1999_NATO_bombing_of_the_Federal_Republic_of_Yugoslavia

1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (code-named Operation Allied Force) was NATO's military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that lasted from 24 March to 10 June 1999 and is brought the close of the Kosovo War. It was only the second major combat operation in NATO's history, following the September 1995 smaller-scale bombing Operation Deliberate Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Goals

NATO's objectives in the conflict in Kosovo were set out in the statement issued at the Extraordinary Meeting of the North Atlantic Council held at NATO HQ on 12 April 1999 and were reaffirmed by Heads of State and Government in Washington on 23 April 1999:

  • a verifiable stop to all military action and the immediate end of violence and repression;
  • the withdrawal from Kosovo of the military, police and paramilitary forces;
  • the stationing in Kosovo of an international military presence;
  • the unconditional and safe return of all refugees and displaced persons and unhindered access to them by humanitarian aid organizations;
  • the establishment of a political framework agreement for Kosovo on the basis of the Rambouillet Accords, in conformity with international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

The Yugoslav Government claimed that it was protecting the minority Serbian population of Kosovo against attacks by the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Strategy

Operation Allied Force relied almost exclusively on the use of a large-scale air campaign to destroy Yugoslav civilian and military infrastructure from high altitudes. Ground units were not used, although their use was threatened near the end of the conflict. This approach was adopted to minimize the risk to the NATO forces and attracted considerable public criticism due to its relative ineffectiveness against mobile ground targets such as tanks and troop formations. Strategic targets such as bridges and factories were also bombed, particularly in the later stages of the conflict. Long-range cruise missiles were used to hit a number of heavily defended targets such as strategic installations in Belgrade and Priština. Civilian installations such as power plants, even water processing plants and the state-owned broadcaster were also intentionally targeted.

The operation

NATO's bombing campaign lasted from March 24 to June 11, 1999, involving up to 1,000 aircraft operating mainly from bases in Italy and the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt stationed in the Adriatic Sea. At dusk, F-18 Hornets of the Spanish Air Force were the first NATO planes to take off and bomb Belgrade. BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles were also extensively used, fired from ships and submarines. The United States was, inevitably, the dominant member of the coalition against Serbia, although all of the NATO members were involved to some degree — even Greece, despite publicly opposing the war. During the ten weeks of the conflict, NATO aircraft flew over 38,000 combat missions. For the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), the mission was its first conflict participation since World War II. In addition to air power, one battalion from the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division was deployed to help combat missions. The battalion secured AH-64 Apache attack helicopter refueling sites, and a small team forward deployed to the Albania/Kosovo border to identify targets for Allied/NATO airstrikes.

The proclaimed goal of the NATO operation was summed up by a NATO spokesperson as "Serbs out, peacekeepers in, refugees back". That is, Serbian troops would have to leave Kosovo and be replaced by international peacekeepers to ensure the Albanian refugees could return to their homes. However, the summary had an unfortunate double meaning which caused NATO considerable embarrassment after the war, when over 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanian minorities fled or were expelled from the province. It was also suggested a small victorious war would help give NATO a new role. Terms like "humanitarian bombing" and "humanitarian war" were employed by the politicians.

The campaign was initially designed to destroy Serbian air defences and high-value military targets. Bad weather hindered many sorties in the early stages. NATO had seriously underestimated Milošević's will to resist: few in Brussels thought the campaign would last more than a few days, and although the initial bombardment was more than just a pin-prick, it was nowhere near the concentrated bombardments seen in Baghdad in 1991 and 2003. On the ground, over 300,000 Kosovo Albanians had fled into neighboring Albania and Macedonia, with many thousands more displaced within Kosovo. By April, the United Nations was reporting that 850,000 people — the vast majority of them Albanians — were refugees that fled from Kosovo. Another 230,000 Albanians were listed as internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been driven from their homes, but were still inside Kosovo.

