The 1991 Yugoslav crisis was a test for our armed forces. On June 25, 1991 Croatia and Slovenia proclaimed their independence from Yugoslavia. Before that, democratic elections had taken place in Slovenia for the first time – despite massive threats from Belgrade. The Slovenes had previously voted in a referendum with an overwhelming majority for statehood. All efforts by Slovenia to reach an agreement with Belgrade on a confederative state structure with Belgrade had failed.
The government in Belgrade did not want to surrender Slovenia without a fight. Armed conflicts followed between the Yugoslav army and the Slovenian territorial forces, which extended to Austria’s national border. The Austrian Armed Forces were not surprised at the outbreak of fighting, but were surprised by the timing. The General Staff had already dealt with such a scenario for the first time in the 1960s. After the death of the head of state Josip Broz Tito in 1980, secession and fighting were already expected.
When the first Yugoslav wars broke out in 1991, the armed forces already had plans in the drawer. The Austrian Armed Forces were armed from the start and quickly drew a 300-kilometer security line along the Austrian border. At the beginning there were 5,000 soldiers in action, at the top there were 7,650 men – and also the army’s tanks. They guarded the state border and ensured the safety of the population.
Outwardly, the mission was a good one. People in the border regions always felt safe – the mistakes of 1968 were avoided here, because back then the people in the border region did not feel sufficiently protected. Combat operations did not move to Austrian territory.