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Germany, U.S., and the Yugoslav Crisis

By Sean Gervasi

Covert Action Quarterly

The Civil War As Lethal Shadow Play

The horrors in the Balkan region displayed daily on television and in the
newspapers show a country apparently torn apart by civil war.╩ But what lies
behind images of gaunt refugees, artillery duels, blood-spattered walls,
combat patrols and devastated towns and villages?╩ The only answer that most
of us can give is that it is the struggle of Yugoslav against Yugoslav, of
Croats against Slovenes and Serbs, of Muslims against Serbs, and of Serbs
against all of the others.

That is what the mass media have been telling us, and that is all they have
been telling us.╩ There are, however, other forces at work in the Yugoslav
crisis beyond ethnic tensions.╩ Yugoslavia has for some time been the target
of a covert policy waged by the West and its allies, primarily Germany, the
United States, Britain, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, as well as by Iran, to
divide Yugoslavia into its ethnic components, dismantle it, and eventually
recolonize it.╩ Not that, given hundreds of years of hatred and tension,
that is a particularly difficult job.╩ After all, the term Balkanization
entered the political vocabulary to define a process of national
fragmentation and fratricidal war.╩ But while the internal dynamics of the
war are well documented, the external forces of destabilization which were
put into high gear years ago have received scant attention.

The basic issues in Yugoslavia have always been independence and economics.╩
Yugoslavia has been at the center of a tug of war.╩ The Soviets sought its
incorporation into the USSR; the West has tried to pull Yugoslavia--along
with other countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans--"into Europe," that
is, into the capitalist world economy.

To this end, the West has promoted de-industrialization and dependence and
unleashed an arsenal of modern power including threats and pressure, a
U.N.-sanctioned economic blockade, and covert arms shipments.╩ Under
Marshall Josip Tito's leadership, Yugoslavia established its independence
from Moscow and formed a de facto alliance with the West and NATO.╩ By the
end of 1990, however, while Eastern Europe was well on the way to European
integration--and economic crisis--Yugoslavia began to suspend the "reforms"
to which it had initially agreed.╩ That resistance brought down the wrath of
certain Western powers, which then sought to break Yugoslavia by promoting
separatism and igniting the ethnic tensions that had haunted the country for

Yugoslavia and the Reagan Doctrine

Since World War II, Yugoslavia--prized by both sides--has been molded by the
forces of Cold War.

Early in the first Reagan administration, the U.S. escalated the Cold War
with an aggressive, secret strategy to undercut the Soviet economy,
destabilize the USSR, and ultimately bring about the collapse of Communism.
(1)╩ In 1985, then-Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick dubbed this new strategy,
which went well beyond containment, "the Reagan Doctrine." (2)

At about the same time, according to recently declassified documents
obtained by CovertAction, the U.S. adopted a similar strategy toward the
countries of Eastern Europe, including Yugoslavia.╩ In September 1982, when
the region seemed stable and the Berlin Wall had seven years to stand, the
U.S. drew up National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 54, "United States
Policy toward Eastern Europe."╩ Labeled SECRET and declassified with light
censorship in 1990, (3) it called for greatly expanded efforts to promote a
"quiet revolution" to overthrow Communist governments and parties.╩ While
naming all the countries of Eastern Europe, it omitted mention of

In March 1984, a separate document, NSDD 133, "United States Policy toward
Yugoslavia," was adopted and given the even more restricted classification:╩
SECRET SENSITIVE.╩ When finally declassified in 1990, NSDD 133 was still
highly censored, with less than two-thirds of the original text remaining.
(4)╩ Nonetheless, taken together, the two documents reveal a consistent
policy logic.

The "primary long-term U.S. goal in Eastern Europe" as described explicitly
in NSDD 54 was "to [censored...] facilitate its eventual re-integration into
the European community of nations." (5)

Since the Eastern European states could not have been "reintegrated" into
"the European community of nations" as long as they remained under Communist
rule, the basic U.S. goal required removal of Communist governments.╩ The
implication of ending Soviet influence extends to the more cautiously worded
remnants of NSDD 133.╩ The goal of "U.S. Policy [toward Yugoslavia]," it
states, "will be to promote the trend toward an effective, market-oriented
Yugoslav economic structure...[and] to expand U.S. economic relations with
Yugoslavia in ways which benefit both countries and which strengthen
Yugoslavia's ties with the industrialized democracies." (6)

Thus, the basic U.S. objective for Yugoslavia was much the same as for
Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the GDR, Hungary, Poland and Romania:╩ a
capitalist transformation.╩ The list of policy instruments described in NSDD
54 to promote change in Eastern Europe may help fill in some gaps in the
more highly censored Yugoslavia-specific NSDD 133.╩ The mechanisms included
most-favored-nation status, credit policy, IMF stewardship, debt
rescheduling, cultural and educational exchanges, information programs,
high-level visits, and restrictions on diplomatic and consular personnel.
╩(7)╩ Even in this document, some items were completely or partially deleted
in the declassified version.

