Germany's unilateral recognition in 1991 of the secessionist states of Slovenia and Croatia was an act of irresponsible diplomacy. Yet it was less a product of cynicism and sinister intent than a hastily assembled attempt to apply the former West German state's acquired techniques of multilateral diplomacy to the radically altered circumstance of the unified Germany's place in Europe. The Kohl government sought a policy on the Balkan crisis that would both appeal to the self-conscious pacifist-internationalist strain in German public opinion and avoid direct German and European responsibility for the largely unknown consequences of that policy. The outcome was an initiative that internationalized the Balkan crisis even as it defined it as a cause of democratically expressed aspirations of national self-determination. Bonn's actions constituted less a crime than a tragic mistake, in so far as they let pass a critical opportunity to influence, perhaps decisively, the entire discussion of the ethically legitimate purposes of sovereign statehood in the post-Cold War world.
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