This month marks the 20-year anniversary of the start of the Bosnian War. As regime forces pound the city of Homs with artillery shells in advance of a UN observers team visit, I couldn’t escape an eerie feeling of history repeating itself. In the Bosnian War there were more than 100,000 deaths (200,000 some estimates say), mostly civilian, before NATO forces were able to bring it to an end. In Syria, the “modest” toll is “only” 11,000, but as we’ve learned from Bosnia, there is still time left for more.
Lessons learned from Bosnia are sadly relevant and ominous.
Lesson one: Russia. Most of the weapons in the Bosnian War were, not surprisingly, Russian. Russian volunteer forces also actively assisted the Serbs. While Russia was officially co-operating with the allies, the commander of the Russian contingent to the UN force, Major General Aleksandr Perelyakin, was actually helping to smuggle weapons to the Serbs. Perelyakin, who was eventually dismissed by the UN, became an adviser to the commander of a Serb division in the self-proclaimed Republika Srpska Krajina in Croatia. After the war, Russia gave refuge to several Bosnian Serbs wanted for war crimes and atrocities, including the massacre at Srebrenica. Continue reading