USA and the breakup of Yugoslavia


After the end of World War II and subsequent partition of Europe, Yugoslav state found itself on the eastern side of the Iron curtain. During the war and the civil war that followed, Communist party secured leadership and managed to create a socialist federal republic in place of old somewhat decentralized monarchy. A new Yugoslav state was a federation of six republics, unlike the monarchy, which was a nation state of three nations.

However, soon after the war’s end, Yugoslavia managed to free itself from the grasp of Soviet Union, and become independent of it, unlike rest of Eastern European countries (with the exception of Albania). This allowed Yugoslavia to have a unique position in Europe, as it was west for the east, and east, for the west.

Its economy was also quite different than the rest of communist Europe, especially after the Yugoslav-Soviet break-up of 1948. Though ultimately owned by the state, Yugoslav companies were collectively managed by the employees themselves, much like in the Israeli kibbutz and the anarchist industrial cooperatives of CNT-FAI controlled Revolutionary Catalonia. It was praised as a uniquely successful socialist (planned) economy. In its golden age, Yugoslav economy had an annual GDP growth of over 5%, and its privileged political position allowed it to export its goods to both western and eastern European state alike.

On the political front, after the split with the Soviet Union, Yugoslav leader, Josip Broz Tito, tried, and succeeded in forging closer ties with west. Yugoslavia was first country to open its borders to western countries in 1967, and Tito was much beloved guest in USA and Western Europe. Foreign policy of Yugoslavia was based on a Non-aligned movement, created and lead by Tito, as well as Nasri and Nehru. Tito’s Yugoslavia held a leading position in the movement during much of its history, and succeeded in creating alternative for the USA lead west and Soviet lead east.


Tito, Stalin and Molotov.

Non-aligned movement was an opportunity for countries all over the world to escape the vile split, and stay out of the Cold war as much as it was possible. Both USA and Soviet Union tolerated Tito’s politics, for many reasons. Firstly, common action against Yugoslavia was not only pointless but also unimaginable, and unilateral was doomed to failure. Not only did Yugoslavia have a formidable army, equipped not only by its own modern weaponry, but also with American and Soviet weapons and weapon systems. Also, military action against it would surely mean retaliation from the other side. Secondly, USA saw in Yugoslavia a dam towards spreading of Soviet influence. Many socialist and left oriented countries chose to participate in Non-alignment movement rather than to cooperate too closely with USSR. Thirdly, Soviet Union, during most of Cold war, had friendly relations with Yugoslavia, and its initiatives in UN and other international bodies were supported by Yugoslav delegates, which also meant, in most cases, a support from Non-aligned movement, and an assured majority.

Nonetheless, it is obvious that existence and position of Yugoslav state depended on consensus between two worlds superpowers, and after sudden disappearance of one of them, Yugoslavian position was also questioned.

In the eighties, Yugoslavia was deep in economic and political crisis after death of Tito. In those years it became clear that many of countries problems, first of all ethnic tensions, were pushed under the rug. While economy fell deeper into the abyss every year, ethnic tensions all over Yugoslavia were erupting. In Kosovo, Albanian nationalists and terror groups demanded independence and subsequent unification with Albania; in Bosnia, Muslim majority started to wake up, and Islamic extremism, practically created by the USA in Afghanistan, reached Yugoslav central republic; in Slovenia and Croatia, independence movements gained strength every year, and every year incidents between Slovenians and Croatians on one side, and Serbs on the other would unveil; in Serbian and Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, Serbian nationalism and Yugoslav centralism gained support, as Serbian and federal leadership showed no will to reform in any way. All this lead to a highly explosive situation in the country. The only thing that was missing is a match, and USA was more than ready to provide one. nato-go-home

In American point of view, Yugoslavia had served its purpose, and its existence was not anymore in American interest. For a time, USA kept the illusion of friendly relations, but refused to help Yugoslavia in any way, political or economical, to a point when Congress passed a law in which it forbade any form of help to the country. In 1990, Soviet Union was already helpless and facing its own doom and foreign powers started arming insurgent groups in Yugoslavia. Germany and USA were amongst the generous humanitarians who provided Croatian and Slovenian separatists with weapons, while Arabic petro monarchies armed Bosnian Muslims, and also sending mujahidin warriors to Yugoslavia. Stage was set, and with a few sparks, civil war begun.

International community played a key role in keeping the war going for several years, especially in Bosnia. Germany was amongst the first countries to recognize self-proclaimed republics of Croatia and Slovenia, even before the USA. American ambassadors in Yugoslavia gave silent and latter open support for those moves. Serbian minority in Croatia revolted, which led to a four year civil war in Croatia, that ended by expatriation (not to use a stringer word) of more than 200.000 Serbs, and thousands of dead on both sides. In Bosnia, civil war ravaged the country and left more than 100.000 dead and 2.000.000 displaced. In both conflicts, USA gave support to the separatists, while in Bosnia, even NATO aviation was introduced against Bosnian Serbs. The war eventually ended in 1995, leaving former Yugoslavia in ruins. However, another war was looming. Four years later, under the pretext of genocide over Kosovo Albanians, NATO bombarded Yugoslavia for 78 days, after which southern Serbian province was occupied by NATO forces. Final act (for now of course) were declarations of independence by Montenegro and so called Republic of Kosovo.

The aftermath of it all is terrifying. Instead of a multicultural socialist, independent and mostly stabile state, there are six former Yugoslav republics, independent from each other, but protectorates of the West (USA). Each of the terribly in debt, with economies that rely solely on raw material export and foreign banks, with introduced capitalist systems, and paychecks that barely cover monthly food need, if that. Croatia and Slovenia are part of NATO, independent of USA as much as Texas. Slovenia was the richest Yugoslav republic once, and now one of the poorest countries in EU. Croatian littoral is almost completely German owned, and its territory and ports home to foreign armies.


Bombed building in Belgrade. Nowadays it is kept as it is in the image so as to remember the bombings.

Bosnia is not a country, not a territory, not an entity. In fact, no one really knows what it is, although everyone pretends to. Montenegro is mafia in a form of state, with one man ruling in past 27 years, a beacon of democracy in the Balkans. Macedonia is a country split in half. Its leaders recognized Kosovo independence, and will surely soon have to recognize half of their country disappearing under Albanian flag. Kosovo, which strived for independence for decades, is now a slightly larger military base. Main source of income for both Serbs and Albanians is drug money, and main source of fun is nationalist friction and few massacres, riots and church burning. It never achieved its independence, nor will it ever. Serbia is a country on brink of collapse. Nationalists parading as liberal proeuropean leaders hold every ounce of power. Country has turned into a parody of its formal self, with museums dead and reality shows as live as never before, we are marching without a doubt into EU, where no one seems to wait for us.

Many hated Yugoslavia for what it was, in it and abroad. Its existence was against all liberal agenda and western moldings. It had to be destroyed, and people here were all to ready to do the dirty work. Now, Yugoslav years are remembered as age of prosperity and safety, and live in our fond memories, never to return, at least not for now…

Aleksandar Topić –

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