NATO’s wars on Yugoslavia and Libya


NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg never ceases telling us that it is a purely defensive alliance and that Russia had nothing to fear from its advance eastwards after the end of the Cold War. 


He seems to have forgotten that it made war on Yugoslavia in 1999, mounting a 98-day bombing campaign, as a result of which over 500 civilians were killed.  This action was not a defensive response to one of its member states being attacked by Yugoslavia, nor was its military action endorsed in advance by the Security Council.  As such, NATO’s action constituted aggression against the state of Yugoslavia.


At that time, Yugoslavia consisted of two republics – Serbia and Montenegro.  Kosovo was an integral part of Serbia, but with an overwhelming Albanian majority that favoured separation from Serbia, and a Serb minority that opposed separation.  


The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA or UCK) was engaged in a military campaign for an independent state and Yugoslav armed forces (police and army) were trying to suppress that campaign, in the course of which it was alleged they engaged in widespread killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanians, bordering on genocide.  The ostensible reason for NATO’s bombing was to prevent or at least reduce this.



KLA responsible for more deaths


One fact alone explodes the myth of widespread killing of Albanian civilians by Yugoslav forces.  That is the fact that up to mid-January 1999 the KLA were responsible for more deaths in Kosovo than Yugoslav forces.  We have that on the authority of no less a person than the UK Foreign Minister, Robin Cook, who told the House of Commons on 18 January 1999:


 “On its part, the Kosovo Liberation Army has committed more breaches of the ceasefire, and until this weekend was responsible for more deaths than the security forces. It must stop undermining the ceasefire and blocking political dialogue.”


Widespread killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanians began with a vengeance after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (including Kosovo) began on 24 March 1999 – in other words, NATO intervention caused a humanitarian catastrophe, with Kosovans pouring over the borders into Albania and Macedonia.



Rambouillet text was a provocation, said Henry Kissinger


Prior to the bombing, the Yugoslav Government had been summoned to a conference in Rambouillet in February 1999.  With the threat of NATO bombing hanging over its head, it accepted proposals for the near independence of Kosovo within the Republic of Serbia, the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and a NATO force in Kosovo to supervise implementation. 


However, the Government baulked at signing Appendix B of the proposals which laid down the rules for the operation of the NATO implementation force.  This allowed the force to occupy not just Kosovo but the whole of Yugoslavia: here’s what Clause 8 of it said:


“NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] including associated airspace and territorial waters.”


Understandably, Yugoslavia refused to sign up to this total surrender of sovereignty to NATO – and, as a result, it was bombed by NATO.   Had this clause been absent from the proposed agreement, it is likely that Yugoslavia would have signed.


Henry Kissinger’s said of the text Yugoslavia was asked to sign:


“The Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, an excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that an angelic Serb could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.”


After 78 days of bombing, an agreement was reached with the Yugoslavia along the lines proposed at Rambouillet, but without NATO forces having free access to the whole territory of Yugoslavia – which lends weight to the view that the presence of such a provision in the Rambouillet text was to make sure that the Yugoslav Government wouldn’t sign up to it, so that NATO an excuse to bomb.



Independent Kosovo out of the question


NATO troops (mostly US and UK) entered Kosovo after the agreement but, according to Amnesty International, “by the end of August 1999, an estimated 235,000 Serbs and other minorities had left Kosovo and those who remained were concentrated in enclaves and pockets, frequently guarded by KFOR”.


The agreement that brought the bombing to a halt was enshrined in Security Council Resolution 1244, passed on 10 June 1999 by 14 votes to 0 (with China abstaining).  This reaffirmed “the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act and annex 2”.  Annex 2 envisaged:


“A political process towards the establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accords and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other countries of the region, and the demilitarization of UCK.”


The territorial integrity of Yugoslavia was sacrosanct to the international community, wasn’t it?  There could be no question of an independent state of Kosovo, recognised by the international community, could there?


Today, 26 out of the 30 NATO member states have recognised Kosovo as an independent state.  Only Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain have not done so.



NATO’s war on Libya


NATO also had a hand in the destruction of the Libyan state.


The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee produced a report into NATO’s military intervention in Libya, which said:


“The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.”


NATO can claim credit for this success.



David Morrison

20 August 2022