Tvrtko Jakovina

Yugoslavia on the International
Scene: The Active Coexistence
of Non-Aligned Yugoslavia

 

 

 

 

Case study 1

The Same as the Soviet Union

The foreign policy of Tito's Yugoslavia was always unusually dynamic, conspicuous and creative. Even immediately after the Second World War, when diplomats were impregnated with revolutionary charge, while the ideologized interpretation of the world and its future, search for allies among ideologically like-minded people, and the belief in restructuring based on a Marxist vision of the world and relying on the Soviet Union, did not mean that the diplomacy of the new Yugoslavia was not active and dynamic from the very outset. It often remained proactive and dynamic, distinguishing itself from the diplomacies of similar communist countries. The first generation of diplomats, including the first three ministers of foreign affairs – Josip Smodlaka, Ivan Šubašić and Stanoje Simić – included a great number of individuals from civic circles, many of whom enjoyed a great reputation. Until the mid-1950s, the Yugoslavs were primarily oriented towards Europe, while top-level diplomatic contacts and visits were almost entirely confined to the countries with a similar social system. Josip Broz Tito played host to his Polish, Bulgarian, Albanian and other colleagues, but he himself only travelled to East European countries. Europe was the place of contact between the worlds and emerging blocs. It was the space in which Yugoslavia had a lot of unfinished business. After the war, Yugoslavia had an unresolved border issue with Italy. Yugoslav army units had entered Austrian territory from which they had to withdraw just as in the case of Trieste. The Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia (FPRY) either intervened or provided military support to the communist guerillas in Greece. Yugoslav armed forces later entered into Albania, but admittedly they were called upon by Albania to do so. They also worked with Bulgaria on the creation of a Balkan federation. Yugoslavia was a loyal and agile member of the emerging Soviet bloc and sincere Moscow ally in the first few years after the Second World War. However, it felt that its achievements were greater than those of other countries, that its path to victory was different, that the establishment of Tito's power and selection of Belgrade as the seat of the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) in 1947 were logical and justified. Thus, these should not only be treated as a reward, but also as recognition of a country closest to the ideal of the new world being created in Moscow.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that diplomats and politicians in Belgrade remained blind to developments in Asia or the Near East. Ešref Badnjević, a pre-war communist and Tito's confidential associate, was accused of maintaining contacts with banned communist groups in Egypt where he was the newly-appointed head of the Yugoslav legation. In 1947, the Royal Government of Egypt asked him to leave Cairo to avoid a scandal. His successor Šahinpašić continued to maintain such contacts, which was considered unacceptable by the Egyptian authorities, but his career ended after a year because he left the post with some staff members and aligned himself with the Soviet Union. The Arab countries were ruled by monarchs, so Egypt was a much less desirable ally in the Near East than Israel, which had been founded by leftists. Yugoslavia was one of the countries helping Israeli Jews to arm themselves during their war of independence. Yugoslavia's relations with Egypt improved only after its revolution in 1952. At that time, the Yugoslav Ambassador was the educated and capable Nijaz Dizdarević. In late 1952, his colleague in Syria, Mihajlo Javorski, informed the State Secretariat for Foreign Affairs that Ali Naguib, the Egyptian Ambassador to Damascus and brother of General Naguib, head of the new government in Cairo, spoke with admiration about the Yugoslav struggle for independence and mentioned that the Egyptians “probably like and appreciate the Yugoslavs more than they (the Yugoslavs) know”. Thus, excellent relations with Egypt were established very soon after the overthrow of its king. In some other cases. such as Ethiopia, the emperor did not pose a problem, since good relations with the Horn of Africa had been established very early on.

During the first few post-war years, the basic idea of Yugoslav foreign policy was obsessively oriented towards the communists and leftist groups. Due to ideological closeness, diplomats were ready to endanger normal relations with the host country. Although the United States was the main sponsor of UNRRA assistance, which virtually rescued the FPRY in the aftermath of the Second World War, the United States of America (USA) was vitriolically attacked. During the first post-war years, the lives of American diplomats in Belgrade and Zagreb were often dramatically bad and unpleasant.

As announced by US president Harry Truman to the US Congress in March 1947, the United Kingom could no longer ensure the economic stability and military and political security of Greece and Turkey. The United Kindom intended to retreat from Burma, India, Egypt and Palestine. The Truman Doctrine was the American response to the British decision and was directly associate with the aggressiveness of the Yugoslav foreign policy aiding the communist-led partisan guerillas in Greece. Already in 1947, Belgrade hosted Indian, Burmese and Chinese communists who came to see and study Yugoslavia's development. In January 1948, Belgrade recognized India and Pakistan. During their visit to Calcutta, where they attended the Second Congress of the Communist Party of India, which was held in February 1948, Vladimir Dedijer and Radovan Zogović, the then two hard-core communist believers, talked the Indian communists into starting a rebellion and then waging a guerilla war against Jawaharlal Nehru, who had just been elected prime minister. The duo probably referred to the Yugoslavia and their own Partisan experience, mentioning how the Yugoslav People's Army had succeeded in taking large areas of Italian territory and entering Austria. Thereafter, Yugoslavia continued to be militant. In the summer of 1946, Yugoslav fighter planes shot down an American military aircraft, while the Yugoslav side was probably also involved in the incident in the Corfu Channel when 54 British sailors were killed. This kind of country, most loyal and most similar to Stalin's Soviet Union, militant and often unrestrained, soon stopped being praised and serving as a model to others, while its leadership had to be removed from power.

Yugoslavia's position changed in the summer of 1948. Its expulsion from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) came as a shock to many observers. Although some of the better analysts among the diplomats had predicted Yugoslav-Soviet misunderstandings, the final act, which occurred on 28 June 1948, left them “with their eyes wide open” – the comment by John Cabot, the former US Chargé d'Affaires in Belgrade and later the Americam Consul General in Shangai. He wrote that he still wondered what stood behind all this and how serious it all was. The split with Moscow was not easy for Stalin's best students. The Yugoslavs did not plan it or invoke it, but they did not hesitate to accept the conflict. Belgrade's first reaction was to establish good relations with those leftists who were not close to the Soviets. The break-up of relations between the FPRY and Moscow faced the young diplomacy with different challenges. Similarly to the shifts and “differentiation” within the country, it became much more “compact” and was abruptly filled with the proven wartime cadres – loyal young men whose mission was to prove that the split between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union was genuine and real. At the same time, the bellicose and impudent Yugoslav diplomacy was given a different role in saving the country’s sovereignty. It was still felt that it would be primarily necessary to establish ties with those who were “more similar”, like Scandinavia’s Social Democrats or those communist parties that had not yet aligned with the Soviet Union in its condemnation of Belgrade. Gradually yet rapidly, it was realized that the only possible way out was to come up with a clear policy and establish ties with those who could be truly helpful. However, the permanent tensions – which arose from the views that Yugoslavia was a communist country and that Western countries were still different, despite being accepted in many respects and being important for the survival of the country, and which lasted until the collapse of Yugoslavia – paved the way for the establishment of relations with those countries which just gained sovereignty or were to be created in the years to come. Something that Yugoslavia had already started in the 1950s became adopted a little later as the norm by the West European Left that was increasingly less concerned with the exploitation of factory workers – which was also formally abolished in Yugoslavia where factories were worker-owned. Instead, it increasingly openly supported emancipation movements and the struggle against colonialism and racism. Thus, the policy that was partly born out of necessity and involved hitherto unimaginable, distant regions and ties with those whose names could probably barely be pronounced, became the most original and most important part of Yugoslav foreign policy, not because the country was neglecting its relations with any superpower, but because it was exerting an influence on all other policies and bilateral relations of socialist Yugoslavia through its role in the Third World. Yugoslav diplomacy was joined by plenty of young people, who were then sent to the countries of Scandinavia and the United States in order to present a different picture of the FPRY.

