Yugoslav Crackdown

June 29, 1991

In respite, Yugoslavia's cooler heads (if any) have a chance to prevail. Now that the federal army has proclaimed victory and a cease-fire in its two-day war with secessionist Slovenia, the federal presidency can seek compromise.

But Yugoslavia's European neighbors should not leave that to chance and Yugoslav passions. They are right to pursue the opportunity for good works provided by the recently strengthened Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).

Austria and Italy invoked use of the Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna, set up by the CSCE summit last November. Germany and others are summoning a 35-member CSCE plenary meeting to consider the Yugoslav situation.

This is a real test of CSCE, which was designed for disputes between countries and now is handed a dispute within one. Federal Yugoslavia has not coped with its fissures. Its European neighbors can be helpful, not internationalizing this struggle as in World War I, but tamping it down. Probably all of them want Yugoslavia to exist, and believe a looser confederation is the way.

The Yugoslav army cracked down Wednesday to control the 27 border crossings that Slovenia seized. Crushing Slovenia is easier than tackling Croatia, which had not yet thought to seize its own border crossings. Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia boycotted the federal presidency while federal Premier Ante Markovic, who is Croatian, and the army did the bidding of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The possibility of awful civil war engaging whole populations, notably Serbs and Croats, is very real if this spreads.

The two million Slovenians are less than one-tenth of Yugoslavia's people, but make one-fifth of its national product and one-third of its exports. Slovenia led all of Yugoslavia's six republics in press freedom, human rights, real elections and private enterprise. Slovenia has a unique language, clear-cut borders and the fewest minorities of any Yugoslav republic. But it has not been independent since the 8th century and its ability to survive alone as a mini-Austria is dubious.

Slovenian President Milan Kucan, who broke off talks with the Serb-dominated Yugoslav federal presidency until the federal army is withdrawn, should resume the dialogue without preconditions. For Yugoslavia to survive, Slovenia and Croatia must moderate their aspirations, and Serbia its domination. Slovenia is no match for Yugoslavia, even if the willingness of conscripts in the federal army to take Serbian commands is questionable. Yugoslavia would have a harder task trying to quell Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia at once. Peace, rather than "winning," is in every Yugoslav nationality's interest.

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