Overview Last updated: December, 2011
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) intermittently pursued both a nuclear energy and weapons program throughout the Tito regime. However, none of Yugoslavia's successor states currently has an active nuclear weapons program.
The SFRY is known to have produced a variety of chemical weapons, with a majority of the stockpile inherited by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), formed in 1992 by Serbia and Montenegro after the secession of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia. There were allegations of chemical weapons use in the former Yugoslavia during the wars of the 1990s. There is no evidence of a biological warfare program in the SFRY or any of its successor states. The SFRY had acquired and developed short-range tactical rockets, predominantly multiple launch rocket systems (MLRSs), and cooperated with Iraq on the manufacture of rockets and other military projects before Desert Storm. The Republic of Serbia extensively employs Soviet/Russian air-defense missile systems.
The Republic of Serbia, as well as all other Yugoslav successor states, currently has no active nuclear weapons program. From the early 1950s through the mid-1970s, Yugoslavia intermittently pursued both a nuclear energy and weapons program. The regime of Josip Broz Tito, driven by a desire for international status and security concerns about a potential Soviet attack, initiated the program in the late 1940s. Belgrade collaborated with Norway, which had an advanced nuclear research program, until Tito deactivated the weapons program in the early 1960s. After India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, Yugoslavia restarted its weapons program (despite having joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT] in 1970) to "compete" with its rival for leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement. Limited financial resources, inter-republic disagreements, and indifferent nuclear scientists working brought the program to an end in 1987 without ever producing a functioning weapon. In August 2002, 48 kilograms of 80 percent highly enriched uranium (HEU) were transferred from the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences near Belgrade to a processing plant in Dmitrovgrad, Russia. Efforts to remove spent fuel, secure radioactive waste, and decommission the heavy water research reactor at Vinca are on-going. In October 2006, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that it had finalized a contract to package and ship over two metric tonnes of spent nuclear fuel from Vinca to Russia.
The SFRY acceded to the NPT in 1970 and signed an Additional Protocol with the IAEA in July 2005. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia acceded to the treaty between 1992 and 1995. The Union of Serbia and Montenegro (formed in 2003) acceded to the NPT in 2003. After the Union's disintegration in 2006, the Republic of Serbia remained a treaty member as a successor state. Montenegro acceded in June 2006.
There is no evidence in the open literature of the existence of a biological warfare program within the FRY or any of its successor states. Published allegations during the 2002 Boka Star smuggling incident suggested Serbia and Montenegro had possibly shipped biological equipment to Iraq, although this could not be confirmed. Yugoslavia signed the Geneva Protocol in 1929. Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Slovenia are all states parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC).
Yugoslavia is known to have produced a variety of chemical weapons. The majority of stockpiled weapons are believed to have been inherited by its successor, Serbia and Montenegro (now Republic of Serbia). Reports indicate that the former Yugoslavia's Army produced significant quantities of sarin (50 tons), sulfur mustard, phosgene, the incapacitant BZ (allegedly a stockpile of 300 tons), and tear gas. At least four chemical warfare (CW) production facilities have been identified in Serbia: Prva Iskra in Baric; Miloje Blagojevic in Lucani; and Milojie Zakic and Merima in Krusevac. While the Trajal plant in Krusevac is no longer associated with the production of CW agents, serious questions exist about accounting and previous production and storage of chemical materials there, as well as the lack of accounting at the other three sites. Yugoslavia used its CW technologies to develop chemical munitions for Iraq prior to the first Gulf War in the "Jastrebac" (Little Hawk) program and chemical munitions for the Orkan MLRS system under the "KOL15" program. There have been allegations that chemical weapons were used in the areas of the former Yugoslavia. Both Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats alleged that Bosnian government forces used chlorine during the conflict in Bosnia. Bosnian Serbs allegedly used BZ against Moslem refugees in July 1995, and the FRY Army may have used BZ against Kosovo Albanians in 1999. Mysterious deaths during the 1999 NATO bombings of suspected chemical facilities have also been attributed to chemical weapons production. The then Kingdom of Yugoslavia signed the Geneva Protocol in 1929. In April 2000, the FRY acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC): the last of the Yugoslav successor states to do so. After the break-up of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro, Serbia remained a CWC member as a successor state, while Montenegro formally acceded in 2006. In September of 2003, all remaining equipment and materials associated with the production of CW agents were destroyed under the supervision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors. Since that time Serbia has committed itself to contributing to the implementation of the Convention. Most significantly, Serbia has provided an annual series of training courses in CW preparedness to OPCW member states. Croatia has also sought to play an active international role in CW defense by convening a series of international conferences on CW defense since the mid-1990s and hosting the first OPCW Assistance delivery exercise in 2002. Slovenia has made a point of committing its CW defense forces to NATO's rapid-reaction forces.
Yugoslavia has acquired and developed short-range tactical rockets and anti-aircraft systems, including the 262 millimeter (mm) M-87 Orkan multiple rocket launcher produced at the Vogosca facility north of Sarajevo. Timer fuses for the rocket are produced at the Binas facility. Prior to Desert Storm, Yugoslavia worked cooperatively with Iraq in the latter's efforts to indigenously manufacture this rocket and others. The 2002 Boka Star incident included the confiscation of 208 solid-propellant rocket fuel components, as well as undocumented reports that the shipment included missiles. Belgrade and Baghdad cooperated on other military projects. Iraq transferred production plans for the Al-Taw'han medium-range air-to-air missile to Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia reportedly assisted with Iraq's Al-Samoud ballistic missile.
There are unconfirmed reports that Serbia had a ballistic missile development program during the 1990s, which it may have abandoned due to financial constraints, while other companies were contracted though Jugoimport-SDPR for Iraq to provide for maintenance and adaptation of SA-2 and SA-6 anti-aircraft missiles. Current Serbian air defenses extensively utilize Soviet/Russian short-range surface-to-air missiles (SAM), and Belgrade used the SA-2 SAM as a ballistic missile during the Balkan conflicts. Other medium-range missile systems employed by Belgrade include the Russian-made FROG-7 and the Swedish RBS-15F air-to-ship missile. The U.S. Embassy's 2002 non-paper claimed the FRY assisted both Libya and Iraq with their "long range" missile/rocket programs, sighting the presence of FRY missile specialists in Iraq throughout 2001. Other scientists from Belgrade have developed a plethora of dual-use technologies suitable for a "poor-man's" cruise missile, and are rumored to have helped Iraqi scientists convert Iraqi MiG-21 and other training vehicles into unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). None of the former republics of Yugoslavia is a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright © 2011 by MIIS.
Get the Facts on Former Yugoslavia
- Intermittently pursued a nuclear weapons program from the 1940s to 1987
- Produced significant quantities of blister and nerve agents before the 1990s
- Cooperated with Iraq in the production of short-range rockets and ballistic missiles prior to Operation Desert Storm
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