Yugoslavia established full diplomatic relations with India on 5 December 1948. As stated by Nehru's sister and the Indian Ambassador to London, the Indians were interested in doing the same thing, but at that moment they had no acceptable ambassador who would be sent to Belgrade. The first Indian ambassador accredited to the FPRY was the ambassador in Rome. The Yugoslavs opened an embassy in New Delhi and a consulate in Bombay as early as 1950. The first Ambassador was Josip Djerdja, who was also appointed Ambassador to Burma later on, just at the time when – more than ever in the postwar period – Yugoslavia increasingly leaned towards the West. It was not easy to cooperate with this direct, outspoken and self-educated printing worker. However, his analyses were original and those sent from New Delhi to Belgrade were also far-sighted. Tito and Edvard Kardelj, the Minister of Foreign Affairs appointed after the split with Stalin, were more interested in the establishment of closer relations with the Indians than vice versa. India was a distant and poor country but, judging by the instructions received by Djerdja's successor, Jože Vilfan, the efforts to continuously improve mutual relations were accepted. At the same time, Ivo Vejvoda was sent to Brazil (he was also accredited to Venezuela) with the clear “global” vision of a new Yugoslav foreign policy that also covered South America. Relations with Burma, which were helped by Tito through deliveries of weapons and experience in thwarting a rebellion, were developing at the fastest pace. The Yugoslavs were selling guns and other weapons to a country endangered by a conflict that could be called a “quadrilateral” civil war.

All this marked the beginning of a systematic and active approach by Yugoslav diplomacy to Asia. Although India was not always ready to cooperate with Belgrade in the way Yugoslavia wished, the very fact that it was behind Yugoslav initiatives or supported them, turned into one of the basic principles of Yugoslav diplomacy, the minimum Yugoslavia needed from this big country.

Leaning Towards the West, the Search for New Paths

The first foreign head of state who paid an official visit to Yugoslavia after its split with the Soviet Union was the Negus of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in early 1952. In July 1954, he stayed in the former Royal Palace in Belgrade and then went to Tito's Summer Residence on the Brijuni Islands and Split. Haile Selassie used to say that having more Yugoslavs at different places in Ethiopia meant having fewer Italians. The possibilities that opened up for cooperation exceeded the Yugoslav potential.

Relations with the South Asian countries were enhanced during Tito's long voyage aboard Galeb in late 1954 and early 1955. This voyage was also historic for India because Tito was the first European statesman who visited this country after its proclamation of independence. Partly for this reason, Tito was welcomed like a king. As for his visit to Burma, the host’s behaviour was well-nigh ecstatic. Peaceful and active coexistence, which accepts the struggle for peace, independence and equality, was the idea linking these three countries together. Yugoslavia also needed strong allies in its struggle for independence. Like his ambassador in New Delhi, George Allen, who served in Belgrade (1949-1953) and was an expert on Yugoslavia, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (1953-1959) did not find the fact that socialist Yugoslavia was spreading ideas of neutrality among the Indians particularly acceptable. At the same time, some American analysts held that Tito was an excellent example of a communist who was open for cooperation and was not close to Beijing or Moscow. Some American analysts wondered whether Tito could also learn something from the world's biggest parliamentary country during his stay in India.

Tito's first trip across the ocean meant the discovery of a new world and, in many respects, was an eye-opening experience. His stop in Egypt on the way back to Europe marked the beginning of one of the most sincere friendships in the history of the Cold War, that is, the friendship between Tito and President Nasser. American analysts observed Yugoslavia's search for a “middle way” with dissatisfaction, but were still convinced that it would remain oriented towards the West should any more serious tensions emerge. In early 1955, Washington concluded that Yugoslavia would continue to gravitate toward powers such as India and Burma, sensing a certain unity of interest and outlook with them and holding that cooperation would help reduce tension, promote peace, overcome isolation and increase its own prestige.

This trip also resulted in the strengthening of Yugoslav diplomatic ties with Rangoon. Economic cooperation lagged behind military cooperation, which was flourishing. Burmese leader U Nu was not willing to accept military assistance from big countries, but wished to receive it from Yugoslavia and Israel. Burma was surrounded by India, China and Indochina; it was the seat of the Asian Socialist International and thus Yugoslavia's potential gate to a broader Asian space. Burmese leader U Nu visited Yugoslavia in 1955, only a few days after the historic repentant visit of Nikita Khrushchev to Belgrade in May 1955. U Nu's visit to Belgrade and Zagreb aimed at emphasizing the unity of the two peoples and a common peace policy. As noted by American diplomats, the arrival of the Burmese leader was announced across the entire front page of Borba,, while Khrushchev was given only five out of seven columns in the official Yugoslav organ. A few days after the Burmese leader's visit, Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana were visited by Indian prime minister Nehru. Since the summer holidays were just starting at the time of Nehru's stay in Yugoslavia, he was welcomed by a much smaller number of enthsiastic citizens than the guest from Burma.

U Nu was deeply impressed with the Yugoslavs and how he was welcomed. After returning to his country, he also wished to express his thanks to the Yugoslav Chargé d'Affaires in Rangoon. Thus, U Nu organized a dinner for him and his American colleague. One of the topics discussed during the dinner included Tito and the Partisan struggle. In order to illustrate the courage of the Yugoslav people, U Nu picked up a hot pepper from the table and pushed it into the mouth of Miroslav Kreačić, the top-ranking Yugoslav diplomat in the Burmese capital. His tears began to flow, but he did not say anything. The Partisans' courage was proven. There were few such moments in diplomatic life.

In late 1955, Galeb set sail for Egypt and Ethiopia. There were some (probably those poorly informed) who were afraid that Tito could infect the Ethiopian emperor with communism. American diplomats commented that the Yugoslavs had a problem with understanding their limitations and the fact that they were not a great power. American consul in Zagreb Martindale said that it was stupid to change a reliable ally like the United States for unreliable allies in the Third World. The partnerships sought by Tito were based on the wish to remain independent. During these trips, it also became clear that the Third World countries represented a potential market for Yugoslav companies. Promotion of the “economic independence” of these countries opened up opportunities for the sale of Yugoslav products. However, it was often easier to determine or say something rather than to take action. However, some later examples proved that those who also saw economic reasons for the promotion of relations were right.

After 1955 and the reconciliation between Belgrade and Moscow, Yugoslavia hoped that the Soviets would change their Stalinist interpretation of communism. Parallel with the promotion of its policy toward Asia and Africa since the early 1950s at the latest, Yugoslavia seemed to be increasingly dissatisfied with excessively close cooperation with the West. Likewise, many Yugoslavs were not immune to racism or simply could not understand Tito's ties with distant Asian and African countries. Finally, nobody in Belgrade, at least those in power, contemplated abandoning communism as the leading ideology. For such people, the West was only the place where Yugoslavia would be exploited.

In April 1956, at the meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CC CPY), the highest party body, Marshal Josip Broz Tito said: “I think that we should cancel US military aid. It was only symbolic, but the question that imposes itself now is who are we arming ourselves against.“ Josip Broz Tito concluded that Yugoslavia's reputation called for stronger foreign policy action and activity. He also said that the disarmament policy was not sufficiently active and that relations with India, Burma and, partly, with Egypt were not sufficiently used in the struggle for peace, which would be mutually beneficial. At that meeting, Koča Popović, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, emphasized the historical aspect of the ongoing turnabout. Referring to the changes occurring in Moscow in early 1956 and Khrushchev's “secret speech”, Popović said that Yugoslavia was the champion of these changes in the world and that the FPRY was in the best position to further deepen these processes and exert influence on them. Popović also said that we should take a more active approach to the East. Yugoslavia should remain outside the blocs in order to strengthen the “forces of socialism”. Edvard Kardelj, the second-ranking member of the communist leadership, said that it was now the question of forming a broader, worldwide socialist bloc and not joining a socialist-based link-up with the Russians. All this called for a more active foreign policy.

Washington recognized this shift in Yugoslav policy. As written by the Operations Coordinating Board in March 1956, Yugoslavia would narrow its relations with the West. One of the Yugoslav policy mechanisms would be to derive maximum benefits from both sides in the Cold War. Thus, Washington could cope with this position “between” the two worlds, which Belgrade wished to have.

During 1956, Tito and Khrushchev met four times. During Tito's second visit to the Soviet Union, the Yugoslav State Secretariat for Foreign Affairs arranged all the details of the visit of Egyptian president Nasser and tried to arrange for a short visit by Indian prime minister Nehru to Yugoslavia. Despite the great differences between Egypt, India and Yugoslavia, there were several issues linking the three governments. They did not wish to belong to any bloc, but wished to see a world with as few divisions as possible, thereby making it safer for the small nations. All three leaders had great personal ambitions.

