“The sanctions primarily hurt the general population, not [President Slobodan] Milosevic and his inner circle. Everyone else suffered,” Protic explains. “You could work a job and get paid, but what for? When you did have money, it was worthless because of inflation.”
Protic’s criticisms are commonplace in Serbia these days. Nevertheless, the Balkan Contact Group, representing the United States and five European nations, has once again imposed sanctions. They froze Serbia’s assets abroad and banned new foreign investment in the country. The Contact Group wants Milosevic to negotiate with ethnic Albanian leaders to stop the escalating violence in Serbia’s southern province of Kosovo. More than 200 people have died in clashes there since February, when Serbian forces began a crackdown on separatists in the predominantly ethnic Albanian region.
But Milosevic’s track record suggests that new sanctions will do little to force him to do what the West wants. Around the world, economic sanctions have effectively impoverished nations, but they’ve done little to force the hand of dictatorial leaders. Serbia, like Iraq, Burma and other countries with repressive regimes, lacks a strong middle class and private business sector. Without those internal sources of political pressure, Milosevic has little incentive to give in to sanctions‐backed Western demands.
Moreover, Milosevic’s grip on power actually tightened when sanctions were imposed on Serbia in 1992. The United Nations imposed both an economic embargo and an arms embargo. The economic embargo resulted in an international blockade of imports and exports, except food and medicine, for three years. The sanctions also restricted air travel and participation in international sporting, scientific and cultural events.