Misha Glenny calls for a coup in Belgrade

After five and a half years of carnage and chaos, the Yugoslav Army (VJ) is tattered and demoralised; its officers have lost the enormous prestige which the old Yugoslavia showered on its predecessor, the Yugoslav National Army (JNA). The Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, has carried out regular purges of the generals and colonels, blaming the Army for defeats in Bosnia and Croatia, even as the outside world excoriates it for the massacres that took place during the wars in both places. The heroic exploits of Serbia’s soldiers and Tito’s Partisans in the First and Second World Wars are forgotten, embedded in a history which has been obscured by the bloodshed of half a decade. Now that the Army is penniless, sitting on stocks of rusting weaponry and outmoded ordnance, even senior officers have begun to sign petitions protesting against their ever thinner wage packets. Milosevic ignores the military’s advice. During last year’s anti-Government demonstrations, sustained for more than three months, he warned the VJ leadership to keep its nose out of politics. For the first time, the VJ’s younger officers expressed support for Milosevic’s opponents, even promising that they would uphold the democratic rights of ordinary citizens. This was taken at the time to mean that part of the Army would support the opposition in any confrontation with forces loyal to the President. Milosevic’s growing suspicion of the Army has led him to rely instead on his personal retinue – the vastly expanded police force comprising 60-70,000 well-armed and well-paid men.

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