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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Folly Of Denying The Evident

It started with the belt buckles. Then came the caps and the tunics. By early 1990 there seemed to be more Soviet Army uniforms on sale in flea markets across Germany and Eastern Europe than there were genuine soldiers wearing them.

The guns and other weapons were not long in following. Deprived of a military role by the end of the Cold War, the Western Group of Forces plunged wholeheartedly into the hardware business. If you wanted a Makarov handgun, an AK-47, or a rocket launcher, there was always someone who could get it for you.

So the report in Monday's edition of Der Spiegel that the Western Group sold heavy weapons to the Bosnian Serbs, including a consignment of tanks, will have come as a surprise to few who witnessed the final stages of Russia's military presence in Germany and Eastern Europe. Proving the report is another matter. Any such deals would certainly have been made through third, fourth or fifth parties, and as a result, all but impossible to trace.

What is beyond dispute is that the onset of war in Croatia and Bosnia was accompanied by a proliferation of weapons in the region, notwithstanding the international arms embargo. And with the nearby open market in Soviet weapons at the time, it is hardly surprising if a number of these landed in the hands of the Bosnian Serbs -- and for that matter, the Bosnian Moslems and the Croats.

Whether there was a deliberate policy on the part of commanders in the Western Group to sell weapons to the Bosnian Serbs is another matter. The Defense Ministry denies this, as one would expect.

But the ministry goes on to deny that a single tank, missile or any other armament was ever supplied by Russian military arsenals to the Serbs, with or without official sanction. Given the fact that the Western Group had clearly lost control of its armory, this statement is nothing short of absurd. If the Western Group had scant knowledge of what was happening to its arms, the Defense Ministry had even less and is in no position to issue denials of this sort. To do so merely undermines further the tenuous plausibility the ministry has managed to preserve to date.

The fact is that the Bosnian Serbs already had at their disposal the pick of the weaponry from the extremely well-equipped former Yugoslav Army, the majority of whose officers were Serbs. Any contribution from the Western Group would have made little difference to the enormous military advantage the Serbs already enjoyed. And it is this that casts doubt on the validity of Der Spiegel's expos?, rather than any knee-jerk denials from Moscow.