On this day, 24th of March 1999, forces of the NATO Alliance attacked what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro). The bombing lasted until 9th of June 1999 when Milosevic’s regime finally capitulated. In the bombing, according to official estimates, died between 1, 200 and 2, 500 people. Material damage amounts to 29.6 billion US dollars according to the Serbian based G 17 Institute.
Positive sides of the bombing are that it effectively stopped the ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians. Moreover, some think that Milosevic’s regime lost power a year later, largely due to the psychological effect the bombing made on the Serbian population. This is possibly true, but one should not forget that the regime could have been brought down on several instances before 5th of October 2000, namely in 1996-1997 during the 120 days long mass street protests against Milosevic’s electoral fraud. If the international community strongly supported the opposition forces then both the Kosovo 1999 war could have been avoided.
As far as the NATO 1999 Intervention is concerned, it is interesting to remind that it was the multilateralist President Clinton and his allies, not George W. Bush that introduced the practice of humanitarian interventions (conducting wars to bring democracy). NATO circumvented the UN Security Council, and bombed the FRY invoking a dubious international public law precedent. The majoritarian opinion in the state of the art of international public law is this war presented a breach of international peremptory legal norms. It is then that the post-WW II international order cracked, not in 2003 when Bush and his allies bombed Iraq. Was it a good or a bad decision, the future will show? What is sure is that present generations of Serbian citizens and Kosovar Albanians (still formally Serbian citizens) will never forget it.