Europe seems determined to assert its primacy as the world’s most unstable region. It has been pushed to the brink of disaster by a lamentable combination of uncontrolled political change and confused diplomacy. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia could, until now, be seen as an old-fashioned if particularly ferocious Balkan war, but it now risks becoming international. If the United States, Western Europe, and Russia allow this to happen, the achievements that ended the cold war will be overshadowed by a chaos unmatched since World War II.
The struggle in Bosnia-Hercegovina is now a war without limits. The Bosnian Serb forces are intent on taking all of Eastern Bosnia. It is hard to see how Gorazde in the southeast can survive if the UN is unable to patch together arrangements to make Srebrenica a safe haven. At the same time the Serbs want to isolate Tuzla, the main Bosnian government stronghold in the north of the region, now crowded with refugees. Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian Serb parliament have dismissed the Vance-Owen plan to split up the region among Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. They did so despite a last-minute appeal made to the parliament in Bijeljina on April 25. In a letter the president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, and his Yugoslav and Montenegrin counterparts urged the Bosnian Serbs to sign the Vance-Owen plan. Maybe Milosevic has had a real change of heart and is genuinely concerned about the strengthening of sanctions and the threat of military intervention. His troubles have certainly deepened since Boris Yeltsin, fresh from his referendum victory, made it clear that the Serbs will receive no weapons from Russia.
But on the ground in Bosnia the Serbs are relentlessly pursuing their original war aim—to secure 70 percent of the territory of Bosnia-Hercegovina in preparation for the day when they will reestablish constitutional ties with Serbia. The sanctions imposed on Belgrade and by implication on Bosnian Serb-controlled territory in Bosnia have so far had no perceptible impact on their behavior.
Still, eastern Bosnia is not the only site of carnage. Bosnian Croats and Muslims have been nominal allies, but, since mid-April, after many weeks of growing tension between them in central Bosnia and northeastern Hercegovina, they have been fighting one another in some of the fiercest battles of the entire war. The battleground runs from Vitez south toward Mostar and east toward Zenica. According to British soldiers in Vitez, the clashes began after the defense minister of Croatia, Gojko Susak, insisted on running up the Croatian flag in Travnik, a town allotted to Bosnian Croats under the Vance-Owen plan. During the past year it has been the policy of the Bosnian Croats to impose Croatian state symbols and Croatian currency on western Hercegovina, west central Bosnia, and Posavina in the north. In fact Croatian support for Bosnian independence was really designed to establish Croatian claims over these territories in Bosnia.
Within four days of the outbreak of the fighting between Muslims and Croats in April …