Today, the revelations in the two documents may seem banal.╩ It should be
remembered, however, that for many years, the government felt the need to
keep secret even the more overt means of pressuring for change.╩
Furthermore, significant parts of U.S. policy in the region, particularly in
Yugoslavia, remain secret even today.╩ Covert policies, which undoubtedly
were implemented, are not usually discussed at any length in a National
Security Decision Directive.

The U.S. and Yugoslavia's Internal Crisis

The existence of a separate document for Yugoslavia reflects that nation's
special relationship with the U.S.╩ After Yugoslavia left the Warsaw Pact in
1948 over disagreements with Stalin, the West saw it as a buffer state
against Soviet expansionism.╩ When the Soviet Union made threats against it
in the early 1950s, Yugoslavia asked the U.S. for help and quietly undertook
"certain military obligations" towards the West in the event of a conflict
with the Soviet Union. (8)╩ The agreement included a commitment to "protect
northern Italy from penetration by Soviet troops based in Hungary."╩ (9)
According to a knowledgeable Yugoslav analyst, the "alliance with the West,"
along with expanded educational, diplomatic and commercial ties, "forced
Yugoslavia Communists to open up to Western cultural and political
influences." (10)

During the post-war years, Western aid--amounting to several hundred
billions of dollars, most of╩ which came from the U.S.--helped to create a
boom in Yugoslavia.╩ And, although Yugoslavia remained poorer than most of
the countries of the industrialized West, the relatively equitable
distribution of the fruits of industrialization carried much of the country
out of poverty.╩ By the end of the 1980s, Yugoslavs were better off than
most people in Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and parts of Greece.╩ That economic
success was crucial in diminishing regional and ethnic tensions.

Thus, the Yugoslav socialist experiment was generally viewed as successful,
even in the West, both for its economic progress and for the unity which
Marshall Tito brought to an ethnically diverse state.

Yugoslav planners, however, strove to combine structural change with rapid
economic growth.╩ And that policy was costly; it created a large trade
deficit and weakened the country's currency.╩ The oil crises of 1973-74 and
1979 exacerbated Yugoslavia's problems. (11)╩ By the early 1980s, the
country faced serious balance of payments problems and rising inflation.╩ As
usual, the IMF, in the name of financial rectitude, stepped in and prodded
the Yugoslav authorities to slow growth, restrict credit, cut social
expenditures, and devalue the dinar.╩ Although the trade deficit was reduced
and the balance of payments showed a record surplus by 1970, (12) the IMF
"reforms" wreaked economic and political havoc.╩ Slower growth, the
accumulation of foreign debt--and especially the cost of servicing it--as
well as devaluation, led to a fall in the standard of living of the average

The economic crisis threatened political stability.╩ Not only did the
declining standard of living undermine the authority of the country's
leaders, it also threatened to aggravate simmering ethnic tensions.

The 1980 death of Marshall Tito--the one leader whose authority could hold
the country together--plunged Yugoslavia into a dual crisis.╩ And without
leadership, the economic crisis suddenly become more difficult to resolve.

Moreover, since Yugoslavia was linked to the world capitalist economy, it
had suffered the same economic stagnation that affected Western Europe and
North America during the 1970s.╩ When the Reagan administration's
supply-side economic policies precipitated a recession in 1981-83, the
effects were felt everywhere, not least in Yugoslavia.

It is hardly surprising that Yugoslav planners found it difficult to arrest
economic decline in their own country.╩ Some observers claimed that the
inability of the economic system to respond to the 1980s crisis demonstrated
the failure of the Yugoslav model of socialism.╩ While there is some truth
to the charge that the system was rigid, Yugoslavia's troubles were caused
first and foremost by the transmission of the Western economic crisis to
those countries on the edge of Europe which were closely linked to the West
by aid, trade, capital flows, and emigration.

The uneasy U.S.-Yugoslav alliance persisted throughout╩ 1980s.╩ Because of
Yugoslavia's unique "buffer" position, the U.S. had a special stake in its
stability.╩ Despite discomfort with its communist "ally," the new Reagan
administration preserved the relationship, hoping to benefit from the
developing instability in Yugoslavia in order to install a more amenable

In the late 1980s, three factors suddenly altered the dynamics of the
U.S.-Yugoslav relationship.╩ Yugoslavia began to suspend its market-oriented
"reforms."╩ The Cold War ended and Yugoslavia was no longer so useful.╩ And
a newly united Germany, staking out a larger role for itself in Europe,
demanded that the Bush administration adopt the German policy of working for
the "dissociation," that is, the dismantling, of Yugoslavia.

Diplomatic Coercion and Reform in the East

The summer before the Berlin Wall fell, the major Western powers decided in
Paris to press the emerging East European governments to establish
"democracies" and market economies.╩ (13)╩ This goal was advanced by the
1990 elections throughout Eastern Europe, which produced broad support for
non-Communist governments seeking to implement precisely the kinds of
"reforms" (14) which the U.S. and its European partners had hoped for and
worked toward.

