The Significance Of The Disintegration Of Yugoslavia Politics Essay

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1st Jan 1970 Politics Reference this

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The disintegration of Yugoslavia is a particularly intriguing phenomenon because it represents a conflict that lasted nearly a decade and still to this day there are issues pending, like Kosovo’s independence recognition. One year after the fall of the Berlin wall and the celebrations that accompanied it, the breakup of Yugoslavia began. While the disintegration of Yugoslavia occurred at Europe’s backyard it is interesting to notice that Europe alone couldn’t handle it, but instead the United States of America played a leading role in the resolution of the conflict. This event is very interesting to me because it happened only ten years ago and despite the numerous efforts to leave it behind and close it definitely, it still emerges in different ways. What I mean is that after the fragmentation numerous issues continue to trouble the Balkans stability and its integration into European Union, often delaying progress. The challenges today of the region that is to be overcome have their roots in Yugoslavia disintegration. Therefore I believe that it is worthy of attention for the weight of the issues that it represented then and for the weight of the issues that it represents now days.

For a better view of the picture I will represent a quick chronology of the events that happened in Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was made from six republics and two autonomous provinces. In 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence, thus the war began between Serbia which was claiming to preserve Yugoslavia and the two countries mentioned above. While the war with Croatia lasted until 1995 the war with Slovenia lasted only some days, since there were no Serbs in Slovenia and there was no interest for the fighting to continue. In 1992 Bosnia and Macedonia declared their independence and we can see the same correlation, while the war with Bosnia lasted until 1995, Macedonia separated peacefully for the same reason because there was no Serb minority. In 1995 a peace treaty was signed by Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia in Dayton Ohio U.S.A. which ended the conflict. However another war erupted between Kosovo (province with an overwhelming majority of Albanians) and Serbia in 1998 and ended in 1999 with the pressure from NATO air strikes. Kosovo was put under UN rule with the resolution 1244 from the Security Council. This is considered the end of the conflict, however in the last decade there were some other events. In 2003 the Former republic of Yugoslavia became the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. In 2006 Montenegro declared its independence after a referendum. In 2008 Kosovo declared its independence and it’s recognized to this day from 71 states; Kosovo is not a member of UN and it is still a pending issue. This paper will consist in seeing the disintegration of Yugoslavia from three theoretical perspectives: Realism, Liberalism and International Society tradition.

Realist perspective

Realism offers us an interesting insight on the breakup of Yugoslavia. If we take a neorealist point of view, we see the state as an unproblematic entity. [1] But this is not the case because inside the federation there were economical problems and especially after the rise into power of Milosevic there were erupting nationalist tensions. Slovenia and Croatia were wealthier due to greater contact with the west and did not like the fact that some of their incomes went to poorer regions like Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo which lead to quarrels within the federation. [2] This is to explain that in the disintegration of Yugoslavia there were also domestic problems. What was stated above can also be taken as a criticism to realism that does not consider domestic factors (which in my opinion are a key factor on what followed), but a realist on the other hand would dismiss economical domestic factors as not important; hence we continue to the realist perspective.

Until 1989 Yugoslavia enjoyed a very favorable position, being supported by U.S. because of its behavior towards the Soviet Union. This behavior consisted in being a neutral country and rejecting the Warsaw Pact which of course suited American interests in the region. This kind of behavior was supported as an example to be followed by other countries allies to the S.U. But this entire beneficial attitude changed with the fall of the Berlin wall, now Yugoslavia lost its strategic importance and did not serve any more the purpose mentioned above. Instead Yugoslavia found itself being criticized for lack of human rights mainly for the situation in Kosovo. [3] In realist point of view after 1989 western countries supported federation unity only in sight while on the other hand worked to undermine it. Gavin Murray-Miller argues that Germany had interests and strong economic ties with eastern countries and Croatia and Slovenia represented half of the German investments in the Balkans. Fearing repercussion on its markets, at the beginning of the war in Yugoslavia Germany recognized Slovenia and Croatia independence in order to stabilize the situation by “internationalizing the conflict and providing grounds for UN intervention. . . . In many ways, German initiatives set the parameters for the Balkan conflict” [4] According to this perspective Germany recognition was soon followed by other European countries in order to preserve unity. Furthermore later on Bosnia’s independence was recognized by the U.S.A. in the face of European opposition. It is also claimed in continuance of this view that U.S.A. pushed the Muslim government of Bosnia not to accept negotiations or deals proposed by UN or Europe to stabilize the situation. [5] 

