Why Milosevic May Miss Neighboring Strongman

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Slobodan Milosevic wasn't at the funeral Monday of his fellow president, Croatia's Franjo Tudjman; they were sworn enemies as a result of the Bosnian war. But even as tens of thousands of Croats turned out to mourn the former Yugoslav army general who led them through a bloody war for independence, the Serbian strongman may have felt the loss of his nemesis — after all, Tudjman and Milosevic were the very best of enemies. "Tudjman probably wouldn't have been elected in 1990 if most Croats hadn't felt threatened by Milosevic's nationalism," says TIME Central Europe bureau reporter Dejan Anastasijevic. "And Milosevic more than once used Tudjman's threats to the Serbs in Croatia and elsewhere to rally support for himself."

Also absent from Tudjman's funeral were the leaders of the NATO countries, which, although they'd backed him in his war against the Serbs, subsequently began to keep their distance from the authoritarian nationalist. "The West's early decisions on Croatia were made in a time of crisis management, when Tudjman's anticommunism was enough to win him support," says Anastasijevic. "Later, Tudjman's lack of enthusiasm for democracy and factors such as his denial of the Holocaust made them more uncomfortable." But while Western governments are hoping that Tudjman's passing will open the way for a new democratic turn toward Europe, the late president's legacy presents many obstacles. "Tudjman's 10 years in power saw the emergence of an oligarchy that will fight hard against any moves toward greater democracy," says Anastasijevic. "The country's democratic forces also have to act carefully so as not to provoke a coup by Tudjman's handpicked generals. So Tudjman's system will definitely outlive him."