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The International Community and the FRY/Belligerents II
by Matjaz Klemencic

The Scholars’ Initiative: Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies 2001-2005

Matjaž Klemencic: Team Leader, Dušan Janjic: Team Leader, Vlado Anzinovic, Keith Doubt, Emil Kerenji, Alfred Bing, John Fine, Vladimir Klemencic, Sumantra Bose, Zlatko Hažidedic, Miloš Kovic, Steven Burg, Marko Attila Hoare, Vladimir Petrovic, Daniele Convers,i Constantin Iordachi, Nikola Samardžic, Dušan Djordjevich, A. Ross Johnson, Brendan Simms

(Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IIII)

The Explosion of War (Summer 1991)

Slovene politicians negotiated with the federal government for peaceful separation from the rest of the Yugoslav republics, but without success. Four days after U.S. Secretary of State Baker’s visit (on June 25), Croatia and Slovenia carried through with their intent to declare independence. This act was followed by an attack of the JNA on Slovenia, with the goal to overthrow the Slovene pro-independence government and gain control over the territory, especially over the borders with Austria and Italy. The JNA was trapped at barricades that the Slovene Territorial Defense constructed out of buses and trucks. During the Slovenian “Ten- Day War,” the JNA lost the international public relations campaign. Hans Dietrich Genscher, Germany’s foreign minister, accused the JNA of “running amok” in Slovenia. Evidence of how much Germans were interested in solving the conflict is the visit of Genscher, who accepted the invitation of Slovene foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel to come to Slovenia. At 2 July he landed at Klagenfurt Airport in nearby Carinthia, with the intention of driving into Slovenia. But, because of the fighting he could not enter Slovenia. Instead Slovene President Kucan and Minister Rupel discussed the issues with Genscher in Klagenfurt. The result was the ongoing support of Genscher for the Slovene cause throughout the conflict.103 British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd joined the fray. He told the British Parliament that the JNA had hastened the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Italy said it would “act in solidarity” (whatever that meant) with Croatia and Slovenia, unless the JNA respected the cease-fire. In the U.S.A., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Claiborne Pell (D–RI), urged President Bush to support Slovene and Croatian independence if Yugoslavia’s “renegade army does not cease its wanton aggression.”104

In spite of these calls, the Bush, Sr., administration limited itself only to criticizing the JNA’s actions. As the world’s sole remaining superpower, the U.S.A. frowned on secessionism as a threat to the hard-won status quo. Its leaders also retained the Wilsonian preference for following Balkan violence from as far away as possible. Hence, whereas there were discussions among different desks of the Departments of State and Defense, as there had been during the Wilson administration about different options for the region,105 the conventional wisdom was that Europe—that is, the EC—should lead attempts to resolve the Yugoslav crisis. Ominously, some specialists in European affairs in the State Department were already expressing doubts about whether the EC could discharge this role successfully, fearful as they were that the EC was already too dependent on the U.S.106

The EC, which tried for a long time to play a more significant and independent role from the U.S. in foreign policy in general, accepted the opportunity to mediate in the Yugoslav crisis. EC politicians did not care too much whether they were qualified to deal with so complicated a crisis.107 Already on 27 June Genscher asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to start the procedures that its member states had accepted a week before in Berlin. The same demand was issued also at the meeting of the presidents of the governments and states of EC members in Vianden, Luxembourg. Austria, Italy, and Norway demanded the next day from Yugoslavia that it “explain the unusual operations of the JNA in Slovenia.” In accordance with the mechanisms designed for “extraordinary circumstances,” on Genscher’s demand the OSCE Committee of Senior Officials met on 3 and 4 July 1991 and asked the fighting sides in Yugoslavia to stop the fighting and offered to send a group of observers.108

Yugoslav diplomacy tried to prevent internationalization of the problem, with the support of the Soviet Union. The most important of the documents accepted by the meeting was a suggestion for a negotiating mission of OSCE to Yugoslavia that would prepare an international conference on Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav delegation accepted the proposal but succeeded in inserting into it: “… if and when it is accepted by Yugoslavia.” This was the “last” attempt of the OSCE to solve the Yugoslav crisis; its activities were hampered by the fact that it operated on consensus. The OSCE therefore left the EC to deal with the Yugoslav crisis. This decision was made especially in light of Soviet demands; the Soviet Union was afraid of any external intervention in the Baltic republics.109

In July 1991, the EC sent mediators to Yugoslavia, the foreign ministers of the sitting EC “troika” (representing the state holding the presidency, his predecessor, and his successor). The EC troika made three visits to Yugoslavia, resulting in a cease-fire between the Slovene Territorial Defense Force and the JNA and, by 7 and 8 July, had convened a conference at Brioni for the purpose of resolving the crisis. The Brioni Accord, which was sponsored by the EC, prevented further air raids or other military activity by the JNA on Slovene territory. Mediators from the EC quickly negotiated the agreement between Slovenia and the JNA because the EC did not want war on its borders, and they still hoped to prevent the war. They also still hoped that Slovenia might act as a democratizing force in Yugoslavia, but they soon realized that this scenario was not possible. Thus Slovenia has these circumstances to thank for emerging victorious after the short war for its independence, and, economically speaking, it was fortunately not a completely ruined state, as is the case with Croatia and Bosnia.110 After its defeat, the JNA decided to retreat from Slovenia with all its equipment and machinery. The Brioni Accord, in effect, recognized the Slovene military victory and also made Slovenia and Croatia subject, de facto, to international law and cleared the way for the eventual recognition of their statehood.111 With a mandate from the CSCE to deploy thirty to fifty observers, named the “ice-cream men” by Yugoslavs for the white uniforms they chose, the EC began its first-ever effort at peacekeeping.112

