May 26th, 2011
12:08 PM ET

Mladic arrest: Turning point for Balkans

Editor's Note: Charles A. Kupchan is the Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is his First Take.

By Charles A. Kupchan

The arrest of Radko Mladic (NYT) represents a major step forward for the cause of justice and reconciliation in the Balkans. Along with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Mladic was one of the leading symbols of the ethnic slaughter that accompanied the dissolution of Yugoslavia during the 1990s. He allegedly oversaw the massacre at Srebenica in 1995, where some eight thousand Bosnian Muslims were killed.

Karadzic is already being tried in The Hague for charges of genocide; Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Serbia and the architect of the war, died in 2006 during his trial.

It is presumed that Serbia, which apprehended Mladic this morning in the northern part of the country, will soon turn him over to The Hague.

Mladic spent the past fifteen years in hiding, with presumably much of that time in Serbia.

Serbia's accession talks with the European Union have been effectively on hold due to concern among European Union  member states that Serbia was deliberately harboring Mladic - or at least not doing enough to apprehend him. His arrest is likely to clear the way for Serbia's integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

There remains much unfinished business in the Balkans, but Mladic's capture quickens the region's movement down the right path.

Reconciliation across the region should advance as the victims of ethnic bloodshed feel that justice is being meted out. Serbia's growing cooperation with its obligations to apprehend indicted war criminals is also indicative of its pressing desire to pursue membership in the European Union, which may well manifest itself in negotiations with Kosovo over the prospects for normalization.

Indeed, forceful EU bargaining with Serbia has already convinced Belgrade to take a more pragmatic approach to dealing with Kosovo. The current Serbian government has been gradually moving away from a more hard-edged nationalism toward the moderate center, and that change is gradually manifesting itself in its approach to Kosovo, cooperation with The Hague, and regional diplomacy.

Bosnia is hardly out of the woods. Its government is effectively paralyzed and the country is in need of constitutional reform. Macedonia as well has challenges ahead in terms of consolidating its multiethnic character. And normalization between Kosovo and Serbia will be long and slow in the making. But Mladic's capture is an important turning point for the region.

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Topics: Europe • Law

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    No doubt the victims should rejoice, that the slaughter was captured. Mladic underestimated his fellow citizens and thought he were still a hero. He was also ignorant of the reality, that he could always be a bargaining object and be at the mercy of the new incumbents, who want to put the country's monstrous past behind. Had he fled to Siberia, he would still be free. Russia would not extradite him, as Russia wants to defend pan-slavism.

    May 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Reply
    • Graham Ducker

      Mladic is/was a good example of why Serbs gained the reputation as the scum of the earth. During WW@ even the Germans were shocked at the Serbs' viciousness.

      May 27, 2011 at 10:31 am | Reply
      • Xina

        Ummm... I think you mean to say that the Nazis were shocked/impressed by the brutality of the Croat Ustasa. As much as the Serbs were the major aggressors in the 1990s, Serbs were targets of Nazi aggression in WWII.

        May 30, 2011 at 4:14 am |
      • Hirsh

        Graham Ducker, 90% of Croatians and Albanians fought on the side of the Nazis, and 90% of Serbs fought on our side agaisnt them. The Croatians and the Albanian, Bosnian and Kosovo Moslems were enthusiast agents of the Holocaust, and the Serbs almost all fought against that. Please look at wikipedia "Yugoslavia in World war II" before stating the OPPOSITE of the truth.

        May 30, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
      • Tijana

        I'm embarassed for your ignorance Graham...you better keep your mouth shut about something you OBVIOUSLY know absolutely NOTHING about..I assume you were Hitler's what, right hand? So you know exactly WHAT WENT DOWN during World War 2 and I assume you lived in Bosnia or Croatia during the Yugoslav war of 1990? Look at the statistics of Serbs killed...don't just base your opinion on your sheer moronic incapability of handling HISTORY in an objective manner

        June 3, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
      • AlbanianPrincess

        I agree completely with what you are saying, they were only exposed during the 1990s in Bosnia, and Kosovo Wars, but this sort of thing was very rampant throughout the time

        June 21, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  2. Gregoslav Lovelovic

    Boris Tadic knew about Mladic, he waited until re-election to be re-elected, he is selling Serbia Telecom! We don't want European Union, look at Bulgaria, 4 years and no change!

    May 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  3. Onesmallvoice

    What's ludicrous about this is that no American,Brit,Frenchman nor any Russian has ever been brought to justice here in spite of how guilty they may be. As much blood Barack Obama has on his hands,he has nothing to fear from this tribunal and that's just plain wrong and repulsive!!!

    May 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  4. Karl Kortese

    Hehehe CNN... you says may be no possible to be the war kier.. it is not.. the one is not Mladko Radic BUT IS IS
    Mladko Radič ... do you get the point... I'm sure you get... plese spell the name correctly...

    May 26, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Reply
    • unknown

      It's Mladić. Mladić as in with a "ć".

      May 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Reply
  5. leeintulsa

    @onesmallvoice: So you're just another racist. I get it now.

    It doesn't matter who or how many mass murderers come to justice, you won't be happy until obama's out of office.

    You don't complain about W/cheney, the architects of all this.

    One small voice just got much smaller. Only 5 and a half more years, you can wait. Plenty of time to write your manifesto.

    May 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Reply
    • johnny

      Once again any one who disagrees with Obama or doesn't like his policies is labled a racists.

      June 3, 2011 at 6:01 am | Reply
  6. Anna

    Reconciliation? While most croat/bosnian war criminals are walking freely and only Serbs are being prosecuted? I don't think so. Almost 40,000 Serbs were killed in Bosnia alone, hundreds of thousands ethnicaly cleansed and no one is being held responsible for that. Things are never as black and white as the West makes it to be, in a war that lasts for more than 4 years there is no such thing as one victim one aggressor. Until that rhetoric is dropped and everyone is brought to justice there will be no reconciliation for the Balkans nations.

    May 27, 2011 at 10:21 am | Reply
  7. AlbanianPrincess

    Butcher of the Balkans: We got you!

    June 21, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  8. AlbanianPrincess

    Ive noticed that their is misinformation on here. Albanians actually helped the Jews during the Holocaust, its a very little known fact, just type in Besa: Albanians Who Saved Jews During the Holocaust into the Youtube.com search engine and a Jewish reporter will tell the stories of Jewish families saved by the Albanians, its little known that the population of Jews actually increased in Albania because my people refused to turn Jews in, so get rid of your bigotry and learn the facts, we are the only country where 3 religious groups live in complete harmony and have lived for a very long time, just because we are 70% muslim doesn't give anyone the right to make generalizations about us.

    June 21, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Reply

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