Nasser was interested in the Yugoslav economic model and Arab socialism was certainly inspired, at least partially, by the Yugoslav example. India was probably the biggest, though not best functioning democracy in the world. In any case, it differed politically from Yugoslavia and Egypt. Tito, Nasser and Nehru met on 17 July 1956. This meeting, which was often later described as crucial for the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement, was differently interpreted in these three countries. All sides had different ideas. Indian prime minister Nehru was dissatisfied because Tito and Nasser decided to organize a large press conference, so that this informal meeting suddenly assumed excessive dimensions. At the same time, both Tito and Nehru tried to restrain the impatient Arab who became agressive whenever he talked about the war in Algeria. Undoubtedly, the trilateral meeting considerably increased Tito's reputation. Some Western observers held that 9 out of 13 items in the Final Declaration, which was simultaneously proclaimed in all three capitals, was pro-Kremlin in tone. Others commented that everything was written in accordance with expectations and was satisfactory. The Soviet press ignored the event and only carried it as agency news. If leading Western diplomats in Belgrade understood that the platform of the meeting of the Big Three, which later evolved into the Non-Aligned Movement, was not pro-Soviet, the Kremlin was even more aware of this fact. The British held that Tito wanted to profit from Nehru's international reputation because he wanted to dispel any thought that Yugoslavia was mostly aligning itself with the East and the Soviet Union. Nehru and Nasser left the Brijuni Islands for Cairo together. While their plane was still at Pula Airport, preparations were underway for the arrival of Cambodian prince Norodom Sihanouk, another active proponent of cooperation in the Third World.

The Third World was far from being a unified bloc of countries, but the declaration presented by the three on the Brijuni Islands was also supported by Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah and Indonesian leader Ahmed Sukarno. If there had to be a leftist partner in the Third World, it was better for the West that such a partner be Belgrade, which was less dangerous than Moscow or one of its pawns. After the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement in the early 1960s, Yugoslav politicians and political scientists tried to prove that the meeting of the Big Three on the Brijuni Islands in 1956 was the first, or at least the zero meeting that was crucial for the future movement. The meeting of the three leaders from Europe, Asia and Africa was rather symbolic, different from similar meetings of African, or African and Asian leaders, something that did not often occur in international relations during that period. It was one of the important though not decisive initiatives that paved the way for the conference that took place five years later.

In the report of the Operations Coordinating Board released in the summer of 1956, Belgrade was still useful from the viewpoint of promoting US interests, although Belgrade cooled down its relations with the West after Khrushchev's visit in 1955 and the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956. Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union shared close positions on many international issues, but “as regards independence” it was clear that Yugoslavia was continuing along a path that differed from that followed by the Soviet satellites, and that Yugoslavia was demonstrating a significant degree of independence in its actions and the way in which it formulated its position. The influence of Belgrade was still felt in the internal affairs of the satellite countries. All things considered, as was concluded by the United States, Yugoslav foreign policy was closer to that pursued by India and Burma than to that pursued by the Soviet Union or its satellite countries. The neutralist position was not regarded as being in favour of the “free world” since Moscow did not allow the “neutralists” to interfere in the affairs of its satellites, but Belgrade was too small and insufficiently developed to have a decisive influence on socialists/communists in the Third World countries or leftist politicians in the West. Therefore, the Yugoslav influence could be compared to that of India. This stance allowed space for Belgrade's ambitions, still being shaped into a coherent policy.

The actual change occurred later that year, after the events in Hungary. The Hungarian crisis broke out in November 1956. During several days of the events that the Hungarians were later to call a “revolution”, the Yugoslavs realized that their reconciliation with the Soviets was considerably restricted and primarily inspired by Moscow’s wish to bring Yugoslavia back into its camp. The Hungarians demonstrated how general rebellions could sweep away communist regimes, which scared Tito at least as much as the Soviet intervention. It was increasingly clear that a rebellion against Moscow, even if it was led by communists, was only an illusion, It was clear that a complete split with Moscow was illusory for any country from the Eastern camp. In Belgrade, the support given to Khrushchev, who remained the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) until 1964, was partly motivated by the fear that he could be ousted by the hardliners or military circles. At that time, Yugoslavia lost the illusion that Khrushchev's de-Stalinization was sincere and painfully realized its limitations. It became clear that Yugoslavia was entering dangerous waters in its foreign policy and that its position in both the West and the East was worse in late 1956 than ten or so years earlier.

Therefore, the second half of the 1950s was marked by Yugoslavia's search for an anchorage in world politics and different positioning. Europe was still the principal battleground of the Cold War and, after Hungary, Berlin remained the only trouble spot on the Old Continent. Therefore, in the European context, Yugoslavia still stood apart and was important, but not as important as it had been when Stalin was alive. All this prompted the Yugoslav leadership to seek a new doctrine. As was observed in Washington, the constant efforts to maintain special relations with Nasser, Nehru and other leaders of the Afro-Asian bloc was the real space for the strengthening of Tito's prestige, ideological pretensions and even the formation of a group of countries in which he could have an influential, if not dominant, role.

The new program of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) was presented at its congress in Ljubljana in 1958. Tito opened the meeting. His speech came after a sharp attack on the Soviet Union delivered by Aleksandar Ranković (the second or third most powerful man in Yugoslavia). All delegates from the European communist countries – the Chinese, Albanians and Czechoslovakians did not attend the congress – stood up at that moment and left the hall. The only exception was the Polish delegate who fell asleep. The program was far from being very (counter-)revolutionary. The new basic document of the Yugoslav ruling party criticized the “imperialists and capitalists” and their aggressive policy against “communism and socialist countries”. Neocolonialism was the new way in which the rich exploited the poor. There was an increasing number of Western military bases. Therefore, the LCY would strive towards a world where nations were more closely linked to each other and oriented towards each other, but were also “independent” and able to decide on their own interests and the coalitions useful to them. The new nations represented “positive forces” tending toward peace. Should they be independent, they could contribute to world peace, which was the aim of Yugoslav diplomacy. A real peace policy implied active coexistence, including the full understanding of independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries or nations, and non-affiliation to any bloc. The economies of all countries should be inter-linked. Yugoslavia now obliged itself to follow such a line in international relations through the world organization, aiming to make it universal.

The new party program caused a new break in relations between Moscow and Belgrade, but not as serious as that of 1948. In late 1958 and early 1959, Tito again visited the Third World countries aboard Galeb. He visited Indonesia, Burma, India, Ethiopia, Ceylon, Sudan and the United Arab Republic (UAR), as Egypt and Syria were called. Tito’s deputies and associates went to other countries. In October 1959, Koča Popović, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, went to Cuba after the session of the United Nations General Assembly (UN GA). Although his visit was announced as breaking news, he did not meet with President Dorticos; there was no joint press conference or short encounter with the leader of the revolution, Fidel Castro. The party organ, Hoy, “completely ignored” Popović's visit as well as the visits of other Yugoslav high officials. Although the misunderstanding was only partially linked to their different interpretation of Marxism and was largely due to an internal crisis on the island, it was significant and proved to be the first in relations between the two countries.

In 1960, the leaders of five Third World countries, Indonesia, India, Egypt, Ghana and Yugoslavia, met on the premises of the Yugoslav Mission to the United Nations, on the margins of the jubilant 15th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly. The gathering took place under the impact of the U-2 spy plane incident and failure of the meeting of US President Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev in Paris, while the Berlin crisis was deepening. The Tunisian town of Bizerta was still under French occupation. Tensions between the United States and Castro's Cuba were increasing and war was being waged in Angola, Algeria and Vietnam. Tito and his guests wrote a letter to the United Nations General Assembly. The initiative of the five leaders was intentionally over-ambitious and unrealistic. It called for the immediate resumption of the talks between the White House and the Kremlin, which showed that the participating Third World countries were also ready to act globally. Concern for the world should not only be left to the great nations.

Although the above-mentioned actions probably had their own ad hoc partial reasons, they were later included in a narrative, which logically ended with the Belgrade conference in 1961 and the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). In this sense, the final breakthrough was Tito's longest trip in his career – a 72-day-long journey around Africa in 1961. It was clear that in the “Year of Africa” Belgrade was trying to develop its own “African policy” that would not fit into any existing mould.

