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A Peace, or Just A Cease-Fire?
The Military Equation In Post-Dayton Bosnia

ICG Bosnia Project, December 15, 1997
(Part 1 of 2)

Executive Summary

Achieving the ambitious goals of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (DPA) -- forging a unified state out of the shaky Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and resistant and unstable Republika Srpska -- is a complex and difficult undertaking which has not been made easier by the quest for a so-called "exit strategy". Ultimately, success will be judged by the durability of the peace. But as the pre-announced departure date for the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) approaches, it is clear that a self-sustaining peace is not yet in sight.

Analysts agree on two plausible scenarios in the event of a premature withdrawal of NATO's stabilising presence. One revolves around the possibility of a Bosniac attempt to take advantage of Republika Srpska's geographic vulnerability, a scenario discussed extensively in the Bosniac media in the spring of 1997. The other hinges on the virtual certainty that, in the absence of international peace-keepers, localised incidents of ethnic fighting would occur which would be likely to escalate. Either scenario would generate further forced population movements and may trigger a chain reaction, with political instability expanding to other parts of the Balkans, proceeding to an unforeseen conclusion.

This paper concerns three military topics that are seldom raised in relation to one another but that cannot meaningfully be assessed in isolation. Taken together, they are likely to have a decisive effect on the future of the DPA: the balance of military forces among the former combatants on a sub-regional level; the US-sponsored Train and Equip programme; and the NATO exit strategy.

The balance of military forces among the former combatants, including the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and Croatia, has been the focus of a sub-regional arms reduction process monitored by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Levels were set at a ratio of 5:2:2, based on the approximate size of the populations of FRY, Croatia and Bosnia, further divided on a 2:1 ratio between the Federation and Republika Srpska. On 21 November 1997, the OSCE announced that all four parties had met their reduction liabilities by the 31 October deadline. Republika Srpska and the FRY destroyed the most weapons but remained at or near the allowed ceilings, since they had by far the largest excess of weapons at the start of the process. The Federation was only required to destroy artillery.

It must be assumed that there are weapons as yet undeclared on all sides, although over time these will deteriorate if they are not maintained and will diminish as a destabilising factor. Assuming continued mutual monitoring under OSCE auspices, quantitative uncertainties will become less pressing and qualitative factors such as economic conditions, morale, strategic liabilities and political dynamics will assume more importance.

Early in the arms reduction process, Republika Srpska balked at complying. This was in part the result of alarm about the US-sponsored "Train and Equip" programme of military support to the Federation. The assistance, worth about $400 million to date, consists of military training, provided by a private US company -- Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), as well as deliveries of military equipment. The US have adamantly backed "Train and Equip", citing the fact that at the start of the war in Bosnia, the correlation of military forces overwhelmingly favoured the Serb beneficiaries of the JNA. European governments, by contrast, have persistently questioned the wisdom of any military build-up so soon after the war.

Some journalistic portrayals of Train and Equip give the impression that MPRI is priming the Federation for an irredentist strike. But interviews with MPRI officials suggest the programme is actually far more complex, focused primarily on one of the essentials of "state-building", which is to create a coherent military establishment that has a monopoly on, and effective civilian control over, the use of military force. While, equipment received to date is far better than that held by the Federation at the end of the war and superior in quality and condition to most of the Republika Srpska arsenal, it is also well below the Federation's permitted arms control ceilings leaving Republika Srpska with numerical superiority in most categories of weapons.

In sum, the advantages of a judiciously managed and monitored Train and Equip programme outweigh its drawbacks. In addition, if Train and Equip is extended to the Bosnian Serbs -- as has recently been proposed -- it might lower tensions, increase transparency and over time build a military bridge between the Federation and Republika Srpska. It would, however, be naive to expect a sudden convergence of interests and lapse of animosities. To the extent that Europeans participate in the programme, it could serve as a mechanism to pull Bosnia closer to Europe.

Politicians in all democratic countries have to answer to their electorates for the costs of overseas involvements. The US Administration, in particular, feels under domestic political pressure to arrive at an "end-state" in which US combat troops, which make up the backbone of SFOR, are withdrawn from Bosnia. However, this preoccupation with "exit strategies" sends a confusing and destabilising message to Bosnians, perpetuating uncertainties about investment, displaced persons' returns and normalisation. Worse still, the prospect of a NATO departure encourages hard-liners to sit tight and wait NATO out.

