INTERVIEW OF SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC TO POLITIKA
Belgrade December 31, 1999

 

The interview was given to Politika's Editor-in-Chief Hadzi Dragan ANTIC on Wednesday, December 29, in the President's Belgrade residence.


Politika: Will the new millennium be better, bring greater justice?

Milosevic: It should. Facts indicating the need for progress are many and undeniable.

Economic development in the twentieth century has been constantly on the increase, encompassing ever more countries. Political freedom has been greater than ever before in history. Science has developed to such an extent that it exercises a decisive influence on the quality and character of human life. A cure has been found for most diseases that had plagued the mankind for centuries. The number of the illiterate has dwindled, while that of highly educated people has soared. The mankind has largely harnessed nature and it often seems that it is an absolute master of nature it in some areas. People seem to be able to produce all they need, and more. People on the whole have never lived better than they do today.

Of course, there is the underside to all of that. The threat of war is present in all corners of the globe. There is no sign that local wars will stop in the near future, and fear of a global war is justifiably present in the minds of all men on the Earth. The environment is threatened by man and is in turn a source of danger to his life. The poor nations, the underdeveloped countries still make the majority of the world's population, and the movement of this segment of humanity towards the developed world, and especially towards the rich, is still slow. Aggressiveness as a characteristic of man's personality has not given way, despite man's achievements in the spheres of economic development, education, science, art, politics...

I am optimistic, and not without reason. I believe that the positive trend that has manifested itself in the twentieth century will overcome the destructiveness, which has attained high proportions, especially towards the end of this century. Perhaps, though, destructiveness is no greater today than it ever was; it may be that people have greater capability than before to see it and understand the threat coming from it.

I am convinced, therefore, that the new century will be better and bring greater justice, provided, of course, that the people are capable of differentiating between right and wrong, good and evil, that they know what to do for the former and how to fight the latter.

Pressure and attacks on our country that have been going on for more than a decade culminated in the past year. What does the West want?

The West wants to conquer the whole world. The most highly developed part of the world, which in general calls itself the West, wants to press the whole world around it into service, to serve its interests. The rich countries want to be richer. In order to do this, they need other countries as a source of constant and limitless enrichment. So far, this developed part of the world has exhibited considerable unity. Or so it seems. However, as their need for expansion grows, so will their envy of each other. This envy may plunge the world - both the developed world and the underdeveloped world - into large-scale, tragic conflicts, the outcome of which might be disastrous for the mankind.

Let us hope that the developed part of the world will come to the realisation of the threat coming to them from themselves in such a world. It is also to be expected that the rest of the world, too, will find the strength to unite and oppose the destruction looming ahead if it waits for things to sort themselves out. In life, nothing ever sorts itself out, nothing, at least, of any importance. Everybody should contribute to a better and more equitable world in the coming century.

The Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was hit during the war. Yugoslavs have understood that message. The Chinese have also understood it. How do you see our relations with that part of the world?

The Chinese Embassy was targeted intentionally and in a very planned way. It was a message to China that its say in world affairs was not much greater than Yugoslavia's. That, even, it could end up as Yugoslavia if it was not obedient to the new world order. The message was sent to China not only because it represents a potential danger for the new world order, but also because of its daily public condemnations of the aggression against Yugoslavia.

Of course, the bombing of the Chinese Embassy, as a message, was understood by the Chinese, Yugoslavs and all others. The message was not very complicated, or ambiguous. After all, the West is not capable of sending to the East messages that the East would receive as puzzles it cannot understand. It can only be the other way round.

That is why the Chinese not only quickly understood the message, but also quickly responded to it. Not only on the part of the government, but also on the part of the people. They responded that they would defend their country fiercely and that they have every intention to develop quickly and that in international matters they would always support peace, equality between peoples, the right of every country to manage its own life...

With such attitudes, China is close to Yugoslavia, but it is most probably close to all other peoples and states, which may tomorrow become victims of aggression and humiliation.

Our relations with China are extremely friendly, our cooperation with China is comprehensive - economic, financial, scientific, cultural... We intend to develop and promote it, guided by the joint interest and to the benefit of both countries.

Do you see the future of Montenegro in the Federal Republic?