In an exercise more in coercive diplomacy than in persuasion, the Western
powers determined to offer aid and trade only to those countries that agreed
to market-oriented structural and policy changes.╩ Furthermore, noted
Richard Portes, chief economic adviser to the European Community (EC), the
West must "build in ways of committing the authorities not to deviate from
their basic policies."╩ To this end, planners demanded four major and
irreversible "reforms" in Eastern Europe:╩ an opening to the world economy,
i.e., to the Western╩ system;╩ the liberalization of prices; privatization;
and stabilization of of state finances and national currencies.╩ These
"reforms," argued Portes, should mark "a definitive exit from the socialist
planned economy."╩ (15)

The governments of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland acceded almost
completely, while Bulgaria and Romania complied in part.╩ Only two years
later, the northern tier countries of Eastern Europe were

"in the throes of a deep economic depression...[T]urmoil and starvation
stalk the Balkans, social crisis and wild political swings plague Poland,
nationalism threatens to tear apart Czechoslovakia, and social discontent in
Hungary has led to a virtual boycott of existing political parties.╩
Quasi-fascist movements have emerged on the far right, while the governments
of the region have all considered initiatives to restrict civil rights."╩

Yugoslavia Steps Out of Line

A crucial change in Yugoslav relations with the West occurred when
Yugoslavia balked at carrying out the reforms urged by the west.╩ As
Yugoslavia had initiated market-oriented policies before any of the
countries in the former Eastern bloc--tasting some the the bitter
consequences--its halting of "reforms" in 1990 particularly rankled the U.S.
╩ The Bush administration set out to farce the recalcitrant nation to accede
to Western demands for a "change in regime."╩ (17)

In January 1989, when Ante Marcovic was named federation premier, the U.S.
had anticipated a cooperative relationship.╩ "Known to favor market-oriented
reforms,"╩ (18) the new Prime Minster was described by the BBC correspondent
as "Washington's best ally in Yugoslavia."╩ (19)

In Autumn 1989, just before the Berlin Wall fell, Marcovic visited Bush in
the White House.╩ The president, the New York Times reported, "welcomed Mr.
Marcovic's commitment to market-oriented╩ economic reform and to building
democratic pluralism."╩ In this friendly atmosphere, Marcovic asked for
"United States assistance in making economic and political changes opposed
by hard-liners in the Communist Party."╩ He requested a substantial aid
package from the U.S., including $1 billion to prop up the banking system
and more than $3 billion in loans from the World Bank.╩ He also tried to
lure private investment to his country.╩ In exchange, Marcovic promised
"reforms," but warned, as the Times put it, that they "are bound to bring
social problems [including] an increase in unemployment to about 20 percent
and the threat of increased ethnic and political tension among the country's
six republics and two autonomous provinces." (20)

Marcovic's new austerity plan, announced two months later in Belgrade,
deepened the Yugoslav crisis.╩ The plan called for a new devalued currency,
a six-month wage freeze, closure of "unprofitable" state enterprises, and
reduced government expenditure.╩ Believing it would lead to social unrest,
Serbia, the largest republic, immediately rejected it.╩ Some 650,000 Serbian
workers staged a walkout in protest. (21)

Marcovic's proposal for some first steps toward political democratization--a
multi-party system and open elections--fared a bit better and, in January
1990, was accepted by the Central Committee of the Yugoslav League of
Communists.╩ Not long afterward, however, the Slovene League of Communists
seceded from the Yugoslav League.╩ In April, Demos, the Slovene opposition
coalition, described in the U.S. as "an alliance of pro-western parties,"╩
(22) won a majority in parliamentary elections in Slovenia.

Thus, as the unity of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia weakened,
a pro-Western, pro-"reform" camp consolidated and pushed for separatism as
the only possible way to realize nationalist aims--which would shatter the
Yugoslav economy.

By June 1990, when Prime Minister Marcovic introduced the second phase of
his austerity program, industrial output in Yugoslavia had already fallen
some ten percent since the beginning of the year, in part as a result of the
measures introduced the previous October.╩ Nonetheless, the second phase of
the prime minister's plan called for further reductions of 18 percent in
public spending, the wholesale privatization of state enterprises, and the
establishment of new private property rights.╩ To make the package more
palatable, Marcovic also proposed lowering interest rates and conditionally
lifting the wage freeze.

