Hello Open Marriage, Sayonara Slobodan

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Montenegro’s threat to quit Yugoslavia isn’t any sort of nationalist breakaway; it’s another attempt to turn up the heat on Slobodan Milosevic. The 630,000-population pocket republic on Thursday voted for a proposal to break up the Yugoslav federation, claiming wide-ranging autonomy from Serbia in a new loose confederation. Although similar claims by Slovenia and Croatia preceded violent civil wars in 1991, Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic appears to be more interested in bringing down Milosevic than in actually seceding. "Djuakanovic is no nationalist and he doesn’t want to actually break up the Yugoslav federation; he’s simply not prepared to work with Milosevic," says TIME Belgrade reporter Gillian Sandford. "In fact, Djukanovic has a very close relationship with the anti-Milosevic opposition in Serbia, which envisages the Montenegrin leader playing a key role in a post-Milosevic future."

Of course, elements of the Montenegrin proposal -– such as developing its own currency -– also have a very practical basis. "Montenegro doesn’t want to be dragged down if all hell breaks loose in Serbia," says Sandford. "But this is primarily designed to add to the pressure on Milosevic." The Montenegrin proposal gives Belgrade six weeks to respond, failing which a referendum on independence would be held. Milosevic, meanwhile, could seek to defuse the challenge by offering Djukanovic a greater role in the Yugoslav government, but even in the unlikely event that the Montenegrin accepted, that would give him a platform from which to press for the Serb leader’s ouster. The Serb strongman may also be tempted to send in the troops, although that would open up a new can of worms. Says Sandford, "An army that hasn’t yet been paid for its time in Kosovo is unlikely to go charging into Montenegro." Your move, Slobodan.