Monday, February 8, 2010

Why did NATO but not the UN intervene to save Kosovans in 1999?

The NATO 1999 humanitarian intervention to rescue Muslim Kosovans from Serbian aggression, is controversial in that it did not have the backing of the UN Security Council.

But it can be understood from the perspective of the global balance of power.

Muslim Kosovans were engaged in a battle for independence from socialist Yugoslavia.

According to research done by student Marija Greenlee (Spring 2010), on October 1, 1999, US Congressman Engel made one of the strongest cases linking images of Serbian atrocities on CNN to the need for military action:

“We read about it in the paper today on the front page, that there were several massacres, that bodies were found of innocent civilians, men, women and children, as the Serbian police forces and military units continue their campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo…Mr. Speaker, it is time for action. We need to have immediate NATO air strikes on Serbian positions in Kosovo.” (Bahador 2006).

By why NATO? Why not coordinate with the UN Security Council? This is what the US did in 1990, to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.

Five days after NATO bombed socialist Serbia, accused of atrocities against Muslim Kosovans, the US Congress adopted the SILK ROAD STRATEGY ACT. This was to break Russia’s monopoly over pipeline routes in Central Asia and define American business interests in the region. Bombing and destabilizing Serbia was possibly an undeclared part of a strategy to create a corridor of power for America and her allies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This explains why Russia and China were not included in the humanitarian intervention to rescue Muslim Kosovans, and NATO was used instead, bypassing potential trouble at the UN Security Council.

Marija Greenlee wrote in her Spring 2010 paper: “This critical oil pipeline [AMBO], currently under construction and set to operate in 2011 will link up pipeline corridors between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea is the hub of the world’s largest unexplored oil reserves. Coincidentally, Camp Bondsteel, America’s largest US military base since Vietnam has been built in Kosovo.” The US took over 1000 acres of farmland in SE Kosovo at Uresevic, near the Macedonian Border, for the construction of Camp Bondsteel, the biggest such project since the war in Vietnam.

Marija also draws our attention to the newly discovered petroleum reserves in neighboring Albania, which is located on the Adriatic Sea.

According to Marija’s research, Kosovo is a place of religious history and national pride for Serbs. In an area that has become known as the Field of Blackbirds, thousands of Serbian “warrior saints” stood their ground in the 1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje, only to be slaughtered by the invading Ottoman Turks. And Kosovo is the historical seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Here are some casualty estimates, note (as always in these types of estimates) the discrepancies:
1. Kosovo (1998-99)
o Ethnic cleansing by Yugoslavs, before the war
 29 April 1999 AP: 2,000 (in 1998)
 Ploughshares 2000: 1-2,000 (1998)
o Ethnic cleansing during the war
 18 July 1999 Baltimore Sun (NY Times News Service): 10,000 Albanians killed during 3-month campaign
 5 July 1999 AP: 10,000
 4 July 1999 Toronto Star: 10,000
 9 Nov. 1999 Washington Times: 9,269
 Ploughshares 2000: 2,500-10,000
o NATO Bombing (1999)
 9 Feb. 2000 Slate, civilian deaths []
 Human Rights Watch: ca. 500; or specifically 488-527 ("confidently")
 Serb propaganda: 1,200-5,000 ("stubbornly")
 HRW: 500 civ. []
 14 June 1999 Time: 5,000 military + 1,200 civilian = 6,200
 4 Dec. 2001 WSJ: 500, citing Wm Arkin []
 5 July 1999 AP: 1,200 civilians, citing Yugoslav state-run media
 Ploughshares 2000: 500 civilians
 11 July 1999 Washington Post
 Official Serbian figures: 576 Serb military "casualties" (probably deaths)
 NATO estimates: 5,000 to 10,000 Serb soldiers dead
 Author's estimate: 1,600 civilians and 1,000 military "casualties"
Source: Historical Atlas of the 20th Century,, accessed February 7, 2010.

As usual, pictures are worth a thousand words. See where Kosovo is located in the context of proposed pipeline routes.

For a map of proposed pipelines in the region, by US, China, Russia


Compare to a map of Kosovo and the region:


Bahador, Babak. "The CNN Effect on Western Policy Before the Kosovo Intervention" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Le Centre Sheraton Hotel, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Mar 17, 2004,