The cause of the refugee exodus has been the subject of considerable controversy, not least because it formed the basis of United Nations war crimes charges against Slobodan Milošević and other officials responsible for directing the Kosovo conflict. The Serbian side and its Western supporters claimed the refugee outflows were caused by mass panic in the Kosovo Albanian population, and the exodus was generated principally by fear of NATO bombs. It was also alleged that the exodus was encouraged by KLA guerrillas, and in some cases the KLA issued direct orders to Albanians to flee. Many accounts from both Serbs and Albanians identified Serbian security forces and paramilitaries as the culprits, responsible for systematically emptying towns and villages of their Albanian inhabitants by forcing them to flee. There were some well-documented instances of mass expulsions, as happened in Priština at the end of March when tens of thousands of people were rounded up at gunpoint and loaded onto trains, before being deposited at the Macedonian border. Other towns, such as Peć, were burned and their inhabitants killed.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer claimed the refugee crisis had been produced by a Serbian plan codenamed "Operation Horseshoe". While the existence of that named plan remains controversial, the United Nations and international human rights organisations were convinced the refugee crisis was the result of a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing. A postwar statistical analysis of the patterns of displacement, conducted by Patrick Ball of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, found there was a direct correlation between Serbian security force operations and refugee outflows, with NATO operations having very little effect on the displacements. There was other evidence of the refugee crisis having been deliberately manufactured: many refugees reported that their identity cards had been confiscated by security forces, making it much harder for them to prove that they were bona fide Yugoslav citizens. Since the conflict ended, Serbian sources have claimed that many of those who joined the refugee return were in fact Albanians from outside Kosovo.

It is unclear what Milošević may have hoped to achieve by expelling Kosovo's Albanian inhabitants. One possibility is he wished to replace the Albanian population with refugee Serbs from Bosnia and Croatia, thereby achieving the "Serbianization" of the province. NATO achieved considerable moral advantage by the flight, whether desired or not. If desired it was a great success, as it convinced NATO's member states populations that they had to win the conflict. Europe was still coping with previous waves of refugees and asylum seekers from the Balkans, and a further wave of refugees could have destabilised south-eastern Europe. The war in Kosovo was not initially in the interests of the NATO states, but the refugee crisis made it so. The pictures of thousands of refugees streaming across the border provided a stable foundation for NATO to claim that Serbian ethnic cleansing was a greater injustice than NATO bombardment.

NATO military operations switched increasingly to attacking Serbian units on the ground — hitting targets as small as individual tanks and artillery pieces — as well as continuing with the strategic bombardment. This activity was heavily constrained by politics, as each target needed to be approved by all nineteen members states. Montenegro was bombed several times, but NATO eventually desisted to prop up the precarious position of its anti-Milošević leader, Milo Đukanović. So-called "dual-use" targets, of use to both civilians and the military, were attacked: this included bridges across the Danube, factories, power stations, telecommunications facilities, the headquarters of Yugoslavian Leftists, a political party led by Milošević's wife, and the Avala TV Tower. Some saw these actions as violations of international law and the Geneva Conventions in particular. NATO however argued these facilities were potentially useful to the Serbian military, and their bombing was therefore justified. The alliance also stated it tried very hard to avoid civilian casualties during its bombing campaign.

At the start of May, a NATO aircraft attacked an Albanian refugee convoy, believing it was a Serbian military convoy, killing around 50 people. NATO admitted its mistake 5 days later, but the Serbs accused NATO of deliberately attacking the refugees. On May 7, NATO bombs hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese journalists. NATO claimed they were firing at Yugoslav positions. The United States and NATO later apologized for the bombing, saying it occurred because of an outdated map provided by the CIA. This was challenged by a joint report from The Observer (UK) and Politiken (Denmark) newspapers which claimed NATO intentionally bombed the embassy because it was being used as a relay station for Yugoslav army radio signals. The bombing strained relations between China and NATO countries and provoked angry demonstrations outside Western embassies in Beijing. According to Global Research, unnamed, high-ranking NATO sources confirmed in 2005 that the attack was deliberate: "The NATO sources told Defense & Foreign Affairs that the attack was based on intelligence that then Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević was to have been in the Embassy at the time of the attack. The attack, then, was deliberately planned as a "decapitation" attack, intended to kill Milošević."

By the start of April, the conflict seemed little closer to a resolution, and NATO countries began to think seriously about an invasion of Kosovo with ground units. This would have to be organised very quickly, as there was little time before winter set in, and much work would have to be done to improve the roads from the Greek and Albanian ports to the envisaged invasion routes through Macedonia and north-eastern Albania. US President Bill Clinton was reluctant to commit American forces for a ground offensive. At the same time, Finnish and Russian negotiators continued to try to persuade Milošević to back down. He finally recognised that NATO was serious in its resolve to end the conflict one way or another and that Russia would not intervene to defend Serbia despite Moscow's strong anti-NATO rhetoric. Faced with little alternative, Milošević accepted the conditions offered by a Finnish-Russian mediation team and agreed to a military presence within Kosovo headed by the UN, but incorporating NATO troops.

