The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy, and International Conflict

By Stephen M. Saideman | Go to book overview

5
The International Relations of
Yugoslavia's Demise, 1991–1995

Yugoslavia's disintegration has frustrated Europe and the rest of the world. 1 Yugoslavia, particularly Bosnia, had stood as a symbol of interethnic cooperation. Sarajevo, where World War I began, served as a stark symbol of the conflict. The site of the 1984 Winter Olympics became a battleground. Olympic venues became gravesites. Once the conflict started, Europeans hoped and expected that they would manage this conflict due to the newly developing Common Foreign Policy of the European Community [EC]. 2 These hopes were quickly dashed, as cooperation among EC states failed in two ways: it failed to deter the conflict in Yugoslavia, and dissension with the EC raised doubts about its ability to develop a common foreign policy. Other actors including the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [CSCE], and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] stepped in and struggled with the conflict. The world's frustration with this conflict, and ethnic conflict in general, may discourage future interventions, as the Congo Crisis caused the UN to retreat for awhile from intervening in internal conflicts.

Studying the international politics of Yugoslavia's disintegration serves several purposes. First, since Yugoslavia is the first post-Cold War secessionist conflict to involve the international community, academics and policymakers may use it as an analogy for understanding future conflicts, as the Congo Crisis did for the postcolonization period. “Yugoslavia's fate may well serve as an exemplar for ethnic conflict elsewhere in Europe.” 3 Consequently, it needs to be studied so that we can draw informed lessons.

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