Parallel to the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army from Slovenia, the armed conflict in Croatia—where most of the troops retreated from Slovenia—widened. While the war in Croatia intensified, the EC’s General Council met in Brussels on 25 July 1991. Genscher, then German foreign minister, recalled later that the session “... appealed to the Collective Presidency in Belgrade to encourage an immediate truce and to begin negotiations on the future of Yugoslavia’s peoples ... (and) reaffirmed our earlier statement that any change of internal and external borders of the country achieved by force was unacceptable.”113 The presidency was already then completely unable to function and could not do anything. The August putsch in the Soviet Union was welcomed in Belgrade, for two reasons: (1) for the roughly 10 days that the putsch lasted, Western attention was almost totally diverted to Moscow – and hence, not on developments on the ground in Croatia, and (2) Miloševic felt ideologically comfortable with the putschists, because, both were communists and because they were markedly less pro-Western and hence, he calculated, more likely to assist his campaign in Croatia. Once the putsch failed, the U.S. State Department signaled a reorientation in American policy by issuing a statement in mid-October supporting the principle of (national) self-determination,114 but it took some time before the U. S. policy of non-recognition changed. The fact that the attempted putsch in Moscow in August failed made the leadership in Belgrade even more determined to continue with their military operations. So in the second half of August, the JNA intensified its attacks on Croatia. The foreign ministers of the EC, who were facing what they regarded as Serb aggression in Croatia, declared in an extraordinary meeting in Brussels on 27 and 28 August 1991 that they would not accept and recognize the border changes that were achieved through violence.115

The Changes in International Public Opinion on Independence of Slovenia and Croatia

After Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence, most of the world did not support the declarations and wanted Yugoslavia to stay in one piece. All of the great powers—U.S.A., the Soviet Union, China, Britain and France—remained united, as did EU members Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Greece, and former Communist bloc states Romania, Poland, and Hungary in their support for the idea of a united Yugoslavia.

The governments of neighboring Austria as well as Germany extended sympathies to the Croatian and Slovenian cause; however, they did not recognize Slovenia’s and Croatia’s move. Perhaps they were also influenced by their better knowledge of the situation as well as by their historic affinities with them. As we have already mentioned, during the summer of 1991, after the attacks of Serb paramilitary units and the JNA on Croatia strengthened, Germany started to consider the possibility of recognizing Slovenia and Croatia and also started to press the other EC member states. In debate of the German Parliament on recent events in Yugoslavia on 4 September 1991, both Chancellor Kohl and Foreign Minister Genscher used the occasion to emphatically warn the Serbs and the JNA about the consequences of continued aggression. Kohl argued that if engaging in dialogue and living together in peace were no longer possible, this would pose for Germany—particularly in the light of her understanding of the right to self-determination—the question of recognizing those republics that no longer wanted to be part of Yugoslavia. Genscher declared that there would be no premium for those who prevented negotiations by the use of force: “If those peoples of Yugoslavia who desire independence cannot realize it through negotiations, we will recognize their unilateral declarations of independence.” Addressing the JNA, he said: “With every shot by your cannons and tanks, the hour of recognition moves closer. We shall not be able to look on further.” Thus, Genscher more explicitly than previously made clear his view that the task of the negotiations would be to ensure a peaceful parting of the ways. It was a view soon to be adopted by Lord Peter Carrington, the former British foreign secretary and secretary general of NATO, himself. 116 As the fighting continued through autumn of 1991, after a long struggle in the EU, Germany prevailed and the EU announced on December 1991 that it would recognize Slovenia and Croatia as independent states. Numerous states opposed this action of Germany. With the support of Great Britain and France, the U.S.A. even suggested at the beginning of December 1991 a special resolution of the UN Security Council (UNSC) demanding that Germany stop asking for recognition of Slovenia and Croatia by the international community. On the basis of evidence, Genscher succeeded in changing the opinion of his French colleague, Roland Dumas; so that France did not support the U.S. idea any more. At the same time Genscher warned the U.S.A. not to “torpedo” European activities for peace through the UN.117

The role of German Foreign Minister Genscher was important, especially for the Slovenes and later for the Croats.118 The Serbian press expressed misgivings about German intentions, referring to alleged dangers of a “Fourth Reich.”119

The role of Yugoslavia’s other neighbors also caused controversy. Hungary and Albania took precautions to defend their airspace.120 Albania placed its army in a state of alert.121 Both countries had been interested in the destiny of their ethnic minorities in Yugoslavia, of course. All the neighbors guarded their borders with Yugoslavia. Because of its historical ties with Macedonia,122 Bulgaria hinted that it was prepared to recognize an independent Macedonian state—which it did on 15 January 1992.

In the summer of 1991, under the pressure of public opinion the policy of Austria and Italy towards Slovenia and Croatia started to change also. In Austria 62% of those asked in public opinion polls favored recognition of Slovenia and Croatia.123 In Italy public opinion changed in favor of Slovenia and Croatia, after the media reported on the political games of the Serbian delegation at the Geneva conference on Yugoslavia. Italians started to believe that it would be a step forward in solving the Yugoslav crisis if Slovenia and Croatia were recognized as independent states. Therefore under pressure of its public opinion, Italian official policy started to change.124

An attack by the JNA on the Croatian coastal city of Zadar, which had belonged to Italy between the World Wars, influenced Italian Foreign Minister Gianni de Michelis together with Genscher to demand withdrawal of the JNA from Croatia, which bettered the chances for international recognition of Slovenia and Croatia.125

