How Russians spoiled NATO’s triumph – let us remind the West of the lessons of the past

While the world is watching the spread of coronavirus and protests in the United States, a new round of Kosovo confrontation is not so noticeably, but still swiftly unfolding. In Pristina, the unwanted Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who torpedo negotiations with Belgrade, was skillfully removed. His successor has already cleared the way for renewed dialogue. Only one thing is clear: for Serbia, the Kosovo settlement does not mean anything good.

How Russians spoiled NATO's triumph - let us remind the West of the lessons of the past

“Serbia will not be easy,” President Alexander Vucic said bluntly. He predicts strong pressure from the United States regarding recognition of Kosovo.

“They want Serbia to fully recognize Kosovo as an independent state, which we naturally do not want,” he said. – Everyone is trying to teach us and talking about a “compromise solution.”

The problem is that the compromise is very dubious. Kosovo will receive the long-awaited recognition of its independence, the United States – an ostentatious foreign policy victory. What does Serbia get? Surrender of interests and cause for internal destabilization? Of course, we should not forget about the prospect of becoming a member of NATO, an alliance that launched “humanitarian” bombings on the Serbs two decades ago. Agree, a controversial deal. But Belgrade’s position in the Kosovo direction did not become stronger over time, and Washington is now using all possible levers to close the issue for the presidential election.

It may seem that all the trump cards have now accumulated on the other side of the Atlantic. But even in the best of times for the United States, there were forces capable of overshadowing plans to spread “democracy.” Anticipating a triumph, it is important for overseas officials to remember the lesson of bygone days, the lesson known as the Pristina Throw.

21 years ago, the bloody NATO operation in Yugoslavia ended. Killing thousands of innocent lives, the bombing subsided, peacekeeping forces were deployed in Kosovo. The NATO grouping was based in Macedonia, and the alliance command has already looked after Slatina Airport for its needs. It was the only airport in the region capable of accepting both passenger and military aircraft. It was planned to take such an important object exactly on June 12, but the western block was expecting an unpleasant surprise – the Russians.

On the night of June 12, a battalion of airborne troops advanced from Bosnia to Kosovo. He had to get ahead of NATO, take control of the airport and wait for the main Russian forces there. Overcoming 600 kilometers, the military entered Pristina at about 2 a.m. The Serbs who inhabited the city greeted the Russians with joy. People went outside, carried flowers and fruits.

Leonid Ivashov, who in those years held the post of head of the Main Directorate of International Military Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Defense, later said that he asked the military to move carefully so as “not to hurt, not overshadow the joy.” According to him, then the Serbs came to the rescue. They asked people to leave, and the battalion reached the airport, ahead of NATO forces.

Those events can be compared with the military chronicle of the Great Patriotic War. Just as the Soviet soldiers were met by the inhabitants of the cities liberated from the Nazi occupiers, the Russians were met by the Serbs after many months of NATO bombing. That night, Russia not only seized the initiative of the alliance, not just established control over the airport. She gave people hope, consolidated faith in the fraternal relations of the two peoples.

Today, the United States is again trying to deprive the Serbs of hope. Washington is showing by all means that Belgrade will still have to go to the conditions dictated by the West. But in their ambitious aspirations, the States should remember that one morning the Russians can moderate the American fervor.

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