Peace order in Europe? Lessons from Yugoslavia

By Håkan Wiberg

Background paper to the symposium “Challenges for Peace and Security” at the International Institute for Peace in Vienna, 21-22 November 1992. Second draft, documentation not yet completed, not for quotation without the prior permission of the author – criticisms and comments are most welcome.

1. Introduction

This paper does not attempt to analyze in detail the extremely convoluted conflict complex in Yugoslavia; except for the unraveling of the former USSR, there is no set of conflicts in Europe even remotely as complicated as this. For such details and overviews, I therefore have to refer to the standard literature. The present paper is a first attempt at capturing some of the interaction between the conflict parties in Yugoslavia and various external parties, in particular the EC, trying to understand how this interaction has contributed to escalating some contradictions that it had been possible to handle relatively peacefully for decades into a war so sanguinary that the Greek Civil War in the 1940s and the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 are the only postwar European counterparts.

One of the central problems in the present paper is therefore the following: What factors have affected the position of the EC in different phases of the development of the conflicts? The main groups of factors are taken to be (without any internal ranking to be read into the numbers):  1) The development in Yugoslavia, 2) the propaganda war, 3) factors that have affected the positions of individual states in the EC and 4) factors in the power games and in the internal and to some extent autonomous dynamics of the EC.

In order to have a background to the international interaction, it is nevertheless necessary to paint the broader background with a very broad brush in section 2, and the recent history with an equally broad brush in section 3. Section 4 then gives an overview of the specifically Balkan setting of the conflicts and section 5 analyses the propaganda war, before the remaining sections try to solve, or at least chart, the puzzles surrounding the strategies and the development of behaviour of the EC. These are discussed in sections 6 and 7; section 8 then looks at the primus motor (in this context): The FRG, section 9 looks at the problems encountered by Realpolitik in the Yugoslav context, section 10 at international law and politics, section 11 at the Eigendynamik elements of great power politics and, finally, section 12 tries to assess the situation now.

It is also the ambition of this paper – no more entirely realizable here than in other studies in social science – to avoid “taking sides” for or against one actor or the other. There are two reasons for this. First, most of the literature that has done so provides strongly warning examples of the intellectual and analytical price that has been paid for doing so. Second, the Yugoslav tragedy appears to me to have so much in common with the classical Greek tragedy with its element of ananke: at each point in time, a number of actors are doing what they have been trapped – whether by their own previous actions or those of other actors – into having to do, and as a result they sink deeper and deeper into catastrophe. The public may cheer some of them as heroes and chastise others as villains; but it belongs to the tragedy that they tend to be ambiguous in this respect, and it belongs even more to the tragedy that it does not matter much for the internal development of events.

2. Incendiary material: the factors in Yugoslavia

There are several categories of background factors to the present war in Yugoslavia, and any well-founded assessment of their relative weight and interconnection in the complex causality pattern is likely to take many years. What follows below is primarily a checklist of the factors that have played at least some important role.

There has been several economic crises brewing for decades. The most general crisis has to do with decreasing and eventually acceleratingly negative economic growth: the radical shift from progress to illness that the Yugoslav economy took after the economic reforms in 1965. By these reforms, the element of central planning (by means of credit decisions in the National Bank, etc.) that had previously supplemented the self-management system was abolished; many of the later problems may have derived less from the abolition than from its occurring without anything else being positively put in its place.

There were a few buffers available. One of them consisted in encompassing labour migration (peaking at more than one million people working abroad) that was encouraged after 1965 to offset the effects of what the economic reformers optimistically ex-pected to be a limited period of transition unemployment. It also resulted in large sums of hard currency remittances home to Yugoslavia, which helped the currency balance considerably until the mid-1970s. When that source diminished, the next buffer was used: the borrowing spree from about 1975 until about 1981 – the period of cheap petro dollars – from which the lion’s share of today’s foreign debt (some 20 bn. USD, maybe even more) is an inheritance. A few countries did well by bor-rowing this cheap money – with small or even negative real in-terest – to make productive investments and have a remaining profit to show when having paid the loans back; Yugoslavia most decidedly did not belong to this category. It squandered much of these loans on a consumption financed by wage increases with no backing in increased productivity. When that buffer was also used up, the economy got into a free fall of inflation and un-employment amid a series of aborted attempts to do anything about it; by some estimates the real income of the average Yugoslav was approximately halved in the 1980s, and the drop accelerated towards the end of the decade. Before the post-1989 free falls of the East European economies started, there was no state in Europe with a corresponding amount of that kind of political tinder accumulated. It would have been surprising if various forms of political extremism had not emerged; the question was rather what kind to expect to be predominant.

Another element of economic crisis had to do with distribution.
In spite of attempts at interregional equalization by transfers and investments, the income per capita ratio between the rich-est part (Slovenia) and the poorest part (Kosova/Kosovo) grew from three times in the late 1940s to about five times in 1965; after that, it even accelerated, reaching more than eight times by the late 1980s. The transfers were sharply reduced after the 1965 reforms, but even so virtually all parties complained: Slovenia and Croatia about spending too much on development aid to the poor South; Serbia about being a contributor, although by economic statistics it ought rather to have been a receiver; and the other parts of Yugoslavia about receiving too little and getting poorer and poorer by comparison with the more developed parts. In addition, most others tended to accuse Serbia of siphoning some of the aid off on its way from North to South. Here, as well as in other issue areas, a pattern was created of everybody feeling cheated.

A third element of economic crisis had to with economic desintegration. Over the decades, decreasing parts of the production in the republics went into trade with each other and increasing parts to intra-republic trade and to direct trade with other states. The economic ties linking the republics to each other thus got weaker and weaker; and the local economies simultaneously became more inward-looking and more linked as satellites to much more powerful foreign centres, in particular those in southern Germany and northern Italy.

These factors were exacerbated by political actions. After Slovene expressions of sympathy with the Kosovars in 1989, Serbian organizations (presumably masterminded by Miloševic) planned to stage a big demonstration in Ljubljana to present their points of view on the problems. This was blocked by the Slovenian government, which had its grave apprehensions about it but had to act on its own as it found no support among the other republics. The response to this was a big Serbian boycott of Slovene merchandise, which in turn seriously weakened one of the two main Slovenian arguments for remaining in Yugoslavia: the captive market Slovenia had there.

Constitutional conflict has been a recurrent feature of Yugoslavia since its birth in 1918 – in fact, even since before that birth. In the negotiations between Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian representatives leading to it, the Serbs called for a centralized state of the type normal in most of Europe, largely copied from the prewar Serbian constitution. Slovenes and Croats, however, preferred a looser confederation. In the first round the Serbs prevailed, but the issue continued to be highly divisive.

To avoid ethnic overtones, the centralized government had Yugoslavia divided into a number of regions named after the major rivers in them, etc. When a province of Croatia was created by a compromise in 1939, that came too late to prevent the catastrophe during World War II. After 1945, a federation was formed, where the republics had some measure of autonomy, which was continuously increased in several rounds of constitutional compromises in the following decades. The necessity for finding a particularly Yugoslav road to socialism after the rupture with Stalin in 1948 gave rise to a political innovation reducing the power of the central government as well as of the republics: the system of samoupravljanje (self-management) on municipal and enterprise level. Whatever the good intentions of that system, it was never as self-managed as it looked in political rhetoric, and the economic reforms of 1965 contributed to its degeneration into a protectionist system of local patrons (party, technocrats) and clients, which used borrowed money for wage increases rather than productive investments, thereby undermining the long-time economic prospects even more. The constitutional compromise of 1974 further increased the autonomy of the republics; in addition, it vastly increased the autonomy of two “autonomous provinces” in Serbia: Vojvodina in the north with a clear Serbian majority and a sizable Hungarian minority (some 20 percent), and Kosova/Kosovo in the south with a great and rapidly growing Albanian majority.

The constitutional compromises and the widening autonomy also meant that the possibilities of handling the economic crisis by political decisions largely disappeared: since everybody had a veto and the economies of the different republics were so different, it was virtually impossible to find solution thats all of them could see themselves as benefiting from.

Yugoslavia was also rife with latent ethno-national contradictions. Some of these were based in long-standing popular sentiments; others were exacerbated by manipulation by politicians – which then created popular sentiments that the politicians were trapped by. Some of the contradictions also manifested themselves as conflicts between political actors temporarily resolved, or at least managed, by the series of constitutional com-promises. At least three of these contradictions were of a type meriting the label of historical traumas. The underlying histo-rical events and processes – as ascertained by professional historians – were in several cases horrible by themselves. In popular memory – under the lid of censorship – they tended to become even worse; these traumas could lie latent for a long time until suddenly getting ignited and exploding.

Let me just try to summarily describe these traumas without getting into how well they correspond to what has been discovered so far about the actual historical events. The sum of the presentations will therefore also by necessity be self-contradictory, reflecting the very divergent readings of hist-ory among the parties.

The trauma between Serbs and Croats tends to be seen thus through Croatian eyes. After the creation of Yugoslavia, it soon turned out that the Serbs insisted on dominating the en-tire state by virtue of being overrepresented in the military and police forces, their royal family, Karadjordevic, also having become the royal family of Yugoslavia. Croatian protests were repressed, as witnessed by the assassination of the Croa-tian leader Stjepan Radic in 1928 and the coup d’etat in 1929 leading to a royal Serbian dictatorship. In 1941, the Croats finally recovered their own state after many centuries of for-eign overlords, even if it was under German and Italian tutelage and was ruled by a small clique around Ante Pavelic engaging in massacres on Jews, Gypsies, Croatian democrats and Serbs. Lots of Croatians lost their lives fighting this regime and its foreign underwriters. Towards the end of the war, the Croats were then the victims of two more massacres: the Tito communists exterminated the Croatian troops that had followed the retreating Germans, but were sent back by the Allies; and the Serbian ultra-nationalists, the Cetniki, massacred civilian Croatian population where they penetrated. After the war, expressions of Croatian national sentiment have long been oppressed, as witnessed by lots of political prisoners accused of Croatian nationalism, party purges for the same reason, and so on.

Through Serbian eyes, the same history is one of the Croats starting to make trouble almost from the beginning of the existence of The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed Yugoslavia in 1929), rocking the boat with such dangerous ships in the vicinity as Mussolini’s Italy, defeated Austria (with Germany, soon under Hitler, behind it) and Admiral Horthy’s Hungary. When offered to leave Yugoslavia by King Alexander in 1928, they nevertheless preferred not to. They resorted to terrorism, as witnessed by the assassination of King Alexander by Ustaša (supported by Italy) in 1934.

When Hitler attacked Yugoslavia in 1941, Ustaša came to rule a Greater Croatia (also encompassing most of Bosnia-Herzegovina). That Croatian state attempted a “final solution” by slaughtering many hundreds of thousands of Serbs in concentration camps and in local massacres. Towards and after the end of the war, the Serbian partisans, the _etniki, were also persecuted and massacred by the communists led by the Croat Tito, and since then expressions of Serbian national sentiment have been oppressed, as witnessed by lots of political prisoners accused of Serbian nationalism, the constitutional changes making Vojvodina and Kosovo have a say in the affairs of Serbia, but Serbia no say in their affairs, etc.

The trauma between Serbs and Moslems (primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina) is, through Serbian eyes, one of the Moslems previously having been used, first by the Turkish overlords and then by the Austrians, to suppress the Serbs (who were in a majority in Bosnia-Herzegovina, when Austria robbed them of their victory over the Turks by occupying in 1878). In World War II, many of the Moslems – who were also counted as Aryans by the Croats – were willing aides to the Ustaša in the geno-cide against the Serbs. Through Moslem eyes, the prewar history is one of racist Serbian behaviour against the Moslems, including attempts to have great amounts of them exported to Turkey. During the war, the Serbian _etniki also engaged in genocide against Moslems in Bosnia-Herzecegovina.