In the late summer of 1991 French views also changed. At a press conference on 12 September 1991 Mitterrand stated that “… after the events of the last months, in the future it is possible to think about independence of Slovenia and Croatia.”126 A week later he said in Weimar, that it is clear to him “that the republics [of former Yugoslavia] can not live together in one state anymore.”127 French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said in front of the French Assembly that fulfilling the wishes of the two republics would really mean dividing Yugoslavia. France and the EC needed to help Yugoslav nations to freedom and independence within the limits of existing possibilities.128

Most of the other states still wanted Yugoslavia to be preserved in any form but only as a democracy. The U.S. administration did not even notice what was happening in the Yugoslav lands in spite of the warnings of its diplomats.129 President Bush visited Ukraine on 1 August 1991 and tried to discourage Ukrainians from declaring independence, warning them, “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.”130 This meant that the United States did not support the secessions in Eastern Europe in general. Then the U.S.A. retreated from attempts to solve the Yugoslav crisis and left it to the EC states to solve the problem, including the question of recognition. Baker did not want to involve the U.S.A. in the Yugoslav conflict. As he wrote in his memoirs, vital U.S. interests were not at stake in Yugoslavia. It is interesting to note how he reasoned inaction of the U.S.A. in this crisis:
"Most important, unlike in the Persian Gulf, our vital national interests were not at stake. The Yugoslav conflict had the potential to be intractable, but it was nonetheless a regional dispute. Miloševic had Saddam’s appetite, but Serbia didn’t have Iraq’s capabilities or ability to affect America’s vital interests, such as access to energy supplies. The greater threat to American interests at the time lay in the increasingly dicey situation in Moscow, and we preferred to maintain our focus on that challenge, which had global ramifications for us, particularly with regard to nuclear weapons. Moreover, in the summer of 1991, we were already consumed by the Middle East peace process and close to getting the parties to the table."131

So determined was Baker to keep the U.S.A. uninvolved that he flatly rejected a proposal from Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Niles to send an observer to the talks between the Yugoslav parties sponsored by the EC, fearing that even such a minor action might imply a possible American role.132 As Baker wrote in his memoirs:
"After all, ‘EC92’ was less than a year away, the Soviet Union was in decline, and the talk in Brussels, Paris, Bonn, Rome, and other European capitals was of an emerging European superpower. By this line of reasoning , if Europe was going to assume its place as a great power, then the Europeans, not the Americans, should take the lead in managing the Yugoslav crisis, which after all was occurring on Europe’s doorstep. The Europeans wanted the lead and welcomed the chance to deal with the problem through the EC. ”133

On 9 October 1991, when the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia as independent states was still uncertain, Otto von Habsburg emphasized in the European Parliament that Yugoslavia did not exist any more and that the legal rights belonged to the individual republics, which had freely elected parliaments. He condemned Serbia as guilty of the bloodshed, because Serbian volunteers and the JNA were involved in all the fighting in Croatia. He even condemned the Council of Foreign Ministers of the EC, saying they bore part of the responsibility. Otto von Habsburg was also convinced that the indecisive reactions of the Council of Foreign Ministers to the crisis had lasted until the beginning of 1992. After Portugal assumed the presidency of the EC on 1 January 1992, Portuguese Foreign Minister Joao de Deus Pinheiro changed the policy and more energetically condemned the Serb activities.137

In the second half of 1991, Otto von Habsburg finished most of his speeches in the European Parliament by saying: “Ceterum autem censeo Croatiam et Sloveniam esse reconoscendam” (Otherwise, I think that Croatia and Slovenia ought to be recognized).138 Otto von Habsburg did everything he could to get BiH recognized also. In April 1992 he visited Morocco and interceded on behalf of recognition of all three states with Islamic states. It is interesting to note that Moroccan King Hasan extended the time for conversation with von Habsburg, who explained the situation in former Yugoslavia to him and let Yassir Arafat wait. Von Habsburg was engaged in sharp discussion with Greek deputies to the European Parliament when they were united in opposing recognition of Macedonia as an independent state.139

The Socialist faction of the European Parliament was the largest and until September 1991 it represented one of the main opponents to the diplomatic recognition of Croatia and Slovenia. In October 1991, the press representative of the Socialist faction, Jannis Sakellarion, declared that if Croatia were to be recognized as an independent state, then also the Serbs of Croatia would have to have the right of self-determination because Serbs in some parts of Croatia represent a majority of the population. Motives for such pro-Serbian standpoints of European Socialists could be explained by their inclination towards Yugoslav selfmanagement as a “third way” between capitalism and communism. Especially German Social-Democratic leader Karsten Voigt had a special affection for the Yugoslav system of self-management. This could be explained by the tradition of special friendly relations between Tito and the leader of German Socialists Willi Brandt and German Social democrats remembered those days.

These pro-Yugoslav views of the European Left transformed in the course of events to pro-Serbian positions. The views of the Socialist faction played a decisive role in the decision of the European Parliament not to support a proposal by the Christian-Democrats, who suggested to the governments of EC states that they should recognize Slovenia and Croatia if the Serbs violated the cease-fire and the UN would be forced to carry out its warning of military intervention.140 Socialists thought that the main reason for the war in Croatia was self-defense of the Serb minority in Croatia against the Tudjman regime. Therefore the Socialists supported the right of the Serbs in the Krajinas to secede from Croatia. This would mean only “enforcement” of the already achieved “changes of borders.”141

In the second half of 1991 NATO also started to deal with the Yugoslav conflict, in spite of the fact that Secretary General of NATO Manfred Wörner asked at the beginning of November 1991 for a passive role for NATO.142 Already on 7 June 1991, the foreign ministers of NATO declared that the security of the NATO states depended on the security of all other states in Europe. NATO changed its views after the international recognition of Slovenia, Croatia, and BiH.143 Member-states of NATO on 4 June 1992 accepted in the Oslo Declaration that NATO, on demand of the OSCE or UN, can militarily intervene also outside of its member-states.144

Among international organizations that dealt with the Yugoslav crisis, we have to mention also the UN. From the beginning of the Yugoslav crisis it called for non-interference into Yugoslav internal affairs. Therefore, until Slovenia and Croatia were internationally recognized, the organization could not send peace-keeping missions into Yugoslavia until all the involved parties agreed.

