Balkans: Where The Past Never Lets Go


August 27, 2011: Serbian and Bulgarian anti-aircraft units and air force interceptor aircraft have been conducting a joint defense exercise in Bulgaria. The countries conducted a similar exercise last year. Equipment used includes surface-to-air missile units (Russian-type SA-2, SA-3, SA-6, and SA-8) and some anti-aircraft artillery units.

August 26, 2011: A couple of voice-recordings posted on the internet have scandalized Turkish media. The illegal recordings are allegedly of former military Chief of Staff General Isik Kosaner. The authenticity of the tapes has not been confirmed. A government spokesman said the source of the recordings may be a foreign intelligence organization. The spokesman (who is a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP) said that no Turkish institution made the recordings. The AKP is a moderate Islamist party and has been in a power struggle with the strongly secularist military. In one recording (which appeared August 23) Kosaner (or someone who sounds like Kosaner) is overheard saying the Turkey’s counter-terror fight (against the PKK, primarily), has severe problems. Command and control at lower levels (tactical levels) is confused. Command responsibility for certain sectors is hazy. The ability to share intelligence (especially from unmanned aerial vehicles) is difficult. Many units are, in Kosaner’s opinion, poorly trained and poorly led. He tells officers that they need to spend more time with their troops and improve training. In the second recording Kosaner is overheard discussing the alleged Operation Sledgehammer coup conspiracy. According to Turkish media who have listened to the entire recording, Kosaner (or is it a fake Kosaner?) says that there are documents which confirm that the conspiracy was real. The AKP could benefit from the release of the recordings. The AKP has been trying to curb the military’s power. The first recording is a blow to military prestige. The second makes the case that the conspiracy, which was directed at the AKP government, is real. Hence the government’s quick statement that no one in the government made the recordings or released them.

August 24, 2011: The name war continues. Greece is outraged that German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Macedonia by its name, Macedonia. Greece insists that Macedonia be called the FYROM, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece fears that Macedonia will lay claim to the Greek province of Macedonia. Parts of what was once Ottoman Empire Macedonia lie in Macedonia, in Greece, and in Bulgaria.

Former Serb irregular force commander Goran Hadzic pled not guilty to war crimes charges in The Hague. Hadzic is accused of massacring 300 people in the Croat town of Vukovar in 1991.

August 23, 2011: Riots continue in Greece. This time around 3,000 football (soccer) fans in the town of Volos rioted after their favorite professional teams were penalized for participating in a game-fixing racket. The riot, however, had political overtones. The rioters attacked the local offices of the governing Socialist party, set fires, and fought with police

August 22, 2011: A Kosovar Albanian media outlet has reported that a shadowy Albanian militant group is threatening to reorganize as a militia unless Kosovo forms its own army. The militant group is apparently a faction of the former Albanian National Army (ANA), which fought in Macedonia and also conducted attacks in Kosovar Serb areas of Kosovo. The UN designated the ANA a terrorist organization.

August 18, 2011: The UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague has put former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj back on trial. He was acquitted of war crimes in 2008 but subsequently prosecutors have found evidence that Haradinaj and his supporters intimidated several prosecution witnesses.

August 15, 2011: This month is the 16th anniversary of Croatia’s Operation Storm. That attack (August 1995) drove some 200,000 Croatian Serbs out of Croatia. As a result, Serbia still is harboring some 60,000 Croatian Serb refugees.

August 11, 2011: The German government said that it opposes Serbian demands to partition Kosovo. The German position is that there will be no more territorial changes. About 60,000 Kosovar Serbs still live in Kosovo, most of them in northern Kosovo near the Kosovo-Serbia border.

August 9, 2011: High school language exams have caused a political problem in Moldova. The Gagauz autonomous region (Gagauzia, southern Moldova) still has many residents who do not read or speak fluent Romanian (Moldova’s national language). The Gagauz are a Turkic people who have lived in the region for a millennium. Most of them are Orthodox Christians. Gagauz officials blame the government for failing to provide sufficient funds to support Romanian language classes in Romanian high schools. To graduate from high school, however, students must pass a state-mandated exam in Romanian. Around ten percent of Gagauz students flunked the exam. Around 140,000 Gagauz live in the autonomous region.



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