Instead of an "exit strategy", it may be more constructive to develop "transition strategies" that alter the role and composition of the NATO force over time. If the follow-on force is intended to provide security for minority returns, enable freedom of movement and install municipal administrations, much less arrest indicted war criminals, it is unlikely to be reduced much below its present strength and, at the same time, remain credible. Perhaps over time, Europe can develop a common foreign policy and the Western European Union (NATO minus the US and Canada) could assume full responsibility for peace maintenance in the Balkans. But the entire region -- not only Bosnia but FRY and Croatia, as well as Macedonia and Albania -- will need continuing attention for many years to come. For the foreseeable future, that will involve a sizeable NATO force in Bosnia, US troops among them. Recent comments by NATO officials in this direction are encouraging.


Throughout the two years since the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Peace Agreement or DPA), the most frequently asked questions about the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been: Is the war really over? Did the DPA set the stage for a sustained period of peace, or did it merely mark the start of a cease-fire?

At the end of 1997, it is hard to find anyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia) who believes the war would not reignite if the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) -led Stabilisation Force were to withdraw in June 1998. Recent comments by officials of NATO member states on both sides of the Atlantic indicate that they concur on the likely disastrous consequences of ending the international military presence prematurely and are determined to prevent such a denouement.

This paper concerns three military topics that are seldom raised in relation to one another but that cannot meaningfully be assessed in isolation. Taken together, they are likely to have a decisive effect on the future of the DPA:

  • The balance of military forces among the former combatants, which has been the focus of a sub-regional arms reduction process monitored by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). This could obviously be an important factor in the event of renewed hostilities.

  • The United States-sponsored effort to strengthen the armed forces of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federation), known as the "Train and Equip" programme. This military assistance is controversial, although there has been little on-the-record comment.

  • The NATO-led international military presence, IFOR/SFOR, which is due to terminate in its present form in June 1998, appears increasingly likely to be extended, perhaps in modified form.

The Intertwined Military Issues

The Regional Correlation of Military Forces

The signatories of the DPA agreed to a broad plan for "sub-regional arms control" that would reduce the size and offensive capability of the military forces of the former combatants: the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as well as the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina - Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federation).

A 16-month period of phased reductions that began in July 1996 ended on 31 October. In November, an assessment by the OSCE found that there had been compliance by all parties, and reported total cuts that were "even somewhat in excess" of the reductions needed to bring the parties into conformity with the agreed-upon ceilings.

Meanwhile, several issues arise: was the arms reduction process well conceived? Have the arms reductions been adequately verified? If NATO forces were to depart and the war were somehow to resume, would one side or another be left with an advantage? The latter leads back to a prior question: in drawing up this complex regional equation, how should one define the sides?

The "Train and Equip" Programme

The desire to provide indirect, arms-length, military assistance to the Federation has been a prominent aspect of US policy since well before the Dayton Peace Conference (Dayton). The "Train and Equip" programme, which took shape soon after Dayton, has been controversial, however. Views differ on whether military assistance to the Federation would make a breakdown of the DPA more or less likely, and hence the withdrawal of NATO troops more or less feasible.

Periodically since the programme began in September 1996, it has been the focus of attention in the Bosnian and international media. This coverage has tended to emphasise Train and Equip's supposed impact on the viability of the Federation, and on the military capabilities of the Federation vis a vis Republika Srpska.

Now that the programme has been underway for more than a year, it should be possible to make a judgement about its practical impact, as opposed to the expectations or fears of its advocates and detractors, which may have been exaggerated. Has Train and Equip contributed anything substantial either to stability, or for that matter to instability, in the region?

The NATO "Exit Strategy"

Most leaders of states contributing troops to SFOR/IFOR appear to want to bring the engagement to a close as quickly as possible, to minimise the expense and reduce political exposure. In the United States, however, the subject has been politically contentious.

Since the Clinton Administration first committed US ground forces to IFOR/SFOR, sceptics and opponents in Congress have demanded that the Administration specify an "exit strategy" for ending US participation by a date certain. As it became clear that the NATO deployment would have to be continued past the December 1996 cut-off initially envisioned -- and now past the June 1998 exit date currently planned for SFOR -- some Administration critics in Congress have proposed to cut off funding for the US deployment.

Since the DPA and even the Federation itself are largely creations of US diplomacy, and since the early emergence of a European "common security and foreign policy" appears unlikely, the political uncertainty about continued US participation in an extended NATO mission has raised persistent doubts about the future.

Thus, it is time for a public discussion of the range of likely possibilities for an "exit strategy" and for an assessment of their probable impact.

