. He has his goal and he keeps the government under full control, as he should, as he must. But he rose to power through elections. And if he were to run for an election tomorrow, the vast majority of the people would vote for him. So he has the popular support. And he uses that support to implement the policies that he has charted that he believes in.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Louis Sell has observed Milosevic firsthand. He was the chief political officer at the U.S. embassy in Belgrade from 1987 until 1991 -- the period when Milosevic first learned how to wield power.
LOUIS SELL: He has quite skillfully used nationalism to prevent anyone from coming up with an alternative because anytime anyone criticizes Milosevic or has the temerity to even think about some alternative policies in Kosovo or elsewhere, he can be branded as a traitor to the Serb nation.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Does he do that?
LOUIS SELL: His people do. He doesn't himself. He's very clever about that usually. He thinks brilliantly one or two moves ahead, but he doesn't seem to think about the end game. He's a brilliant tactician, but a terrible strategist. That's why he's led Yugoslavia and Serbia into catastrophe after catastrophe.
CHARLES KRAUSE: There are many different versions and explanations for why Milosevic chose the strategy and tactics he did over the past decade of turmoil and violence in the Balkans. But the facts of what happened - the outcome -- is more or less incontrovertible. In 1989, Milosevic returned to Kosovo, where he further inflamed ethnic and religious tensions by speaking at the commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the battle of Kosovo.
The Serbs believe they lost that battle to the invading Ottoman Turks -- and the 600th anniversary celebration did nothing but further aggravate the traditional hostilities between Orthodox Serbs and mostly Muslim Albanians in Kosovo. 1989 was also the year Milosevic engineered a change in Yugoslavia's constitution, curtailing the political rights of Kosovo's Albanian majority by revoking Kosovo's status as an autonomous republic.
LOUIS SELL: What it amounted to was depriving the Albanians in Kosovo by force of the right to rule themselves. They are 90 percent of the population and, in effect, since 1989 when Milosevic forcibly deprived them of their autonomy, they have been virtually non-persons in their own land.
The breakup of Tito's Yugoslavia.
CHARLES KRAUSE: According to Sell and others, the breakup of Yugoslavia two years later, was due at least in part to concerns elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia about Milosevic and growing Serbian nationalism. Beginning in 1991, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia declared their independence --- leaving only Serbia and Montenegro in the country that had been Tito's Yugoslavia since the end of World War II. The breakup left many ethnic Serbs living outside Serbia, in neighboring Bosnia and Croatia. So beginning in 1992, Milosevic, who still controlled the powerful Yugoslav army, began to support Serb forces fighting to secede to form what they called Greater Serbia.
The fighting in Croatia and Bosnia was fierce and there were horrible atrocities. Yet today, Milosevic and the Serbs have very little to show for their efforts. Yet Milosevic remains in power, at least in part because many Serbs believe the United States and much of the rest of the world is against them. As evidence of that, former information Minister Milentijevic points to the preponderance of Serbs charged with war crimes at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
RADMILA MILENTIJEVIC: The Serbs feel that this court was invented and enforced by the United States government to punish the Serbs. I share that view. No matter what justification Madeleine Albright of the United States Government is offering, I will give you examples to prove that the court was there to punish the Serbs and no one else. When Tudjman attacked Eastern Slovenia in the spring of 1995, he expelled some 12,000 Serbs from there, all the Serbs from there, and in the process maybe 1,800 to 2,000 Serbs were killed. The court in The Hague didn't move a finger. So the double standard that was applied here is so obvious. Serbian people have no choice but to see it for what it is.
CHARLES KRAUSE: The view that there's been a double standard is repeated daily on Serbia's state television and other government-controlled media, according to independent journalist Teofil Pancic.
TEOFIL PANCIC: Milosevic builds a kind of xenophobic culture. We have a very xenophobic media, with a few exceptions. But most of the media are very xenophobic. And when you persuade your people that they are jeopardized from the outside world, then they will say "Okay, if America says that Milosevic is no good, or somebody else, then Milosevic has to be good."
CHARLES KRAUSE: Louis Sell says the half truths and distortions appear not only in Yugoslavia's state-controlled media. He says they're also reflected in Milosevic's dealings with the United States and other foreign governments.
LOUIS SELL: He is one of the world's most skillful liars, and he has no trouble lying either in public or in private to his interlocutors, and he does it with every evidence of sincerity and, in fact, may even sometimes believe it.
CHARLES KRAUSE: How do you respond to Louis Sell, who says that, in fact, President Milosevic is simply unreliable, he lies?
RADMILA MILENTIJEVIC: President Milosevic is not a liar, but President Milosevic probably does not open all his cards, you know, just as we don't. You act in behalf of your country, in the national interest of your country, and you do what you have to do to protect it and defend it.
CHARLES KRAUSE: And that's what he has been doing?
RADMILA MILENTIJEVIC: That's what he has been doing. And I would not for one minute give in to the assumption or the position that President Milosevic is a destabilizing factor. In fact, he is the strongest factor of stability in Serbia, in Yugoslavia, in the Balkans today.
Can the U.S. deal with anyone else?
CHARLES KRAUSE: Yet the fighting in Kosovo has once again destabilized the Balkans, and the U.S. Senate recently approved a resolution accusing Milosevic, by name, of being a war criminal and of causing the conflict in Kosovo. Democratic Sen. Charles Robb of Virginia, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, says the timing of the resolution was meant to send a strong signal to Milosevic that the United States and its allies will hold him accountable.
SEN. CHARLES ROBB: We believe that this kind of conduct by Milosevic cannot continue without a response by the international community, and we are prepared to back it up.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Richard Holbrooke, the special U.S. envoy to the former Yugoslavia, has long viewed Milosevic as essential to stability in the Balkans and has continued to meet with him since the fighting in Kosovo erupted earlier this year. But elsewhere, there's a growing debate as to whether the United States should continue to deal with Milosevic. Professor Ingrao says no.
CHARLES INGRAO: The United States should have distanced itself from him many years ago, but in our search for stability, we have chosen short-term Band-Aid solutions to long-term systemic solutions.
CHARLES KRAUSE: But Senator Robb says that dropping Milosevic is not be so easy.
SEN. CHARLES ROBB: We're in the awkward position of not having anybody else that we can deal with. It's not all that different from, say, Iraq where you have Saddam Hussein, who is the only person that you can deal with, even though we may find him deplorable, disreputable, as someone that we know has committed atrocities. If you're going to solve the problem in the near term, you sometimes have to continue to deal with them.
CHARLES KRAUSE: So, for the time being, Yugoslavia's president remains at the center of the storm in Kosovo and the Balkans, which he himself largely created, and the United States continues to deal with him. But faced with the prospect of a massive humanitarian crisis in Kosovo now that winter is approaching, and more broken promises, the United States supported today's resolution in the UN demanding a cease-fire in Kosovo. It was yet another sign that U.S. and the world's patience with Milosevic may finally be running out.