The trauma between Serbs and Albanians, finally, tends to be seen by Albanians in terms of a Serbian occupation since the 1870s of more and more Albanian land (where the Albanians and their Illyrian ancestors had lived for thousands of years) suppressing the Albanian resistance mercilessly. The creation of Yugoslavia also meant a Serbian colonization of Kosova and racist attempts at Serbianization and of exporting Albanians to Turkey. Serbian massacres against Albanians were not limited to World War II; they went on after that, first under the Serbian Home Minister Aleksandar Rankovic until 1966, after which new peaks came in 1968, in 1981 and in the recent period.

The Serbian version of the same story is one of the Turks driving the Serbs out from the historical heartland of their state, implanting Moslimized Albanians there instead. During World War II, the Albanians collaborated with the Fascist occupiers against the Serbs, and one of the worst injustices by the communists against the Serbs after the war was rewarding the Albanian rioting by installing in 1974 a corrupt Albanian government which discriminated against Serbs and did nothing to stop persecutions; in fact, lots of Serbs were killed or threatened, and many more Serbs and Montenegrins had to flee north for safety.

All elements in these traumas have some, and often a considerable, historical background; but there are naturally great disagreements between their bearers as to how many were killed etc., to what extent different peoples took part in this, whether to see events as typical or exceptional, and so forth. To go into that would require a series of books; the bottom line is that each group tends to see their own history as one of innocent victims of brutal oppression and even genocide. During most of the postwar period such feelings could not be given much public expression; they were oppressed in the name of national reconciliation (“Brotherhood and Unity”), but that certainly did not make it disappear from, e.g. oral family traditions. What most people in one group see as a genuine historical grievance is is several cases dismissed by the other group as mythical, or at least monstrously exaggerated; and this in itself exacerbates the traumatic relations by adding the extra trauma of not being heard.

3. The development during the past decade

This section attempts to give a thumbnail sketch of recent history. It is necessarily selective, focusing on those events and processes not already mentioned above that appear to have had particular importance for the dynamics of the different conflict spirals by engendering further circles in them.

Any choice of a “watershed event” is, of course, somewhat arbitrary, also because it is often long processes rather than specific events that have created points of no return. If we limit ourselves to precisely the last decade, the events in Kosova/Kosovo in 1980/81 seem to provide one such event however. The Kosovars demanded a republic of their own inside Yugoslavia, so as to get an equal status with, e.g. Montenegro, Slovenia and Macedonia, all of which had smaller populations.

These demands were rejected as unacceptable by the Serbian leadership, nor did they find any support at that time from the leaderships of any other republic. One type of Serbian arguments was based on historical romanticism, referring to the area as the historical cradle of the medieval Serbian empire, the seat of Kosovo Polye and of many of the great medieval churches and monasteries and other Serbian cultural monuments. Another type of argument was based on worst case calculations concerning national security. While republics and autonomous provinces had the same rights in a lot of other respects, one crucial difference was that the former, but not the latter, had the (conditional) constitutional right to secede. The worst case was then that of an Albanian republic in Yugoslavia as a first step to an independent Kosova, which would then join Albania.

Given the shivers that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan created in Belgrade, it was not regarded to be too farfetched a scenario that political relations might change into cooler relations between Yugoslavia and a Soviet Union in close cooperation with Bulgaria and Albania – defining a nightmare for Yugoslav (and not only Serbian) security planners. The formal argument presented was of a third type, based on (the Yugoslav version of the Leninist version of) the distinction between nations and national minorities. As nations were regarded those peoples whose primary existence was in Yugoslavia: Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins and Macedonians (and, after 1974, also Moslems). People whose majority was found in another state, such as Hungarians, Albanians, Turks, Italians, etc., etc., were regarded as national minorities and therefore could have no claim to a republic of their own.

The demonstrations for (among other things) a Kosovar republic were therefore ruthlessly suppressed by the Yugoslav army, which killed close to one thousand people, after which many thousands were sent to many years of jail each. The economic crisis had already prepared a breeding ground for upsurges of nationalism. Albanian nationalism was naturally further strengthened by the oppression intended to weaken it; but the aftermath of that outburst also contributed to a new upsurge of Serbian nationalism, as Serbian journalists managed to widen the degree of freedom of the mass media to cover the versions of Kosovo Serbs of the conflicts there and what they had suffered.

The Serbian upsurge of nationalism spurred by that in turn accelerated the revival of expressions of Croatian nationalism, and even gave Slovenian nationalism a tinge of separatism that it had never had before; these developments were ac-celerated when the party in Serbia had gotten a new face by Slobodan Miloševic managing to get into power in 1987. One of the later manifestations of this acceleration consisted in demands for constitutional changes so as to extend even further the far-ranging autonomy that the republics already had, in fact to transform Yugoslavia into a very loose confederation.

One crucial demand in this context was a drastic reduction in the federal budget. Some parts of it were not possible to reduce (foreign debt service), and since the major part of the rest of the budget paid for the Yugoslav federal armed forces (JNA), this demanded cut constituted a great threat to them. In addition, the Slovenes in particular had long been asking for a revision of the key for contributions from the republics, being unwilling to finance the very same army that they suspected of plans for invading them. In addition, the JNA was virtually the only “pan-Yugoslav” institution left after the breaking up of the party (first in the sense that the party organizations in the territorial entities tended to give priority to their local interests over any abstract communist tenets or equally abstract definitions of Yugoslav national interests; it was only in 1990 that the Slovene party left the Yugoslav party altogether). The abolition by the Serbian parliament in 1990 of the autonomous status of Kosova/Kosovo (and Vojvodina) accelerated these demands even further by giving Serbia three seats out of eight and the Serbs four (Montenegro included), worsening among the others the fear of a renewed centralism that was now defined by them as being in addition a Serbian one.

By this time, there had also been the Gorbachov contribution to the dissolution of Yugoslavia: the end of the Cold War that had defined the same national security raison d’être of Yugoslavia after World War II that was provided by all the Fascist neighbours before the war. In particular, this seriously weakened the other of the two main arguments of Slovenia for remaining in Yugoslavia.

When free elections were held in all republics during 1990 (starting in Slovenia and Croatia and ending in Serbia and Montenegro), ardent nationalists were brought to power everywhere, no matter what party colour they showed – and the runners-up tended to include even more extreme nationalists, for which reason the new incumbents had little leeway for compromises. They therefore had to press the demands for constitutional changes, etc. even further than before.

One of the consequences of this was that Croatia and Slovenia started to set up national guards in 1990. This was seen as inconstitutional by the (majority in) the Yugoslav government, and the JNA launched a secret operation in spring 1990 to bring all weapons of the territorial defence forces into central depots controlled by the JNA. This operation was stopped in the middle by President Kucan in Slovenia, but it was successful in Croatia, which then illegally (according to the Yugoslav government) bought a great amount of Kalashnikovs from Hungary.

The new Croatian parliament immediately introduced various forms of discrimination against the quarter of the population that were non-Croats. In particular, the Serb half of this quarter was hit by demands for loyalty oaths etc.; among other things, Serbian policemen in the Serbian majority areas were fired and the government attempted to send ethnic Croatian policemen in to replace them. The Serbian areas in Krajina, apparently encouraged by the Serbian government, then took over their own administration, police functions, etc., declaring that if Croatia would leave Yugoslavia, they would leave Croatia. When this led to clashes, units from the JNA interposed themselves between the parties.

Serbia and Montenegro objected to the demands for constitutional changes, suspecting them to be first moves towards a total dismemberment of Yugoslavia. While the suspicion was apparently well-founded, its effects may have contributed to making it in addition a self-fulfilling prophesy. Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were originally against anybody leaving Yugoslavia, presenting various federative-confederative alternatives. When the northern secessions were established facts, the Macedonian government and the Moslem and Croat leaderships in Bosnia-Herzegovina changed their positions, opting for independence as well.

This change of positions appears to be due to two main factors. An external factor was the EC invitation to secessions in November 1991, to which we will return. The internal factor had to do with the brittle balance in the former Yugoslavia. Serbs and Montenegrins were bent on keeping it together to provide guarantees for some 2.5 million of them living outside the administrative boundaries of their own republics. The more the Yugoslav guarantees were devalued (by areas leaving or by further confederalization), the stronger became the pressure on the governments in Serbia and Montenegro to provide their own guarantees; in this sense, the Yugoslavia project and the “Greater Serbia” project were complementary to each other. The other side of this dialectic is that the more the Serbs were visibly occupied by the project of staying together in a common state, if Yugoslavia would disintegrate, the more were the northern republics bent on seceding. The four other republics saw themselves as at best barely enough to balance Serbia and Montenegro – and even less so after Serbia getting three votes after the abolition of autonomy in Vojvodina and Kosovo in 1990. This meant that the more republics that seceded, the more “Serbian” became the remaining Yugoslavia – which provided a spur to further secessions.

By spring 1991, it was, according to the rotation order set up after Tito’s death, the turn of Croatia to fill the presidency of the Federal Council, with Stipe Mesic as their candidate. Serbia and Montenegro attempted to block the election by such tactical maneuvers as staying away from sessions to block a quorum, suspecting him (as it turned out, quite adequately) of the intention to use his presidential powers to arrange the dissolution of Yugoslavia; they only backed down after considerable economic pressure from the EC after the war having broken out. The republics also disagreed about constitutional changes and terms of economic cooperation. In spite of very generous offers from the EC in terms of development aid, the negotiations about all these matters broke down. Since the only way of avoiding a long and bloody war was to preserve Yugoslavia and amend the constitution, this proved catastrophic when the Croats and Slovenes tried to meet Serbian intransigence with fait accomplis. On 25 June 1991, the declarations of independence of Croatia and Slovenia signaled the beginning of the war.

One of the reasons for this was constitutional disagreements. When Croatia and Slovenia declared themselves independent on 25 June 1991 and again – having consented in the Brioni agreement on 7 July to suspend these declarations for three months – on 8 October 1992, they based these declarations i.a. on their right to secede according to the constitution of Yugoslavia. This was hardly a correct reading of the text, the relevant paragraphs of the constitution also making it clear that such a secession had to have the consent of all republics in Yugoslavia. Slovenia had in fact altered its own constitution in 1990 to proclaim that it held the right to unilateral secession, but this had been ruled non-constitutional by the Supreme Court of Yugoslavia, which also ruled the declarations of independence in October to be non-constitutional. From a constitutional point of view – as it was seen in Belgrade – the acts of Croatia and Slovenia thus amounted to rebellion, in particular the Slovenian taking over the border posts by armed force, and the presidency of Yugoslavia was entitled – or even obliged – to take necessary steps to undo it and restore law and order.

A further complication in this puzzle was that the Chairman of the Presidency was by constitution also the Commander in Chief of the JNA. After being confirmed as Chairman in the Brioni agreement on 7 July 1991, Stipe Mesic tried to give orders to the federal forces in that capacity, which, however, they refused to obey. He then declared that the federal forces had mutinied (and eventually resigned a few months later).

The positions of Slovenia and Croatia appeared similar to an ignorant European press. They were in reality greatly different, as demonstrated by the ease with which a ceasefire and a monitored withdrawal of federal forces could be arranged in the former case and the enormous difficulties in the latter.

If there have been any decision-makers in and around Yugoslavia who have had a clear idea of what they were doing, the Slovenian government must be the prime candidate, at least if we postulate the following to have been the Slovenian strategy:

1. See to it to have ample supplies of arms and a military tactic largely taken from the traditional Yugoslav doctrine of territorial defence.

2. Get the Croats into war with the Serbs by announcing that Slovenia will proclaim its independence. This will force the Croatian government to do the same in order to avoid a fascist coup d’état in Zagreb.

3. Demonstrate to the Yugoslav armed forces that Slovenia is able and determined to prevent being taken over by a coup. This will give Ljubljana and Belgrade harmonious interests in keeping Slovenia out of the Serb-Croat conflict. EC (or whoever else) can then broker a deal on a ceasefire, a JNA withdrawal and de facto Yugoslav recognition of an independent Slovenia with unchanged boundaries.

4. To get such a deal, it is necessary to block the Croatian attempts at sabotaging the Ljubljana-Belgrade negotiations in order to make Slovenia a forced ally of Croatia. Slovenia will have the double trump cards of the harmonious interests with the Serbs and EC eagerness to show some quick results of its efforts as a mediator.