How War Might Resume

Potential Triggers

The most evident causes for a possible renewed round of fighting stem from the clash between the separatist agendas of Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Serb nationalists, and Bosniac nationalist attempts to create a centralised Bosnia. Since there are hard-liners in various corners who are frustrated by the DPA's ambiguous outcome, one cannot dismiss the possibility that some may see an added round of fighting as a viable way of adjusting the results.

There have been periodic signs, most particularly in a discussion of "endgame scenarios" in the Bosniac media in the spring of 1997, that in the absence of full compliance by Republika Srpska with DPA provisions for the freedom of movement and return of displaced persons, some envision a day when the Federation's increased military capability would make it possible to modify the de facto territorial division by force.

The Bosnian Serbs, who at Dayton were given control of 49 percent of the territory, although they numbered only a third of the pre-war population, have an interest in maintaining the status quo and are not likely to reinitiate hostilities. The same is valid for the Bosnian Croat nationalists who, although in theory absorbed into the Federation, still maintain de facto independence in most of Herzegovina and benefit from a secure economic position due to their control of major trade routes to the Federation and to their open border with the Republic of Croatia, which provides significant economic assistance. Moreover, Croat separatists understand that in the event of war, Croat enclaves in Central Bosnia would be at immediate risk.

The two plausible scenarios for a resumption of fighting both hinge on an early withdrawal of the stabilising NATO presence. One revolves around the possibility of a Bosniac attempt to take advantage of the geographic vulnerability of Republika Srpska. Since such an attack has a greater chance of success as the military capability of the Federation armed forces improves, critics of "Train and Equip" have argued that it is potentially destabilising. The other plausible scenario for renewed warfare hinges on the virtual certainty that, once NATO forces leave, localised incidents of ethnic fighting would occur and that these would be likely to escalate.

Probable Outcomes

Rational calculations of the probable outcome of renewed warfare in Bosnia are difficult because of the stand-off between the three ethnic groups, each dominated by a nationalist party. When the war ended and the DPA was signed, the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL) recognised a de facto division between Republika Srpska and the Federation. Moreover, nearly four years after its creation in the Washington Agreement of March 1994, the Federation itself remains effectively divided into Bosniac and Croat territories. The residual antipathies between Bosniac and Croat hard-liners are as powerful as the grudges between them and Bosnian Serb hard-liners.

In the absence of NATO, a Bosniac-initiated Federation offensive to take over vulnerable Serb-held territories may be likely. Because of Bosnian Serb strategic vulnerabilities at various points including the Posavina Corridor, Doboj, the Sapna Thumb near Zvornik, and the "Anvil" Southwest of Banja Luka, such an offensive might well rout Bosnian Serb forces in its initial stages, but there are major questions about what might follow.

With the Bosniacs engaged against the Serbs, Croat separatists in Herzegovina may attempt to break away from the Federation, and compete for the control of territory near Banja Luka and in the Posavina. Moreover, if large numbers of Bosnian Serbs fled Republika Srpska and spilled into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), it is uncertain how the FRY would react. In the context of current trends toward more radical Serb nationalism within Serbia, the stress of a new humiliation generating hundreds of thousands of additional Bosnian Serb refugees would accentuate the already profound economic crisis there. It is certain that there would be pressure from Serb nationalists, for example militants in the Serb Radical Party, to reenter the fighting.

A crisis of this nature would accentuate ethnic tension in the predominately Muslim Sandzak area bridging Serbia and Montenegro, and could spark an open rebellion by the 90-percent Albanian population of Kosovo. Complications would then almost certainly spill into the southern Balkans, possibly with the triggering of a "greater Albanian" uprising in western Macedonia, which would in turn raise the possibility for conflict between Greece and Turkey, both NATO members, whose relations are already under strain. Such a turn of events would also be of concern to Bulgaria, which considers many Macedonians to be temporarily misplaced Bulgarians.

None of these developments would be of immediate concern to Bosniac hard-liners who, in the absence of NATO, might envision a quick and easy "endgame" to regain territory from the Bosnian Serbs. The potential chain reaction is, however, a catastrophe from the point of view of NATO strategists who would be faced, not with a demanding and expensive "cold peace" in Bosnia, but with the possibility of a generalised war in the south Balkans.

Returning to the complications within Bosnia itself, one should at least note the so-called Karadjordjevo Agreement. This was a plan to carve-up Bosnia reportedly reached by then-President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic and the Croatian president Franjo Tudjman in March 1991, at a hunting lodge at Karadjordjevo, near the border between Croatia and Serbia. Since that meeting, there have been persistent reports that the two agreed to divide Bosnia and to exchange Serb and Croat populations in minority areas, without regard to the wishes of Bosniacs and non-nationalist Serbs and Croats.

