The fifteenth anniversary of NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, a barbaric and illegal act that mocked international law, provides an opportunity to consider the ultimate purpose of the US-led military machine.
NATO’s attack on Yugoslavia, which saw US-built cruise missiles pound the Balkan nation into submission after 78 consecutive days of bomb strikes (March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999), taught Russia a valuable lesson: Whenever the Western military alliance holds out a fig leaf of partnership, be prepared for fireworks to erupt somewhere on the planet.
In May 1997, the NATO-Russian Founding Act was signed between Brussels and Moscow, which created the illusion that Russia was a “security partner” in the Western military bloc. Less than two years later NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began in earnest, despite fierce objections from Russia.
The bombing campaign seemed to reveal NATO’s ultimate purpose: The eastward expansion of American military power - right to Russia’s doorstep. How else to explain Washington’s de facto alliance with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLO), a group that had been labeled a terrorist organization by US officials, but which NATO suddenly agreed to protect against “Serbian aggression.”
In March 1999, Washington was clearly committed to a full-blown military solution to the Serbian-Kosovo standoff when it demanded that Belgrade agree to the occupation of Yugoslavia by NATO forces. Although the impossible demands were barely mentioned in Western media coverage of the talks, the so-called Rambouillet Agreement was rejected outright by the Serbs as well as their Russian allies.
No self-respecting government, and certainly not Slobodan Milošević, then the president of Yugoslavia, could have agreed to the excessive and humiliating demands. The icing on the cake came when then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrogantly declared, “We accept the agreement,” as if that was all that really mattered.
The Australian-British journalist, John Pilger, wrote of the transparent casus belli, “Anyone scrutinizing the Rambouillet document is left with little doubt that the excuses given for the subsequent bombing were fabricated. The peace negotiations were stage managed and the Serbs were told: ‘Surrender and be occupied, or don’t surrender and be destroyed.’”
Even America’s allies were taken aback by Washington’s determination to lead NATO forces into war. Hubert Vedrine, France's Foreign Minister at the time, called the United States a “hyperpower” that is clearly reluctant to demonstrate any restraint on its power in the post-cold war world. Indeed, no amount of criticism could prevent NATO from opening a full-scale bombardment on a European capital for the first time since World War II.
In fact, NATO’s military actions in Yugoslavia nearly ignited World War III, when NATO-Russian forces squared off over the Pristina International Airport (On June 11, 1999, some 30 Russian armored vehicles took NATO forces by surprise when dispatched from Bosnia to seize the Pristina airport ahead of NATO forces after Russia’s demands for a peacekeeping sector independent of NATO had been rejected. A major Russia-NATO conflict was likely avoided when British General Mike Jackson famously disobeyed an order from his superior, US General Wesley Clark, by telling him,"I'm not going to start the Third World War for you" after Clark ordered Jackson to intercept the Russian column).
As the tragic events in Yugoslavia proved, NATO remains committed to military aggression and expansion despite, or because of, the treaties and agreements forged between Russia and NATO.
This was revealed later by the Bush administration’s announcement that it would construct a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, just miles from the Russian border. Moscow objected to the system - which the United States said was necessary to defend Europe from “rogue states,” namely Iran - on the grounds that it would upset the strategic balance that has kept the peace in Europe since World War II.
For a brief moment following Barack Obama’s election to the US presidency in 2009, it appeared that Russia-US relations (and by extension, Russia-NATO relations) were about to be revitalized by the so-called “reset,” which promised to usher in a new age of trust and cooperation between the two nuclear superpowers.
In April 2010, the United States and Russia signed the ‘New START’ treaty, which committed the signees to reduce the total number of their nuclear warheads to 1,550 each over a period of seven years. Moscow – and wisely, as it turned out - demanded the inclusion of an amendment that would permit the annulment of the treaty in the case that the two parties failed to arrive at an acceptable agreement on missile defense.
After all, how can there be talk of a “reset” in the relations of the two former Cold War foes unless Washington is able to put aside its Cold War-era suspicions and work together with Russia on a missile defense system that will protect Eastern Europe as well as Western Russia from the threat of a rogue missile attack? How can there be talk of Russia reducing its missile stockpile at the very same time that NATO is constructing a mighty shield on Russia’s border?
After many rounds of futile negotiations, it appears those questions will never have to be answered. The West’s reluctance to cooperate with Russia in the missile defense initiative has demonstrated Washington and NATO’s disingenuous stance towards Russia, not to mention the lie of the “reset” from the beginning.
The US-led military bloc has finally revealed its hand, which essentially says that NATO would rather risk terminating its partnership with Russia over the development of an unproven missile defense system (allegedly designed to protect Europe from Iran), a country which has already agreed to sit down and talk with the West over its nuclear program. The only conclusion that Moscow can make, given the facts as they exist, is that the real target of NATO’s missile defense system is Russia.
This leads us now into the very jaws of the Ukrainian crisis, which has just witnessed catastrophic and violent clashes in the capital of Kiev, which brought to power an illegitimate government with a number of questionable characters, including nationalists and anti-Semites, in its ranks. Such considerations, however, are regularly ignored by the United States, which has been working for years behind the scenes to force Ukraine into an ill-fitting NATO uniform.
Clearly, this is a bridge too far when it comes to NATO’s military aspirations in a country that has heavy historical and cultural links to Russia. The Western military bloc finally got its fingers burnt in its eastward push to the doorstep of Russia, where not everybody is so enthusiastic to throw in their lot with the indebted EU member states.
Last week, after Crimea voted by a huge margin to join the Russian Federation, President Putin expressed his opinion on the way Kosovo was greeted in the West as an independent country following its secession from Serbia, creating a new precedent.
"How would our colleagues claim its uniqueness? It turns out because during the Kosovo conflict there were many human casualties. What, is that supposed to be a valid legal argument?" he asked.
"We are being told that we are breaking the norms of international law. Well at least it's good that they've remembered that international law exists. Better late than never!"
However, the hard truth of the matter comes down to the strategic importance of Ukraine (which none other than America’s top geopolitical analyst, Zbigniew Brzezinski, described as part of the “critical core of Europe’s security” together with France, Germany and Poland), where Russia has long had leasing rights for its Black Sea Fleet, not to mention millions of Russian speakers who look to Russia, not the West, for their future development.
Putin expressed this idea by touching upon legitimate Russian fears of an eventual NATO encirclement of the country.
"I do not want to be welcomed in Sevastopol by NATO sailors," the Russian leader emphasized.
The West must come to the realization that unless it brings the Frankenstein monster of NATO to heel, the mere existence of the military bloc, which broke its promise following the collapse of the Soviet Union not to expand a single inch toward Russia’s borders, will trigger conflicts that it does not have the power to control.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.