SERB leaders of rump Yugoslavia have triumphantly embraced the new Moscow-led plan to contain the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, hailing the so-called "joint program of action" as a collapse of international resolve to act against the Bosnian Serbs.
These leaders say the plan's provision for establishing "safe havens" inside Bosnia shows the West has abandoned the Vance-Owen peace plan and recognizes the Bosnian Serbs' land gains.
The new plan, they say, vindicates the Serbs' contention that the war is not one of Serbian territorial aggression, but a civil and ethnic conflict in which the Bosnian Serbs have merely defended themselves.
"It is clear in the West that a conviction is ripening that peace can be achieved by recognition of the facts on the ground," declared Serbian Radical Party chief Vojislav Seselj, an ultra-nationalist suspected of war crimes. Bosnian Serbs now control 70 percent of the former Yugoslav republic.
For those reasons and the Bosnian government's opposition to the new plan, the initiative unveiled last weekend in Washington appears to be in trouble here even before it is fully enshrined in UN resolutions, political analysts say. Those analysts include diplomats whose countries concurred on the new approach.
The accord, agreed to by the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and Spain, embodies a tradeoff: Washington persuaded Western Europe and Russia to drop the idea of forcibly imposing the Vance-Owen peace plan on the Bosnian Serbs; Western Europe and Moscow convinced Washington to abandon its call for combining air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs with an exemption for the Bosnian government from a UN-imposed arms embargo.
As a result, analysts say, Belgrade sees the new policy as a reconciliation of embarrassing policy differences at the expense of a get-tough approach.
"This action program is so feeble that it won't last," said one Western diplomat. "All it really was intended to do was to bridge the gaps between the United States, the Europeans and the Russians."
Key provisions of the plan call for the deployment of UN troops in "safe havens" declared around six Muslim-dominated enclaves and the maintenance of year-old UN economic sanctions on Belgrade as a means of pressuring it to coerce the Bosnian Serbs to relinquish conquered territories.