The indirect cause of the Bosnian War that raged from April, 1992 to December, 1995 was undoubtedly the collapse of the Soviet Union. Just as the member nations of the Soviet had rushed to form independent governments as the Communist experiment collapsed, the six republics that made up the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia began to break away from the central government that had held them together in order to form new governments based, at least in part, on the principle of self-determination.

Between 1991 and 1992, four of the six Yugoslav republics—Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia—seceded from Yugoslavia, but they did not leave in peace. Armed forces from what was already being called “the former Yugoslavia” fought to maintain control over the territory and populations that were seeking to form new and independent states, particularly in Bosnia-Herzegovina; before the fighting came to an end in 1995, half of that country’s population had been either involved in the war or were directly affected by it.

In an effort to stem the bloodshed, the United Nations established a protective force, UNPROFOR, on February 1, 1992, with U.N. troops deployed to ensure that “U.N. Protected Areas” (UNPAs) were demilitarized and that civilians were safe from military attack. Over the next three years, the mission was extended to achieve several mission goals, among them the reopening of the Sarajevo airport to accommodate humanitarian relief missions, monitoring Yugoslav troop withdrawals from Croatia, and overseeing various cease-fire agreements.

While the U.N. loudly proclaimed UNPROFO a success, the fact of the matter is that it was replaced by yet another U.N. mission, and that ethnic fighting continued on into the new millennium.

The Department of Defense has authorized the acceptance and wear of the medal and ribbon the United Nations established for the UNPROFOR operation. Only those members of the United States Armed Forces who served under operational or tactical control of the U.N. for at least 90 consecutive days are eligible to wear the decoration.

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