Economic "reform" was the crucial issue in 1990 multi-party elections held
throughout Yugoslavia.╩ In Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina,
separatist coalitions ousted the League of Communists.╩ In Serbia and
Montenegro, the ruling party--renamed the Socialist Party in Serbia--won.╩
The federal government, including Prime Minister Marcovic, denounced the
separatist tendencies to the two northern republics.╩ President Borisav
Jovic resigned as federal president when his proposal for a national state
of emergency was rejected.╩ (23)

The line was drawn.╩ The new separatist governments in the north wished--at
least in the flush of their electoral victories--to join Europe and the
parade toward capitalism.╩ The federal government and some of the republics,
including Serbia, balked.╩ One European scholar summarized the West's view:

"With the ending of the Cold War...Yugoslavia was no longer [a] problem of
global importance for the two super-powers...The important factor was the
pace of reforms in the East.╩ What lasted nine months in Poland, took only
nine weeks in the GDR and only nine days in Czechoslovakia.╩ Yugoslavia
lagged enormously behind [in] this process of democratic transformations.╩"

In an ideal world, there would have been a long national debate on the way
forward, and the separatist republics, if still bent on secession, would
have proceeded through the complex process provided for in the Federal

That was not to be.

Germany's New Expansionism

The years following the general adoption of the Reagan Doctrine saw the pace
of change accelerate in all the countries of the Socialist bloc.╩
Developments were carrying them toward the "quiet revolutions" the West

By the end of 1989, moreover, an equally important change--the third major
one in Yugoslavia's relationship to its emergence as the giant of Europe
would prove decisive for the fate of Yugoslavia.

As Yugoslavia continued in crisis, a much-strengthened industrial and
political leadership in Germany looked east.╩ Its influence was rapidly
becoming "pervasive, in personal contacts, business investments, and
intellectual life."╩ (25)╩ In the post-Cold War era the means for expansion
are economic, political, and cultural, rather than military.╩ In Eastern
Europe, German trade groups and banks suddenly became very active and╩
German firms sought lower costs, especially lower wages and taxes.╩ By 1991,
one third of the trade between Eastern and Western Europe was based in
Germany, according to a U.N. study, (26) and Germany became the major
foreign investor in Eastern Europe, especially╩ in Czechoslovakia, Hungary,
and Poland.╩ German firms now have 1,500 joint ventures in Poland and 1,000
in Hungary.

But it was not just economics that drove Germany eastward.╩ Form many
Germans, the expansion also made historical sense.╩ Their firms were
reviving ties to the East which went back to the pre-Communist era and even
to the time of the Austria-Hungarian Empire.

And perhaps even more disquieting for partially recolonized Eastern Europe
were the cultural campaigns which accompanied economic expansion.╩ These
promote the use of the German language, German books, and German culture in
general.╩ The German foreign broadcasting service recently announced "a
media and cultural offensive in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe."╩ Its
director called the new Germany "the most important media and cultural
bridgehead between East and West."╩ (27)

The aims and scope of Germany's drive east were summed up by the Chair of
The East Committee, the industrial group promoting business in the East:╩
"it is our natural market...[I]n the end this market will perhaps bring us
to the same position we were in before World War I.╩ Why not?" (28)

German expansion has been accompanied by a rising tide of nationalism and
xenophobia, igniting old Yugoslav fears.╩ These have been fed by evidence╩
that Germany has been energetically seeking a free hand among its allies "to
pursue economic dominance in the whole of Mitteleuropa." (29)

In 1990, Yugoslavia lay in the path of that gathering German drive.╩ Given
Germany's economic and political power, and its aid and trade ties with
Yugoslavia, many expected Bonn to try to draw the region into its orbit.╩
The most obvious beginning would be in the northern republics which had
historically been considered part Europe, and especially in Croatia, which
had strong German links.

During the Second World War, Nazi Germany had installed a clerical-fascist
state in Croatia.╩ (30)╩ After the war,╩ more than half a million Croatian
ÚmigrÚs moved to the Fatherland, where their organizations had considerable
political influence.

Milovan Djilas may have had these considerations in mind, when, more than a
year before the secession crises of 1991, he warned:

"It is definitely in the interests of the majority of other nations--for
example, the Unites States, Great Britain, the USSR--to support the unity of
Yugoslavia.╩ ...But I doubt that Yugoslavia's neighbors...are so
well-intentioned.╩ I also suspect that in some states, for example, in
Germany and Austria, there are influential groups who would like to see
Yugoslavia disintegrate--from traditional hatred, from expansionist
tendencies, and vague, unrealistic desires for revenge.╩ (31)

Europe Intervenes

Yugoslavia walked a tightrope through the 1980s until economic and political
crisis, particularly the fall in the standard of living, broke its balance.╩
As rival ethnic groups shook the rope and the state teetered, European
Community (EC) intervention helped push Yugoslavia into the abyss of
disintegration and horrific civil war.

After World War II, Yugoslavia brought together communities which had
historically been at odds:╩ Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Muslims (the
descendants of converted Slavs), Albanians, Hungarians, etc.╩ At the same
time , the federal government made enormous efforts after World War II to
create a state which gave full play to "national identities" and entrenched
the rights of minorities.

Since there was, however, no way to draw the map of Yugoslavia to enclose
each group in its own republic or autonomous region, large minorities would
always exist within any republic or region.╩ Thus, for instance, large
numbers of Serbs--more than two million--found themselves living in Croatia
or Bosnia or elsewhere where the boundaries of Serbia were drawn in 1945.

