NATO's Success in Kosovo

Yugoslav army vehicles block a road in the town of Kraljevo, some 180km from Belgrade, June 24, 1999. Reuters


NATO's Kosovo operation was a major challenge in the history of the Atlantic alliance. For the first time, a defensive alliance launched a military campaign to avoid a humanitarian tragedy outside its own borders. For the first time, an alliance of sovereign nations fought not to conquer or preserve territory but to protect the values on which the alliance was founded. And despite many challenges, NATO prevailed.

Throughout the 1990s NATO has been instrumental in managing Europe's security evolution -- a testament both to the vitality of the transatlantic link and to its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Yet if there was any flaw in this emerging cooperative-security framework, it was the fact that parts of the Balkans remained outside NATO's borders. Having never been fully resolved over the course of this century, the Balkan question returned with a vengeance when the violent collapse of the former Yugoslavia led to a series of wars.

These wars constituted the greatest challenge for European security since World War II. Apart from causing countless humanitarian tragedies, they constantly threatened to escalate beyond their point of origin and destabilize wider regions. The origins of these wars were manifold. Although no one denies the existence of economic crises and ethnic and religious fault lines, Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic deliberately manipulated these differences into violent and explosive nationalism.

The road to the 1995 Dayton Accord need not be recounted here. Suffice it to say that when the international community finally got engaged in Bosnia and pushed that country toward a sustainable peace, it did more than simply demonstrate that outside intervention can make a difference. The NATO-led international Implementation Force (ifor) united more than 30 nations, including Russia, in a unique coalition for peace and became the symbol of a new cooperative approach to security.


Whereas these developments marked a turn for the better, Kosovo took a turn for the worse. Ever since Milosevic had withdrawn the autonomy of this province

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