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The International Community and the FRY/Belligerents IIII
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)

Year 1995: Peace in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina

Despite seventy-seven cease-fires from March 1992 until May 1994 and numerous diplomatic missions, in particular by Richard Holbrooke, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, ethnic cleansing continued in Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, the sequence of events, which was to change fundamentally the dynamic of the conflict, and immensely enhance the prospects for peace, began with the fall of Western Slavonia in Croatia. On 1–2 May 1995, Croatian armed forces mounted a surprise attack known as Operation Flash, which successfully reclaimed for Croatian government control UN Sector West (western Slavonia)—part of the Serb-controlled Krajina.359

The fall of Western Slavonia showed that the fanfare about union between the Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia was a hollow boast. But the Knin authorities ignored the lesson. After four years of rejecting any compromise, and expunging all traces of Croat history in their domain, they would not alter course. The Europeans, the U.S.A. and the Russia did not ignore the lesson. Keen to forestall another Croat incursion, the diplomatic representatives of the U.S.A., UK, EU, and UN stationed in Zagreb drew up a special peace plan for Croatia, which was intended to rectify the loopholes in the Vance plan. The “Z4 Plan,” as it was known, attempted to reconcile Croatia’s insistence on preserving the integrity of its frontiers with Serb insistence on self-determination.360 Tudjman agreed gingerly, through only as a starting point for discussions, Miloševic supported the agreement. But Krajina leaders (Milan Martic and Milan Babic) rejected it outright.

After the Serbs in Croatia were defeated, Bosnian Serbs captured Srebrenica and Žepa, where they killed almost 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.361 Consequently, NATO intervened with air raids on the Serb positions, and the Serbs agreed to start peace negotiations in August 1995. During the summer of 1995, Miloševic’s dream of Great Serbia was totally crushed in Croatia. On 4 August 1995, Croat formations estimated at 150,000 men launched a coordinated series of around 30 attacks into the former UN Sectors North and South along a 300-kilometer front.362

With Operation Storm, the Croatian army regained control over most of the territories of the RSK. Croatia was again unified, with the exception of Baranja and Eastern Slavonia (Croatian Podunavlje) – but without 250,000 Krajina Serbs who had fles upon the approach of the Croatian Army.

The operation, known as Operation Storm, lasted only five days. The capital of the Krajina, Knin, fell on the second day. With Operation Storm, the Croatian army regained control over most of the territories of the RSK.364 Croatia was again unified, with the exception of Baranja and Eastern Slavonia (Croatian Podunavlje)- but without more then 200,000 Krajina Serbs who had fled upon the approach of the Croatian Army. An offensive of united Croat-Boshniak forces against Bosnian Serbs continued into the region of BiH. On 8 September 1995, the foreign ministers of BiH, Croatia, and the FRY, meeting in Geneva, agreed that BiH would remain a country divided into two entities, a Croatian-Muslim entity and a Serbian one. In October of the same year the cease-fire started. On 1 November 1995 peace negotiations started at an American Air Force base near Dayton, Ohio. Those peace negotiations ended with the signing of a peace agreement in December 1995 in Paris.365 Slobodan Miloševic was right when, during a visit of Holbrooke’s delegation to Belgrade just before the Dayton Agreement was signed, he engaged in the following conversation with General Wesley Clark: “Well, General Clark, you must be pleased that NATO won this war” (in Bosnia). Clark responded: “NATO did not even fight this war. You lost it to the Croats and Muslims.” Miloševic answered: “It was your NATO, your bombs and missiles, your high technology that defeated us. We Serbs never had a chance against you.”366 It is obvious that Miloševic did not learn from this lesson, as future events of 1999 showed. The signatories of this agreement were Alija Izetbegovic of BiH, Slobodan Miloševic of Serbia, and Franjo Tudjman of Croatia.367

After three years of war, peace came to BiH again. The reactions to the signing of the Dayton Agreement were the most euphoric in Belgrade, where the people honored Miloševic as a visionary,368 and in Zagreb, where Tudjman evaluated it as a “victory of Croatian diplomacy” because the Croats lost the least of all the belligerents in the conflict. In BiH there were many who had doubts about the peace.369 Historian Ivo Banac criticized the Dayton Peace Agreement, saying it did not fulfill expectations for a lasting peace. Dayton did not make it possible for the return of refugees and for prosecution of war criminals. According to our team member Albert Bing, this peace agreement did not divide BiH but also did not abolish the possible reasons for its further fragmentation. As mentioned, the Dayton Agreement foresaw stationing of 60,000 peacekeepers who, under the NATO command, would also protect internationally recognized frontiers of BiH. In accordance with a special agreement between NATO and Russia, 2,000 Russian soldiers were stationed in Tuzla.


The breakup of multinational empires of the 19th century resulted in a proliferation of sovereign states. The breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s resulted in a further proliferation of states. The Powers (international community) should have tried much sooner to foster a peaceful dissolution of the SFRY. It should also insist on meaningful rights for Serbs in Croatia before international recognition. All this may well have failed, but it would have been the “right thing to do.”

There are states and states. Only Slovenia and now Croatia can qualify as fully sovereign. More then half of f the population of Montenegro and the vast majority of Kosovars dispute the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which they see as an (illegitimate) extension of Serbia. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and perhaps Macedonia are based on such a degree of international authority and external security that we lack an adequate descriptive term – they are neither states, nor trusteeships, nor protectorates, but rather would-be states that are a mixture of all three; so the international community decides on everything.