Stratfor - Milosevic stirs nationalism

19 November 1999

Almost six months after the end of the war for Kosovo, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is trying to stir nationalism in his country. Milosevic is seemingly using awards ceremonies, special operations and army training exercises to prod the West. Milosevic is in fact attempting to stir up nationalist sentiments to tighten his own grip on power. He must remind followers of who is responsible for heating shortages and other hardships that in turn help keep him in the presidency.

On Dec. 2, Milosevic held an awards ceremony in Nis to honor the 3rd Army of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) for its valor in fighting "NATO aggression" in Kosovo, reported Radio Belgrade. By keeping Kosovo in the news, the president hopes to boost the nationalistic support he enjoyed during the war. Though the Yugoslav opposition is thus far disorganized and unsuccessful, he remains wary of losing the support of either the security forces or the population, both of which are vital to his continued rule.

For Milosevic to seem the guarantor of Yugoslav unity, however, there must be a threat. Montenegrin authorities are claiming that Belgrade has deployed an undercover unit to destabilize Montenegro, one of the two remaining republics of the Yugoslav Federation. Deputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said that a Yugoslav Military Police unit in Montenegro is actually a special operations team of 1,000, reported Jane’s Defence Weekly. If Milosevic successfully disrupts Montenegrin peace, he will have to utilize the VJ in another battle to prove his patriotism.

The VJ also conducted training exercises in the southern Serb town of Bujanovic on Nov. 25 and again on Dec.1. Units of the Pristina Corps, noted for its role in the Kosovo war, conducted maneuvers that included tanks. Bujanovic is only seven miles east of the Kosovo border and particularly significant in that it is near the U.S.-controlled sector. The exercises are sure to draw Western attention.

Milosevic needs global attention, no matter how negative. Yugoslavia has spent six months under international sanctions and a worsening economy. And though it cannot afford to incite another war against the West, Belgrade is likely to continue prodding. NATO has virtually discounted Milosevic in favor of more pressing matters, and the international community will only regain interest if the president actually goes on trial for war crimes. As long as the West ignores him, it implies that Milosevic is an insignificant leader.

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