In the conditions of the Russian military aggression the experience of other countries that have faced similar challenges became actual for Ukraine. In this context, they often referred to the experience of Croatia, one of few countries which managed to repel military aggression and to recapture its territory within the administrative boundaries.
This experience is especially interesting because it includes both military operations and political dialogue and peaceful reintegration. In Ukraine we decided to talk more about the military components of Croats success. The political component is less likely to say or we almost do not say about it.
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Conclusions for Ukraine
Upon a certain similarity of the wars in Ukraine and Serbia they are still different conflicts, so not all parallels are relevant. In Ukraine it is decided to hold up the military operation "Storm" and "Lightning" as an example, it is accepted to require to conduct similar operations without assessing the capabilities of the sides.
Many people write about similarities of situations, and we will look at the differences:
- Serb separatists opposed to Croatia with the support of Serbia which was better armed and more populated, but was not nuclear and world power.
- In the course of "Storm" and "Lightning" operations there were released the territories which do not have a direct border with Serbia, at that time the Serbian army has been removed therefrom;
- The political leadership of Croatia had not went in for a military operation on the territory adjacent to the Serbian border (Vukovar with its surroundings) although it had such plans. It is the plain here and there was a high probability that in the case of direct interference of Serbia tank battles could begin with a large number of victims;
- Effectiveness of political negotiations after which Serbia recognizes the territorial integrity of Croatia and does not interfere with peaceful reintegration;
- Presence of political will and capacity of the military operation in case of failure of negotiations. After the war, many of the generals who conducted those operations have been accused of war crimes;
- By the time of "Storm" and "Lightning" operations Serbia managed to get stuck tightly to the conflict in Bosnia that was much harder than the conflict in Croatia. The number of casualties there exceeded 100 thousand people;
- The scales of the conflict and its territory were significantly lower and smaller;
- Readiness to go for the full mobilization of all resources in a politically opportune moment. In a country with a population of about 4.5 million people, about 500 thousand (soldiers and support staff) have a veteran status. In Ukraine, nobody has openly working off variants for complete mobilization yet.
General comparisons with the operation "Storm" are more suitable for the summer campaign of 2014, when the Ukrainian Army in a short time liberated a considerable part of the occupied cities of Donbas until it has been staved already by Russian troops in Ilovaisk.
Peaceful reintegration in Croatia was a multifactorial process, and in any case it is impossible to consider the individual elements of this process from the standpoint of short-term political expediency, to separate its military component from the peaceful one, to ignore the geopolitical context and close our eyes to the problems that it has not decided yet. Although the so-called "Croatian variant" (combined reintegration) showed its practical effectiveness, but also had negative consequences for those who implemented it.
One of the organizers of the military operations, national hero Ante Gotovina of Croatia hided for a long time from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia countries that accused him of ethnic cleansing, namely, the expulsion of Serbs. Gotovina even has been recognized guilty, but he has managed to secure an acquittal by the appeal.
The similarity of the situation in Croatia with Ukrainian realities gives Ukraine a kind of "head start", allows us more accurately to simulate the possible solutions to the conflict, especially because its mechanisms have already been developed both by its sides and the international community. In the end, despite the obvious successes of the Croats, it is always better to learn their mistakes than to repeat them.
To summarize, the Croatian experience is a compulsion to peaceful integration with the help of military operations under the threat of full-scale war, commitment, mobilization of all resources, successful diplomacy and, primarily, self-reliance and fighting for own hands.
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