Eastern Europe: From Socialist Bloc And Non-Alignment To U.S. Military Colonies
Eleven years ago today the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was in the seventh week of a bombing war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, one which saw over 1,000 Western military planes fly over 38,000 combat missions, bombs dropped from the sky and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean Sea.
Having quickly exhausted military targets, NATO warplanes resorted to bombing so-called targets of opportunity, including bridges on the Danube River, factories, Radio Television of Serbia headquarters in the capital (where sixteen employees were killed), a refugee column in Kosovo, the offices of political parties and the residences of government officials and foreign ambassadors, a passenger train, a religious procession, hospitals, apartment courtyards, hotels, the Swedish and Swiss embassies and the nation's entire power grid.
U.S. Apache gunships and British Harrier jet aircraft were deployed for attacks on the ground and Yugoslavia was strewn with unexploded cluster bomb fragments and depleted uranium contamination.
The 78-day bombing campaign, NATO code name Operation Allied Force and U.S. Operation Noble Anvil, was promoted in Washington and other Western capitals as history's first "humanitarian war."
The U.S. and NATO dramatically escalated the reckless assault with an overnight attack on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7 in which five American bombs simultaneously struck the building, killing three and wounding 20 Chinese citizens. The government of China denounced the action for what it was, a "war crime," a "barbaric attack and a gross violation of Chinese sovereignty" and "NATO's barbarian act."
During the long Cold War it was assumed that military action by the North Atlantic military bloc would result in the death and injury of soldiers and civilians in member states of the Warsaw Pact. But NATO's first victims were Serbs and Chinese.
When the war ended on June 11, the West had achieved what it set out to accomplish:
50,000 troops under NATO's command entered Serbia's Kosovo province, where over 12,000 remain eleven years later.
The Pentagon commissioned Kellogg, Brown & Root to construct the nearly 1,000-acre Camp Bondsteel and its sister base Camp Monteith in Kosovo, which continue to operate to the present day.
Kosovo had been wrenched from Serbia and on February 17, 2008 declared itself an independent nation, recognized as such by the U.S. and most all of its NATO allies, though not by almost two-thirds of the world's nations.
In 1999 NATO Secretary General Javier Solana moved across the street as it were in Brussels to become the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in which post he supervised a "trial separation" for what remained of Yugoslavia, and the very name of Yugoslavia was wiped from the map as the Western-sponsored State Union of Serbia and Montenegro succeeded it in 2003.
Three years later Montenegro, with a population smaller than that of the American city of Memphis, became the world's newest nation. To demonstrate after the fact what had been planned before, a U.S. guided missile cruiser visited the coastal city of Tivat within months and an American submarine tender arrived there in 2007 to mark the first anniversary of Montenegro's nominal independence.
In the year following the break-up of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, the last-named joined NATO's Partnership for Peace apprenticeship program and the following year was granted an Individual Partnership Action Plan and signed a Status of Forces Agreement with NATO for which the U.S. is the depositary government. In late 2009 it received a Membership Action Plan, the final step before full NATO membership. This March Montenegro became the 44th nation to contribute troops for NATO's war in Afghanistan. All these developments occurred in four years.
Since the beginning of NATO's post-Cold War expansion in 1999, nations of the former Warsaw Pact and of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have become Western military colonies, hosting visits by and basing troops and military equipment from NATO and its individual members, especially the U.S. So far this year former Warsaw Pact countries Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and most recently Albania have announced their willingness to accede to U.S. and NATO requests for interceptor missile facilities to be stationed on their territories.
The U.S. has acquired four military bases in Romania and three in Bulgaria over the past four years and will soon activate a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missile installation in the east of Poland, 35 miles from the Russian border. Longer-range anti-ballistic missile interceptors are to follow according to Polish officials.