Professional armies, the means to control the Balkan people

Commander of the U.S. Army NATO Brigade

The states and the people in the Balkans coexist in the time when via mass media and their matching politicians, the professional army is being advertised as the only sustainable model for providing the security system. According to them, the professional army is better trained, and a single professional soldier is as worth as the five members of the former civil armies, which justifies the existence of such system. That raises the question: is it possible to consider the system of professional army as “acquiring the better model”, or simply adopting the certain regulations imported from the outer countries that are purposely presented.

The final country (excluding Greece) to abolish the mandatory military service was the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. After dethroning Slobodan Milosevic, the territories of both Serbia and Montenegro came to develop the same processes matching the ones in countries that had previously approached the western-orchestrated military security and economic order. One of the above mentioned processes was introducing the professional armies. The process itself could not have been executed without defiance, therefore various measures were employed as to secure its implementation. First steps, accidentally or otherwise, were made after the passing away of the two woodentops who were killed in a mysterious way.  They were mere soldiers serving their mandatory army service. This was followed by the introduction of possibility for civil executing the mandatory service by choice, and several years later, this led to complete professional army. Pro-western orientated politicians advertised the security changes as a solution more effective in both quantity downsizing, and providing a higher level of security, as well as claiming the professional army as a world standard. But, is this really true?

If we make comparisons of the processes developing in neigbouring countries, we may see that they were more or less simultaneous. Countries on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, at war against each other (except Slovenia), were creating their armies during the war by mobilizing the citizens. After the war has ended, the Croatian army consisted of more than 250,000 people, the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina around 200,000 and the Bosnian Serbs army over 100,000 people. What has happened to all these armies? After the end of the war, the whole area succumbed to the process of “NATO standardizing” with its clearly stated demands of ruining the concept of giant alternate, back-up armies. Giant armies (in accordance with the ability of the country) were downsized to a little over 10,000 professional soldiers, e.g. 4,000 soldiers in Montenegro and less than 9,000 in Albania. Is the core of the reorganizing the quality improvement or mere taking over control of the particular security and economic system?

Every army that began implementing the NATO concept underwent professionalism, and in case they joined NATO pact, were obliged to send their soldiers to the places where NATO pact is at war, regardless of their size. The best illustration for this is Iraq and Afghanistan, where at first sight meaninglessly small armies such as Croatian, Montenegrin and Albanian, as well as Bulgarian and Romanian, supplied their land troops. If one sums up all the troops provided by the partner states, you get a significant increase in mankind that serves to fill in the missing spots. In the early days, the countries subordinate to more powerful ones were named vassal states and their armies were vassal armies. Their main purpose was to prevent the bloodshed of their masters by fighting in the front lines of fire. Nowadays, such occurrences are being characterized as “professionalizing”, “systemizing”, “quality emproving”, therefore fulfilling the requirements of the “world standards”. The development of civilization brought along numerous changes, and the war types changed, but the basic principles remained the same.

The second essential factor is the ultimate control over economic-security line. Contrary to the claims that the massive people’s armies are expensive and inefficient, they justified their existence in the war in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, despite all their shortcomings. High number of people carrying arms was, and still is, the crucial factor to the territorial control. This is completely verified with the events following the decomposing of a territory.

Regardless of the outcome of the wars on the south of Serbia in the time of 2000-2001, and the one in Macedonia, the USA benefited. The USA approached as a leading mediator for a very plain reason-the politicians, faced the newly acquired strength, had no intention to actually resist. Therefore the outcome of the confrontation was resolved even before it began, and the ammunition spent was useless. Small professional armies can secure the ultimate subordination to the more powerful countries, particularly the USA and the NATO.

People carrying arms militarize the society and fulfill the ideology of the nation ever since the period of the Republic. Such sentiment is not suitable for project that is being implemented in both politics and security. The army should be strictly professional, and apart from its basic professional role, should not have more significant influence upon the society. Mass armies provide wider manoeuvre in regional politics, and their disappearance reduces the political leadership of the regional countries to the absolute obedience. Mass armies create possibility for a complete turnover in foreign policy, providing they are able to acquire some modern air defense systems, and limited armies actually deprive the country of such opportunity.

Such concept bears an exception. Greece has retained the mandatory military service, but one must not forget that Greece and Turkey are the two NATO members in conflict regarding their armies and security. This concept of general mandatory military service was deliberately maintained for the balance within NATO itself. The rest of the Balkans keeps moving in this direction without exception. Therefore, one may find it ridiculous to consider this as a system of “reform” and “development”. Due to the civilization forwarding, this concept must adjust itself to the new requirements for achieving basically the same effect.

Armies based on the territory of former Yugoslavia are small and lack the attacking capacities in comparison to their neighbours. Therefore, all potential confrontations remain completely in control of the treaties, sealed under the American mentorship, without any possibility for change unless the change occurs on a global level.

Demilitarisation, pacification, hoarding the mercenary armies for the purpose of achieving their geopolitical goals, along with the standardizing of the equipment and weaponry, make the most important influences for the countries that have consented to the NATO standard. They are being supplied with the patterns of technique and weaponry, mostly purchased from the NATO members. This enables their complete blend into the system. The purchase of weapons and equipment secures the market for the military industry, and provides control over the subordinate “partners” weaponry supplies. Military defence mechanisms of the small countries that have joined the “partnership” are allowed to work on developing solely the weaponry that does not disturb the regional concept designed by the United States of America and their Europian allies. Strategic systems can only be developed by the leading countries within the Organisation.

The Balkan area contains many frozen conflicts, and for the time being, the power to control them is entrusted to a single party. Due to possible conflicts, some countries, such as Serbia and Croatia, have reached out for the method of voluntary military service, which serves for the purpose of creating some backup, yet serious enough to complete the tasks that overcome the limitations of small professional armies. This voluntary service is not being disputed for now. The introduction of the general mandatory military service in any of the Balkan countries could be done solely with approval by the USA, for the purpose of maintaining the status quo under its supervision. If done otherwise, the same as the acquisition of the modern air defence systems, would lead to bringing upon some sort of pressure, functioning as a disciplinary measure.

No hotspot has been reopened so far (even though the hints are present), which is why there is no reason to expect the change of the current military security concept of the countries that have joined the programme. On the Balkans, only Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have not joined NATO yet. We dare to say “yet” because they are not under scrutiny of the American foreign policy the way they were during the 1990s. Serbia has succeeded to maintain some of its political impartiality, although it is getting closer to the complete integration. Besides Serbia, Bosnia, despite all its complexity that resulted in the war breakout, has not joined NATO either, despite being under its security control.

We can only wait for now, to witness when the new geopolitics will procure the space for the security changes. Until that time, the small professional armies system will satisfy the imperial interests in this part of the world. The propaganda about small, well-trained professional armies will continually be repeated, as a lesson well learned, spoken by the politicians of the Balkan countries.

All world conflicts have verified that small countries with small professional armies do not stand a chance for reaching any kind of security goals within the country or region (apart from big countries). The best memorized saying comes from the former Georgian president Saakashvili, after the Russians smashed their small “well-trained professional army”, that in case Russia should attack Tbilisi, he would “arm 500,000 reservists”.

Vladimir Gujanicic

Vladimir Gujanicic served in the special forces of Serbia and finished his studies in history at the University of Belgrade. He regularly consults Fort Russ’ parent organization, the Belgrade based think tank, Center for Syncretic Studies on related matters. His specialty is modern history and the history of the Soviet Union.