To the last breath on division of Bosnia

Marinko Culic

MON, 05 JUN 2000

Zagreb, May 29 - “It is important that you act so that it does not cross the minds of the world that we wish dissolution of Bosnia, but at the same time, it is necessary to make secret plans for division of B&H”. This is in short, a paraphrase of what Franjo Tudjman ordered a group of his subordinates after NATO attack against Yugoslavia, having recognised in it a God-sent opportunity to reactivate his old ideas which he had been forced to give up under strong international pressure in Dayton in 1995.

Stenographic notes from this meeting appeared a few days ago in Jutarnji list, which failed to cite the source it had got them from, but Croatian readers do not need to be told that because they have learnt by now that such documents are arriving from Tudjman’s archives the keys to which are nowadays in the pocket of Stipe Mesic. The only thing that is new is that with these notes the topic of B&H is opened for the first time. And this may be important because all the stenographic notes published so far referred to some topic about which there is no unison agreement in the new Croatian state leadership.

These stenographic notes do not have just historical value, but they are also topical because of certain muffled disagreements in Croatian coalition administration and it also concerns a few still active Croatian politicians some of whom are in the neighbouring state and still in power. Along with Tudjman’s advisor for internal affairs at the time, Ivic Pasalic, the following persons were present at the talks in Tudjman’s office held on 13 April, 1999: Ante Jelavic, Mijo Brajkovic, Jozo Maric, Milan Kovac, and generals Ljubo Cesic Rojs and Stanko Sopta.

Tudjman had invited the listed persons to inform them that they should “get prepared for a new political solution which will be somewhat different than what it is today”. He meant the NATO intervention, convinced that it would lead to division of Kosovo, “in the sense that the northern and western part of Kosovo would be given to the Serbs, to Milosevic, and into the southern part NATO troops would enter”. And this was an ideal opportunity to re-open the Bosnian issue, because it is increasingly claimed even in the West that Dayton has not succeeded and that Serbia should be “won over again” by linking Republika Srpska to it.

When Croatia is concerned, Tudjman was convinced that an opportunity was opening for it in B&H according to the principle “To Croatia what is Croatian” although he revealed to his interlocutors that a separate solution would not be permitted for the Croats, but that they would be forced to remain “together with your flowers”. That is why he ordered his subordinates “not to offer any evidence that we wish dissolution and division (of B&H) into three”, but “to make secret plans, if we continue to be under pressure to put up with that Federation of theirs, how we will recantonise that Federation, that is, how we will organise it in order to make it survive, so we will be able to keep it, so to say, in our hands, linked to Croatia”.

On the other hand, if in the West “they agree to creation of a separate Muslim unit, it is even more important to think about a fixing the borders”, Tudjman concluded. And indeed, the persons present immediately started thinking out loud how to carry out what they were told to do. Mijo Brajkovic, for instance, announced that in just a week, at the big gathering occasioned by the death of Jozo Leutar, these tactics would be tested with two alternatives. “One concealed, and one public”, he said suggesting that for the former, “this division into three parts”, a team of demographers, psychologists, historians and others be immediately engaged for its elaboration. In public appearances, however, they would proceed with a demand for completion of cantonisation, that is, for creation of “sub-cantons” which would be inter-connected culturally, economically, linguistically, etc., which according to Brajkovic could hardly be questioned by international community.

They immediately proceeded with elaboration of questions of territory which would be opened when the expected division of B&H was accomplished. To Tudjman’s question: “What do you think we will be able to keep if demarcation takes place”, Pasalic estimated that “all our districts to central Bosnia and mount Orasje“ would be retained. Jelavic added that perhaps it would be possible to get Jajce as well, but majority of the others preferred listing towns which due to absence of Croat majority population should be left to the Bosniacs or the Serbs, and in this way accelerate the division. Tudjman started by instructing them that “we need not fight over Brcko”, but Ljubo Cesic Rojs was the most generous among them. He declared that in case of division into three it was necessary to be “wise” and not strain relations over Zepce, Odzak, and even Orasje, which Pasalic believed could be kept, but leave them to others.

On the other hand, participants at this bizarre meeting expressed full readiness not only to keep but to militarily secure as quickly as possible the parts of B&H they believed belonged to them or about which they had been given certain guarantees. Pasalic called Tudjman’s attention to the fact that, as of that day, but especially in the context of “possible dissolution you talked about” it was necessary to build “Croatian military barracks” as soon as possible in Drvar, Glamoc, Grahovo, Kupres, Stolac. He added that SFOR had approved of it, so regardless of financial difficulties in which Croatia was, this should be started as soon as possible.

Tudjman agreed, but he also complained of lack of money, demanding that construction begin immediately, but to improvise a solution for further financing. Head of Croatian military construction works, general Rojs offered help of his construction workers, but underlined that he would not construct military barracks in the part of B&H in the Sava river valley. Jozo Maric observed that “we have at our disposal” ten thousand B&H Croats on Adriatic islands who could colonise the scarcely populated territory of north-western B&H.

That is how at a meeting which did not even last a whole hour – it had begun at 18.00 and ended at 18.40 – a full picture of geographic and ethnic division of B&H was drawn, that Tudjman had stubbornly advocated in early nineties, and then in the late nineties, just several months before his death, tried one more time, the last charge at this goal.

Another stenographic report, also published in the past few days, reveals that at the time, through a confidential envoy, he apologised to Milosevic for the bad words Hrvoje Sarinic had written about him in his memoirs. This just reinforces the impression that fatally ill Croatian emperor used the last sparks of his life, with the same ideals and the same protagonists, to revive the idea about division of B&H from Karadjordjevo which to a large extent marked his whole life in politics.

Approximately half a year after the death of Franjo Tudjman, one can say that he died with this idea, but it would be slightly too presumptuous to conclude that the opposite has also taken place, that is, that this idea has died with him. It is true that in Croatian parliamentary elections in the beginning of this year it experienced a crushing defeat, but one cannot say that it has been eradicated and that it is not in modified forms surviving even in stands of certain member parties of the ruling coalition. That is why the appearance of these stenographic notes indeed is not just a mere archivistic exhibit, but a political event of top significance.

Original article