In realist perspective we can say that actually the war in Yugoslavia happened because of international intervention and competition of power and influence between U.S.A., European Community (or different states in EC), Russia and other countries (mainly in the situation of Bosnia by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia). During the Bosnian war there was a lot of competition between the countries mentioned above, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were among the chief contributors of weapons and others means of war to the Muslims in Bosnia. The United States were reorganizing their global strategy after the cold war and of course letting other counties influence in the Balkans wasn’t on their agenda. They also saw with doubt Russia which historically had a connection with Serbs and used them to spread its policy and influence in the Balkans. So from the pretexts of intervention for protecting human rights all was actually done in the name of interests. [6] 

The international community intervention in Yugoslavia is considered from realists as violation of international law and violation of sovereignty because they were interfering with domestic problems. Ironically the west used the same bases for the NATO intervention that of protecting the newly recognized countries sovereignty from Serbian attacks. Realists claim that if it wasn’t for the international intervention Yugoslavia would have passed the crisis and maybe not disintegrated. One other reason for intervention is that NATO had to “justify” itself after the cold war. NATO was created as a military alliance to provide security to its members from the threat of the Soviet Union during the cold war. Realist’s highlight that with the end of the cold war NATO needed to find a different purpose of existence because the old one wasn’t useful any more. Now from a defense alliance NATO changed to a military institution which could promote liberal reforms to emerging democracies. They also emphasize that U.S.A. was afraid that Europe could create her own security alliance thus hurting American interests. Also since America was the core of the alliance by expanding NATO actually American interests were spreading and the Americas global leadership was secured. [7] The opportunity to “justify” NATO presented itself in Yugoslavian war in 1995 with the bombings of Serbian forces and especially in 1999 in Kosovo. The war to the west did not result any more as just an ethnic conflict but instead as ethnic cleansing by the Serbs. This way staying with hands crossed wasn’t an option to west minds. Realists argue that idealism wasn’t the purpose and did not guided policy itself but instead served as a way to rationalize force. They continue by saying that, during the cold war ideology served to justify the use of force, now new strategies were to be found to defend national and global interest. Hence the intervention to protect human rights replaced the principle of sovereignty as untouchable. [8] Realists persevere that the reasons of the breakup of Yugoslavia are to be found in the interest of the west and their thirst for power. They blame the intervention of particular states and NATO disregarding completely domestic problems. According to them without the intervention of the west, separatists within Yugoslavia would have never had the courage to continue the fight and the federation would have survived.

Liberal Perspective

No less interesting is the liberal perspective. On contrary to what is stated above in liberal eyes the west actually did not have interest in the Yugoslavia breakup. In the Paris peace conference in 1919 it was created the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian monarchy which later changed to Yugoslavia. It is safe to say to some extent that Yugoslavia was a western creation and before and during the Second World War it proved a worthy ally. Even during the cold war Yugoslavia played a role suitable to America and the west. Hence is wrong to assume that right away after the cold war the west intentionally wanted to dismantle its own creation and ally. The fact that until 1992 there were several efforts to invite the parts in conflict to negotiate and there was no recognition of independence declaration of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia demonstrate that the west (except Germany) wanted to keep Yugoslavia from breaking apart. The European Community invited several times the leaders of the parts in conflict to Hague and Brussels to arrive at a deal. Until April 92 America was declared impartial and neutral along with other western countries like Spain, Great Britain and France. The reasons can be found in the idea that they still believed that the federation could somehow be preserved and of course there was pressure from America and the multi-ethnic environments within the countries mentioned above. [9] To some extent Yugoslavia was like a mirror to countries with multiethnic diversity.

In contrast to the realists point of view the U.S.A. did not play an active role since the beginning. Surprisingly America left the solution of the Yugoslav case to the European Community and declared that would accept every formula negotiated and approved by them. [10] But as we see the results today and as we easily notice that on this matter the European Union is still divided today we can say that it proved unworthy of the task. Of course this was until 1992, after things changed and Serbia was seen as an aggressor. A different case represented Germany which saw the conflict in a different aspect, a point of view that soon would be shared by other western countries. Germany at the time on the contrary to the lenses of Britain, France, America etc. saw the Serbs as the attackers and the Slovenians and Croatians as the victims thus it was the first country to recognize their independence. This shook America and the other EC countries, Germany was criticized of adding fuel to the fire and there was heavy pressure from America to the other EC not to act in the same manner. This raised fear knowing the relations of Germany and Ustasha regime in Croatia during the WWII. But instead Germany understood the situation better and the conflict only exposed the flaws of the Paris peace conference in 1919. Of course America and EC would not let Germany play a stronger card in Yugoslavia conflict. [11] Things changed after 1992 after seeing the brutality used by the Serbs on civilians. It was soon understood that the efforts of ceasefire were futile and were only being used by Serbs to stretch further. By the claim that they wanted to preserve Yugoslavia the Serbs were actually destroying it. Thus the policy of the west changed and the intervention became stronger and stronger with its peak in 1995 and 1999 with the bombing of NATO of Serbian military strategic objectives.

