Things weren’t looking good for Yugoslavia. On August 26th 1939, Dragiša Cvetković and Vladko Maček came to an agreement to resolve the Croat question. With this agreement, Banate of Croatia was formed – an autonomous province that became a prototype for the independent Croatian state. Only two days later, ZBOR released a statement saying that Vladko Maček could never accept Yugoslavia as his own country, nor could he accept the fact that Croats and Slovenes would lose their independence without Yugoslavia. Dimitrije tried to convince the government of how harmful this agreement could be, and when that failed, he decided to address Prince Paul. Paul refused to accept him. Because of that refusal, Ljotić sent him three open letters which were met with great interest from the public. In his letters he pointed out that Yugoslavia shouldn’t rely on France or Great Britain for protection, since they failed to protect both Finland and Poland. After the last rejection, Ljotić began an aggressive campaign against the prince. He stated :
“Your majesty, you did more for bolshevization of Yugoslavia than Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili Stalin!”
Ljotić demanded that they put a stop to bolshevization of the country, with the experiment of Croatian autonomy and to immediately reform the military. His confrontation with Paul will have later consequences.
In October of 1940, Italy attacked Greece and Ljotić insisted that the country take a neutral stance. He informed and probably influenced army general Milan Nedić on this issue, and on November 1st he delivered a memo about the state of the Yugoslav military, with demands that the government take a policy of strong neutrality. A few days later, he was forced to resign as a minister and was put on watch. All of this ended with the decision of Prime Minister Dragiša Cvetković to ban ZBOR, on account of a clash between members of ZBOR and Communists in Belgrade University in October.
The Italian aviation bombed Bitol on the 5th of November and the country was close to being involved in war. Anglophile elements in Yugoslavia forced the Prince (who himself was an anglophile) to persecute and eliminate all pro-German elements. They did this out of fear that Ljotić could have strong ties with the Germans, and be planning a coup with Milan Nedić to form nationalist government. These pro-German elements were of course ZBOR and Dimitrije Ljotić himself. During October and November, police arrested more than 160 members of ZBOR, many of them high profile members, beating and torturing them in prisons and camps. Yet the government wouldn’t dare arrest Dimitrije, fearing the public reaction. Instead they put him on the watch – he was constantly followed. Yet one day Dimitrije got away and hid in the women’s monastery in Srem. Soon the police all over the country were given orders to find him, but with no success. In December 1940, Ljotić sent a letter to the prince saying that he wanted this lawlessness to stop and asked to go to court to settle this. The government would never allow this, since accusing ZBOR and Ljotić would indirectly also be an accusation against Germany, a European power that Yugoslavia was now negotiating with to avoid war and join the Tripartite pact.
On 25th March in Vienna, Yugoslavia officially joined the Pact with honest German guarantees that no Axis military force will cross their borders, respecting their independence, and will not ask of Yugoslavia to participate in war. The Germans were even prepared to offer Salonika to Yugoslavia, which Yugoslav representatives refused. Ljotić viewed this as a last hope for preservation of Yugoslavia and avoidance of the war. Aware that there were many who opposed this pact he quickly spread the word of its importance, saying that if the Pact fails, Yugoslavia would cease to exist. His fears would come true on the 27th of March, when a group of officers with General Dušan Simović conducted a coup and brought down government of Dragiša Cvetković and Vladko Maček. The coup was orchestrated from London in attempt to change Yugoslavian foreign policy and abolishing the Pact.
The first days of the coup Ljotić and members of ZBOR thought this was a coup against Paul. Soon all arrested members of ZBOR were released and Ljotić was called upon to take part in the new government. Once he realized that the new government is changing the course of foreign policy, when he saw the Anglophile blight in the leadership of Yugoslavia, he refused to participate, realizing that Yugoslavia’s days were numbered.
After his refusal to take part in the treasonous government, Ljotić took his uniform and as a reserve lieutenant colonel went to take command over the regiment that he was assigned to command in case of war. And so he waited for war.
“You think that the state is less dangerous than a gun? From one gun, out of negligence, one, two or few more people can die. From poorly thought out state affairs – hundreds of thousands and millions of people can die.”