THE only thing surprising about Slobodan Milosevic's apparent victory in the Serbian elections Sunday is that he won without a runoff. Mr. Milosevic was going to remain president of Serbia one way or another - by buying, stealing, or, if necessary, taking his office by force. His ability to rig the elections so easily merely shows the breadth of his influence inside Serbia's corrupt state machinery.
Five more years of Slobodan Milosevic is a sad prospect for Serbia, for the Balkans, for Europe, and for the world. "Greater Serbia" and "ethnic cleansing" are the dark side of the post-cold-war world. Two of the outlaw paramilitary leaders most responsible for ethnic cleansing were elected to the Serbian parliament.
The West will want to further isolate Milosevic's Serbia, and it ought to. But it must be remembered that Milosevic's strategy will be to create larger problems and suffering in the Balkans and for Europe. Already it is rumored that Serb forces in Sarajevo are pushing to finally take that city in honor of Milosevic's presidential victory. Once Milosevic's military gains in Croatia and Bosnia are secure, he may create a pretext for attacking and ethnically cleansing the 90 percent Albanian population of K osovo. That could trigger a larger Balkan war.
Given the downward spiral that Milosevic's rule has represented in Serbia, which is fast becoming a state ruled by mafia bosses and paramilitary leaders, his only options are increased war and an opening to hard-liners in the former Soviet Union. Now is the time to put an end to his options. Real sanctions, not the papier-mache sanctions of the past months, must begin. The last consumer goods in Serbia were put out for the elections. They should not be replenished. A careful plan of action against Serb a ggression should commence.
And the West ought to stop referring to Milosevic as a nationalist. A true nationalist cares about the people of the nation. Milosevic gives no indication he cares about the suffering he is about to put his people through.