Today, one often hears that the world is on the brink of World War III. Some believe it has already started and that it began on 11 September 2001, when an act of provocation carried out in New York gave the United States the opportunity to invade Afghanistan under the pretext of «combating international terrorism». Some point to an even earlier starting point for World War III – NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in March 1999.
And what happened in Yugoslavia at the end of the 20th century is now being repeated in Ukraine. The escalation of an undeclared Third World War continues.
The time has now come to begin preparations for a ‘new Potsdam’, bearing in mind that one of the main issues under discussion at the Potsdam Conference in 1945 was reparations for the destruction and damage inflicted on the Soviet Union and other countries subjected to Nazi aggression.
Note: The Potsdam Conference was the first and last meeting of the three leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition, at which Stalin (USSR), Churchill (Great Britain) and the Truman (the US) discussed the fate of the post-war world. It took place in Potsdam between 17 July and 2 August 1945.
At the Potsdam Conference, the Soviet delegation provided figures for the losses sustained by the Soviet Union as a result of the war. According to official figures, the direct economic damage inflicted on the Soviet Union amounted to $128 billion, with an overall loss of $357 billion, based on the value of the dollar in 1939. For comparison: the aid received by the Soviet Union through the lend-lease programme amounted to around $11 billion for the whole war.
Preparations for a new tally should be carried out through the compilation of an international ‘white paper’. It would become an international legal basis for reparations that would be imposed on the US and its NATO allies.
Work is already underway to calculate the losses of the Third World War. For example, the government of Syria announced that by the end of 2013, the amount of economic damage as a result of military operations by armed opposition groups (backed by Washington) reached $144 billion, almost triple the Syrian GDP. It is more than likely that by the end of 2014, this figure will be even higher.
After the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, a three-volume ‘white paper’ was prepared, but today, the task of compiling an international ‘white paper’ on the basis of a common methodology with the cross-use of experts and information from all the countries involved is becoming more pressing. Usually, reparations are understood to mean compensation for damages inflicted on a country as a result of military operations. In this day and age, however, damage is not only inflicted as a result of military operations. Damage caused by economic sanctions and blockades, subversive operations, information wars and other forms of aggression should also be borne in mind.
The initial chapter of the international ‘white paper’ should be Serbia’s tally as the first victim of World War III.
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Buildings in Belgrade destroyed by NATO airstrikes have still not been rebuilt.
The bulk of Serbia’s tally is damage as a result of US and NATO military aggression, which lasted from 24 March to 10 June 1999. Let us recap the basic numbers. 35,000 air combat missions were carried out against Yugoslavia, involving 1,000 aircraft and helicopters; more than 10,000 cruise missiles were launched, dropping over 79,000 tons of explosives (including 156 containers with 37,440 cluster bombs, which are prohibited by international law). Barbaric bombing campaigns were also carried out using ammunition containing slightly enriched uranium.
Direct material damage. During the NATO bombing campaign led by US General Wesley Clark, around 2,000 Yugoslav civilians were killed and more than 6,000 wounded, and around 50 factories and plants, 18 electric power stations, 34 bridges, 50 hospitals and polyclinics, and 480 schools, colleges and universities were destroyed. Nearly 600,000 people lost their jobs. According to various estimates, the total amount of direct material damage ranges from $30 billion to $100 billion.
Environmental damage. The most tangible effects were caused by NATO strikes on an industrial complex in Pancevo: on a nitrogen factory, an oil refinery and a petrochemical complex. Toxic chemicals and compounds found their way into the atmosphere, the water and the ground, which endangered the health of people and ecosystems throughout the Balkans. The air was contaminated with noxious fumes from burning oil refineries, and the Danube and other rivers, which were contaminated with oil from reservoirs blown up by bombs, polluted a number of lakes (the biggest of which was Lake Skadar) and the Adriatic Sea. The Minister of Health of the Republic of Serbia, Leposava Milocevic, declared: «Not even Adolf Hitler bombed our chemical plants! But NATO is quietly doing it, destroying rivers, contaminating the air, killing people and the country. A brutal experiment is being carried out on our people using the latest weapons». As a result of the use of aerial bombs containing depleted uranium, vast areas were contaminated with radionuclides, and cancer morbidity rose noticeably.
