The New, Down-Sized Yugoslavia

May 02, 1992

The self-congratulations of statesmen for having made war in Europe impossible were premature. Part of Europe is at war. The internationalization of the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina was completed Monday when federal Yugoslavia proclaimed itself smaller, consisting only of former Serbia and Montenegro, without territorial claims on neighbors. Therefore the federal troops outside this new entity must be on foreign soil. Those shooting and shot at must be at war.

The new, two-republic Yugoslavia has half the area and population of the old. Most of its people are Serbs. The dream of Greater Serbia is fulfilled, but it is a lesser Greater Serbia than was dreamt, leaving about 580,000 Serbs in Croatia and another 1.2 million in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Either they are abandoned by the Serbian people, or the new Yugoslavia is aggressing against Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Choose one.

There is historic continuity. In the 19th century, two small independent states clung to stubborn existence amid unstable empires. They were Serbia and Montenegro. Both were Serbian. For four centuries, Turkey had ruled Serbia but not Montenegro. That was the difference.

The new state accepts the independence of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. The sovereignty of the first three has been recognized by the European Community and the United States. That of Macedonia is delayed while Greece objects to possible border questions and the expropriation of an ancient Greek name.

The new smaller Yugoslavia of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has set the framework for ameliorating the Yugoslavian tragedy and ending the wars. It should withdraw the army from Croatia, where 14,000 U.N. troops monitor, and from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bosnia demanded as much. But throughout this tragedy, Belgrade has announced cease-fires while troops went on shooting. That is the case here. The Yugoslav army is not withdrawing and claims most of its soldiers in Bosnia are local Serbian irregulars.

The new reality in Yugoslavia affects the EC-brokered talks in Lisbon among the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslim, Serb and Croatian communities. United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali had to tell French President Francois Mitterrand that the U.N. could send peace-keeping troops to Bosnia-Herzegovina but only if someone pays. Someone should.

The U.S. is withholding recognition from the new Yugoslavia to assess its behavior. This is a mistake. For communication and intelligence, the U.S. ought to recognize the new Yugoslavia. What it ought not do until the invasions end is trade with it. But the U.S. needs diplomats in place to see what's going on -- and why.

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