Balkans: December 19, 1999


The Federal Yugoslav Army has formed a special unit designed to destabilize the Montenegrin government. This unit, designated as a Special Military Police Battalion, has 1,000 troops, most of them veterans of operations in Bosnia and/or Kosovo. Many of these men actually belong to the Interior (Police) Ministry, but the unit is designated as an Army battalion since the Montenegrin authorities refused to allow any "federal police" units to enter the province. (Under the constitution, the Federal government controls the Army and could move Army units around, including into or out of Montenegro, at will, but police units are controlled by each province. When Belgrade tried to form the unit as a "federal police battalion", Montenegro rejected this as extra-constitutional.) Northern Montenegro is ethnically Serbian and politically pro-Serb. Federal Yugoslav Army units garrisoned in northern Montenegro have been reinforced without the consent of the Montenegrin government. The scenario, as feared by Montenegrin authorities, is as follows. Rumors would be spread that the Montenegrin government plans to make good on its hints of independence. Serbs in Montenegro would riot, causing widespread civil disturbances. The Special Military Police Battalion would then be sent into southern Montenegro to control key traffic intersections, supposedly to allow the continued free flow of commercial traffic. Actually, they would secure the roads for an invasion by Federal Army troops, who would then arrest Montenegrin President Djukanovic. Montenegro has grown increasingly resistant to Serbian pressure. It has effectively closed the border with Serbia to anything except the Army (which it cannot stop). It has declared monetary independence and now uses the German Mark as a second legal currency, but the Yugoslav Army is flying in tons of Yugoslav dinars and spending them freely, trying to disrupt the Montenegrin economy. (The US has sent $40 million in aid to help stabilize the situation.)--Stephen V Cole

Two pipe bombs exploded in an Istanbul shopping mall. Two people were slightly injured. Police speculated that either PKK Kurd militants or left-wing extremists detonated the bombs.


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