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Regional strategy of NATO in the Balkans in the 1990s and the 2000s in the context of geopolitical interests of Russia
Material posted: Publication date: 15-11-2014

Today the Balkans are once again in their history are experiencing a difficult period. A region known for its conflict potential continues to be an arena for geopolitical confrontation of both regional and extra-regional players. A special role in the process of transformation of the regional security system in the 1990s and the 2000s has played the Alliance. NATO has conducted a number of military operations in the region, has implemented its own project of integration of the Balkan States.

It can be stated that during the two decades that have passed since the end of the Cold war, NATO has developed a universal model of involving the entire region into the orbit of its own military and political influence, which at the moment is trying to apply in the post-Soviet space, transforming their traditional regional security architecture. Of course, this causes concern on the part of Russia and requires a response based on the analysis of the events. In order to understand the mechanism of penetration of the Alliance in the zone of geopolitical interests of Russia, let's try to analyze the implementation of the regional strategy of NATO in the 1990s and the 2000s on the example of the Balkan countries.

Review of the geopolitical situation after the Cold war

The beginning of the 1990s marked a radical change in the system of international relations. The collapse of the Soviet Union has created for the U.S. and its allies a unique opportunity to penetrate into those regions which were formerly included in the Soviet zone of influence. At the same time as the European Outpost on the flank of the geopolitical approach of the West the Balkans were selected, and the role of the main striking force was assigned to the North Atlantic Alliance.

By the time when it became clear that the dissolution of the ATS will happen in the near future and I will conclude the years of bipolar confrontation, the NATO leadership continued to think in terms of the Cold war. Very soon it became clear that the Alliance enters a phase of acute ideological crisis, ways out of which were not clear, neither for experts, nor for politicians. In terms of the disappearance of the main geopolitical enemy of NATO was to define the goals of their continued existence or to decide on the dissolution.

The most significant attempts of the management team to prepare for a radical transformation of the international security system were amendments to the military doctrine and the adoption of a number of documents, otobrazhatsya the organization's vision of the processes that occurred in Europe. Among them especially prominent was the London Declaration of 1990 and the new Strategic concept of NATO, approved in 1991, These documents affirm the commitment of the Alliance to break the barriers that existed in Europe, and to extend a hand of friendship to former adversaries. However, in addition to declared intentions of building good-neighborly relations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the documents of that period was not proposed specific mechanisms for the reformatting of traditional regional security architecture.

Not become such a mechanism and signed on 19 November 1990 Paris Treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe. According to the plan he had to strike a balance between NATO and ATS in the class of conventional arms and to establish a specific ceiling for increase of military equipment of this type. This document was favorable, primarily the Alliance, significantly worse than the Soviet bloc by the number of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery units of caliber 100 mm and above, as well as combat aircraft and slightly superior to their opponents only by the number of attack helicopters.
Quotas soon lost its significance due to the fact that the Treaty entered into force after disbanding the police Department and it did not reflect already existing at the time of the situation. Thus, there immediately arose the question of its adaptation, which was solved in subsequent years, but remained unsolved until now.

In our view, it is hardly necessary to say that the leadership of NATO in the early 1990s was really ready to go for the voluntary dissolution of the organization in the Wake of the breakdown of the main geopolitical enemy. On the contrary, after a short pause for reflection on the events of large-scale geopolitical transformation, the Alliance embarked on an active involvement in the solution of regional and global security issues.

The forceful intervention of NATO in the conflict on the Balkan Peninsula

At the end of the 1980s in the Balkans has been a sharp increase in the conflict potential associated with the weakening of Central authority, economic problems, growth of separatism of the Republican authorities and the upsurge of nationalist sentiment among the population. The collapse of Yugoslavia, in which each of the republics had planned to receive their dividends from existence as a sovereign state, has turned into a disaster not only regional but also pan-European scale. There were a number of both intra-state and inter-state conflicts that emerged in the 1990s and the 2000s the Most significant of them was the Bosnian war, the Kosovo conflict and Macedonia.

Its position on the rising tensions in the Yugoslav territory of NATO for the first time formally outlined in the press release "the Situation in Yugoslavia", issued on 8 November 1991 during a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the highest level in Rome. The Alliance expressed concern over the crisis that erupted in the country, and for his permission suggested the use of diplomatic mechanisms.

The Balkans was presented to NATO at the time a unique testing ground for developing new concepts of its regional strategy. For NATO involvement in military conflicts on the Balkan Peninsula was the first combat experience in history. Of course military personnel of NATO countries sought to work out the combat interaction of different types of troops from different countries to improve interoperability. Special attention was paid to operations along with allied armed groups of Kosovo Albanians and Bosnian Muslims, although it was, in fact, illegal. "Balkan" experience would later be actively used by NATO in Afghanistan and Libya.

In geostrategic terms, the military command of the Alliance in the early 1990s was a serious task to protect the southern flank of the organization and to protect the border of Turkey and Greece from exporting instability to their territory. The main goal of involving NATO in the conflict in the Balkans was an attempt to establish hegemony in the region in the context of a weakening of Russia's positions on the Balkan Peninsula.

