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FINANCIAL TIMES --Nato's Deadly Legacy
|Americans Against World Empire Homepage
FINANCIAL TIMES 12/14/99
Nato's deadly legacy by ROBERT SKIDELSKY:
Western intervention in Serbia caused a humanitarian
catastrophe and encouraged Russian militarism
With the west's humanitarian
concern now focused on Russia's
assault on Grozny, it is a good
moment to look back on Kosovo, not
least because the renewal of the
Chechen war is a direct
consequence of the Kosovan
operation. It showed Russia the
"western, civilised" way of waging
this type of war, and it tilted the balance of power in Russian
politics towards the military.
The publication last week of "Human Rights in Kosovo", a
report by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in
Europe, is another reason to revisit Kosovo, because it so
clearly exposes the lies spun by Nato's war machine.
By now, it should be clear that Nato's military intervention in
Yugoslavia was illegal under international law. The UN
Charter limits members' external use of force to self-defence
and actions authorised by the Security Council. Protection
of human rights is not a ground in international law for
military intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign
As the OSCE report makes clear, Nato's military
intervention caused the humanitarian catastrophe it was
ostensibly designed to avert. Based on the evidence of
monitors on the ground and refugees during the bombing
period, the report establishes that it was only after OSCE
observers left Kosovo on March 20, four days before
bombing started, that general and systematic violation of
human rights began to occur.
"Summary and arbitrary killing became a generalised
phenomenon throughout Kosovo with the beginning of the
Nato air campaign against the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia on the night of March 24-25."
The report provides no evidence to back Nato's claim that
genocide and mass expulsion of Kosovo Albanians was the
deliberate aim of Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav leader,
and that it was only Nato's intervention that averted this
"humanitarian catastrophe". On the contrary, it makes it
clear that the human rights situation in Kosovo had improved
after the installation of the monitors in November 1998, and
that the flight or expulsion of 863,000 Kosovo Albanians took
place after the air raids began.
Under no circumstances can the Yugoslav response to
Nato's action be justified. But it has to be remembered that
Yugoslavia was expecting a ground invasion in addition to
the hostilities of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
The main aim of any sensible diplomacy should have been
to ensure that an expanded force of monitors was kept in
place in Kosovo. This was inconsistent with Nato's
determination to use the threat of force to bring Mr Milosevic
Nato's actions have made the world a much more dangerous
place. Almost all of the non-Nato, non-Islamic world was
deeply hostile to the war. Alexander Lukin, director of
Moscow's Institute for Political and Legal Studies, sees
Nato's "new strategic doctrine" as a project that "implies an
unlimited enlargement of Nato's membership, extending its
writ to a vaguely defined Euro-Atlantic area and eventually
the whole world".
Mr Lukin laments the fact that "all the Nato countries
followed the US in a deliberate effort to destroy the
post-second world war international system".
The damage to the post-war system can already be seen in
the start of global rearmament, and the new strategic
doctrines of Russia, India and China. The "cold peace"
predicted by Boris Yeltsin, the Russian president, has
If truth is the first casualty of war, then acknowledgment of
that truth should be the first step towards reconciliation. The
truths embodied in the propositions above are not the whole
truth. As the OSCE report says, violation of human rights
was "both cause and consequence of the conflict in
Mr Milosevic and the Serbs who supported him bear a heavy
responsibility for the suffering. But Nato has not
acknowledged its own contribution to the disaster.
If admission of error is an essential ingredient of
reconciliation, another should be restitution for damage over
the Balkan area. The IMF estimates that the six countries
most directly affected by the war (excluding Serbia) lost 2
per cent of their national output as a result of the conflict.
Serbia's loss is estimated at 45 per cent.
A Nato "Marshall Aid" package would not only be justified,
but prudent, for economic impoverishment is the seedbed of
Finally, we should learn from the experience of eastern
Europe's "velvet revolution" of 1989-90, and drop indictments
for war crimes against Mr Milosevic.
This will enable him to give up power without being handed
over for trial at the Hague Tribunal. His own rule should not
be perpetuated by those who also have blood on their
Unless we are willing to come clean on Kosovo, Russia will
not listen to us on Chechnya - or anything much else.
The author was dismissed as Conservative Treasury
spokesman in the House of Lords for his opposition to
Nato's bombing campaign