5. When this is achieved, proclaim loud sympathy with Croatia and do things that benefit Slovenia economically and politically, such as a customs union with and arms sales to Croatia, letting the Kosovars set up an exile government in Ljubljana, etc. Avoid anything that might compromise Slovenian interests, such as a currency union with Croatia or getting in any way involved in the wars.

If this was indeed the Slovenian strategy, it was a brilliant one from the point of view of Slovenian interests, and was very capably executed. Every other actor did precisely what the strategy presupposed that he would do. The Slovenian defence forces turned out to be quite sufficient for their purpose. The Croats opted for what some of them must have known to be suicide. The Slovenian defence worked very well and was able to score significant victories with a minimum of bloodshed and a maximum of political persuasion. This did indeed make the Serbs shift their position, so as to avoid making Slovenia a forced ally of Croatia. And EC was indeed so interested in success that it rejected the Croatian demands for “all-or-nothing” from the ceasefire negotiations.

One essential point in the Slovenian strategy has been its consistent reliance on its own resources. It was in this respect a very realistic strategy, not based on any illusions about other actors supporting Slovenia by arms, money, military intervention or anything else that was costly or dangerous.

Because of the brittle balance referred to above, the success of this strategy meant that all other problems in Yugoslavia became virtually impossible to resolve. With Slovenia out, there was no way – short of military occupation – of keeping Croatia in. This guaranteed – at the very least – a struggle about the Serb areas (and more) in Croatia and about what boundaries Croatia was to have, and it gave the Croats and their supporters an interest in spreading the war to Bosnia-Hercegovina and elsewhere. That, however, is not a Slovenian problem: the more wars there are in Yugoslavia, the less likely are they to come close to Slovenia.

The position of Croatia was quite different, domestic political pressures forcing the government to attempt to do what it had no chance whatsoever of doing on the basis of its own resources: to get an independent state of Croatia that included the Serbian majority areas in it by coinciding with the former Republic of Croatia. As a compensation for the initial lack of own resources, the Croatian government appears to have vastly exaggerated the support from the West that it would be able to count on.

“Internalization” of the conflict was from the very beginning a central element in the Croatian strategy. The battles resulting from its declaration of independence therefore continued for a long time. When Slovenia and Croatia revived their declarations of independence on 8 October 1991 (which they had agreed on 7 July 1991 to “freeze” for three months at the request of the EC), this had no effects in Slovenia (the last federal troops were just leaving according to the agreed time table) but it predictably led to an escalation of the war on the Croatian fronts, especially around the two self-proclaimed Serb republics in Krajina and in East Slavonia, as well as in southern Dalmatia (Dubrovnik). A further escalation followed the EC decision in mid-December to the effect that its member states might recognize Croatia from 15 January 1992 and the unilateral German recognition on 23 December.

Having gradually moved, in Serbian perception, from the position of mediator to virtually that of a party to the conflict as a political ally of Croatia (while insisting that it was still a mediator and punishing challenges to that pretention), the EC failed to broker tenable ceasefires. That brought the UN into the picture in late December, and when the war had again escalated after Germany recognizing Croatia, it managed to arrange a ceasefire (No. 15) in early January 1992, which has held since then. This was a more comprehensive ceasefire based on a complex package: rather than just monitoring a frontline (which was in several places well beyond the Serb majority areas in Croatia), it was to arrange for UN presence and administration in an “inkspot pattern” in disputed areas. These areas were also to be demilitarized by the federal troops withdrawing, by heavy arms being withdrawn from the area or stacked under a “dual key” arrangement, and the local militias turning in their arms.

Different parties to the conflict have made quite different interpretations of what that package means. After the UN sanctions in May 1992, the first and second parts are realized, but hardly to any great extent the third; that would have called for too much trust in the Croatian government permitting the UN forces to stay. The tacit com-promise reached there seems to be that some parts of the militias have been transsubstantiated into police forces and that the rest refrain from parading their arms in the streets. The UN troops still also play an important role as front line monitors, and are also seen by the Serbs as protectors; at present, it is President Tudjman who threatens to reopen the war by not extending the UN agreement beyond its first year.

Having been invited by the EC in mid-November 1991 to do so, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina also made unilateral declarations of independence in late 1991 and early 1992. At least in the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the position of the EC may have been decisive, in the sense that the EC invitation made it politically impossible for the previously cautiously balancing Moslem leadership not to join the Croat leadership in such a proclamation, even though the Moslems were strongly warned by the Serbs that this would be suicidal.

On the other hand, there has been no war in Macedonia, which has several advantages in this respect. First, there is only a very small Serb minority there (a couple of percent, and not in majority in any single municipality). Second, the federal forces are reported to have been entirely withdrawn from there, which appears to be a clear sign that the Yugoslav government does not have any territorial claims or any plans for supporting any Serbian minority secession. Third, a Greek veto has blocked the EC recognition that has a tendency to mean more bloodshed, whatever its professed intentions. In Macedonia, the main potential (and to some extent already actual) antagonists are Macedonians and Albanians, so far in an uncertain coexistence with independence from Yugoslavia and a common fear of Greece as common interests.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina the Serb majority areas had already had a referendum of their own in 1991, confirming that they would leave Bosnia-Herzegovina if it left Yugoslavia. In spite of differing positions and interests, Bosnia-Herzegovina had managed to stay out of the war (except for a few minor skirmishes) until the EC decision on 6 April 1992 to recognize it, after which it was rapidly Lebanonized. All parties attempt to expand their areas of control; the Serbs have been most successful, due to having the largest territory from the beginning, being well armed and getting initial help from the federal forces of Yugoslavia. The Croats have also been able, due to similar reasons, to establish military control over most of the areas where they are in a majority and quite a bit more, and have had battles on different fronts with both Serbs and Moslems.

What “the federal forces” refers to has also changed after the change of the constitution of Yugoslavia by a compromise between Serbia and Montenegro. Its government has proclaimed that the Yugoslav armed forces have withdrawn from Bosnia-Herzegovina. While this may be constitutionally significant, it is not likely to mean much on the ground in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the great majority of these forces (reportedly some 80 percent) consisting of Bosnian and Herzegovinian Serbs, over whom the Yugoslav government cannot exercise any legal authority in the new constitutional situation. They have therefore largely just changed names to becoming i.a. the armed forces of the Serb Republic Bosnia-Herzegovina. They have also taken over a great part of the previously Yugoslav arms in the area. Even if it had wanted to, the Yugoslav government would have been powerless to prevent that, just as it had to leave the heavy arms of the JNA behind in order to get free passage out of Moslem- or Croat-controlled strongholds in central Sarajevo and elsewhere. In addition, an important part of the armaments industry of the former Yugoslavia is located in Bosnia-Herzegovina and much – but far from all – of it is under Serbian control. (A recent issue of Yugofax reports on one arms factory where Serbs, Croats and Moslems work peacefully together, selling to all sides.)

As mentioned above, there has also been another constitutional renaming in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Croat majority areas in Western Herzegovina have de facto been under their own control for years and have been a hotbed of equally extreme Croatian nationalism. In spring 1992, they also tried to extend that control to some predominantly Moslem areas but were initially rebuffed by the JNA, only making more headway after the JNA left. The first military body was the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), to a great extent consisting of local Croats. There were also allegations that troops from Croatia, especially the HOS, loyal to the Zagreb Fascist leader Dobroslav Paraga, appeared in B-H. This made the UN call for their withdrawal in its Resolution 757 on 30 May 1992 after which the Croats proved at least as skilled as the Serbs at changing official hats. Having very strong bargaining cards, they were able to force the Moslem President Izetbegovic both to proclaim an alliance between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in mid-June and to make him recognize the HOS as legitimate defence forces. The UN request was thereby effectively circumvented.

In the Croatian-controlled area there are now three main forces and a number of militias. The HOS has been in battle with the HVO, which is now the official army of the Croatian Republic Herceg-Bosna, whose President Mate Boban is faithful to President Tudjman in Croatia, having ousted the previous Croat leader Stjepan Kljuic in early 1992. The third and smaller force is the official army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the TO, predominantly consisting of Moslems; since Kljuic retains his position as Vice President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, it may be seen as tied to him as well as to Izetbegovic. Various combinations of all these forces are sometimes battling Serbian forces and penetrating some of the predominantly Serbian areas east of the Neretva River, sometimes battling each other and sometimes expanding into predominantly Moslem areas in Bosnia.

4. The Balkan setting

Several years before World War I, King Nikola of Montenegro complained to the Danish journalist Franz von Jessen that “Balkan is the small change that the great powers use in their transactions”. Even today, an understanding of the EC positions calls i.a. for a mapping of the Balkan setting with its complex structure of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

Let us start by trying to define the actors in this setting. One way of doing this is in terms of states; the problem with that is that it tends to lead into a lot of political controversy as to what states exist and what do not. At the very least, we have a set of old states whose existence is uncontroversial: Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania and Hungary. Among more recent states, it is only Moldova that is sometimes counted in.

In addition to them, we have a number of other entities claiming statehood. For the present purpose, it is of little interest what international actors have offered what opinions on whether they exist or not; the important thing is whether or not they have any actor capability. They are:

Slovenia (President Milan Kucan), with obvious actor capability, very widespread recognition (including that of Yugoslavia) and uncontested territory. For the present purpose, some doubt may be raised about seeing it as a Balkan state.

Croatia (President: Franjo Tudjman) which obviously has actor capability . It does not control all of the territory that it claims (see below), but that does not in itself detract from its indisputable actor capability.

The Serb Republic of Krajina (President: Milan Babic) and the Serb Republic of Baranja and East Slavonia (President: Goran Hadzic) are both located in the territory of the former Republic of Croatia and have governments which thus control territories of their own. The crucial issue is here how independent they are of Yugoslavia. The answer seems to be that they do have armed forces that are not commanded from Belgrade at the same time as there has been a presence of the Yugoslav federal army which, from the point of view of these republics, have the status of friendly allied troops as long as they remain. Another problem is raised by the UN presence: in theory, it is to disarm the local troops and to administer the area, but the factual question remains to what extent the UN exercises what kind of sovereignty there (cf. above).

Yugoslavia (President: Dobrica Cosic, Prime Minister: Milan Panic), by which we refer to its present reduced shape, the remaining federation consisting only of Serbia (President: Slobodan Miloševic) and Montenegro (President: Momir Bulatovic). It obviously has actor capability; the only question here is whether there are reasons to treat its two components as having separate actor capability; we avoid that in order not to complicate the picture unnecessarily.

The Republic of Kosova (President: Ibrahim Rugova) is self-proclaimed by the Albanian majority. The area is under Yugoslav military control and its exile government has had its seat in Ljubljana in Slovenia. It can therefore hardly be said to have actor capability, at least not as a territorial entity. On the other hand, its great Albanian majority has demonstrated itself able to arrange a referendum and a presidential election, which were tolerated but not recognized by Yugoslavia. It is also able to run a set of institutions (schools, hospitals etc.) parallel to those controlled by Serbia.

Sanjak Novipazar (Local leader: Suleiman Ugljenanin) straddles the boundary between Serbia and Montenegro. It was handed back to Turkey by Austria when it illegally annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908 and divided between Serbia and Montenegro after their defeating Turkey in 1912. It has also arranged a referendum, ruled illegal by Yugoslavia, claiming independence; some of the municipalities in it have Moslem majority, some of them have Serbian or Montenegrin majority. Out of the total population, just over half are Moslems and the rest Serbs; like in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former are concentrated in cities to a much larger extent than the latter. It does not appear to have any actor capability, however, so we do not count it in.

Macedonia (President: Kiro Gligorov) clearly has actor capability, in particular after the withdrawal of the federal forces of Yugoslavia. Some questions may be raised concerning the extent to which the Albanian majority areas in western Macedonia are de facto autonomous or under Macedonian control. That question is not about the actor capability of Macedonia, but about whether we should count with yet another actor; since it has not called for a state of its own, we do not.

