Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 1, No 12
13 September 1999

Sam Vaknin A   B A L K A N   E N C O U N T E R:
Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?
Who is guarding the guards?

Dr Sam Vaknin

Alija Izetbegovic, the nominal president of the nominal Bosnian state and darling of the gullible Western media, denies that he and his cronies, and his cronies' cronies, stole 40 percent of all civilian aid targeted at Bosnia - a minor matter of one billion US dollars and change, in less than four years. The tribes of the Balkans stop bleeding each other to death only when they gang up to bleed another. In this, there are no races and no traces - everyone is equal under the sign of the dollar. Serbs, Bosnians and Croats divided the loot with the loftiest of egalitarian instincts. Honour among thieves transformed into honour among victims and their murderers. Mammon is the only real authority in this God-forsaken, writhing rump of a country.

And not only there.

In Russia, three to five billion US dollars were transferred to secret offshore bank accounts to be "portfolio managed" by mysterious fly-by-night entities. Many paid with their jobs when the trail led to the incestuous Yeltsin clan and their Byzantine court. Convoys snake across the mountainous Kosovo, bringing smuggled goods at exorbitant prices to the inhabitants of this parched territory - all under the avuncular gaze of a multinational peacekeeping force.

In Romania, Hungary and Greece, UN forces have been known to take bribes to allow goods into besieged Serbia. Oil, weapons and strategic materials, all slid across this greasy channel of the international brotherhood of cash. The aid, ostensibly intended to ameliorate the state of refuge imposed upon the unsuspecting, harried population of Kosovo, resurfaced in markets - white and black - across the region. Food, blankets, tents, electrical equipment and even toys were on offer in bazaars from Skopje to Podgorica and from Sofia to Thessaloniki, replete with the stamps of the unwitting donors. Aid workers scurried back and forth in expensive utility vehicles, buzzing mobile phones in hand and the latest model, officially purchased, infrared laptops humming in the air conditioned coolness of their five-star hotel rooms (or fancy apartments). In their back pockets they safeguarded their first class tickets (the food is better, and the stewardesses ...). The scavengers of every carnage descended upon this tortured land in redundant hordes, feeding off the misery and the autoimmune deficiency of the syndrome of humanism.

Ask yourselves: how could one in every three US dollars - 50 percent of GNP - be stolen in a country the size of a tiny American state without the knowledge and collaboration of the international organizations which ostensibly manage this bedlam? Why did the International Monetary Fund (IMF) renew the credit lines to a Russia which boldly cheated regarding its foreign exchange reserves? How was Serbia awash and flush with oil and other goods prohibited under the terms of the never-ending series of embargoes imposed upon it?

The answer is that potent cocktail of fear and graft. First came fear: that Russia will collapse, that the Balkan crisis will spill over, that Bosnia will disintegrate - nuclear nightmares intermingled with Armenian and Jewish flashbacks of genocide. The West shut its eyes tight and threw money at the bad spirits of irredentism and re-emergent Communism. The long arm of the USA - the "international" financial institutions - collaborated in constructing the habit-forming dole house that Eastern and Southeastern Europe has become. This conflict-reticence, these approach-avoidance cycles led to an inevitable collusion between the ruling mob families that pass for regimes in these parts of the planet, and the unilateral institutions that pass for multilateral ones in the rest of it. An elaborate system of winks and nods, the sign language of institutional rot and decaying governance, took over. Greasy palms clapped one another with the eerie silence of conspiracy. The world looked away as both international financial institutions and corrupt regimes robbed their constituencies blind. This was perceived to be the inevitable moral cost of stability. Survival of the majority entailed the filthy enrichment of the minority. And the West acquiesced.

But this grand design backfired. Like insidious bacteria, corruption breeds violence and hops from host to host. It does not discriminate, this plague of black conscience, between east and west. As it infected the indigenous, it also affected their guardians. They were all engulfed by raging greed, by a degradation of the inhibitions and by the intoxicating promiscuity of lawlessness. Inebriated by their newly found powers, little Ceasars - natives and financial colonialists - claimed their little plots of crime and avarice, a not so secret order of disintegration of the social fabric. A ghoulish landscape, shrouded in the opaque mist of the nomenclature and the camaraderie of the omnipotent.

And corruption bred violence. The Chicago model was imported lock, stock and barrel. Former cronies disappeared mysteriously and bloated corpses in stale hotel rooms were the only "contracts" honoured. Territories were carved up in constant, unrelenting warfare. One billion US dollars is worth a lot of blood and it was spilled with glee, with the enthusiasm of the inevitable, with the elation of gambling all on a single spin of the Russian roulette.

It is this very violence that the West tried to drown with its credits. But unbeknown to it, this very violence thrived on these pecuniary fertilizers. A plant of horrors, it devoured its soil and its cultivators alike. And 120,000 people paid with their lives for this reckless gamble. Counting its losses, the West is poised to spin the wheel again. More money is amassed, the dice are cast and more people cast to die.

Dr Sam Vaknin, 13 September 1999

The author is General Manager of Capital Markets Institute Ltd, a consultancy firm with operations in Macedonia and Russia. He is an Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia.

DISCLAIMER: The views presented in this article represent only the personal opinions and judgements of the author.

Dr Vaknin's website is here.




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