Реферат: History Of The Conflict In The Balkans

History Of The Conflict In The Balkans Essay, Research Paper

The conflict in the Balkans is interesting because for years,

reporters and politicians have touted it as being the result of

ancient ethnic hatred but that isn?t the case. The people of the

region lived together peacefully for centuries and any conflicts that

have arose among people were based not on ethnic origin but other

things like class, ruling party, etc. In fact, any problems that have

arose in the former Yugoslavia have more to do with the issues raised

by nationalism that developed during World War II and not centuries of

three different peoples living together.

This paper will explore the history of the conflict in the

Balkans from the time shortly after Josip Tito passed away until just

before the Dayton Accords. Additionally, it will be shown that at

each of the three distinct points of the conflict, the international

community and the United States had it within their power to stop the

violence. The three distinct phases are Kosovo, secession, and Bosnia

and at each point, the lack of action or overreaction of the

international community failed to solve the problem.

The first phase of Yugoslavian disintegration can be

attributed to the conditions of the people living in Kosovo, an

autonomous province of Yugoslavia. In 1981, the socioeconomic

conditions in Kosovo were far worse than those in the other republics

of Yugoslavia. Poverty was rampant and unemployment was around twenty

percent as compared to about two percent in Slovenia that same year.

The standard of living in Kosovo was deplorable and whatever aid that

was given to the province by the federal government was mismanaged

(Samary, 65).

Another significant problem with this particular province was

that while the Serbs claimed the province as the ?Cradle of Serbian

Empire? because of a legendary battle and defeat that happened at

Kosovo in 1389, the Albanians constituted approximately eighty percent

of the population of Kosovo. In reality, Kosovo could be claimed more

by the Albanian majority than by the Serb minority. Many of the

valiant warriors who fought and died at the Battle of Kosovo were in

fact Albanian warriors, a fact seldom acknowledged by the Serb

leadership. Furthermore, historical evidence suggests that Illyrians,

the ancestors of Albanians, formed their first communities in Kosovo.

The ?Serb Empire? was not as grand and powerful as modern Serbia

would contend. Relations between Albanians and Serbs were good in the

Middle Ages because of the many reasons that tensions exist today

between nation states i.e. customs, trade, immigration, and so on

(Samary, 36). Kosovo, by nearly all accounts but the Serb

interpretation of the Battle of Kosovo, is an Albanian area.

Albanians were given majority rule of Kosovo in the 1960?s by

Tito in order to act as a hegemon to the power of Serbia. Under

independent rule, the region was able to make available an Albanian

curriculum and Albanian culture grew in importance. Economically,

however, Kosovo was still suffering since whatever gains the economy

made were outdone by the gains in population made by the Albanian

Muslims who averaged six to eight children per family. The power in

Kosovo was vested in a small group of elite Albanians who did well at

advancing national identity and improving education and other public

works but who were poor at managing and maintaining a functional

economy. Whenever federal funds were given to the province, those

elites at the top either wasted the money on grandiose projects and

ornate buildings or on their new and privileged lifestyles (Bennett,


On March 11, 1981, the students of Pristina University, in

Kosovo, organized a protest against the deplorable living conditions

on the campus. At the protest, they voiced their malcontent with the

poverty and unemployment if life in Kosovo. They then marched to the

provincial League of Communists only to have the demonstration halted

by the police. The leadership of the League of Communists demanded

that the leaders of the protests be brought into custody fearing that

if the leadership of the protests remained, the protests would

continue. The police complied and in a moment of solidarity with the

student leaders, students poured into the streets demanding that their

classmates be released from custody. The unrest was escalated by

excessive police brutality and on April 3, 1981, Belgrade imposed

martial law (Bennett, 89).

It is suggested that this particular time in the history of

Yugoslavia is when the disintegration of Yugoslavia occurred. Tito

had died less than a year before the incident in Kosovo and the

Yugoslav Army (JNA) was pointing their weapons at fellow Yugoslavians.

