by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
(click on map to enlarge)
Structure of this outline of the events leading to the 1999 War by NATO in Kosovo:
Background: Serbs’ and Kosovar Albanians’ claims to Kosovo
Communism, 1945-90, and its impact on Kosovo
Competing Loyalties: The Nationalist Revivals of Serbs and of
the Kosovar Albanians in the 1980s
Uprising: Kosovo as Yugoslavia Dissolves, 1990-95
Following the logic of Croatia, Bosnia’s Serbs: The K.L.A.’s
strategy of a “War of Liberation,” 1998 on
The Serb-Kosovar War, 1998-99
7. NATO acts: 78 days of Air War, Spring 1999
Aftereffects of the Kosovo War
and Kosovar Albanians’ claims to Kosovo
Serb Nemaja rulers were defeated by Turks on the plains of Kosovo Polje, or
“Field of the Black Birds.” Five
hundred years of Turkish rule over Serbs is begun.
Prince Lazar, leader of Serbs, becomes national martyr. Reburial of his bones there in late 1980s becomes occasion of Serbian nationalist revival.
Demography changes: large Albanian migration into Kosovo.
Most Albanians are Muslims (a minority are Catholic).
Serbian Independence won from Turkey
Serbia takes control over Kosovo
Kosovo Under Communist Rule
Anti-Nazi rebel leader Josip Broz Tito puts Kosovo under Serbian rebel
administration; this angers local communists, who to Albania for help in their
resistance to the Nazis.
Communist rule established in all Yugoslavia. Bitter Albanian resistance
in Kosovo leads to widespread atrocities, 1946-48. Albanian
relations with Yugoslavia are strained, even though each nation has a communist
Serb Interior Minister Alexander Rankovic expels many Albanians from Kosovo to
1955: Serb police terrorize Kosovo: 30,000 are mistreated and 100 die.
to 1981: 112,000 Serbs leave Kosovo
Autonomous status granted to Kosovo under amended Yugoslavian federal
constitution. At this time, Kosovo
is approximately 80% Albanian, 20% Serbian.
The 1980s: Nationalist Revivals in Kosovo
March 1981: Student rebellion, riots begin in Prishtina, Kosovo’s capital; these persist for more than seven years and become local ritual (e.g., after soccer games).
1980s: Serbs in Kosovo object to Kosovar rule, find little comfort in Belgrade government or Communist Party
June 28, 1987: On “Day of the Black Birds,” Milosevic visits Kosovo, tells Serbs of Kosovo: “They’ll never do this to you again. Never again will anyone defeat you.” This is significant:
· It marks the beginning of any official support for resurgence of Serbian Nationalism as a political force in Yugoslavia.
· Overt nationalism and mass participation in politics --the two taboos of Yugoslav Communism-- both are breached.
July 1988: Serbs from Kosovo demonstrate to demand end of Kosovo autonomy in Vojvoidina, re both Kosovo and Vojvoidina.
Oct 1988: Milosevic forces Vojvoidina leadership to resign. Serb rule over Kosovo resumed: Albanians fired from police, schools, other public institutions.
1989: Yugoslav Federal Government’s crackdown in Kosovo intensified: schools, universities closed. Serb officials appointed; discriminatory policies stepped up.
June 28, 1989: One Million Serbs demonstrate at Kosovo Polje.
Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia leave Yugoslavia; wars, not rule by Communists,
determine political outcomes
Rugova’s urging, Kosovars leave public institutions and set up parallel
schools, universities, tax collection agencies and other aspects of
demonstations against Serb occupiers continue.
resistance does not succeed in its goal of forcing the Serbs to withdraw.
War to Liberate Kosovo from Serbia
1996: A new group, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA; or UCK), appears and advocates armed struggle.
1997: Groups in Albania proper organize to support the cause of armed struggle for Kosovo’s independence.
1996-98: Leadership of the Liberation Army remains clandestine, but leading Kosovar intellectuals, e.g. Adem Demaci, the “Nelson Mandela of Kosovo” (a writer jailed 27 years for anti-Serb agitation), give support to the KLA’s tactics.
February-March 1998: Widespread violence erupts. 100 plus Albanians are killed by Serbian forces, chiefly in the Drenica region.
Rest of 1998: Widespread protests, and inter-communal violence, accompany escalating armed conflict.
Reactions to 1998 Crisis show dangers of regional conflict:
leader, Rugova, refused three offers by Serbia to begin meetings to discuss
increasing autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia.
Independence is now the goal of both moderate and radical Kosovars.
demanded Serbia agree to international talks to aim at solutions beyond mere
autonomy (March 16). This
“intervention” by Turks enrages Serbs.
and Romania opposed reimposing economic sanctions against Serbia/Yugoslavia.
