Marko Attila Hoare

How the JNA became a Great Serbian army





Case study 1


The purpose of this paper is to analyse how the political leadership of the (Socialist) Republic of Serbia (henceforth the Serbian leadership) achieved control over the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) in the period between the late 1980s and early 1992. This control was ‘formally’ established on 3 October 1991, when the four Serbian and Montenegrin members of the Presidency of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) assumed the right to act as the provisional SFRJ Presidency and to give orders to the JNA, a decision accepted by the JNA General Staff. However, this control was in fact established on an informal basis much earlier. Although the eight-member SFRJ Presidency was the Supreme Commander of the JNA to which the General Staff of the JNA was formally subordinate, the Federal Secretary for People’s Defence, Army General Veljko Kadijević, the most senior officer of the JNA, came during the period 1990-91 to treat only its members from Serbia and Montenegro as those to whom he had to report and with whom he had to confer over strategy. In practise, this meant that he viewed the Serbian political leadership in the persons of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević and Serbian member of the SFRJ Presidency Borisav Jović as the politicians to whom he was responsible.

Serbia’s political leadership and the JNA entered the year 1990 as allies sharing a common opposition to Kosovo Albanian autonomism and to Slovenian moves toward sovereignty, and the common goal of recentralisation of the SFRJ. The character of this alliance was thrown into question in the spring of that year, however, as the Serbian leadership abandoned support for a unified Yugoslavia. They adopted instead the plan of “expelling” Slovenia and a truncated Croatia from the Yugoslav Federation and establishing a de facto Great Serbia. Kadijević was in close contact with Jović and Milošević throughout this period and was informed by them of their. Although Kadijević was ready to embrace their “Great Serbian” goals, his own preference was for a military coup d’état to overthrow the political leaderships of Slovenia and Croatia as well as the SFRJ Presidency and government in order to restore a centralised, unified Yugoslav state. He and Chief of the General Staff Blagoje Adžić wavered between a “Yugoslav” and a “Great Serbian” orientation until the second half of 1991. The Serbian and JNA leaderships were therefore allies with overlapping but different concepts of how to respond to the Yugoslav crisis. The question of a Great Serbia or a unified Yugoslavia under military rule was the question also of whether the Serbian leadership or the JNA would be the senior partner in the alliance.

This is a study of the relations at the very top of the political and military pyramid. It focuses in particular on the relationship between Milošević, Jović, Kadijević and Adžić, and relies in particular on the published memoirs and interviews of the latter three and of other senior JNA officers, of which the diary of Borisav Jović is by far the most important.1

The origins of the SKS/SPS-JNA alliance

The origins of the alliance between the League of Communists of Serbia (SKS), subsequently the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)2 and the JNA date back to long before Milošević’s rise to power. There was overlap between the cadres of the two organisations, personified by Army General Nikola Ljubičić, who was said to have been “person number two” in Yugoslavia on the eve of Tito’s death.3 Ljubičić served as Federal Secretary for People’s Defence in 1967-82, President of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Serbia in 1982-84 and SFRJ Presidency member for Serbia in 1984-89. In the opinion of Admiral Branko Mamula, his successor as SFRJ Defence Secretary, during the 1980s Ljubičić strove to control the links between the JNA and SKS leaderships.4 He played the decisive role in Milošević’s assumption of control over the SKS in 1987. Another such figure was Colonel-General Petar Gračanin, JNA Chief of Staff in 1982-85, President of the Presidency of Serbia in 1987-89, Yugoslav Minister for Internal Affairs in 1989-92 and a member of the SPS General Council since 1996. A third was General Aleksandar Janjić, who served as JNA commander in Niš and president of the Partisan veterans’ association for Serbia. Ljubičić, Gračanin and Janjić were, according to Mamula, Milošević’s three key supporters in the JNA’s highest echelons from 1987.5

The sense of “common purpose” between the political and military elites was cemented by at least three factors:

1) The system of “All-People’s Defence” implemented in Yugoslavia after 1968 assumed the mobilisation of the entire Yugoslav population in the struggle against an external invader and required the military and Party authorities to cooperate in this task. The Yugoslav armed forces were divided between the JNA and the Territorial Defence (TO). The latter was organised on a decentralised basis with TO staffs for each republic, province and municipality, commanded by reserve JNA officers but organised and funded by the corresponding bodies of the government and League of Communists of Yugoslavia (SKJ). This system necessitated close coordination in defence preparations between the SKJ and the JNA, facilitated by the fact that the SKJ possessed its own organisation within the JNA to ensure that the latter acted according to its party programme. According to Ljubičić, writing in the 1970s:

“The organisation of the League of Communists within the Yugoslav People’s Army is a part of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. The Communists within the JNA endeavour that the organisation of the League of Communists in the JNA always be competent ideologically and in action to participate in advancing the politics of the SKJ, particularly in the field of national defence, and that the adopted politics be creatively and consistently realised through the closest conjunction with other organisations of the League of Communists.”6

Thus for example on 19 April 1985 Slobodan Milošević, President of the City Committee of the SKS for Belgrade and Bogdan Bogdanović, President of the Belgrade City Assembly held talks with Federal Secretary for People’s Defence Branko Mamula concerning defence preparations in Belgrade and economic cooperation between the city and the JNA.7

2) The SKS and the JNA during the 1970s and 80s were united by their shared fear and resentment of Kosovo Albanian nationalism and autonomism. The JNA General Staff responded to the 1981 uprising of Kosovo Albanians by disbanding the predominantly Albanian Kosovo TO and dismissing 80-90% of its troops on suspicion that they had supported the rebels. The General Staff furthermore strengthened the JNA forces in Kosovo to guard against the possible participation of both Albania and the Kosovo Albanians in a foreign attack on Yugoslavia.8

3) The JNA officer corps was disproportionately Serbian in composition and increasingly so from the 1980s. In 1987, at the time of Milošević’s seizure of power within the SKS, 60% of the JNA officer corps was Serb, according to Mamula.9 This imbalance was heightened by the fact that during the 1980s most members of the Partisan generation in the top ranks of the JNA retired from active service. This generation had been genuinely multinational and Yugoslav-oriented and included, for example, all four colonel-generals of Muslim nationality.10 The new generation of active JNA generals had not participated in the multinational Partisan movement and its political and national consciousness was therefore much narrower.

However, so far as the highest ranks were concerned it was the Serbs from the central Croatian regions of Lika, Kordun and Banija – the location subsequently of the “Serbian Republic of Krajina” – and Bosanska Krajina (Western Bosnia), rather than from Serbia, who were most over-represented.11 This reflected the numerically disproportionate role that Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina played in the Partisan movement of 1941-1945. Of the last three generals to hold the post of full or acting SFRJ Secretary for People’s Defence (the top position in the JNA) Branko Mamula (1982-88) and Veljko Kadijević (1988-92) were Serbs from Croatia12 while Blagoje Adžić (1992) was a Serb from Bosnia-Herzegovina. This meant that while the JNA command could ally with the Serbian leadership on a “Great Serbian” basis, its outlook was somewhat different.

Members of the General Staff in the 1980s believed that the semi-confederal character of the Yugoslav state gravely weakened the JNA. Consequently, in 1987 it adopted measures to strengthen the JNA vis-à-vis the republics. The six armies were replaced by three army groups, in Kadijević’s words, “whose territorial division completely disregarded the administrative frontiers of the republics and provinces.”13 The staffs of the republican and provincial TOs were subordinated to the staffs of the three army groups, rather than to the Supreme Command, and the staffs of the TO zones to the staffs of the JNA corps. In this way, republican influence over both the JNA and the TO was reduced. According to Kadijević, ‘It is certain that this solution, at least up to a point, removed the already developed control of the Republics and Provinces over their Territorial Defences and greatly reduced their already legalised influence over the JNA.’14 In Mamula’s words, ‘This meant excluding the Republican leaderships from the system of commanding the armed forces and armed struggle.’15

The TO forces were also greatly reduced in size. For example, the TO of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina was reduced from 293,272 soldiers at the start of 1987 to 86,362 by the end of 1991. This reduction was made disproportionately at the expense of Muslim- or Croat- rather than Serb-majority okrugs. Thus, for example, during 1988 the TO for the Muslim-majority Sarajevo okrug was reduced by 42.3%, but the TO for the Serb-majority Banja Luka okrug was reduced by only 16%.16

The political outlook, style and methods of Kadijević and Adžić on the one hand and Milošević and Jović on the other were fundamentally different. The JNA commanders were conservatives who preferred a recentralised Yugoslav federation to any radical overhaul of the Titoist order, while the Serbian leaders were radicals prepared to adopt radical methods to overturn the status quo. According to Dizdarević, during the late 1980s Kadijević viewed Milošević’s method of mass popular mobilisation to achieve changes at the state level as unacceptable.17 However, political developments in this period brought the leaderships of the JNA and Serbia together. In 1988, the General Staff found itself it conflict with the political leadership of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia over the affair of the “Ljubljana Four”. This conflict rapidly merged with Serbia’s own conflict with Slovenia.18 During 1989, Milošević’s leadership in Serbia suppressed the autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina and pressed for the recentralisation of the Yugoslav state. The Slovenian leadership reacted by solidarising with the Kosovo Albanians and introducing, in September, constitutional changes designed to give Slovenia sovereignty within Yugoslavia.19

In January 1989 the Yugoslav and Republican presidencies discussed possible candidates for the post of SFRJ Prime Minister (President of the Federal Executive Council - SIV) to replace Branko Mikulić. Kadijević proposed Milošević for the post and was authorised by the then President of the SFRJ Raif Dizdarević, himself a retired JNA general, to speak with Milošević about this possibility. Dizdarević claims in his memoirs that he favoured Milošević as SFRJ Prime Minister because he believed that the latter would create less trouble and be more easily controllable if transferred from the Serbian to the Federal leadership.20 Kadijević, by contrast, wanted Milošević to assume the post because ‘Assessing that the Yugoslav Federal leadership lacked, among other things, a strong and capable political figure of a Yugoslav orientation and simultaneously estimating that in the existing conglomerate of Federal institutions the SIV would be able to achieve the most, after the resignation of Branko Mikulić I proposed Slobodan Milošević for President of the SIV.’ However, ‘Milošević and the Serbian leadership had a different assessment. There were no differences in goals, but there were differences over how to achieve them. Namely, the positions of the Serbian leadership and Milošević were that it was necessary to secure the unity of Serbia after the constitutional changes which were made and in that way to contribute to the stability of Yugoslavia and that for that reason Milošević should remain in Serbia.’21

Up until January 1990 Borisav Jović as Serbia’s representative on the SFRJ Presidency, Slobodan Milosević as President of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Serbia, Veljko Kadijević as SFRJ Secretary for People’s Defence and Petar Gračanin as SFRJ Secretary for Internal Affairs tended to see eye to eye over policy. They consulted with each other and coordinated their political moves.22 All four were Serbs and all four were Communist opponents of political liberalisation, Federal decentralisation and Kosovo Albanian and Slovenian autonomism. On 1-12 August Kadijević, Jović, Milošević and Bogdan Trifunović (chairman of the SKS Central Committee) went on holiday together, along with their respective families. Jović writes that on this occasion “I see the views of the JNA and Veljko Kadijević regarding the future of Yugoslavia: 1) he will defend it at any price; 2) there must be an efficient federal state; 3) he accepts the free-market orientation; 4) he condemns dogmatism. Thus, he has all the same positions as Serbia. This certainly puts us close to the Army.”23

The culminating move of the SKS-JNA alliance against Slovenia and in favour of a recentralised Federation took place at the 14th Extraordinary Congress of the SKJ on 23 January 1990, when the SKS attempted to outvote and isolate the Slovene delegation and browbeat it into accepting the SKS’s policies, and therefore leadership, within the Party. Milošević and Jović relied upon the JNA to help achieve this. They met at Milošević’s residence on 10 January along with Gračanin, Trifunović and President of the Serbian Assembly Zoran Sokolović to discuss their strategy. Jović records their conclusions as being that “The main battle should be played out at the 14th Congress of the SKJ, to preserve the integrity of the SKJ and democratic centralism, at least statutorily (formally). The goal is to isolate the Slovenes, to keep Croatia and Macedonia and possibly Bosnia-Herzegovina as well from joining them. JNA representatives will be the standard bearers and we will back them, so that we are not leading the way, because that could have a negative effect on the Croats and Macedonians. The Army accepts this sort of role.”24 The move against the Slovenes at the 14th Congress nevertheless failed to achieve its desired ends, since the Slovenian and Croatian delegations walked out, marking the end of the SKJ’s existence as a unified Party.

