Steve Bannon and Bosnia Welcome to Ex-Yugoslavia by Stephen Schwartz

September 15, 2018

Serbian imperialism in action: location of the destroyed Parliament of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Sarajevo, 2000. Photograph by Stephen Schwartz

Stephen K. Bannon, the sorcerer who made Donald J. Trump his apprentice in neofascism, has turned his gaze to the tormented Balkans.

The “armed Bohemian” (Trotsky’s description of the Nazi elite), with his weird outfits and mannerisms, has crafted an alliance with Serbian extremists in furtherance of the fascist agenda for Europe.

Grotesque war criminal Vojislav Šešelj led pro-Trump marches in Serbia, and now Bannon, with Trump spouters Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Corey Lewandowski and Kellyanne Conway, hangs out with Željka Cvijanović, “prime minister” of the so-called “Republika Srpska,” a mafia entity comprising the half of Bosnia-Hercegovina seized by Serbia in events echoed a decade later in Ukraine.

War criminal promotes “peace criminal.”

The Serbian nationalist Alliance of Independent Social Democrats has agreed to pay $10,000 a month for three months to an enterprise established by former Trump campaign workers Jason Osborne and Mike Rubino.

Is this merely another flirtation by the Trumpist fanatics with “white nationalism”?

I think not. In my not-so-humble opinion, Balkan Bannon represents the intersection of historical synchrony and diachrony.

I base my analysis on personal expertise regarding Russian imperialism, reflected in studies financed by the U.S. government since 1984, and on direct reporting on the collapse of ex-Yugoslavia.

Again, without false humility, I believe I was the first American to observe and warn of the impending outburst of Serbian fascism, as early as 1987. My first stint in Washington, as a full-time analyst, featured a major conflict over this matter with a major “intel” figure who shall remain unnamed (New York Times rule; and there is no reporting on this topic without anonymity). I then withdrew from DC life, returning to my home in San Francisco and spending the succeeding decade researching and writing on the end of Yugoslavia.

I have argued in my writing on radical Islam that Russia created the global “clash of civilizations” by a twisted “great game.” Russia needs enemies, both internal and external. Moscow was burned by its harassment of its traditional targets, the Jews and Catholics. America stood up for the Soviet Jews (thank you, “Scoop” Jackson) and Polish Solidarity did more to harm Russia than even Trotsky (bugaboo of Putinite Jew-baiters) could have imagined.

Muslims were the obvious backup victims. Beginning with the suicidal invasion of Afghanistan, and the classically-Stalinist atrocities committed by the Kremlin there, Moscow carried its strategy of ethnic paranoia, political violence, and disinformation through Bulgaria, the Caucasus, and Azerbaijan in preparation for its genocidal strike at Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo.

Later came the annexation of Crimea, an alienated bit of Muslim land with a unique Islamic history, and Syria. All are of a piece, described as early as the end of World War II by Egyptian polymath Georges Henein. His analysis was adopted by my political teacher, Manuel Fernández Grandizo, who delivered the eulogy at Trotsky’s funeral.


As shown in the record, I was one of few experts wary of Russian “democratization.” But even I did not anticipate that the new world, which was imagined as belonging to Vaclav Havel, the gentle and funny Prague playwright, would be the playground of Slobodan Milošević.

Today, German neo-Nazi terrorism in the town of Chemnitz (once known as “Karl Marx City”) illustrates the “buffet” character of the Moscow menu: set in a place ruled formerly by Putin’s KGB, recruiting fascist brawlers, and inciting against migrants.

Since the emergence of Trumpism I have been derided for comparing the Balkanization of American politics with the “redneck” wave that drowned Yugoslavia.

But ex-Yugoslavia is comparable to contemporary America in many ways. It was the most prosperous state-socialist economy, but with great cultural disparities. Multiethnicity proved dangerous when confronted by baser political instinct.

Above all, Trump has pursued the same plan for destruction with which the Russians armed the Serbs: ethnic polarization, incitement, disinformation.

Many say Trump has made America a “banana republic.” But the fall of ex-Yugoslavia shows that a failed commonwealth may be a worse threat to its inhabitants.

Unfortunately, Trumpism follows a peculiar dialectic. Incapable of abating brutalities in Syria, the Bannonite cadre throw themselves into the cauldron of Balkanism. With his grossly ignorant, feral attack on Montenegro, Trump added his own sour element to the stew.

When the Habsburg and Ottoman empires were broken up, after World War I, the movement of borders on maps, by a millimeter, caused thousands of deaths. This pattern was present throughout the history of ex-Yugoslavia, and is replicated in Ukraine.

Russia has primed Serbia for a new round of aggression in the Balkans. It is a bad place for the Bannon cohort to stray, with their belief that provocative behavior has no consequences.

Horribly enough, one of the terminal features of the Trump usurpation of the American presidency may be a resumption of the Bosnian slaughter.

If such is the case, it will be a matter of deaths foretold. Western heedlessness to the earlier Serbian campaign of aggression may affect the U.S. as badly as adventurism in Afghanistan did the former-USSR.

Lazar “Zai” Fundo, pioneer of Albanian Communism, broke with Moscow in a Social Democratic direction at the end of the 1930s, and was influenced by the tradition of M.F. Grandizo. Killed by Enver Hoxha.