Within the Balkan tinderbox, two specific actions set off the current war in
Yugoslavia:╩ the secessions of Slovenia and Croatia and the intervention of
the EC.╩ The former might not have occurred without the intervention of the
latter.╩ Continuous EC intervention from early 1991 could not have been more
likely to set off a war if it had been deliberately designed to do so.╩ It
turned a manageable internal conflict into appalling fratricide.

Slovenia and Croatia were clearly driving toward independence well before
widespread fighting broke out between the Yugoslav National Army and Slovene
territorial forces in the spring of 1991.╩ Their separatist aspirations
received quiet encouragement and assistance from several European powers,
particularly Germany and Austria, for some time prior to the outbreak of

In early February 1991, he Council of Europe stated that, to join Europe (as
some Yugoslav leaders wanted), Yugoslavia would have to resolve its crisis
peacefully and hold multi-party elections for the Federal Parliament. (32)╩
This bland-sounding precondition was, in effect, an invitation to Slovenia
and Croatia to push towards secession, for it linked economic advantages to
"restraint' in federal dealings with those republics.

By March, when its was clear that Croatia intended to secede, Croates and
the Serb minorities began to clash.╩ Croatian nationalists organized violent
demonstrations in Split, besieged a military base in Gospic, and generally
intensified their national campaign.╩ On May 5, the federal government
authorized the Army to intervene in Croatia (33) and two days later, the
military began calling up reserves and deploying units in western
Yugoslavia.╩ "Yugoslavia," said Defense Secretary Gen. V. Kadijevic, "has
entered a state of civil war."╩ (34)

The EC then began openly to apply pressure on Yugoslavia.╩ In June, the EC
foreign ministers gathered in Dresden and warned that future assistance
would depend on "respect for minority rights,"╩ "economic reforms," etc.╩
The EC was no longer posing conditions for Yugoslavia's entry into Europe,
but simply for normal economic relations. (35)

When Slovenia and Croatia declared independence on June 25, 1991, the EC
openly intervened again, and again its actions prompted separatism.╩ Within
three days after the Yugoslav Army deployed units in both republics, the EC
threatened the "cut-off of $1 billion in scheduled aid" unless Yugoslavia
accepted mediation by three EC foreign ministers. (36)╩ Slovenia and Croatia
would otherwise have been occupied by Yugoslav troops and the secession

The foreign ministers imposed a cease-fire which called for a three-month
suspension of the Slovene and Croatian independence declarations;╩
withdrawal to barracks of all federal troops; and acceptance by Serbia of
Stipe Mesic, a Croat, as federal president.╩ (37)╩ There was no settlement
of the federal dispute with Croatia, and federal troops remained in parts of
that republic--those inhabited primarily by Serbs.╩ The Yugoslav Army
ordered the withdrawal of its troops from Slovenia shortly thereafter.

Although the EC intervention halted the secession temporarily, by preventing
Yugoslavia from defending its own unity and territorial integrity, it worked
to the advantage of Slovenia and Croatia.╩ (How would President Lincoln have
treated a similar foreign intervention in the U.S. Civil War?)

In October 1991, the EC called a Conference on Yugoslavia in The Hague.╩ The
aim, in theory, was to end the crisis and negotiate a new federal structure
for the Balkan nation.╩ The Draft Convention on Yugoslavia prepared by the
EC announced that the republics "are sovereign and independent,╩ with [as]
international identity." (38)╩ Thus, while the Conference adopted seemingly
reasonable principles for resolving the conflict, at the same time, in
effect, it abolished Yugoslavia as a unitary state.╩ Within a short time,
and upon expiration of the three-month delay imposed in July, both Croatia
and Slovenia formally seceded from Yugoslavia.

One is left to wonder whether the EC wanted a unified Yugoslavia and acted
consistently and stupidly to defeat this goal, or whether other factors were
quietly at work.╩ The key to the seeming contradiction between stated goals
and actual consequences may be found in the behind the scenes maneuvering of
an expansionist Germany.╩ As William Zimmerman, former U.S. ambassador to
Yugoslavia, noted:

"We discovered later that [German foreign minister] Genscher had been in
daily contact with the Croatian Foreign Minister.╩ He was encouraging the
Croats to leave the federation and declare independence, while we and our
allies, including the Germans [sic], were trying to fashion a joint
approach." (39)

In fact, reunited Germany has been throwing its weight around for some time,
and not just on Yugoslavia.╩ (40)╩ "The Germans," said a U.S. State
Department official, "are now so much more stable and so much more powerful
than anyone else in Europe that they can get away with almost anything."╩

From 1990, Germany was forcing the pace of international diplomacy on the
question of secession.╩ In December, within a few months of the de facto
recognition of Slovenia and Croatia at the Hague Conference, Germany itself
recognized their independence.╩ "Germany virtually forced its allies to
reverse themselves and grant recognition to Slovenia and Croatia." (42)