Serbia and the JNA turn against a unified Yugoslavia

Following Milošević’s defeat at the 14th Congress, the policy of the SKS shifted away from support for a recentralised Yugoslav Federation and toward, on the one hand, acceptance of the SFRJ’s break-up, and on the other, a Great Serbian strategy. On 21 March 1990, Jović suggested to Milošević that ‘Yugoslavia can do without Slovenia. That will make it easier on us. We will also have an easier time with the Croats without them around.’ Jović noted that Milošević agreed with him.25 In April-May 1990, non-Communist nationalist parties, which favoured independence for their respective republics and with which the Serbian regime was unwilling to coexist, won elections in both Slovenia and Croatia. Jović writes that on 27 June 1990 he held a discussion with Kadijević on how to treat Slovenia and Croatia in the new circumstances:

“This situation with Croatia is a reprise of what has already happened and is still happening with Slovenia. They want to preserve the Yugoslav market but break up the Yugoslav state. Given the course of events, we conclude that we must immediately formulate tactics for further action. I tell Veljko [Kadijević] that my preference would be to expel them forcibly from Yugoslavia, by simply drawing borders and declaring that they have brought this upon themselves through their decisions, but I do not know what we should do with the Serbs in Croatia. I am not for the use of force; rather, I should like to present to them a fait accompli. We should come up with a course of action in this direction, with a variant of holding a referendum before the final expulsion, on the basis of which it would be decided where to place the borders. Veljko agrees.”26

According to Jović, Milošević expressed agreement for this policy the following day, 28 June:

Conversation with Slobodan Milošević on the situation in the country and in Serbia. He agrees with the idea of ‘expelling’ Slovenia and Croatia, but he asks me whether the military will carry out such an order ? I tell him that it must carry out the order and that I have no doubts about that; instead, the problem is what to do about the Serbs in Croatia and how to ensure a majority on the SFRY Presidency for such a decision.

Sloba has two ideas: first, that the ‘amputation’ of Croatia be effected in such a way that the Lika-Banija and Kordun opstinas, which have created their own community, remain with us, whereby the people there later declare in a referendum whether they want to stay or go; and second, that the members of the SFRY Presidency from Slovenia and Croatia be excluded from the voting on the decision, because they do not represent the part of Yugoslavia that is adopting this decision. If the Bosnian is in favour, then we have a two-thirds majority. Sloba urges that we adopt this decision no later than one week hence if we want to save the state. Without Croatia and Slovenia, Yugoslavia will have around 17 million inhabitants, and that is enough for European circumstances.27

Colonel-General Konrad Kolšek, who at the time was commander of the Zagreb-based 5th Military Oblast, suggests in his memoirs that the plan to ‘expel’ Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia can be dated to the previous summer: ‘The idea was probably actualised already in August 1989 from Kupari, where Milošević, Kadijević, Jović and Trifunović gave themselves the right, that in secret and on the basis of political interests, divide Yugoslavia. For that, they had neither the constitutional nor the moral right, nor authorisation from the peoples of Yugoslavia. All that which they did, they did secretly, contrary to the law and the Constitution and at their own discretion.’28

Kadijević’s support for this policy is confirmed in his own memoirs, in which he claims that the JNA’s strategy for dealing with what he termed “internal aggression” went through successive phases.

“Phase 1 – up until the victory of the right-wing nationalist-separatist forces in the multiparty elections in Slovenia and Croatia [in the spring of 1990]. Those circumstances required a concept of the use of the armed forces on the basis of the task of safeguarding the territorial integrity of the country as a whole and the creation of conditions for its democratic transformation.

Phase 2 begins after the victory of the national-secessionist forces in Slovenia and Croatia and the measures of the international community that supported their secession and exit from Yugoslavia. With the start of this situation, the tasks of the armed forces were modified in the internal sphere in the direction of creating the conditions for the peaceful resolution of the Yugoslav crisis, including the peaceful exit from the Yugoslav state of those Yugoslav nations that so wished. [our emphasis].”29

Kadijević writes that the occasion of the change in the JNA’s goals was in April 1990. On 3 April, Kadijević as Federal Defence Secretary proposed a series of measures to restore the authority of the Federal centre that Ante Marković as Federal Prime Minister rejected. “In my assessment that was the last chance to attempt to safeguard Yugoslavia in its exising borders”, writes Kadijević; “When that attempt failed then the Supreme Command modified the tasks of the JNA so that in the new conditions they were: 1) to defend the right of the nations that wished to live in the common state of Yugolavia; 2) to attempt to enable a peaceful divorce with those Yugoslav nations that did not wish to live any longer in Yugoslavia.”30

The JNA becomes the ally of Serbia and Montenegro

In order to carry out its self-assumed policy of “defending Yugoslavia” according to its own preferred strategy, the JNA command had to disregard Federal institutions and constitutional procedures that obstructed this strategy, regardless of the legal implications. According to Kadijević, it was the JNA’s policy “Acting through state institutions – the Presidency of the SFRJ, the Assembly of the SFRJ and the SIV – not to allow the interference of these institutions in the affairs of the Army contrary to their constitutionally and legally confirmed authority.” Kadijević claims that there were many such attempts at interference, “particularly on the part of the SIV”.31 In Kadijević’s opinion, Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Marković had an “anti-Serb stance” and “destructive politics”.32 What this meant in practice was that the leadership of the JNA itself decided how to ‘defend Yugoslavia’, and did so in collaboration with those it considered its allies (above, all the leadership of Serbia), bypassing or obstructing where necessary those it considered its enemies.

Regarding the SFRJ Presidency that comprised the JNA’s formal Supreme Commander, Kadijević claimed that it was comprised of three categories of people: those “solidly in favour of Yugoslavia”; those who were “the fiercest enemies of the unity of Yugoslavia”; and those who were “vacillators who fluctuated from situation to situation” but were essentially “unreliable in all critical situations”.33 In this context Kadijević chose to disregard his constitutional obligation to obey the SFRJ Presidency as a whole and to work with its members selectively, according to his own political preferences:

“Those three categories of people were supposed collectively to make decisions, so that we were in a situation of putting forward our analyses and proposals also before representatives of the enemy side. Of course, we could not do this and did not do this. But that made the leading and command of the armed forces more complex and made it still more difficult and complicated. Thus, for example, when it was a question of planning and issuing written Directives, Decisions or Orders of the Supreme Command, we were not able to function in a way that more or less all armies in the world normally functioned, because every such written document would immediately have fallen into the hands of the enemy. Therefore we were forced to function in a completely different manner.”34

This bias in favour of some members of the Supreme Command and against others was expressed still more forcefully by Adžić in memoirs published in June 1992, when he stated that “Treason existed, but in the Presidency of the SFRJ – the behaviour of Stipe Mesić, Janez Drnovšek, Vasili Tupurkovski and Bogić Bogičević. Those are pure and orthodox traitors, foreign hirelings and spies.”35 In other words, the Chief of Staff of the JNA believed all the non-Serbian and non-Montenegrin members of his own Supreme Command were the enemy. A third high-ranking JNA officer to bear witness to the “selective loyalty” of the JNA top brass was Major-General Aleksandar Vasiljević who in the period 1991-92 served successively as Deputy Chief and Chief of the Security Administration of the Federal Secretariat of People’s Defence, better known as the “Counter-Intelligence Service” (KOS). In an interview published in June 1992, Vasiljević recalls that the JNA plan to overthrow the governments of Slovenia and Croatia in the spring of 1992 was not revealed to all members of the Supreme Command, since “At that time the state leadership included some people to whom such things could not have been confided. I am not sure whether the plan was discussed in the state Presidency, but I believe that Bora Jović was informed of everything that was planned.”36

On 4 July 1990 Jović and Kadijević discussed the possibility of the JNA “defending the integrity of the country” with or without Presidency approval. According to Jović, Kadijević informed him that:

“The military will do everything possible to prevent unconstitutional actions, to the greatest possible legal extent, but if the Presidency is unable to provide such a decision, then other options must be sought. We must come to an agreement on this. They [the JNA] have worked out a plan for Kosovo, Slovenia and Croatia in this regard. A plan for use of the military for the entire country is also being drawn up and will be ready in a few days, although it will not be necessary in the rest of the country, unless a state of emergency is declared throughout the country.

I ask him what these “other options” are. He responds that if the Presidency is unable to do its job and adopt a decision on defending the integrity of the country, the military would carry out the order of a group of members of the Presidency, even though they do not constitute a qualified majority." [our emphasis]37

This passage suggests that on this occasion Kadijević took a major step toward the transformation of the JNA from a genuinely Yugoslav army under the command of the 8-member collective Federal Presidency, into one that considered itself under the command “of a group of members of the Presidency”, i.e. its Serbian and Montenegrin members. This did not yet mean that the JNA had definitely decided on a Great Serbian orientation, but it did mean that it had come to see itself as a political ally of the Serbian leadership, treating the non-Serbian and non-Montenegrin republican leaderships as its enemies. The hostility of the JNA leadership in particular to the Slovenian and Croatian leaderships was the polar opposite of its close friendship with the Serbian leadership, with which it coordinated its actions.

On 19 July 1990, Jović records that Lieutenant Colonel General Vujasinović, head of the Military Office of the SFRJ Presidency, asked him how to respond to the request of Stipe Mesić, Croatia’s member of the SFRJ Presidency, to see the plans for the JNA’s annual military exercises. Vujasinović told Jović that he suspected that Mesić intended to show the plans to Tuđman. Jović writes that “I tell him [Vujasinović] that he [Mesić] can request them in writing. Tell him that you can give them to him only on the basis of a decision by the Presidency.” At the meeting of the Presidency that day both Mesić and Janez Drnovšek, the Slovenian member, requested to see the plans. Jović records that “We coldly agree that they can be obtained from the General Staff. I then ordered Gen. Vujasinović to take the plans from the General Staff to his office and to inform them individually that they can take a look at the plans in his presence, but that they cannot make any notes or copies.”38 The passage indicates that high-ranking JNA officers followed the orders of Jović, as Serbia’s member of the SFRJ Presidency, disregarding the orders of the Croatian and Slovenian members.

Following the transformation of the SKS into the SPS in June-July 1990, the SKJ organisation in the JNA reconsituted itself on 19 November as a separate political party in its own right, the ‘League of Communists - Movement for Yugoslavia’ (SK-PJ), which claimed to be the SKS’s successor. Its founding congress, at the Sava Centre in Belgrade, was attended, among others, by Kadijević, Adžić, Mamula, Ljubičić, Gračanin, Deputy Federal Secretary for People’s Defence Stane Brovet and Milošević’s wife Mirjana Marković. According to its founding proclamation, the SK-PJ ‘supports all parties, movements and individuals which are oriented towards Yugoslavia, socialism and brotherhood and unity among the Yugoslav nations’.39 At its first conference on 24 December, the SK-PJ elected an eight-member Executive Committee, including several current and serving JNA officers and admirals, one of whom was Mamula, and Mira Marković.40 The SK-PJ provided an additional institutional basis for the collaboration between the leadership of Serbia and the JNA.

