Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia, and the Cold War

Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia, and the Cold War

Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia, and the Cold War

Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia, and the Cold War


A history of U.S. relations with Yugoslavia from 1948 to 1960.

Keeping Tito Afloat draws upon newly declassified documents to show the critical role that Yugoslavia played in U.S. foreign policy with the communist world in the early years of the Cold War. After World War II, the United States considered Yugoslavia to be a loyal Soviet satellite, but Tito surprised the West in 1948 by breaking with Stalin. Seizing this opportunity, the Truman administration sought to "keep Tito afloat" by giving him military and economic aid. President Truman hoped that American involvement would encourage other satellites to follow Tito's example and further damage Soviet power. However, Lees demonstrates that it was President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles who most actively tried to use Tito as a "wedge" to liberate the Eastern Europeans.

By the end of 1958, Eisenhower and Dulles discontinued this "wedge strategy" because it raised too many questions about the ties that should exist between communist, non-communist, and neutral states. As Tito shrewdly kept the U.S. at arm's length, Eisenhower was forced to accept Tito's continued absence from the Soviet orbit as victory enough. In the period between 1958 and 1960, Lees examines U.S. political objectives that remained after military support for Tito was discontinued. Although use of Yougoslavia as a wedge never fully succeeded, Lees shows how that strategy reflected the pragmatic and geopolitical pol


In December 1945, Josip Broz Tito proclaimed the Federated People's Republic of Yugoslavia. During World War II, Tito and his multiethnic Partisans had fought Yugoslavia's Axis occupiers more effectively than the royalist and Serb-dominated Chetniks. As a result, Tito had gained the military support, if not the political confidence, of the members of the Grand Alliance. Tito forced the exiled Yugoslav king to abdicate and reunited the country under the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist Party. Both Great Britain and the Soviet Union immediately established diplomatic relations with the new Yugoslavia; the former because it hoped to broaden the political base of Tito's regime and the latter because it sought to reduce it to a satellite.

The United States, the third major member of the Grand Alliance, had more reservations about Tito and his government than its wartime partners did. Formal diplomatic relations, once established, did little to lessen U.S. concerns about the repressive nature of Tito's regime or his role within the emerging Soviet system. Tito and his supporters, preoccupied with solidifying their revolution at home and extending their influence into the Balkans, were no more kindly disposed toward the United States. Although one of the U.S. diplomats stationed in Belgrade attempted to improve U.S.Yugoslav relations in 1947, he had little success. The animosity between Yugoslavia . . .

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