The Yugoslavs would like to see "a nonaligned belt" stretching from the eastern Mediterranean through the Middle East to Asia and the Indian subcontinent -- without any superpower military presence.
They know that it is a dream. "We have to accept the reality of the blocs," they admit, but they argue it is the "only way" to avoid frequent repetition of the present East-West crisis and the near collapse of detente.
They believe the underlying cause of the current crisis is the rivalry between the superpowers. But this does not deter them from blunt talk about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
They have spoken out in the United Nations and here in terms tough enough to bring angry Soviet accusations of siding with the United States in "a psychological war against the USSR."
They have been silent over the Soviets exiling their leading dissident, Andrei Sakharov. As they see it, their position is sensitive enough without provoking the Russians unnecessarily by "interfering" in their internal affairs.
MoreoveR, it would be contrary to their stand on the principle of noninterference, which is essential to their own security. But when, in current circumstances, they say big powers that ignore the "moral and political principles" of human rights and international life can find themselves dangerously isolated, one knows who they are talking about.
In public Yugoslavia's leaders present confident faces. Privately, they are extremely uneasy about a world situation in which, as one top adviser put it, "We, no more than anyone else, know what will happen and where the process may end. The whole course of detente has been reversed."
The Yugoslavs do not take to suggestions that the nonaligned movement can command votes in the UN but that its actual power to "do something" is negligible. But they do complain that detente, for example, is too often decided by the superpowers, with smaller nations expected to be content with being under one umbrella or the other.
"Like us, the big majority of them wants neither," the source said.
The Yugoslavs claims that a growing tide of world opinion does not for one instant condone Soviet behavior but nonetheless believes that detente must be pursued. They fear that drastic Western countermeasures may prove counterproductive.
Opinion here is undecided whether Afghanistan marks an intensification of Soviet global strategy. And it is chary of offering any forecast of early withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Yugoslav skepticism of the Soviets is not confined to the international situation. The papers here have just published "reminiscences" of Dr. Vladimir Bakaric, one of President of Tito's closest associates.
They revealed nothing new, though their publication now was as much as signal to the Russians that the past was not forgotten as the movement around the country of small troops with defensive arms was a reminder that Yugoslavia is alert and fully prepared for whatever might happen.
The Yugoslavs want the UN to work out a new international document, universally binding, to outlaw interference of any kind in the internal affairs of other states, with direct bearing on the kind of military intervention now seen in afghanistan.