On 25 February 1991, Kadijević presented to Jović his plan for a resolution of the crisis. Kadijević believed that “Serbia, Montenegro, the Army and the Serb parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia are for Yugoslavia; Slovenia and Croatia are against Yugoslavia; Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are wavering, politically they are more inclined toward the Slovene and Croatian plan, but that does not guarantee their survival and future.”41 Consequently, according to Jović:

“The military’s basic idea consists of relying firmly on the forces that are for Yugoslavia in all parts of the country and through combined political military measures overthrowing the government first in Croatia and then in Slovenia. For these activities, we must take advantage of the sphere of defence where they have committed serious criminal acts. In the wavering republics (Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina) we must use combined political measures – demonstrations and revolts – to overturn the leadership or to turn them around in the right direction. These activities would presumably be combined with certain military activities. This entire campaign should be led by those members of the SFRJ Presidency who have opted for this course, with backing from the military. All federal institutions that accept this course will be included in the campaign, while the others will be removed from power... Mass rallies should be organised in Croatia against the HDZ, Bosnia-Herzegovina should be mobilised “for Yugoslavia”, and in Macedonia the planned rally to overthrow the pro-Bulgarian leadership should be staged. There should be mass rallies of support in Serbia and Montenegro. Gatherings in Kosovo should be banned.”42

This passage shows that the JNA considered only those SFRJ Presidency members that supported its course (i.e. those from Serbia and Montenegro) as its legitimate commander, while its support for Federal institutions was conditional upon their acceptance of its programme for Yugoslavia. The Serbian leadership was able to rely upon this bias in order to use the JNA against its enemies. Thus when Jović on 28 February presented the JNA plan to Milošević, the latter stated that the Serbian and Montenegrin members of the SFRJ Presidency should assume the role of the JNA’s supreme commander regardless of whether they had a majority in the Presidency or not:

“Asked what we should do if we do not achieve an adequate majority on the Presidency for the necessary decisions, he [Milošević] thinks that we should adopt a decision with those members who are “for” and that the military should “obey”. He finds it logical that we “get rid” of anyone who opposes such action by the Presidency.”43

Kadijević appears to have been the individual within the JNA most responsible for its transition from a Yugoslav to a Great Serbian army. According to Dizdarević, “It is indisputable – and this should be emphasised once more – that Veljko Kadijević played the key role in the betrayal of the Army and its placement in the service of the armed realisation of the Great Serbian pretensions.”44 His craven loyalty to the Serbian leadership was not necessarily representative of the JNA officer corps as a whole. According to Dizdarević there were many among the JNA top brass who were dissatisfied with Kadijević’s acquiescence in Milošević’s Serbian-nationalist course – he refers in particular to Admiral Petar Simić and General Simeon Bunčić.45 Mamula claims that in 1987 he viewed the danger that Milošević posed to the stability of Yugoslavia as being equal to that posed by the Slovenian leadership. He claims further that opposition to Milošević among the higher ranks of the JNA was greater than among the republican leaderships; he refers in particular to General Jovičić, President of the SKJ organisation within the JNA, and to General M. Đorđević.46

The identification of individuals within the JNA command with Milošević’s programme was therefore not automatic. In his memoirs, Mamula claimed that in 1988 he lectured Kadijević – his successor as SFRJ Minister of People’s Defence - on the necessity that “the JNA maintain its all-Yugoslav standing and prestige. Whoever attempts to dispute this – Serbia, Slovenia or some third party must know in advance that it will not pass… To accept an asymmetry toward certain republics and nations would mean accepting the destruction of the country.” However, Mamula recalls that “I felt that the worms of doubt were preying on Kadijević.”47 The latter was, Mamula suggests, on the one hand ambitious and self-willed and on the other hand lacked the confidence to assume complete responsibility for radical action on the part of the JNA.48 The implication is that Kadijević was prepared to take unconstitutional action on behalf of the JNA but was afraid to do so alone, thus falling in behind Milošević and Jović in order to share the responsibility. Mamula recalls:

“Damjanović [Colonel Milan Damjanović, Chief of Security in the Cabinet of the Minister] requested at the end of 1988 that I receive him. We met, and he conveyed to me his observations from his holiday in Kupari on the extremely close relations between Milošević and Kadijević. He knew my opinion on Milošević and his circle and wanted to report to me that Kadijević was changing his position. When I once again spoke with Damjanović some time at the end of 1989 he assured me that that year during their joint holiday in Kupari Kadijević and Milošević agreed on the political and military engagement of the JNA for the resolution of the Yugoslav crisis. He proposed to me that I engage myself decisively. He was certain that I could do that and that the majority of generals and officers would support me. Regardless of the possible intentions of the security service and Damjanović personally, his currying of favour and expectations, it is beyond doubt that Kadijević had gone over to Milošević and that the JNA was entering the dangerous waters of a uninational, Great Serbian orientation. Nothing worse could have happened to the JNA and Yugoslavia. In this way was determined everything else that happened in the succeeding years.”49

In Mamula’s opinion, Kadijević declaration for Milošević amounted to a betrayal of the JNA:

“The JNA was not supposed either to retain or expel anybody from Yugoslavia. Its constitutional role was extremely clear – to defend the territorial integrity and constitutional order of the country until the Yugoslav nations agree otherwise. There could be no question of allowing Milošević or anybody else to tailor Yugoslavia with the assistance of the JNA and establish a new state construction in order that all Serbs live in a single state. Yet that was precisely the policy that was adopted.”50

The reason why Kadijević “abandoned the Yugoslav option and accept the Great Serbian” Mamula explains as follows:

“But since the unsure and afraid as a rule seek to hide behind the skirt of the stronger, and Milošević and the awakened Serb nationalism appeared to be stronger, so Kadijević decided. By all assessments this occurred in 1989. All the later resistance of General Kadijević and General Adžić in particular, of which Jović writes exhaustively, was only the Way of the Cross up Calvary to the crucifixion.”51

Reasons of neo-Communist solidarity, ethnic bias and spinelessness aside, Kadijević had two further reasons for favouring Serbia. The first was that the Serbian leadership, unlike its Croatian and in particular Slovenian counterparts, expressed full support for and goodwill regarding the JNA; it did not treat the JNA as an occupying army or threaten its economic or political privileges. The second reason was that the Serbian leadership remained formally committed to the survival of a Yugoslav state, even if this “Yugoslavia” was in practice to consist solely of Serbian and Montenegrin lands. As Vasiljević recalls, "the option for which the leadership of Serbia declared was a Yugoslav state. This attracted the Army like a magnet to Serbia.”52

The SKS and JNA as uncertain allies, April 1990 – March 1991

Jović’s diary suggests that at least until March 1991, he and Milošević were prepared to go along with JNA plans to impose military rule in Slovenia and Croatia so as to preserve the unity of the country by force. On 23 March 1990 Milošević as President of Serbia and Kadijević as Federal Secretary for Defence held official talks at which they publicly affirmed a shared policy regarding recentralisation of the Yugoslav Federation, action against “Albanian separatism” in Kosovo and “support for the development of the Yugoslav People’s Army as the united, joint armed forces of all the nations and nationalities, working people and citizens of the SFRJ.”53 On 26 April Jović and Kadijević met in private and agreed on the need for the SFRJ Presidency to adopt a resolution “to force observance of the SFRJ Constitution and federal laws throughout the country, including Slovenia and Croatia, by all means possible, including political ones, but by force if necessary.” Jović writes that “As far as the break-up of Yugoslavia is concerned, I propose to him [Kadijević] that we propose the emergency adoption of laws on the procedure for seceding from Yugoslavia, because that is absolutely essential if we want to avoid civil war. He agrees.”54 This may have represented a genuine readiness on the part of the Serbian political leadership to accept a unified Yugoslavia under military rule as an acceptable alternative to a Great Serbia, but more likely it was a mere tactical means of ensuring JNA action against Croatia as a prelude to direct moves to establish a Great Serbia.

The first joint Serbian-JNA military action outside of Serbia took place on 17 May 1990, when Jović writes that “We take measures to ensure that weapons are taken from civilian TO depots in Slovenia and Croatia and transferred to military depots. We will not permit TO weapons to be misused in any conflicts or for forcible secession. Practically speaking, we have disarmed them. Formally, this was done by the head of the General Staff, but it was actually under our order. Extreme reaction by the Slovenes and Croatians, but they have no recourse.”55 This move was unconstitutional and was carried out by the Serbian and JNA leaderships working actively to undermine the 1974 SFRJ Constitution which, in their opinion, was responsible for the current crisis. According to Kadijević “One of the most significant measures of paralysing the pernicious constitutional concept of the armed forces was the decision on confiscating the arms of the Territorial Defence and their placement under JNA control. Many rose up against this decision, particularly the Slovenes.” [Kadijević’s emphasis]56

It appears that the disarming of the TO in Slovenia and Croatia formed part of the preparations for the JNA’s planned attack on both republics. According to Kadijević:

“To paralyse the Territorial Defence to the maximum extent in those parts of the country where it could be used as a base for the establishment of the armies of the secessionist republics or secessionist forces. With this goal in mind the entire Territorial Defence was disarmed prior to the start of the armed conflict in Yugoslavia. Besides this, through part of the officer corps of the Territorial Defence we endeavoured to keep it to a maximum extent outside the control of the secessionist political leaderships. We partly succeeded in this, everywhere more than in Slovenia. Of course, we used the Territorial Defence of the Serb parts in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in actions together with the JNA.” [our emphasis]57

The disarmament of Slovenia and Croatia could have served as a prelude either to military rule in both republics or to the forcible withdrawing of borders on a Great Serbian basis. Although the Serbian leadership had definitely decided on the latter, the JNA leadership continued to hedge its bets, discussing with its Serbian counterpart both possibilities. Nevertheless, the two allies proceeded to coordinate action against their common enemies. On 3 August Kadijević reported to Jović on the JNA’s plans vis-à-vis Slovenia. Three days later Kadijević and Jović met again to discuss the JNA proposals to be put before the SFRJ Presidency.58 On 10 August Jović, Kadijević, Milošević, Trifunović and their families spent a day on an excursion to the Adriatic island of Mljet. They agreed regarding SFRJ Prime Minister Ante Marković, to whom Kadijević as Defence Secretary was formally subordinate, that “We definitely have to get rid of him.”59

The JNA was suspicious of the anti-Communist Serb rebels in Croatia under the leadership of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS). Nevertheless its hostility to the Croatian authorities and their efforts at self-armament as well as its friendship with the Serbian leadership ensured that whatever its intentions, in practise it came down on the side of the SDS against the Croatian leadership. On 17 August JNA jets, sent on the order of Adžić as Chief of Staff, intercepted three helicopters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) of the Republic of Croatia that were attempting to intervene against the Serb rebels at Knin. On the same day JNA troops were sent on to the streets of Knin to defend the town against advancing Croatian MUP forces.60 Vuk Obradović, official press spokesman of the Federal Secretariat for People’s Defence (SSNO) and then or subsequently a key SPS supporter in the JNA, issued a statement denying that JNA jets had intercepted Croatian MUP helicopters and claiming that “the Army unswervingly follows the policy of brotherhood and unity and its function and responsibility determined by the SFRJ Constitution.”61 The JNA claimed to be preventing violence between Croatian and rebel-Serb forces; in practice it acted as a military umbrella for the latter. By February 1991, at the latest, the JNA commanders were fully behind the Serbian leadership’s defence of the Serb rebels in Croatia. According to Jović, Kadijević argued during their meeting of 25 February 1991 that “In Croatia, the Serbian Krajina should be strengthened institutionally and politically and its secession from Croatia should be supported (not publicly, but in de facto terms).”62 Kadijević therefore viewed the SDS’s Krajina parastate as an integral part of his strategy against Croatia.