UN Secretary General, Pérez de Cuéllar opposed recognition of Slovenia and Croatia and condemned the German intention to recognize their independence as an “insane step.” Because the Germans did not react to his statements, de Cuéllar on 12 December 1991 sent a letter to the presiding minister of the EC Council of Foreign Ministers, van den Broek, and asked him to send this letter also to other EC member-states. Genscher answered de Cuéllar the next day and wrote that de Cuéllar was with this letter to van den Broek “encouraging those forces in Yugoslavia who were already then fighting against a successful end of the peace process in Yugoslavia.”145 Genscher also emphasized that the Serbian leadership and the JNA were the most responsible for violations of cease-fires and the fact that the peace conference was unsuccessful.

De Cuéllar then wrote to Genscher and expressed his concern over the “untimely selected and unvoted recognition.”146 De Cuéllar also wrote that the presidents of BiH and Macedonia asked him not to act in favor of recognition of Slovenia and Croatia and that if Slovenia and Croatia were recognized, there would be danger of spreading the war into BiH and Macedonia. De Cuéllar also wrote to Genscher that, in its meeting in Rome on 8 November 1991, the EC decided that Slovenia and Croatia should be recognized as part of a “complex solution” of the Yugoslav crisis. According to de Cuéllar, the Yugoslav crisis would not be solved by recognition of Slovenia and Croatia. Genscher explained in an interview with German radio that de Cuéllar was against selected and un-coordinated recognition. This was in accordance with the views of the German government, which for some months tried to reach consensus on this issue within the EC.147

De Cuéllar’s letter started new discussions. U.S. President George Bush, Sr., criticized again the plans for recognition of Slovenia and Croatia. He asked the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Thomas Pickering, to ask the German government to reconsider its standpoint on recognition of both former Yugoslav republics. Also, the U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Zimmermann, declared that the U.S.A. was against recognition, especially in the case of Croatia.148

Europe Tried to Save What It Was Possible to Save: Yugoslavia ŕ la Carte (September 1991– October 1991)

In spite of the fact that the fighting in Croatia ceased, the EC on 7 September called a peace conference that, on Genscher’s advice, was presided over by Lord Carrington.149 Carrington picked up where the failed Izetbegovic-Gligorov Plan had left off: He recognized six republics as the constituent units of the former federal state and produced a plan that would give each of them as much sovereignty as it wanted.150

In spite of all the different views of the EC states on how to solve the Yugoslav crisis, Tudjman and Miloševic on 12 September 1991 signed a statement that they would respect minority rights and renounce violence as a means of changing borders.151

On the proposal of Austria, Hungary and Canada, the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 25 September 1991 dealt with the Yugoslav crisis. In one of the discussions, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker condemned the Serb government and the JNA as guilty of bloodshed in Yugoslavia. As he stated, the aim of the Serb leadership and the JNA was “to form ‘little Yugoslavia’ or ‘great Serbia,’ which would oust Slovenia from this state and make Croatia smaller.”152 The same day, in a speech in front of the UN General Assembly, Genscher condemned JNA operations and demanded the introduction of economic sanctions against Yugoslavia.153

Invoking Chapter 7 of the UN charter, that the Yugoslav conflict had became a “direct threat to international peace and security,” the UNSC, on 25 September 1991, passed the first of sixty-seven resolutions that would be passed by January 1995. Resolution 713/1991 imposed a general and complete embargo on all deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Yugoslavia.154 This resolution still dealt with the fights in Yugoslavia as if they were an internal affair of a UN member-state. The acceptance and fulfillment of the resolution did not have any serious consequences for the JNA, which had stocks of weaponry in its arsenals; but it had serious consequences for the Croatian side.155

The weapons embargo on Yugoslav republics made it possible for Miloševic to strengthen his own power in rump Yugoslavia; on the other hand it made it possible also to strengthen the offensive against Croatia. In the midst of the fights in Croatia, on 4 October Lord Carrington succeeded in gathering Tudjman, Miloševic, and Federal Defense Secretary Veljko Kadijevc to the negotiating table in The Hague. They agreed to divide the peace conference into two working groups: the first would work on the constitutional future of the country and the second would concentrate on bringing about an end to fighting in Croatia, which in early September had escalated dramatically.156 The new JNA attacks in Croatia convinced the EC that it had to act more aggressively. On 6 October the EC foreign ministers condemned the JNA actions and demanded a ceasefire until midnight the next day. To those “who were responsible for these formidable acts of violence” they threatened economic sanctions and legal action in accordance with international rules. In spite of everything, the war in Croatia continued. According to Zdravko Tomac, Croatian intelligence services intercepted a communication originating at Supreme Headquarters in Belgrade. It was an order “... for an all-out attack on Croatia, which was intended to break Croatia politically and economically, and compel it to capitulate and stay in Miloševic’s Yugoslavia, (and which) outlined in detail attacks on industrial facilities, with the aim of causing an ecological catastrophe.”157 The Croatian cabinet considered the U.S., U.K., and France to be inflexibly attached to the illusion of Yugoslav territorial integrity, and therefore decided to appeal to the Russians to intercede with the Serbs. Late in the night of 6 October, the Croats contacted Soviet Consul-General in Zagreb Girenko in a state of high agitation, and Girenko in turn telephoned Gorbachev, waking him out of his slumber. Gorbachev in turn telephoned Kadijevic, rousing him from his nocturnal respite, and advised the general against rash totalistic military moves. Gorbachev also made Washington acquainted with the events, which, according to Zdravko Tomac, convinced “drowsy Washington” to interfere in the diplomatic game and prevented the plans of JNA from being fulfilled.158

