Former Yugoslavia flag

Former Yugoslavia


Last Updated: July, 2017

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.

Historically, the Former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) produced chemical weapons, and pursued both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. However, none of the Former Yugoslavia's successor states have weapons of mass destruction or programs for their development. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, (FRY), formed in 1992 by Serbia and Montenegro after the secession of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia, was the legal successor state of the SFRY. The FRY was renamed Serbia and Montenegro in 2003. In 2006, Montenegro seceded from the union, and the Republic of Serbia became the legal successor state of Serbia and Montenegro. Among all of the Former Yugoslavia's successor states, the Republic of Serbia is the only one to maintain missile programs.

There were allegations of chemical weapons use in the Former Yugoslavia during the wars of the 1990s, [1] but there is no evidence of a biological warfare program in the SFRY or any of its successor states. In the late 1980s, the SFRY acquired and developed short-range tactical rockets, consisting predominantly of multiple launch rocket systems (MLRSs). Before and after Desert Storm, under then-President Slobodan Milosevic, the FRY cooperated with the Iraqi military on the manufacture of rockets, improvement of ballistic missiles and other military projects, possibly including the joint development of chemical munitions. [2] The Republic of Serbia extensively employs Soviet/Russian air-defense missile systems.


The regime of Josip Broz Tito, driven by a desire for international status and security and concerns about a potential Soviet attack, initiated a nuclear weapons program in the late 1940s. Yugoslavia collaborated with Norway, which had an advanced nuclear research program, until Tito deactivated the weapons program in the early 1960s. [3] In 1970, the SFRY joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state. After India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, the Former Yugoslavia restarted its nuclear weapons program. Limited financial resources, inter-republic disagreements, and indifferent nuclear scientists brought the program to an end in 1987 without ever producing a functioning weapon. [4] With funding from the United States and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), the last of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) left over from the nuclear program was transferred to Russia on 22 December 2010. [5]

Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) between 1992 and 1995. The Union of Serbia and Montenegro 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. All of the successor states have signed Additional Protocols with the International Atomic Energy Agency, though the Republic of Serbia is still in the process of ratification.

In 2000, Slovenia joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Serbia followed, joining the NSG in 2013. [6]

In June 2017, Montenegro officially became a NATO member state, extending the alliance's deterrence umbrella. Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia are the only former-Yugoslavian states to have joined the alliance. Russia has actively opposed NATO expansion in the region. [7]


The Kingdom of Yugoslavia signed the Geneva Protocol in 1929, and its successor, the SFRY, ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) on 25 October 1973. [8] Following the breakup of the SFRY in 1991, the various successor states independently acceded to the Convention: Slovenia on 7 April 1992, Croatia on 28 April 1993, Bosnia Herzegovina on 15 August 1994, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on 24 December 1996. Although the FRY may have conducted some research on defense against biological warfare, [9] no evidence of offensive BW-related research or production activity has ever surfaced.


Prior to its breakup in 1991, the SFRY produced a variety of chemical weapons (CW), including the nerve agent sarin, the blister agent mustard, the psychotropic agent BZ, and tear gas, [10] and developed a wide range of delivery systems including artillery shells, bombs, rockets, and mines. [11] Rocket systems developed with assistance from Iraq raised proliferation concerns in the early 1990s because they could be fitted with both conventional and chemical warheads. [12] Most SFRY CW capabilities that were not destroyed during the breakup were inherited by its successor, the FRY, which operated a number of chemical weapons production facilities, and at the height of its capability possessed large quantities of sarin, soman, VX nerve agents, mustard lewisite, and phosgene. [13] The Bosnian government also retained some limited CW capabilities. [14] In the conflicts following the dissolution of the SFRY, a number of parties alleged the use of chemical weapons by their opponents, but independent observers were unable to verify that chemical weapons other than tear gas were actually used in any of these cases. [15]