The First NAM Conference in Belgrade

On February 1961, Tito's ship Galeb, escorted by four military ships with 1,200 sailors, three special planes and more than 100 officials, set off on a 72-day journey to Ghana, Togo, Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia and the UAR. Tito’s entourage had barely left the Adriatic when news of the assassination of Congolese president Patrice Lumumba shocked the world. Mass rallies attended by tens of thousands of protesters were organized throughout Yugoslavia. Only the protests against the US involvement in the Vietnam War, organized a few years later, reached the same proportions.

Before starting his journey, Tito talked with the American ambassador to Yugoslavia, assuring him that the idea of this journey was to reduce tensions in the world. There would be talk about colonialism, but not one country would be attacked. Ambasador Karl Rankin was aware that Yugoslavia's criticism of the West was always sharper than that of the East. Tito spoke in a conciliatory manner but, at the same time, was brutally open: “Moreover, Congo and similar countries were primitive and backward”. Thus, it would be justified to interfere in their internal affairs for ideological reasons and the wish to have them adopt a certain ideology. Ambassador Rankin was suspicious of the real motives behind Tito's journey. He wrote to the State Department that, bearing in mind previous experience, it was to be expected that his statements and actions were motivated by other reasons and not his concern for the well-being of the Africans. The American diplomat probably had something else in mind, but it was clear how much Yugoslav diplomacy had matured. The Yugoslavs were less naive and were prepared to adjust their policy towards the Third World to serve Yugoslav interests.

While sailing along the coast of West Africa, Tito proposed organizing a conference of Third World countries. Yugoslav telegraphists sent the messages to prime minister Nehru, Ghanian president Nkrumah and Indonesian leader Sukarno, sounding out their interest in the idea. Sukarno accepted it. Nehru accepted with some hesitation. With Nasser, Tito's closest associate, he talked about everything while cruising the Nile up to Helwan. The approval of Nasser and Nehru was crucial for mobilization of the Near East, Asian and African countries. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuban émigrés, which occurred on the same day as Tito arrived in Alexandria (17 August 1961), on which the two politicians issued a joint statement, was used to emphasize the need to organize those countries that did not belong to any bloc. The failed invasion of Cuba contributed to giving the new American President, J.F. Kennedy a bad image at the very beginning of his term of office. Moreover, in this period, the notion of an imperialist state ready to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries was enhanced, while the positive notion of the Soviet Union was strengthened. In the end, the Belgrade Conference was attended by representatives of all the countries visited by Tito, with the exception of Liberia and Togo.

From the very outset, Yugoslavia played a crucial role in organizing the First Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement. A preparatory meeting at ministerial level was held in Cairo in early June 1961. From the start, Yugoslavia was resolute in its intention to host the conference, which could clearly be perceived from the Yugoslav press and private encounters with leading politicians. The Egyptians and Cubans were also interested in playing host. Cairo had a certain advantage; it was closer to the majority of the countries wishing to participate in the conference and had more hotels, but the Cold War started in Europe, so that it was much more logical to hold the conference in the courtyard of opposing parts of the world. As the Yugoslavs discovered while sailing all the way around Africa, Nasser was not popular among some Africans. Many Arabs did not like him either. Nkrumah “had serious doubts about cooperation with Nasser” and was not prepared to take “a back seat”. Moroccan king Hassan II preferred Yugoslavia to Egypt, as his envoy Amet Balafreze said during his visit to Belgrade in May 1961. Yugoslavia's hosting could “increase the possibility of wider Arab participation”. It seems that the invitation to Tunisia to participate came at the proposal of the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, who himself was not altogether happy at the prospect of Cairo hosting the conference.55. The former French colonies were considered pro-Western and were not invited to attend.

The ideas advanced by Indonesian President Sukarno were too radical and thus hardly acceptable to a number of Asian leaders. This primarily referred to the Indians, but they still wished to be one of the sponsors of the conference. The Indians were constantly trying to expand the list of pro-Western neutral countries. Nigeria was invited at India's insistence, but Lagos turned down the invitation. Venezuela also rejected the invitation to attend. At first, Nehru was not willing to participate in the conference, holding that it would be just an expanded meeting of the Big Five, like the one held in New York a year earlier. New Delhi hoped that the meeting would pass without open attacks on the East or the West, that sensitive issues, involving Berlin, Mauritania, Pashtunistan and Israel, would be skipped and that the debate would focus on global issues. Burmanese prime minister U Nu wished to let Belgrade clearly know what his position was with respect to a number of global issues. At the same time, he was resolutely against the Soviet proposal for the re-organization of the United Nations.

Budimir Lončar, an advisor to Koča Popović in 1961, was assigned the task of securing Belgrade's hosting at the preparatory meeting of the Host Country Committee. Ethiopia, which was important as a pro-Western African country, was distinctly in favour of Yugoslavia, like a considerable number of other countries. Cuba was the only country which resolutely opposed Yugoslavia's hosting until the end. “The Cuban President even threatened that the Cubans would not participate should the Conference be held in Yugoslavia”, Tito himself said to Indonesian President Sukarno. Cuba’s insistence on the “liquidation of capitalism” and putting pressure on one big power was unacceptable. On the other hand, the Americans were interested in keeping the “uncommitted” countries together, without deepening the division into pro-Western and pro-Eastern blocs, which would be detrimental to them. Kennedy’s Ambassador to Belgrade, the famous George Kennan, wrote that it was felt that the Yugoslavs had enough power to deal with the other nations in Cairo in order to avoid such a development and that they hoped that something like that would not happen. The famous American diplomat was right.

George Kennan visited Tito on Brijuni together with Undersecretary Bowles on 30 July 1961. The case of Brazil, another country which decided not to participate in the conference as a full member, was not discussed. Yugoslavia blamed the United States for this because of the pressure it had exerted, which was evident from a letter sent by US Ambassador John Cabot to the Brazilian Government in the newly-built Brasilia. It would be embarrassing if Cuba was the only Latin American country to attend the Belgrade conference, Tito said, showing clearly once again that relations between Belgrade and Havana were strained. At the same time, it did not seem problematic to Belgrade that some other neutral European countries were not invited to come to Yugoslavia. The Americans were not overly concerned about the fact that the Belgrade Conference would be the largest gathering of anti-American and anti-Western nations, excluding those belonging to the communist camp. At the same time, the British lobbied among moderate neutral countries in favour of attending the conference. They hoped that these countries, together with Yugoslavia, would ensure a more moderate course at the conference. In his last letters to some world leaders, Tito asked them to display “maximum constructiveness” and “minimum propaganda”.

In his memorandum to President Kennedy, George Kennan wrote that there was not much left that could be done; rather, one should wait for the natural process of disintegration. It would be wise to send journalists, especially “Negro journalists”, which would testify to American diversity. The evident Yugoslav anti-Americanism was still not personal and based on the experience of mutual relations; rather, it was the reflection of a deep and frank disagreement about the wisdom of certain actions in international relations. At the same time, the Yugoslav media propaganda was much harsher and much more negative than Tito's private statements. As Kennan wisely wrote in his report to the State Department, the history of his nation had taught him to be unusually sensitive to any sign of the oppression of small nations by large ones. CIA analysts were also aware of Yugoslavia's ambition as one of those small countries which alone do not have great influence, but aspire to broader leadership and the creation of a bloc of countries that agree with the general principles of foreign policy and can express their views “collectively”. Likewise, as long as there are tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, there is a golden opportunity for small countries, like Yugoslavia, to fish in muddy waters, American diplomats wrote. The member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement could not create a third bloc because they lacked discipline, coherence and economic inter-dependence, while some of their leaders also lacked maturity. At times, there were even fewer political ties among them, but the common denominator was so broad that it could satisfy all participants. This proved to be sufficient to keep all the NAM countries together.