The Vance Plan—Defeat of the Peace Policy of the European Community (October 1991–June 1992)

At this point UN Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar tried to intervene. In spite of the fact that he still considered the fighting in Yugoslavia as an internal affair which therefore did not deserve UN intervention, on 8 October 1991—after he consulted the U.S. Department of State—he decided to send Cyrus Vance, former Secretary of State in the Carter administration, to the Balkans as his personal envoy. De Cuéllar did this because in his view the EC could not be neutral in imposing peace just because some EC member-states had different historic and economic contacts with different sides in the Yugoslav conflict.159 In cooperation with Lord Carrington, Vance was authorized to start a negotiating process that they hoped would be fruitful, under the auspices of the EC and the UN.160 On 11 October, Vance began a series of missions to assess the situation that would soon involve him in fullscale efforts to negotiate a cease-fire, separately from—but in full consultation with—Lord Carrington and the EC.

A series of cease-fires in the war between Croatia and the JNA and some Serb insurgents, brokered by the EC, fell through. The eighth such cease-fire, negotiated on 9 October, was violated within a few hours, when the JNA and Croatian units resumed exchange of artillery fire. The following day, Germany’s Martin Bangemann, vice president of the EC Commission, called for Bonn to extend diplomatic recognition to Slovenia and Croatia without any further delay. His initiative seemed to be ignored, but it reflected the increasingly frantic fears among some Western diplomats about the dangers that this war held. At the same time, Dutch Foreign Minister van den Broek announced that after five hours of discussions with Presidents Miloševic and Tudjman and Defense Minister Kadijevic, all present had agreed that all units of the JNA would be withdrawn from Croatia within a month. The following day, however, the Defense Ministry indicated that it considered the agreement non-binding and null because it had not been officially signed. By then, the Yugoslav Army was building bunkers and digging trenches in Croatia, to defend areas they had captured (Krajinas)–specifically, the Knin littoral, Kordun, Banija, Baranja, and the Papuk Mountain. In response to the siege of the walled city of Dubrovnik, the U.S. State Department issued a protest on 24 October 1991.161 A statement by France’s Mitterrand from the periods of Serb attacks on Dubrovnik is of interest: “As far as I know, history of Serbia and Croatia is full of such dramas. Especially during the last World War in Croatian concentration camps many Serbs were murdered. As you know, Croatia and not Serbia was part of the Nazi-block. Since the death of Tito hatred must have erupted anew between Serbs and Croats.”162 In spite of everything, French politics did not support the viewpoint put forth by Serbian propaganda that the war in Croatia was a continuation of the Serb fight against Nazi-Germany and the Ustaša of Ante Pavelic.163

An offensive against Croatia was also a reminder for Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic, who until then tried to play the role of negotiator among the fighting sides in the Yugoslav crisis. On 15 October the republican assembly of BiH adopted a memorandum declaring the republic a sovereign and independent state within its existent borders. Seventy-three Serbian deputies had already left the Parliament building, and BiH found itself on the verge of war. In the first half of October Mikhail Gorbachev also personally got involved in trying to solve the crisis. He was sure that the events in Yugoslavia only “mirrored the horrors” that would be possible in the Soviet Union, and so he invited Tudjman and Miloševic to Moscow on 15 October 1991. During their visits to Moscow, both Tudjman and Miloševic pleaded that they would, in the course of November and with the assistance of the Soviet Union, U.S.A., and EC, find an honest solution to end the fighting.164 Very soon the international community found out that the promises were not kept.

On 18 October, the EC’s Hague conference proposed a draft for a general settlement, which was issued on 24 October 1991 and would have authorized the demilitarization of all ethnic enclaves and guaranteed autonomy for Kosovo and Vojvodina. The proposal also identified the “new relations between the Republics as (1) sovereign and independent republics with an international status for those that wish it; (2) a free association of the Republics with an international status as envisaged in this Convention; and (3) comprehensive arrangements, including supervisory mechanisms for the protection of human rights and special status for certain groups and areas.”165 Miloševic said the proposed changes would have “opened the way to new instability and tension.”166

As an answer to the Carrington plan, the Serbs boycotted the conference in The Hague. Therefore on 4 November the EC prepared a new version of the plan that did not mention Vojvodina and Kosovo any more; it talked only about territories with special status, in general.167 This proposal did not fulfill the wishes of the Serbian leadership either. They still wanted a Yugoslav federation that would remain the only heir of SFRY and that would unite “all those republics and peoples” that would wish.168 This was, however, a fig leaf for a Greater Serbia desired by the Serb leadership. The Hague conference threatened sanctions against any party that did not accept the “Carrington plan” by 4 November. The basis for a new settlement was a legal opinion requested from the Arbitration (Badinter) Commission: that since 8 October, Yugoslavia was a “state in the process of dissolution.” Nonetheless, the EC proceeded with its strategy, imposing trade sanctions on and threatening isolation of Yugoslavia on 8 November to press Serbia into accepting the plan and both Croatia and Serbia to sign a cease-fire.169 Compensatory measures for “parties which do cooperate in a peaceful way towards a comprehensive political solution on the basis of the EC proposals,” such as BiH and Macedonia, were discussed.170

In spite of the fact that the JNA did not reach the planned Karlobag-Karlovac-Virovitica line, Miloševic decided to change tactics. A more careful analysis of Miloševic’s policies suggests that he had already divorced himself from the notion of a “Greater Serbia” as outlined above (and suggested by Šešelj) and was focusing on Serb majority areas as part of a future Yugoslav federation.171 Miloševic accepted a cease-fire on 23 November in Geneva under the auspices of the UN and welcomed the Vance proposal to station UN blue helmet units on occupied Croatian territories. The Croatian Government also agreed because it was aware of the fact that its armed forces would not be able to fight the Serbs on occupied territories while at the same time defending its compatriots in BiH. The Croatian Government demanded, however, that the UN troops be stationed at the border with Serbia (ex-republican border between Croatia and Serbia) and not at the front line, as Miloševic demanded. The Croatian Government was afraid that if the UN troops were stationed at the front line, circumstances similar to those in Cyprus would occur.172 This Croatian demand provoked a lively quarrel with Belgrade.

