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A 2004 article in the Guardian by the late Ian Traynor says:

Officially, the US government spent $41m (£21.7m) organising and funding the year-long operation to get rid of Milosevic from October 1999. In Ukraine, the figure is said to be around $14m.

Did the US really have that (i.e. deposing Serbian politician Slobodan Milosevic) as a stated objective in some budget line(s)? Basically, how much interpretation vs fact is in that statement?

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  • Would a budget line need to read 'Get rid of Milosevic' or would it be sufficient if it read 'Get rid of klepocrats' (amounting to the same outcome?)
    – bukwyrm
    Mar 29 at 10:34

1 Answer 1

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According to a WaPo article (which is a bit verbose to quote paras from, so I'll summarize) the key details seem to be:

  • Congressional appropriations of $10 million for 1999 and $31 million for 2000, although the article doesn't delve into budgetary details more than that.

  • It seems most of it was spent on training the opposition groups: 1st level educators trained outside Serbia, who then went back and trained a 2nd level. Also money was spent on running polls on political messaging through US firms, and even ad materials, e.g. 5000 cans of spray paint, 80 tons of adhesive paper (through USAID). The training provided was diverse, from high-level strategies like having a single, least controversial candidate, to ballot fraud detection methods (like parallel count). Election monitors were paid $5 (in a country where the monthly salary was $30 at the time); it's not totally clear if these monitor payments from the US; the article only says "Western-provided money" in that regard.

  • The official US line, in the words of one US NGO representative involved (the National Democratic Institute) was that the training was intended to "level the playing field". (The International Republican Institute was also involved, probably in part to make it a consensus affair in Washington.)

  • The trainees were instructed to avoid disclosing links to Western money. They'd give touristic reasons for visiting the neighboring countries where the training sessions were held. Some were interrogated by the Serbian police in that regard, trying to make them confess about their "Washington controllers".

According to a CNN article from 2000, there were no international observers (allowed) at those elections, so I guess training & subsidizing local observers could be justified as fair game. (The lack of access is confirmed by the OSCE; while they have a report on those elections, it starts with "The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’ Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) was denied entry to conduct a technical assessment and subsequently deploy an election observation mission to monitor the 24 September federal and municipal elections in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Consequently, in accordance with its mandate, the OSCE/ODIHR publishes this report of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions without the benefit of an in-country observation mission.")

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  • Someone could still add a more precise answer with how those funds were allocated & disbursed. How much went to each of the NDI, IRI vs USAID and what it was nominally allocated for. I'm guessing figuring out exactly how the cans of paint and rolls of paper were justified in the paperwork is probably a bit too much to ask for.
    – Fizz
    Mar 23 at 20:30
  • 2
    In the text for the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2000, there is the line "For grants made by the Department of State to the National Endowment for Democracy as authorized by the National Endowment for Democracy Act, $31,000,000 to remain available until expended." The NED was involved in democracy-building efforts in Serbia, so perhaps that's the $31 million figure referenced in the article?
    – Giter
    Mar 23 at 21:06

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