Tito was an excellent conference host.The guests from Africa and the Near East were impressed with the efficient administration and economic and political vitality of a country living its most brilliant years. All conference participants were provided with excellent accommodation. Black politicians were welcomed with true enthusiasm, which seemed a miracle to countries that had won independence only a few months earlier. The summit was organized in early September, shortly before the UN GA session, in order to enhance the message to be sent from it. Tito's speech was a different story. The Yugoslav leader spoke out against blocs and conflicts, which were not normal and were dangerous. The uncommitted countries should take a stand on issues of general interest for peace and humanity. American anxiety over the conference was not unfounded since Tito almost completely justified the announcement of the Soviet Union that it would lift a three-year nuclear test moratorium. The question that remains unanswered is whether this Soviet move, which took place on the first day of the Belgrade Conference, was prompted by the Non-Aligned Summit or to overshadow criticism of the erection of the Berlin Wall a few weeks earlier. Whatever the reason, US Ambassador Kennan was disgusted by Tito's speech, although many American diplomats did not agree with the vitriolic reaction of their superior.

Prince Daoud, prime minister of Afghanistan, raised the mood of the conference by interrupting the speech and announcing that the Kabul government would recognize the Algerian revolutionaries as the legal representatives of Algeria. Ghana, Cambodia and Yugoslavia did the same a few days later. There were moments when the extremist participants bombarded the conference with their views, but there were also a number of much more moderate views. Moroccan king Hassan II condemned France for the creation of an artificial state called Mauritania, Spain for its occupation of the Sahara, Portugal for its presence in Angola, as well as the tolerance of the violation of Arab rights in Palestine. Saudi Arabia was in conflict with Nasser and viewed the conference as a way to affirm itself in the Arab world. The aggressive Algerians, who were still not recognized by the majority, could sense that the future was likely to bring conflict with Morocco. The leader of the Algerian revolution, Ben Bella, contemplated how to unite the Maghreb countries, which was viewed as a direct threat to the stability of the Kingdom of Morocco. Like all subsequent conferences, the first one was also a demonstration of an emotional anti-colonial and anti-Western pattern of behaviour, partly in conformity with the Soviet view. Some of the political leaders of the countries that just won independence, who were later important and active NAM members, like Cheddi Jagan from the People's Progressive Party of British Guiana, sent telegrams to the attendees.

The Soviet acceptance of the conference was not as sincere as one might assume. The entire tone of the speeches was much more pro-Soviet, but this was not sufficient for Moscow. It was quite clear that Yugoslavia would not return to the East. Representatives of the liberation movements gathered in Belgrade, but a number of the adopted resolutions were contrary to Soviet wishes. Although there were attempts to appeal for the recognition of two German states, such a statement was not included in the final document. This was a blow both to the leader of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Walter Ulbricht, and the entire Soviet bloc. Only nine countries supported the idea of recognizing “existing reality”, while fifteen were adamantly against recognition of the division of Germany. The non-aligned countries refused to support the Soviet Troika initiative, to include one Western country, one communist country and one non-aligned country with voting power, instead of having the UN Secretary General. The non-aligned countries also refused to support Soviet proposals concerning disarmament and a nuclear test ban. The rights of Palestinian Arabs were emphasized, while the condemnation of Israel in the final document draft was rather vague. Nevertheless, the Soviets were not criticized during the conference, while the West, especially Portugal and France, were constantly attacked.

Some countries were considered pro-Western, particularly Ceylon, Afghanistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Burma, Sudan and Ethiopia. The conference also demonstrated India's “middle” position. As was emphasized by the media, the Indians were always against blocs and bloc logic, which colored the nationalisms of many African countries. It was clear that New Delhi took a different stand on many issues broached in Belgrade from Yugoslavia, for example. The US Ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbright, informed the State Department that J. Nehru was not at all satisfied with Tito's speech at the conference. Although Indian prime minister Nehru and Ghanian president Nkrumah were selected to travel to Moscow in order to present the “Statement on the Danger of War and Appeal for Peace”, which was adopted by the conference participants, the Indian leader was reserved. Nehru's visit to Moscow was agreed after the Belgrade conference. At first, he was against playing the role of “postman”. However, on 5 September, Nehru confirmed to American journalists that he and Nkrumah would ask for a new Khrushchev-Kennedy meeting on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. Moscow was informed that the renewal of nuclear tests had come as a shock to all in Belgrade. The CPSU General Secretary held that nuclear tests strengthened the forces of peace just as the Non-Aligned Countries were easing the world situation as a moral factor. Nehru's impression after the meeting with Khrushchev was that the latter certainly did not plan an armed conflict.

Indonesian leader Sukarno and Modibo Keita of Mali took the same letter to Washington. This was a golden opportunity for the Malian. He was persuaded by Tito to participate in the conference during the latter's travel around Africa. Now, about a year after the proclamation of Mali's independence, Keita, who was much more introvert than Sukarno, was received by the American president in the White House as a representative of 25 states. Thus, non-alignment produced results almost instantly for the poorest nations, which became more visible and found protection under the roof of the Non-Aligned Group. The ultimate aim written down in both letters was to resume the dialogue between the superpowers. Berlin and the German issue – less than a month after the erection of an “anti-fascist protective rampart”, as the Wall was called in the East – were the subject of many discussions. Anyway, as written by Chicago Sunday Times journalist Frederick Kuh, the initiative was part of a “propaganda tactical deception”, since the course of history itself was pushing the East and the West toward negotiations. According to Kuh, despite its odiousness, the conflict over Berlin was a small problem, while the struggle between the two blocs over alliance with the non-engaged world was crucial and the most important phenomenon of our time in the long term.

The Cubans constantly demonstrated insufficient respect for their Yugoslav hosts, but, in the end, they could be satisfied with the results of their stay in the FPRY. Egypt was primarily interested in Arab problems. Tunisia decided to attend the conference due to its unpleasant experience with the French in Bizerta. Since all participants at the Belgrade Conference supported Bourguiba, the Tunisians now had a somewhat better position for their talks with France. Never completely cured of megalomania – which was, in general, the common characteristic of a number of statesmen participating at the Belgrade conference – Tunisian president Bourguiba was convinced that this conference was a step further away from “positive neutralism” toward “non-alignment vis-à-vis both the East and the West” and that all this was based solely on his, Tunisian, ideas.

The conference showed increasing differences between Indonesia and India. Immediatly after his return to Jakarta, Indonesian president Sukarno finally announced a new view of the world according to which “old established forces” were afraid of “new emerging forces”. This was simply an elaboration of the thesis presented by Sukarno in Belgrade: “The conflict between the new emerging forces for freedom and justice and the old forces of domination...“ In any case, worldwide tensions were generated by imperialism, colonialism and the imposed division of nations. There can be no coexistence between “independence and justice, on the one hand, and imperialism and colonialism, on the other“.

Yugoslavia did not pose a problem for the West as long as it remained independent of Moscow. The NAM Conference increased Yugoslavia's prestige in the world, while at the same time improving its economic situation. In a certain way, non-alignment became the path to salvation for Yugoslavia and Tito personally. Yugoslavia's isolation from the West and the East was serious and genuine. Tito could now play the role of leader. The path sought since the early 1950s was finally found. Aligning with any alliance was wrong and fighting against such policies was worth the effort. Yugoslavia supported anti-colonial revolution, true independence and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. As George Kennan commented, this practically meant that the policy of any Western country or the United States towards any small non-NATO country could be criticized. True, Yugoslav actions were sometimes anti-Western and anti-European, but even some Yugoslav politicians criticized them. In the Third World, the Yugoslavs traded in ideas, in which they often abounded. The Foreign Office concluded in 1961, just before the conference, that from its viewpoint Yugoslav influence in Africa was altogether more positive than negative. Although the Yugoslavs were Marxists, they were viewed as “revisionist heretics” and their activities did not lead to the “inclusion of African countries in the Soviet-Chinese bloc”. Belgrade was often over-ardent where criticism of neo-colonialism was involved and this was not good from the standpoint of Western economic interests. According to the British, the Yugoslavs supported “true neutralism”. In any case, in countries like Ghana and Guinea, which were already lost to the West, this posed much less danger than from the Chinese or Soviets.

