Maria VOINOVA - Independent analyst and researcher
The heat was up in the Ukraine’s capital as the news on bloodshed during Maidan street protests spread around. I exchanged a few words with another journalist, my Ukrainian colleague, who took an active part in the Maidan movement. Excited, he shouted that FSB snipers were firing at patriots. Winding up the heated monologue, he added, «Wish NATO came as soon as possible. At last there is a pretext for it to do so». I told him, «Where does NATO come in? Don’t you remember what they did to Yugoslavia?» My colleague shrugged it off. «NATO is better than Russians,» the retorted.
Do they want to join Serbia in a bid for NATO membership?
Last December President Poroshenko submitted a bill to the parliament on ending the country's non-aligned status. The bill was voted into law, the status was abandoned. NATO membership was declared to be a national priority. Ukrainian media informs on what to expect in 2015: Ukrainian servicemen would participate in 237 events of individual program of the NATO partnership. The list includes exercises: Fearless Guardian-2015 (March-December) in Yavoriv district in Lviv region and Sea Breeze-2015 in the Black Sea near the shores of Odessa, Nikolayev and Kherson regions (starting in June). The social networks users frequently quote the post of Taras Berezovets which reads «Ukraine is on the way to NATO membership… It will hold 237 (!) joint events with the alliance this year. And Serbia plans to join NATO – this news is a real shock for Putin and Lavrov».
Ukrainian social networks and media often mention Serbia’s plans to join the North Atlantic alliance when it comes to discussing the Ukraine-NATO relationship. On March 24, Serbia marks the 16th anniversary of NATO bombings. This is the time to remember what happened then. Perhaps these reminiscences will cool down the Ukraine’s enthusiasm towards the idea of «Euro Atlantic integration».
…The North Atlantic alliance approached Serbia right after the Soviet Union’s collapse. In 1992 NATO aircraft started to patrol the Adriatic Sea to implement the embargo imposed against Yugoslavia. In April 1993 the military aircraft of the United States, the Netherlands and France extended their operations to enforce a no-fly zone (operation Deny Flight) over the Serbia’s airspace. The region of Kosovo, the territory of Serbia since ancient times, was taken away as a result of direct intervention by NATO. The same thing happens in the east of Ukraine nowadays. The conflicts in former Yugoslavia were used as a pretext for NATO’s military intervention. President Milosevic was the main target of world media. They made him a scapegoat blamed for all the woes faced by the Balkans at the time. It makes draw parallels with the lies spread about Russia today.
European NATO members were active participants of operation Merciful Angel. NATO aircraft took off in Italy. French aircraft Foch was deployed to the Ionian and Adriatic seas to deliver strikes against shore targets. Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary permitted the use of their national airspace. NATO ground forces with artillery pieces, armor and helicopters landed in Macedonia. 1200 aircraft of 14 countries participated in the operation. They flew 35 219 sorties in 78 days dropping 23000 munitions. Cluster bombs hit Serbian houses, hospitals and schools, depleted uranium contaminated the ground. The world was idly watching, no voices raised in protest.
Is it possible to stop once and for all the massacres of civilians, destruction of buildings, roads, bridges, churches, memorials and cemeteries in Novorossia that Kiev wants to subjugate? There will be no answer till the Ukrainian regime continues to approach NATO asking for help while putting the blame on Russia for all the things that have gone wrong. Like it was in case of Serbia…
Belgrade-based historian Mirian Zodic recalls, «Serbia was blamed for the crimes committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The great powers looked at it as an aggressor, a rogue state. Serbs were perceived as the greatest criminals, monsters responsible for all misdeeds. The world leaders launched an anti-Serbia campaign inventing lies to denigrate Serbia. Kosovo was the culmination».
Belgrade: 16 years ago
It seems to be impossible to forget the spring of 1999. Belgrade was in smoke, one blast immediately followed by another. Me and my friend Dragana Mrdja, a resident of Belgrade, stood in the heart of the city near the severely damaged building of the Yugoslavia’s General Staff with debris about to fall down into the street below where pedestrians were walking. «That’s the house we lived in when bombing started,» said Dragana showing a five-storey building near the General Staff. «Nikola, my elder son, was 13 years old. Every night he had to hide in the bomb shelter. Nenad, my youngest, was 7 years old. Fear made him sleep any time bombings started. I was near ready to cover him up in case of blast…The first strike shattered all the windows in the neighboring buildings, plaster crumbled, houses were shaken, they seemed to be moaning after every strike. Glass and dust poured on my son standing near the window. I took him underground. Me and my husband went to Nemanja Street to see the building of General Staff. It was all burnt. Then we heard the sound of approaching missiles, one after another. They probably exploded somewhere nearby, I could see nothing because of smoke and dust. My hand was hit by a stone. It hurt. Lying on the pavement I was looking for my husband. I saw a wounded fireman with broken legs. We could do nothing. We felt helpless. We could not defend ourselves. Nobody was there to help us. They all kept their mouths shut; nobody uttered a word to defend us…»
Milana Z., a resident of Belgrade, remembers those terrible 78 days, «On March 24, 1999 I was at the place of my work. The news came around midnight that NATO was going to bomb us. Panic was there though nobody showed it openly. My husband told me not to lose confidence and have no fear. The conditions we lived in during those 78 days were terrible. Mainly they bombed us at nights so we had to hide underground. We slept in horrible conditions. There was no electricity and water, we lacked basic food. With no conditions for hygiene, we could hardly lead normal life. We were scared to hear that NATO will not limit its actions by air strikes only, so we’ll have to face the enemy on the ground and the alliance will use scorched earth tactics. Thanks God, it all ended, but we are left with the feeling of universal injustice, there was an unpunished crime committed against us…»
Perhaps the testimony provided by witnesses of the events that took place in the spring of 1999 will be an eye opener for those in Ukraine who want NATO to deploy forces on the territory of their country.