BELGRADE — SERB leaders of rump Yugoslavia have triumphantly embraced the new Moscow-led plan to contain the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, hailing the so-called "joint program of action" as a collapse of international resolve to act against the Bosnian Serbs.
These leaders say the plan's provision for establishing "safe havens" inside Bosnia shows the West has abandoned the Vance-Owen peace plan and recognizes the Bosnian Serbs' land gains.
The new plan, they say, vindicates the Serbs' contention that the war is not one of Serbian territorial aggression, but a civil and ethnic conflict in which the Bosnian Serbs have merely defended themselves.
"It is clear in the West that a conviction is ripening that peace can be achieved by recognition of the facts on the ground," declared Serbian Radical Party chief Vojislav Seselj, an ultra-nationalist suspected of war crimes. Bosnian Serbs now control 70 percent of the former Yugoslav republic.
For those reasons and the Bosnian government's opposition to the new plan, the initiative unveiled last weekend in Washington appears to be in trouble here even before it is fully enshrined in UN resolutions, political analysts say. Those analysts include diplomats whose countries concurred on the new approach.
The accord, agreed to by the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and Spain, embodies a tradeoff: Washington persuaded Western Europe and Russia to drop the idea of forcibly imposing the Vance-Owen peace plan on the Bosnian Serbs; Western Europe and Moscow convinced Washington to abandon its call for combining air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs with an exemption for the Bosnian government from a UN-imposed arms embargo.
As a result, analysts say, Belgrade sees the new policy as a reconciliation of embarrassing policy differences at the expense of a get-tough approach.
"This action program is so feeble that it won't last," said one Western diplomat. "All it really was intended to do was to bridge the gaps between the United States, the Europeans and the Russians."
Key provisions of the plan call for the deployment of UN troops in "safe havens" declared around six Muslim-dominated enclaves and the maintenance of year-old UN economic sanctions on Belgrade as a means of pressuring it to coerce the Bosnian Serbs to relinquish conquered territories.
UN monitors would be deployed along rump Yugoslavia's border with Bosnia to ensure that Belgrade lives up to its pledge to cut supplies to the Bosnian Serb war machine as part of its decision to support the Vance-Owen plan.
Belgrade has raised serious objections to the deployment of UN monitors on its border with Bosnia. Those objections began emerging in full with the start of a two-day visit May 24 by special Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin.
Svetizar Stojanovic, the chief adviser to Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic, told the Monitor that acceptance of the joint plan would weaken, not enhance, Belgrade's bargaining position with the Bosnian Serbs and "add to their fears and so to their resistance to take part in any plan or any constructive negotiations."
He said the new plan also would stoke an already serious political furor in rump Yugoslavia over the sudden endorsement of the Vance-Owen plan by President Cosic and President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia.
"It would ... add to the arguments of the radical elements that we are selling out everything, including our sovereignty and dignity," Mr. Stojanovic said. "It is not simply political utility or calculation which is involved here, but also the ... dignity of the government."
He added: "I'm sure the Army is also against it."
Stojanovic suggested that the proposal to maintain the economically devastating sanctions will be counterproductive. Rather, he said, the international community should lift the embargo to ensure Belgrade's continued cooperation.
"Our people cannot understand any further constructive trades from our side unless the international community changes its approach into a more constructive and positive one," he said.
In his talks with Mr. Milosevic on May 25, Mr. Churkin, the Russian envoy, failed to ease the Serbs' objections.
Belgrade also objects a proposal in the joint plan to expand a UN peacekeeping force in the newly independent Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Political analysts believe that Belgrade's objections stem from concerns over having UN troops on Macedonia's border with Serbia's restive province of Kosovo.
The Serbs, they say, contend that a UN presence could encourage unrest among Kosovo's separatist Albanian majority in an attempt to provoke foreign intervention.