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Yugoslavia: National Security
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security


Member of Yugoslav People's Army

In 1990 the national security of Yugoslavia reflected various strengths and weaknesses of its history, society, economy, and politics. Adhering to its nonaligned foreign policy, Yugoslavia belonged to no military alliance and maintained an omnidirectional defense posture. Although potential invasion by the Soviet Union remained the primary factor in Yugoslav defense planning, external threats to Yugoslavia were greatly reduced in 1990. The country's military doctrine of Total National Defense (TND) emphasized coordination between a standing army and large numbers of ordinary citizens organized into locally based militia units. TND was designed to counter a massive Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion. It used the wartime experience of Yugoslavia's partisan guerrilla fighters as its model.

The armed forces consisted of the Yugoslav People's Army (YPA) and the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF). The YPA, a regular force of more than 180,000 troops, was organized into three armed services, the ground forces or army, the air force, and the navy. Most soldiers in the YPA were conscripts who were led by a professional officer corps. Apparently an effective fighting force, the YPA generally exercised control over the large, militia-like TDF. The YPA exercised autonomy in military matters and also exerted considerable influence within the League of Communists of Yugoslaviaand the civilian government.

In 1990 the YPA retained both popular prestige and priority access to national economic resources, but circumstances were changing. Some citizens increasingly viewed the YPA as a vehicle for domination by the Republic of Serbia, while others saw it as the country's only safeguard against divisive interests. Meanwhile, economic stringency obliged the YPA to accept reduced budgets and manpower.

In 1990 the internal threats of nationalism (based on claims of nations and nationalities -- see Glossary), separatism, and political and economic crises were more acute than any conceivable external threat to Yugoslavia's national security. The YPA's mission to defend the country's independence against external aggression was undisputed. However, its mission of protecting the constitutional order against change from within aroused controversy. The LCY and civilian government increasingly looked to the YPA to ensure public order against nationalist and separatist activity and the ensuing political and social crises. The military strongly supported continued survival of the unified federal state. However, like Yugoslav society as a whole, the YPA was beset by ethnic tensions.

Josip Broz Tito, the only modern Yugoslav leader to successfully balance military and political roles, believed that the YPA had to protect the established political and economic system against internal opponents because domestic divisions would weaken the country's defense against external threats. In a time of reduced foreign threats, however, many Yugoslav leaders believed the YPA should restrict its role to external defense, minimizing its internal security functions.

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

Yugoslavia Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 167 of 208


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