bosnia report
No. 14 February - March 1996
Training and Arming the Bosnian Army

The Dayton Peace Accords signed on 14 December 1995, UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1021 passed on 22 November 1995, and the Clinton Administration's commitment (in compliance with SJ.44, the Dole McCain joint Resolution passed by the Senate on 13 December 1995) to provide for military assistance to the Bosnian Government, are currently the primary determinants of the availability of training and arms for the Bosnian Army, which for four years has been severely handicapped by a lack of weapons with which to defend Bosnia and its citizens. The Accords call for arms control negotiations between Bosnia Croatia and the 'Federal Republik of Yugoslavia ('FRY') - ie. Serbia-Montenegro - and commit them to delay the acquisition of arms, if a negotiated agreement is not reached, the Accords impose an arms control regime. UNSCR 1921 provides for the eventual termination of the UN arms embargo imposed on the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). The Dole-McCain joint Resolution made the Senate's support for the deployment of US troops to Bosnia conditional upon the President leading an international effort to train and arm the Bosnian Army.


On 25 September 1991, the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed UNSCR 713, which demanded that all countries prohibit the transport of arms into the SRFY. President Bush soon issued a series of Executive Orders that complied with the resolution and imposed a corresponding US arms emÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ`bargo.

It may be argued that the UN arms embargo was appropriately applied to the sub-state entity of Bosnia at the time of its adoption, on the grounds that the SFRY then still existed in international law despite the June 1991 declarations of independence of Slovenia and Croatia. But it could not have been legitimately applied to the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina without its consent after the dissolution of SRFY, which was definitive by the end of 1991, and especially after the admission of Bosnia to the UN in May 1992. Upon admission to the UN, Bosnia became entitled to the inherent right of self-defence under articles 2(4) and 51 of the UN Charter. When the UNSC acts in violation of this pre-eminent right, member states may declare the actions of the UNSC invalid and act accordingly. The enforcement of UNSCR 713 against Bosnia during Serbian forces' destruction of that state and its nationals constitutes such specific circumstances.

Nevertheless, the UN embargo continues to be enforced against Bosnia as a matter of national policy of the major Security Council powers, including the US. On 26 July and 1 August 1995 respectively, the Senate and House passed by more than two-thirds majorities the Dole-Lieberman Bill, which would have eventually terminated the US embargo upon a UNPROFOR withdrawal. On 11 August, President Clinton vetoed the bill. The Administration's subsequent diplomatic initiative to end the fighting in the Balkans pre-empted a veto-override by Congress.

The Dayton Accords

The termination of the international and US arms embargoes against Bosnia featured prominently in the Dayton negotiations of November 1995. When the Clinton Administration, despite earlier promises, refused to include in the agreement to be initialled in Dayton a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the US and Bosnia to commit the US to arm and train the Bosnian Army, the Bosnian Government almost withdraw from the talks. The Administration responded by threatening to conclude a separate peace agreement with Croatia and Serbia, without Bosnian participation, and by promising to include the MOU in the final version of the agreement to be signed by the following month in Paris. The Bosnian Government ultimately relented, yet the MOU was not included in the agreement signed on 14 December in Paris.

Nevertheless, the Accords include several provisions affecting the availability of arms to Bosnia (including its new constituent 'entities' the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska), Croatia and the 'FRY'. While the Accords do not terminate the UN or US arms embargoes, they commit the parties not to import light arms until after 13 March 1996, or mines and heavy arms (defined as tanks, artillery above 75mm calibre, armoured combat vehicles, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters) until after 11 June 1996. These stipulations would be superseded, however, if the parties agree to an arms control regime before 11 June.

If the parties fail to reach an arms control agreement by 11 June, the Accords would limit the total numbers of heavy weapons that could be possessed by the 'FRY', Croatia and Bosnia, respectively, to a ratio of 5:2:2. The exact quotas would be established according to a 'baseline' equalling the totals possessed by the 'FRY' as reported by Belgrade on 23 January 1996 (ten days after the deadline set by the Accords). Specifically, the quote for the 'FRY' would be 75% of the baseline, and the quotas for Croatia and Bosnia would each be 30% of the baseline. Bosnia's quota would be divided between the Federation and the Republika Srpska, respectively, according to a ratio of 2:1. The Accords neither address the complications inherent in the Bosnian Croat forces' failure to integrate with the Bosnian Army, nor provide for enforcement of the above provisions.

UNSCR 1021 (1995)

On 22 November 1995, the Security Council passed UNSCR 1021, which provides for the gradual termination of the UN arms embargo (UNSCR 713) impoÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ`sed on the SFRY and currently being enforced against Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, the 'FRY' and Macedonia. The resolution's provisions complement those of the Dayton Accords. Specifically, the resolution terminates the prohibition on light arms on 13 March 1996 (90 days after UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali reported to the UNSC that Bosniak Croatia and the 'FRY' had signed the Accords), and the prohibition on heavy arms on 11 June 1996 (180 days after the report). Under the resolution, however, the Security Council retains the power to delay the termination of the embargo.

UNSCR 1021 does not provide for an earlier termination of the international embargo even if Bosnia, Croatia, and the 'FRY' agree before 11 June to limits on heavy arms. Although the UN embargo is legally invalid as applied to Bosnia, it is likely that most states, including the US, will continue to observe it until its official termination, regardless of the Dayton Accords' provision for earlier arms deliveries to Bosnia, Croatia and the 'FRY'.

The Dole-McCain Joint Resolution

On 13 December 1995, the Senate passed by a vote of 69 to 29 the Dole-McCain joint Resolution, which expressed support for the deployment of US troops to Bosnia to help enforce the Dayton Accords on the condition that the Clinton Administration submit a written plan for and lead an international effort to train and arm the Bosnian Army, and provide regular reports to Congress on the implementation of the Accords. Although the resolution is non-binding, its overwhelming bipartisan support ultimately forced the Administration to make a written commitment to Congress to lead an international effort to train and arm the Bosnian Army,.

In partial compliance with Dole-McCain, the Administration announced in January 1996 that it had arranged for the Bosnian Government and the Federation to hire a US civilian firm to provide training for the Bosnian Army in Bosnia, and perhaps in a third country such as Turkey. Administration officials also indicated that the US would provide the Bosnian Army with defensive weapons after the relevant embargoes are terminated. The Administration hopes to arrange for third countries to provide most of the funding and equipment for the training and arming programmes.


Although the Clinton Administration currently insists that it is prepared at least to facilitate third-party training and arming programmes for the Bosnian Army, Russia and several US allies, particularly Britain and France, strongly oppose any such assistance. Their opposition has in the past contributed to - or provided an alibi for - the Administration's resistance to efforts to lift the arms embargo and even minimally assist the Bosnian Army, or even to provide Bosnia with reconstruction assistance, when Sarajevo has even slightly deviated from strict compliance with the Dayton Accords. At the same time, it has not placed concomitant pressure on the Bosnian Serb forces in response to their frequent and far more serious violations of the Accords. It therefore remains far from certain that the Administration will follow through with even the minimal commitments it has thus far made to assist the Bosnian Army.

This briefing paper was prepared by the Balkan Institute, PO Box 27974, Washington DC 20038-7974, tel. (202)737-5219. fax (292)737-1940, e-mail


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