Friday, June 11, 2004

Death of a Brigade

Lately I saw newspaper ads calling young Croatian men and women to join our country's armed forces. The ad I noticed features young man in Army and two women in Navy and Air Force uniforms, respectively.

This ad came in rather inopportune time, because, if newspaper reports are true, it should be changed – woman in Air Force uniform should disappear.

In past few years Croatian armed forces have recently gone through radical reorganisation "in adherence to NATO standards", as defence ministers like to remind us. In practical terms this means reducing the number of active personnel to very low levels. Reorganisation also reflects itself in drastic reduction of military budgets.

One victim of those reductions is going to be Croatian Air Force. With budgets shrinking, Croatia simply can't maintain couple of obsolete MiG-21s and other second-tier combat aircraft obtained in 1990s. At the eve of Iraq War it was announced that Croatian Air Force simply can't protect Croatian airspace and cities in case of 9-11 style terrorist attack. It is, therefore, presumed that NATO allies will take those tasks, because their air forces possess planes, expertise, infrastructure and budgets that Croatia lacks.

Air Force is not the only victim of reductions. Some of Croatian Army ground units are also going to be scrapped. Same thing is going to happen to 4th Guards Brigade a.k.a. 4th Split Brigade, one of the most famous and celebrated units of 1991-95 War. Their soldiers fought almost every major engagement in Dalmatian Theatre and won many important battles in Dalmatia, Herzegovina and Western Bosnia. Its best moment was, of course, liberation of Knin. 4th Guards Brigade had many prominent citizens of Split in their ranks, even some usually not associated with Croatian militarism or right-wing extremism, like local punk rock icon Sveto Panker and Viktor Ivančić (Viktor Ivancic), editor-in-chief of ultra-leftist Feral Tribune. 4th Guards Brigade had its share of bad moments, including some incidents investigated by War Crimes Tribunal in Hague.

However, it doesn't look nice to see penny-pinching NATO bureaucrats and their local sycophants succeeding in something Ratko Mladić (Ratko Mladic) and whole might of former Federal Army failed to do.


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