NATO turned 70 this year. This anniversary will be celebrated at this week’s London Summit, where various topics and threats will be discussed. The alliance was established in 1949 for the purpose of providing collective defense to member states. The alliance launched its first military operations only after the Cold War had ended – and some of these are well known to us in Serbia.
The Alliance today has 29 member states, and could soon reach the figure of 30. The country that is a step away from joining NATO is North Macedonia.
NATO did not conduct any military operations during the Cold War, but after it was over – two followed: “Anchor Guard” in 1990 and “Ace Guard” in 1991. Both were fueled by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Afghanistan, Libya, Turkey – these are on the list of those countries where NATO has intervened – but the first and the longest military operations are precisely those that have affected us – in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in Yugoslavia.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina intervention
The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina began in 1992 as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. The deterioration of the situation led to the adoption of a UN Security Council Resolution on October 9, 1992, which introduced a no-fly zone over central Bosnia and Herzegovina, which NATO began to implement on April 12, 1993.
On February 28, 1994, NATO carried out its first hostile war activity by firing at four aircraft of the Army of the Serb Republic (VRS) Air Force, for violating the no-fly zone.
At the same time, a two-week campaign of bombing VRS positions began in August 1995, after the Srebrenica crime.
NATO air strikes in 1995 resulted in the signing of the Dayton Accords on November 21, which ended the war.
As part of the peace agreement, NATO deployed IFOR peacekeepers. The mandate changed to a smaller format called SFOR, which lasted until 2004, when the operation was passed onto EUFOR.
Intervention in Yugoslavia
On September 23, 1998, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for an end to hostilities and monitoring of a ceasefire between the Albanian and Yugoslav sides in Kosovo and Metohija.
Negotiations led by US Special Envoy for the Balkans Richard Holbrooke failed on March 23, 1999, and he referred the matter to NATO, which started the 78-day bombing the very next day.
The operation was aimed at the military capabilities of then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Although the campaign was criticized for numerous civilian casualties of the bombing, including the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Slobodan Milosevic finally accepted the terms of an international peace plan on June 3, 1999, ending the war in Kosmet (Kosovo and Metohija).
On June 11, Milosevic accepted UN Security Council Resolution 1244, under whose mandate NATO helped establish the Kosovo Force (KFOR).
About one million refugees had left Kosmet.
The war in Afghanistan
The September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States caused NATO to, for the first time in its history, activate Article 5 of its treaty, which states that an attack on one member state is an attack on all.
The Alliance showed unity: on April 16, 2003, NATO agreed to take command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which included forces from 42 countries.
The ISAF was initially tasked with securing Kabul and surrounding areas from the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and factional warlords, to facilitate the establishment of the Transitional Administration of Afghanistan, led by Hamid Karzai. In October 2003, the UN Security Council approved the expansion of the mission, and ISAF expanded over time into four main phases.
On June 31, 2006, the ISAF took over military operations in southern Afghanistan from a US-led anti-terrorist coalition. During the 2012 Chicago Summit, NATO adopted a plan to end the war in Afghanistan and remove the NATO-led forces by the end of December 2014.
The Libya intervention
During the Libyan civil war, violence between protesters and the Libyan government under Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi escalated and, on March 17, 2011, led to the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire authorizing military action to protect civilians.
A coalition comprised of several NATO members began enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya shortly after, beginning with France’s Air Force operation on March 19.
On March 24, NATO agreed to take control of the no-fly zone from the original coalition, while command of targeted ground forces remained with the coalition forces. It officially started implementing the resolution on March 27 with the help of Qatar and the UAE.
The mission was extended, and by the end of October 2011, following the death of Colonel Gaddafi, NATO aircraft had carried out about 9,500 strikes against targets of Gaddafi’s supporters.