6. The Serb-Kosovar War of 1998-99
March 9, 1998: Key Security Council Members, acting through unofficial non-U.N. auspices of “the Contact Group” attempt to mediate. U.S., Russia, France, UK, Italy and Germany impose limited diplomatic and economic sanctions on Yugoslavia for “unacceptable use of force” in Kosovo.
April 24: Serbs vote 95% to reject international mediation in referendum; Kosovars boycott voting.
April 29: Contact Group freeze Yugoslav assets abroad unless negotiations begin.
May 9: Contact Group impose investment ban in Yugoslavia; (Russia rejects this sanction.) Milosevic-Rugova talks begin 6 days later, and this sanction is suspended for a few weeks, but lack of progress yields imposition of it and asset freeze by EU/US (June 8).
June: Albania asks NATO to patrol border with Kosovo (June 4); urges action to stop refugee flows into Albania. NATO overflights begin June 15 with 80 jets over border.
June: U.N. agrees to assist in disarmament of Albania to bring control over arms dispersed in 1997 riots.
June 24-26: US negotiators Holbrook and Gelbard meets with KLA, who one week earlier had pulled out of negotiations “until Serbs leave Kosovo.” Goal is a ceasefire.
August 3, 1998: US, EU, and NATO jointly demand ceasefire in Kosovo.
August 8: UN estimates 250,000 Kosovars are refugees, and that half of these are in danger of dehydration, malnutrition.
August 24: Serb cannon kills 3 food aid workers of Mother Teresa aid organization; block U.N. food convoy trying to enter Kosovo (Aug. 27)
Sept. 23: U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 1199 demanding Serbs end attacks on civilians in Kosovo or face international intervention; demanding an immediate ceasefire; and calling for international monitoring of it. Three days later, Serbs commit massacre at Gornji Obrinje.
Oct. 1: U.N. Security Council passes resolution condemning the massacres of Kosovars.
Oct. 12: NATO formally authorizes military action against Yugoslavia anytime after Oct. 16.
Oct. 13: U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke announces Yugoslav agreement with Milosevic: Ceasefire will begin; 2000 OSCE observers will monitor Serb reductions in forces in Kosovo to pre-crisis levels; elections in Kosovo are part of deal.
Oct. 27: NATO suspends deadlines for Milosevic, stating that “substantial compliance” with agreements is occurring
The Cease Fire breaks down late in 1998:
Dec. 21, 1998: Mayor of Kosovo Pulje, a Serb, is assassinated. Serb offensive begins within days.
Jan. 11, 1999: Top advisor to Rugova, Enver Maloku, is assassinated in Pristina.
Jan. 15: Serbs use tanks, artillery near Stimlje. OSCE monitors are fired on near Decani.
Jan. 16-17: Massacre at Racak; 45 die. NATO demands Milosevic respect ceasefire agreement of Oct. 1998.
Jan. 18: Milosevic orders U.S. diplomat William Walker to leave Kosovo within 48 hours (later recinded); Serbs deny entry into Kosovo of Louise Arbour, Chief Prosecutor of ICTY.
Jan. 19: Gen. Wesley Clark meets with Milosevic.
Jan. 30: UK Foreign Secy. Robin Cook delivers Milosevic an ultimatum from Contact Group: NATO will bomb, blockade Serbia unless Serbs appear at Rambouillet, France (Feb. 5) and agree to Contact Group plan. Plan calls for 3 years of autonomy for Kosovo, then referendum there on its future.
Feb. 5-28: Rambouillet Conference fails to resolve crisis, despite KLA agreement to Contact Groups’ terms.
Feb. 20, 1999: OSCE Monitors are attacked with stones by Serb mob, forced to leave Lapastica, Kosovo
Feb. 28: Several thousand refugees fleeing fighting are stopped by Serb police from crossing into Macedonia
Mar. 2: Adem Demaci resigns as head of KLA; he opposes any solution other than complete independence.
(Mar. 12: Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic are formally admitted to NATO)
Mar. 16: Columns of heavy tanks stream into Kosovo from Serbia with thousands of troops in clear violation of October 1998 ceasefire agreement.
Mar. 18: KLA formally signs Rambouillet agreement that Serbia/Yugoslavia rejected.
Mar.19: OSCE orders its monitors to leave Kosovo. UNHCR states that 443,000 (or 22% of Kosovo’s population) are refugees displaced from their homes at that time.
March 24: NATO airstrikes are begun on Serbia, and on Serb troops in Kosovo (March 27); Russia calls it “aggression” and suspends cooperation with NATO.
March 26: UN Security Council rejects Russian motion condemning NATO, 12 support NATO, 3 support Russia.