Due to a number of geopolitical factors NATO first decided to intervene in the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where fighting between Bosnian Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats reached its peak by 1995 It led not only to a sharp increase in the victims, but also to the migration of a significant part of the population in Western Europe that set the stage for a humanitarian crisis on a European scale.

Despite the fact that the NATO operation "Deliberate force" was deployed in the late summer of 1995, the North Atlantic Alliance, since 1992, has participated actively in crisis management. So since July 1992, the Alliance had been patrolling in the waters of the Adriatic sea in the implementation of UN security Council resolutions No. 713 and # 757, entered embargo on deliveries of weapons and sanctions against the former Yugoslavia, and then ensured adherence to the "no-fly zone" over Bosnia and Herzegovina in accordance with UN security Council resolution No. 781.

At the end of the year the NATO has declared about the possibility to participate in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations. In April 1993, began operation "Ban on flights", in which in February 1994, Downing of four warplanes of offender treatment "no-fly zone". In addition, for the special protection of the safe areas, the UN and support the UN's Force protection force (UNPROFOR) were inflicted air strikes on ground targets (armored vehicles, ammunition depots and air defence radars).

The culmination of the efforts of NATO efforts to weaken the Bosnian Serbs began the operation "Deliberate force" in August-September 1995, changed the correlation of forces in the conflict in favor of the Bosnians that forced Bosnian Serbs to negotiate, contributed to the signing of the Dayton agreement on 14 December 1995, Thus, for the first time in 45 years of its existence, NATO was involved in actual combat, demonstrating, in General, its effectiveness, but while showing selectivity in suppressing the threat posed by each of the conflicting parties.

However, the end of the operation "Deliberate force" did not mean that the Alliance intends to stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in December 1995 he began to deploy Forces for the implementation of the peace agreement (IFOR) to implement military aspects of the Dayton peace agreement. Contingent allocated to NATO consisted of 60 thousand soldiers, half of whom were Americans. Here's how according to the "peacekeeping Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina" on the official NATO website was determined by the status of Forces formed: "the IFOR operated under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and their authority stemmed from UN security Council resolution 1031 of 15 December 1995. This gave it a mandate not only for peacekeeping but also, if necessary, peace enforcement. In fact, the IFOR operation was a peace enforcement, although often it was called a peacekeeping operation".

By the end of 1996 the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina remained unstable, and the specific tasks identified for IFOR were not met, so the decision was made to deploy a stabilization Force (SFOR) reduced to 31 thousand contingent of military personnel. The official end of the mission of SFOR on 2 December 2004, the Alliance in Bosnia and Herzegovina worked previously in the Republic of Macedonia the script took the EU, which launched its operation under the name Althea, which continues today.

However, this did not mean that NATO fully withdraws from the process of crisis management, because the organization continues to help the European Union in the planning, logistics and management of the mission in accordance with the agreements reached in the agreements of "Berlin plus" in March 2003

After Bosnia and Herzegovina was set fragile peace, and the country fell virtually under the control of NATO and the EU, the Alliance could move on to the next act of the Balkan drama – blow to Serbia. Even as tough economic sanctions, imposed in 1992 by the UN Security Council with the silent consent of Russia were unable to break Slobodan Milosevic, who up to the signing of the Dayton agreement was actively supported Bosnian Serbs, and after its conclusion he turned to the fight against separatists in Kosovo and Metohija, NATO had to weaken his position. Kosovo became good occasion for the intervention of the Alliance in the internal Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Since the spring of 1996 in Kosovo has been escalating conflict between ethnic Albanian separatists and the Yugoslav leadership. The tension reached its climax in October 1998, when, after months of pressure on NATO, Slobodan Milosevic was decided to start operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. However, the Belgrade made a compromise and withdrew its troops to their places of permanent deployment.

The truce, which was constantly broken, was short-lived. Occurred in January 1999 incident in Racak, which has not received adequate assessment from the international community, gave another reason the NATO intervention in the Kosovo conflict. The negotiations in February 1999 between Yugoslav authorities and ethnic Albanian separatists in the castle of Rambouillet in France were not successful, and suggested the U.S. and Britain next project a peaceful settlement was rejected by Belgrade. In these conditions the leadership of the Alliance took the decision to start the military operation "allied force", which was destined to become the tipping point in the modern history of the Balkans.

The consequences of the military campaign, NATO has proved to be disastrous for Yugoslavia. Was in large part destroyed the transport, industrial and social infrastructure. The country began economic chaos, but the most painful result for the Serbs was the loss of Kosovo, which is in effect since 1999 is under control of the Alliance. Occurred in early October 2000, the so-called "bulldozer revolution" in which Slobodan Milosevic was forced to resign, put an end to the active resistance of the Yugoslav leadership to the West.

