San Francisco Chronicle
The heir to the constitutional monarchy in Serbia said Friday that the United States plunged into his nation's affairs with the best of intentions in the 1990s, but has since abandoned the former Communist country for other international hot spots.
The result is a struggling democracy desperately in need of international investment and unable to shake itself free from a succession of international demands that the current democratic government turn over war criminals to a tribunal, demands largely backed by the United States, Crown Prince Alexander II said in an interview at The Chronicle.
Similar requirements were not made of the fledgling democracies in Afghanistan or Iraq, he said, and now Serbia is struggling to gain international attention and support for an economy ravaged by 40 percent unemployment and a depleted infrastructure that cannot rebuild the nation.
"There is more money for war than peace. We don't have oil. Oil is becoming more important than people," said Alexander, who was visiting the Bay Area to attend the graduation of his son from the University of San Francisco.
Serbia became a democracy on Oct. 5, 2000, after an American-led international effort to oust communist dictator Slobodan Milosevic that included intensive bombing raids on portions of the country considered Milosevic strongholds.
When a new democracy took over, Serbia was burdened with "bad management, poor leadership, sanctions, isolation and bombings. You put all that together and on the fifth of October, the bank was broke," Prince Alexander said.
"Then Sept. 11 happens, just as we're trying to put our ship in order, and everybody rushes off to Afghanistan and, then, eventually, Iraq, and we're sort of left to fend on our own."
There are "dual standards" being applied, he said. When Serbian leadership tried to hold an international conference to seek help for its problems, they were told they first had to turn over Milosevic to an international court.
"Why wasn't this standard applied to Afghanistan in handing over Taliban and al Qaeda leaders? Why did aid go to Iraq when Saddam Hussein hadn't been caught yet?
"These are dual standards, and this is flawed foreign policy," he said.
Alexander, 60, was born in London, where his family had taken refuge during World War II. He wants to revive his title as king in a constitutional monarchy, like England or Spain, where the king serves as a nonpolitical, unifying symbol.
The crown prince, educated in American and English schools and fluent in five languages, served as a captain in an English military unit, seeing duty in the Middle East, Italy and Germany.
With his military background, he said he understood the United States would need only three weeks to complete its invasion of Iraq, "and then the problems would start." Previous U.S. sanctions against Iraq helped unify the nation behind the Hussein regime. The post-invasion presence of U.S. military "the people of Iraq feel is an occupation.
"I think the United States must stay its course. One has to be very careful what one does, and there has to be an exit strategy," he said. But he warned about the actions of a "few bad eggs" who are spoiling the American image in Iraq.
"People saying they don't know about the Geneva convention. It's common sense that you don't go and pull fingers off somebody or sit on them naked. It's common sense," he said, referring to the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Serbia continues to suffer with a substandard education system, the highest infant mortality rate in Europe and hospitals where about one- third of the equipment is workable, he said.
"We're in a desperate situation," he said.
Copyright © 1998 NJ.K.V. Prestolonaslednik Aleksandar II
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