The current month marks two landmark events for Serbians. The first relates to the not too distant past, a lasting wound that lingers on the nation’s collective memory: June 10th marks the twenty-first anniversary, rather commemoration for the thousands of victims one should say, of the end of the horrible NATO air-strikes. The second is the national elections to be held next Sunday, June 21st.
The Western alliance launched the air attack campaign which lasted for 79 days and nights - it started on 24 March 1999 - without the due authorisation by the UN Security Council. Obviously, the unauthorised air raids were in direct breach of international law: NATO was not in any conceivable way threatened by the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) to warrant a self-defence response.
‘Humanitarian intervention’ was NATO’s brand name for the massive air raid on the rump FRY. The Brussels headquartered alliance referred to the protection of the Albanian minority - residing mostly in Kosovo - from the federal Yugoslav army ‘onslaught’. But how humanitarian was NATO’s intervention? Here are the ‘humanitarian effects’ of the almost three-month long air raids: between 489 and 528 civilians killed on top of about one thousand members of the Yugoslav Security Forces. The bombings destroyed or damaged bridges, industrial plants, hospitals, schools, cultural monuments, private businesses as well as barracks and military installations. Modest estimates put the value of the immediate material damage inflicted at around $35 billion. This figure does not include the tremendous loss of future production capacity as a result of the obliteration of the country’s industrial base by NATO’s bomber jets. Twenty one years later, NATO has not compensated a single billion for this immense catastrophe. (Interested in learning excruciating details of this untold story? Browse the book entitled Crime in War, Genocide in Peace: The Consequences of NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 authored by three professors: Vladislav Jovanovic, Slobodan Petkovic & Slobodan Cikaric, www.slglasnik.com, Belgrade 2012).
A single extract from the afore-mentioned book would suffice (pp. 14-15):
Regrettably, it was not only that political and military leaders of the major NATO Members were absolutely unscrupulous in committing aggression … but they also totally disregarded their moral duty following the aggression, to provide assistance in the identification and rehabilitation of the contaminated areas, funding for overcoming the created [sad] situation and compensation to the victims or their families for their loss, traumatic experience and covering of medical treatment expenses. Instead of showing at least minimum solidarity with the innocent victims, NATO leaders are watching quite indifferently, from the heights of their invulnerability, how Russian experts specializing in demining and decontamination are assisting, at their own cost, the clearance of some contaminated areas. (Vladislav Jovanovic: NATO Aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Depleted Uranium)
As it happens Russian humanitarian aid to Serbia is not a desultory affair: early in April of the current year, the Russian Ministry of Defence dispatched 87 military virologists and doctors, special and protective equipment as well as sixteen pieces of military equipment to assist in the fight against coronavirus. The aid warranted eleven Il-76 flights to Serbia. Two Russian medical teams stayed on in the Serbian capital, where the most difficult epidemiological situation has developed, whilst five more were sent to the cities of Nis, Kikinda, Valevo and Chupria. President Vucic, whose party opposes NATO membership, thanked the Russian president, for volunteering this valuable aid at the height of the Covid-19 lock down.
Next Sunday, June 21st, Serbia goes to the polls. The country’s future relations with NATO form part of these general elections’ foreign and defence policy agenda on which the battle for power is fought. Belgrade has a twenty-one year old unsettled bill in US dollars - undoubtedly an eleven digit figure - to claim from the unscrupulous Western alliance.
In less than a year time (May 2021) the Cypriot voters will also go to the polls for parliamentary elections. The island republic’s relations with NATO has also been part of the Cypriot national debate. The issue is complex; equally historically loaded. It was NATO-member Turkey which invaded Cyprus in 1974 using NATO weaponry. The US arms sales embargo imposed on Turkey in the aftermath of the invasion was so short-lived that amounted to a mockery. Like in the case of NATO air strikes on Serbia, Ankara failed to pay the billions in compensation for damages and war crimes committed by its invading troops in Cyprus. Not to mention NATO’s complete failure to reign in Turkish continuous trouble making in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. So much so that an exacerbated French Ministry of Defence had to put out a no-word-mincing statement: there is a Turkey time bomb within NATO, let’s face it, otherwise we fool ourselves!