1999: When NATO bombed Yugoslavia

The similarity of the Russian strategy in Ukraine is striking

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, especially smart and USA-hawkish German politicians have repeatedly attracted attention with their omniscient remarks that for the first time since Hitler there is war again in Europe. From a historical point of view, this is not true: For in the spring of 1999 – some may still remember – NATO, led by the USA, bombed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia outside the alliance and without a UN mandate. That, too, was war.

Yugoslavia 1999: Burning Belgrade after NATO Bombing

The way of warfare at that time reminds of the current Russian strategy in Ukraine, with the difference that almost 24 years ago nobody talked about a “turn of times” as in Germany and nobody else had the idea to impose sanctions against participating, war-leading NATO countries in view of the crimes against international law. If there was an outcry of indignation, it was nowhere near as loud as it is today – in the media and elsewhere.

Although the operation, which took place between March 24 and June 10, 1999, was code-named “Allied Forces,” the main actor – I would never have guessed – was the United States. The Americans dropped a total of 28,000 bombs on parts of Serbia and Montenegro, with the death of an estimated 500 uninvolved civilians, including children and women, and “accidentally” also bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Three people were killed there, all of them Chinese citizens.

The humanitarian justification for the bombings remains controversial to this day, to say the least. Nevertheless, it is always possible to invent reasons to start a war – see George W. Bush. In any case, as air strikes on Yugoslavia proved unexpectedly ineffective, the Americans suddenly had grave misgivings about allowing ground troops to advance.

So, they did exactly the same thing in Yugoslavia that Putin is doing in Ukraine today: the war henceforth focused on civilian infrastructure, targeting power plants, coal-fired power plants, waterworks, rail links, bridges and government facilities. We remember, the US President at that time was Bill Clinton.

Unlike today with regard to Ukraine, hardly any voices of indignation were heard in the West at the time, while rather timid tones came from former pacifists everywhere, such as the current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who successfully refused military service in his younger years, but today, in an astonishing change of heart, seems to know his way around any tank model. Like the self-proclaimed “peace politicians” from the Greens, part of the current left-liberal traffic light coalition in Germany, Scholz calls for sending more and more weapons to Ukraine – until Russia is defeated.

A nuclear power like Russia, which has launched a brutal war against Ukraine in violation of international law, is difficult to defeat militarily. Vladimir Putin, provoked to the core by the West, is likely to fight to the end and may not recoil to pull the nuclear card as a last option. Meanwhile, US-controlled corporations are making gigantic profits from the production of war materials and the sale of their dirty fracking natural gas, which hardly anyone overseas wanted before, at a price today that is not only dragging the economy in Europe into the abyss, but from which millions of private households in particular are suffering, not least in Germany.

This is far from the end of the line: The new Republican majority in the US House of Representatives could demand a higher cost-sharing by Europeans in the war in Ukraine, which could drag on for who knows how long. It looks like anything but a good new year for Europe.

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