For the first time in Tito?s Yugoslavia, the federal government had

sided with one ethnic group over another and because of this change in

policy toward Kosovo, Serbia was able to acquire control once more

over the province with the help of the JNA. Sixteen hundred Albanian

college students, secondary school students, and adults were taken

into custody and handed a heavy prison sentence (Bennett, 90).

In the late 1980?s, Slobodan Milosevic came to power in

Serbia. His first actions were directed against Kosovo Albanian

dominance in the province. He removed virtually all of the Albanian?s

rights, their leadership role in government, their party, and their

parliament. He further removed their control of their

Albanian-language library and the administration of their school

system. This was the classic case of human rights violations.

Milosevic took away their right to govern themselves and as a result,

he gained the attention of the United States Congress. A pro-Albanian

coalition formed among those who had ethnic Albanian constituents

(Alphonse D?Amato), of those who habitually cultivated the support of

ethnic groups (Bob Dole), and of those who saw Kosovo as a human

rights problem (Representative Tom Lantos).

Annual human rights reports submitted to the White House by

the Department of State read like a prison record when it came to

Serbian abuses of the people of Kosovo. Unfortunately, Congress was

not in agreement with how to treat the reports of the abuses in

Kosovo. The Bush administration was more interested in keeping

Yugoslavia together and concerned more about the breakup of the Soviet

Union and the potential tragedy that such a thing might cause.

Therefore, Kosovo, in the words of Warren Zimmerman, ?remained a part

of Serbia, albeit a much-abused one (Zimmerman, 3).?

In my estimation, the problems of Kosovo were not viewed as

important or of any interest to the national security or economic

prosperity of the United States therefore no action was needed. I

disagree with the stand that the Bush administration took on Kosovo.

The State Department catalogued massive human rights violations by the

Serbian leadership in Kosovo yet the Bush Administration did nothing.

Little was said about what was going on in the region and even less

was said by the American press because of the instability in the

former Soviet Union.

Up until this point, the official party line in Washington, DC

was that the Bush administration would continue to support a united,

territorially strong, and independent Yugoslavia. It would seem that

history had yet another crossroads in Yugoslavia. The strategic

importance of Yugoslavia was lost with the breakup of the Soviet

Union. The movement towards more democratic government was creating

an air of instability and uncertainty in the region. Finally, the

inter-ethnic conflicts between Serbs and Croats, people of Kosovo and

Serbs, Slovenes and the rest of Yugoslavia added to the unstableness

of the situation (Zimmerman, 4).

While the political unity of Yugoslavia was paramount for the

White House any financial aid that would be given to Eastern Europe

would be based on that particular nation?s ability to move toward

democracy and a free market economy. Because of this commitment to a

movement toward democracy, the United States eagerly awaited the

results of the election in 1990. These elections, however, brought

into power nationalists of many colors. In Slovenia and Croatia, the

election brought to power two leaders who advocated the secession of

their respective republics from federal Yugoslavia. Additionally, the

reelection of Milosevic in Serbia aroused fears that Yugoslavia would

be dominated by a Greater Serbia. The future of Yugoslavia was

uncertain and finally became an issue of importance in the State

Department and the White House.

Yugoslavia?s existence itself was at stake and the State

Department had to ask itself two questions. One, what are the chances

that Yugoslavia will disintegrate? Two, what will disintegration

mean? The Central Intelligence Agency was the first to predict the

breakup of Yugoslavia in September of 1990. This breakup, as examined

by experts in the embassy in Belgrade and in Washington, was certainly

seen as potentially violent and leading to war. The State Department

did make attempts to alert the Western Allies in NATO of the potential

for armed conflict but it fell upon deaf ears (Zimmerman, 5).

One of the fundamental problems with United States policy in

Yugoslavia was that democracy and unity seemed to contradict each

other. A democratic movement in Croatia and Slovenia elected

separatist governments. The United States wanted a united Yugoslavia

but Croatia and Slovenia were flirting with independence and if the

rest of Yugoslavia were to order the JNA into those republics to quell

the violence, would the United States support this action. Clearly,

the objective of keeping a united Yugoslavia would be obtained but

human rights violations as well as continuing armed conflict in

defense of the separatist governments meant that peace in the Balkans

would be lost.

