Contested Sovereignty: The International Politics of Regime Change in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Christopher Lamont

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2 Citations (Scopus)


At the conclusion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s 1999 air campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Savezna republika Jugoslavije: SRJ) the United States publicly committed itself to a policy of regime change towards the Belgrade government presided over by Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević. In addition, the May 1999 indictment of Milošević by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for crimes against humanity marked an unprecedented act of judicial intervention that challenged hitherto dominant conceptions of the norm of Westphalian sovereignty. Those acts – state promotion of regime change and the indictment of a sitting head of state by an international criminal tribunal – both require an examination of the role of external agency in either bringing about or acting as a catalyst for regime change. The role of external agency in promoting domestic change has provoked a debate within the literature as to whether or not a causal relationship exists between external intervention and domestic change; however, understandings of the normative implications of external intervention remain underdeveloped. Normative appeals by both interveners and the subject of intervention sought to redefine sovereignty. The Milošević regime attempted to use the Westphalian notion of sovereignty to fend off external pressure, while Western powers legitimized their intervention through appeals to humanitarian norms and by direct appeals to citizens of the SRJ. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is twofold: it examines the contestation and the attempts to redefine state sovereignty on the part of states, and empirically assesses whether or not causal links can be identified between external agents and regime change in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in October 2000.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-198
JournalJournal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Jun 2009


  • Serbia
  • Sovereignty
  • Regime Change
  • Foreign Policy


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