Last week we witnessed an apparently irrational and
unpredictable twist in international politics. Slobodan Milosevic's 13-year reign ended unpredictably. However, Milosevic's sudden demise as leader was probably more predicatable than his country's decision to forego any punishment.
What does this mean for Serbia? Can a peaceful change of power take place in a region so used to violence and war? So far, it looks as if the answer is yes. The opposition succeeded in a bloodless revolution. Milosevic conceded defeat to Vojislav Kostunica, but at what price? It looks as though the price may be Milosevic's safety.
With international support already on his side, Kostunica still had the home front to worry about. Although Kostunica won, Milosevic received one-third of the votes in the election, which shows considerable support for the former dictator. If Milosevic wanted, there would have been bloodshed. With his own safety on the line, self-preservation would have kicked in. Ceaucescu's violent end in Romania only 10 years prior was undoubted on his mind. And with international charges against him for war crimes, it was almost surprising to see Milosevic give power away without a shot fired.
It does start to make sense, however, if Milosevic got a guarantee there would be no repercussions against him in Serbia and he would not be served on a silver platter to the West. We can see why he gave up power so easily. His bold plan to participate in Serbian politics by heading the opposition is a sign he feels fairly safe right now.
There is great logic in giving Milosevic a guarantee. As far as Kostunica is concerned, he is probably happier to be in power without a battle in the streets of Belgrade. Thousands of lives were saved, maybe because one man was given his security. The new president is also probably quite glad to show the West that his Serbia will retain sovereignty after the change of power. Giving up the former dictator to stand trial would simply be giving in to the West and the U.S. Kostunica, like most Serbians, isn't thrilled about NATO's bombing campaign, an act that was arguably just as legal as Serbian war crimes in Kosovo. Surrendering Milosevic to face trial would be conceding the NATO bombings were a just step by the West--not a move Kostunica wants to make.
Milosevic is likely safe for now. Many want to see him pay for his past; whether it be for the wars in the Balkans, or for having the gall to defy the West. Kostunica has a choice. Will Serbia choose a path of servitude, or stay sovereign and resolve their matters internally? It's looks as if Kostunica made the choice to save Milosevic and kept the option to deal with him in Serbia. Considering the way the revolution went, Kostunica may have made the right decision--guaranteeing the safety of one man for the lives of thousands.