Non-Alignment and Tito's Yugoslavia: One and the Same

Consequently, it is not surprising that in 1964 the British diplomats who complained about what they saw as preferential treatment of the Yugoslavs in official Foreign Office bulletins concerning communist activity in East Africa, received a patronizing answer from London: the reason why this was not done (i.e. why Yugoslavia was not condemned), referring specifically to Africa, lay in the fact that the Yugoslavs had created a desirable perception of themselves. Should they be depicted in the same colour as that used to depict the Russians, Chinese, Cubans and others, this would benefit the Russians and their cronies rather than harm the Yugoslavs. Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, for example, had a very high opinion of the Yugoslavs and often regarded them as being equal to the Israelis – benevolent, non-aligned, and against colonialism. Since the Cold War in Europe froze, after the erection of the Berlin Wall and Albania's abandonment of the camp, it became clear once again that tensions were moving from the Old Continent towards the Third World. At that time, radical countries, like Indonesia before the failed coup of 1965 and the Cubans, advocated either a second gathering of Asian and African countries, Bandung 2, or a three-continent conference (including only the Asian, African and Latin American nations), which was the Cuban idea. Yugoslavia was excluded in both cases. The global idea of non-alignment was reduced to regional gatherings of countries with colonial experience.

Tito's regime never became really moderate, at least not from the Western viewpoint. This was not its aim, nor was it in conformity with Tito's ideology and world view. However, being extremely pragmatic, talented and determined to keep his own independence, he did not make any compromise involving leaning towards the Soviet Union. In April 1964, the Cuban newspaper Hoy published a fierce attack on Yugoslavia using words that were usually “reserved for Yankee imperialism” and other “devilish figures from Castro’s mythology”. Since Yugoslavia had advocated the participation of Venezuela at the Second Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Cairo in 1964, Belgrade was deemed “offensive”and was accused of “hostility and dishonesty”. The Canadian diplomats in Havana wrote that if the Yugoslavs held that the Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement should be used as a lever for spreading neutralist ideas and a cautious promotion of the communist view on certain world problems, it would be necessary to try to avoid the extremist position that was regularly taken by the Castro regime at international gatherings, because this would turn away those very countries which Yugoslavia was trying to attract. Moreover, the Yugoslavs even welcomed the opportunity to present themselves publicly as being different from Cuba, thus avoiding being painted the same colour as the Cubans. Admittedly, Yugoslavia did not give any significant aid to the Cubans, but the war with Belgrade could hardly be in the Cuban interest.

The Second Non-Aligned Summit Conference in Cairo only deepened some tendencies that were already evident in Belgrade. India finally decided to embrace membership wholeheartedly, feeling isolated and surrounded by a hostile China, Pakistan and Burma. The Indians were afraid of the initiative for convening Bandung 2, advanced by Sukarno and Zhou Enlai. Therefore, Tito's and Nehru's interests finally overlapped. Tito, who was less radical than in 1961, wanted the Cairo summit to be Belgrade 2 and avoid, at all costs, a gathering of Asian countries, where the pro-Chinese countries would play an important role. For this reason, the position of the Yugoslav ambassador to Jakarta was also of special significance. Therefore, all efforts were made to slow down Sukarno's radical withdrawal The failure of the principles of Pancasila, after the Chinese attack on India in October 1962, did not leave any room for manoeuvre for the Indians. After the worsening of relations between China and the Soviet Union, the improvement of Soviet-Yugoslav relations accelerated, since the platform under which the NAM countries had gathered, excluded countries like China. Over the following months, the isolation of Beijing only deepened. All this had a positive impact on these countries, despite the fact that India was represented by Nehru's successor Krishna Menon in Cairo.

The crisis in Congo had a strong influence on the organization and course of the First NAM Conference in Belgrade. The Second NAM Conference headlines were stolen by Moise Tshombe, the legal Congolese prime minister and the person responsible for Patrice Lumumba's assassination. It pointed to the deep divisions among the Third World countries. Although it was legitimate, his participation irritated Tito and some other participants. The Marshal of Yugoslavia said resolutely: “I won't participate in the conference if Tshombe will be present.” In the end, the Congolese prime minister did not attend because he had been placed under house arrest. In all other respects, Tito moved towards the middle and took up a moderate position. For the Non-Aligned Movement leftist radicalism was much more dangerous than the pro-Western countries, which mostly remained passive in this movement. Since the Cairo conference was the last one in which Nasser participated – six years later he refused to go to Lusaka, knowing that Soviet criticism (at that time he was in alliance with the Soviet Union) would be too unpleasant – while other great names in the early history of the Non-Aligned Movement during the 1960s had either been deposed or died (Ben Bella, Sukarno, Nkrumah, Keita), this strengthened Tito's dominant position. The Yugoslavs were aware that many conclusions of the Cairo conference were “maximalist and unrealistic”, but this had already become common practice at NAM meetings.

After the Cairo Conference, the NAM entered a period of crisis. The joint meeting of Tito, Nasser and Indira Ghandi, India's new prime minister and Jawaharlal Nehru's daughter, in 1966 was only symbolically important, although it called for additional explanations to the other participants that this was not a meeting of the “elite” or informal leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement. Apart from its symbolic significance, this meeting really carried no political weight. Of greater importance to the whole world, including the NAM, was the Arab, especially Egypt's, defeat in the war with Israel in 1967, which simply pushed them into the arms of the Soviets. Shortly afterwards, in 1968, Yugoslavia undertook a broad diplomatic offensive to revive the Non-Aligned Movement. Tito's diplomats visited all potential and former NAM members, proposing a new summit conference. The initiative preceded the intervention of the Warsaw Pact countries (except Romania) in Czechoslovakia in August 1968. Some old divisions were still present, such as India's opposition to Pakistan's membership, but there were also some new, interesting and different initiatives. The Spanish ambassador to France, Generalissimo Franco's representative, approached his Yugoslav colleague in Paris, Ivo Vejvoda, to express the interest of Madrid in the next NAM conference. This proposal was rejected.

The Lusaka conference in 1970 was largely a Yugoslav project and Yugoslav conference. The relevant documents were written in Belgrade and Yugoslav diplomats did their best to make this conference successful. After the Lusaka Conference, the NAM countries met regularly every third year, without exception. In an analysis of this summit conference, leading Yugoslav politicians concluded that the “Arab lack of interest had been marginalized”, and that the left radicals and participants from right-wing countries were moving towards the center. The most extremist countries included Congo Brazzaville, Cuba, Sudan and Libya, and the most conservative ones Lesotho, Swaziland and Liberia. In the end, the decision of Gamal Abdel Nasser not to travel to Lusaka hurt the reputation of Egypt rather than adversely affected the entire Non-Aligned Movement. In fact, the NAM was reaffirmed.

The reaction of Slovenian politician Stane Dolanc, one of the most influential individuals in the Yugoslav security system, was amazing: “Non-alignment was accepted as a political movement and there are extraordinary chances that such a policy encompasses not only Africa, Asia and possibly Latin America or, so to say, the non-civilized world, but that all others also accept it as an alternative to the current constellation of international relations”. This statement was not only politically incorrect, but also partially offset the constant criticism that Yugoslav foreign policy was not sufficiently European and pointed out that the element of pragmatism in the NAM was one of the important motives of Yugoslav policy.

During the 1970s, after several successful interventions throughout Africa, Cuba's self-confidence increased enormously. Its policy was increasingly oriented towards the transformation of the NAM into the “strategic reserve” of the socialist bloc and all this had to be achieved by Cuban diplomacy. During Tito’s meeting with the highest-ranking officials in 1979, Macedonian politician Aleksandar Grličkov defined the Yugoslav position within the Non-Aligned Movement as being “truly leftist”, “the most leftist program and most leftist philosophy within the NAM on offer… there is none more leftist than that”. In essence, Fidel Castro offered the break-up of socialism as a world process, which was actually a rightist position, the Yugoslav ideologist stated. Since Fidel Castro was designated as the host of the Sixth NAM Conference, with the idea of redirecting the movement, the SFRY diplomacy was faced with a serious task. The actual threat was not posed by the few agile and radical countries that rallied around Cuba. A greater threat was posed by the numerous passive countries. The host country could always organize the auditorium, journalists, distribution of speeches and order of speakers, as well as use various types of manipulation. Castro did all this in 1979. In Havana, Egypt was represented by the number-two man in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the future UN Secretary General. The reason for such a low level was an attempt to partially mitigate the blow should the Arab countries – Iraq was especially vocal – expel Egypt from the NAM due to its signing the Camp David Accords. The Cubans still advocated the idea that the socialist bloc was the natural ally of the non-aligned countries, many of which were building socialism in their own way, but did not want to allow usurpation of the name of this historical process.