At this point, the United States should have chose either

unity or democracy. Clearly, both were not what Yugoslavia was headed

for. A united Yugoslavia meant a strong central government controlled

from Belgrade while a free and democratic Yugoslavia meant the

potential for disintegration. By the end of 1991, United States

policy shifted toward support for democratization and a free market

economy and away from its former support of continues unity. On May

23, 1991, Secretary of State, James Baker, issued a statement of five

principles of interest in Yugoslavia by the united states. First was

democracy and last was unity. Finally, the United States had actually

set some sort of priority on their objectives.

On June 21, 1991, Slovenia declared independence. Slovenia?s

discontent with the rest of the Yugoslav federation can be traced back

to the 1970?s when during the oil crisis that took the entire world by

storm, Slovenians returned home from their then non-existent Western

European jobs. Slovenia?s per capita income was twice that of the

rest of Yugoslavia with zero unemployment making the republic a

popular place for migrant Serbs and Albanians from Kosovo. This

migration in the 1970?s was not welcomed because after Tito?s death,

Serbs throughout the Federation attempted to usurped the educational

institutions of Slovenia and to institute a single, unified ?Yugoslav?

curriculum. The Slovenes saw this as an attempt to eliminate their

national identity and because of this rejected it flatly.

As a result of the attempts of the communists in Yugoslavia to

reform the education system of Slovenia, the republic?s government

undertook a massive campaign, mostly television advertising, to raise

national awareness of the issues and to attempt to build support for a

nationalist movement. It worked. Throughout Slovenia, one could find

tee-shirts with ?Slovenia my Homeland? silk screened on them. The

campaign for national pride had worked.

The Yugoslav communists attempted a media campaign as well and

had the economy not taken a nose-dive in the mid 1980?s they might

have been successful. However, the Slovene media touted the economic

recession as the fault of the other, poorer republics. The

politicians argued that Slovenia was suffering not because of the

recession but because they had to subsidize the other, less developed

republics. What arose from this stage of the game was the beginnings

of an intense nationalism would later propel Slovenia out of the

Yugoslav federation and into an independence movement.

As a result of this tension between what apparently had become

Milosevic (in control of Serbia, Kosovo, Vojvodina, and Montenegro)

and Kucan of Slovenia, the Slovene people made their way toward

independence. It started with the youth movement. Mladina, a Slovene

political weekly, began and ran stories about the JNA, Yugoslavia,

Milosevic, and others who were basically labeled enemies of the

Slovene people. A new artist movement caught the attention of many in

Europe through art, literature and music. This movement began with a

group of teenagers looking for an alternative to mandatory military

service and ended with an alternative to continued federation with


On May 31, 1988, the attacks that the JNA had received from

Mladina were avenged with the arrest of Janez Jasna, the military

correspondent for Mladina and a candidate for the presidency of

Slovenia?s Youth Organization. The charge was leaking military

secrets. Later, three other people were indicated in this conspiracy

when documents were discovered in the offices of Mladina. These

documents were believed to be the plans for a takeover of Slovenia by

the JNA although the JNA and the Yugoslav government never confirmed

the suspicions. The people of Slovenia and its leadership viewed this

attack on Mladina and its youth as an attack on Slovenian sovereignty.

With Kosovo now under the control of Serbia, the time had come

to turn the attention of the JNA and the government towards Slovenia

which was, at this time, still teetering on the issue of independence.

In typical fashion, Milosevic turned his propaganda machine on the

Slovenes blaming them for everything from the price of clothing in

Serbia to the price of tea in China. At approximately the same time,

Milosevic attempted to cripple the economy of Slovenia by boycotting

Slovenian goods and services in Serbia, Vojvodina, and Kosovo. What

Milosevic managed to do was not to punish Slovenes for their

insurrection but instead punish the Serbs who were dependent on

Slovene goods and services. The economy of Serbia was in a downward

spiral. Hopeful to raise a billion dollars in investments, Milosevic

asked Serbs from all over the globe to contribute to his

reconstruction and revitalization fund. Out of the billion dollars

that he was expecting and counting on, Milosevic managed to get a

whopping twenty-five million dollars… hardly enough to solve the

economic woes that inflation, poor quality, and over employment were

causing (Bennett, 108).

