By Yelena Guskova
On the 24th of March 13 years ago, a spate of NATO bombs was dropped on a peaceful European country. The March-June 1999 aggression against Yugoslavia, carried out under the pretext of the alliance’s concern for the plight of the allegedly deprived Albanian population of Kosovo and Metohija, lasted for 78 days.
In reality, it was a brutal punishment for Belgrade’s refusal to cooperate with NATO, waive its sovereignty and replace its long-standing leader Slobodan Milosevic.
The NATO aggression failed to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic, while the Yugoslavian army also remained intact. So the US had to develop a new strategy. In October 2000, the US and Germany carried out a special operation, which was later applied in other countries and was branded a ‘colour revolution’. As a result, the power shifted into the hands of the people who then began to actively cooperate with NATO. But at the time, Yugoslavia had no plans to join NATO. Moreover, speaking in Munich in 2010, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic declared that Serbia would remain neutral and refrain from joining any military or defence unions. Thus, Serbia remained the only Balkan country which did not seek entry into NATO.
In general, the Serbian people do not support the idea of joining the alliance, and Montenegro shares this opinion. However, the government of Montenegro, which seceded from Serbia in 2006, openly claims that there is no alternative but to join NATO.
Serbia is still keeping its own counsel on this issue, even though US Ambassador to Belgrade Mary Warlick declared as early as 2010 that NATO has always kept an open door for Serbia. So what will Serbia decide to do?
A propaganda campaign for joining NATO has been launched in the country. Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac has launched military reforms introducing NATO standards into the army with the aim of subsequent entry into the Alliance.
The US is sparing no effort in helping improve NATO’s image in Serbia. Americans allocate money for training of journalists, offer special grants for the radio and TV, write articles for major national newspapers and pay for creating a positive image for NATO in Serbian media.
Why are they doing it? Their main objective is to drive a wedge between Serbia and Montenegro on one side and Russia on the other, ensure the inviolability of all existing and potential military bases in the Balkans and acquire brave and disciplined soldiers for the alliance’s dirtiest and most dangerous operations all over the world.
As far as Russia is concerned, NATO is a potentially dangerous organization which threatens the country’s national interests. Speaking about the main external dangers, President Dmitry Medvedev referred to ‘attempts to combine NATO’s military potential with global functions carried out with the violation of the international law and shifting the military infrastructure of NATO member-states closer to Russian frontiers by way of expanding the bloc.’
This is why, if Balkan countries choose to join NATO, all of them, including Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Republica Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina, will have to assume an anti-Russian position.
Yelena Guskova, PhD (history), the head of the Centre for Analysing Contemporary Balkan Crisis at the Institute of Slavonic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.