On 12 June, after Milošević accepted the conditions, KFOR began entering Kosovo. KFOR, a NATO force, had been preparing to conduct combat operations, but its mission was limited to peacekeeping. The force was based on the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters commanded by then-Lieutenant General Mike Jackson of the British Army and consisted of British forces, a German Army brigade that entered from the west while the remaining forces advanced from the south, and Italian Army, Spanish Army and United States Army brigades. The U.S. contribution, the Initial Entry Force consisted of forces from the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment; the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from; the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, and Echo Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment. Also attached to the U.S. force was the Greek Army's 501st Mechanized Infantry Battalion. The initial U.S. forces established their area of operation around the towns of Uroševac, the future Camp Bondsteel, and Gnjilane, at Camp Monteith, and spent four months——the start of a stay which continues to date——establishing order in the south east sector of Kosovo. The American and other NATO soldiers were greeted by Albanians young and old cheering and throwing flowers as KFOR rolled through their villages. Although no resistance was met, three U.S. soldiers from the Initial Entry Force lost their lives in accidents.

Air war

An important portion of the war involved combat between the Yugoslav Air Force and the opposing air forces. United States Air Force F-15s and F-16s flying mainly from Italian air force bases attacked the defending Yugoslav fighters, mainly MiG-29s. Other NATO forces also contributed to the air war.

Dogfights/incidents of the 1999 Kosovo War:

  • March 24, 1999: Yugoslav MiG-29 pilot Nebojša Nikolić took off from Batajnica Air Force Base. He encountered 24 NATO fighter jets. The NATO fighters immediately reacted to his presence. The MiG-29 evaded two enemy missiles before an American F-15 shot him down. Nikolić ejected at around 2,000 meters altitude and survived. According to US reports, two MiG-29s were shot down in the encounter, one by Captain Mike Shower and one by Lieutenant Colonel Cesar Rodriguez.
  • March 25, 1999: A J-22 Orao piloted by Lt. Colonel Života Ðurić took off from Ladjevci. It hit a hill in Kosovo.
  • March 26: In the afternoon, two Yugoslav MiG-29s took off from Batajnica to chase a lone NATO aircraft flying in direction of Bosnia (possibly a reconnaissance Mirage IV). They crossed the border and were ambushed by a group of three US F-15s. Both MiGs were shot down by Captain Jeff Hwang. One MiG pilot, Major Slobodan Perić evaded at least one missile before being hit. He ejected and was later smuggled back to Yugoslavia by the Republika Srpska police. After the war, he stated in an interview that his aircraft's radar was not working. The other pilot, Captain Zoran Radosavljević, did not eject and was killed.
  • On March 27, the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Missile Brigade under the command of Colonel Zoltán Dani, equipped with the Isayev S-125 'Neva-M' (NATO designation SA-3 Goa), downed an American F-117 Nighthawk. According to Wesley Clark and other NATO generals, Yugoslav air defenses found that they could detect F-117s with their "obsolete" Soviet radars operating on long wavelengths. This, combined with the loss of stealth when the jets got wet or opened their bomb bays, made them visible on radar screens. The pilot ejected and was rescued by Search and rescue forces near Belgrade. This was the first and so far only time a stealth aircraft was shot down.
  • On May 2, an American F-16 crashed near Sabac, in a rural area of Serbia, and the pilot ejected and was rescued. Yugoslavia claimed it was shot down by a SAM. NATO said the crash was caused by engine failure.
  • On May 4, a Yugoslav Mig-29, piloted by Lt. Colonel Milenko Pavlović (commander of the "Knights" squadron - the Yugoslav Mig-29 unit) was shot down over Valjevo by two USAF F-16s. The falling aircraft was possibly hit as well by Strela 2 fired by Yugoslav troops. Pavlović was killed.

Forces employed by NATO

Aviation

The main element of the operation was the air forces of NATO, principally drawn from the United States Air Force, the French Armée de l'Air, and the British Royal Air Force as well as other NATO air forces. The French Navy and Air Force operated the Super Etendard and the Mirage 2000. The Royal Air Force operated the Harrier GR7 and Tornado ground attack jets as well as an array of support aircraft. Belgian, Danish, Dutch and Turkish Air Forces operated F-16s. The Spanish Air Force and Canadian Air Force deployed F-18s, making Canadians responsible for 10% of all bombs dropped in the operation. The fighters were armed with both guided and unguided "dumb" munitions, including the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs. The bombing regiment marked the first time the German Luftwaffe actively participated in combat operations since the end of the Second World War, and the American B-2 Spirit stealth bomber also saw its first combat. Italian Tornado and AMX aircraft were also used in the operation.