Tito (now at the ripe old age of 88 ) and Yugoslavia succeeded once again in preserving the “authentic principles of non-alignment” at the Havana conference. At that time, both the West and the United States appreciated such an effort. When President Richard Nixon was about to come to Yugoslavia in 1970, his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger wrote in the material prepared for the President that he should mention the NAM, which had little relevance, but was “dear to his (Tito’s) heart”. Nixon's visit to Belgrade, Zagreb and Kumrovec coincided with Lusaka and the Yugoslav side really believed that the success of that meeting was the reason behind Nixon's decision to visit Yugoslavia for the first time in the history of the White House and a socialist country for the second time in its history. Nine years later, Zbigniew Brzezinski, chief advisor to President Jimmy Carter, said that Yugoslavia, together with the United States and the Soviet Union, was the only country that had affirmed itself as a global factor. Belgrade's position in the Non-Aligned Movement was constructive. In the light of the dying détente, parallel to an increase in the number of conflicts in the Third World, behaviour of Cuba and Vietnam, Yugoslavia really seemed like an “American communist ally”.

After the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, a non-aligned and socialist country, which was not a Warsaw Pact member, in December 1979, Belgrade became panicky. In January 1980, Tito was admitted into hospital which he never left. Was Moscow merely waiting for Tito to die in order to renew its pressure on Belgrade? In an effort to prevent this possibility and mobilize the world's attention as much as possible, Yugoslavia insisted that the NAP organize a special ministerial meeting where Soviet intervention would be condemned for the first time ever. Until then, this kind of condemnation was always reserved for Western countries. However, fearing the strengthened position of Pakistan and China, which was in sharp conflict with Moscow, India was not ready to support the Yugoslav initiative that was directed at the then important Indian ally. With Cuba as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, coupled with the passive stance of the important countries, the Yugoslav initiative could hardly be accepted. Admittedly, an extraordinary meeting was held, but one year after the Soviet invasion, when Moscow's wishes and possibilities became evident. The efforts of Yugoslavia's Federal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Josip Vrhovec, to have Moscow condemned, was a clear indicator that the NAM was the main lever of Yugoslav diplomacy, since the Non-Aligned Movement was often used in Yugoslav politics.

The government installed in Kabul by the Soviet Union after its intervention was never recognized by Western countries nor by Yugoslavia. Belgrade recognized the “Afghan people”, but not Babrak Karmal, so that diplomatic representation in Afghanistan remained at the level of chargé d'affaires. There were no top-level visits. The Federal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Raif Dizdarević, for example, refused to greet his Afghan colleague at the airport as late as 1988. There were no official receptions or joint statements after the meeting. The public humiliation of the Afghans was Yugoslavia's message to Moscow.

The crisis in Yugoslavia, which was becoming increasingly serious during the 1980s, also affected the position of the SFRY within the NAP. Although Raif Dizdarević did his best to lobby for having the 1986 Eighth Conference held in Belgrade, the battle was poorly prepared and conducted, and the host became Zimbabwe. In any case, it was Africa's turn to be the host and it was one of the rare conferences which was not regional and was held in Africa. For Zimbabwe, which had won independence several years earlier, this conference was a historic event, which had yet to show its maturity. The next summit conference was held in Belgrade three years later when Budimir Lončar became head of Yugoslavia's diplomacy. There were numerous reasons for Yugoslavia's hosting the conference, but a great number of them were just local and important for a country that was breaking apart – the hope that some negative processes could be slowed down in this way.

During the Cold War, the first and the last Summit Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement took place in Belgrade. The first conference demonstrated the importance and prestige of Yugoslavia among the Third World countries, while the last one was held in a disintegrating country, in 1989. One of the reasons for selecting a country in crisis was the wish of most countries to circumvent Nicaragua, which was strongly lobbying to take the chair. In the late 1980s, with a change in Soviet policy and Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, it would not be wise to have Nicaragua as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement. The country was extremist and opposed to changes, especially those in the socialist world. Ultimately, shortly before its collapse, Yugoslavia did something useful for the Non-Aligned Movement. At the same time, it did a lot of things that could be considered selfish. Belgrade wanted to remain a player, that is, to be present on the international scene. Proportional visibility, which was ensured by holding the Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, the fact that in this capacity the country would be invited to attend numerous international meetings, could help those forces in the country itself which pleaded for responsibility, tried to stabilize the situation and thus transmit true messages to international factors. The Western countries also hoped for Belgrade instead of some radical country. All such intentions proved futile. Only the Ninth NAM Conference, which was successful and modern in many respects, took place in Belgrade in 1989.

During 1990, while the Yugoslav federation was falling apart, after the Non-Aligned Movement was ignored by the Yugoslav public, leading Yugoslav diplomats were given recognition for what the NAM had meant for the world in concrete circumstances at the end of a historical period. On 18 January 1990, Waclaw Havel, the first democratic president of Czechoslovakia, told Budimir Lončar, Federal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that he dreamed of a world “in which all countries will be non-aligned”. According to him, “Yugoslavia played a very important role and was non-aligned during the Cold War”. When the world mobilized to punish Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, American Secretary of State James Baker thanked the SFRY on 3 October 1990 for its “views on Iraqi agression... and the actions taken in its capacity as the Chair of the NAM”. Hans Dietrich Genscher, West German Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was probably the most vocal. On 1 September 1990, he “highly evaluated the role of Yugoslavia as the Chair of the NAM and its efforts within the NAM and the UN at finding a peaceful solution” to the Iraq crisis. “He stated that it was a true blessing for the world that at this critical time Yugoslavia chaired the NAM“. This had no effect on the situation in the country any more. It probably could have had an effect on the diplomatic status of the SFRY had the country not been moving in a completely different direction.

Why Was It Important?

The First NAM Summit Conference held in Belgrade is a good illustration of all the important problems faced by Yugoslavia as an informal, yet real leader of this movement. The whole idea could not have succeeded without the participation of India, a country that was larger than all the NAM member countries put together.. However, the Indians were adult enough to have their own political ideas regardless of the NAM and were often upset about the radicalism of some member countries, the excessive emphasis on anti-colonialism and the resentment towards former colonial, that is, Western countries. Some countries turned to the Soviets, who began to penetrate the Third World on an increasing scale. The Egyptians were also primarily interested in Arab issues. Indonesia was sliding toward extremism and the end of Sukarno's rule, after which it moved strongly towards the other end of the political spectrum. African countries were often radical, but were never sufficiently influential or had the necessary administrative capacity to play a dominant role. After the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah in 1966, Ghana lost its prestige. Algeria, the host of the the Fourth Summit Conference in 1973, was in conflict with Morocco as well as with Egypt. Iraq, which became more visible after the overthrow of the Hashemite dynasty, was vying for the leading position in the Arab world, sometimes using the NAM to this end. If the war between Iraq and Iran had not broken out in 1980, the Seventh NAM Summit Conference would have been held in Baghdad and not in New Delhi in 1983. In the end, Yugoslavia was the only country whose interest in the Non-Aligned Movement was constant and increasing, had no ups and downs, and whose political options were strongly tied to the movement. Therefore, in a certain sense, Yugoslavia was non-aligned to a greater degree in the 1970s than ten years earlier. Therefore, the country was sharply criticized for its allegedly Europhobic policy. It could seem like that at first glance and to an uninformed observer. To those who read the long and frequent statements published by the non-aligned countries, Yugoslav foreign policy could seem ideologized and that it was pulling the country out of its natural, European environment. Underneath the not so deep ideological shroud lay a foreign policy whose actions were sophisticated, which was pragmatic and which enabled a small but ambitious country to play a globally important role in the United Nations. Without its special role in the Third World, Yugoslav foreign policy would not have acquired a global dimension. For example, during his visit to Yugoslavia in 1981, the Libyan leader asked the Yugoslavs to mediate in the dispute between Tripoli and Washington. The Yugoslav Ambassador to the United States, Budimir Lončar, informed the State Department about Libyan efforts to normalize relations with the United States, although the US Government closed the Libyan People's Bureau (Embassy) in Washington. Yugoslav trade in secret data on terrorism was probably the most secretive. Those who were labelled as terrorists in West were often regarded as ordinary “freedom fighters” by the Belgrade authorities, which used to take care of these fighters themselves or educate their children. Dissidents, like Dr Najibullah from Afghanistan, were hidden in various parts of Yugoslavia.

