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41

Thursday, December 7th 2017, 3:16pm

Belgrade, The White Palace, Friday, 25 June 1948

King Aleksandr had called the morning’s meeting with his military chiefs to discuss the implications of the recent German decision to permit the sale of additional armaments to Yugoslavia. Of the long list of requests submitted to the German foreign office only two, for the supply of Arado bomber aircraft and Junkers jet engines, had been approved, and insofar as the bombers were concerned, in far smaller numbers that what was sought.

Major-General Lav Rupnik spoke to the issue. “Sire, the Germans have at least reversed themselves to a degree; our last request was completely rejected. It may be half-a-loaf, but it is better than none.”

The King paused before answering. To Rupnik and the others present Aleksandr appeared tired; the king was not yet sixty years of age but he appeared far older – the legacy of an illness of forty years ago matched with the arduous years of the Great War. “Do you think it possible that the Germans will eventually accede to our full request?”

“Sire, that depends in large part on Germany’s future relations with Italy, a question which falls to Furlan rather than to me.”

Closing his eyes the King considered the way forward. The long political struggle to liberate the Occupied Territories had worn him out, and a small but growing number of his advisors were urging him to consider military options. These, however, had never endured the hardship of war, and the patience that such hardships can engender. At the moment, Aleksandr’s greatest concern was for the future of the House of Karađorđević – according to his physicians he was already living on borrowed time.

“As you say, half-a-loaf… For the moment, let us be content.”