Space

Operation Allied Freedom incorporated the first large-scale use of satellites as a direct method of weapon guidance. The collective bombing was the first combat use of the Joint Direct Attack Munition JDAM kit, which uses an inertial-guidance and GPS-guided tail fin to increase the accuracy of conventional gravity munitions up to 95%. The JDAM kits were outfitted on the B-2s. The Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) had been previously used in Operation Southern Watch earlier in 1999.

Naval

NATO naval forces operated in the Adriatic Sea. The British Royal Navy sent a substantial task force that included the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, which operated Sea Harrier FA2 fighter jets. The RN also deployed destroyers and frigates, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) provided support vessels, including the aviation training/primary casualty receiving ship RFA Argus. It was the first time the RN used cruise missiles in combat, operated from the nuclear fleet submarine HMS Splendid.

The United States Navy provided a naval task force that included the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge. The French Navy provided the aircraft carrier Foch and escorts.

Army

U.S. ground forces included a battalion from the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. The unit was deployed in March 1999 to Albania in support of the bombing campaign where the battalion secured the Tirana airfield, Apache helicopter refueling sites, established a forward-operating base to prepare for Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) strikes and offensive ground operations, and deployed a small team with a AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder radar system to the Albania/Kosovo border where it acquired targets for allied/NATO air strikes. Immediately after the bombing campaign, the battalion was refitted back at Tirana airfield and issued orders to move into Kosovo as the initial entry force in support of Operation Joint Guardian. Task Force Hawk was also deployed.

Aftermath

Civilian casualties

Human Rights Watch reported between 489 and 528 civilians were killed in the ninety separate incidents in Operation Allied Force. Albanian refugees were among the victims. Almost two thirds (303 to 352) of the total registered civilian deaths occurred in twelve incidents where ten or more civilian deaths were confirmed. Almost half of the incidents resulted from attacks during daylight hours, when civilians could have been expected to be on the roads and bridges or in public buildings.

Military casualties

Military casualties on the NATO side were limited. According to official reports, the alliance suffered no fatalities from combat operations. However, on May 5, an American AH-64 Apache crashed and exploded during a night-time mission in Albania. The Yugoslavs claimed they shot it down, but NATO claimed it crashed due to a technical malfunction. It crashed close to the Albanian-Kosovo border, 40 miles (75km) from Tirana, killing the two crewmen, Army Chief Warrant Officers David Gibbs and Kevin Reichert. There were other casualties after the war, mostly due to land mines. After the war, the alliance reported the loss of three helicopters, 32 Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and five aircraft — all of them American, including the first stealth plane (F-117 Nighthawk) shot down by enemy; most of losses were from accidents in the 38,004 sorties flown. The Yugoslav armed forces claimed to have shot down seven helicopters, 30 UAVs, 61 planes and 238 cruise missiles; however, these figures were not verified independently.

Operation Allied Force inflicted less damage on the Yugoslav military than originally thought due to the use of camouflage, which concealed vehicles and war techniques, and numerous easy-made decoys. Other misdirection techniques were used to disguise military targets. While NATO believed it had destroyed about 120 Serbian tanks during the conflict, only 14 were confirmed destroyed. It was only in the later stages of the campaign that strategic targets such as bridges and buildings were attacked in any systematic way, causing significant disruption and economic damage. This stage of the campaign led to controversial incidents, most notably the bombing of the People's Republic of China embassy in Belgrade where three Chinese reporters were killed and twenty injured. NATO claimed this was erroneous because of old Belgrade maps. Other controversial events included the attack on Serbia's main TV station, the Zastava car factory, and the bombing of chemical factories resulting in major pollution incidents and loss of jobs.

Political outcome

When NATO agreed Kosovo would be politically supervised by the United Nations, and that there would be no independence referendum for three years (the main objective of NATO was to have a vote on independence), the Yugoslav government agreed to withdraw its forces from Kosovo, under strong diplomatic initiative from Russia, and the bombing suspended on 10 June. The war ended June 11, and Russian paratroopers seized Slatina airport to become the first peacekeeping force in the war zone. As British troops were still massed on the Macedonian border, planning to enter Kosovo at 5 am, the Serbs were hailing the Russian arrival as proof the war was a UN operation, not a NATO operation. After hostilities ended, on 12 June the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne, 2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment entered war-torn Kosovo as part of Operation Joint Guardian. The outcome, as far as Air Power was concerned was less than successful. It seems that Serbian concerns of the regime's instability, and the threat of a possible NATO ground invasion, is ultimately what caused the Serbian withdrawal.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević survived the conflict and declared its outcome a major victory for Yugoslavia and Serbia. He was, however, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia along with a number of other senior Serbian and Yugoslav political and military figures. His indictment led to Yugoslavia as a whole being treated as a pariah by much of the international community because Milošević was subject to arrest if he left Yugoslavia. The country's economy was badly affected by the conflict, and a year later, popular disillusionment with the Milošević regime led to his overthrow in October 2000.