For Montenegro the best solution is the one that suits the Montenegrin people. If the Montenegrin people considers that life outside Yugoslavia would be better, then it has the right to choose such a life. And vice versa, if the Montenegrin people considers that life in Yugoslavia is an optimal choice, then it should stand by its choice.

In that case, it must respect the rules of life in a joint state with another people or with another unit of that state, in the first place, the Constitution which was adopted by both of them. The Constitution, of course, can be changed and it is good that it is changed. We live in dynamic times and it is only logical that the state is managed in a dynamic way, by taking into consideration the rhythm of changes occurring in such times.

Life together is nice and easy for those who want to live together, and hard and ugly for those who are forced to live together. When they are forced to live together, life not only is not nice and easy, but it has no prospects.

At the turn of the century in which two tragic world wars and countless small wars were waged, the biggest military power in the world attacked us or, to be more precise, again attacked us. How do you comment that event with respect to the future of our country, and also the future of all of the mankind?

The aggression on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should have been a lesson for all the disobedient in the world that they must respect the order of things dictated from one place. The aggression on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has suspended international organizations, first and foremost the United Nations, as the most important organization, whose task was to act as arbitrator in international conflicts and misunderstandings. The aggression on Yugoslavia suspended international law and triggered the process of cancellation of the sovereignty of every country, both big and small, that stand in the way of that order, even though those countries did not did not take part in the creation of that order, and took the right to state their opinion or even rebel against the order.

Our country has stated its opinion, rebelled, and it became the object of retaliation.

I want especially to point to the great experience of Yugoslavia, and especially of Serbia, in international politics and its openness for every form of cooperation with its closest environment, but also with the most distant countries in the world. We have always been open for everyone who wanted to come and positively disposed towards all who wanted to be with us. That is our national characteristic. That is our historical heritage.

But that characteristic and that heritage does not imply denying the right to freedom and independence.

The aggression against our country has united us while the aggression lasted. Everyone knows that since the beginning of the aggression the unity of our heroic people amazed the world. At least the part of the world that has free media, where there is no censorship and where correspondents who report the truth and journalists whose commentaries contribute to that truth are not fired.

But at issue is not the unity of our people in difficulties, hardships during the war. At issue is a united, proud and enthusiastic resistance to the aggressor who prepared to be the occupier. That resistance was unique, magnificent and for them unexpected. The feeling of invincibility, superiority, stubbornness, goodness - all that created a special kind of resistance, that was admired in countries where there is freedom of the media, and in countries ruled by censorship and autocracy was concealed from the public.

Just as in those countries was concealed everything else about Yugoslavia. And in the first place, the truth that Yugoslavia was no aggressor. On the contrary, that it was the innocent object of aggression of countries that represented it as an aggressor in order to use the alleged aggression on Yugoslavia as a pretext for a war against it. Partly as a lesson and to a greater measure out of higher interests. In order to establish control over the Balkans which is strategically, and militarily, essential, and in order to reach via that part of the world to the militarily strategic and economically even more important part of the world - the East, Middle and Far East.

Lessons have been drawn from the aggression against Yugoslavia. The rich and powerful have learnt that even a local war, and not only a world war can be a dangerous adventure, even when the opponent is very much unequal. And the poor, small, all other peoples can draw the lesson that they will remain poor, insignificant, who knows how long, unless they decide different themselves.

Ethnic Albanian separatists and their NATO sponsors wish to snatch away Kosovo-Metohija. What will happen to Kosovo-Metohija?

Ethnic Albanian separatism in Kosovo-Metohija has been powerless to attain its goals even by involving the most powerful ally on the planet in the form of NATO and its war machine. The guarantees of our sovereignty and territorial integrity are not the product of anybody's subjective good will, but terms on which the war was stopped. These guarantees that we accepted are to us final and unalterable. To us, all decisions that run counter to these guarantees as set down in the Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin Plan and the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 are illegal, null and void. The presence of security forces under UN auspices is temporary. We must bear it and exercise great patience.

Nobody can take Kosovo away from us.

When all is said and done, we shall remember the year 1999 as a war year. Criminals attacked us, devastating and killing. Will they answer for this and shall anybody indemnify us for the huge damage.

