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News > Country

Serbia Will Never Join NATO, Leaders Say 20 years after Bombings

  • A man and his daughter leave their house,destroyed as a result of the

    A man and his daughter leave their house,destroyed as a result of the "pinpoint" bombing of NATO. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 March 2019

On March 24, 1999, NATO and U.S. forces began a bombing campaign of the former Yugoslavia amid the Kosovo War.  

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin have reiterated that the country will never join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

UN Orders Life Imprisonment for Serb Leader over Genocide

“We made this choice because we were bombed, but first of all because we will never do to other nations what they have done to us,” said Vulin during events remembering the 1999 NATO bombing of former Yugoslavia.

On March 24, 1999, NATO and U.S. forces began a bombing campaign of former Yugoslavia amid the Kosovo War.  The military intervention, named Operation Allied Force or for the U.S. Operation Noble Anvil, marked the first time that NATO used military force without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

Nineteen countries took part in the aggression led by former president Bill Clinton’s Administration, that was supposed to stop the repressive activities of Slobodan Milosevic’s government and to establish a framework for its Southern province, Kosovo. Milosevic was president of Serbia from 1989 to 1997, and of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000.

"Nobody, not even those who made the decisions have any doubt that those events, the NATO aerial bombardments in central Europe, constituted a gross violation of international law," Russia's ambassador to the EU and former Special Envoy to the Balkans (2000-2002) Vladimir Chizhov told Sputnik on Sunday. 

The Grdelic Bridge was bombed on April 12, 1999, when a passenger train was passing through, killing 20 civilians. Photo: Reuters 

The attackers justified the actions as a “humanitarian” intervention to stop the “genocide of Kosovar Albanians“. Yet during 78 days, the country was systematically attacked. In all of the territory, 14,000 bombs were dropped targeting military and civilian infrastructure, including 40,000 houses, approximately 500 km of roads and railways, 44 bridges, and more than 100 hospitals and schools. 

The result was more than 2,000 dead civilians, 12,500 injured, and a territory contaminated with depleted uranium, a chemical element internationally banned which to date is still causing children cancer rates to spike all over the Balkans.

“We are ready to forgive but we will never forget,” said Serbian President in an interview with Russia’s Channel 1 on March 22, adding that he told NATO Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg, that “Serbia is not only a friend of Russia, Serbia is something that cannot be broken or destroyed.”

In 2008, Albanian-majority Kosovo declared independence and won recognition from the U.S. and most EU countries, but not Serbia or Russia. Currently, some 4,000 NATO troops remain in the country. The Serbian President said Thursday that a failure to revive talks between to normalize relations could destabilize the Western Balkan region once again. 

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