Blogs about PAX

Follow the blog links on this page to see what people are saying about the idea. Please remember: some of these are third party blogs. PAX is not responsible for these external blogs, and they do not necessarily represent the views of PAX.

How I came up with the idea for PAX

The case for creating PAX or something like it began to evolve in the 1990s.  I was in charge of a team making a television series, "The Death of Yugoslavia".  A former President of Serbia, Ivan Stambolic, described how he had made his fatal mistake – fatal both for Yugoslavia and, later , for him.

His mistake was to send Slobodan Milosevic to Kosovo to deliver the message that had, for 50 years, held Yugoslavia together. The Southern Slav federation was part Catholic, part Orthodox, part Muslim, part ruled, until 1918, by Austria, part by the Ottomans, then united, then, during the 1939-45 war, murderously cut up.  The leaders of the six Yugoslav republics understood that, if the conflicts broke out again, murders would follow, and they would not be few.

So the message Stambolic wanted spelled out was, "Peace is more important than point-scoring. Come to terms with your neighbours"  That is what he asked Milosevic to deliver.

Milosevic did the opposite. He not only encouraged nationalist extremists in his audience of Kosovo Serbs, he made sure his words were played and replayed on Serbian television.  He thus put a flame to the dormant gunpowder.

For some months after Milosevic's Kosovo speech of 24 April 1987, the war which destroyed Yugoslavia could have been avoided.  The flames began to spread, but they could have been doused. For our series, Stambolic described how Milosevic built up the power to overthrow him - and to launch the aggression that many Serbs wanted.

Talking on camera was not easy for Stambolic.  We asked him to tell our viewers how he was thrown out of office and lost the power to prevent disaster. He tried more than once to end the interview.  My team persuaded him to keep talking and probably induced him to say more than he wished.  He certainly gave unique insight into that tense period.

Some years later, Stambolic was murdered.  Was that in part because his revelations in our series angered Milosevic and his fellow toughs? Worried that we may be to blame, we have kept a large poster of Stambolic on show in our office.

After the Serb-induced decade of horror was over, we were commissioned to make a follow-up series, "The Fall of Milosevic". It added one element to the slowly brewing idea of PAX.  The three-man team, who in 1999 were sent to talk Milosevic into calling the Serb aggression to a halt, described how they did it.  Martti Ahtisaari, ex-President of Finland, Strobe Talbott, US Assistant Secretary of State, and Viktor Chernomyrdin, ex-Prime Minister of Russia, made it clear that neither Ahtisaari's huge authority as a peacemaker nor the fact that Talbott represented the only power that could deliver the killer blow was enough to win the Serbian President’s compliance. In long, secret meetings in Belgrade, the decisive voice was Chernomyrdin’s.  Russia was Serbia's key ally.  To talk Milosevic into ending Serb aggression, the decisive person in the room had to be not just a Russian but a Russian with authority.  

Had PAX existed in 1987, might the data it would have circulated on growing Serb provocations have been used by its allies in Moscow to persuade the Kremin to send someone? The war damaged Russia's interests. Could PAX’s allies have used the threat of such damage to provoke a Chernomyrdin-type visit? Might Russia have intervened to back Stambolic - and stop Milosevic - before the wars and genocides started?

Brian Lapping, 7 February 2011




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