The question of their accountability is not a matter for posterity alone, this question is already being asked throughout the world, although for the most part it is still in the realm of moral condemnation. Doubtless, however, everybody expects that they will answer for it. We expect it, because we were subjected to tremendous devastation, we had huge casualties, all people in Serbia were exposed to stress, and all this when we had not, objectively, provoked anybody in the world to do us harm.

Many others in the world, too, hope that the criminals will answer for their crimes - many in the world public, whole countries, the majority of the people, all normal people. But, accountability is feared by those at whose door it should be laid. These are not the times of Attila the Hun, so that slaughter of nations and crimes against people should be committed with impunity, except possibly individually.

In the mid-1900's, fascism answered before the mankind. I believe that this neo-fascist beast will not escape the judgment of its age, of humanity in its time, not at some future date.

As for war reparations, they go with accountability. Unless the so-called international community can find those responsible for the crime committed against our country, then let it take upon itself the responsibility for the crime and indemnification for that part of the damage that can be indemnified with money.

The decision to launch the process of swift, intensive reconstruction of all material goods destroyed in the air strikes was not motivated by a hope that we should be relying on war reparations. The decision was based on the conviction that we could rely on our own forces and that we should do our utmost to restore as quickly as possible the devastated facilities of vital interest for the life of the country. Of course, in this reconstruction we have the support of some countries, some foreign companies, many individuals all over the world. But the crucial financial source for the reconstruction so far has been our country itself.

Quite apart from the unpleasantness that it brought to us all, last year brought some pleasant things in your private life. Your grandson Marko was born on the Serb New Year's Day. How much has this happy occasion in your family changed your life?

The birth of our grandson Marko on January 14 of this year has made this difficult year better than it would have been without this happy event in our family. Of course, little Marko has changed our lives. Until a child is born to your child, you never know how much that tiny new being will mean in your life.

Our little grandson is beautiful, lovable and looks very, very much like our children Marija and Marko when they were his age. When we compare his pictures with those of our daughter and son at the age of one, we hardly see a difference. Perhaps only that little Marko is a bit chubbier. He is growing up surrounded by love from the families of his mother and father and I hope that this will help in the formation of his character.

When one takes a look at what has been happening to us, not only this past year, but the last few years, one might wonder how we can still be standing. Constant sanctions, various restrictions, from sports cooperation to cooperation in research and culture, bans on traffic, on oil... to the actual physical destruction of our industry and infrastructure, have still not destroyed us. We live modestly, with self-denial, but it would seem that, despite strenuous efforts, the countries in our neighborhood, especially the former socialist countries, although without sanctions and with all their transition, have not yet caught up with us. Do you believe that, economically, even without the World Bank and the much-vaunted IMF (International Monetary Fund) we can prosper?

Certainly. Next year, our priority targets, apart from the country's reconstruction, will concern development, greater agricultural and industrial production, higher wages, higher living standards and employment. The reconstruction of the country is going ahead swiftly and successfully. There is every reason for the process of attaining the development targets to be swift and successful, too.

But I do not see why we should be without the support you mention. If the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are truly international and truly global, then they must work in the interests of all countries and all nations. Selective support to only some countries and only some nations strips them of the quality of being international institutions. In that case, the support of such institutions will be denied to many countries that are not on the list of favorites of the financial lobby that abuses the names of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for the attainment of its extremely partial interests.

This is becoming quite clear not only to financial experts and educated politicians, but to the wide public as well. We have all seen recently how ignominiously, humiliatingly ended the session of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle, where hundreds, thousands of people both from the United States and from all over the world protested against the abuse of this international organization by the United States and its attempt to impose its interests totally, brazenly and quite brutally on all, even on its European partners - the most highly industrialized western European states. The degradation of global institutions such as the UN, the IMF, the World Bank... or of regional ones, such as the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) by making them serve Washington's purpose does not have only negative consequences. It also creates a need for all free countries of the modern world to face up to the threat of hegemony more quickly and efficiently.

But, let us go back to the end of your question, which concerns our foreign economic and financial cooperation. We have no intention of isolating ourselves. That is what our enemies are trying to do to us. That is why they are keeping the sanctions in place. We, on the contrary, are linking up and cooperating with many countries of the free world - the whole planet. And the fact that the IMF and the World Bank do not finance us on NATO's dictates has not stopped our credit arrangements with friendly nations being greater at this time than the combined credit arrangements of all our neighbors, although they have the support, albeit verbal, of the IMF and the European Union and the World Bank and America.

