Blog AnalysisBalkansEuropean history

[Yugoslavia Memory of a disaster] 1991, The Yugoslav army, really powerful?

The intoxication war is in full swing in Yugoslavia. The strong Serbian Federals with a theoretical power of 700.000 men mask a high rate of desertion. The
Croatian secessionists are crying over a supply of arms, which on the ground doesn't seem to be so pitiful.

On paper, the Yugoslav federal army is all-powerful. With 180.000 men in ordinary times, it has a theoretical reservoir of 510.000 reservists. But for how long
again ? The more time passes, the more its forces, in spite of the order of general mobilization and recall of the reservists, instead of increasing in power, tend to be reduced like a skin of
grief. After the Slovenes and the Croats who abandoned the federal army at the same time as their State declared itself independent, on June 25, the time is now for all the
components of the army to save who can. Albanians and Muslims are unreliable recruits. Macedonians and Hungarians are dragging their feet to enlist. 5000 conscripts from
Vojvodina refusing to go to war have already left to take refuge in Hungary. Hungary, which in order to avoid any additional tension with the government in Belgrade, requires everyone
crossing the border, let them lay down their arms on entering. Even the young Serbs do not show frenzied enthusiasm. Only 15% of Serbs in Sarajevo (Bosnia) answered the call and according to
the independent weekly “Time“, the situation is identical in Serbia. Conscription has so far only made it possible to raise only 15% of the Serbs in Belgrade and 50% in the entire
Republic. Especially since the troops already incorporated are beginning to desert in waves, as happened ten days ago in a barracks in Herzegovina where six hundred Serbian reservists
abandoned their unit and returned home without further formalities; and on the lack of fighting spirit of the management – ​​the base command could only let it happen; he just disarmed them
unenthusiastic warriors and promised “prosecution in accordance with the military code“. Furthermore, the "suicide" Monday, September 30 of Rear Admiral Barovic, one of
commanders of the federal staff is a rather negative sign of troop morale. It is not the few hundred Serbian militia volunteers incorporated into the federal army who
will be able to compensate for these losses (cf table), without counting the losses in material, at least a dozen planes and about a hundred tanks.

The situation is no longer bright among the Croats
since according to Milos Vasic, military specialist of Vreme, “10.000 Croats have already found refuge in Slovenia (in Italy or Austria)
to avoid serving in the National Guard
”. If the balance of power does not allow the "federals" to win a decisive battle in the coming days, the Croats
will be able to dedicate one of their prayers to… Marshal Tito! The "old man" by dint of proclaiming the merits of self-management, and wanting to update the struggle of the partisans had indeed made a choice
strategic and political to institutionalize the carrying of weapons, local rifle factories – a particularly vibrant tradition in Bosnia – and more seriously the establishment of DCA in
some factories. It thus offered the various “autonomous” republics operational capabilities – with territorial detachments and training of reservists. A curious reversal of
history, which the “Yugoslav People's Army” would do without today. Ironically, Croatian officials who initially said they no longer wanted
hear about territorial defense seem forced by the facts to adapt quickly to a practice of popular army. While the Serbs holding a popular army fall back
gradually on a professional army.

(article Published in La Truffle October 7, 1991 © NGV – JSI infographic)

Appendix – the forces present

* Serbs 40.000
**other 30.000
*** 10.000
Called (100.000)
* Serbs, Montenegrins 40.000
** Albanians, Muslims, Macedonians 20.000
*** Hungarian, Croatian, Slovene 40.000
Reservists (510.000)
* Serbs, Montenegrins 60.000 men
** miscellaneous 30.000
*** Hungarians, Croats, Slovenes, Albanians, Muslims, Macedonians, Serbian deserters   
Total safe forces available (maximum capacity) 140.000 men

Legend: * = safe troops, ** unsafe, *** absent (deserters, refractories, neutrals, adversaries, etc.)
NB: be careful, these figures are only an assessment of the situation, they give an idea of ​​the situation and cannot be considered as scientifically exact, given the lack of
knowledge of the sociological composition of the Yugoslav army.

Total Croatian forces (minimum) 60.000

Despite what they may suggest, the Croats, like their Slovenian neighbors, have more than satisfactorily equipped themselves with new weapons. The only handicap – and a significant one – they would not have
(for now) not like the Federal Heavy Arms Army, Air Force and Navy. Indeed, in a few months Yugoslavia has been transformed into a vast arms market where you find not
only the arsenal of the defunct Warsaw Pact, but also weapons from Western countries or developing countries. According to the specialized weekly Jane's Defense Weekly, all
belligerents have received “since June for more than 15 million dollars (or 84 million francs) of individual weapons from the “black market” and from approved foreign suppliers.”

Federal Army (Belgrade)
Land 1.850 heavy tanks including 850 T-54/55,
Artillery 1.934 towed guns, more than 6.000 mortars
Air 455 MIG fighter planes, 198 armed helicopters.
Navy 5 submarines, 4 missile frigates, 59 patrol boats and coastguards

Serbian militias
supply of:
    – Israel,
    – Federal Army

    – Hungary (Kalashnikoff)
    – Singapore (SAR-80 assault rifles from Charterde Industries of Singapore) – Stinger (USA manufacturing – transit Cyprus – destined for Afghanistan)
    – Israel (sophisticated Steyr Police precision rifles or Israeli UZI submachine guns)
continuous flows
    – Italy (Italian Franchi Spas 12 smoothbore rifles
    – Austria
    - Australia
    – Germany (German MBB anti-tank rocket launcher)
   + Federal Army (territorial stock)

Manufacturing locations
    Helicopters (Serbia south east of Belgrade, 80 kms)
    Tanks (Bosnia – near Sarajevo)
    The Zastava factory manufactures the M72 and AK47 in Kragujevac (Serbia)
    In Mostar (Bosnia): manufacturing of Galeb and SuperGaleb aircraft

c) Population distribution
Serbs 36%
Croatians 20%
Muslims 9%
Slovenians 8%
Albanian 7%
Yugoslavs 5%
Montenegro 2%
Hungarian 2%
miscellaneous 5%

(article published in La Truffe, French daily newspaper, November 1991)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).