Kiev officials have often held up the "Operation Storm" offensive of the Croatian Army in 1995 in the 1991-95 war between Croatia and secessionist Serbs as something they would like to re-enact in East Ukraine
In the mid-90s there arose a catchphrase of bitter irony:
Democracy? That’s when Croats want independence from Serbia.
Rebellion? That’s when Krajina Serbs want independence from Croatia.”
Thus the conflict between Serbian Krajina and Croatia, 1991-1995, when the Croats, having declared their own independence from Yugoslavia, under the leadership of Franjo Tujman, refused to recognize the right of self-determination of the Krajina Serbs, and finally, with the active support of the United States, defeated their enemy, restoring their “territorial integrity” after the declaration of a “cease fire.”
2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the fighting, which the Croatians call “The Patriotic War, but which the Serbs call the “War with Croatia.”
The relevance of that entire series of events to the Ukrainian conflict has come to the surface. The theme has appeared — with no exaggeration — among Ukrainian politicians. As is well known, the recent leader of the Poroshenko Bloc in Parliament, Yuriy Lutzenko, has openly called for a repeat of Operation Storm in the territory of Donbass. (This was the operation where, in just a few days, the Croatian Army defeated the forces of Serbian Krajina)
“Croatia can serve as an example. After the Yugoslav army took Vukovar … the Croats were obliged to accept the existence of a Serbian Krajina. For three years, they did not just hold on, but they developed an economy and an army. But at last in just a few hours an armored attack drove the separatists from the land.”
It is pretty plain.
And it's plain to see that the history of what gets called “democracy” and what gets called “rebellion" is happening all over again. The Yeltsin-Kravchuk-Shushkevich cabal, in the framework of the collusion at Viskula — That was democracy! The third round of voting, when Yushchenko “won” -- That was democracy too. That unconstitutional revolt of February 2014 — democracy again!
But that popular vote in Lugansk and in Donbass — That was separatism. The years go by, the irony stays the same.
But let’s go back to those words of Lutzenko about the development of the Croatian economy in the years 1991-1994. It appears possible to say, from documents that are now able to be counted as historic, that the development of the Croatian economy was on the whole, peculiar.
Starting in 1990 and continuing through the “victory over the rebels” in 1995, the downward slide of the Croatian economy measured 46%. Against this background, the military spending burgeoned to 38% of the GDP. In 1994, in the conflict between Croatia and the Serbian Krajina Republic (RSK) supported by Belgrade came up to a ceasefire, achieved with the help of the UN.
And here is where the active phase of military preparations began in the Croatian army, with the help of the private war company Military Private Resources, Incorporated (MPRI). A bit weird that Private War Companies can be called 'private', since they are made up of retired upper rank officials -- generals, even, from the Pentagon, and from Intelligence and other agencies of the US. Thanks to the work of the MPRI, Croatia was able to mount brigades in a short time, and to get precise information on the plans of Knin (the RSK capital) and Belgrade, which sealed the victory over the Serbian RSK.
In that period Croatia began actively and programmatically privatizing. By the end of 1993 all industry of strategic importance was in private hands. It is noteworthy that also in 1993 there began IMF’s active collaboration with the Zagreb officialdom.
IMF staff made several visits to Croatia; Croatian economists made a corresponding number of visits to IMF headquarters. The result was a whole series of agreements, in which Croatia received financial aid, with the corresponding “certain conditions” of the IMF.
One of the conditions was to accelerate the transition of state property into private ownership, further, that there be an accord between Croatia and Serbian Krajina about resuming the electric power system and gas pipelines. Croatia, getting the financial help under the IMF conditions, straightway put 40% of that help to use in re-equipping its army and bringing it up to NATO standards.
Serbian Krajina agreed to reconnect the gas pipelines, and to rebuild the infrastructure for the transit of electric power. And in Knin, they thought the agreement was Zagreb’s recognition of the right of the RSK to its independence. As you know, Knin was seriously mistaken in their reading of Croatia’s intentions.
Curiously, the IMF failed to notice the misuse of funds granted “for the economic recovery of Croatia through the time of the truce.”
But, thanks to agreements with foreign partners, Croatia was able to cut the “lineage to communist ties” in its shipbuilding industry.
If in the preceding 80 years the Croatian shipyards had made Yugoslavia a leader is shipbuilding, not just in the Soviet bloc, but in the European continent, then in the mid 90s the main operating areas and the sphere of the preparation of the finished products — started getting into local private hands, and then into western hands.
These, in their turn, scrapped everything for instant profit and buried the shipbuilding industry.* There was a simultaneous burial of most of the “Legacy of Communist industry.” Under threats, agriculture and processing industry was choked, areas to this day that can’t achieve workable status in Croatia even as a member state of the EU.
In sum, the Croatian economy had its burial treaty.
Several factors show that the situation at the present moment in Ukraine is comparable to that in Croatia. They are giving Kiev credit for “economic recovery”, part of which will go to build a “Wall” along the border with Russia, part on upgrade of military gear, and the formation of more and more armored battalions, legalized under the aegis of the BSU or the National Guard.
The economy of Ukraine is also limp, dragging along the edge of default, but gentle and democratic partners propping up Ukraine, taking root in areas of power, creep up closer and closer to the partitioning of Ukraine’s assets. Only in the case of Ukraine, the scale is way more impressive.
But if a certain repetition of the case of Croatia is on, can it be repeated with the result that Mr. Lutzenko and many others in the Ukrainian regime hope for? The desire to “crush the rebels” is huge in Kiev, but will it be enough, even if it coincides with the aspirations of the western “friends of Ukraine”?
You can ponder long over this theme, given the desire of Lugansk and Donetsk to defend their right of independence, but in the result, it is understood that the situation vis-a-vis the model of Serbian Krajina depends on Russia. If the “partners” can bring it about that the Russian authorities, having stepped on a rake in their turn, “realize their mistake,” the Ukrainian army will march victoriously through Donetsk and Lugansk. But if the Russian authorities can cross over the rake, it is still unknown who will do the victory parade, and where.
Finally, Russia, 1995, and Russia 2015, are, as they say, two very different entities with too much additional understanding of our “friends” intentions for them to get away with subterfuge. In consequence of this, the pressure will only increase, also with a view to the Crimea.
In sum, if a repeat of the scenario of Croatia-VS-Serbian Krajina is relived in the Donetsk Basin, this will stand as a fatal mistake for Russia, positioning itself as an alternative polar of world geopolitics.