- 04 Mar 2013 06:00
If nuclear weapons had been involved, it's more likely that they would have started off in the hands of the Yugoslav government pre-collapse. They seem to have done most of the ground work to achieve the breakout capacity, so for this hypothetical to occur they probably have to be the ones to make more progress on it. After the collapse of Yugoslavia I would think it would be too chaotic etc. for any of the new states to build a nuclear weapon (let alone several).
Assuming the nukes start off in the hands of the unified government, the whole collapse might have happened differently. The series of crises that lead to the collapse would have set off major alarm bells in the West if there was a threat of some successor state getting the weapons and using them or proliferation. I think at that point the powers would have stepped and you would have seen a more ordered breakup of Yugoslavia (what would happen with any nuclear arms at that point is an interesting question... I don't think anyone would want to just give them up, and sharing them out isn't going to be popular either). You might still have seen some skirmishing by those seeking independence, but the large scale fighting and separatism you saw in the actual conflict would have been avoided by early containment.
I don't think the arms themselves would have prevented the collapse. There wouldn't have been many 'valid' targets, and their usage would guarantee the dismemberment of the Yugoslav state, which would defeat the purpose of their use.