Indirect damage – losses associated with the suspension of production, unemployment, and lost revenue. Losses of this kind were magnified by the fact that after the 1999 bombing campaign, the country was marauded and pillaged by Western companies, which bought up its remaining assets for pennies. As a result, 2.5 million Serbian citizens were left with no means of support. Unemployment in Serbia reached the level of 40 per cent of the working population. In 2014 alone, there was a 3.5 per cent decline in production. Those who ruled Serbia after the 1999 aggression did not have any kind of development programme for the country. Everything was directed towards receiving Western ‘aid’. But that never materialised. The Serbs were simply deceived.
Losses sustained by Serbia’s neighbouring countries, which traditionally have close economic ties with Serbia, could also be classed as indirect losses. According to the London-based Economic Intelligence Unit, an authoritative analytical group that studies the economy, total losses sustained by countries neighbouring Yugoslavia as a result of the war in 1999 are estimated to be $8 billion. This includes direct financial losses, reduced foreign investments, and a fall in GDP as a result of the economic embargo.
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To date, the West does not want to hear about even partial compensation for Serbia’s losses as a result of military aggression. Every once in a while, arbitrary amounts of Western economic aid for Serbia are mentioned, which was allegedly for Serbia to restore its ruined economy, but all this is pure deception.
The money that the US and the EU sent to Serbia in the form of ‘aid’ was in fact the financial injection by Western multinationals. The Serbian population has never received any kind of compensation.
The residents of Belgrade welcome the Russian president at celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from the Nazis, 16 October 2014. The caption on the poster reads: «Vladimir, save Serbia».
The year 2014 has seen the beginning of important changes in world politics. Within the context of these changes, Belgrade has not given its support to the UN Security Council’s anti-Russian resolution on Crimea, and it has not yielded to pressure from Washington demanding that it join sanctions against Russia. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invitation to celebrations held on 16 October 2014 to mark the 70th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from the Nazis was of great importance.
Notes: The outcome of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Belgrade was the signing of an agreement on military-technical cooperation; an agreement on the mutual protection of classified information; an agreement on the existence, privileges and immunities of the Russian-Serbian humanitarian centre in Nis; a protocol for the exchange of data on the value of goods transported across the border; a Memorandum of Understanding on energy; an agreement on the reconstruction of three railway sections of the Tenth Pan-European Corridor; and an agreement on the supply of 27 diesel commuter trains.
It seems that Serbia is now ready to begin putting together an invoice for the West for damages incurred over the last two decades. Not very confidently, but Belgrade has started to do it. In May 2014, Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic told the UN Security Council that he is calculating compensation for damages caused by the 78-day NATO bombing campaign in 1999. «I do not complain, and I am not asking for the payment of war reparations in the classical sense, but as long as I am President of Serbia, I will remind you of your obligation to compensate us for an enormous and irreparable damage caused to our civilian facilities and the economy as a whole,» Nikolic told the UN Security Council session. The damage amounts to dozens of billions of dollars.
In this day and age, compensation claims can be an important instrument of foreign policy.
At the Genoa Conference in 1922, the West tried to bring Soviet Russia to its knees by demanding that it pay back the debts of the Tsarist and temporary governments to the tune of 18.5 billion gold roubles. However, Moscow issued its former Entente allies with a counter claim for the damage caused by the intervention and the economic blockade amounting to 39 billion gold roubles. This moderated the greed of Russia’s ‘partners’. Compensation claims also played a significant role in the fact that a phase of diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union began two years after the Genoa Conference. It is useful to learn from such an experience. Arguments involving money always have a much greater effect on the West than appeals for equality, justice or human rights.