Serbs, Croats and Muslims have been fighting each other in the Balkans for hundreds of years. With the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, they began pouncing on each other once again. The breakaway republic of Bosnia became the first battleground.

This quickly attracted international intervention for several reasons. First, instability in any part of Europe is worrisome to other nations there. Second, Russians have been ethnic allies of Serbs for hundreds of years, and felt a natural inclination to support their cause. Third, so soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was clearly in the U.S.' strategic interest to weaken Serbia, because of its alliance with Russia.