Not Just a Civil War

Just as foreign intervention helped foment the war in Yugoslavia, (43)
outside forces have also helped sustain and exacerbate the conflict.╩
Croatian political organizations in the Diaspora--especially in Germany,
Canada, the U.S., and Australia--often espouse extremist, right-wing, and
sometimes openly anti-semitic views.╩ Through the generation which left
Yugoslavia after World War II, they have maintained close ties to the
Nazi-sponsored Croatian independent state led by Ante Pavelic and Archbishop
Alois Stepinac. (44)

Since 1945, CroatianÚmigrÚs andÚmigrÚ organizations have actively and
consistently supported the cause of Croatian independence.╩ "These
separatists," said a prominent SlovakÚmigrÚ, "want to prove that they were
right 50 years ago, and they try to pass the mythology on to their
kids...that things will be perfect when independence comes."╩ (45)

InternationalÚmigrÚ support has been financial as well as political.╩
According to the Los Angeles Times, overseas Croatians were largely
responsible for funding Croatian President Franju Tudjman's victorious
presidential election campaign in 1990.╩ (46)╩ After he won, the money
continued to flow.╩ "Canadians," said Toronto businessman Dick Bezic,
"bankrolled [Tudjman's] new state and its army."╩ (47)╩ In December, Tudjman
acknowledged the importance of theÚmigrÚs' role.╩ "Croatians, in Canada," he
told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "have helped a great deal in the
establishment of a democratic Croatia." (48)

In addition to cash, overseas Croatians have sent arms.╩ Croatian and
Bosnian Croatians claim that Bosnian Serbs possess large amounts of modern
weapons and munitions.╩ While the charge is true, it must be remembered that
the arms factories in Bosnia are still producing, and the Yugoslav army left
behind large stocks of weapons which were grabbed up by all sides in the
conflict.╩ Furthermore, in addition to their own supplies, the breakaway
states are covertly receiving large amounts of arms from the Western powers
despite the U.N. arms embargo. (49)╩ Recently, overseas Croatians
established an extensive network designed to evade the Untied States embargo
on arms shipments to former Yugoslavia. (50)╩ Documents indicate that
weapons were moving to Croatia from Austria and Slovenia or Hungary, and
senior U.N. officials acknowledge that "the Croatians are armed to the
teeth."╩ (51)

The network existed well before Croatia declared independence.╩ More than a
year ago, a U.S. Customs official blocked a large, illegal shipment of
weapons from Croatian activists to Yugoslavia.╩ It included $12 million
worth Stinger and Red Eye missiles, as well as thousands of M-16 assault
rifles.╩ The arms smugglers, a clandestine military organization known as
OTPOR, had an alternative plan to ship weapons through a German front
company. (52)

OTPOR members had also requested Nigeria to supply end-user certificates for
large quantities of weapons, including low-altitude surface-to-air missiles,
armored Czech Tatra trucks mounted with launching frames for 122 mm rockets,
and 5,000 122 mm rockets. (53)

It was reported in England last year, that there was "a booming trade in
arms [supplied by]...Austria, Belgium and Hungary" to the Serbian and
Croatian militias.╩ (54)╩ As none of the source countries named, with the
possible exception of Belgium, was likely to be shipping arms to Serbian
irregulars, the supplies were most likely going to Croatia.

Political contributions and arms shipments on such a scale cannot take place
without the knowledge of intelligence agencies, in this case, especially
those of Germany, Austria, Canada, and the U.S.╩ In countries actively
seeking to destabilize Yugoslavia, these services are likely to have had
official sanction to assist the transfers.╩ There have also been repeated
reports of foreigners--including British, U.S., and German nationals with
extensive military experience--serving in the Croatian forces or militia.
(55) Reportedly, some are absent-without-leave from active military units.╩
In what amounts to an officially sanctioned policy of covert military
assistance, active-duty soldiers (indulging some form the U.S.) sometimes
leave undated letters of resignation with a commander and take official
leave to serve as "mercenaries" in foreign wars.

The movement of weapons in the region appears to be massive.╩ German customs
officials claim they have evidence of large military convoys of up to 1,500
military vehicles moving out of Eastern Germany bound for Croatia.╩ In April
1992, east German military vehicles bound for Croatia were seized by Customs
officials on the German-Austrian border.╩ (56)╩ Recently, there have been
reports that Croatia has used German Leopard tanks and MIG-21 fighters in
its invasion of Bosnia-Herzegovina.╩ Although Germany denies these reports,
(57) reliable Yugoslav sources state that a number of Leopard tanks were put
out of commission by Serb irregulars at Kupres in Bosnia in May 1992.╩ These
sources also claim that a number of MIG fighters from the former GDR have
been shot down over Bosnia.