In the crisis occasioned by the efforts of the Croatian leadership to create independent armed forces for the republic the Serbian leadership and JNA collaborated in a manner that overrode other state organs at the Federal level. On 23 November 1990, Kadijević consulted with Jović over the planned arrest of General Špegelj, Croatian Minister of Defence, asking him whether the Croatian government and Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Marković should be informed beforehand. They agreed to inform the Croatian government, but not Marković.63 Kadijević therefore chose to act in secret from the head of the government of which he was a member. On 15 January 1991 Jović and Kadijević discussed military measures to be taken against Croatian forces:

“The Serbs in Croatia are surrendering their weapons, the Croats are not. They must be taken by force, by applying the law. We are considering all circumstances and variants. Every one of them leads to resistance and bloodshed. If they offer resistance, then we must crush them.”64

On account of Kadijević’s loyal support Jović felt completely confident in his ability to threaten his Croatian opponents with the JNA. On 18 January 1991 Jović brokered an agreement with Stipe Mesić, Croatia’s representative on the Yugoslav Presidency, for the peaceful surrender of Croatian weapons to the JNA. Jović threatened Mesić in the name of the JNA:

“I try to convince him that they are working against their own interest by deciding not to surrender the weapons, because the military will take them by force. I explain to him the procedure for putting individuals on trial, which will eventually indicate the responsibility of the top leadership. If they resist, then we will crush them by force.”65

Neither partner in the alliance, however, favoured a peaceful resolution of the crisis; both sought an armed showdown with Croatia. Although Mesić did agree that Croatia would surrender 20,000 submachine guns, the agreement was opposed by Milosević and the JNA. Jović writes:

“I inform Slobodan of the agreement by telephone. He blows his top. He says all sorts of things: We will be cheating our people, this will be deception, betrayal, all sorts of things. As if he would rather have us take the weapons by force that have them surrendered voluntarily. I ask him directly: Does he want bloodshed over a matter that we might be able to resolve peacefully ? In his opinion this is not a solution. The guilty parties must be punished.”66

Jović records the following day that the JNA agreed with Milošević on this question:

“I speak with Veljko and Adžić at the SSNO. They are preoccupied by the same issues as Slobodan. The army must not lose esteem among the people. They are not satisfied with taking control of 20,000 submachine guns.”67

That day Kadijević and Adžić showed Jović the film they had made documenting the Croatian armaments programme. The three of them then “reached an agreement” on action against the Croats in which they rejected the idea of a “violent overthrow of the authorities” in favour of “the variant of thwarting, weakening and compromising the current HDZ [Croatian Democratic Community] authorities”. Even if the Croats were to agree to surrender the weapons, “we will apply a special variant of exposing the HDZ policy, weakening their authorities and thwarting their tactics. As part of that, everything necessary will be done to discredit the Croatian authorities as a result of the illegal arms build-up and their anti-Yugoslav policy.”

This amounted to political collaboration at the expense of the legal and legitimate authorities of a constituent republic of the SFRJ. Furthermore, the fact that the agreement aimed at “weakening and compromising” the Croatian authorities rather than overthrowing them outright suggests that the policy favoured by the Serbian leadership had gained the upper hand over that of the JNA, since Milošević and Jović needed the HDZ regime in place in Zagreb if they were to engineer the dismemberment and expulsion of Croatia from the Federation. By contrast, the overthrow of the HDZ regime would have pre-empted the possibility of establishing a Great Serbia.

On 25 January Kadijević, at Jović’s request, presented before the SFRJ Presidency a proposal to authorise the JNA to disarm Croatian armed formations. At the same time the JNA was placed on high alert. Nevertheless the Presidency rejected Kadijević’s proposal by three votes to four, with Drnovšek, Mesić and Bogičević voting against, denying the Serbian and Montenegrin members the overall majority of five votes that they needed. Following the setback Belgrade TV broadcast the film made by the KOS showing Croatian Defence Minister Špegelj describing his preparations for war with the JNA. Milošević, as the President of Serbia in de facto control of Belgrade TV, had broadcast the film at the precise moment of the Presidency meeting to strengthen Kadijević’s hand. Nevertheless Kadijević’s proposal still failed to receive a majority of Presidency votes.68

Jović and Milošević however remained confident that they could use the JNA to accomplish their goals. According to Jović, Milošević told him on 26 January that ‘once the military “covers” Serb territory in Croatia we no longer have any reason to fear the final outcome of the Yugoslav crisis.’69 Jović himself believed that:

“The best thing right now would be for us to use the strength that we have at our disposal (the army) and the democracy that we want to impose (an expression of popular will) to ensure both a peaceful way out of the crisis and a favourable solution for the Serb nation, as well as for all others if that is possible. Let the Croatians impose their war if that is what they want, and it appears that it is. We will then have to defend ourselves, we will have to defend the Serb nation, which does not want to leave Yugoslavia by force.”70

In this period the ideological affinity between the allies was readily paraded. On 21 December 1990 the SFRJ Presidency led by Jović as President received a delegation of the armed forces of the SFRJ led by Kadijević, in connection with 22 December – the Day of the JNA. On this occasion, Jović praised the JNA and its defence of Yugoslavia and warned that “the SFRJ Presidency will not tolerate the Federation’s constitutional competencies and those of its organs in the realm of People’s Defence and the armed forces being infringed upon. It will resolutely defend the unity of the armed forces and its system of management and command. It will not tolerate any formation of parallel armed forces because this directly threatens the SFRJ’s constitutional order and integrity.” Kadijević responded by thanking the Presidency for the greeting received and promising that “The members of the army are firmly committed to a united Yugoslavia as the shared democratic homeland of its citizens and equal nations and nationalities. The JNA is exercising its social role successfully as it is capable of carrying out tasks stemming from its function endorsed by the SFRJ Constitution.”71

The strength of this alliance was indicated in two separate incidents in early March 1991. Milorad Vučelić, one of Milošević’s key propagandists, wrote publicly at this time that “it would be best” if “the forces of the Yugoslav Peoples Army occupied the ethnic space of the threatened Serb nation, or to be more precise positioned itself on the borders of the current Serb autonomous oblast of Krajina and guaranteed all human and civic rights to the Serb nation and the citizens that live on this territory.”72 On 6 March, two days before Vučelić’s article appeared in print, Jović commanded the JNA to intervene in Croatia in defence of the Serb rebels:

“Lately we have been too occupied with Pakrac and other events in Croatia. I ordered the use of force without convening the Presidency, because it was Sunday. The members of the Presidency were not in Belgrade. Janez and Vasil grumbled a little, but the decision was nevertheless affirmed.”73

The Serbian leadership was able to rely on the JNA against its Serbian domestic opponents as easily as against the Croats and on 9 March Jović ordered JNA intervention to crush opposition demonstrations in Belgrade: “I consult with the members of the Presidency whom I can reach by phone (everyone except Mesić and Drnovšek). I order Veljko to send the military out into the streets and occupy the space in front of all threatened state institutions.”74

Strains in the SKS-JNA alliance, April 1990 – March 1991

The differences in the positions of the SKS and JNA leaderships nevertheless made for a difference in outlook. The politics of the SKS under Milošević were based on the perception that Serbia’s rights were being violated by an “anti-Serbian coalition” of Slovenes, Croats, Kosovo Albanians, Bosnian Muslims and Macedonians that determined Yugoslav policy at the Federal level. Milošević’s policy therefore involved asserting Serbia’s rights, as he saw them, against the rest of Yugoslavia. By contrast, Kadijević and other senior figures in the JNA sought to strengthen the powers of the Federal organs (above all of the JNA itself) at the expense of the powers of the republics. Already in 1989 there were signs that, despite their alliance, the views of the SKS and JNA leaderships did not wholly converge. On 19 September 1989, Jović and Kadijević conferred and agreed that the JNA had a constitutional obligation to protect the SFRJ Constitution but could do so only through the SFRJ Presidency as its Supreme Commander.75 Jović and Milošević rapidly became dissatisfied with what they perceived as Kadijević’s failure to adopt more resolute measures against the Slovenes and his reliance upon constitutional-legal mechanisms to halt their push for sovereignty: “We believe the Slovenes will not listen. We feel that this is the beginning of the end of Yugoslavia.”76

The radical steps that the Serbian leadership took to cut the Gordian knot of internal SFRJ relations and reorder them according to Serbian state interests were not necessarily easy for the JNA top brass to swallow, committed as it was to the existing order of a unified Yugoslavia under a Communist government. On 7 June 1990, Jović writes that “Veljko Kadijević is worried and despairing over the decision by the Serbian leadership to form a Socialist Party. He feels that this represents the definitive disintegration of Yugoslavia, that the Americans have achieved their goal in Serbia as well, that they have removed the SKJ from the historical scene.”77 In Jović’s view Kadijević’s politics were weak, anachronistic and blind toward the need for change. Following his conversation with Kadijević on 4 July 1990, Jović notes that “Veljko does not even mention our agreement on the 27th of this month [i.e. 27 June] to expel Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia”,78 suggesting that he (Jović) doubted Kadijević’s commitment to this project. On 13 July 1990 Jović writes that “Veljko Kadijević reports to me on new aspects in the development of the situation and on military preparations. I am beginning to doubt the value of all these reports of his when he does not demonstrate any real determination to do anything radical to interrupt the negative trends.”79 The passage indicates both Kadijević’s view of the Serbian member of the Yugoslav Presidency as an authority to which he had to report, and the latter’s lack of confidence in Kadijević. Kadijević at the same time disagreed with Jović over the question of arming the Serb population of Croatia. Jović writes that “The Serbs in Croatia have begun to organise into partisan detachments. For now, that knowledge is based on statements by individuals. The Serbs in Serb municipalities have asked that TO weapons be turned over to them. I tell Veljko that that should have been done, but he does not agree.”80

Despite his apparent acquiescence in Jović’s plan to expel Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia, during the first months of 1991 Kadijević’s preferred goal was the military overthrow of the governments of both republics in order to retain them forcibly within Yugoslavia. By contrast, Jović and Milošević were never enthusiastic about this strategy, both because they doubted the resolution of the JNA and, it would seem, because they needed Tuđman and the HDZ in power in Croatia to act as their partners in the redistribution of Croatian and Bosnian territory, as well as to provide the “Ustasha” bogeyman that would justify a campaign to “defend” the Serbs outside Serbia. Nevertheless, the plans of both the Serbian leadership and of the JNA required the disarmament of Croatian paramilitary and police forces, providing a concrete goal behind which the partners to the alliance could unite. On 15 January 1991, Jović and Kadijević discussed military strategy vis-à-vis Croatia. Jović records that whereas Kadijević favoured “the radical option of overthrowing the HDZ government”, he (Jović) believed that they should “discredit them [the HDZ] politically without overthrowing them, to pass judgement on individuals and not the state, to maintain “peace” in an attempt to resolve the political crisis without bloodshed. We will shed blood, if there is no alternative, only for territories in which nations who want to remain in Yugoslavia live.”81

The difference in strategic outlook was apparently resolved on 19 January 1991 when Jović reached agreement with Kadijević and Adžić for a strategy vis-à-vis Croatia that was acceptable both to Serbia and to the JNA. Jović and Adžić did not, however, see eye to eye on the issue of Croatia’s secession from Yugoslavia. According to Jović:

“Adžić raises the question of possible secession, saying that there is not a state in the world that would voluntarily permit that. I tell him that the army must accept any agreement that is reached politically and democratically, because no one can be kept in Yugoslavia by force if they do not want to stay. Veljko agrees with me, but Adžić adds “under the conditions that you set out in Vranje, meaning that a nation freely expresses its will in a referendum, instead of the current authorities deciding on it, and as long as they are clearly informed in advance of everything that is important in connection with such a decision. If the Presidency ensures such conditions, then we will agree.” That is what the chief of the General Staff thinks. I believe that Veljko thinks the same thing, but he is silent. They are inherently displeased by the prospect of the country breaking up, but they will go along with it if that is what the people decide.”82

The Serbian political leadership therefore endeavoured in the long term to coopt the JNA for its political goals. In the short term, in the interests of his alliance with the JNA Jović was prepared to overlook their immediate differences. On 21 January he defined the respective positions of the JNA and Serbia’s political leadership as follows:

“There is an obvious difference in the positions of the military and of us in Serbia (Slobodan and me). The military is for crushing the Croatian authorities, whereas we are for protecting the Serb population in Krajina, but for now I am not emphasising the point.”83

Despite the willingness of the Serbian and JNA leaderships to overlook their differences in the interests of their alliance, these differences nevertheless implied different military strategies. The Serbian strategy involved the arming and mobilising of the Serb population of Croatia and the establishment of a Krajina Serb state. The JNA was to withdraw from the parts of Croatia that the Serbian leadership was not interested in annexing and to defend the “new borders” between the truncated Croatia and the rump Yugoslavia or Great Serbia. By contrast, the JNA’s preferred strategy involved striking at the Croatian government in the hope of retaining the whole of Croatia (as well as Slovenia) within Yugoslavia. This meant retaining JNA garrisons deep within Croatian territory and avoiding an open alliance with the Krajina Serb rebels. On 25 January Jović writes that:

“The Serbs in Croatia are exerting pressure, by way of Slobodan, for military protection. Slobodan conveys this to me. Veljko stubbornly refuses, saying that there is a danger that the military will come to be seen as “Serb”, something that he cannot allow.”84

Jović said four days later regarding Kadijević that “He has not yet “swallowed” the idea of defending Serb territory in Croatia. He still believes that we must defend Yugoslavia.”85 On 28 February the difference in outlook was once again highlighted when Jović presented to Milošević the JNA plan for action against Croatia and Slovenia. Milošević accepted it all, except that he believed Slovenia should be left alone. “Only Croatia should be dealt with.”86

Jović remained confident that the JNA, despite its “Yugoslav” veneer, was Serbia’s ally, though not an entirely reliable one. On 20 February Jović discussed the JNA with Radovan Karadžić, leader of the Serb Democratic Party in Bosnia-Herzegovina:

“Karadžić says that the Serb nation in Bosnia is completely unarmed. It is afraid of massacres and civil war. It is interested in whether the Army would protect them. Right now it would, I tell him, but no one knows what will happen with the Army if things continue as they are going.”87

The Serbian leadership was therefore not confident that the JNA could be relied upon in the long run. It therefore took steps to set up its own, Republican armed forces over which it would have full and unquestioned control. On 5 February 1991 the Serbian Assembly passed a “Law on Ministries” that redesignated the Republic’s “Secretariat for People’s Defence” as the “Ministry of Defence”. The competencies of this Ministry were defined as “the planning and organisation of defence; the execution of military duties; the organisation and functioning of the Civil Defence, as well as other statutory affairs.”88 This was the first step to expanding the ability of the Republic of Serbia to take independent military action.

The March 1991 crisis and the threat to establish a Serbian army

Up until March 1991 the alliance between the JNA and Serbian leaderships was in some sense an alliance of equals, in that the partners consulted with one another and coordinated their moves while maintaining an independent political perspective. The crisis of March 1991 was the high point of this alliance, after which the JNA steadily lost the ability to think and act independently and was gradually subordinated to the Serbian leadership.

A meeting of the JNA Supreme Command took place on 12 March attended by all the SFRJ Presidency members except Drnovšek as well as by Kadijević, Adžić and several other high-ranking JNA officers, including the SPS supporter Vuk Obradović. At this meeting Kadijević presented to the Presidency the JNA’s proposals for resolving the Yugoslav crisis. The main proposals were 1) a state of emergency in the entire territory of Yugoslavia and the suspension of all laws in violation of Federal laws; 2) the raising of the combat readiness of the JNA; 3) the disarming and disbanding of illegal armed structures; 4) that “in the republics whose leaders have opted for secession, a referendum be held in which every nation is given the opportunity directly and freely to express its will, without any dictates and outvoting” and 5) the adoption of a new constitution, new institutions of government and the holding of multiparty elections.89 Point no. 4 shows that the JNA had accepted the SPS principle that Slovenia and Croatia be allowed to leave Yugoslavia but that the “Serb nation” in Croatia be allowed to stay; i.e. the abandonment of unconditional support for a unified Yugoslavia in favour of a Great Serbian state. At the same time, according to Kolšek, Kadijević’s plan for a military coup was coordinated with Milošević and Jović but kept secret from even senior JNA commanders: ‘In the commands and units of the 5th Military Oblast, we did not know that the measures proposed by the Staff of the Supreme Command represented cover for a military coup. Various combinations and the planning of a military coup were carried out in a strictly narrow circle of the military leadership. Such information was possessed only by Dr Borisav Jović and Slobodan Milošević, as would later be seen from the diary of Dr Borisav Jović.’90

In the discussions following Kadijević’s presentation the Presidency members for Serbia and Vojvodina alone supported a state of emergency. Kadijević thereupon moderated his proposals, dropping the demand for a state of emergency, after which the proposals still failed to achieve a majority, with the Presidency members for Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia opposed. Following this setback Kadijević turned to Jović and Milošević for support for his planned military coup. Indicative of Kadijević’s sense of obedience to Serbia, as opposed to the SFRJ Presidency, is the fact that he sought Jović’s permission to travel to Moscow to consult with his Soviet counterpart. On 13 March Jović writes that “Last night, after the Presidency session, Veljko asked me for my permission to travel to Moscow overnight to consult with Yazov.”91 Kadijević returned the same night and summoned Jović and Milošević for a discussion in which he told them, in the presence of Adžić, of his plan to stage a military coup which would involve “deposing the government and the Presidency. They will not touch the Assembly, but neither will they allow it to convene. They will not touch the republican authorities and all the others if they support the coup. Otherwise they will be removed as well.”92

The mid-March crisis was the point at which the JNA came closest to becoming the dominant partner in its alliance with the Serbian leadership. Jović records that Kadijević did not ask him and Milošević whether they would support a coup: “This was not a consultation. Veljko literally told us, in the presence of Gen. Adžić: “We are going to stage a military coup”.” Jović responded by telling Kadijević that he would resign as President of the SFRJ Presidency to “give the military room to act” and that he “will talk to Nenad Bućin and Jugoslav Kostić [the SFRJ Presidency members for Montenegro and Vojvodina], asking them to do the same thing.”93 On 15 March, after the Presidency rejected again the JNA’s proposals (by an increased margin of 5-3) Jović announced his resignation. The following day Kostić and Bućin also resigned and Milošević announced that Serbia would no longer recognise the decisions of the SFRJ Presidency. According to Jović, “the purpose of this [Milošević’s] move was not to promote the break-up of Yugoslavia, as it was immediately characterized by the Serbian opposition; rather, it was to protect the military from any decision made by the remainder of the Presidency in terms of dismissing the military leadership and keeping it from taking action.”94

Despite their readiness to give the JNA a free hand to carry out a coup, the Serbian leadership nevertheless employed a threat to prevent Kadijević and Adžić from retreating: they threatened to create a separate Serbian army to bypass the JNA. On 15 March Jović informed the SFRJ Presidency members and the Staff of the Supreme Command that:

“Serbia’s main focus is on the promises made by the Presidency and the armed forces to protect all nationalities, all nations, and all citizens from the danger of interethnic conflict, which would not be ensured with this sort of potential position on our part. Our assessment is that in this situation there could arise mass demands to arm the Serb nation and to create a Serbian army for the purpose of self-defence, and we will not be able to stand in the way of that. In that situation, we in Serbia could not remain in the leadership if we were to oppose that, because there are very strong forces working on that, and in a situation like this they are gaining powerful arguments for realising their plans. The Serbian leadership cannot be on any side other than the side of its nation, and it must provide for its defence if the Army is not in a position to defend it.”95

On 16 March Milošević, while announcing that Serbia no longer recognised the authority or the decisions of the SFRJ Presidency, announced to the Serbian public on Belgrade TV preparations to establish separate Serbian armed forces:

“I have asked the Serbian government to carry out all preparations for the formation of additional forces whose volume and strength would guarantee the protection of the interests of Serbia and the Serbian people. I believe that, despite the conditions created in Yugoslavia, there is no need for imposing emergency measures in the Republic of Serbia. The work of all institutions of the system and entire life in the republic should proceed normally. The citizens of Serbia can be sure that the Republic of Serbia is capable of ensuring the protection of its own interests and those of all its citizens and the entire Serbian people. The Republic of Serbia, the citizens of Serbia and the Serbian people will resist any act of dismantling our homeland.”96

That day Milošević informed a meeting of Serbia’s municipal leaders on the same day that:

“We have to ensure that we have unity in Serbia if we want as the Republic that is biggest, which is most numerous, to dictate the further course of events. Those questions of borders are, therefore, fundamental, state questions. And borders, as you know, are always dictated by the strong, never by the weak. Consequently, what is essential is that we have to be strong. In order to be strong, we must be united over this our national interests.”

“Already yesterday I ordered the mobilisation of the reserve police-force. Furthermore, the engagement and formation of new police forces, and the government received the task of preparing the appropriate formations that will give us security in every event, in other words make us capable of defending the interests of our republic and, by God, of the Serb nation outside Serbia… I have been in contact with our people from Knin, from Bosnia; the pressures are enormous. Last night sometime after midnight Milan Babić told me that they have raised everything, that they do not know for how long, because the provocations are constant.”

“If we have to fight, by God we shall fight. And I hope that they will not be so crazy as to fight with us. Because if we do not know so well how to work and to earn, at least we know well how to fight. And so far as the Army is concerned, well here is a general of the Army; an Army as you know always has a commander; an Army always has and must have a command.”

“If someone wants by force, through attacks on Serb settlements, to seize that part and separate from Yugoslavia, it is presumably logical to expect that the Army has to intervene.”

“I should remind you that I have from this platform, less than a year ago, stated: we are making a Constitution such that we shall be in Yugoslavia but also such that we can act as an independent state. You have read that Constitution. You know that we are, in the event of the collapse of Yugoslavia, capable of functioning as an independent state. Therefore, I believe that the Army will carry out its constitutional duty, but if it does not, taking this theoretical supposition as an example, in that case Serbia will have to act as an independent state on the basis of its own Constitution, something that involves having its own armed forces and everything else that this involves.”

“… I believe that there is no danger of the HDZ striking at Knin and the Army sitting with its arms crossed. Or an escalation of the conflict occurring and the Army sitting with its arms crossed. That would then be its end. And this would take a very short time. This is something that every intelligent person can easily foresee, so that I believe that it genuinely will not happen.”97

The day following Milošević’s renunciation of obedience to the SFRJ Presidency, Kadijević summoned him and Jović to a meeting at which Adžić and the Deputy Secretary for People’s Defence, Admiral Stane Brovet were also present. At this meeting the three top-ranking JNA officers informed the Serbian leadership that they were retreating from their plans to stage a coup in the belief that such a coup would, without Presidency authorisation, have extremely negative consequences. They announced this climb-down, as Jović put it, “two days after I resigned in order to clear the way for action on their [Kadijević’s,.Adžić’s and Brovet’s] part and four days after they informed us that they had decided on a military coup.”98 In Jović’s opinion, “They were sincere neither toward me nor toward Slobodan, and they wanted us to be their political cover.” Jović then claimed that he was anyway reserved about the idea of a coup, because “I have never felt that our solution to the problem is to overthrow the Croatian and Slovenian governments, and I was convinced that the would not lead to a solution of the basic problem – upholding the right of the Serb nation to self-determination.”99

Jović had a show-down with Kadijević on 22 March, telling him “that the military leadership has treated me (but also Slobodan) in a way that elicits suspicion. My impression is that we have been manipulated. Veljko almost fainted from surprise.” He claimed that the Serbian leadership had not been given sufficient notice of the JNA’s plans for a coup, that the JNA had failed to take action against the Croatian paramilitary forces (something that Jović had resigned in order to facilitate) and that the JNA had therefore been “insincere toward us, frivolous in their analyses and inconsistent in their intentions.” In response “Veljko spent half an hour swearing to his honesty and sincerity and assuring me that everything that they reported to us at that time (on 17 March) had been thoroughly analysed in advance.”100

The outcome of the three-way struggle of March 1991 - between Serbia and Montenegro, the JNA and the other Republics - was that the JNA ceased to be an independent actor in the Yugoslav crisis and was reduced to the role of the Serbian leadership’s junior partner. The failure of Kadijević, Brovet and Adžić to attempt a coup d’état despite their extensive preparations was subsequently linked by Mamula to their surrender before the Serbian leadership’s Great Serbian policy:

“The military leadership of the JNA bears responsibility for not having carried out a coup d’état. Instead of that, it allowed the nationalist leaders and separatist behaviour of the two western republics to push the JNA into the hands of Great Serbian nationalism, which unscrupulously made use of the Army in the multinational war and in the end discarded it.”101

The JNA had by March 1991 chosen the path of becoming a Serbian army, both in the sense of being loyal solely to Serbia and in the sense of fighting for “Great Serbian” rather than “Yugoslav” goals.

