Dan Morgan's June 16 op-ed column, "One Nation Under Tito," said that when the "big Yugoslavia . . . was thriving economically and, in many ways, politically too," Serbs were at ease. Reading his article one gets the impression that it was the freedom and equality of others that caused the "comfort level of Serbs to decline." Therefore -- as we interpreted his column -- to boost their sense of security, the Serbian military and paramilitary forces engaged in atrocities in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Mr. Morgan seems to forget that by its constitution, Yugoslavia was a country comprising six nations, and Serbs were only one of those six. Yugoslavia was supposed to be a federation of equals. However, soon after its creation in 1918, it became clear that Yugoslavia had little chance of becoming a happy affair. The main reason was the Serbian perception of Yugoslavia as a Greater Serbia.

It was the very nature of democracy that proved that Yugoslavia was not a sustainable construction. After the fall of communism, all the other nations of the former Yugoslavia opted for multiparty systems and market economies, but Serbia decided that such a choice was a direct threat to its perceived national interests. Slovenes, Croats and other peoples in the former Yugoslavia knew what it took eight years for the West to realize: Slobodan Milosevic and his chauvinistic regime were unacceptable company for peace and prosperity.

The author's claim that the declaration of independence by Slovenia and Croatia "stranded Serbian minorities without providing any guarantees of their future status" is untrue. The West recognized Slovenia and Croatia as independent and sovereign states only after the Badinter Commission declared that their constitutions provided adequate guarantees to minorities.

The author also proposed that a "Yugoslavia as a structure for the integration of economic and security interests that could heal wounds and contain Serbia's demons" would be a good "old-new" option. However, other nations of the former Yugoslavia, which tried to share a state with the Serbs, would disagree.

Southeastern Europe has for too long been hijacked by the Serbian inability to accept democracy and should not be used as a testing ground to see when and whether the Serbs want to be a democratic society. If Serbia eventually decides to accept the criteria and standards of behavior of the Western world, both Slovenia and Croatia will be happy to have friendly relations with Serbia, as we already have with the rest of the countries in the region.

As for the Slovenes and Croats, they made their choice a long time ago: democracy, market economy, NATO and European Union -- and a future for their children in a world of free and prosperous people.




The writers are, respectively, the ambassadors of Slovenia and Croatia to the United States.