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Explaining the International Relations of Secessionist Conflicts: Vulnerability Versus Ethnic Ties


With the end of the Cold War, many observers expected that international conflict would be less likely to occur and easier to manage. Given the successful resolution of the Gulf War and the European Community's (EC) efforts to develop a common foreign policy, observers expected international cooperation to manage the few conflicts that might break out. Instead, the disintegration of Yugoslavia contradicted these expectations. Rather than developing a common foreign policy, European states were divided over how to deal with Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia. Germany pushed for relatively quick recognition of Croatia and Slovenia, whereas other members of the EC wanted to go slower. Some observers expected Russia to fall in line with the West because of its need for investment and trade, but instead it supported Serbia. It is puzzling that Europe failed to cooperate regardless of whether greater international cooperation could have managed this conflict. How can we make sense of the international relations of Yugoslavia's demise? Since secession is not a new phenomenon, we should study previous secessionist conflicts to determine if they share certain dynamics, and we should consider applying to Yugoslavia the arguments developed to understand such conflicts.

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International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
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