You are the head of the state, but you are also the leader of the strongest political party. A congress of the Socialist Party of Serbia is due to be held very soon. What do you expect from it?

We expect that the Socialist Party of Serbia will pursue its patriotic policy as it has since its formation in 1990. We have been defending our country and people for ten years. Some have understood that the country was under attack only when the bombs started falling. And if we hadn't defended the country, before that, all those ten years, we wouldn't have defended it when the bombs started falling.

By acting in the hardest years in the century for the Serbian people and for the citizens of Serbia, SPS attempted to find the right answer for the time we live in. Citizens believed in that answer for a whole decade by voting at all elections held so far for SPS. That is an important support to our belief that we have found the correct answer for the hard, tumultuous, unfortunate times. It is possible that the answer was not always the best one, that it could have been better. It is important, however, that we had the best intentions, that we made a lot of efforts and that we are ready to face the facts and create our policy accordingly.

Moreover, SPS will try to help strengthen the leftist block that is growing in our country and getting a new face. The fact that there are other and different leftist parties is only logical.

After all the left was always a diverse front that encompassed very different visions of the left, and progressive.

At the same time, since our country is exposed to huge pressures from abroad that culminated last spring in the military aggression on Yugoslavia, I do not think it is time for party fervor, and especially it is not the time for inter-party conflicts. I think this is the time for all parties for which the homeland has the highest value, for whom love for the homeland is the strongest feeling, for whom everything they do in political life is guided by patriotism, to find points in common in the efforts to ease the difficult times for their people, to fight together for happier days for all, the entire country.

That is why I am confident that SPS will build at the congress and after it the spirit of a patriotic front, of true solidarity and cooperation with all who wish well to their country - peace, economic prosperity, modern cultural development, cooperation on an equal footing with all countries in the world.

Does the unification of Russia and Belarus mark the beginning of the renewal and of stronger ties between countries of the Soviet Union and is it at the same time an indication of larger integration processes between Russia, China, India and the creation of a counter-balance to America?

The unification of Russia and Belarus is an indicator of a possible process of rapprochement and connections between Euro-Asian peoples and states that could represent, if closer and quicker connections are established, the beginning of the establishment of a world balance that was completely abolished in the early 90s. The dissolution of the Warsaw pact and the Union of East European countries not only abolished balance in the world, but left a complete freedom of action to the surviving block, in the first place the NATO military alliance, to redraw the borders of countries, manage states, provoke wars, impose sanctions, punish the disobedient, reward the obedient and submissive, and in general to organize the world to their liking.

That is why all serious, and especially large-scale connections, any where in the world, are a change towards the establishment of balance which has been lacking for an entire decade and a chance for the protection of the mankind from hegemony and violence that accompanies it.

Our Assembly (Parliament) has some time ago approved a project for our country to join the Union of Russia and Belarus. Now that the Union has been formalized, is there a chance of our status in the Union being formalized too?

We stand by that decision and we hope that we shall in the foreseeable future, not some distant future, join the Union. I hope that this will be in the best interest of our country, as well as in the interest of the concept of linkage of Slavic and other nations which aspire to the common the goal of living in peace and developing in freedom.

Great countries, such as China, Russia, India, the Arab world, South America and Africa, no doubt support our just struggle for independence and territorial integrity. The public opinion in Europe, too, increasingly realizes how much Yugoslavia was first demonized in the media and then brutally attacked by NATO states. What is your view of relations with Europe, and what of relations with the other countries?

First of all, we are not outside Europe. Yugoslavia is a European country. The question to be asked is how our relations will develop with the countries of the European Union or the countries that took part in the aggression on Yugoslavia or the neighboring countries, and so on. Answers differ very much. Except in one thing. We wish to cooperate with the whole world and by the same token with the countries on the continent that we live in. We are understandably especially interested in cooperating with the countries on the continent.

However, that cooperation must be that of equal partners. It must be the type of cooperation that can benefit the development of our country, and cooperation in which we can help the development of others, of all. In all times, and especially in these times, everybody depends on others, all communication is valuable, everybody can contribute to their own and to general good, even at the same time.