But this apparently solid support belied more deceptive behavior by some. For example, after the war it was revealed that Major Pierre-Henri Bunel, the Chief of Staff to the French
permanent representative to the NATO military committee in Brussels, provided advanced information about NATO's targeting in its air raids to the Serbians during the war. Bunel was convicted of treason for this, but received only a five year sentence. More curious still was the fact that allied intelligence agencies, not French intelligence agencies, discovered the treason: only then did the French Government charge Bunel, who at trial showed that he had been paid no money by the Serbs (the usual motive for treason). Moreover, at trial Bunel asserted that he was carrying out orders from his superiors in betraying NATO pilots' assignments to the Serbian enemy. (Frum and Perle: 238).
April 6: Milosevic announces unilateral ceasefire for Easter. NATO response: accept all conditions or war will continue. (Conditions: full political autonomy for Kosovo; withdrawal of all Serb/Yugoslav armed forces from Kosovo; international force to enter Kosovo to restore order and police the agreement).
May 7: Russia and G-7 announce support for plan that largely is NATO’s conditions for war to end. (Errant bomb attacks Chinese Embassy in Belgrade this date).
May 19: German Government publicly states it will oppose NATO proposals to launch a ground war.
May 29: NYTimes reports that 1 million Kosovars have been made refugees.
June 3: Milosevic, Serb Parliament accept NATO conditions.
June 9: NATO, Yugoslav generals sign military agreement giving Yugoslavs 11 days to leave Kosovo.
June 10: NATO suspends bombing of Serbia/Yugoslavia.
8. Aftereffects of the Kosovo War
June 1999: Serbia quits Kosovo; UN Security Council Resolution 1244 authorizes occupation of province by KFOR, but NATO leads the actual occupation force. (Russian forces briefly, and unhelpfully, occupy Pristina airport, confusing the start of the mission.) KFOR's mandate:
establish and maintain a secure environment in which refugees can return.
monitor and verify agreements made ending the conflict; enforce those agreements where necessary.
assist the U.N. mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.
KFOR remains the principal force responsible for order in Kosovo.
Sept. 24, 2000: Milosevic’s first direct election for Presidency produces disputed results. Opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica claims to have won 50%+.
Sept.-Oct. 2000: Revolution in Serbia: Demonstrations on behalf of Kostunica rock Yugoslavia, demanding no run-off election. Zoran Djindjic leads the protests.
Oct. 5-6, demonstrators take Federal Parliament Building, police defect to side of Kostunica. Milosevic concedes defeat in election; Kostunica sworn in as President of Yugoslavia. In February 2001, Zoran Djindjic is made Prime Minister.
Nov. 1, 2000: U.N. formally re-admits Yugoslavia as a member of the General Assembly after Kostunica Government requests admission. From 1992-2000, Milosevic Government had been barred from speaking or voting in the General Assembly (though not barred in all U.N. bodies).
Feb. 22, 2001: ICTY hands down first sentences for rape as a “crime against humanity,” 12 to 28 years, to 3 Serb soldiers in the Foca, Bosnia rape camps case.
March 31, 2001: On Djindjic's orders, Milosevic is arrested by Serb police, and is charged with corruption.
May 2001: International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indictment is delivered to Milosevic in his jail cell.
June 29, 2001: Again on Djindjic's orders, and without Yugoslav judicial concurrence, Milosevic is transferred to The Hague to stand trial before the ICTY, pleading “not guilty” to the Kosovo indictment of murder and crimes against humanity (July 3); “not guilty” to the extensive Croatia indictment (October 29), and “not guilty” to the still more extensive Bosnia indictment, which includes the charge of genocide (December 11). Trial began on Feb. 12, 2002 and it continues.
Sept. 10, 2001: U.N. Security Council lifts arms embargo against Yugoslavia that was imposed in 1992; lifted after Dayton Accords; and re-imposed in 1998.
November 19, 2001: General elections in Kosovo produce strong victory for Ibraham Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo (46 percent); ex-KLA commander Hashim Thaqi's Kosovo Democratic Party wins 26 percent. Serbian minority parties win 11 percent.
April 1, 2002: Yugoslavia agrees to transfer to the ICTY four Milosevic aides, and to fully cooperate with the Tribunal in the future. U.S. aid of $50 million was conditioned on such action by this date. Pres. Kostunica publicly opposed this action; Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic supported it.
October 13, 2002: Presidential elections in Serbia fail to receive the constitutionally required 50 percent turnout (only 45.5 percent turned out), and are ruled invalid. (Kostunica had polled 66.7 percent of ballots cast).
March 7, 2003: Serbia and Montenegro agree to rename their country, dropping "Yugoslavia" and presenting "Serbia and Montenegro" as the name of the state.
March 12, 2003: Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic is assassinated in Belgrade.
May 2, 2004: Milorad Lukovic, accused assassin of Djindjic, is arrested in Belgrade. Lukovic, a member of the Red Berets, a Serb paramilitary group active in the Croatian, Bosnian, and Kosovo wars, had been closely associated with criminal elements with ties to Milosevic.
other sources cited:
David Frum and Richard Perle, An end to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror (NY: Random House, 2003).
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