Bosnia-Herzegovina (President: Alija Izetbegovic) is among the most complex cases. There is an official state apparatus, which largely consists of Moslems and Croats after declaring the Serbian party, SDS, to be illegal; but it only controls a very minor part (some 10-15 percent) of the territory it claims. In addition, it is not clear to what extent the remaining Croats in that administration (from Vice President Kljuic downwards) command allegiance from the Croat-controlled part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, nor to what extent the Izetbegovic administration has the allegiance of some of the local Moslem militias.

The Serb Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina (President: Radovan Karadzic) also appears to have actor capability. It has considerable armed forces of its own, consisting largely of Bosnian and Hercegovinian Serbs. Serbian forces (whether or not recognizing the authority of Karadzic) now appear to control all the territory claimed by the republic and some territory not claimed by it. It is, however, unclear how much of that territory is controlled by the Karadzic administration and how much is in a state of sheer anarchy under local warlords. It appears to define itself as an independent state, while indicating that it may join a Bosnia-Herzegovina confederation if that does not compromise its independence.

The Croat Republic (or Community) of Herceg-Bosna (President: Mate Boban) proclaimed itself in May 1992. It appears to define itself as an independent part of Bosnia-Herzegovina which would leave it if a new confederative constitution would compromise its independence. Croatian forces appear to control virtually the territory claimed by the republic, but there is the same question about the relative proportions of control by the Boban administration and by the HOS and the areas of sheer anarchy.

That appears to exhaust the list of Balkan actors, at least for the time being. The members of this list are tied together in a vast complex, consisting of several sub-complexes. The two central actors in the biggest complex are Turkey and Yugoslavia and this complex is therefore to be seen as the system of friends and enemies surrounding them. We limit ourselves to looking at those triangles that are contiguous or that are otherwise of particular interest.

The first triangle consists of Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. During the past century or so, we have seen all combinations in it: Bulgaria alone against Turkey (its liberation from it), Greece alone against Turkey (e.g. over Crete a century ago), Bulgaria and Greece (and Serbia and Montenegro) against Turkey in 1912, Greece (and Serbia) against Bulgaria in 1913 with Turkey out, Bulgaria and Turkey against Greece (and Serbia and Romania) in World War I, Bulgaria against Greece (and Yugoslavia) with Turkey neutral in World War II, Turkey and Greece against Bulgaria with Yugoslavia neutral in the Cold War. Let us first look at the recent moves of the components.

Turkey. In this region of Turkey’s environment, the closest relations are with Greece (traditional and continuous negative relations) and with Bulgaria. The latter relations were negative in the NATO/WTO period and became even more strained when Bulgaria attempted (in the period 1984-89) to Bulgarianize its Turkish population, hundreds of thousands of which fled to Turkey. The two countries now seem to have mended their relations by various agreements, having some common enemies. Turkey has been active in offering itself as a protector power, especially for the Moslem groups: Serbo-Croat speaking Moslems in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sanjak Novipazar, the Moslem majority among the Albanians in Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece and the Turkish minorities in Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece. It has also been quick to recognize Macedonia, presumably to spite the Greek and to make a cooperative gesture towards Bulgaria; this may under some circumstances lead to a problem with the Albanian population in Macedonia.

Greece. The Greek nightmare is obviously a Turkish encirclement: Bulgaria (with which it has been repeatedly at war), Macedonia (whether independent or merged with Bulgaria), Kosova (whether independent or merged with Albania) and Albania,perhaps supplemented by a Moslem-dominated state in Bosnia-Herzegovina (whatever its future constitution and boundaries may become). From a Greek point of view, is is absolutely necessary to avoid such an encirclement and it will therefore be vital to continue to have Yugoslavia as neighbour if ever possible. If Macedonia definitely leaves Yugoslavia without forming even a confederation with it, this will cut Greece (which also has an Albanian minority) off from direct contact with Yugoslavia. Greece will therefore have strong interests in counteracting that, as well as in supporting Yugoslavia as far as it can in keeping Kosovo. On the other hand, if and when the Macedonian breakaway is a fact, then Greece will have an equally strong interest in close and friendly Greek-Macedonian-Yugoslav relations.

Bulgaria. Bulgaria also has several security problems. In the 20th century, it has been at war with every neighbour one or more times and every boundary has changed at least once: in addition to the conflicts referred to above, there has been that with Romania over the Dobrudja area. In the last few years, it has both mended its fences with Turkey and seen greatly improved relations with Greece (which was seen for a while as a possible bridge into the EC), which have even survived the recent differences over Macedonia, over which the two states have agreed not to talk.

One recurring factor in this first triangle is Macedonia (in the greater territorial sense), parts or all of which has often appeared as spoils of war: in 1878 between Bulgaria and Turkey (who won), in 1885 between Bulgaria and Serbia (draw), in 1912 between everybody (Turkey lost), in 1913 (Bulgaria lost) and again in World War I and in World War II between Serbia/Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece (in both cases, Bulgaria first won, then lost). What was in former Yugoslavia the Republic of Macedonia was created after World War II, when Macedonian also became an official language and the Macedonian Orthodox Church later became independent from the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Macedonia (in Macedonian Makedonija) first tried to dissuade the Slovenes and Croats from leaving Yugoslavia; when that was a fact, it found the remainder too Serb-dominated and preferred to leave too. It finds itself in a very tight situation at present. In the north, there is Yugoslavia – and Macedonia has a small Serbian minority. In the east is Bulgaria, described above, which has repeatedly annexed Macedonia and had to give it back to Serbia/Yugoslavia.

The main opposition party in Macedonia, IMRO, which is also the biggest party, claims parts of Bulgaria as Macedonian, in contradiction with the official policy of the coalition government of Macedonia. In the south is Greece, whose province Macedonia (in Greek: Makedonia) is claimed to contain a large part with (Slav) Macedonian majority, for which reason the IMRO has claims on Greece too. And in the west are the Albanians: Albania, Kosova and the western parts of Macedonia itself, where they are in a majority. The Yugoslav census of 1981 counted 20 percent Albanians in Macedonia and that of 1991 22 percent; the Albanians there and in Kosova maintain that this was due to boycotts and under-registration and that there is in fact 40 percent. If they are right, then sheer demography would make Macedonia primarily Albanian within a generation or so.

If the conflicts in its surroundings get acute, Macedonia can therefore be expected to face an extremely awkward dilemma: join Yugoslavia and Greece against the Albanian and Bulgarian threat, or join Bulgaria and Turkey against the Serbian and Greek threat. The latter option appear more likely in the first round, but the lesson from the other developments in former Yugoslavia is that alliances may shift quickly; since Greece and Yugoslavia are in a worse predicament, they may eventually have the best offer to make. The acuteness of the dilemma is marked by the fact that whatever choice Macedonia makes, it also faces a risk of being engulfed or dismembered by its own allies.

As implied by this description, Macedonia also belongs to a second triangle: the Albanian-Macedonian-Serbian triangle. Let us now have a look at its elements.

Kosova was given a (increased) status as autonomous province in Serbia in 1974. Vast demonstrations asked for an elevation of status to become a republic of its own inside Yugoslavia a decade ago. After Serbia’s reincorporating Kosovo in 1990, thus eliminating the autonomous status, the predominant opinion is now calling for an independent state (already formally proclaimed), perhaps merging with Albania in a more distant future; at present that would be too great an economic burden on Kosova. Its friendly neighbours are Albania itself and the local Albanian majority in Macedonia (into the problems of which the Kosova Albanians appear decreasingly bent on being drawn in); Greece is mainly to be seen as a hostile neighbour. Turkey might under some circumstances become an ally. Macedonia might under some circumstances become an enemy.

Albania has several problems of its own. The Albanians have traditionally had the problem of finding a protector that is sufficiently big and close to serve the purpose but not so big and close as to engulf Albania. Before it was created by a great power plot in 1912, Turkey was that protector against the Serbs and the Greeks. Albania then oriented itself towards the Habsburg empire, which first occupied half of it and then disappeared, and then towards Italy, which eventually annexed it. For a few years after 1945, it looked to Yugoslavia, but after Yugoslavia’s rupture with the Soviet Union, the Enver Hoxha faction took over power in the party and opted for the latter. Chrustjev’s friendly visit to Belgrade in 1955 then caused concern, and when the Soviet-Yugoslav relations had improved again a few years after the Soviet invasion of Hungary, Albania opted for China for a long time, breaking with it too in the late 1970s, after which some cautious opening to the West began in the 1980s, in particular after Ramiz Alia succeeding Enver Hoxha.

Like Serbia and Hungary, Albania has close to three million compatriots outside its boundaries, and this defines a dilemma in case of conflicts. On the one hand, the government cannot afford politically to appear indifferent to their fate. On the other hand, it cannot afford to engage in a war for their sake, both because it would be militarily and economically suicidal (unless there were heavy backing from Turkey) and since that would risk putting Albania on equal footing with Serbia in the eyes of predominant Western opinion. Given the present economic shape of Albania, the prospect of hundreds of thousands of Kosova and other refugees must be an additional nightmare to the government.

Yugoslavia is in a similar dilemma. Its government cannot afford politically to appear indifferent to the fate of more than two million Serbs outside Serbia and Montenegro, even when coming under hard international pressure to withdraw its own forces and cease to support the local Serb armed forces outside Yugoslavia. In particular, it was the firm stand taken by Miloševic against what Serbian public opinion saw as Albanian aggression against Serbs in Kosovo that initially made him a hero to large groups of Serbs. Since the Yugoslav forces outside Yugoslavia largely consist of local Serbs, such a withdrawal from the former republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina has primarily meant, or would primarily mean, a change of uniform badges.

In addition, there would be a homewards trickle of those Serbian and Montenegrin Serbs that would not volunteer in the local armed forces, who will go on fighting for their independence. There are some indications that the only way in which Yugoslavia could convince the West that it fulfills the UN demands is by disarming the local Serb forces. This, however, could only be done, if at all, by sending all military forces in Yugoslavia into an all-out fratricide war in the Serb republics in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina – and this would be read in the West as renewed Serbian aggression, at the same time as it would be likely to trigger a nationalist coup d’état and/or a civil war against any Yugoslav government attempting to do so.

In this second triangle, the Albanian strategy has obviously been to try to create a Macedonian-Albanian coalition against the Serbs in spite of the differences between these two groups in Macedonia. Thus, the Albanian party and one of the Macedonian parties have formed a government coalition to keep the biggest party, the IMRO, out of power. On the other hand, the Serbs and Greeks might be able to persuade the Macedonians that they all have a common Albanian problem and induce them to shift coalition.

There is also some linkage of both these triangles to the third triangle: the Serb-Croat-Moslem triangle with its centre in Bosnia-Herzegovina but also encompassing some of its surroundings. That moves us to a couple of new units.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is, of course, very difficult to define as an actor or ascribe any actor interests to, since these three major groups appear in a series of shifting coalitions – both in demographical and political terms it takes any combination of two groups to create a majority.  There are therefore several ways of thinking of the present official state apparatus.

One way of doing it is the formalistic: as the legitimate re-presentative of the (Serb, Croat and Moslem) population in the state of B-H. This way may have its merits for some political purposes, but is virtually useless in analysis. Another way of thinking of it is as representing the Moslem and Croat majo-rity in B-H (about sixty percent); and for some purposes the ambiguity of Croatian positions might justify that. Insofar as Croats and Moslems have common goals, they are primarily anti-Serbian: full control over the territory inside the boundaries of the old republic B-H and international aid in achieving that purpose; at least this appeared to be the underlying premise at the time of the declaration of independence.

At the same time, there is another and increasingly predominant issue where it is rather the present leaderships in the areas controlled by Serbs and Croats, respectively that have common interests against the Moslem leadership. That seems to make the third way of thinking about the state apparatus of B-H the most analytically useful one: to see it as the political representative of the Moslem group in B-H. If we do this, it is also easier to ascribe actor interests to it: a restoration of the pre-1992 Bosnia-Herzegovina, but now as an independent unitary state where Moslems are neither threatened by Serbs, nor by Croats. The official dissociation of Yugoslavia and Croatia from the conflict has (once more) given it the character of a civil war, and to discern the strategic logic in the Serb-Croat-Moslem triangle we must hence
look at the two other actors.

