Economic Interdependence Knits Europe Together (Perhaps)

Well, sort of. I somehow doubt Jean Monnet would have been thinking of this when he came up with the idea of a Europe so closely bound together by trade war would be forever impossible. Rogue Planet reports that the biggest buyer of Bosnian armaments is…Serbia. Bosnia is also the biggest supplier to Serbia. Yes, that’s right; the people who were the targets of the JNA’s artillery in 1993 are selling its current owners the shells to go with it, and the people whose kinsmen were driven out of eastern Slavonia in 1995 by the Bosnian and Croat armies are relying on them for their ammunition.

I’m not sure whether this is a heartening sign of increasing inter-dependence in the Balkans, a merely pragmatic way of bringing in some foreign exchange and taking advantage of the fact both parties have the same knockoff Soviet equipment, or insanity.

As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Given that one of Bosnia’s few assets is a collection of Yugoslav arsenals and a big pile of left-over ammunition, you can hardly blame them for trying to turn them into cash. But Serbia? Right now on the eve of Kosovar independence? Isn’t that a tad risky?

In fact, the weapons may well be safer in Serbia than any of the alternatives. An under-reported story of the times has been the export of large amounts of weaponry from Bosnia-Herzegovina to a wide range of wars around the world. Not only is the Bosnian government keen to sell, it’s also spectacularly corrupt, and its officials are known to have connived at smuggling arms past the EU checkpoints at the ports and airports. One of the biggest arms-smuggling networks, that around Jet Line International and Tomislav Damjanovic, actually got started in the Bosnian war, and they were involved in the notorious incident of the 99 tonnes of armaments bought by US agents in Bosnia for use by the Iraqi army, and flown out by the even more notorious smuggler Viktor Bout, that never arrived in Iraq and remain untraced to this day.

Given that there is not currently a war in the Balkans, and that Serbia is more like a functioning state than, say, Iraq or Somalia – both places that have imported (and possibly re-exported) guns from Bosnia – it’s quite possibly better that the weapons go to Serbia than anywhere they are more likely to be used or to vanish into the black market. This, of course, assumes that the Serbs are not planning to re-sell them, which is quite a large assumption.

4 thoughts on “Economic Interdependence Knits Europe Together (Perhaps)

  1. A bit of historical trivia: Tito very deliberately based Yugoslavia’s arms industry in Bosnia.

    Two reasons. One, strategic: Bosnia’s in the middle of the country, so the weapons factories wouldn’t be vulnerable to a sudden lunge across the border by an external enemy. And two, political: you wouldn’t want to put all that stuff in a mono-ethnic republic like Serbia or Croatia. Multi-ethnic Bosnia wasn’t going to secede; indeed, it could only stay intact and peaceful as part of Yugoslavia. So the factories would be safer there than anywhere else.

    Doug M.

  2. Small arms (rifles, handguns, etc) were produced in Serbia, in Kragujevac. Artillery pieces were mostly produced in Bosnia, with shells produced in Serbia.

    Tanks were product of many contractors across Yugoslavia (turrets are made in Slovenia, tracks in Serbia) and completed in Croatia.

    I remember that mini-scandal emerged in 80’s when Slovenian company Gorenje (known for appliances) decided to make submachine gun — supposedly, they were not allocated that part of military manufacturing.

    On the other hand, in hindsight, they were preparing for secession even then…

  3. Guess armaments manufacturing was very much a political decision. Putting armaments factories in centrally located poor regions, such as Bosnia, probably made sense.

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