Obviously, Milosevic was killing himself and Serbia with these

sanctions and other economic activities. In his zeal for a

nationalist movement, Milosevic managed to forget that one needs an

economy for a nation to exist and he was systematically destroying

his. In Kosovo alone, police operations costs amounted to about half

of all of Yugoslavia?s military budget and Milosevic?s refusal to let

anyone outside of Serbia to handle the situation further crippled any

hope for a unified Yugoslavia. Serbia?s actions in Kosovo were one of

the key factors in Slovenia, and shortly thereafter, Croatia?s

decision to leave Yugoslavia. Had Serbia not treated the people of

Kosovo as second class citizens within a now, new Greater Serbia, the

Slovenes and the Croats would not have feared them as much. As it

stood, however, the Serbs had seemingly made it clear that no

Yugoslavia would exist without a Serb holding the reigns.

Therefore, Slovenia and Croatia seceded from the federal

government. Slovenia was scheduled to declare independence on June

26, 1991 but late in the afternoon on the previous day, Croatia

declared independence from federal Yugoslavia. Croatia had seceded

without tackling one, very critical question. What was the status of

Serbs living in Croatia. Throughout history, Serbs had been moved

into the Krijina region of southern Croatia to defend the

Austro-Hungarian Empire against the Ottomans to the south. By the

time that Croatia declared it?s independence, however, Serbs had lived

in those regions for generations and came to think of it as their

homeland. The Croats, however, failed to recognize the Serbs and give

them citizenship in the new Croatian state.

Serbs on Croatia had considered themselves equal to Croats

living next door yet it appeared that every chance Franjo Tudjman got,

he took the opportunity to elevate the Croat while lowing the status

of the Serb. The Croat flag was altered so that the checkerboard, a

long time symbol of Croats and, unfortunately, of the Ustasha, was

emblazoned onto the flag. Serb travel had been restricted, Serb

participation in government was becoming limited and the military

began taking strategic positions with Serb majority areas (Glenny,

93). Clearly, with so many tanks, guns, and soldiers, the stage was

set for armed conflict.

The armed conflict in these Serb pockets of population came to

a head in Knin, where Croats were a minority while Serbs maintained a

majority. Milosevic saw these Serbs as an opportunity to, if not

save Yugoslavia as it was, then to at least expand what remained of

Yugoslavia as much as possible. Milosevic, with the help of Jovan

Raskovic, began to stir trouble in the city of Knin. They reminded

the Serbs living in Croatia of the atrocities that the Ustasha

inflicted upon the Serbs who had lived there during the Second World

War and that the same thing was happening again to the Serbs at the

hands of Croat fascists. Serb media told tales of the new nationalist

regime in Croatia coming to wipe out anything not Croat.

The Serbs in Croatia reacted to their treatment by holding a

referendum which was declared null and void by Tudjman. However, Serb

areas voted to leave Croatia. Theoretically, the Croats should have

been able to quell the rebellion. This was not the case because when

the Croatian police sent three helicopters to the area to take control

and stop the protests, they were met with two MiG aircraft from the

JNA and threatened to be shot down if they failed to turn around.

Obviously, at this point, the situation is getting tenuous

enough for the international community to take an interest in what is

going on. Two, armed aircraft from the Yugoslav Army confronted three

helicopters from Croatia. By this time, the international community

had recognized the independence of Slovenia and Croatia upon the lead

from Germany but they were still allowing the remainder of Yugoslavia,

essentially the Serbs, to engage in warfare with Croatia.

So, why didn?t the United States intervene at this point?

Several answers are viable. The first and foremost reason for a lack

of intervention has to do with our newly emerging relationship with

Russia. Russians had been closely aligned with Serbs during World War

II and this relationship continues onward even until today. Telling

the Serbs that the United States was going to enter Yugoslavia and

stop the violence was to say that the United States was going to go

into Yugoslavia and crush the Serbs, who controlled the government and

the JNA. We were trying desperately to form close, personal ties with

Russia to support their efforts toward a market economy and democracy

to prevent the Russian government and their nuclear weapons to fall

into the wrong hands. To offend the Serbs, and thus the Russians,

would have been political suicide.

