U.S. Official Statement on its decision to recognise breakaway Yugoslav Republics, 7 April 1992

Set out below is the statement issued by the US administration following its illegal decision to recognise Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia as independent states. We have included in red italics notes on some of its greatest shortcomings.

On April 7, 1992, the Bush Administration issued the following statement:


“The United States recognizes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia as sovereign and independent states and will begin immediately consultations to establish full diplomatic relations. The United States accepts the pre-crisis republic borders as the legitimate international borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia.

We take this step because we are satisfied that these states meet the requisite criteria for recognition. We acknowledge the peaceful and democratic expression of the will of citizens of these states for sovereignty. 

Recognition of new states is governed by a series of international treaties including the Helsinki Final Act and the Treaty of Montevideo.  Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia did not meet any of the fundamental requirements for statehood that had been set down and approved.  Nor did the USA have any constitutional basis to interfere in this way:  Yugoslavia was an internationally recognised sovereign state protected by the guarantees of the UN Charter.  It was not involved in an international conflict – the disputes within Yugoslavia were civil wars.

We will continue to work intensively with the European Community and its member states to resolve expeditiously the outstanding issues between Greece and the republic of Macedonia, thus enabling the US to recognize formally the independence of that republic as well. The United States will also discuss with the governments of Serbia and Montenegro their interest in remaining in a common state known as Yugoslavia.

In light of our decisions on recognition, the US will lift economic sanctions from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia. Sanctions were applied to Yugoslavia on December 6, 1991. We will lift sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro contingent on Belgrade’s lifting the economic blockades directed against Bosnia– Herzegovina and Macedonia. The UN arms embargo remains in effect.

The crisis in Yugoslavia had been initially provoked by the USA’s decision to withdraw aid.  This caused the economy to stall, with inflation reaching 1250%.  In these circumstances, nationalists in the three republics were able to generate considerable support for independence and they took advantage of this by holding illegal referenda to press their claim.  The many Yugoslavs who did not want the break up of the Federation had no chance to express their views.  The US decision to maintain economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro, while removing them from the secessionist republics, demonstrated extreme bias.

It has been US policy throughout the Yugoslav crisis to accept any resolution arrived at peacefully, democratically, and by negotiation. The United States strongly supports the UN Peacekeeping Plan, as worked out by Cyrus Vance, and the full deployment of the UN peacekeeping force. We continue to support the EC Peace Conference as the indispensable forum for the parties to reach a peaceful settlement of their dispute and to establish the basis for future relations. US recognition is without prejudice to any future association Yugoslav successor states might agree to establish.

The United States views the demonstrated commitment of the emerging states to respect the borders and to protect all Yugoslav nationalities as an essential element in establishing full diplomatic relations. Equally, we view such a commitment by Serbia and Montenegro as essential to proceed in discussions on their future status.
The deployment of the UN peacekeeping force, the continuation of the EC Peace Conference, and the process of international recognition offer all of the former Yugoslav republics an historic opportunity to reject decisively the tragic violence which has marked this crisis. Continued commitment to peaceful dialogue should lead toward reconciliation, toward integration within Europe, and toward cordial and productive relations with the United States. The United States will continue to work to achieve these goals.”

The violence that took place in Yugoslavia was indeed tragic, but – as we now know – on nothing like the scale suggested by international media coverage at the time.  The international community had two valid choices: to offer economic aid and support to help Yugoslavia resolve its problems, or to allow Yugoslavia to resolve them itself.  It was not for the United States to decide what was best for Yugoslavia.