While the EC member states got actively involved in the crises, the UN remained passive. German Foreign Minister Genscher talked about that in a speech he gave on the occasion of a German –Italian meeting in Venice on 22 and 23 November 1991. He stated that it was not a civil war that was going on in Yugoslavia but, “... an attack on Croatia and therefore it does not concern only the EC and OSCE, but it should be above all the business of the UN Security Council to deal with the problem..”173 On the demand of the government of the SFRY, the Security Council finally discussed the situation in Yugoslavia on 27 November 1991. The UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution No. 721, proposed by the UK, France, and Belgium. This resolution empowered Vance to prepare the diplomatic terrain for UN peacekeeping forces on the territory where the fighting had occurred, and asked all the parties to the conflict to observe a cease-fire and to fulfil UNSC Res. Nr. 713 of 25 September 1991.174 This resolution sent an additional message, i.e., that the Soviet Union had unified its views on the use of UN peacekeeping forces with those of the Western powers, and that the EC accepted its “defeat” in its attempts to solve the Yugoslav crisis. In spite of all this, the UN asked Lord Carrington to keep trying to negotiate between Serbs and Croats, although it was clear from the very beginning that it was fruitless.175Especially the Germans were convinced about that as they decided to meddle directly in the Yugoslav crisis. On November 27, in an address to the Bundestag, German Chancellor Kohl set a date for German recognition of Slovenia and Croatia—24 December 1991.176 This provoked many opposing views within the international community. An example for this are differing statements of Kohl and Mitterrand at a joint press conference on 15 November 1991 in Bonn. Mitterrand emphasized that this question could not be solved under the pressure of time and without due caution. He thought that it was first of all the question of guaranteeing minority rights as well as the question of frontiers. He was not worried about minority protection in Slovenia. He worried, however, about minority protection in Croatia, Kosovo, BiH, and Macedonia. He also emphasized that the EC would continue to be engaged on the territories of Yugoslavia and that it must find further solutions without time pressures and on the basis of consensus of all members of the EU.177 In the view of the Maastricht conference, on 10 December France tried to delay recognition of Croatia. France suggested creation of a catalogue of criteria, and every land that tried to get recognition would have to accept those criteria. A special court would then decide whether this or that land had fulfilled the criteria.178

The EC peace plan and EC policy, however, accepted the French position that recognition could only come after arrangements for human rights and common relations had been settled, as a reward. The JNA had begun the withdrawal from Croatia on 28 November, five days after a promising cease-fire negotiated by Vance had been signed at Geneva. On 2 December 1991 Genscher demanded that the UNSC meet and discuss a possible UN peacekeeping operation in Yugoslavia. The UNSC dealt with the crisis in Yugoslavia again on 15 December 1991 and adopted UNSC Resolution 724 to send a group of observers to Yugoslavia, to prepare the terrain for a peacekeeping mission and report on how UNSC Resolution 713 was fulfilled. All UNSC member states were asked to establish a body to ensure that the weapons embargo would be fulfilled. The UN Secretary General, together with the Red Cross, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and other humanitarian organizations were chosen to be responsible to coordinate activities in Yugoslavia.179 It is important to mention that this resolution did not mention the question of recognition of Slovenia and Croatia. It did, however, demand from all the states and groups of states that they abstain from any activities that would further worsen or sharpen conditions in Yugoslavia. However, in his speech in Brussels on 16 December 1991, Genscher stated that this resolution gave enough maneuvering space for recognition of Slovenia and Croatia.180 Although UN Resolution 724 said conditions were not yet ready for peacekeeping forces, Vance had by 15 December made enough progress that the Security Council agreed to send an advance team to prepare the way. So opposed to the German logic were the negotiators, Britain and the U.S.A., that they took the unusual diplomatic step of putting their protests into writing. In letters to van den Broek, as chair of the troika, and to Genscher, Lord Carrington, UN Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar, Cyrus Vance, and the U.S. administration pleaded with Germans not to spoil the genuine progress toward a settlement. In Carrington’s letter to van den Broek on 2 December 1991, he warned that premature recognition of Slovenia and Croatia by the EC “would undoubtedly mean the break-up of the conference” and “might well be the spark that sets Bosnia-Herzegovina alight.” Even President Izetbegovic made an emotional appeal to Genscher in early December to not recognize Croatia prematurely, for it would mean war in his republic.