The Serb Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina is primarily fighting for its existence, and was initially also fighting for that existence within as wide – and as purely Serbian – a territory as possible. It will not rejoin any Bosnia-Herzegovina that is a unitary state, but appears willing to stay in a sufficiently cantonized version, if that proves necessary and joining Yugoslavia an impossibility. In fact, President Karadzic hailed the proclamation of independence of the Croat Republic Herceg-Bosnia in May 1992 as a very reasonable exercise of the Croatian right to national self-determination, and asked President Izetbegovic to state his claims for the Moslem parts, so that negotiations could start on the territorial division. The Serb leadership will naturally have a strong interest in continued backing from Yugoslavia and may be expected to do its best to get it; one way of achieving that is to put the leaderships of Serbia and Yugoslavia in a position where they have no other choice if they want to avoid a coup d’etat or a civil war. From this point of view, the international sanctions serves the Ser-bian leadership in B-H well, and it might not even be too far-fetched to see them as having deliberately provoked the sanctions.

The dissociation of Yugoslavia from the conflicts in B-H will throw the local Serbs back on their own resources, if completely implemented, but need not create insuperable problems. They have their great share of the vast stock of military supplies left behind in B-H by the JNA, and in addition a great share of the armaments industry left behind (some 40 percent of the entire armaments industry in former Yugoslavia).

The Croat Republic (or Community) of Herceg-Bosna differs from the Serb Republic in a couple of ways. One of them is that its ambiguity is greater: it plays a double role as an entity of its own and as a nominally loyal part of the state of B-H. This, plus the Croatian victory in the propaganda war with the Serbs (see below) has permitted it and Croatia to escape the international odium hitting the Serb Republic and Yugoslavia. Another difference is that the power struggle in it is more symmetric than in the Serb Republic. With some exaggeration one might say that the conflict between Tudjman and Paraga that is fought by ballots in Croatia and is fought by bullets in the Croat Republic Herceg-Bosna. The third difference also derives from the ambiguity of positions: the Croat leadership (which has changed since then) was at least initially federationist, which the Serb leadership has never been. Today it appears to have goals fairly similar to the Serb leadership: fighting for its existence (against which a unitary B-H, rather than the Serbs, is the worst threat), trying to have that existence in as great and as purely Croatian a territory as possible, having a preference for joining Croatia and a fallback position of de facto Croatian independence in one or more cantons in a theoretical state of B-H, if that proves impossible.

One conclusion of this is that Serb-Croat relations in B-H have a quite complex nature. On the one hand, there are some contradicting interests, in particular about division of territory in (the relatively limited) areas where these two groups are main competitors. On the other hand, there are also several common interests. Some of them are based on the dialectic that as long as the Serb leadership manages to hold out for getting de facto independence in one or more cantons, the Croat leadership will insist equally adamantly on cantonization, so as not to become a minority in what would otherwise become a predominantly Moslem part of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

There is also another side to that dialectic: the only way of depriving the Serbs of their independence would be a major Western invasion that would also deprive the Croats of their independence. The Serb and Croat leaderships therefore appear to agree that if the old republic of B-H is to form an independent state at all, it has to be sufficiently cantonized to provide de facto independence for all ethnic groups. To be sure, this is their “soft” option, and already this is in itself seen as very threatening by the Moslem leadership, since the Moslem population concentrations are in the north-west, in the Sarajevo area and in the south-east.

This would mean that when Serbs and Croats had taken their slices, there would be two or more separate Moslem cantons left; and in case the Serbs and Croats later “voted themselves home”, these cantons would be left as enclaves, unless the Moslems are able to conquer a corridor between them through the mixed cen-tral area of Bosnia. Since that corridor would cross the corridor between Serbian areas and other Serbian areas that the Serbs will want to keep their parts continuous, very fierce – and successful – fighting will be the only chance to avoid a fragmentation of the Moslem areas in the worst case.

If the “soft” option is as described above, the Serbian and Croatian leaderships would also be able to agree on some “harder” options: one of them is to break the Serb and Croat areas altogether out of B-H as completely independent states, presumably later to join Yugoslavia and Croatia, respectively; in other words, to realize the Moslem “worst case” of the softer option. If the great powers voice very strong objections to that, they might have another fallback position. It would be to preserve Bosnia-Herzegovina as a formal state, but as one consisting of Serbian and Croatian parts only (observing decorum by writing constitutions that guarantee full freedom of religion to the Moslems too.

It is only when we get out to the extreme hardliners in either group that perceptions of Serbian and Croatian interests again become completely contradictory. This would provide no solace to the Moslems, however: the Croatian groups hailing Paraga claim 100 percent of B-H for Greater Croatia (like in World War II) and their Serbian counterparts hailing Arkan and Šešelj claim 100 percent for Greater Serbia.

The Moslem leadership must therefore be anxious to get a military protector and supporter beyond Croatia and the local Croat leadership, the positions of which are too ambiguous. One candidate is obviously the West. Such a support, in the form of a major Western invasion, would be absolutely indispensable for the widest Moslem ambition, that of conquering the Serb and Croat republics in Bosnia and Herzegovina so as to form a unitary state. On the other hand, such an invasion now appears so unlikely as not even to provide room for Moslem illusions, unless the Serbs try to move on to conquer even more territory than they already have. This does not appear to be imminent, the Serb leadership itself acknowledging that it already controls more territory than the Serb Republic Bosnia-Herzegovina claims and President Karadzic having offered in the London conference to return one fifth of it in negotiations.

Another possible motive might be derived from the efforts of some of the Serb militias to expel as many non-Serbs as possible from the Serb-controlled areas, in many cases by extremely brutal methods (also used, on a somewhat lesser scale, by the other groups against the Serbian population); but this, too, appears to be diminishing. In addition, the Croat leadership would obviously prefer to deal with the conflicts without foreign military intervention, since such an intervention would also be likely to make impossible the solution with independent cantons that it agrees with the Serbian leadership to prefer.

Another possible, and apparently willing, protector is Turkey, where there is now a strong public opinion pressing for that. As demonstrated in Cyprus and Kurdistan, it would have less restraints than the West, being willing to engage in military actions even against the disapproval of top NATO members; and it might not take much PR activities to avoid such disapproval when presenting itself as coming to the rescue of a victim of aggression.

Other considerations, however, would weigh in the opposite direction: a unilateral Turkish operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina would be likely to get it into war with a Greece fearing encirclement; free passage through Croat-controlled areas is in much doubt; the Turkish economy would face difficulties; etc.

To complete this outline of the Balkan, there are a few more triangles to take into account. In the Yugoslavia-Bulgaria- Romania triangle, there are traditional close and friendly relations between Serbia/Yugoslavia and Romania since generations, whereas the two other relations have often been characterized by tensions or even by war.

In the Yugoslavia-Romania- Hungary triangle, it is Romanian – Hungarian relations that have repeatedly been bad (territory, the Hungarian minority in Romania, etc.) and are quite problematic today. In the postwar period, relations between Hungary and Yugoslavia have tended to be good, but at present they are marred, especially by Hungarian concerns about the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina – and by yet another triangle: Hungary-Yugoslavia-Croatia, in which the clear if cautious position of Hungary in Croatian favour has caused irritation in Belgrade. The triangles defined by Yugoslavia-Austria-Croatia and Yugoslavia-Austria-Slovenia are similar in this respect.

The traditionally good relations between Yugoslavia and Austria have been broken by the very strong Austrian positions for these two old Catholic parts of the Habsburg empire. In some respects, the policy of Austria has gone even further than that of Germany; it was only considerable pressure from the EC that prevented Austria from recognizing Croatia and Slovenia immediately rather than waiting for and following the lead of the EC.

Most of these triangles are balanced, in the sense that they contain three positive relationships or one positive and two negative relationships. In these cases, the best prediction is that the triangles and the relations within them will remain stable. Some of them are unbalanced, with three negative relations: Serbs, Croats and Moslems in Bosnia-Herzegovina for a while constituted one example; Serbs, Macedonians and Albanians may constitute another. The other possibility of imbalance is two positive and one negative relation; this was for a while the position in the Greece-Turkey-Bulgaria triangle. The theoretical prediction is that unbalanced triangles will become balanced. In the “three negative” case, the simplest way of achieving this is that one of the negative relations shifts to positive; but the theory does not predict which one, and in fact we have seen patterns of shifting alliances. In the “one negative case”, the theory predicts that this will change, but not how. It may be achieved by the negative relation turning positive, but also by one of the positive relations turning negative.

5. The propaganda war

In 1908, Price Djordje of Serbia complained to the Danish journalist Franz von Jessen that a major problem for the Serbs was that all news about them came through their enemies (at that time the Habsburg Empire). In a network of conflicts as complex as the Yugoslav one, Johan Galtung’s quip that “the first victim in a war is complexity” is even more than normally true. It has been true inside Yugoslavia, where with a few honourable exceptions, ultra-nationalist propaganda, aided by complete government control over television, has superseded critical journalism in Croatia, Serbia and elsewhere.

It is almost as true about the international mass media, even if the process took some time there, coming to completion only when various governments had committed themselves to doing something and therefore needed suitable simplifications to legitimize their doings with.

In Western Europe and – somewhat later – in the United States, Croatia very clearly won the propaganda war. This was a priori highly predictable, since it had so many trumps. It could benefit from a deal made many years ago, whereby the TV station of Belgrade was to transmit pictures to Eastern Europe and Asia, whereas the Zagreb station was to be in charge of Western Europe. This means that very much of the pictures seen on TV in Western Europe during the 1991 war in Croatia were sent from or through the heavily censored station in Zagreb.

Furthermore, Croatia had the benefit of much stronger and more established expatriate organizations than the Serbs, in particular in Germany. In addition, these organizations represent a broad spectrum, from Social Democrats and Liberals in the one end to right wingers and (usually under-cover organizations) pure Fascists in the other end, each of them having contacts with like-minded organizations in their host countries.

There is some similarity between the Croatian successes in the propaganda war in the 1990s and Israel’s victories in its first twenty years, which were also based on a wide international contact net with a similarly broad spectrum between communists and conservatives, so that virtually each European political current could be approached by some like-minded pro-Israeli current. In addition, the Catholicism of the Croats has been an important propaganda asset in an EC which is predominantly Catholic and where the Greeks are the only co-religionists of the Serbs.

There also appears to be an additional factor, highlighted by recent political debate in Serbia. In the beginning, the (old) Yugoslav and the Serbian side appear to have been so convinced that their cause was just and – more crucial – that others would see the conflicts their way that they grossly underestimated the importance of international mass media support and therefore neglected working systematically on it.

This meant that in an initial phase of the shooting war, the Croats were in a much better position to get their version of what it was all about accepted. Some of the propaganda messages gradually become questioned, e.g. the notion that Serbian ultra-nationalism was primarily to be found among the Old Communists in Serbia (rather than among the Serbs outside Serbia and among the right wing in Serbia). By that time, however, it no longer mattered much, since the intended effects had been achieved: the EC and – later – the USA had already committed themselves to political positions vis-a-vis this conflict and could therefore be counted on to have an interest in making their own propaganda to back up the stands that they had already taken. They could trust most of their own mass media in that respect: something of a closed circle had been created.

Later on, the Moslems in Bosnia have obviously won the propaganda war in the Islamic world and have received strong verbal and some economic support from several states there (plus a small trickle – so far – of Arab and other Moslem volunteer soldiers); and the Serbs appear to have won the propaganda war in the Orthodox Europe, especially Greece, Romania and largely  Russia (the clear – and traditional – exception is defined by Bulgaria). One effect of this was that the governments in these states got under increasing crossfire between the demands made on them by the Western coalition with its tremendous economic bargaining power and the popular opinion in their countries, sometimes expressed in parliamentary moves for no confidence votes.

There are of course prima facie advantages in winning a propaganda war; but they have been more limited than the winners had hoped for. The main victory has consisted in creating a strong opinion against Serbia and Yugoslavia in the Western and Moslem parts of the war, which has also resulted in harming their economy through economic sanctions, and in making the JNA pull out and Yugoslavia renounce territorial claims beyond its boundaries. Since much of the forces and the claims have reverted to the local Serb republics, these gains have been limited.