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia signed the Geneva Protocol in 1929. In April 2000, the FRY acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), becoming the last of the Yugoslav successor states to do so. After the break-up of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro, the Republic of 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. [16]


Though the SFRY's indigenous missile capabilities were relatively limited, the country (and its successor the FRY) at times raised significant missile proliferation concerns because of its cooperation with Libya and Iraq. The majority of SFRY and FRY missile capabilities consisted of non-strategic Soviet systems, including the P-15 Termit (NATO: SS-N-2 Styx) anti-ship missile; the R-70 Luna-M (GRAU: 9K52; NATO: FROG-7B) artillery rocket; the S-75 Dvina (NATO: SA-2 Guideline); the S-125 Pechora (NATO: SA-3 Goa); and Kub (GRAU: 2K12; NATO: SA-6 Gainful) surface-to-air missiles (SAM). [17] In addition to these Soviet weapons, Yugoslavia imported the RBS-15 anti-ship/land-attack missile from Sweden. [18] The Croatian navy currently deploys the RBS-15 on navy vessels. During the Balkan conflicts, the FRY displayed the K-15 Krajina SAM, which was likely a modified version of the SA-2, and which reportedly had a range of 150 km. [19]

Over the years, the SFRY and the FRY allegedly supported a number of Iraqi missile projects. Prior to Operation Desert Storm, Yugoslavia worked cooperatively with Iraq in the latter's efforts to manufacture the Yugoslavian M-87 Orkan multiple rocket launcher. [20] Later, companies contracted through Yugoimport-SDPR provided maintenance and adaptation for Iraq's SA-2 and SA-6 systems. [21] In 2002, acting off of tips from U.S. intelligence, Croatian authorities intercepted a ship called the Boka Star en route from the FRY to Iraq, and confiscated 14 containers of solid-propellant rocket fuel pellets. [22] The U.S. Embassy's 2002 non-paper claimed that the FRY assisted both Libya and Iraq with their "long range" cruise missile programs, citing the presence of FRY missile specialists in Iraq throughout 2001. [23] Belgrade developed dual-use technologies suitable for a "poor-man's" cruise missile, and was rumored to have helped Iraqi scientists attempt to convert Iraqi MiG-21 and L-29 training vehicles into unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). [24] Iraq also transferred production plans for the Al-Taw'han medium-range air-to-air missile to the FRY, and the FRY reportedly assisted with Iraq's Al-Samoud ballistic missile. [25]

None of the former republics of Yugoslavia is a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). This being the case, the Republic of Serbia has developed strong ties to the UAE defense industry, with Serbian company Yugoimport SDPR and Emirati company EARTH recently signing a EUR 200 million ($257 million) contract for developing a new long range cruise missile, the ALAS. [26]

