Milosevic Dreams Of Military Axis To The East

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic cherishes a dream of a military axis stretching east from Belgrade to Beijing. But his ambition rests on the future of other would-be presidents - including George Bush Jr. and Gennady Zyuganov.

Milosevic Dreams Of Military Axis To The East

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic cherishes a dream of a military axis stretching east from Belgrade to Beijing. But his ambition rests on the future of other would-be presidents - including George Bush Jr. and Gennady Zyuganov.

Thursday, 10 November, 2005

Described in the Yugoslav state media as the creation of a coalition of "free states" ranged against the 'New World Order', Serbia has moved ever closer to North Korea, Iraq, Libya, and China.

Although pleased with deteriorating relations between Moscow and Washington, particularly over the Chechen conflict, Milosevic remains suspicious of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, seen as 'Washington's man' in the Kremlin.

Milosevic hopes Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov will be the next Russian president. He believes Zyuganov could forge a military-political alliance between Russia and China, which would of course include Yugoslavia. Likewise a victory by the Republican and isolationist candidate George Bush Jr. in the US would likely lessen Washington's will to get involved overseas.

In early December, a delegation from the Iraqi Parliament visited Belgrade and China delivered $300 million US dollars of "humanitarian aid" to Serbia. Serbian Foreign Minister, Zivadin Jovanovic has been at pains to emphasise that "Yugoslavia has many friends in the world".

An official from the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), who wished to remain anonymous, said to IWPR, "Milosevic has for a long time now been dreaming about mayhem and a deterioration in relations between East and West, from which he would directly benefit".

The official went on, "that is why the Serbian state media and regime officials are constantly talking about a need to stop the American imperialism. The leaders of the 'free-minded world' - of Moscow and Beijing - are constantly being called upon to oppose the Western powers."

Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian Information Minister and Vojislav Seselj, Deputy Prime Minister in the Federal Government and leader of the Serbian Radical Party, have both received the ambassadors or Iraq and North Korea as the "true friends of Yugoslavia". Both Vucic and Seselj emphasized the need for such states to move closer together in the "struggle against American imperialism and hegemony".

In mid-October, a delegation from the ruling Iraqi Ba'ath party, headed by Hart al-Kashali, visited Belgrade, followed in December by the parliamentary delegation led by Iraqi parliamentary speaker, Sadun Hamadi.

Baghdad owes Belgrade several hundred million U.S. dollars for highways and other construction projects built by Serbian companies prior to the Gulf war.

Given President Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq has no money to pay back debts to Yugoslavia, Belgrade is hoping for a deal whereby the loans will be repaid in oil and oil derivatives.

In early November an official Yugoslav government delegation visited Baghdad. Well-informed sources claim the only reason for the visit was to secure at least partial repayment of Iraq's debts. Also a potentially profitable "medicines for oil" deal was mentioned at the meeting.

Zivko Sokolovacki, chief executive of the Serbian oil company NIS and a senior official in the Yugoslav Left (JUL) party, confirmed on December 12 that Belgrade was negotiating with officials from the Iraqi government in order to secure imports of Iraqi oil.

"Many Iraqi military pilots have completed their training in Yugoslavia. Military officers from other specialties used to come as well. However, Saddam Hussein was most interested in the training of his personal body guards," a source from the VJ told IWPR.

"A group of Iraqi fighter planes, MiG 21 and MiG 23, sent to Yugoslavia for repairs before 1991 are still in Yugoslav hangars. Yugoslav and Iraqi experts co-operated in the late 1980s to develop a multiple rocket launcher and worked together in the area of rocket fuels," the VJ source said.

Belgrade is also seeking closer relations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, leader of Libya. Zoran Lilic, Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Government has acted as Milosevic's main envoy. Much of Libya's military hardware was manufactured in Yugoslavia and Belgrade is therefore in a position to offer spare parts and expertise in new military technologies. Again Milosevic seeks oil or cash in exchange.

Deals between Belgrade and Tripoli became common knowledge in 1996 when a transport plane crashed near Belgrade. The plane was carrying spare parts for the Libyan airforce. Serbia is also suspected of aiding Libya develop a ballistic missile programme.

According to the SPS source Belgrade can offer considerable expertise in ballistic and rocket technology, as well as rocket fuel science. But IWPR's source in the VJ said, "The Libyans, like the Iraqis, are especially interested in the training of elite presidential guards."

At this moment in time, however, the most conspicuous foreign support for Milosevic emanates from the People's Republic of China, according to one official at the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry.

The China angle is given extensive coverage in the Serbian state media. Every statement by Chinese officials containing the slightest element of criticism directed at Washington or the West is published in the state media as top news.

But Yugoslav links with China have taken on a more economic perspective in recent months. The 300 million-dollar aid package granted by China in December coincided with news that China has been granted concessions for starting the third network of mobile phones in Serbia.

There are indications also that China is interested in Serbia's road network, oil industry, pharmaceutical industry and electrical energy system.

"Milosevic will give anything in exchange for a few dollars that will enable him to continue to rule Serbia," a source close to the Yugoslav political leadership. "His Machiavellianism is such that he would make a pact with the vilest devil only to remain in power. He does not care that his country will be declared a terrorist state as a result."

Some believe Seselj's calls for an "anti-American coalition" is merely a device for achieving the pragmatic, economic aims of Belgrade. However, those well informed about the situation in the political leadership in Serbia claim the contrary.

"Milosevic has for a long time now been dreaming about creating a pact along the Belgrade - Minsk - Kiev - Moscow - New Delhi - Beijing - line," an anonymous SPS source claimed. "In essence, everything boils down to that, that the rest of the world should change but not Milosevic and his governing clique," the source added.

Goran Svilanovic, leader of the opposition Civic Alliance of Serbia, was typically dismissive of Milosevic's foreign ambitions when quoted in the daily newspaper Blic on November 15. "Milosevic hopes that changes in the elections in America and Russia will lead to a change in the policies of those two countries towards him," he said. "That assessment is completely wrong. No change in the U.S. government will turn Milosevic into a main negotiator ever again."

Daniel Sunter is a journalist with the VIP agency in Belgrade.

North Korea, China, Serbia
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