Another gain has been to make Croatia and the Izetbegovic’ government virtually impregnable to (open) criticism. This advantage has been substantial to the Croats, making politically possible their ambiguous position in B-H and getting rid of a great part of the Serbs in Croatia; it has been of less help for the Moslems.

In other respects, the victories in the propaganda war did not lead to the intended effects. There has been no military intervention on the victors’ side. Nor has the UN embargo on arms been lifted; the imports of arms have to remain covert, even if political sympathies may have made improved credits and led to more deliveries. It may be the case that the Croats, and in particular the Moslems, had a disadvantage of the propaganda war going so well: banking on further victories and on a military support that in fact never materialized, they may have overplayed their hands and passed up opportunities that will not return.

6. Conflicts in the EC: the distribution of states

Let us now – merely for the sake of argument – make the same gross oversimplification of the web of conflicts as the mass media have tended to do: as a conflict between political units, Serbia and Croatia. What factors have affected what nations in the EC to take what stand between them? At least the following factors appear to have ben of some importance:

Old alliances: Among the major powers Great Britain have been allies of Serbia and Yugoslavia in two world wars. Germany has either been in alliance with the Habsburg overlords of Croatia in World War I or with the Croatian puppet state it set up together with Italy in World War II.

Cultural factors: Serbia has traditionally belonged to the French cultural sphere, Croatia to the German (with Italian influence in its Dalmatian parts).

Religion: Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Ireland, Luxemburg and large parts of Germany and the Netherlands are Catholic, like the Croats. The Greeks are the only people that share Orthodox religion and culture with the Serbs.

Ethnic composition: Everything else being equal, we may primarily expect pro-Croatian sympathies in those states that have no recent experience – and hence little understanding – of internal ethnic conflicts, like Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal. We may expect greater scepticism in those states that have such experiences, especially Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Greece.

Economic interests: Germany and Italy had the greatest trading interests in Yugoslavia with about one fifth each of its foreign trade, far more than any other EC country. Those interests have primarily been in Slovenia and Croatia, and have even to some extent brought Germany and Italy into institutional com-petition. Italy is the senior partner in the Pentagonale (later Hexagonale) cooperation with Yugoslavia, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and (later) Poland. Bavaria is formally speaking an observer, but may in reality be seen as senior partner in the Alp/Adria cooperation with regions in North East Italy, western Austria, Croatia och Slovenia.

“Idealpolitik”: Such aspects originally concerned Germany (previously West Germany), which has had clashes with Serbia and Yugoslavia about human rights in Kosova/Kosovo. Human rights and minority rights have also played an important role in the formulas for conflict resolution propagated by the EC in the present conflict (see below). Political (rather than legal) notions about national self-determination have also played a role. In their unification euforia, the Germans have tended to see Croatia as a moral parallel to themselves on an abstract and principial level, and their engagement may have been strengthened by a bad conscience over the low profile they  initially kept vis-a-vis the Baltic republics for Realpolitik reasons.

If we collate all these factors, there is a clearly visible pattern. All factors point in the same direction in Germany, which explains the rapid German consensus across the political spectrum to support the Croatian side. Italy comes close to Germany, with an almost as clear balance in Croatian favour. In several other states, different factors point in different di-rections; the opposite pole to Germany is Greece, where most factors point in pro-Serbian direction. These three states – Germany, Italy and Greece – have therefore been those most strongly engaged in the Yugoslav conflicts. Germany has thus had a high degree of domestic consensus and therefore a strong sense of direction to multiply its great weight with, and the policies of the EC have thus largely – though not entirely – been the policies of Germany, even if there has often been a time lag of weeks or even occasionally months.

7. Conflicts within the EC: the role and rank of the EC

The conflicts in Yugoslavia have been problematic for an EC busy with several other things, such as how much of a common foreign, defence and security policy it is to have in the future and what positions to take on the progressive dissolution of the Soviet Union.

We will limit ourselves to the major powers: Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain. If they manage to agree on something, it is unlikely that minor states will be able to put any spokes in the wheel. If we look at the official positions of the governments, Germany and Italy have been fairly consistent EC integrationists, whereas Great Britain has been an almost as consistent a sceptic.

The complex position of France may be summarized as conditional integrationism. One of the conditions has to do with France regarding a common foreign and security policy as far more important than do the others; this interest may be seen as pincipled, in the sense that France is even willing to make concessions on its own interests to achieve it. Another condition has to with whether France can be expected to play a prominent role – at least as a peer of Germany. Due to these differences of opinion in it, the EC tends to stress common behaviour vis-a-vis the external world; this was even more accentuated after the Gulf crises, where the protagonists for EC as a unitary actor in high politics complained about failure. This striving for consensus initially gave Germany even stronger trumps in Yugoslavia issues: the German combination of weight and (in German eyes altruistic) engagement made other states prefer horsetrading, or even accepting post hoc German unilateral action (most dramatically, the recognition of Croatia) to an open split.

The EC has successively taken four different stands:

1) not to intervene in Yugoslav conflicts;

2) to try to promote stability there;

3) to demonstrate actor capability and resolve by promoting peace;

4) to demonstrate actor capability and resolve by trying to impose its own ideas about conflict resolution

1) was the traditional line for the EC and most of its members. Before 1991, it was on government level virtually only Germany that had confrontations with Yugoslavia (see above). In 1990-91, policies swung in the direction towards 2); it finally became clear that serious problems were on their way in Yugoslavia.

Since the dissolution of the USSR started first, it may have become a touchstone: Western Europe did not want to risk the instability that might come out of such a dissolution of the USSR, and, as an extension of that, nor in Yugoslavia.

This “Genscherian” policy defined the position vis-a-vis Yugoslavia in the beginning of 1991. The EC was putting pressure on Yugoslavia to have it respect its own order of rotation (and let the Croat Stipe Mesic take over as President of the federal council), but also to have the republics find a compromise to preserve the unity of Yugoslavia. The carrot (and the implied stick) was a promise of several billion ECU in development aid if they did.

The 25 June 1991 defined a first crisis for this policy, when the parties in Yugoslavia agreed – to have a battle. It was then easy to reach agreement that the EC had to do something. There appears to have been at least three motives behind this: 1) a desire to appear as a unitary actor and to demonstrate resolve, 2) an awareness that EC did not have sufficient cohesion and strength to do this by doing nothing; 3) a fear that doing nothing would have carried too great risks for German, French etc. unilateral actions and – in the worst nightmare – some kind of a 1914 situation. Furthermore, this was the first war in modern Europe where it was not self-evident who was responsible for doing something (including the option of doing nothing). NATO was not a prima facie candidate, Yugoslavia being outside its area of operations.

Another imaginable actor might be “Greater Europe”, the CSCE. What it can do is, however, quite limited, both by its mandate and by its consensus rule. There was one thing immediately provided for by its statutes: on the initiative of Austria, it asked Yugoslavia to explain its “unusual military activities” when the war broke out. Yugoslavia did so, and that ended the matter. Any other decision in the CSCE would have called for consensus and thereby for acceptance from Yugoslavia, and it would go no further than accepting that the meeting of CSCE foreign ministers in juli 1991 encouraged the EC to continue its attempts as a mediator.

Still another imaginable actor was the United Nations; in the first round, the Security Council decided on an arms embargo against all parties in Yugoslavia – and sent the conflict back to the EC, in addition to which its Secretary-General appointed Mr. Cyrus Vance as Special Representative. It was only in December that the UN took a more active role in brokering a ceasefire when the EC had failed.

For military operations, there might also be the West European Union, which, however, has not intervened so far. If anybody was to do something, it would therefore have to be the EC or individual great powers. Germany had the greatest interest in something being done, but would have difficulties, for historical as well as (in the case of military options) constitutional reasons, in acting unilaterally; it therefore had to get the EC into action.

The easiest thing to get consensus on was then to enter 3) as a continuation of 2). In July 1991, the EC also played a constructive role as a mediator between the Slovenian and Yugoslav governments. That, however, was easy, there being no difficult boundary issues and the two governments having perfectly harmonious interests in keeping Slovenia as far away as possible from the Serb-Croat conflict, once the Slovenes had demonstrated their ability to defend themselves against an attempt at a quick take-over by the federal forces (cf. section 3). A monitored ceasefire was quickly arranged, and a time table for a withdrawal of federal forces supervised by the unarmed military staff from EC countries was agreed on slightly later. The time table worked according to plan, and all of these forces were out by October 1991.

Croatia defined a far more difficult problem. First, there was more than 600,000 Serbs; some of them formed majorities in boundary areas, especially the Krajina area surrounding the north-western part of Bosnia-Herzegovina; others in enclaves between the Bosnian and the Hungarian boundary; and others still as minorities in towns and cities. The political positions among the Serbian population also differed widely between different groups. The Krajina Serbs in the Knin area had already taken over the administration and police institutions in their areas in summer 1990, when Croatia tried to fire the Serbian policemen and send their own in; and they had categorically declared that if Croatia would leave Yugoslavia, they would leave Croatia.

Second, there were many different kinds of armed forces on both sides. Some of them were (by comparison) relatively disciplined, such as the Yugoslav federal army, the Croatian national guard, and to some extent the official forces of Krajina, the so-called Marticevci. On both sides there were also a number of local militias and in addition militias tied to various political parties, the extremes being represented on the Croatian side by the HOS linked to the HSP under Paraga, who are thus Fascist even by name, and on the Serbian side by forces hailing the ultra-nationalist Vuk Draškovic and the even more ultra-nationalist Vojeslav Šešelj and Zeljko Raznatovic (“Arkan”) and others on the Serbian side, of which at least the two latter must be seen as Fascist in everything but name; these and other militias have long engaged in large-scale looting and robbery, and also appear to be chiefly responsible for the Serbian part of the mutual chasing away of ethnic minorities from the territories under Serbian and Croatian control, respectively.

The war in the last months of 1991 was therefore a very complex combination of a front war (the federal army and allied militias vs. the Croatian national guard and allied militias); a siege war (Croatian forces beleaguering some of the air, naval and army bases of the federal army, including those in Zagreb), guerilla wars behind the fronts, and mutual terrorization of civilian population by the worst militias. As the front moved further into mixed areas and even into predominantly Croatian areas, the position of the EC became increasingly anti-Serbian. This naturally reduced even further whatever chances of success the negotiations chaired by the EC might have had, and the EC gradually moved from position 3) to position 4), attempting to impose what crystallized as its own ideas (largely taken over from Germany) about what a solution ought to look like: an independent Croatia with the same boundaries as the former Republic of Croatia, thus including the Serb areas. This led to a long exercise in failed Realpolitik.

8. The German riddle

Explaining the changes in the position of the EC primarily involves explaining Germany’s road from 1) to 4) and explaining how Germany has managed to get so influential. We have already made some hints concerning the second problem; in this section we will concentrate on the first.

Since it will take decades until archives etc. are declassified and future historians can give a verdict on how much we will ever be able to know about the German dynamics in 1990-92, we have to limit ourselves to speculations. Let me therefore start by drawing two extreme scenarios, neither of which is very likely: the point is rather to indicate how many different possibilities there are in between them.

The first scenario is about a combination of “the force of circumstances” and “the irony of history”. In this scenario, Germany repeatedly tried a well-intended policy and managed to persuade its EC partners of its wisdom; it then found out that the policy was not implementable or not helpful, and therefore had to improvise another policy. When the parties in Yugoslavia could not agree on a constitutional formula that everybody could accept, the best policy appeared to be to have the EC act as mediator in the armed conflicts; when it had exhausted its possibilities in that respect and it turned out that there was nothing the remaining parties could agree on, the best policy appeared to be finding a principled solution that the EC could proclaim as its own, leaving the details of implementation to negotiations between the parties; when the Serbs and the remaining Yugoslav government declined that solution too, regarding it as one-sidedly pro-Croatian, it appeared important to try to create a fait accompli by means of recognitions; when that was not accepted, but rather made the local Serbs increasingly militant, the idea was to weaken their bargaining position by continuing the recognition of republics; when that led to much more war, sanctions had to be imposed on an increasing scale to make them (the Serbs, or Serbia, or Yugoslavia) back down; and so on and so forth.