The question of Stipe Mesić as SFRJ President, May - October 1991

The establishment of Serbia’s control over the JNA coincided with the first shedding of blood in the conflict in Croatia. Nevertheless, as Yugoslavia slid towards outright war, the JNA-Serbia partnership remained uneasy. On 31 March, Serb rebels and Croatian police clashed at Plitvice in central Croatia, leaving one dead on each side. On 2 May, Serb rebels massacred twelve Croatian policemen at Borovo Selo in north-eastern Croatia. On 15 May Serbia’s representatives in the collective Yugoslav Presidency refused to allow Croatia’s representative, Stipe Mesić, to take his turn as President of the Presidency, thereby depriving Yugoslavia of a functioning executive. According to Jović, the JNA leadership was shocked at this open undermining of Yugoslav statehood: ‘Veljko and Blagoje are dissatisfied, frightened and nervous. Veljko says that what we did was a mistake. Blagoje says that he would be happy to arrest us. Slobodan tells him to go ahead and arrest us if he wants… Sloba and I are convinced that we are doing the right thing, but we are very disappointed with the army’s stance.’102

The issue of electing Mesić as Yugoslav president continued to divide the leaderships of Serbia and the JNA, indicating their differences over the feasibility of preserving a united Yugoslavia. Jović noted that on 20 June, he and Milošević met with Montenegrin president Momir Bulatović and Branko Kostić and Jugoslav Kostić, the representatives of Montenegro and Vojvodina on the Yugoslav presidency respectively, to discuss strategy. Jović noted:

“That same day (in another meeting), we will meet with Kadijević and Adžić and ask them to give us a precise answer on whether they will conduct a redeployment of the military along the new (Serbian) borders of Yugoslavia, in order to prevent major losses by the Serb nation and to defend its territory. If we do not receive clear guarantees of defence, then we will have to organise ourselves and abandon the army.”103

When they did meet, on 24 June, there was a frank expression of differing opinion. Jović reported Kadijević’s opinion that ‘The only reason why the foreign factor has turned against us is the non-eleciton of Mesić, so that should be rectified immediately, tomorrow, and we should elect Mesić ! That would allow us to bind Ante Marković to us and place the SIV in the position of fighting secessionism, and allow the SFRJ Presidency to return to debating the future of the country.’ Conversely, Jović argued that ‘Slovenia and Croatia are definitely on the road to secession. It is an illusion to think that we can turn that around, and it would be a historic mistake for us to set that as our goal.’ Jović wanted to know ‘Will the JNA defend the Serbs in Croatia after a decision on secession, and how ?’ For his part, ‘Blagoje Adžić characterised my position on Mesić as obstinate and my position on defending Serbs as unreasonable, because the JNA must defend all the nations of Yugoslavia. I responded that only the Serbs are threatened, and he should not forget that.’ Jović noted bitterly: ‘It is incredible that everyone, even though they did not say anything to me, has given up on talking to the military about defending Serbs and Serbia, transforming the talks into pressure on us to elect Mesić. I will think about whether to continue participating in such meetings in the future.’104

However, following Slovenia's and Croatia’s declarations of independence on the 25th, Jović noted that in a meeting with Milošević and Kadijević on the 27th, ‘Veljko now says that after Croatia’s decision on independence and sovereignty it makes no sense to elect Mesić president. He has finally recognised what is going on here.’ However, with the start of the JNA’s offensive against Slovenia on that day, when it attempted to seize control of the latter’s international borders and the Ljubljana airport, divisions over strategy were still evident. As Jović records, ‘Slobodan insists several times (correcting yesterday’s mistake) that the military must defend the future borders of Yugoslavia: “Why should it defend Slovenia’s borders, that is tomporary. We must defend that which will be permanent.” He persists in mentioning only Slovenia, perhaps for tactical reasons toward the military, which is intoxicated with the unity of a Yugoslavia that no longer exists, but for us it is clear that that also relates to a Croatia without Serb territory in it.’105

This indicates that, at the start of full-scale warfare in the former Yugoslavia, Serbia’s leadership was now fully committed to fighting for new Serbian borders, while the JNA leadership still held back from unambiguously resolving for the abandonment of Yugoslav unity in favour of a Great Serbian strategy. Serbia’s leadership viewed the conflict with Slovenia as a formality, and after the initial limited JNA operations had failed, on 1 July it rejected the JNA’s plan for a full-scale offensive to crush Slovenia, so ensuring the its defeat. Following a cease-fire on 3 July, the JNA’s withdrawal from Slovenia was negotiated in the Brioni Accord of the 7th, through the mediation of the EC. Slovenia and Croatia were required to suspend their independence declarations for three months.

Withdrawal from Slovenia marked the definite end of the JNA’s efforts to preserve Yugoslavia’s unity by force, and meant implicitly that its future operations in Croatia would necessarily be a war for new borders of an expanded Serbian (‘Yugoslav’) state. In his memoirs, Kadijevic claims:

Phase 3 [of the JNA’s policy] begins when Germany through the European Community openly assumes management of the Yugoslav crisis, pressing Slovenia and Croatia to an accelerated secession through the use of force and simultaneously preparing a civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a dual purpose – the definite destruction of Yugoslavia in such a bloody and brutal manner that Yugoslavia could never again return to the historical scene; and as a good preparation for a political and military strike against Serbia with the goal of defeating and humiliating it, reducing it to the Belgrade pašaluk and teaching it a lesson for all time. At the start of that phase the task of the armed forces changes significantly and consists of 1) the defence of the Serb nation in Croatia and its national interests; 2) the withdrawal of the JNA garrisons from Croatia; 3) full control of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the ultimate goal of defending the Serb nation and its national rights when that becomes actual; 4) the establishment and defence of a new Yugoslav state of those Yugoslav nations that want it, in this phase the Serb and Montenegrin nations. To such modified goals the basic concept of the use of the armed forces was accommodated. [our emphasis]”106

This constitutes an admission from the most senior figure in the JNA at the time that, from the summer of 1991, its leadership was pursuing outright Serbian national goals. On 1 July 1991 Croatia’s member of the SFRJ Presidency, Stipe Mesić, was belatedly allowed by the Serbian leadership to assume the post of President of the Presidency and therefore of President of the SFRJ and head of the Supreme Command of the Yugoslav armed forces. Kadijević and Adžić blocked all his efforts to exert influence on the JNA. According to Kadijević:

“Mesić could not achieve any kind of personal influence as President of the Presidency, among other reasons, because he had already sufficiently compromised himself publicly as a destroyer of Yugoslavia. All his attempts in that sphere appeared even funny. His issuing of orders to the Army through the means of public information - which we in the Staff of the Supreme Command simply ignored, treating them as though they did not exist – is known.”107

Kadijević claims that such orders of Mesić were not in accordance with constitutional procedure since at this stage the Presidency was split 4-4 between the Serbo-Montenegrin bloc on the one hand and the representatives of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia on the other, and that consequently Mesić lacked a majority for his orders.108 However, this 4-4 split did not prevent Kadijević and Adžić from October 1991 from treating the Serbo-Montenegrin SFRJ “rump Presidency” as its legitimate Supreme Commander during the war against Croatia. Vasiljević claims that despite the fact that Croatia’s Stipe Mesić was head of the Supreme Command, the JNA bypassed him and sought orders instead from Serbia’s Borisav Jović. In an interview published in July 1992 Vasiljević stated that “I shall remind you of the period when, under the pressure of the international public, the position of President of the Presidency was to be assumed by Stipe Mesić in place of Borisav Jović. In order that important decisions relating to the Army, including the placement of cadres, not be signed by Mr Mesić, they were provisionally given for validation to Mr Jović.”109

A Great Serbian vs a Yugoslav military strategy, July - October 1991

Although the JNA leadership had definitely come round to the idea of fighting for Serbian national goals, it was slow to convert this into a working military strategy. Jović notes that on 5 July, he and Milošević met with Kadijević and placed a list of demands before him, including:

“2. The main forces of the JNA must be concentrated along a line running from Karlovac to Plitvice in the west, from Baranja, Osijek and Vinkovci to the Sava in the east, and along the Neretva in the south. In this way, it will cover all the territory where Serbs live until the situation is fully resolved, i.e., until a final free expression of popular will in a referendum. 3. Croats and Slovenes must be completely elimiminated from the military.”

Jović claimed that ‘Veljko accepts without any discussion.’110 On 30 July, Jović noted:

“Veljko wants to report to us “clearly and definitely”, on his position and final orientation: The JNA should be transformed into a military force of those who want to remain in Yugoslavia, comprising at least: Serbia, the Serb nation and Montenegro. Those are the principles on the basis of which the withdrawal and the change of leadership should be conducted. He no longer believes in any variant for the survival of an integral Yugoslavia.”111

This shift in the JNA’s war-aims necessitated a more regular command structure for determining the new, Serbian national strategy. Jović noted on 14 August:

“A serious problem is the discord among Serbs in Krajina and Slavonia in both the political and the military sense. Co-ordination is urgently necessary. Veljko says that they should have a permanent system of co-ordination in this structure… It would be good to set up an expert staff of five or six people (Serbia, Montenegro and the JNA), which would be in charge of assessing the situation and making proposals… Concerning Bosnia-Herzegovina, he says that Alija and his people will not easily change their positions. Much more attention must be devoted to Bosnia. The idea of systematic consultation by our group of six was accepted, but not the idea of forming a “staff”.112

The ‘six’ in question were the presidents of Serbia and Montenegro (Milošević and Bulatović), the Serbian and Montenegrin representatives on the Yugoslav presidency (Jović and Branko Kostić), Federal Secretary for People’s Defence (Kadijević) and Chief of Staff (Adžić). On 3 October, the four SFRJ Presidency members for Serbia and Montenegro held a meeting in Belgrade, in which Kadijević, Adžić and Admiral Brovet also participated. It was therefore, the Group of Six, minus Bulatović, plus Brovet, Kosovo’s Sejdo Bajramović and Vojvodina’s Jugoslav Kostić. According to the meeting’s report, ‘The SFRJ Presidency has taken a decision about its work and its manner of working, which ensures continuity of the work of the SFRJ Presidency unde rthe threat of an immediate danger of war. According to this decision, the SFRJ Presidency will adopt decisions with a majority of votes of the present members of the SFRJ Presidency.’113 In other words, the Presidency members for Serbia and Montenegro had assumed sole control of the Presidency, and with it the right to command the JNA. Jović justified the move on the grounds that ‘[Slovenia’s] Drnovšek has long since stopped attending sessions, and lately even [Croatia’s] Stipe Mesić has stayed away. [Macedonia’s] Tupurkovski and [Bosnia-Hercegovina’s] Bogičević do not accept holding sessions without Mesić, as president, and they challenge every attempt on our part to decide anything important.’114 This decision transformed the JNA formally into the army of the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro alone, controlled by a ‘Yugoslav’ presidency now made up solely of the three presidency members from Serbia (including Kosovo and Vojvodina) and the presidency member for Montenegro.