Despite all this, at the all-night EC meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on 15–16 December, Chancellor Kohl refused to budge. Although accused of locking the door and using bullying tactics, Kohl in fact obtained the agreement of Britain, France, and Spain by a compromise to preserve unity among the twelve EC members on Yugoslavia: that all six republics of Yugoslavia were eligible for recognition. The conditions required that the republics request recognition formally by 23 December and meet the criteria established by the Badinter Commission, including a commitment to continue working toward an overall settlement by 15 January 1992, and UN, EC, and CSCE criteria on the rule of law, democracy, human rights, disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation, regional security, the inviolability of frontiers, and guarantees for the rights of ethnic and nationality groups and minorities.”181 Lord Carrington was unable to reconcile himself to this development, and he and others criticized Germany.182 Germany’s success in its campaign for recognition of Croatia and Slovenia was, as Carrington warned in his letter to van den Broek, the death knell to the peace negotiations. This view is disputed by Marko Hoare in his comments, where he wrote:
“…In fact, it was precisely the "even-handed" approach of the European powers, their unwillingness to take sides or to intervene in force, that had encouraged the apparently stronger side—Serbia and the JNA—to exploit this vacillation and attack. There were many faults on the Croatian side – above all the demotion of the status of Serbs in Croatia from 'nation' to 'minority', something which could also be mentioned - but ultimately this war involved an attack by one side against the other. Withholding recognition from Croatia, the side that was attacked, 'as a reward for a peaceful settlement', could not have worked because it was not Croatia that was blocking a peaceful settlement. On the contrary, Western pressure on Croatia to desist from military actions against JNA forces had the unfortunate result of aiding the latter—the very force that was responsible for the war. Thus, as General Tus has stated in an interview, President Tudjman cancelled a Croatian offensive to relieve Vukovar because of Western pressure—the fall of Vukovar was therefore the result of Western 'peacemaking.' Furthermore, the Geneva Agreement of November, negotiated by Cyrus Vance, enabled the JNA to "withdraw" from Croatia into Bosnia, while Croatian forces were not to obstruct their withdrawal. This merely enabled Miloševic and Blagoje Adžic to assemble their forces for the assault on Bosnia. In other words, Western diplomacy during the war in Croatia, based on the mistaken premise of arranging cease-fires and bringing about a "compromise," simply paved the way for the worse conflagration in Bosnia. Peace could only have come about if the Western powers had been prepared to deliver a genuine check to Miloševic and the JNA. Kohl's insistence on recognition for Croatia was a diplomatically sensible effort to correct the balance in favor of the side that was attacked, as only by bolstering Croatia and Bosnia could Miloševic's expansionist ambitions be contained. Insofar as Kohl's policy derailed Western diplomatic efforts, this was potentially beneficial to peace, as Western "peacemaking" was part of the problem. Following on from this, both Norman Cigar and Martin Špegelj have written about how the JNA was on the verge of military collapse in Croatia by late 1991. It was the cease-fire resulting from the diplomatic efforts of Vance and others that allowed the JNA to survive the war in Croatia, technically undefeated, and to regroup to attack Bosnia.”

As Vance implored in his letter to Genscher in December 1991, recognition had to be held out as a reward for a peaceful settlement. To give up that weapon before such a settlement was reached would mean more war. The EC decision in December to recognize Croatia (and Slovenia) addressed neither the status of Serbs in Croatia nor the fate of the population in the remaining four republics. The internationalization of the crisis, most visibly manifested in the belated announcement by the EC member states in mid-December of the imminent recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, also affected Miloševic’s calculations. Miloševic became convinced, due to unfavorable currents of events, that Serbia should look for help from the UN, where the idea of “Yugoslavia” was still alive. Therefore the federal Government of Yugoslavia on 25 December 1991 demanded intervention of the UN blue helmets on occupied Croatian territories and asked de Cuéllar to personally intervene in favor of the peace process “because the EC is acting in favor of secessionists and violates international law.”183 However, this was mainly propaganda because de Cuéllar already on 11 December had formally asked the UNSC to fulfill Vance’s proposal to station UN troops in Croatia. The plan accepted with Resolution 724 of 15 December was only finalized on 2 January 1992, signed at Sarajevo by military representatives of Croatia and Yugoslavia. This so-called Vance Plan differed on many issues from EC plans, which tried in vain to keep Yugoslavia intact. The essence of the plan was to cease fighting on those territories of Croatia that were occupied by the Serbs, and to restore mutual respect and understanding between both quarreling nations as the cornerstone for peaceful resolution of the conflict. In addition to an arms embargo, the Vance plan called for the setting up of four areas to be known as United Nations Protected Areas (UNPA): East, West, North, and South. These would coincide roughly with the three chunks of territory held by Serb and/or JNA forces (the Krajina, western Posavina, and eastern Slavonia). Upwards of 10,000 UN troops would be deployed in the UNPAs, for the protection of the people there. In return, the JNA would withdraw entirely from Croatia, and the Serb paramilitaries would be disbanded and disarmed, surrendering their weapons either to the JNA before withdrawal, or, if they preferred, to the UN force, who would store them, intact, at locations inside the UNPAs.184 The Vance plan also determined that in UNPA zones the peace would be controlled by police units composed in accordance with the ethnic structure that was in place before the fighting started. It also guaranteed the return of refugees to their homes. The Serb and Croat sides would agree to a cease-fire that would, in effect, freeze the existing frontlines. The UN Protection Force (or UNPROFOR, as it was to be known) would, therefore, form a thin blue line separating the Serb-held areas from the rest of Croatia. In spite of some deficiencies (e.g., no timetable for return of refugees to their homes was set), the Vance plan inspired optimism that UN troops would be able to calm the situation in Croatia.185 Tudjman proclaimed the entrance of blue helmets into Croatian territory as an important victory for Croatia. He was ready to fulfill the Vance plan to please the international community, which demanded this to recognize Croatia as an independent state.186

Miloševic acted similarly to Tudjman, accepting blue helmets in Croatia. We presume that he believed that it meant the first step towards the plebiscite to annex ethnically Serb parts of Croatia to Serbia.187 The other possibility is that he thought that coming in of blue helmets would freeze the existing lines of confrontation, which would, in time, transform themselves naturally into new, de facto international borders.188 Not all of Serbia’s leaders shared his optimism. This became clear on 7 January 1992, when two jet planes of the Yugoslav army shot down an EC helicopter above Varaždin, killing the French pilot and four Italian observers.189

