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04.05.2011. / Politika
Milan Galovic

General Miletic's interview to Politika

I do not see the cooperation with the ICTY as a stumbling block, but as a test to prove that Serbia and Europe actually share the same values

"I was recently in Pristina, Prizren and Gracanica. Thiswas an emotional visit for me, especially the visit to monastery in Gracanica, where the abbess cried when after 12 years they saw Serbian soldiers, " as SAF CHOD General Miloje Miletic reveals in an interview for "Politika ".This trip of the top man of the Serbian army was organized as a regular meeting with the KFOR Commander in Chief Erhard Biler, which was kept in discretion from the media.

General Miletic reluctantly speaks about his war experiences, although the memory link just for Kosovo and Metohija. During the 1999 war. He was the commander of the 78th Motorized Brigade. "One missile alone killed seven of my men in Reljan," he says succintly of the most difficult moments in life.

Twelve years later, General Miletic is convinced that everyone who has fought honestly do not need anything to be ashamed, but that the wars should be left to historians and the courts - if there are elements of one's responsibility.

In the next few days we will mark 20 years since the start of the civil war in former Yugoslavia, and even today no one knows the exact number of victims. Do SAF possess an accurate records of those perished in the conflicts in Kosovo during 1998/99 and during the NATO bombing?

During this period, 664 members of the Army either died or disappeared. The data we have at our disposal is also made publicly available and published on the website of the Ministry of Defence.

One of many consequences of the wars is the cooperation with the ICTY which has been for Serbia a major stumbling block in obtaining the candidacy status for EU membership. As the Chief of the Serbian Armed Forces what would you tell to the commander of the Army of the Republic of Serbia , the ICTY fugitive Ratko Mladic?

I do not see the cooperation with the ICTY as a stumbling block, but as a test to prove that Serbia and Europe actually share the same values. The Serbian Army as an institution is not engaged in evaluation of cooperation with the tribunal in the Hague. The Republic of Serbia has made it quite clear its stance that all those who have committed war crimes should answer before the court of law and that they cannot hide behind alleged social interests.

I believe that everyone should take responsibility for their actions and decisions that they have made and, if necessary, appear before court of justice as the only authoritative place where liability can be established. This will free both the society and citizens of Serbia from large obstacles on their way to further development. Avoiding personal responsibility is not in accordance with the ethics of our vocation and is counter to the Code of Honor of the Serbian Armed Forces Virtue, honor and chivalry are characteristics which make a Serbian officer. This was the case throughout our history, and it is so today.

Are you satisfied with the cooperation with KFOR, and what are your concerns regarding the security situation in Kosovo and in the Ground Safety Zone?

The Serbian Armed Forces has a very good cooperation with KFOR, which is in accordance with the Military Technical Agreement. This confirms the relatively small number of injured or casualties and incidents along the administrative line in the Ground Safety Zone. However, the problems which exist in this area cannot be solved by the military but rather by politics.

How many jobs, by this I mean the employment of professional soldiers, can the Army of Serbia at the moment offer to the people of Serbia?

Army of Serbia is today one of the largest employers in Serbia. We have already recruited more than 9,500 young men and women, who are now professional soldiers and NCOs. During the year alone, we will admit in our ranks thousands of young people, which is a significant number, especially bearing in mind the great unemployment rate in our country. We are a big system, people come and go, it is estimated that when the process of professionalization has been fully completed due to the regular monthly outflow of personnel, the system will be hiring about a hundred people every month.

What can SAF as an employer offer to young people?

First of all, SAF gives young people a chance to get a responsible job, secure personal income, social security and health care for their families and themselves. They can get continuous improvement and according to their abilities and ambitions they can move up the military ladder. We already have non-commissioned officers who first started as professional soldiers. Of course, according to their qualifications and the current needs of the army, these young people can eventually become officers. The average salary of a professional soldier is about 28,500 dinars. Professional soldiers can work until they are forty, and for some specialties there is a possibility of extension of employment of up to fifty years of age. But who succeed in becoming noncommissioned officers, may be eligible for pensions, by working in SAF. Some of the soldiers after the age of forty will be able to continue working in the Army as military officers and employees. I estimate that about 60 percent of professional soldiers will stay in the Army until the end of my career.

Are you satisfied with the feedback you get about first military volunteers, except those who voluntarily serve to apply for a job in the Army - are there any young people who simply want to serve their military service and return to their civilian life?

Yes, the first experience of voluntary military service have confirmed our estimates, both in terms of response of citizens interested in this type of military service, and in terms of training soldiers. During this month the General Staff conducted a survey among soldiers on voluntary military service. That survey showed that about 77 % of soldiers are interested in finding employment in the Serbian Army. This means that almost one in every four soldiers has opted for voluntary military service, knowing that they will then return to civilian life.

Compulsory military service has been abolished, but there are still reservists called to perform exercise – isn’t that contradictory?

There is no contradiction between the implementation of the Decision on the termination of military service obligation, which was adopted by the National Assembly and the reserve corps. Even though obligatory military service has been suspended, that does not mean the termination of reserve. Reservists are people who have completed military service and have pledged allegiance therefore they are rightfully called to attend exercises. There is no mass calling of reservists, it is a day or two of training, the reservists do not even ask why they have been called .

It is often heard that Serbia is not sufficiently active in the Partnership for Peace. Why is that?

In recent years, SAF has intensified its cooperation with the armed forces in the region and Europe. Interest in promoting such cooperation exists, but it has never been of such an intensity and quality. Although we are extremely active in the areas in which we have recognized interest in cooperation, there is room for greater involvement in the Partnership for Peace.

Will SAF be engaged in international practice this year?

During 2011 there was a plan that we would in 21 exercises of an international character. With the Air Force of Romania we conducted “Air Solution” exercises, while also taking part in" Viking 2011" in Sweden, and in May we have a joint exercise with the armed forces of Hungary. Particularly significant activities Marines 2011" we will perform with the armies of Bulgaria and the United States, "Rapid trident" in Ukraine, the Brigade Staff Exercise that is realized with the Ohio National Guard and the joint live shooting exercise at the training ground Shabla, Bulgaria.

Which countries are the largest donors to SAF?

The biggest donors are the United States, China, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Italy ... These days we are expecting confirmation of a significant donation from Turkey for the conversion of part of the “Morava” airfield in Kraljevo. A number of countries see us as partners, they support and assists the process of our reform and modernization. I cannot name here all the donor countries, but I want to stress that we are very grateful to all our friends and partners from the armed forces of countries we are involved in joint activities with and for providing support to the reform of the Serbian Army.



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