Second, what exactly did Yugoslavia mean to the United States.

As stated above, with the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Cold War

was over. We no longer needed to nurture ties between Eastern

European states in order to head off the spread of Communism.

Yugoslavia didn?t have an impressive economy where American business

interested could invest and reap massive dividends. Much like most of

the Eastern and especially Southeastern European nations, the economy

was lackluster and uninviting to foreign investment.

The third reason that the United States chose not to interfere

and perhaps the most important is that intervening would imply a long

term commitment of men, equipment, and supplies. The recent Gulf War

had devoured many of the resources that would have been needed to

complete an operation in Yugoslavia. Furthermore, the terrain of the

area was as inhospitable as Viet Nam?s was in the 1960?s and 1970?s.

Engaging the military in an operation in Yugoslavia would offer the

same challenges that Viet Nam offered. There was no popular support

for either side of the conflict in the United States. What monetary

or economic gain could be made by intervention? Finally, who really

cared? I know that last one seems particularly cruel but if we

examine the conflict, the people of Yugoslavia and those people alone

seemed to be the only ones feeling the effects of the battles. The

fighting was primarily in Croatia… not in Greece… not in

Hungary… and not in Italy. Perhaps the e!

xecutive branch of the United States considered this to be a rather

internal problem and not the concern of the international community.

Germany didn?t help matters either by jumping the gun and

recognizing Croatia before it met the standards set by the European

Community. Under the EC plan, Croatia would have to make a

constitutional provision recognizing Serbs living in Croatia as

citizens of Croatia and protecting them with equal status. Germany,

eager to stop the armed conflicts within Croatia, officially

recognized Croatia?s independence and thus, forced the rest of the EC

to do so as well.

The third phase of the disintegration of Yugoslavia is marked

by a decidedly different approach to the Balkans by the international

community. The European Community, lead almost unwillingly by

Germany, offers to recognize Croatia and Slovenia as independent in

January of 1992. By March of 1992, Bosnia itself had attained the

standards that the EC set for recognition of independence. Sixty-four

percent of the population voted in a referendum for independence while

most of the Serbs abstained. By this time as well, it had become

apparent that Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic had planned to take over

about two-thirds of Bosnia. The United States and other allies

considered recognizing the sovereignty of Bosnia as a way to avert the

impending military action.

In March of 1992, the United States pushed for the

independence of all four of the breakaway republics (Croatia,

Slovenia, Bosnia, and Macedonia). On April 6 and 7, the United States

recognized Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia (Macedonia was left off the

list due to pressure from Greece.) This recognition of sovereignty

was a few days too late. Several days earlier, the Serbs had begun

their attacks. They were better equipped, better trained, and in

better position. The Bosnian army had been overwhelmed (Zimmerman,


What was the United States? position on the Serb attacks? The

American government announced that it intended to withdraw it?s

ambassador from Belgrade. This was merely symbolic since the embassy

itself was still intact and under the control of a charg? d?affaires.

On May 30, the United Nations, at the request of the United States

imposed an economic embargo against Serbia. This embargo was similar

to that imposed upon Iraq during and after the Gulf War.

President Bush, however, refused to use military force in the

region and to some degree, I agree with his reasoning. There are

three main reasons that kept a military reaction at bay. The first is

that no matter how small the initial action, a continued, expanded

operation was expected. Much like Viet Nam, the Bosnian conflict

offered obstacles to a quick, speedy, and painless process. The

second reason is that there were no clear objectives in the region and

no commitment to leaving. The problems that caused the conflict would

not have gone away by simply rolling a tank down main street of

Sarajevo. Finally, the third reason — politics. Had Bush committed

troops to the war in Bosnia, a wave of potentially unpopular criticism

may have took the sails out of his campaign. How would Bush have

explained to his electorate that he was responsible for sending young

American boys to their death? He couldn?t take the chance.

