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76   4 Germany Drops a Match Tribal conflicts, we are told, “flare up”unaccountably. I used to accept this, without much thought, but now when I hear of a tribal conflict “flaring up”I try to find out in whose interest it was to drop a match. —Conor Cruise O’Brien The Yugoslav conflict began in 1991, a year when US policy makers were, to say the least, distracted. The year had begun with the Persian Gulf War— the largest use of US military force since Vietnam—and ended with the final breakup of the Soviet Union. Accordingly, Yugoslavia was one conflict that the United States was content at least initially to leave to the European powers, especially the dominant power in the region, Germany.1 And thus, during the first six months of the Yugoslav wars, Germany was to play the leading role in “managing”the crisis. Only later would the United States find this German assertiveness embarrassing and seek to establish US authority in the Balkan conflict. Meanwhile, during 1991, German officials were effectively in charge, and Germany undertook its first major foreign policy adventure since the Third Reich. Germany was clearly the main advocate within the European Community for supporting Slovenian and Croatian independence from Yugoslavia, while condemning actions by the Yugoslav National Army aimed at terminating the secessions through military force. German diplomatic activity reached a high point in December 1991 and January 1992, when Germany recognized Slovenia and Croatia and then successfully pressured the European Community to recognize them as well, thus terminating the existence of Yugoslavia. In retrospect, these German actions have been the source of much controversy, and some have criticized the allegedly “premature” nature of this recognition. Many key figures in the diplomacy of this period emphasize how German actions helped destabilize the political situation in the Balkans and helped spread the conflict. German officials have defended their actions as restrained and morally necessary. According to the memoirs Germany Drops a Match   77 of one diplomat, German policy sought to “direct the process of [Yugoslav] dissolution into orderly channels and to limit its destructive effects.”2 It is interesting to note that both sides in this debate seem to accept that Germany intervened in the conflict only after the war had begun, and that Germany’s actions were limited to diplomatic maneuvering. In this chapter, we will see that Germany’s role was deeper—and far more significant—than has been recognized. We will see that Germany began encouraging Croatian nationalists and preparing them for independence months before the war began. Based on this new information, I argue that German officials did not simply respond to the war; they helped initiate it.3 Germany was indeed the first major power to “drop a match” on the ethnic tensions of the Balkans —to use O’Brien’s metaphor—and it thus played a key role in triggering the conflagration that followed. The European Community and the United States would prove active, if sometimes reluctant, partners with Germany. German Intervention in the Yugoslav Conflict Germany’s covert intervention began in 1990, while Yugoslavia was still an integral state. In that year, German officials from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BFV), a subdivision of the Interior Ministry, assisted in building up Croatia’s intelligence service, the National Security Office (UNS).4 In the course of this activity, German officials would openly collaborate with extreme nationalists in Franjo Tudjman’s HDZ party. This early German intervention, though little known, is nevertheless well documented. According to an article in Jane’s Intelligence Review: Politically, the main external connection of Croatia’s intelligence services has been with Germany. . . . It is an extremely controversial de facto alliance which has been regarded with considerable unease in some quarters in both the [European Community] and NATO. Domestically, Germany ’s alliance with Croatia in the areas of intelligence and internal security was made to order for the Serbian propagandists . . . who thus drew a direct analogy between this contemporary German-Croatian relationship and Nazi sponsorship of Ante Pavelić’s Ustaša puppet state during the Second World War; . . . the German government was fully aware throughout that Ustaša elements were and remain prominent in the UNS and the HDZ governmental apparatus as a whole.5 The key point is when Germany began to provide intelligence support for Croatia. Here, the Jane’s report is unequivocal: 78   First Do No Harm Dating back to as early as 1990, when Croatia...


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