Our cooperation with the neighbors shall be successful and mutual to the extent to which they are open to and ready for such cooperation. The same or similar holds true for the countries of eastern Europe. These countries can learn a lot from Yugoslav experience, especially from what happened to us last spring. We have learned some very, very valuable lessons from their experience and our conviction that we must resist hegemony is in part derived from these lessons.

As for the countries that took part in the aggression on Yugoslavia, we shall maintain cooperation with them as states, their institutions and organizations to the extent to which we can perceive their good will to help alleviate the consequences of the harm they have done us.

The West must find the courage and moral strength to face up to the guilt for the crimes committed by its aggression against Yugoslavia. Otherwise it shall lose all self-respect. The longer it waits, the greater the shame will be. And some Willy Brandt will have to turn up eventually and tell the truth.

It is often said that the media contributed to a great extent to creating a bad picture about our country. Can you make a comparison between the foreign and domestic media?

In Yugoslavia, in the first place in Serbia, there is an absolute freedom of all news organizations. The largest number of news organizations are in private hands. In our country there is no state control of the media. A large number of television and radio stations as well as papers are, however, under the financial and political control of some Western governments or their institutions calling themselves non-governmental organizations and whose task is to incite the destabilization of Yugoslavia, discredit all efforts of the Yugoslav authorities to rebuild and develop the country, give rise to distrust in the public, doubts and intolerance towards everything done by the legally-elected authorities, to show in the ugliest light the representatives of the authorities and their families, to dismiss everything progressive and humane that has been achieved in our country, to call into question the meaning of freedom, independence and patriotism, to present our people as inferior, stupid, backward and conservative as opposed to "worldly" peoples who are reasonable, educated, intelligent, progressive and so on.

Such a "freedom" of the media, of course, is more than freedom. The Law on Information, passed by the Serbian Assembly two years ago, and which was literally copied from the laws on information in some Western countries, has introduced some, very mild, forms of protection of the truth, dignity of the country and its citizens, the right of individuals not to be humiliated, or to be protected from slander, intrigue and so on. The law was received with great dissatisfaction by a part of the opposition, which, just as a part of the media, is under foreign control. Their mentors from abroad immediately supported their dissatisfaction whereas in their countries they do not consult anyone when it comes to crafting their own laws; however they consider themselves competent to interfere in the laws of other countries. At the same time, in their countries, they are very strict in applying radical, stricter, laws not only in the field of information but also others and have no intention of discussing those laws with the governments and televisions of other countries.

Our institutions and individuals have tried to obey that law but lately its implementation has been very weak and we are again close to the state of media irresponsibility in which we were during the last ten years.

As for the media abroad, the situation in most countries, and especially in developed Western countries is completely different. There all news organizations, state and private are under tight state control. Everything that the authorities consider contrary to the interests of the policy they pursue cannot appear in the media, or appears with the risk of bearing responsibility for transgressing the will of the authorities - the consequences are financial, political, moral, physical...

In Western democracies all the media are dependent on their owner - state, company or individual. But, in the end, the decisive role and responsibility in the media is played by the state. That is logical as the media in our time have a very important role in the conflict of interests, concepts, in the creation of a vision of global and regional development, in deciding about the fate both of a community and its parts, about the way in which every individual lives.

What do you wish the citizens of Yugoslavia in the year 2000?

I wish peace to our country. That is develops freely, quickly, as a modern, successful society.

I wish Yugoslavia cooperation with the entire world, on an equal footing and in the joint interest.

Yugoslav citizens, and especially the citizens of Serbia, should never forget the violence that happened to us this year. The memory of that evil will protect us and other peoples from new, future violence.

The new century will be better than this one only if mankind is able to triumph over violence, in the first place war, but also all other forms of violence including violence in the family - between genders and generations.

If in the 21st century peace, goodwill, solidarity, and equality between nations triumph, the mankind will be able to say that the victims who fell for centuries for those ideals have not died in vain. And also, that huge efforts for those values made by noble and courageous people throughout history were not meaningless and without results.

I believe that our people in the next century will live in peace and prosperity that it deserves. That is why I wish all of us unity so that happier days arrive.

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