The rumours of a sell-out at Karadjordjevo contributed to the unstable relations between Bosniacs and Croats that led to mutual ethnic cleansing during the war in 1993. There were numerous other incidents of perfidy: Serbs renting tanks to Croats to shell Bosniacs in Kiseljak; Croats and Serbs helping Bosniac renegade Fikret Abdic create a separatist Bosniac enclave in Bihac; Serbs ceding territory to Croats in Herzegovina, to set the stage for the Croat ethnic cleansing of Bosniacs from towns such as Stolac and Capljina.

These are now semi-forgotten footnotes in the history of the war, but their memory has relevance in evaluating the possibilities for unforeseen consequences should NATO forces depart, leaving one side or another with an opportunity to adjust the outcome of the DPA with an ostensibly simple "endgame scenario".

Sub-Regional Arms Control

The Changing Balance

One of the reasons the war in the former Yugoslavia was so destructive was the availability of a huge quantity of modern weapons. These were a holdover from the early Cold War years after the late Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito was expelled from the Soviet Bloc in 1948. Tito built up a vast military arsenal as insurance against the possibility of a Soviet attack.

Many of the weapons manufacturing plants and weapons caches were located in Bosnia, which as the central part of Yugoslavia, was understood to be the region where Tito's forces might have to make their stand. These weapons were controlled by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), which at its peak was ranked as one of the largest and best equipped military powers in Europe. During the winter and spring of 1991-92, many of these weapons were pre-positioned around Bosnian cities by the JNA, and were later released to Bosnian Serb military and para-military units largely made up of the same JNA personnel.

Thus in Bosnia in 1992, there was a massive disparity between the military capabilities of the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Croats and Bosniacs, who had no aircraft and, at the start, virtually no heavy weapons. This disparity led to the spectacle of well-equipped Serb units besieging and shelling civilians in virtually defenceless cities and enclaves, one of the defining features of the war.

By the time the war ended in 1995, the balance had shifted considerably. Gradually, the Bosniac and Croat forces had acquired weapons despite the arms embargo, and their superior manpower reserves had begun to offset the Bosnian Serb advantage in weaponry. But the decisive change was the build-up of a modern army in Croatia which counter-attacked in the spring and summer of 1995, using blitzkrieg tactics to rout the Serbs from western Croatia.

Thus by the closing months of the war, the tables had turned against the Bosnian Serbs. Suddenly, the Serbs in western Bosnia were isolated and virtually surrounded by a relatively well-equipped army, largely based on the entry of Croatian troops and equipment into Herzegovina and north-west Bosnia between August and October 1995. The Bosnian Serb forces were demoralised by the NATO bombing campaign which came soon after the massacre in Srebrenica. Indeed, in the period immediately before the Dayton Peace Conference, the Bosnian Serbs were falling back in disarray, and it appeared that, if the war continued for a few more weeks, they might lose the entire Banja Luka region and the vital Posavina Corridor.

The cease-fire that immediately preceded the Dayton Peace Conference stopped the Croat-Bosniac advance, giving rise to a sense among some Bosniacs that they had been cheated of a victory that at long last was within reach. As noted in the previous section, however, the internal contradictions within the Federation would have made a continued Bosniac advance increasingly risky. Most of the gains were being made by Bosnian Croat and Croatian units which at any moment might have stopped assisting the Bosniacs and veered toward a different agenda.

Arms Control at Dayton

It was clear at the Dayton Peace Conference that the arms control task was to reduce armaments and military uncertainties not merely in Bosnia, but throughout the region, including Croatia and FRY. This was the aim of Annex 1-B of the DPA, the "Agreement on Military Stabilisation" between the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federation, Republika Srpska, the Republic of Croatia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (the Parties).

The "general obligation", set forth in Article I of Annex 1-B, stated: "The Parties agree that progressive measures for regional stability and arms control is essential to creating a stable peace in the region." There were two main commitments, one to adopt "confidence- and security-building measures", commonly called "transparency", so that none of the parties would have to fear surprise attack; and the other to agree on a process for arms reductions and cuts in military manpower. In both cases the OSCE was assigned responsibility for organising and conducting the negotiations.