A Yugoslav or a Great Serbian strategy ? September-October 1991

Even after its supposed change of strategy with the declarations of Slovenian and Croatian indepenence, the leadership of the JNA failed to redeploy its forces behind the intended new borders as the Serbian leadership wished, and they remained dispersed in garrisons across Croatia as the fighting there escalated into full-scale war. Jović noted that in his meeting with Kadijević on 12 September:

“I once again raised the key question, for the umpteenth time, the question that constantly preoccupies me: Is our goal to defend, with the military, the new borders of the nations that want to remain in Yugoslavia, or is it to overthrow the Croatian government ? Why do we need general fighting into the depths of Croatian territory ? Unfortunately, there is not much understanding. The military is intoxicated with Yugoslavia, even though we have discussed the fact that it is no longer realistic a hundred times.”115

Consequently, after Croatia’s President Franjo Tuđman belatedly ordered its Assembly of the National Guards (ZNG) to besiege JNA garrisons on Croatian territory, many of these rapidly fell, enabling the latter to overcome at least slightly its lack of heavy weaponry; in particular, the surrender on 22 September of the Varaždin garrison, the second-largest in Croatia. By occupying JNA depots and garrisons in Croatia, the ZNG acquired 250 tanks, 400-500 heavy artillery pieces, about 180,000 firearms and two million tons of ammunition and other military hardware, fundamentally altering the balance of forces and preventing realisation of the Serbian war-aims, according to General Martin Špegelj, the architect of the Croatian military defence.116 On 20 September, after listening to Adžić’s report to the Group of Six a string of JNA defeats and military difficulties, Jović complained: ‘This is the result of vacillation regarding withdrawing the military to the future borders. Now it will be much harder for us to engage in further actions because of such stupid defeats that were absolutely unnecessary.’117

Ironically, in this period, Kadijević and Adžić shifted to support for a more overtly Serbian-national military organisation and strategy than the one favoured by the Serbian leadership itself. For whereas Milošević and Jović were mindful that before the domestic and international audiences they had to at least pretend to be fighting to defend Yugoslavia, Kadijević and Adžić saw things more purely from the military perspective. According to this, the JNA’s mobilisation of Serbs to fight was failing because it did not have a clearly Serbian national composition and war-aims. Jović noted on 24 September: ‘Veljko then concludes the following: The military will lose the war against Croatia unless motivation and the success of mobilisation are ensured. That cannote be achieved with a semi-legitimate Yugoslavia. Serbia and Montenegro should declare that the military is theirs and assume command, financing, the war, and everything else.’ However, the Serbian leaders responded that they ‘cannot accept the demand that the military drop “Yugoslavia” from its name. That would mean Serbia and Montenegro would completely lose all their advantages, both political and military, in the dispute. How do they think that a Serbian-Montenegrin army can wage war with Croatia and defeat it?!’118 Four days later, the Group of Six met again and the difference of opinion regarding strategy resurfaced:

“Veljko again raises the question of the state. Last time he offered to turn the JNA over to Serbia and Montenegro. Since Serbia and Montenegro do not have their own armies, a formula should be found for turning the JNA over to those nations that want to remain in Yugoslavia. This was felt to be a bad solution from the international standpoint. But in Veljko’s opinion, this would perhaps be better in terms of the Serb nation’s willingness to serve in its own army. However, political considerations do not permit us to “leave” Yugoslavia. In terms of the future resolution of the Yugoslav crisis, that would place Serbia and Montenegro in an unfavourable position, and would put this Serbian-Montenegrin army in the position of an “aggressor” in the Serb regions outside Serbia. I am amazed that Veljko does not appreciate that.”119

Although Milošević and Jović did not want formally to turn the JNA into a Serbian-Montenegrin army, they had nevertheless sought since the start of the war in Croatia to do this de facto, by the purge of Croats and Slovenes from the ranks and, particularly, from the officer corps. On 11 July, they had repeated to Kadijević their demand that ‘all Slovenes and Croats should be removed immediately from high-ranking military positions’; on this occasion, Kadijević accepts everything, but it is obvious that he does not hold all the cards in his hand.’120 Yet the purge was slow to unfold, and on 24 September, Kadijević lamented the ‘still large number of Croats in the military, about the Serbs’ major mistrust even of loyal non-Serb officers, about the drama of people and families. He says that right now 2,000 officers should be replaced in order to avoid the worst, which is very difficult. Slobodan tells him to replace them, that he should have done so earlier.’121 Four days later, Kadijević informed Jović that a subversive movement had arisen within the JNA, organised by ‘Serbian opposition forces’, hostile to its leadership under himself and Brovet, and demanding that ‘the SFRJ Presidency, the Supreme Command and the military to be purged of traitors, and that only Serbs and Montenegrins be left.’ He suspected that Mihalj Kertes, a key operative of Milošević’s who had played a central role in the ‘anti-bureaucratic revolution’, was linked to this. Jović records: ‘I ask Veljko to report to us on whether the personnel changes that we agreed to had been carried out in the Army. He responds to me angrily “That is also what the putschists want!”.’122

This indicated the degree of mistrust that existed between the leaderships of the JNA and Serbia throughout the war in Croatia. It surfaced also with regard to the question of mobilisation. By Kadijević’s own admission, this had been the principal weak-spot of the JNA’s military effort: ‘The failure of mobilisation and desertion required the modification of tasks and ideas of manoevre in the concluding operations of the JNA in Croatia.’123 He apparently blamed the Serbian leadership for this failure, and on 28 September, according to Jović, ‘He asks why Slobodan Milošević has never expressed public support for the military and mobilisation.’ Kadijević also asked the Serbian leaders “Why did we lose in Slovenia? The Serbs refused to go to Slovenia.”124 Unlike the JNA leaders, the Serbian leaders did not seek a complete military defeat of Croatia, but sought to cement their territorial gains through a settlement negotiated with the help of the international community, so they were unsympathetic to the JNA’s desire to escalate the war. Accord to Jović, on 5 October:

“Veljko once again asks for general mobilisation as a precondition for victory ! We had a long discussion. Unfortunately, I did not take notes, but we almost had a falling out. A couple of days ago, they said that all they needed was six more brigades (30,000 people) to ensure final success. Now they want general mobilisation. Serbia and Montenegro have 1,500,000 conscripts ! We should mobilise all of them ?! But Croatia has 200,000 soldiers. What kind of threat to us is an army like that ? I was energetically opposed to that. I asked that we draw up a plan for a peace initiative combined with a plan for force in order to avert war and make the transition to a political solution. Adžić and Veljko are desperate, they accuse us of leaving the Serb nation in the lurch.”125

Milošević and Jović met the following day and agreed that ‘We are not a supermarket for satisfying the generals’ needs. Policy must proceed from us, not from them.’ This meant ‘We must move to a peace offensive, but also prepare for war if there is no other way out. We cannot employ the war option to an extent that is not necessary and perish for something that we can achieve through negotiation.’ Consequently, they resolved ‘to orient the military toward defending already-liberated territory.’126

Kadijević remained angry at what he perceived as the Serbian leadership’s unwillingness to take the necessary military steps to win the war. Jović noted on 25 October:

“Generally speaking, Kadijević right now is very unhappy about how Serbia is not providing enough reservists for the war and how Slobodan and I are not doing more (politically) to combat desertion. At every meeting, he tries to emphasise that we could easily win the war if we (I and Slobodan) only wanted to !… At the last meeting of the group of six at Slobodan’s (perhaps the last one ever), Kadijević and Adžić directly accused us of leaving the Serbs in Croatia in the lurch.”

Reporting to Jović that Serb representatives in Western Slavonia told him that ‘If we are left in the lurch, we will stop fighting there and take our weapons straight to Belgrade to settle scores with those who are responsible for that.’, Kadijević informed him that he ‘responded that he too would join them with a gun in his hand !’ Furthermore, ‘At one meeting at Slobodan’s, Veljko was so agitated that he said “If you are not going to accept what I propose, then I am going to disband the military !!” “All you can do is resign; you do not have the authority to disband the military”, I responded sharply.’127

As the JNA’s military situation continued to deterioriate, Jović reported on a meeting on 29 October in which ‘After Kadijević and Adžić arrived, a new dimension was added, which made the situation even worse. The two of them are practically weeping: if they are not given 250,000 reservists, everything will fall apart. The military will fall apart, we will lose the war…’. Yet Milošević was unsympathetic: ‘I ask Slobodan whether we should give them a few more reservists. He responds that we should not defend them, the mobilisation is in their hands, they have decisions, but we cannot stick our necks out and urge people to die for barracks that they left behind the front.’ In a conversation with Kadijević and Adžić that day, Jović notes, ‘I told them openly that we cannot handle a mobilisation of that scope, and that that could result in massive protests and political defeat if we insist on that to the end. They do not care about that. They think that it is enough for the two of us to each give one speech, and everyone will march off to war to rectify their mistakes.’128

In these circumstances, Belgrade was left reliant upon international intervention to rescue Serbia-Montenegro from outright defeat. Jović noted on 2 November that ‘most of the territory in which Serbs constitute a majority is under Serb rule’, but ‘Croatia is acquiring more and more arms, which is leading to ever-greater commitment by the JNA, which is seeking an ever-greater mobilisation here in Serbia, but that is completely counterproductive to our policy. I feel that right now, when the Serb nation is in power in those territories, there is good reason for us to ask the United Nations to protect them with their peacekeeping forces, until the Yugoslav crisis is resolved politically.’129

The plan to invite UN peacekeepers to defend the Serbian conquests

Serbia consequently turned increasingly to the international community to resolve the Croatian war in its favour. This policy brought success in the short term. Belgrade on 9 November submitted a request to the UN Security Council ‘to immediately send UN peacekeeping forces into the Republic of Croatia, to the border zone between territories with a majority Serb population an territories where the majority of the population is of Croat nationality.’130 UN representative Cyrus Vance negotiated the so-called Geneva Accord with Milošević and Tuđman on 23 November, producing a cease-fire and enabling the crumbling JNA to withdraw intact from Croatia, while the Serb rebels retained Vukovar and other conquests. Under international pressure, Tudjman lifted the Croatian siege of the JNA’s Zagreb barracks, enabling the JNA to withdraw large quantities of military hardware from the Croatian capital and redeploy it on the front-lines against the Croatians.131 The Geneva Accord permitted the JNA to ‘withdraw’ its forces from Croatia into Bosnia-Hercegovina. This was followed by the Vance Plan to deploy UN peacekeepers to protect Serb-held territory in Croatia. In late November, the ZNG launched a counter-offensive that recaptured about 60% of occupied western Slavonia before Tudjman, under Western pressure, ordered a halt to operations on 26 December. The permanent cease-fire signed by Croatia on 2 January 1992 allowed the JNA to remain in Western and Eastern Slavonia, despite being on the verge of total military collapse.132

The implementation of the Vance Plan led to the establishment of four ‘UN Protected Areas’ in Croatia, which preserved the Serbian territorial gains there until 1995. Jović supported the Vance Plan on the grounds that it was ‘exceptionally favourable to the Serb side’.133 However, it ran into opposition from Milan Babić, the ‘president’ of the ‘Republic of Serb Krajina’, as a result of which a major meeting was held in Belgrade on 2 February 1992 of more than fifty senior officials of Serbia-Montenegro, the Bosnian and Croatian Serb rebels and the JNA, in order to persuade the Krajina Serb leadership to adopt it. As Jović made clear in the introductory speech, ‘The rejection of this plan would lead to a war which in all variants - according to our strategic and political assessments - we would lose, regardless of how long it lasts. We cannot oppose the entire world on our own, when that world offers us, through this plan, both military and political protection so that we can solve our problems.’134