Thousands were killed during the conflict, and hundreds of thousands more fled from the province to other parts of the country and to the surrounding countries. Most of the Albanian refugees returned home within a few weeks or months. However, much of the non-Albanian population again fled to other parts of Serbia or to protected enclaves within Kosovo. Albanian guerrilla activity spread into other parts of Serbia and to neighbouring Republic of Macedonia, but subsided in 2001. The non-Albanian population has since diminished further following fresh outbreaks of inter-communal conflict and harassment, and veterans of the officially disbanded KLA are threatening renewed violence if their demand for secession is not fulfilled.

In December 2002, HM Queen Elizabeth II approved the awarding of the Battle Honour "Kosovo" to squadrons of the RAF that participated in the conflict. These were: Nos 1, 7, 8, 9, 14, 23, 31, 51, 101, and 216 squadrons. Squadrons that are emboldened are authorized to have the battle honour emblazoned on their Colours.

Criticism of the case for war

Some critics have accused the coalition of leading a war in Kosovo under the false pretense of genocide. United States President Bill Clinton, and his administration, were accused of inflating the number of Kosovar Albanians killed by Serbians. Clinton's Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, said, "The appalling accounts of mass killing in Kosovo and the pictures of refugees fleeing Serb oppression for their lives makes it clear that this is a fight for justice over genocide. On CBS' Face the Nation Cohen claimed, "We've now seen about 100,000 military-aged men missing...They may have been murdered. Clinton, citing the same figure, spoke of "at least 100,000 (Kosovar Albanians) missing". Later, Clinton said about Serbian elections, "they're going to have to come to grips with what Mr. Milošević ordered in Kosovo... They're going to have to decide whether they support his leadership or not; whether they think it's OK that all those tens of thousands of people were killed...". In the same press conference, Clinton also claimed "NATO stopped deliberate, systematic efforts at ethnic cleansing and genocide. Clinton compared the events of Kosovo to the Holocaust. CNN reported, "Accusing Serbia of 'ethnic cleansing' in Kosovo similar to the genocide of Jews in World War II, an impassioned President Clinton sought Tuesday to rally public support for his decision to send U.S. forces into combat against Yugoslavia, a prospect that seemed increasingly likely with the breakdown of a diplomatic peace effort. Clinton's State Department also claimed Serbian troops had committed genocide. The New York Times reported, "the Administration said evidence of 'genocide' by Serbian forces was growing to include 'abhorrent and criminal action' on a vast scale. The language was the State Department's strongest yet in denouncing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević. The State Department also gave the highest estimate of dead Albanians. The New York Times reported, "On April 19, the State Department said that up to 500,000 Kosovar Albanians were missing and feared dead. The claims of purported genocide had subsequently been proven untrue.

The United Nations Charter does not allow military interventions in other sovereign countries with few exceptions which, in general, need to be decided upon by the United Nations Security Council. The issue was brought before the UNSC by Russia, in a draft resolution which - inter alia - would affirm "that such unilateral use of force constitutes a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter". China, Namibia and Russia voted for the resolution, the other members against, thus it failed to pass. The absence of Security Council approval as a legal basis for the intervention led some observers to argue that the intervention undermined international law.

On April 29, 1999, Yugoslavia filed a complaint at the International Court of Justice at The Hague against ten NATO member countries (Belgium, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and USA). The Court did not decide upon the case because it ruled that Yugoslavia was not a member of the UN during the war.

In Western countries, opposition to NATO's intervention was mainly from conservatives and libertarians on the right, and from most of the far left. In United Kingdom, the war was opposed by many prominent conservative figures including former UK Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont, and journalists Peter Hitchens and Simon Heffer, whereas opposition on the left was confined to The Morning Star newspaper and left-wing MPs like Tony Benn and Alan Simpson. However, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee), a Leninist splinter-group, backed the Kosovo Liberation Army (while opposing NATO's intervention, seeing it as American-led imperialist opportunism) and supported the complete secession of Kosovo from Serbia.

See also

References

  • Byman, Daniel. L and Waxman, Mathew C. "Kosovo and the Great Air Power Debate". International Security, Vol. 24, No. 4. 2000. PP. 5 - 38.

External links

Search another word or see 1999_NATO_bombing_of_the_Federal_Republic_of_Yugoslaviaon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;