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Yugoslavia: Nonalignment
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Foreign Policy > Nonalignment


Beginning with its split from the Soviet Bloc in 1948, Yugoslavia sought appropriate alliances to ensure its security. As early as 1953, relations were established with nonaligned Asian countries. In 1954 Tito suggested, then withdrew from, a Balkan Pact alliance with Greece and Turkey. When the colonial empires of the West European nations broke up in the decades following, Yugoslavia became a leader of the bloc of new nations created by that process. The former colonies considered the economic and political success of the Yugoslav nonalignment policy a positive model, and Tito joined Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt as founders of the Nonaligned Movement in the mid-1950s. Founding principles of that movement were opposition to all foreign intervention and peaceful coexistence. The official nonaligned position of Yugoslavia was declared at the Belgrade Conference of Nonaligned Nations in 1961. In the 1950s and 1960s, Yugoslavia's position gave it international prestige because both the United States and the Soviet Union required support from the growing bloc of independent nations it led.

Within the nonaligned group, Yugoslavia leaned strongly toward the Arab nations and supported the Palestine Liberation Organization against Israel -- mainly because of Tito's friendship with Nasser and the influence of the large Yugoslav Muslim population. Tito personified Yugoslavia's international position; in the 1960s and 1970s, he traveled worldwide to cement relations in the Third World. Although Nikita Khrushchev had mended Soviet relations with Yugoslavia in the mid-1950s, that relationship was threatened by periodic Soviet expansionism, and Tito successfully sought to balance Western and Soviet influences. Part of that balancing act was development of close relations with China in the 1970s; at that time, China was hostile to the Soviet Union and opening communications with the West, making it an effective counterbalance for Tito. Yugoslav-Chinese relations remained warm through the 1980s.

In the 1970s, Yugoslavia became a moderate force in the Nonaligned Movement, balancing the strong pro-Soviet influence of Fidel Castro (to whom Tito had initially given strong support). Castro's election as chairman of the Nonaligned Movement in 1979 was considered a defeat for Tito. Between 1955 and 1979, the Nonaligned Movement grew from 25 to 117 member countries, largely because of Tito's leadership. When Tito died in 1980, Yugoslavia lost its leadership role to Cuba, and the Nonaligned Movement leaned decidedly toward the Soviet side. But Yugoslavia regained an important role in the eighth summit meeting (1986) of the organization. In 1989 the ninth meeting was held in Belgrade, and Yugoslavia became chairman nation of the movement until 1992. In the 1980s, the main Yugoslav role in the Nonaligned Movement was using the provisions of the Helsinki Accords of 1975 to lobby for easing the Cold War tensions that flared in Europe, and mediating conflicts between Third World nations such as Iraq and Iran. Yugoslavia was especially concerned with Middle Eastern events that endangered its oil supply.

Although emphasis changed somewhat, Tito's nonalignment policy remained in place for the entire decade following his death. Although hosting the meeting and regaining chairmanship of the Nonaligned Movement improved Yugoslavia's international standing, many Yugoslavs (especially in Croatia and Slovenia) questioned the value of a leadership position among a group of impoverished nations long after the initial purpose of the movement had changed. The credibility of the movement decreased in the 1980s because of Castro's influence, and by 1990 the disappearance of monolithic communism from Eastern Europe had changed the entire definition of nonalignment. Even in Tito's time, Yugoslavia gained only prestige from its leadership of Third World countries poorer than itself; it lost much money in unrepaid loans to those countries. As the 1990s began, domestic pressures increased to strengthen political and economic ties with Western Europe, which could provide much-needed economic aid.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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