The Vance Plan also provoked opposition from hardliners within the JNA. On 8 January, an EC helicopter was shot down by a JNA jet, killing the five EC observers on board. The (Slovene) Admiral Brovet was reported as saying that the downing of the helicopter was part of a ‘coup attempt’. It prompted the suspension of General Zvonko Jurjević, the (Croat) chief of the Yugoslav air-force, and apparently also the resignation of Kadijević.135 In fact, Kadijević had already announced his plan to retire to Jović, Milošević, Branko Kostić, Jugoslav Kostić and Bajramović on 31 December. Jović notes: ‘We were not particularly upset to hear that. No one insisted that he reconsider.’136 In the circumstances, he left under a cloud. The SSNO immediately denied that Brovet had said there had been a coup attempt, calling the foreign media’s reports that he had as ‘completely arbitrary, untrue and without foundation’.137 On 28 February, the pensioning of senior JNA officers was announced by the Belgrade media, including Kadijević, Brovet, Jurjević, and several other non Serbs.138 This marked the definite end of the JNA as a political force independent of the leadership of Serbia. On 11 May, the pensioning of another 38 JNA generals and admirals, including Vasiljević, was announced by the Belgrade media.139

During December 1991, following the signing of the Geneva Accord, the Milošević regime began laying the foundations for a Bosnian Serb army, in order to transfer the war to Bosnian territory. This involved concentrating Bosnian Serb JNA soldiers in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbian and Montenegrin JNA soldiers in Serbia and Montenegro.140 On 27 April 1992, Serbia and Montenegro were formally reconstituted as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SRJ). Article 135 of its constitution specified that ‘The Army of Yugoslavia in war and peace is commanded by the president of the republic, in accordance with the decisions of the Supreme Council of Defence. The Supreme Council of Defence is comprised of the president of the Republic and the presidents of the constituent republics [Serbia and Montenegro]. The president of the republic is the president of the Supreme Council of Defence.’141 On 19 May, all remaining JNA soldiers from Serbia and Montenegro were formally withdrawn from Bosnian territory and the JNA was formally divided between the Army of Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb army) and the Army of Yugoslavia. The latter thereby formally became the army of the SRJ; i.e. of Serbia and Montenegro. On 15 June, the four-member ‘rump presidency’ of the SRJ, inherited from the old Yugoslavia, was formally dissolved, and Dobrica Ćosić became President of the SRJ, therefore the supreme commander of the Army of Yugoslavia.

Conclusion: Serbian-JNA relations, 1990-1991

Long before the permanent ceasefire signed between Croatia and the Serbian side on 2 January 1992 brought an end to the first phase of the war in Croatia, the JNA had been fully subordinated to the military and political goals of the Republic of Serbia’s political leadership, which envisaged the abandoning of support for a united Yugoslavia, separation from Slovenia and Croatia and dismemberment of the latter to establish what was effectively an enlarged, ‘Great’ Serbian state. However, this subordination did not overcome the contradictions between the Serbian-JNA alliance’s Great Serbian and Yugoslav dimensions, which in turn contributed to its military failure in Croatia. The failure of the JNA to withdraw its forces from unwanted territories of Croatia by mid-September, in line with a Great Serbian strategy, enabled the Croatian forces to place them under siege, which was decisive in preventing a Serbian victory. The formal transformation during the war of the JNA into a Serbian-Montenegrin army and the carrying out of a full military mobilisation, which its leadership came subsequently to advocate as the only means that could bring victory over the Croats, was rejected by Serbia’s leadership on account of the international diplomatic and domestic political costs this would entail. Disputes between the leaderships of the JNA and Serbia continued throughout the war in Croatia, and relations were never entirely cordial, but the JNA leaders’ dissensions were invariably overriden, and policy was determined by Milošević. The end of the war in Croatia was followed by the definite end of the JNA as an independent force in former-Yugoslav politics, and its outright transformation into the army of Serbia-Montenegro (SRJ).









1 Borisav Jović, Posledni dana SFRJ, Politika, Belgrade, 1995. All references in the text are to this, the Serbian-language published original. However, for quotations we have followed David Stephenson’s excellent but unfortunately unpublished English-language translation.




2 The SPS was formed from the merger of the SKS and the Socialist Alliance of Working People of Serbia in June and July 1990.

3 Branko Mamula, Slučaj Jugoslavija, CID, Podgorica, 2000,
pp. 23-24.

4 Mamula, p. 112.

5 Mamula, p. 117.




6 Nikola Ljubičić, Opštenarodna odbrana - strategija mira, 2nd. ed, Vojnoizdavački zavod, Belgrade, 1977, p. 343.

7 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 23 April 1985, from Yugoslav News Agency 1653 gmt 19 Apr 85.




8 Mamula, pp. 41-42; Veljko Kadijević, Moje viđenje raspada, Politika, Belgrade, 1993, p. 78.

9 Mamula, p. 115.

10 Raif Dizdarević, Od smrti Tita do smrti Jugoslavije, OKO, Sarajevo, 1999, p. 414.




11 Mamula, p. 44.

12 Kadijević’s father was a Serb and his mother a Croat.




13 Kadijević, p. 77.

14 Kadijević, p. 78.

15 Mamula, p. 61.

16 Hasim Efendić, Ko je branio Bosnu, OKO, Sarajevo, 1998,
pp. 90-94.




17 Dizdarević, pp. 216, 307.

18 Laura Silber and Allan Little, The Death of Yugoslavia, Penguin, London, 1996, pp. 48-57.

19 Silber and Little, pp. 65-73.




20 Dizdarević, p. 321.

21 Kadijević, p. 106.




22 In his published diary, Jović describes frequent discussions with Kadijević and Gračanin over policy vis-à-vis the Slovenes and Kosovo Albanians during 1989. See Jović, pp. 16, 18-19, 45, 46, 47, 49, 52-53, 54-55, 63, 67-68, 72, 75-77, 88, 91-92.

23 Jović, p. 45.




24 Jović, p. 88.




25 Jović, p. 125.




26 Jović, p. 160.




27 Jović, p. 161.

28 Konrad Kolšek, Prvi pucnji u SFRJ - Sećanja na početak oružanih sukoba u Sloveniji i Hrvatskoj, Dan Graf and Danas, Belgrade, 2005, 30-31.




29 Kadijević, pp. 92-93.

30 Kadijević, p. 110.




31 Kadijević, p. 91.

32 Kadijević, p. 89.




33 Kadijević, p. 91.




34 Kadijević, p. 91.

35 Blagoje Adžić, “Why and how I submitted my resignation
(2)”, NIN, 5 June 1992, p. 32.

36 Aleksandar Vasiljević, “Was a coup d’état planned?”, NIN,
19 June 1992, p. 58.




37 Jović, p. 162.




38 Jović, p. 171.

39 ‘League of Communists - Movement for Yugoslavia founded as “heir to the LCY”’, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 22 November 1990, from Tanjug, 19 November 1990.

40 ‘Founding conference of League of Communists - Movement for Yugoslavia’, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 1 January 1991, from Yugoslav News Agency, 24 December 1990.

41 Jović, p. 276.




42 Jović, p. 277.




43 Jović, p. 281.

44 Dizdarević, p. 419.

45 Dizdarević, pp. 419-420.

46 Mamula, pp. 117-119.

47 Mamula, p. 154.

48 Mamula, pp. 151-154.




49 Mamula, p. 158.

50 Mamula, p. 159.

51 Mamula, p. 160.

52 Aleksandar Vasiljević, “Armija izdala – nije izdala”, NIN, 26 June 1992, p. 57.




53 BBC Summary of World World Broadcasts 27 March 1990, from Tanjug 1552 gmt 23 Mar 90.

54 Jović, pp. 142-143.




55 Jović, p. 146.

56 Kadijević, p. 78.




57 Kadijević, p. 94.

58 Jović, pp. 174-175.

59 Jović, p. 176.




60 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 20 August 1990, from Yugoslav News Agency 1540 gmt 17 Aug 90; Silber and Little, pp. 100-103.

61 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 20 August 1990, from Belgrade home service 1300 gmt 18 Aug 90.

62 Jović, p. 277.




63 Jović, pp. 227-228.

64 Jović, p. 247.

65 Jović, p. 254.

66 Jović, p. 254.

67 Jović, p. 255.




68 Silber and Little, pp. 114-116.

69 Jović, p. 262.

70 Jović, p. 263.




71 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 24 December 1990, Tanjug 1616 gmt 21 Dec 90.

72 NIN, 8 March 1991, p. 15.

73 Jović, pp. 281-282.

74 Jović, p. 283.




75 Jović, p. 49.

76 Jović, p. 54.

77 Jović, p. 152.

78 Jović, p. 163.

79 Jović, p. 166.

80 Jović, p. 170.




81 Jović, p. 247.




82 Jović, p. 255.

83 Jović, p. 257.




84 Jović, p. 259.

85 Jović, p. 264.

86 Jović, p. 281.

87 Jović, p. 274.




88 Službeni Glasnik Republike Srbije, 5 February 1991, pp. 233-235.




89 Jović, pp. 286-295.

90 Kolšek, p. 111.




91 Jović, p. 295.

92 Jović, p. 296.




93 Jović, p. 296.

94 Jović, p. 306.




95 Jović, p. 297.




96 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts 18 March 1991, from Tanjug 1637 gmt 16 Mar 91.




97 NIN, Belgrade, 12 April 1991, pp. 40-41.




98 Jović, p. 307.

99 Jović, p. 310.

100 Jović, p. 311.

101 Mamula, p. 9.




102 Jović, p. 325.

103 Jović, p. 339.




104 Jović, pp. 339-341.

105 Jović, pp. 343-344.




106 Kadijević, pp. 92-93.

107 Kadijević, pp. 37-38.




108 Kadijević, pp. 36-37.

109 Aleksandar Vasiljević, “Who is the Supreme Commander – Ćosić or Milošević?”, NIN, 3 July 1992, p. 57.




110 Jović, p. 349.

111 Jović, p. 367.

112 Jović, pp. 371-372.

113 ‘SFRJ Presidency chaired by Branko Kostić “assumes certain powers”,’ BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 5 October 1991, from Tanjug, 3 October 1991.

114 Jović, p. 392.




115 Jović, p. 385.

116 Martin Špegelj, ‘The first phase, 1990-1992: The JNA prepares for aggression and Croatia for defence’, in Branka Magaš and Ivo Žaniƒæ (eds), The war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1992-1995, Frank Cass, London, 2001, p. 34.

117 Jović pp. 386-387.




118 Jović, p. 387.

119 Jović, pp. 388-389.

120 Jović, p. 365.

121 Jović, p. 387.

122 Jović, pp. 388-390.

123 Kadijević, pp. 136, 142.

124 Jović, pp. 389-390.




125 Jović, pp. 391-392.

126 Jović, p. 392.




127 Jović, pp. 402-403.

128 Jović, pp. 406-407.

129 Jović, p. 407.




130 Jović, p. 410.

131 Silber and Little, The death of Yugoslavia, p. 186.

132 Norman Cigar, ‘The Serbo-Croatian War, 1991: Political and military dimensions’, Journal of Strategic Studies, 16:3, September 1993, pp. 326-327; Špegelj, ‘The first phase’, pp. 35-36.

133 Jović, p. 431.

134 Jović p. 434.

135 Nicholas Miletitch, ‘Serbia narrowly escapes a putsch, says vice-defense minister’, Agence France Presse, 9 January 1992.

136 Jović, p. 422.

137 ‘Federal Defence Secretariat denies reports of “putsch” in the JNA’, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 11 January 1992, from Radio Belgrade, 9 January 1992.

138 ‘SFRY presidency retires and appoints leading commanders in armed forces’, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 2 March 1992, from Tanjug, 28 February 1992.

139 ‘Details of retired JNA generals - Branko Kostić says process not yet completed’, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, from Tanjug, 11 May 1992.

140 Marko Attila Hoare, How Bosnia Armed, Saqi, London, 2004, pp. 34-36.

141 ‘Ustav Savezne Republike Jugoslavije’, Službeni list Savezne Republike Jugoslavije, no. 1/92, 1 May 1992.











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