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For The Record  

FTR #157 The Dissolution of Yugoslavia

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Detailing important but (in the U.S.) largely unrecognized aspects of the Balkans war, this program documents the early history of that conflict, with particular emphasis on America’s involvement. Driven by a geopolitical and ideological perspective generated by Germany and the Vatican, the United States treated Yugoslavia as the last bastion of hard-line, Soviet-style communism in Europe.

Following diplomatic recognition of the Croatian and Slovenian independence by Germany, the EU and the Vatican, the United States lent political, economic and military support to the forces working to break-up Yugoslavia. Indeed, the U.S. had been deeply involved with Croatian fascist elements since the conclusion of World War II.

Having been armed by Germany, Croatian armed forces began attacking Serbs living in the newly independent Croatia. When the Yugoslavian National Army (JNA) intervened to prevent the slaughter of 5,000 Serbs at Vukovar, they were branded aggressors. Punishing economic measures were taken to pressure the Serbs, exacerbating their already precarious economic situation.

A similar pattern manifested itself in Bosnia. The Muslim forces of Alija Izetbegovic attacked Bosnian Serbs, who, like their Croatian counterparts, had exercised the right to self governance readily accorded the Croats and Bosnian Muslims by the international community. This exercise was branded aggression, Muslim ethnic cleansing of Serbs was ignored, JNA attempts to protect the Bosnian Serbs were met with vigorous censure and the withdrawal of the JNA from Bosnia was ignored.

It should be noted that Bosnian Croats had seceded, as had the Serbs, but were not punished for their acts. Likewise, when the Croatian Army intervened in Bosnia, they were not threatened with military retaliation. On the other hand, the Serbs were threatened with NATO air strikes. A Bosnian no-fly zone was selectively enforced. This selective enforcement effectively prevented the Serbs from utilizing their superior air power against the Bosnian Muslim forces, while allowing Bosnian Muslim air units to operate against the Serbs.

The program highlights three major attempts by the United States to control Yugoslavia. The first entailed the use of Milan Panic, a Serbian-American millionaire businessman. Eager to improve relations with the U.S., the Yugoslavs welcomed Panic’s entry into Yugoslavian politics. It should be noted that Panic was a United States citizen. When Panic became Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, it was illegal under U.S. Law. Panic used his position as Prime Minister to attempt to undermine President Slobodan Milosevic.

Following defeat in an attempt to unseat Milosevic, After the Yugoslavian Parliament returned a vote of no confidence in him, Panic resigned as Prime Minister and returned to the U.S. Following the Panic gambit, then Secretary of State Warren Christopher attempted to pressure Yugoslavia on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims, holding the punitive sword of NATO air strikes over the heads of the Serbs. The third U.S. attempt to control the Serbs saw a contingent of American military officers travel to Belgrade as part of a U.S. policy group, that proceeded to attempt to dictate policy to the Yugoslavian leadership.

Bluntly warning of the lethal consequences of refusing to acquiesce to U.S. demands, the contingent left the Serbs unconvinced.

The American response to Serbian intransigence was to coordinate a joint Croat-Bosnian Muslim offensive against the Serbs, with significant American backing (including NATO air strikes.) It should be noted that U.N. peacekeeping forces pointedly ignored signs of a Muslim military buildup. The Bosnian Muslims then precipitated the offensive by killing two U.N. peacekeepers. The killing was then blamed on the Serbs. (Recorded on 5/16/99.)

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