Biagio Di Grazia: Why did NATO bomb Serbia in the 1999?

Biagio Di Grazia
Ed. (self-produced)
pp. 170

Recently, Kosovo has decided to acquire a real army and this certainly does not contribute to the stability of the Balkans. One more reason to read the second book of the general Biagio Di Grazia, ideal continuation of Kosava (1). Now, the books written by the generals on leave are of two kinds: those written to discharge on others their responsibilities after a disappointing military campaign and those where they can finally express their ideas freely. The first series generally includes large volumes of memories to be read with caution, while the second offers more collected works, but full of events and reflections. Our general can boast a real experience in the field (2) and his book, published first in Serbian and now in Italian, refers to a period now removed, even if not even twenty years have passed since NATO airplanes bombed the Serbia for two months. Strange war, to the point that a French newspaper proposed to build a monument to the Zero Fallen allies, while the other side died thousands of people under the bombs, plus the subsequent victims of environmental pollution. Italy made 19 airports available and also participated in the bombing operations. And since our embassy remained always open, our general (at the time military attaché in Belgrade) experienced the unusual experience of being in fact bombarded by our Tornado, officially photographic reconnaissance.

But let's move on to the book. It is divided into six chapters (The New World Order; The path of crisis in the Balkans; Serbia and Kosovo; NATO operations; War games; Challenge to the West, more Conclusions) structured according to a precise logic: first the theoretical setting, then the precise narration of events, complete with maps and attachments. If a text has already been used in previous publications, it is marked in italics. The main thesis is that, although accepting the official historical version and certified by the Court of the Hague, or a humanitarian intervention to curb the massacres of minorities, in a conflict always come strategic, economic and political components rarely expressed in clear, or openly presentable to the public opinion.

At other times the nationalists identified the enemy and the propaganda did the rest, while the military was entrusted with the conduct of the operations. Today it is not easy to justify a war, often the motivations are weak; what does it mean eg humanitarian intervention? And if the bombs fall right on the civilians that you would like to defend, what to say to the people? Keeping in mind the poverty of the Balkans, economic motivations seem weak to those who consume energy without wondering where it comes from and which countries pass through oil pipelines and gas pipelines (3). And at this point our general helps us to overcome the current narrative. As in Kosava, official documents are interspersed with personal testimonies that make the general picture not only clear, but provide new and fundamental details: in essence, all the parties involved were in turn victims and executioners, ready to behave like those who had oppressed them. month before and as contemptuous as the external controls put in place by the international community, controls ineffective for structural reasons: negotiating without a deterrent is difficult, and the ECMM European Commission, of which Di Grazia was part, did not have the power to impose set off. On the other hand, Milosevic after the withdrawal from Sarajevo (1996) did not realize the weakness of Serbia, trying again in Kosovo and unleashing in the 1999 the American reaction, with NATO again used as an offensive and the European countries (excluding Greece) deployed by part of the "good" (4). Serbia suffered in two months about 600 air missions a day, which destroyed its military, industrial and economic infrastructure; depleted uranium munitions were also used, which would have proved deadly even for the soldiers of the KFOR NATO mission and eventually the war was naturally won (10 June 1999). This is the chronicle. But let's see the analysis now.

Certainly Milošević overestimated his own forces and hoped for a guerrilla war on the ground, but an external threat and sanctions generally reunite the nation instead of weakening it. In addition, the Serbs themselves, like the Croats, would later be able to change government on their own, through regular democratic elections, retiring the nationalist ruling classes that had pushed the civil war. Now, everyone knew that Yugoslavia would enter into crisis once Tito died (1980); the real problem is that this disintegration has been heralded as inevitable. Europe could help the Yugoslav Federation to gradually enter the European context, and instead Germany, Austria and the Vatican in 1991 immediately recognized Slovenia and Croatia. Italy, on the other hand, did not move, despite the fact that the moment was favorable for negotiations. We could not say take back Istria, but at least renegotiate the mediocre and questionable Treaty of Osimo (1975), which gave everything in exchange for nothing. Serbia was amazed that in a few months we dismantled the military device on the borders of Venezia Giulia, and took the opportunity to supply men and weapons to the militias that would fight a fierce civil war within the Federation, while the UN and the EU proved unable to manage the conflict and protect minorities from "ethnic cleansing" (5)

In the 1995 the United States enter the conflict by putting NATO in the field, ending three years after the siege of Sarajevo and convincing the parties to negotiate the Dayton agreement (end 1995). As our general, who in the meantime became the head of the Mixed Military Commission (JMC, Joint Military Commission) for Sarajevo (p.66, par.2.4), "The cartographic design of the new state was very strange, but it proved to be the only one able to work, at least immediately after the war". This did not unfortunately exclude either the exodus of minorities from disputed areas, nor would it stabilize the region. The showdown between Serbia and Kosovo, highly disproportionate in favor of the Serbs, begins in 1996 (our general in the 1997 is now an OSCE Observer) and in the 1999 provokes the direct American intervention in the title, preceded by an ultimatum, which strangely, no one has ever compared with the analogue presented to Serbia in the 1914 by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Even then, national sovereignty imposed such limitations as to be unacceptable, giving very little time to negotiate. And even then, national pride prevailed.