From a liberal point of view we can say that there is a connection between the domestic regime form and the probability of war. [12] In the case of Yugoslavia there were little tensions between the republics during the communist regime because it was ruled by a strong hand from Tito and because every attempt to slip into nationality was strictly prohibited and punished. After the communism fell however things started to change for the worst which demonstrates the correlation between domestic regime and probability of war. Tomislav Sunic argues that Yugoslavia was a creation of Versailles peace treaty in 1919 and a recreation after WWII in 1945 and never had legitimacy thus couldn’t function as a democracy. [13] From a liberal point of view not intervening in the conflict would have been wrong and even neutrality is considered inadequate because in order to promote peace is needed institutional multilateralism. This means that an intervention is needed in order to preserve peace but only if it’s an intervention legalized by UN. In the case of Kosovo it is a little more complicated because in liberal eyes the intervention should have been based on the cooperation of actors at the global, regional and national levels. But this was not the case because the UN Security Council was blocked by the threat of Russian veto. So NATO was forced to act on its own. Liberals could not be content with this because there was lack of global legitimization. However NATO intervention was to some extent legal. [14] In summary we can say that in liberal perspective in contrary to realist one the west did not wanted the separation of Yugoslavia and it was only after the realization of ethnic cleansing by the Serbs that it was Decided to intervene. The intervention was done to protect human rights and peace and is supported by liberals however in the case of Kosovo it is debatable since there was no mandate from the Security Council.

International society perspective

In international society or English school perspective we are going to focus on its two currents of thought (Pluralism and Solidarism) and the case of Kosovo since there we find differences and the most interesting part. Regarding NATO intervention during the disintegration of Yugoslavia, both (pluralists and solidarists) seem to be on the same mind except in the case of Kosovo. Pluralists and solidarists are divided in the case of Kosovo and the theory of humanitarian intervention. Pluralists have a relatively thin concept of international society, they think that states can only agree only to a certain minimum of purposes and interests and that coexistence is based on a minimum of rules and norms. Order is emphasized in pluralist point of view because without order there cannot be justice, hence human rights would jeopardize the principle of sovereignty. They also argue that human rights and individual justice are very general concepts and since there are no clear definitions of them and there is no accordance of such definition accepted by states they can become a source of conflict and disorder. [15] 

Humanitarian intervention is accepted by pluralists if this is authorized by an overwhelming majority of states and if the intervention is carried collectively. In the Kosovo case there was no green light from the Security Council meaning that there was no agreement between the members for a collective intervention. [16] Hence pluralists see the intervention of NATO as wrong and as a break of the principle of sovereignty. According to pluralists the fate of individuals should be put in the hands of states only and states decide the criteria and the manner in which to treat individuals. When we talk about Kosovo we can say that since Kosovo was a Serbian province thus a domestic problem the state had the right to treat individuals according to its criteria’s even if this meant discrimination at the very least between Serbs and Albanians. In Kosovo a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing was taking place and nearly one million Albanian refugees were spread in the countries near Kosovo. But pluralists do not see this as a threat of international order since one million refugees were already destabilizing the region; instead the humanitarian intervention was indeed putting at risk international order since there was no collectively agreement. I wonder if this could be used as an excuse in states that have minorities that don’t like and if some states could put into practice ethnic cleansing with the excuse that is their domestic right to treat individuals as they please; I wonder if this could destabilize the international order. Pluralists believe that each state has the right to cultivate his set of domestic values and argue that despite the value of democracy this cannot be used to intervene in other states affairs to promote democracy. [17] 

Solidarists see the events in Kosovo in a different light. They support NATOs intervention with the arguments of human rights intervention theory. The principle of solidarism means solidarity among states concerning the security and welfare of individuals. They regard the individual as a direct member of international society but of course states are the primary members. They argue that international society is made by states but it is a society of mankind. [18] In continuance of this point of view they not only consider the intervention as right but also a duty of international society. Since individuals have rights and duties their rights should be observed by domestic and international law hence this rights can be enforced by international society like the rights of states. In solidarists point of view since there is lack of a global law enforcement authority the burden of enforcement of rights rests in states shoulders. [19] Solidarists see the intervention in Kosovo as a just war because of the violations of human rights. There have to be exceptions in interventions and in the case of Kosovo where there was an undoubted human rights violation the principle of non-intervention can be relaxed. Solidarists argue that individuals have rights and duties under international law and the enforcement of these rights and duties may be necessary by international society under some circumstances like the protection of an ethnic minority. They believe that states are obliged to defend the interest of mankind by preventing crimes against humanity. [20] To solidarists eyes the case of Kosovo is conform to what is stated above.

Idlir Kaba

International and European Relations

Word count: 3000 (without footnotes and bibliography)

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