In the opposite extreme scenario, the development is rather to be understood in terms of Macchiavellian politics. The German leadership had as its ultimate goal the collapse of a Yugoslavia that was the main hindrance for a German domination of the Balkans. The Croats and Slovenes were therefore informally given to understand that there was no need for them to find a compromise with the Serbs; the West would somehow help them to achieve their demands anyhow.

In order to be able to get the necessary legitimization from the EC, it was, however, necessary for Germany to move forward step by step. After the mediation between Ljubljana and Belgrade (highly successful for Germany in this scenario), the crucial issue was to get EC to move from the mediator role to becoming a party to the conflict on the Croatian side. A first step was to get the EC and NATO to agree to inventing a principle – without any real support in international law – that administrative boundaries inside sovereign states were to be valid in case of secessions. The second step was to bulldoze recognitions of Slovenia and Croatia through in the EC, first as a plan for the future (also involving invitations to other republics to declare themselves independent) and then by presenting a German fait accompli, challenging the others to follow Germany or split the EC.

In the chaos and escalating war resulting from these developments, it would then be easier to get backing from the CSCE, UN, USA etc. for a military intervention that history and constitution made it impossible for Germany itself to engage in. To signal the threat of such an intervention, the recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina was decided by the EC on 6 April 1992.

Where the truth lies between these extremes can only be decided by future historians, if even by them. The first scenario is naive, at least in this crude form, assuming that there was no long term policy at all in Germany. The second scenario is naive, at least in that crude form, in conspiratorially assuming the existence of a grand master plan – and, on top of that, one that actually works out as planned!

There is another important point, however: here as elsewhere, actors act, and affect the further developments of the conflict, on the basis of their perceptions rather than of the historical truth. It is therefore an important factor in the conflict itself that the predominant German self-image appears to lie rather close to the first scenario, domestic criticism of the policies of the government tending to be that it ought to have moved its positions earlier and more forcefully so as to create a deterrence before it was too late. Another important factor is that the most widespread Serbian interpretation of the conflict tends to lie fairly close to the second scenario, thus generating a sense of “Here they come again”.

9. Failed Realpolitik

Yugoslavia in 1991 consisted of three major powder kegs: the first of them was defined by the conflict between Croatian and Slovenian separatism and the desire (at that time) among the other republics to keep Yugoslavia together. It was particularly inflammable due to the fact that the complex and grey-zoned boundary between Serbs and Croats in the north differs widely from the boundary between Serbia and Croatia. The second powder keg, Bosnia-Herzegovina, was defined by the impossibility of getting the Serbs there ever to accept the combination of mak-ing it an independent and a unitary state that was (temporarily) the goal of the Croat and Moslem leaderships. The third powder keg is defined by the Serb-Albanian-Macedonian complex in the south with its possible extensions to involve the states of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.

In the northern complex, the core problem is virtually the same as it was even before the declarations of independence and the wars started. President Tudjman and his government were in the same position as the monkey of the fable with his hand around a nut in a bottle. They could not get the Croatia hand out of the Yugoslav bottle without dropping the Serbian parts in Krajina and elsewhere; they could not drop the nut without risking a fascist coup d’état; and President Miloševic could not widen the bottle (even if he had wanted to) without risking a fascist coup d’état in Belgrade.

In the first phase, the German approach was to try to oil the bottleneck by promises on minority rights etc. and getting that accepted as EC policy. That approach could resolve the internal conflicts in the EC by making it irrelevant that ethnic boundaries did not coincide with administrative boundaries. The great problem was how to get the local Serbs to put any faith in assurances that the EC had squeezed out of the government of Croatia. Given the historical background, this did not prove feasible, especially as Germany and the EC appeared to the Serbs to demonstrate that they did not even take these conditions very seriously themselves.

When the oil did not work, the policy of the EC became to break the bottle. To that end, it has made the routine search into the Realpolitik toolbox: critical resolutions, various forms of pressure, threats about economic and diplomatic sanctions, gradual implementation of these sanctions, and implied threats of various forms of military intervention. (One way of communicating the latter form of threats was to comment that “military means could not be ruled out” when asked by journalists about different military schemes suggested in the public debate.) Other elements included broadening the coalition, primarily by getting US support, getting the UN Security Council to make increasingly touch resolutions, proclaim economic, cultural and diplomatic sanctions and eventually make military threats too, in other words going as far as it was possible to press Russia and China to vote for, or at least not against.

One of the intentions of the policies has naturally (although not always obviously) been weakening the position of (the old or the smaller) Yugoslavia, Serbia or local Serbs in the various balances of power. By this criterion, some of these instruments do indeed appear to have had some effects. To start with, the EC has been successful in supporting the Croatian side by breaking up the old Yugoslavia and creating another war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, even if the latter was against the declared intentions. Furthermore, the federal forces of Yugoslavia have increasingly exercised some forms of self-restraint, in particular the air force and the navy. Later on, Yugoslavia and its Serbian and Montenegrin components have agreed to make some required statements, most notably at the London conference, and to call JNA forces home from outside the territory of Yugoslavia, even if this operation has often had at least as strong a semantical element as a logistical one (cf. above).

In the central issues however, all the Realpolitik instruments have been helpless. Areas under Serbian control in Croatia remain under Serbian control, with or without parallel presence of UN forces, and notwithstanding the reduced ambitions of Serbia itself and calls from Yugoslavia and from Zagreb Serbs to accept a “special status” for Serbian areas in Croatia. There are no signs that the Serb population in Krajina etc. or on the Bosnian and Hercegovinian countryside have become more willing than before to submit to any effective control by governments in Zagreb or Sarajevo. Short of a complete military victory over them, the only feasible solution appears to be some compromise making that control purely nominal. In other words, the principle of communicating vessels has worked again, this time meaning that the abandonment of a Greater Serbia leads to the inescapability of two additional Small Serbias
as nominal parts of other states.

The failure of Realpolitik in these respects has partly had to do with its having to some extent the wrong address: Serbia rather than the Serbs. One reason for this has been the (given its construction, completely logical) fixation of the EC on states or, where they are not available, on entities that resemble states as closely as possible. Another reason is that it is far more well-defined who speaks for Serbia than who speaks for all Serbs.  A third reason is obviously that there was some justification for that position in terms of the Miloševic government having played a considerable, even if unofficial, role in the early phase of the Serbian resistance in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. That, however, does not make this resistance less real now; it will in all likelihood continue on its own, whatever any government in Belgrade does.

Another reason for the failure was that Germany and the EC have underestimated how much was seen as being at stake by the Serbs and by various Serbian leaderships, and in particular for the more than two million Serbs outside the 1991 Republic of Serbia. In addition, they do not appear to have been very familiar with Serbian history, especially not as it is written or conceived by the Serbs themselves. My own impression of a widespread “Serbian gut feeling” (as distinct from intelligent analyses made by educated intellectuals) would be something like this:

“In his inscrutable wisdom, God has ordained that each generation of Serbs is to see Purgatory as a reminder. To that purpose, he sends over us Turks, Austrians, Germans – and their even more bloodthirsty puppets – and lets them beat us and kill a sizable fraction of our people. Since God is also just and merciful, he always ends by crushing these evil empires and lets us win, once we have suffered our years in Purgatory.”

The Germans and the EC therefore greatly underestimated how deep down they would have to dig into the Realpolitik toolbox to coerce the Serbs into submission and the requested concessions.

10. International law and politics

Another aspect of this calls for a short excursion into the relation between international law and politics. Once the EC had become a de facto political ally of Croatia in autumn 1991, it faced a number of such problems vis-a-vis Yugoslavia. The simplest summary of the interplay between Yugoslav strategy and German/EC strategy is that both parties have tried to fight on the grounds where they saw themselves as standing strongest: Serbia and Yugoslavia has generally tried to make legal issues out of conflicts, whereas their opponents have tried to make the same issues as political as possible.

Where international law could be used against Yugoslavia or the Serbs (e.g. humanitarian law), it naturally was; in other cases, intelligent attempts were made to circumvent or even to create international law.

1) The issue of national self-determination. While this has been a legal right for a long time, e.g. encompassed in the Human Rights Covenants, the subject of that right has never been clarified: there is no agreed definition of “people” or “nation”. It is quite clear that a Non Self Governing Territory has that right, but this was not applicable in former Yugoslavia, where no such territory existed by UN criteria. Apart from that, however, most texts where either term occurs, in particular formulations about “national self-determination”, have traditionally been read, e.g. in the United Nations, so as to equate “nation” with “state”, the implication being that in case of a sovereign state that right is tantamount to its sovereignty and does not apply within it.

On the other hand, this has not been entirely unequivocal: when attempts have been made to make it quite explicit, they have been defeated, and there have long been prominent international lawyers that argue the opposite case. International law has also traditionally distinguished between “nations” – that have the right to national self-determination – and “national minorities” that merely have some rights to minority protection; yet no sharp dividing line has ever been possible to draw. There are therefore obvious possibilities for sovereignty and self-determination to clash and several moot points.

In the case of a division of Yugoslavia, one crucial issue was, to use the wording of the question Yugoslavia asked Lord Carrington in October 1991 to pass on to the Badinter Commission, “Who can be the subject of the right to self-determination from the standpoint of international public law – a nation or a federal unit; is the right to self-determination a subjective collective right or the right of a territory?” The Badinter Commission, however, avoided giving any clear answer to this issue. Its reply was rather based on implicitly treating the republics as the relevant entities, treating the Serbs in other republics as minorities or ethnic groups, rather than as nations. Since this was precisely what Croatia had intended by depriving in its 1990 constitution (which has on this point never been revised) the Serbs of the status of a constituent nation, and since it clearly contradicted the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the Serbs appeared as equal partners with other nations, the reply deepened the conflicts rather than solving them.

2) The issue of boundaries. There are two clear legal norms on boundaries in international law. One of them, appearing in the statutes of the UN as well as of the OAU and CSCE, concerns sovereign states and states that such boundaries can only be changed by agreement between the parties, but never by use or threats of military force. The other concerns Non Self Governing Territories only, stating that such a territory is to exercise its right to national self-determination as an undivided entity. Neither norm was applicable in the Yugoslav case, since this was about secession, for which no norms existed. Rather than referring the issue to the UN or the ICJ, the EC made a political issue out of it by having first itself and then NATO state as a principle that previous administrative boundaries were to apply in case of secessions.

3) The issue of aggression. In international law, aggression is a relation between sovereign states. It consists i.a. in attacking other sovereign states militarily, but also in states  abetting or supporting rebellions against the governments in other states. Rebellion in itself, however, is neither prohibited, nor, except in very specific cases, permitted by international law. Combating a rebellion is not prohibited, and in particular definitely does not constitute aggression in the legal sense of that term. International law does, however, regulate how such wars can be carried out by either party; by and large, the same rules nowadays apply to such domestic wars as to international wars.

Several of the de facto parties, primarily Yugoslavia and Croatia, have been accused of violations of international law in their conduct of hostilities. From the legal point of view of the government of Yugoslavia, the secessions constituted rebellions and it was protected by international law against other states supporting them. The Croatian (and Slovenian) strategy, on the other hand, was to internationalize the conflict, and this also soon became the EC strategy. By changing the legal situation into one with the former republics as sovereign states, three things could be achieved: a) it would no longer be legally forbidden for the EC states to support the republics they preferred; b) the presence of JNA forces in these republics could be defined as constituting aggression; c) the conflicts in Croatia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina would be redefined as constituting rebellions that it is illegal for other states (read: Yugoslavia) to support. That brings us to next issue.

4) Recognitions. Whether a state exists or not is a factual question. In the absence of clear and agreed criteria for this, membership of the United Nations has long been taken as positive evidence that a state exists, but even then in a weak sense only. Even then, the Credentials Committee of the UN may occasionally decide not to recognize the credentials of the delegation claiming to represent this state. Statehood being a factual issue, it is not per se affected by whether some already existing states recognize a state or not. Many states, including the United Kingdom and some other EC members, have a long tradition of treating recognition as a purely factual matter: if there exists a government exerting sovereign control over (most of) the territory it claims and that appears likely to continue to do so, it is regarded as existing and is recognized on that basis, recognition implying in itself no approval. Some other states, including the USA, have a tradition of sometimes using non-recognition as a way of expressing disapproval.

