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Warren Zimmermann

Warren Zimmermann speaking
at the Library of Congress.

In office
July 11, 1988 – May 16, 1992
Preceded by John Douglas Scanlan

Born November 16, 1934
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died March 2, 2004 (aged 69)
Great Falls, Virginia
Profession Career Diplomat

Warren Zimmermann (November 16, 1934 – February 3, 2004) was a diplomat, humanitarian and the last US ambassador to Yugoslavia before its disintegration into civil war.[1][2]



Warren Zimmermann served in Moscow (1973-75 and 1981-84), Paris, Caracas and Vienna, where he headed the US delegation at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1986-89). But it was Yugoslavia that marked him more than any other phase in his professional life, and brought him to prominence.[2]

Zimmerman was a member of the Yale Class of 1956, and a member of Scroll and Key Society.


Bosnian War

Zimmermann resigned from the diplomatic service in 1994 in protest at President Bill Clinton's reluctance to intervene in the Bosnian war. He campaigned to persuade America that it must act to end Serbian aggression of the Bosnian war, and wrote a perceptive account of his experiences in Yugoslavia, The Origins Of A Catastrophe (1996).[2][3] He went on to teach at Johns Hopkins University (1994-96) and Columbia University (1996-2000), and spoke out against human rights violations and the search for justice in the Balkans.[2]

According to the testimony of Warren Zimmerman, Franjo Tuđman claimed that Bosnia should be divided between the Croats and the Serbs in what came to be known as the Karađorđevo agreement. "Tudman admitted that he discussed these fantasies with Milošević, the Yugoslav Army leadership and the Bosnian Serbs," writes Zimmerman, "and they agreed that the only solution is to divide up Bosnia between Serbia and Croatia".[4][5]

According to Robert W. Tucker, Professor Emeritus of American Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins University and David C. Hendrickson, a Professor at Colorado College, Zimmerman may have scuttled the Lisbon Agreement.[6] This was an agreement that would have made peace between Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats living within the bounds of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the creation of a cantons system, such as exist in Switzerland. On March 28 1992, after the agreement had been signed he met with Alija Izetbegović, leader of the Bosnian Muslims and all indications point toward that fact he made that assurances of U.S. support for a full independent nation. The later signed Dayton Accord proposed a very similar canton system, which ended a bloody four year civil war.[7]


Following his ambassadorship in Yugoslavia, Zimmermann authored two books: Origins of a Catastrophe: Yugoslavia and Its Destroyers — America's Last Ambassador Tells What Happened and Why,published in 1996, and First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power, a work about Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, John Hay, Elihu Root, and Admiral Alfred T. Mahan, published in 2002.

According to Samantha Power, journalist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, Zimmermann’s career in Yugoslavia was marked by frustration with the resistance of the Bush’s administration to intervene. His last official act before he was recalled to the United States on May 16, 1992, was to write a confidential memo called Who Killed Yugoslavia? to the secretary of state. Each of the five sections of the memo was headed by a verse from the poem "Who Killed Cock Robin?". In Zimmermann’s analysis, the nationalism of the Balkan leaders had led to the demise of the country.[8]




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