The use of MIGs has been confirmed by senior United Nations officials and
supported by Croatia's air force commander.╩ In February, he boasted that╩
"within a month...[Croatia] would take delivery of fighter aircraft from
unnamed European governments." (58)

The Bosnian government has also reportedly received arms and troops from
abroad, notably from Islamic countries seeking to assist fellow Muslims.╩
The London Guardian has reported major arms shipments from Turkey, Iran, and
Pakistan.╩ A Bosnian government adviser admitted in Zagreb at the the end of
August that Bosnian officials had traveled to the Croatian coast to take
delivery of arms shipments from the Middle East. (59)

Islamic countries have also sent trainers and "volunteers" to assist and
fight with Muslim forces in Bosnia and have established secret training
camps there.╩ The soldiers came from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, Sudan,
Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria. (60)

Again, such large-scale activity cannot easily be organized by private
individuals or organizations.╩ The facts therefore strongly suggest the
extensive involvement of foreign intelligence agencies and military
personnel in what is still being called a purely internal conflict.

During the past 18 months, the Western media have steadily hammered home the
idea that Yugoslavia is in the middle of a civil war brought about the
"aggressor" Serbia's attempt to "conquer" Slovenia and parts of Croatia and
Bosnia-Herzegovina.╩ While the internal factors of nationalism and ethnic
strife are real, they are not sufficient to explain the bloody dynamic.╩
External forces must also be considered.╩ This more complex analysis does
not deny that Yugoslavs are killing another and dying, nor does it dismiss
the suffering of the hundreds of thousands who have been affected.╩ Rather
it recognizes the clear indications that the secessions of Croatia and
Slovenia--which were crucial in the development of the Yugoslav
conflict--were prepared with the assistance of foreign power.╩ These powers
also sustained and extended the conflict by sending arms, money, and
personnel to Croatia and, more recently, to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

During the 1980s, the West followed a dual policy.╩ First, it pushed
Yugoslavia toward a gradual political and economic transformation. The
struggle to force changes in Yugoslavia was driven less by tensions between
socialism and capitalism than by those between independence and
recolonizaiton.╩ In a central Europe dominated by Germany, the policies
urged by the West will lead to de-industrialization and dependence as they
have already in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland.

The other edge of the West's policy sword was the promotion of separatism in
the northern republics.╩ When Yugoslavia balked at "reforms" that had
exacerbated economic conditions and ethnic strife, some Western governments
turned up the pressure.╩ Germany, strengthened by reunification and
expanding its influence throughout Europe, was impatient with Yugoslavia.╩
Its push for quick recognition of Slovenia and Croatia set off a violent
chain reaction.╩ The U.S. and other nations faced a fait accompli and
accepted Germany's demands that the west support German policies.╩
Nonetheless, they saw Germany's strategy as a useful way to ensure that
Yugoslavia carry out the political and economic changes they wanted.

After World War II, the Yugoslav people struggled to achieve independence
and a decent standard of living.╩ The war in former Yugoslavia has shattered
the nation and its many peoples.╩ It is an unnecessary tragedy which can
only be stopped if its real causes are understood.

Sean Gervasi is research professor at the Institute of International
Politics and Economics, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, from where he recently
returned.╩ He was a consultant to the U.N. (1969-84) and professor of
Economics, University of Paris.


1.╩ See Sean Gervasi, "The Destabilization of the Soviet Union,"
CovertAction, Number 35 (Fall 1990) and Sean Gervasi, "Western Intervention
in the USSR,"╩╩ CovertAction, Number 39 (Winter 1991-92).

2.╩ Jeane Kirkpatrick, "The Reagan Doctrine and U.S. Foreign Policy,"╩ The
Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C., 1985, p. 5.

3.╩ National Security Decision Directive 54, "United States Policy Toward
Eastern Europe," SECRET, the White House, Washington, September 2, 1982.

4.╩ National Security Decision Directive 133, "United States Policy Toward
Yugoslavia," SECRET SENSITIVE, the White House, Washington, March 14, 1984.╩
The SECRET SENSITIVE╩ classification indicates that a significant amount of
the information was based on intercepted communications or revealed the
existence of confidential relationships with Yugoslav citizens or

5.╩ NSDD 54, p. 1.

6.╩ NSDD 133, p. 1.

7.╩ NSDD 54, pp. 3-4.

8.╩ Predrag Simic, "Yugoslavia:╩ Origins of the Crisis," Southeastern
European Yearbook 1991, Hellenic Foundation for Defense and Foreign Policy,
1992, p. 109.

9.╩ Ibid, p. 120.

10.╩ Ibid., p. 109.

11.╩ "Eastern Europe and the USSR," Economist Intelligence Unit, London,
June 1990, p. 212.

12.╩ Ibid, pp. 109-10.

13.╩ See Peter Gowan, "Old Medicine in New Bottles:╩ Western Policy Toward
East Central Europe," World Policy Journal, Winter 1991-92, p. 4.

14.╩ Ibid., pp. 1-33.

15.╩ Ibid., p. 5.

16.╩ Ibid., p. 1.

17.╩ Academics and bureaucrats concerned with developments in the former
Socialist bloc use this term to describe fundamental political change.╩ In
practice, it refers to the capitalist transformation of Communist societies.

18.╩ Facts on File, January 27, 1989, p. 57.

