Criminalized Conflicts: The Clandestine Political Economy of War and Peace in the Balkans
Staff-prepared summary of the East European Studies discussion with Peter Andreas, a Professor of Political Science at Brown University, RI.
Dr. Andreas examined the role and impact of criminal actors and smuggling
networks in four stages of the Bosnian war. 1) The outbreak of the war can, in part, be explained by the criminally and smuggling-enabled initial military power imbalance, which helped to create high Bosnian Serb expectations of a quick and easy victory--and thus enhanced their incentives to go to war. 2) The criminal underworld, clandestine trading across front lines, and sanctions evasions help explain the unexpected persistence of the war. 3) The end of the war, ironically, was facilitated by arms embargo evasions. This eventually shifted the military balance in the Bosnian government's favor, helping to create the political
preconditions for a negotiated settlement. 4) Dr. Andreas identified the legacies of the clandestine Bosnian war economy as a thriving post-war black market economy, entrenched connections between the political system and smuggling networks, and a criminalized new elite.
The post-war clandestine economy creates some awkward political dilemmas
for Bosnia. The clandestine economy is the most active and viable segment
of the economy and a source of employment for tens of thousands of people. The so-called Arizona market near Brcko - the largest black market in Europe - is a smuggling hub for a wide assortment of contraband goods. It is also one of the few places where genuine cross-ethnic cooperation exists. A provocative question Dr. Andreas raises but does not attempt to answer is, if trade promotes peace, can illegal trade also promote peace?
Dr. Andreas briefly extended his observations of and conclusions about
Bosnia to other Balkan conflicts. The question of why the Croatian
government was more successful in its arming efforts than the Bosnian
government can be answered by many factors, including: Croatia had a
wealthy diaspora; geographic advantage; and access to local and regional
stockpiles of weapons. Yet, it was the strategic decision to arm early that
played a critical role. This decreased the reliance on the international
black market for weapons and support. Kosovo is another area of criminal
war economies at work. When the Albanian government collapsed in 1997, the armories were looted and weapons were filtered into Kosovo. This influx of many cheap, light weapons, combined with significant diaspora funding to
the KLA (based partly on income earned from narcotics trafficking by ethnic
Albanians in Western Europe), helped to escalate the Kosovo war effort.