With regard to the operations and missions conducted by NATO on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia, it is worth noting that they became the final chord in establishing military dominance of the organization in the Balkans. Of course. The Alliance was in a difficult situation, because he had to actually act against the interests of key allies – Albanians, who constituted about 25 % of the Macedonian population and demanded autonomy. However, interference in the internal Affairs of Macedonia allowed NATO to put on time your military base on its territory that, in fact, put Skopje in the geopolitical dependence on the West.

Russia, which has traditionally seen the Balkans as its sphere of geopolitical influence, reacted with disbelief to the emergence of the Alliance in the region in the early 1990s When Moscow was in no hurry involved in the crisis settlement on the Balkans. Much time was spent on the development strategy of the parties involved crises.

It should be noted that the position taken by the Russian diplomacy from the very beginning of the conflict in the Balkans was ambivalent. On the one hand, existed historically informed desire to support the Serbs in their struggle against the Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Kosovo Albanians. On the other, a weakened Russia tried to follow in the footsteps of American politics and did not dare openly to protest against accept Washington's decisions, even in cases when she could do it. In addition, do not want to spoil relations with the newly independent States. Here's what says about the position of Russia in the peaceful settlement of the famous Soviet and Russian diplomat A. L. Adamishin: "In this scenario, Russia's task should be to avoid military intervention, especially because it was about the civil war, it eventually began to recognize in the West. The power to oppose a political settlement with an equal emphasis on the three conflicting parties – Serbs, Croats and Bosnians. In principle, such lines we followed, but at key moments fell, bow to pressure from the United States."

A vivid proof of the inconsistency of Russian policy in the Balkans in the early 1990s was the adoption of a resolution of the UN Security Council, impose sanctions against Yugoslavia. In fact, it was a betrayal both of Yugoslavia and its national interests.

Very often such mistakes were allowed because of the inconsistency of positions of the MFA and of the President B. N. Yeltsin. The Minister of foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation A. V. Kozyrev acted at times, relying only on their own vision of the situation, which reduced the effectiveness of the policy. Among the major mistakes of the mid-1990's, to the Balkans, in the opinion of the head of the Center for the study of modern Balkan crisis of Institute of Slavic studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences E. Yu. Gus'kova can be called the recognition of independence of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serb failure to adhere to promises as well as support of UN sanctions against Yugoslavia and the Serbs in Bosnia.

A definite turn towards a more resolute policy on the Balkan direction occurred only in the late 1990s, when the Russian foreign Ministry headed by E. M. Primakov. However, unfortunately, this period of Russian diplomatic history is associated only with a separate resonant shares (reversal of E. M. Primakov's plane over the Atlantic, throw over Pristina), and not with a fundamental change on a chess Board the Balkans, because to fix something in the existing status quo was impossible.

A logical extension of NATO's military intervention in the conflict in the Balkans with the aim of establishing their own hegemony became integration policy of the organization.

The integration of the Balkans into NATO was an important feature. It took place in the region that has not yet had time to recover from the consequences of major ethno-political conflicts, intra-state and interstate scale.

From the point of view of geopolitics integration processes were crucial for the Alliance. In the future it was necessary to combine Greece and Turkey, with other NATO members not only by means of sea communications, but also by land. This required the inclusion of at least some of the Balkan countries into the organization. Currently, this problem was partially solved, because Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Croatia are already members of the Alliance, and Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina are candidates for membership. While representatives of the office of public diplomacy, NATO is working even with the Serbian public opinion, which indicates the desire of the West in the future to include Belgrade in the process of Euro-Atlantic integration, as absurd as it may sound. Such alignment of forces does not allow the RF to count even in the medium term, the resumption of military-technical cooperation with States in the region and indicates a complete loss of control from the Russian side over the States of the Balkan Peninsula.

Lessons political-military activity of NATO in the Balkans in the post-Soviet space

Political and military activity of NATO in the Balkans demonstrated the high potential of the organization on the redesign of the large geopolitical spaces. The Alliance for 20 years actually succeeded in bringing a large region under its control without the classical wars of conquest.
The Russian Federation was not ready for such an eventuality and did not realize that the only hegemon in the Balkans is now the North Atlantic Alliance.

In our view, in order to prevent "Balkanization" of the post-Soviet space of the Russian Federation shall take the following measures.

On the foreign policy level:

  • active public diplomacy with the aim of preventing attempts to create a negative image of Russia;
  • strengthening the capacity of the CSTO;
  • control over transport and logistics and energy infrastructure in the region.

On the political level:

  • the strengthening of military-strategic potential and development of the defense industry;
  • strengthening the economic and transport relations of the regions;
  • the development and implementation of a strategy for strengthening national unity and inter-religious peace to counter the ethnopolitical conflicts.

Today Russia needs to learn "Balkan" lessons in order to prevent the development of such a situation near their borders or territory in the near future. From how successful the correction of mistakes will depend on the receipt of a specific role by the Russian Federation in the great geopolitical game of the twenty-first century


Korenev E. S.



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