In any case, international praxis has been not to recognize unilateral secessions, unless and until the seceding units appear to have permanent and stable control over (most of) the territory they claim as theirs, whether by agreement with the state they seceded from or by clearly demonstrating it de facto.  After the failed coup in Moscow in August 1991, there was a clear break with this tradition: many Western states instantly recognized several ex-USSR states proclaiming independence.

After long intra-EC discussions, it was decided to set up criteria for recognition; these criteria included the innovation (in comparison with the dissolution of the USSR) of including references to human rights and minority protection (the assessment of which the EC keeps its own control over, however). Germany then presented a fait accompli by recognizing Croatia and Slovenia on 23 December 1991, the other EC states following it on 15 January and many others having followed later. Bosnia-Herzegovina was first recognized by Iran, after which the EC states decided on 6 April 1992 to follow and many others have followed since then. Macedonia has been recognized by a handful of states, including Russia, Bulgaria and Turkey, whe-reas the EC states decided in June 1992 to make their recognition dependent on the state using a name not containing the word “Macedonia”.

The second generation secessions, on the other hand, have not been recognized: the Serb republics in the former Republic of Croatia and in the former Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Croat republic in the former Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and the Albanian state in Kosova (except by Albania).

It is thus clear that there has been a recent and rather strong politicization of recognition practices; but it is not unequivocal exactly how much of this politicization has been tailormade to fit EC political positions in precisely the Yugoslav case. It also appears clear that the EC has an ambition of tak-ing over the role of UN as the body that defines statehood, at least in the CSCE area.

5) The succession issue. When Serbia and Montenegro took note in spring 1992 of the fact that they were the only remaining members of Yugoslavia and agreed to revise the constitution to reflect that fact, they were also careful to underline that this was not the matter of creating a new state; they therefore claim the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to be the successor of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The EC and the USA, on the other hand have proclaimed that they will challenge this claim and will ask for Yugoslavia to be treated as a new state seeking recognition and UN membership.

This issue is likely to become highly controversial. Some international organizations, such as the Non Aligned Movement at its Jakarta meeting in August/September 1992, have treated Yugoslavia as a continuing member. Some international organizations, such as the IMF, have at least implicitly recognized a successor by accepting payments in the name of Yugoslavia. At least GATT has refused to accept Yugoslav credentials. Other organizations again, such as the CSCE, have taken a compromise position by temporarily suspending Yugoslavia, rather than ex-cluding it. The crucial test will take place in the Credentials Committee in the United Nations in September 1992, which will have to take a stand among several options: accepting the credentials presented by the Yugoslav delegation; declaring the seat vacant; or adjourning the issue while seeking legal advice).

In modern times, there have been very few cases of precedence. When Bangladesh declared itself independent and was elected into the UN after a couple of years’ delay, nobody challenged the continued membership of Pakistan, although it had a smaller population than Bangladesh. After the dissolution of the USSR, Russia was rather soon recognized as its successor, e.g. in the permament seat of the Security council, in spite of this being challenged by other nuclear ex-republics. From this point of view, the treatment of Yugoslavia also constitutes an innovation, and can be seen as one more instance of the general tendency that Yugoslavia tries to define issues as legal ones and the EC (and USA) as political ones.

On Realpolitik premises, it was of course quite logical to try the instruments in the toolbox in ascending order, starting with the finest ones so as not to use more force than necessary for the purpose. The underlying argument would be that if they worked, all was well, and if they did not, there would still be time to take a stand between resigning or curtailing ambitions and using stronger instruments. Even on these premises, however, the EC policies appear to have been occasionally catastrophical, whatever their more wide-ranging intentions. The instruments that were used appear in some cases to have made the conflicts worse and more sanguinary by simultaneously nourishing Croatian – later also Moslem – illusion politics and Serbian paranoia politics.

For example, the combination of boundary principles and recognitions simultaneously made it definitely politically impossible for President Tudjman to reach a territorial compromise to get the rest of Croatia out (since he would no longer have any chance of legitimizing that vis-a-vis the more ultra-nationalist wing of his own party or the Fascist part of the opposition); it also convinced the local Serbs that their only possibility of deciding their own destiny was to be prepared to fight to the last bullet.

To give another example, the last chance of a unified Bosnia-Herzegovina was lost when the EC recognized it, even apart from the date when the decision was made, the signal read by the Moslems was that they would get the necessary international support to force the Serbs to accept a unitary state and that there was therefore no need to make a compromise with them, whereas the signal read by the local Serbs was rather that their only way of preserving their independence was to fight for it.

This illustrates one problem with the Realpolitik toolbox – or rather with the implicit instruction book for it: it tends to assume that the actors have control over choices of instruments and of timing. This is to some sense an illusion since giving in to e.g. mass media pressure to do A may make it far more difficult later to have doing B as a real option rather than as a forced consequence. In addition, the “instruction book” tends to invite “the fallacy of the last move”, so that predictable consequences of using the instruments are disregarded. (Economic sanctions, as usual, provide a good example.)

More generally, the EC – and later more generally the Western – policies have also tended to have the effect of destroying an increasing number of possible alternatives, thus making the negotiation space of the parties in former Yugoslavia more and more narrow, perhaps even empty. One general mechanism for doing this has been to follow the German-French line of establishing principles rather than the British line of seeking fair solutions; the more principles are established, the more of the possible solutions are excluded, hence the smaller the chances of an agreed solution.

Formulated on the same level of abstraction, Germany was attempting to make the EC paint itself into a corner with three exits only: either that the local Serbs capitulate, or a political catastrophe of internal division and loss of prestige for the EC, or waging a major and long war in the name of national self-determination to defeat local Serb forces in Croatia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina, altogether over a hundred thousand men (with many more mobilizable), a great of whom are well armed and trained and have the advantage of fighting in their own home areas and doing it with total desperation. The calculation may have been to convince these Serbs that since the EC would not accept internal division, only the first and the third alternative remained; and since the Serbs would know that they would lose in the latter case, they would then opt for the first. The local Serbian counter-move was then to try the same strategy: by making it credible that they would never capitulate without having been completely militarily defeated, they would put the EC in the choice between the second and the third alternative, trusting that the EC would then opt for the second, in particular if it could find a way of backing down gracefully.

11. Eigendynamik

Another effect of the EC policies is that the conflict has acquired an increasing element of Eigendynamik. The main issues have gradually moved from the local ones to the more overarching one: It becomes increasingly intolerable that a small state like Yugoslavia or Serbia does not accept the dictates of a great power like the EC, not to speak about a great power directorate under US leadership. The will to actor capability thus becomes the enemy of freedom of action, and the great power(s) get as trapped as all the local actors, perhaps even more so. Being a great power means being under great domestic and international pressure to be seen doing something, and doing nothing calls for a degree of strength and cohesion that is rarely available. In this way, there has been an increasing translation of the original set of conflicts into a largely unspoken meta-conflict about the rules of power and influence.

This makes the conflict process include the making of cases of precedence on various levels. On the object level, these cases of precedence include for example rules for division of territory in crumbling states; rules for recognition of new states; and rules for delivery of humanitarian assistance.

At the same time, there are cases of precedence that are rather on a meta-level: finding the limits for the amount of great power influence in various issue areas; defining to what extent the Western alliance alone can influence decisions in the Security Council and what limits it faces there; etc.

In both types of cases, the precedences that may be created, the invented principles that may get their status elevated by getting incorporated into conflict settlement, etc., will have relevance and effects far beyond Yugoslavia. This, of course, is realized, and even to a considerable extent intended, by the major actors, as well as by many third parties; but there are also some indications that there appear rather different inter-pretations of them.

For some of the cases of precedence on the object level, one particular problem is that both the history and the ethnography of Yugoslavia make the attempted principles particularly ill-suited; there is no way of implementing them without adding even more, or much more, bloodshed and refugees; and even then, the life expectancy of any implementation will be modest. In this situation, the political etc. intervention from the major powers might have been more adapted to local conditions, if it had not been for the precedence aspect. The argumentation for stronger intervention often stresses this, although the “rules for legitimate public argumentation” prohibits it from becoming completely (overtly) consistent.

Different types of states will, however, read the cases differently. The EC appears to have had primarily the former USSR
in mind, when trying to establish the use of administrative boundaries as a principle: there are ten times as many Russians outside Russia as there are Serbs outside Yugoslavia, and like the Serbs they form local majorities in many areas. Since the great majority of the states in the world – and in particular in the third world – are multinationally composed, this principle will appear as a major and unacceptable threat to many states, in particular when combined with the attempts of the EC to take over the legitimizing role of the UN and the innovation of quick recognition on politicized criteria. It may therefore be expected that Yugoslavia gets substantial backing in the Third World, even if the fact that Serbs are at war with Moslems in Bosnia-Herzegovina has meant its losing that support from most of the Moslem states.

The meta-conflict and the cases of precedence set there will also have major effects elsewhere. Here it is mainly a matter of where are the limits to how much major powers can intervene in smaller states, what kinds of intervention they can get legitimized in the UN – or by establishing fait accomplis – and how much, and up to what cost limit – they are permitted to intervene by their own populations. These are issues where different types of states in the world will see different interests. For the reasons mentioned above, many governments will see increased intervention potentials as a threat; at the same time, quite a number of these, in particular those with some forms of security guarantees from the Western coalition, will prefer to see a successful intervention making a point.

12. An intermediary balance

It appears, at least in the short run, as if the major parties in the conflicts have found yet another way out of the corner that the EC was on its way into, and that this was codified by the points in the London agreement. The most important underlying elements of this compromise appear to be the following:

1) The EC resigns as the primary actor. This, however, is done with grace, by means of the co-chairmanship with the United Nations which can be presented domestically as a broadening and strengthening of the coalition, at the same time as the UN can be used later as a scapegoat when the political agreements that may eventually result from the Geneva talks turn out not to agree with what Germany would have wanted. Another compensation consists in the London agreement including in the basis for the Geneva talks the major principles that the EC has worked to establish.

2) The option of a major Western invasion has de facto been ruled out. The compensation given to those who would have wanted more anti-Serb action is that the implementation of economic sanctions is strengthened (at least on paper) and that more UN troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina are given greater authority to use military means.

3) “The Serbs” have made what can be presented in the EC as a series of concessions. Some of these consist in Yugoslavia, as represented by President Panic, accepting existing boundaries and agreeing that they cannot be changed by force, condemning ethnic cleansing (and doing something about it in Vojvodina), and so forth. Other concessions were made by the Serbian leadership in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as represented by President Karadzic, both in terms of making required statements, of declaring Serbian preparedness to vacate some twenty percent of the territory presently held by them, and of committing himself to some required measures, e.g. the concentration of major arms around Moslem-held cities to a limited number of spots that are to be monitored by UN staff.

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina has thus been – at least implicitly – redefined as a civil war, or, for those who prefer that formulation, as a case of two or more major rebellions against a central government. The commitment of the UN then consists in trying to work out tenable ceasefires, protecting the civilian population against the worst hardships deriving from a situation of war by sending supplies and safeguarding that the warring parties observe the laws of war, as well as trying to promote negotiations between the three major parties – Serbs, Croats and Moslems – to achieve a politically agreed solution that all of them can live with.

It will, however, not consist in serving as a military ally of the Izetbegovic government against those of Boban and Karadzic. Whereas the principle against changing boundaries by force has clear implications in an international war – the restoration of status quo ante – its content in the case of a civil war must primarily be to exhort the parties to accept ceasefires and to find an agreement. Given the strong international pressure for the continued existence of a nominal state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, this agreement will have to include a formula for how to do this while providing for de facto independence for the three parties.

It will also have to include an agreed division of territory that is covered by some principles for it that are not just based on present military control. Given the extremely complex ethnic map of Bosnia-Herzegovina, it will probably be easiest to make an agreement first and find the principles afterwards, even if the final document is presented in the opposite order. In this regard, it may be helpful that both co-chairmen in Geneva belong to Common Law, rather than Roman Law cultures.


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