Confidence- and Security-Building Measures in Bosnia

Article II of Annex 1-B addressed the "transparency" issue. The Parties agreed to begin negotiations immediately under the auspices of the OSCE and to reach an agreement within 45 days, which they did on 26 January 1996 at Vienna.

The negotiations on Article II were guided by the 1994 Vienna Document of the Negotiations on Confidence and Security-Building Measures of the OSCE, which had earlier developed a methodology for overseeing the post-Cold War build-down of NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Central Europe.

Article II called for restricting military deployments and exercises; restraining the reintroduction of foreign forces; withdrawing forces and heavy weapons to cantonment areas and barracks (as was provided for in Annex 1-A of the DPA, the Agreement on Military Aspects); disbanding special operations and armed civilian groups; giving notification of planned military activities, including international military assistance and training (such as Train and Equip); identifying and monitoring weapons manufacturing capabilities; exchanging data on holdings of heavy weapons as defined by the OSCE-monitored Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE); and establishing military liaison missions between the armed forces of the Federation and Republika Srpska. Further, in Article III, on regional confidence building, the parties agreed not to import any arms for 90 days and not to import heavy weapons -- tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery and anti-aircraft weapons -- for six months.

The confidence-building negotiations resulted in the "Agreement on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures" signed on 31 January in Vienna. The main features of the Vienna Agreement were that the Parties would periodically exchange information on their military organisation, manpower and major weapons systems, give notice of manoeuvres and unusual military movements, limit the size and frequency of exercises, avoid deployments in sensitive areas such as territory close to the IEBL, and permit representatives of other Parties to observe manoeuvres and visit military bases. The Vienna Agreement has been in effect since 26 January 1996 and, according to officials of the OSCE and the Office of the High Representative (OHR) , compliance has been smooth.

Sub-regional Arms Control

Under Article IV of Annex 1-B of the DPA, the same Parties negotiated the Agreement for Sub-regional Arms Control which was signed in Florence on 14 June 1996 and which has guided the arms reduction process.

The main point of Article IV was the establishment of numerical limits on the holdings of tanks, artillery, armoured combat vehicles, combat aircraft and helicopters, with the additional understanding that artillery were to be defined as pieces of 75mm calibre and above.

The deadline for agreement on numerical limits was 180 days after the signing of the DPA, and a formula was established so that, if the parties had not reached agreement by that time, arbitrary limits would apply on a ratio of 5:2:2 based on the approximate ratio of the FRY, Croatian and Bosnian populations. The arbitrary baseline was "the determined holdings of the FRY". Once that was established, FRY would be allowed to keep 75 percent of its baseline; Croatia 30 percent of the FRY baseline; and Bosnia and Herzegovina 30 percent of the FRY baseline, divided on a 2:1 ratio, two for the Federation and one for Republika Srpska.

The Florence Agreement on Sub-regional Arms Control had adapted an OSCE treaty format developed in the late 1980s to regulate the disarmament of the NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Central Europe. It laid out detailed weapons definitions and "counting rules" for battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. The reductions were to be achieved in two phases, the first ending 31 December 1996, and the second ending 31 October 1997, by which time reductions were to be complete. The build-down was end-loaded, with only 40 percent of artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters, and 20 percent of tanks and armoured combat vehicles to be reduced by the first deadline, and the remainder by the second.

In line with the prior OSCE model, the counting rules provided for a number of set-asides; the Parties were allowed not to count weapons that were in the process of manufacture or related testing; were used exclusively for research and development; belong to "historical collections"; had already been decommissioned; were in the pipeline for export or re-export; were committed to "peacetime internal security functions"; or were "in transit" to a destination outside the Parties' territory.

The reduction process was governed by a protocol specifying the elaborate and irreversible damage to be done to the weapons. For example, in the case of a combat aircraft, this entailed "severing its nose immediately forward of the cockpit and its tail in the central wing section area so that the assembly joints, if there are any in the areas to be severed, shall be contained in the severed portions." An alternative method is deforming the aircraft "by compression, so that its height, width or length is reduced by at least 30 percent."

In the case of tanks and armoured vehicles, the OSCE model contained a set-aside provision. A limited number could be converted for about a dozen non-military uses, such as "general purpose prime movers", bulldozers, oil rig vehicles, and environmental vehicles. A few others could be assigned to "static displays" in museums and similar sites, so long as their fuel tanks were punctured and their engines removed or packed in concrete. There were also elaborate provisions for mutual inspections by the Parties themselves, overseen by the OSCE, to verify the arms reduction process.