So, the war in Bosnia continued. The United States and other

allies toyed with the idea of airlifting food and medical supplies to

the regions cut off from direct aid coming in to Sarajevo but the

military, without clear objectives and a plan of attack, failed to

support those missions as well. Bush lost the election in 1992 and

left office. Clinton entered the situation late and because of it,

was left with Bush?s legacy of inaction. The Serbs had taken control

of over seventy percent of Bosnia (Zimmerman, 11) and had consolidated

their control of the region before Clinton could find his way to the

bathroom in the White House.

Eventually, the Clinton Administration did raise a stronger

voice but this was short lived because of the Europeans? unwillingness

to cooperate in a plan to lift the arms embargo and to hit Serb

strongholds with air strikes. After this plan failed to win popular

support in Europe, the United States continued on it?s course of

rhetoric and apathy. Why did the Clinton administration choose to

abandon such an aggressive posture? Again, the answer is political.

As Zimmerman agues in his piece, Bill Clinton could not disagree with

the Pentagon for various reasons. He had no military record and was

seen as a draft dodger to most of the brass at the Department of

Defense who had more than likely served in Viet Nam. Second, he took

on the military establishment by trying to get homosexuals into the

military. Finally, the Clinton administration?s position with all

matters of international conflict for the next two years seemed to be

rather distasteful of using the military to solve the problem.

Clinton?s approach was to negotiate a peace… not enforce it.

The Clinton administration as well as the Congress and

American press clearly identified the Serbs as the aggressors and the

Bosnians as the victims. After all, it was the Bosnian Serbs lead by

Karadzic who claimed sections of Bosnia to be Serb territory and to

withdraw Serb members of the Bosnian government and form a new

government. Additionally, it was the Serbs who began the ethnic

cleansing of the Croats and Muslims of Bosnia. The Serbs were the

ones supplying the Bosnian Serb army and the Yugoslav army which was

beating the Bosnian army into the ground. Still, the use of force was

not a serious option.

The goal of the international community, the EC. and the

United States was to solve the conflicts in the Balkans through

peaceful means yet everything that they did seemed to cause more

conflict. One plan that was do ?cantonize? the various regions in

Bosnia along ethnic lines. However, the EC insisted that whatever

plan was reached had to be put on the ballot for a referendum. The

Serbs argued that the Croats and Muslims would naturally outvote the

Serbs in favor of a unified, independent Bosnia. In February of 1992,

the EC and United States sponsored a summit in Lisbon where the

partitioning of Bosnia was agreed upon even though no lines were

actually drawn.

Alija Izetbegovic, the president of Bosnia and a Muslim,

seemed to be for the plan at the summit but once he returned home,

quickly changed his mind. Several factors contributed to this change

of heart. Izetbegovic knew that if the west did not intervene

militarily, Serbs would surely take over the country and the Muslim

population would be decimated. Furthermore, if he agreed to a

partition of Bosnia, at least a Bosnia would still exist. Bosnia

itself would have to be large enough to show up on a map or it would

most certainly be absorbed by either Croatia or by Serbia

(Yugoslavia). However, when Izetbegovic returned home to Sarajevo, he

found that there was little to no support for the plan and that it was

in his best interests to abandon it (Bennett, 236-239).

What good would a division of Bosnia do? It obviously rewards

the Serbs for being the aggressors and punishes the Bosnian Muslims

for wanting an independence that the United States and European

Community had already to recognize. Furthermore, partitioning Bosnia

would have broken up the state into microstates with little to no

cohesion. Pockets of Serbs would be living among pockets of Croats

and pockets of Muslims. What kind of country would that be? There is

no clear majority in Bosnia therefore, the government would be in a

constant state of gridlock with nothing getting accomplished because

each canton could be voting along ethnic lines.

However, Serbs had control of most of the country. While in

control, they sought to consolidate their hold on lands in eastern

Bosnia as well as a section of northwestern Bosnia where large Serb

populations lived. The also selected as their target a narrow

corridor of land that connected the two regions of Bosnia that they

controlled. Once in control, they began campaigns to rid their

targeted regions of other ethnic groups. Murder and assault were some

of the options but the Serbs also relied on rape as a means of ethnic

cleansing (Donia and Fine, 247).

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