In May 1988, Josip Vrhovac, the former Federal Secretary for Foreign Affairs and then a member of the Presidency of the SFRY, met with American president Ronald Reagan in Washington. The American president first thanked his Yugoslav colleague for everything Belgrade had done “in the case of Colonel Hawari, as an important step in the struggle against international terrorism”. Belgrade had helped locate a group headed by Abdullah Abd Al Hamid Labib, known as Hawari, which was responsible for planting a bomb aboard TWA Flight 840 flying from Rome to Athens in 1986.

Yugoslav firms were not sufficiently sophisticated to sell their products or build plants in Norway or Germany, but were excellent and desirable for projects in distant countries. They built congress centers in Accra, Liberville, Lusaka and Harare, the Naval Academy in Tripoli, the Ministry of Oil in Baghdad, irrigation systems in Peru, a hydro-electric power plant and dam in Panama, port facilities in Tartous in Syria, Assab in Ethiopia and Bombay in India, a trade center in Lagos, a hospital in Guinea, and trade centers in Mali. The Libyan authorities wanted Yugoslavia to build a chemical industrial plant and laser equipment company. They also wished to conclude an agreement on the use of nuclear energy with Yugoslavia. At times, Yugoslav companies were more expensive than others, but the Libyans wanted them, convinced that Belgrade would not abuse their hospitality. The most profitable projects were realized with Iraq. Since the outbreak of the conflict between Iraq and Iran the Yugoslav Secretariat for Foreign Affairs became unusually silent. It is quite clear that Iraq was the aggressor, but due to pressure from military circles, Baghdad was not condemned because Saddam Hussein, the sole master of Iraq since 1979, was an excellent buyer of equipment and all kinds of materials from Yugoslavia. Iraq also became Yugoslavia's biggest trade partner in the Third World. Some 16,000 Yugoslavs worked there and many of them built 34 military projects throughout the country. Yugoslav companies constructed the most sensitive facilities for Iraq: underground nuclear-proof bunkers for Saddam and factories where Kalashnikov weapons and missile systems were manufactured.

The music school, built in the capital city of Gabon, was named after Croatian composer Josip Štolcer Slavenski. The author of the first Ethiopian constitution was Croatian lawyer Leon Geršković, founder of the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, the first such faculty in a socialist country. Yugoslav experts were asked to establish universities in Angola and Madagascar. Yugoslav experts also taught in Addis Ababa, while thousands of foreign students came to Yugoslavia to study. In the late 1970s, three Ethiopian ministers were Yugoslav students. Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, who was supported by the SFRY in various ways, expressed his gratitude to Tito for “training Palestine pilots” in Yugoslavia. Libyan dictator Gaddafi did the same thing. His naval cadets studied at the Naval Academy in Split. While visiting secret military facilities in Bosnia, including an underground explosives factory, Gaddafi said that Libya was ready to receive “not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of Yugoslav experts and workers”. Malta, which became a NAM member, was extremely important for Yugoslavia, which was interested in having a greater number of NAM members from Europe. Therefore, Belgrade built a small factory on the island. In the early 1980s, Maltese leader Dom Mintoff asked the SFRY to donate a ship to La Valetta, which it did.

The Yugoslav state also helped in supplying weapons and arming. As emphasized by Robert Mugabe during Tito's funeral, Yugoslavia donated “50,000 tons of wheat and armaments” to Zimbabwe. Yugoslavia also armed Algeria, Guinea, Guinea Bissao, Namibia's resistance movement SWAPO, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Angola (“the Yugoslav tanks we sent were small, but were still tanks”, said Stane Dolanc). The Ethiopians also obtained 70 old tanks when they were attacked by Somalia. This old equipment was part of the equipment given by the United States in the 1950s; under the agreement, they could not re-sold to anyone. Although their value was initially estimated at 12 million dollars, Mengistu Haile Mariam and the Addis Abeba authorities never paid for them. The Americans knew about this transaction, but never put more pressure on Yugoslavia for this very reason. The most important assistance was probably provided by Tito to Egypt in 1973. President Sadat's special envoy came to Belgrade to ask for assistance. Tito said that he “asked for tanks”. Sadat personally thanked the Yugoslav leader for assistance in the Parliament in Cairo, mentioning that the Yugoslav President had sent 140 tanks with full equipment, including ammunition, straight to the battlefield, thus preventing Israel’s occupation of Cairo. The Yugoslav planes Galeb and Jastreb were sold to Zambia and Libya. Some of them were still operable during NATO’s attack on Libya in 2011.

Some projects in the Third World were not lucrative. In the end, everything that was donated or remained unpaid in the Third World did not particularly improve Yugoslavia's position. However, since the NAM idea was so broad and acceptable in various respects – it was about the struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism, apartheid, racism, hegemony and occupation – for countries wishing to act within such a framework, it was an excellent medium for the activities of a country which evidently understood that, in a certain way, the Cold War framework and peace were crucial for its survival. For smaller and poorer countries, the NAM was the only way to make their voice heard, feel equal and be treated like richer and bigger countries. For other countries, especially those who were in a better position and had a more stable internal situation and clearer idea of foreign policy, the Non-Aligned Movement could be an excellent way to help them remain visible and important, adopt a stance and play the game that was usually reserved for the biggest countries. The Cold War enabled small countries to play an important part during one period in world history. The same situation applied to Yugoslavia. The Non-Aligned Movement and the country's leading role in it could not prevent war or be an alarm bell that would be loud enough to activate world consciousness, despite the flattering accolades from the most important Western and world politicians in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, the Non-Aligned Movement represented an important idea and dynamic policy that allowed a small country to become a world player, albeit with a limited range.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

 

ARHIV SRBIJE I CRNE GORE (AJ, ARHIV JUGOSLAVIJE) (Archives of Serbia and Montenegro /AJ, Archives of Yugoslavia/), Belgrade, Serbia, 507, CK SKJ (Central Committee of the League of Communists Yugoslavia).

BUDIMIR LONČAR, Zagreb, Private Collection (BL)
(Yugoslav Ambassador to Indonesia, Federal Republic of Germany and United States; Federal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1989-1992; Special Advisor to Croatian President Stjepan Mesić, 2005-2010).

DWIGHT EISENHOWER PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES, (EL), Abeline, Kansas, USA
National Security Council Papers.

JIMMY CARTER PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES, (CL); Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Papers.

JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES (JFKL), Boston, USA.
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Conferences: Belgrade Conference of Non-aligned Nations, 9/61.

JOHN MOORS CABOT COLLECTION, (CABOT) Tufts University Library, Boston, USA
Embassy Correspondence Yugoslavia (Reel 6)
General Political and Diplomatic Material (Reel 12).

JOSIP VRHOVEC, Zagreb, Private Collection (JV)
(Federal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1978-1982; Croatian Member of the Presidency of the SFRY, 1982-1989).

MUZEJ JUGOSLAVIJE, KABINET PREDSEDNIKA REPUBLIKE (KPR) (Museum of Yugoslavia, Cabinet of the President of the Republic /KPR/), Belgrade, Serbia.
(Museum of the History of Yugoslavia, Cabinet of the President of the Republic)
KPR I-5-B Czechoslovakia.

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NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORD ADMINISTRATION (NARA), College Park, Maryland, USA.
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2. CWIHP Document Reader, From National Communism» to National Collapse, Complied by Mircea Munteanu, 7 December 2006, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC.

3. FRUS, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969-1976, Volume XXIX, Eastern Europe; Eastern Mediterranean, 1969-1972. Washington: US Government Printing Office 2007.

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5. SIMIĆ, Pero 2005. Tito, svetac i magle. Tito i njegovo vreme u novim dokumentima Moskve i Beograda. Belgrade: Službeni list SCG.

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Newspapers

 

VJESNIKOVA NOVINSKA DOKUMENTACIJA (VND) (Vjesnik Newspaper Documentation /VND/), Hrvatski državni arhiv (Croatian State Archives), Zagreb, Croatia.

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Time, weekly; http://www.time.com

Tportal.hr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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With the assistance of the Federal Ministry of
Foreign Affairs of the FR of Germany

 

 

 

 

 

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