19.╩ Misha Glenny, "The Massacre of Yugoslavia," New York Review of Books,
January 30, 1992, p. 34.

20.╩ "Yugoslav Premier Seeks U.S. Aid," New York Times, October 14, 1989.

21.╩ Facts on File, December 31, 1989, p. 985.

22.╩ Facts on File, April 20, 1990, p. 291.

23.╩ Facts on File, March 21, 1991, p. 197.

24.╩ Jens Reuter, "Yugoslavia's Role in Changing Europe," in D. Muller et
al., eds., Veranderungen in Europa--Vereinigung Deutchlands:╩ Perspektiven
der 90er Jahre, Institute of International Politics and Economics, Belgrade,
1991, pp. 115-16.╩ Cited in Simic, op. cit.

25.╩ Marc Fisher, "Eastern Europe Swept by German Influence," Washington
Post, February 16, 1992.

26.╩ Ibid.

27.╩ Ibid.

28.╩ Ibid.

29.╩ Lanxin Xiang, "Is Germany in the West or in Central Europe?", Orbis,
Summer 1992, p. 422.

30.╩ Some 600,000 Serbs and 70,000 Jews and Gypsies died in camps run by the
Croatian fascist regime.╩ See Jonathan Steinberg, The Roman Catholic Church
and Genocide in Croatia, 1941-1945, unpublished, Trinity Hall, Cambridge,

31.╩ Argyrios Pisiotis, "Peace Prospects for Yugoslavia,"╩ The Fletcher
Forum of World Affairs, Summer 1992, p. 97, quoting from an articles by

32.╩ Predrag Simic, Chronology of the Yugoslav Crisis, January 1990 - May
1992, Institute of International Politics and Economics, Belgrade, 1992, p.

33.╩ Facts on File, May 9, 1991, p. 342.

34.╩ Ibid.

35.╩ Branislava Alendar, European Community and the Yugoslav Crisis,
Institute of International Politics and Economics, Belgrade, 1992, p. 8.

36.╩ Facts on File, July 4, 1991, p. 489.

37.╩ Ibid.

38.╩ Alendar, op. cit. p. 10.

39.╩ John Newhouse, "The Diplomatic Round," The New Yorker, August 24, 1992,
p. 64.

40.╩ See Marc Fisher, "Germany's Role Stirs Some Concern in the U.S.,"╩
Washington Post, January 23, 1992.╩ The decision by Germany to raise
interest rates also caused concern, as did Kohl's reneging on this promise
to produce a compromise on agricultural supports in the GATT talks.

41.╩ Ibid.

42.╩ Ibid.

43.╩ There have been three wars:╩ 1) the war in Slovenia between the YNA and
Sloven territorial forces (very brief); 2) the war in Croatia between
Croatian military forces and Serb irregulars (many of them local
inhabitants); 3) the war in Bosnia between Croatian forces, Bosnian and
Croat irregulars and Bosnian Muslims, on the one hand, and Bosnian Serb
irregulars, on the other.

44.╩ Hitler characterized the Croats in the wartime puppet state as "genuine
converts national Socialism."╩ (H.R. Trevor-Roper, ed., Hitler's Table Talk,
1941-1944 (London:╩ Weidenfiled & Nicholson, 1973), p 95.

45.╩ Robert Toth, "╔migrÚs Fuel Old Hatreds,"╩ Los Angeles Times, February
19, 1992.

46.╩ Ibid.

47.╩ Ibid.

48.╩ Ibid.

49.╩ See, for example, International Defense Reports, Army Quarterly and
Defense Journal (London), July 1991, p. 363.

50.╩ Christopher Bellamy, "Croatia Built Web of Contacts to Evade Weapons
Embargo,"╩ The Independent (London), October 10, 1992.

51.╩ Ibid.

52.╩ Edward Lucas, "U.S. Sting Uncovers Croatian Arms Deal,"╩ The
Independent (London), August 14, 1991.

53.╩ Bellamy, op. cit.

54.╩ Army Quarterly and Defense Journal, op. cit.

55.╩ "German magazine delves deep among the killers," Searchlight (London),
November 1992, p. 23; and Michel Faci, "National Socialists Fight in
Croatia," The New Order (Lincoln, Nebraska), January-February 1993, p. 1.

56.╩ Christopher Bellamy, op. cit.

57.╩ Anna Tomforde, "Germany:╩ Government Officials Deny Croatia Is Using
Their Tanks,"╩ Guardian (London), August 5, 1992.

58.╩ Blaine Harden, "Croatia Acquiring Warplanes from European Countries,
Air Force Chief Says,"╩ Washington Post, February 11, 1992.

59.╩ Blaine Harden, "Bosnia:╩ Middle East Muslims Send Charity and Weapons,"
╩ Guardian (London), August 28, 1992.

60.╩ "Help from Holy Warriors," Newsweek, October 5, 1992, pp. 52-53.


Covert Action Quarterly, Winter 1992-3 Number 43
Web: http://www.covertaction.org/


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