NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia


Bombing of Yugoslavia & Serbia by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

This was a military conflict between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and NATO during the Kosovo war. The airstrikes lasted from March 24, 1999, to June 10, 1999. Between 956 to 1200 people were killed including an estimated 489 to 528 civilians. Another 5,173 people were wounded as a result of the war. The war is estimated to have, directly and indirectly, caused an economic loss of us $29.6 billion.

The Conflict’s Background

The 1974 Yugoslav constitution was unilaterally repealed by the Socialist Republic of Serbia in the September 1990. As a result of this Kosovo’s autonomy suffered and the region underwent through a period of state-organized oppression. Albanian language media (radio, television, and newspapers) were highly restricted and some were shut down. Kosovo Albanians working in public offices and public enterprises and institutions including banks, hospitals, post office and schools were fired.  The University of Pristina Assembly and several faculty councils were dissolved and replaced with Serbs. In September 1991 Albanian teachers were prevented from entering school premises at the beginning of the school year.

As a result of this suppression and oppression Kosovo Albanese started an insurgency against Belgrade. The Kosovo Liberation Army was founded in 1998. Army clashes between the two sides began in early 1998. After the Racak Massacre, where it is widely believed that the Serbian armed forces massacred 45 Kosovars Albanians in cold blood, NATO decided that a peacekeeping mission was needed to restrain the two sides. Negotiations (Rambouillet Accord) between the two sides brokered by NATO and Russia broke down after Yugoslavia rejected the proposal of an external peace mission.

NATO hereby decided that it was to install the peacekeeping forces by force. However different member states differed on which method to us. While the US was ready to use ground forces France and Germany were adamant that they were only prepared to use the Air Force. Ultimately NATO settled on the use of large scale air campaign. Natos air force superiority when compared to Serbia’s and its ability to inflict destruction while minimizing casualties was the main factor that led to this decision.

The campaign involved 1,000 aircrafts which flew over 38,000 combat missions. The planes operated from air bases in Italy and Germany. They also used aircraft carriers as a base for their operations. At first, the mission was to cripple Yugoslavia’s military capabilities so as to deny them the ability to launch attacks against the Albanian people however as the operation progressed the mission was expanded to include infrastructure used by both civilians and the military like bridges and roads. This was highly criticized by human rights activist as going against the UN Charter. The operation was remarkable in that it proved that air power can successfully be utilized alone to win wars. It was also the first time that satellites were widely used to direct weapons. Finally, under immense pressure from Russia Yugoslavia allowed the UN peacekeeping mission to supervise Kosovo. NATO agreed that there would be no independence referendum within 3 years. Yugoslavia decided to withdraw its troops from Kosovo and the war ended on June 11.

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