[1] "Chemical Weapons Claims Probed," Jane's Defence Weekly, 21 August 1993, p. 5; The CBW Conventions Bulletin, No. 22, December 1993, p. 19.
[2] "Arming Saddam: The Yugoslav Connection," International Crisis Group - Balkans Report No. 136 Belgrade/Brussels, 3 December 2002,
[3] For an in-depth discussion of Norwegian assistance to Yugoslavia's nuclear program, refer to: William C. Potter, Djuro Miljanic, and Ivo Slaus, "Tito's Nuclear Legacy," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 56, No. 2, March/April 2000,
[4] William C. Potter, Djuro Miljanic, and Ivo Slaus, "Tito's Nuclear Legacy," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 56, No. 2, March/April 2000,
[5] Greg Webb, "Massive Operation Safely Secures Serbian Nuclear Fuel in Russia," IAEA - News Centre, 22 December 2010,; "Spent Fuel Repatriation from Serbia," International Conference on Research Reactors Safe Management and Effective Utilization, Presentation, Rabat, November 2011,
[6] "Recent NSG Developments," Report by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), n.d.,; "Nuclear Suppliers Group," Nuclear Threat Initiative, 31 January 2017,
[7] Zachary Cohen, "Montenegro officials joins NATO," CNN Politics, 5 June 2017,; "NATO Member Countries," North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, 6 February 2017,; Rikard Jozwiak, "NATO Welcomes Newest Member Montenegro," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 7 June 2017,
[8] High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Protocol, SIPRI website, accessed 6 October 2009,; "Status of the Convention," Organization for the Prohibition of Biological Weapons (OPBW),
[9] The Military Medical Academy (VMA - Vojnomedicinska akademija), located in Belgrade, maintained a Department of Biological Warfare Defense within the Institute for Epidemiology into the early 2000s. This department is no longer listed on the VMA website and may have been disbanded. See: website of the Military Medical Academy Epidemiology Institute (in Serbian), 8 October 2009, Note that the English version of the MMA website makes no reference to the Epidemiology Institute.
[10] "Combatant Forces in the Former Yugoslavia," Central Intelligence Agency National Intelligence Estimate, July 1993, p. 49.
[11] "Chemical Agents in the Former Yugoslavia," Federation of American Scientists, 23 April 2000.
[12] "Arming Saddam: The Yugoslav Connection," International Crisis Group, Balkans Report No. 136, 3 December 2002.
[13] "Chemical Agents in the Former Yugoslavia," Federation of American Scientists, 23 April 2000.
[14] "Clouds of War: Chemical Weapons in the Former Yugoslavia," Human Rights Watch, March 1997, Vol. 9, No. 5; "Combatant Forces in the Former Yugoslavia," Central Intelligence Agency National Intelligence Estimate, July 1993, p. 49.
[15] "Chemical Warfare in Bosnia? The Strange Experiences of the Srebenica Survivors," Human Rights Watch November 1998, 10 (9); "Arming Saddam: The Yugoslav Connection," International Crisis Group, Balkans Report No. 136, 3 December 2002.
[16] "Serbia-Montenegro completes destruction of dual-use chemical industry equipment," Beta News Agency (via BBC Worldwide Monitoring), 17 October 2003.
[17] "Combatant Forces in the Former Yugoslavia," Central Intelligence Agency National Intelligence Estimate, July 1993, pp. 5-8; Alastair Finlan, The Collapse of Yugoslavia: 1991-99, (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2004) pg. 20.
[18] Norman Friedman, The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems, (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2006), pg. 544.
[19] Duncan Lennox, "K-15 Krajina," Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive Weapons), 23 June 2005; "Ballistic, Cruise Missile, and Missile Defense Systems: Trade and Significant Developments, March 1995 - June 1995," Nonproliferation Review, Fall 1995, Vol. 3, No. 1, pg. 155.
[20] "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD," Central Intelligence Agency, 30 September 2004,
[21] "Arming Saddam: The Yugoslav Connection," International Crisis Group, Balkans Report No. 136, 3 December 2002.
[22] Daniel Williams and Nicholas Wood, "Yugoslavia's Arms Ties to Iraq Draw U.S. Scrutiny," The Washington Post, 1 November 2002.
[23] Nicholas Wood, "New Yugoslav-Iraqi Ties Alleged; U.S. Says Defense Firms Developing Cruise Missile for Baghdad," The Washington Post, 27 October 2002.
[24] "Arming Saddam: The Yugoslav Connection," International Crisis Group, Balkans Report No. 136, 3 December 2002.
[25] David Nissman, "Iraq Report: 7 May 1999," Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, 7 May 1999, Vol. 2 No. 18; David C. Isby, "Iraq continues tests of Al Samoud SSM," Jane's Missiles and Rockets, 1 August 2000.
[26] "Several Agreements with UAE Signed," Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, Press Services - Daily Survey, 18 February 2013,; "Serbia Signs 'Major Investment Deals' with Emirates," Balkan Insight, 18 February 2013,; "Serbian and UAE firms to develop missile," UPI, 20 February 2013,; "The United Arab Emirates Have Started Rescuing Serbia," Borysfen Intel - Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies, 21 February 2013,

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

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.