Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Solution In Sight for War in Bosnia

The sudden rift between Serbia's leadership and the leadership of the Bosnian Serbs is being interpreted in some quarters of Europe as a sign that it may be possible to bring the Bosnian war to an end. If Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his army and police forces are serious about maintaining their blockade of the Bosnian Serbs, it is argued, then the Bosnian Serbs will sooner or later have no choice but to sue for peace on the terms offered by the West and Russia. These terms have already been accepted by the Moslems and Croats.

However, while peace may indeed come to Bosnia after a period of stubborn Bosnian Serb resistance, there are grounds for believing that the split in the pan-Serb camp signals more instability for the region once known as Yugoslavia. All over the six former Yugoslav republics, political alliances are sundering and factionalism is developing in a manner similar to that which tore Lebanon apart in the 1970s and 1980s.

Take the Bosnian Moslems, for example. Since last September, the central Moslem leadership in Sarajevo has been unable to stamp out an armed revolt in the northwestern region of Bihac that is led by a Moslem business tycoon and politician named Fikret Abdic. Or take the Croats. Not only have arguments raged between the central Croatian leadership in Zagreb and the leaders of the Bosnian Croats, but inside Croatia President Franjo Tudjman's ruling party was recently rocked by the defection of two of its most dominant personalities, Stipe Mesic and Josip Manolic.

There are similar quarrels in Macedonia between the ruling bloc and the nationalist opposition. The split between Milosevic and the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has its parallels in disputes between Milosevic and leaders of the Serbian minority in Croatia.None of the multiple tensions in the Balkans, whether between different nationalities or between different factions of the same nationality, shows much sign of disappearing soon. One reason is that they are essentially struggles about power in newly independent states that were born out of war. Another reason is that practically no party to the various conflicts in former Yugoslavia has cause to feel satisfied with political and territorial arrangements as they stand now.

For instance, while the Moslems have signaled their acceptance of the 51:49 percent division of Bosnia, nobody doubts that what they really want is to restore the republic to its full pre-war unity. As for the Croats, even if they have abandoned their ambition of carving up Bosnia between themselves and the Serbs, they have certainly not given up the aim of winning back full control over the areas of Croatia conquered by the Serbs in 1991. For its part, Serbia cannot be said to have buried its project of creating a Greater Serbia comprising itself, Montenegro and large chunks of Croatia and Bosnia.

Even if the West and Russia manage to implement their peace plan for Bosnia, the republic and its neighbors remain packed with tensions that are almost certain one day to find expression in more fighting. Almost certain, but not completely. If new Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian leaders emerge with a commitment to ethnic tolerance and the rule of law, then horrors on the scale witnessed in the last three years can be avoided. Europe should actively seek out and assist such leaders. There is no lasting stability from brokering deals among assorted two-bit fanatics.