The leaders of the Krajina Serbs also opposed the peace plan. Milan Babic, the leader of the Krajina Serbs (“president” of the Republic of Srpska Krajina), was convinced that the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army, the disarmament of local armed forces, and the introduction of UN troops would lead to the eventual restoration of Croat control.190 The Belgrade regime acted also against the leadership of the Serbs of Knin. Miloševic and his collaborators believed that Vance and the new UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali from Egypt, were “realists,” i.e. pro-Serb, and that it was worth engaging in polemics with the EC to support their policy. Vance and Boutros-Ghali still treated the Yugoslav wars as civil war and not as an international war that could threaten international peace. UN Resolution 727 of 8 January 1992 was also in accordance with this approach, authorizing sending 50 military liaison officers to promote maintenance of the cease-fire, as if this were a fight between two armed factions and the crisis stemming from it would not be problematic to solve.191 In general, the international community dealt with the conflict in the early stages of the war as if it were a civil war. On the other hand Slovenes and Croats considered the acts of the Yugoslav Army and Serb insurgents as acts of aggression on the newly established states of Slovenia and Croatia.192

United Nations tended to be pro-Yugoslav or pro-Serb at the beginning of the war. Yugoslavia as a state and Tito as co-founder of non-aligned movement was after all one of the staunchest supporters of the United Nations and its’ Secretary General Boutros Gali used to serve as Egyptian foreign minister during the period when non-aligned movement reached its’ peak. Also Ghali was raised by a pro-Yugoslav Slovene girl from the Coasttland region which suffered under Italians in the period between the two World Wars. Pro-Yugoslav sentiments are also expressed in general Mackenzie Memoires193

The first days of January 1992 were quite interesting in the reactions of the international community towards the Yugoslav crisis (preparations for the international recognition of Slovenia and Croatia) as well as because Miloševic’s regime also declared its (war) aims. Miloševic’s (war) aims were to create a rump Yugoslavia that would also be the only lawful successor of the former SFRY, in which all those who wanted to keep their Yugoslav citizenship would live. It was an open call to arms to create Great Serbia and the introduction to new wars.

On 13 January 1992, the Vatican recognized Slovenia and Croatia, and the next day the Badinter Commission submitted its expected evaluation of the candidates for recognition. The commission recommended immediate recognition of Slovenia and Macedonia; recognition of Croatia conditioned on certain assurances concerning democratic principles, national minorities, and border protections; and a referendum for Bosnia, which, crucially, was to be valid only if all three communities (Serb, Croat, and Muslim) participated in significant numbers. (The application from Kosovo was considered invalid because it did not come from a recognized republic.) In the cases of Croatia and Macedonia, the EC chose to be influenced by political expediency rather than legal advice.194

As it occurred later, the commission’s opinion did not have great influence on decisions of the EC states that had demanded it. When they recognized Croatia and Slovenia on 15 January 1992, those states demanded that Croatia incorporate the necessary corrections into its constitution. Croatia gave them then only a written promise to do so (and the international community had to wait until the change of regime in Croatia in the year 2000 for full compliance with this demand). Macedonia had to wait for international recognition because the Greeks opposed it on the grounds that the international community should not recognize a state that had irredentist demands. This, in spite of the fact that the EC demanded from the Macedonian government that it ask for recognition and that the Badinter commission wordily excluded any connection between the name of “Macedonia” and irredentist demands towards neighboring lands.195

The problem of Macedonia

Macedonia had, however, to fight many problems in the international arena. Although it got a positive recommendation for international recognition from the Badinter Commission, it had to wait for international recognition for some more time. Greece was most opposed to the international recognition of Macedonia because the Greeks did not like the Macedonian state symbols (especially the flag) and the name “Macedonia.” Greece believed that the name of Macedonia is exclusive property of the Greeks, and that even the use of this name by a new state showed the irredentist plans of this former Yugoslav republic towards Aegean Macedonia. Because both states were not able to solve these problems, Greece (the only ally of the Serbs in the Balkans) in 1992 introduced economic sanctions against Macedonia and in fact stopped the formation of the EU policy towards Macedonia.196

In 1992, the UN intervened, and the foreign ministers of Greece and Macedonia met in New York and signed an agreement (on September 13, 1992) with which Greece gave up economic sanctions, but Macedonia had to change its state flag because it contained Greek symbols. By 1993 they were able to some extent to solve disagreements on the name of the new state. Greece accepted a temporary name for Macedonia – the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” and Macedonia became a member of the UN in April 1993 under this name.197

There were also quite a few unsolved questions in the new Macedonian state’s relationship with the FRY. The question of the border of the new state was especially burdensome. At the request of the Macedonian government, because of the spread of the war in Croatia and BiH, the NATO peacekeeping forces of 1,000 American soldiers were stationed at the border of Macedonia with the FRY to prevent spreading of the war to Macedonian territories (UNSC Resolution 795, 9 December 1992). The USA and Western European countries were aware of the fact that the eruption of military fighting in Macedonia could provoke a wider crisis in Southeastern Europe, in which Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, and the NATO members Turkey and Greece could get involved due to historic circumstances. Therefore, the international community could not allow destabilization of Macedonia.198 The international community was also aware of the unrest and dissatisfaction of the Albanians of Macedonia, who were making the Macedonian government unstable and unhappy with new demands that included primarily questions of the status of the Albanian language. The growing ethnic distance between the Macedonians and Albanians in the second half of the 1990s erupted later into a conflict.199