Finally, the parties also agreed in Florence to the following voluntary limits on military manpower to go into effect on 1 September 1996: Bosnia and Herzegovina 60,000 troops; Croatia 65,000; FRY 124,339; the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina 55,000; and Republika Srpska 56,000.

Limits on Armaments Set by the Agreement on Sub-Regional Arms Control

ArtilleryBattle TanksArmoured VehiclesCombat AircraftAttack Helicopters

According to OSCE officials, the progress in compliance was uneven in the first phase of arms reductions which ended 31 December 1996. The main problem was that Republika Srpska took maximum advantage of the possible exemptions in the counting rules, assigning a wholly improbable number of weapons to museum displays, bulldozing, snow-plowing, mineral crushing duty and the like. This accentuated the continuing doubts about the comprehensiveness of the Republika Srpska baseline figures. In addition, the Bosniac and Croat components of the Federation military establishments were squabbling about weapons holdings throughout the first phase: that is, of the permitted heavy weapons, how many would be under Bosniac and how many under Croat control?

When the Peace Implementation Conference (PIC) of the Contact Group convened in London on 4-5 December 1996, several weeks remained before the deadline for Phase One reductions. This meant none of the Parties were as yet in technical non-compliance with the reduction ceilings. However, the spirit and eventual intent of the Parties, particularly of Republika Srpska, were much in doubt. In its concluding statement, the London PIC "deplored" the foot-dragging over baseline validation inspections, and warned the Parties to accelerate compliance, on pains of being denied SFOR permission to withdraw equipment from cantonment sites or to hold training exercises. This threat began to produce results, although Republika Srpska had no way to eliminate the backlog before the end of Phase One at the end of December 1996.

The pressures for compliance continued through the winter as SFOR exerted strict control on training and troop movements. Finally, faced with the threat of a special OSCE audit of all weapons holding sites in the spring of 1997, Republika Srpska acknowledged an additional "reduction liability" of about 850 previously undeclared weapons. This step brought Republika Srpska back into the good graces of OSCE monitors, and of SFOR observers who had also been conducting weapons counts by a separate methodology. As the 31 October 1997 deadline for Phase Two of arms reductions approached, a consensus had emerged -- including among officials of the OSCE, SFOR, and the US Embassy -- that the situation had improved substantially.

The OSCE announced on 21 November that all four Parties had complied in meeting their reduction liabilities by 31 October, and that the total count of weapons eliminated slightly exceeded the collective requirement. Republika Srpska and the FRY destroyed the most weapons but remained at or near the allowed ceilings, since they had by far the largest excess of weapons at the start of the process. The Federation was only required to destroy artillery.

Verified Reductions (Mainly Destruction) of Heavy Weapons

ArtilleryBattle TanksArmoured VehiclesCombat Aircraft

Observers agree that Republika Srpska's delaying tactics had been motivated in part by alarm about the Train and Equip programme which was being vigorously publicised as giving the Federation NATO equipment and modern battle tactics similar to those which had overwhelmed Serb forces in Croatia during Operations Flash and Storm in May and August 1995.

In retrospect, one of the basic problems was that the OSCE counting rules, with their liberal provisions for exemptions, were designed to apply to the post-Cold War environment in Central Europe, where mutual fears of invasion had become a distant memory and both sides were ready for a new era of d�tente. The political and military prospects in Bosnia are far less settled, however, and it is hardly surprising that Republika Srpska initially exploited every conceivable loophole.

As for methodology, the OSCE, on the one hand, has conducted inspections in a formal way, making intermittent but precise inspections in which individual weapons are systematically matched by serial numbers to military units. SFOR, on the other hand, is mainly concerned with monitoring movements, manoeuvres and exercises. SFOR has conducted numerous spot checks of cantonment sites, but its counting is less systematic, based on counts of the weapons present rather than on audits of individual weapons, by serial numbers. Nonetheless, the OSCE and SFOR counts are close.

Could there be another 100, or even 500, heavy weapons hidden? Yes, SFOR and OSCE officials agree. Such weapons, they say however, are almost certainly not in good working order, are not easily deployable to troops, and do not exist in sufficient numbers to make a difference. Indeed, weapons and aircraft that are not used and maintained are totally useless.

Seeking a precise result in a weapons count in post-war Bosnia is simply not realistic, arms control monitors agree. "At the end of the war, nobody knew what they had," says an OSCE official, noting that some corps commanders undoubtedly kept weapons in their own private stock. "The bottom line," he adds, "is that as long as SFOR is here, nobody will start a war."

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