The stages of the crisis are described in the book with precision, based on official documents and personal experiences. His testimony from Belgrade is interesting, where our embassy remained open and ours maintained the delicate function of military attaché. It is difficult to understand why our government was on the razor's edge, but in fact our diplomatic headquarters could maintain discreet relations with all parties, and archive documents will unveil many a day. The author honestly abides by what he has seen, and has seen a lot: the bombings, the hard life of the people, the end of Milosevic. It can also move with a certain freedom and is a witness, for example, of the bombing of the Chinese embassy, ​​which was certainly not by chance. Send confidential dispatches, as is diplomatic practice, but many personal impressions will keep them to themselves, at least as long as they are on active duty. And now he can finally say his own: the legal bases of the NATO intervention were weak and the use of force was immediately disproportionate. Yeah, but after twenty years what remains? If Europe has moved in sparse order and according to national interests - a constant - the role of the United States remains equally debatable. It is difficult to stabilize the Balkans without Serbia, but to bend its resistance, the American strategy has favored the creation of small national states without solid production bases: Kosovo, but also Macedonia and Montenegro - 20 last century - and more it encouraged Islamist penetration in Europe, the same that instead fights elsewhere. They are undervalued side effects, and Fausto Biloslavo wanted to find out that the jihad has thus been incited in Bosnia and Kosovo, in small towns far from the cities, supplying later foreign fighters at will. And in any case, Kosovo remains a poor relative to the international community, which keeps troops interposed (us first) and finances the deficit of a poor, corrupt and overpopulated country. Then taking into account that the UCK irregularities are then automatically merged into the internal security forces, now that they will feed the regular army the future is full of black clouds. But in the meantime the scenario has changed: the New World Order, preached by President George HW Bush father, is now overtaken by the recovery of Russia and the rise of China. It was a concept born in 800, a mixture of Darwinism and religious ethics, which only became realizable at the end of the Cold War: once the Soviet Union was excluded from competition, the United States remained the only superpower capable of regulating the world. It was about securing the energy sources produced by the Gulf countries, bringing under the American hegemony both the satellite states of the former Soviet Union (at least the European ones) and eliminating the so-called non-aligned countries, namely Tito's Yugoslavia . Saddam Hussein was reduced to milder councils, while Poland, the Baltic republics and the Czech Republic even entered NATO, the last thing the Russians wanted and which by the way was not even in the pacts. NATO itself has become a kind of Kampfgruppe divided by regional blocks and used for offensive actions. Meanwhile, Putin's Russia has recovered, Isis is still a problem and China is starting a strategic confrontation with the United States. Moreover, the discontinuity between the Trump management and the previous decades is evident, marked after the 1945 by a convinced atlantism and by the support to Germany. It is a totally new geopolitical picture and Di Grazia rightly points out, updating the analysis to current times.

Marco Pasquali

1 Kosava. Wind of ethnic hatred in the former Yugoslavia from Tito to Milosevic, 2016, reviewed in this magazine (see link)

2 In Zagreb, head operations office of the ECMM European mission; in Sarajevo, deputy commander of the Italian contingent in the NATO mission IFOR; in Belgrade, defense officer of the Italian Embassy; in Mostar, deputy commander of the French division in the NATO SFOR mission.

3 The 5,8 and 10 pan-European corridors pass through the areas of the former Yugoslavia; in detail, the 10 intersects with the 8 in Skopje. The 8 continues to Tirana and then to Bari. The 5 corridor passes through Sarajevo, Ploce and joins the port of Ancona.

4 Ethnic cleansing means the political practice of transforming a relative minority into an absolute majority through the violent expulsion of all others.

5 Greece justified its neutrality by citing sacrosanct affinity with the Orthodox Serbian church, refusing in this way to endorse the Islamist penetration in the Balkans. The Greeks are still wondering why in the 1198 the Fourth Crusade attacked Byzantium instead of the Infidels, and how the Serbs have precise ideas about Islam and - let's face it - gained from their own historical experience.