I am going to write this work with the conviction that having dedicated many years of my professional life to the Kosovo conflict, I can provide some personal information that I consider sufficiently enlightening about the reality of what happened in a territory, unfortunately well known by almost everyone by its name and some of its consequences. However, this territory is still unknown to the vast majority of mortals. A large part of the events that occurred there, and their consequences, have been and still being used as specific jurisprudence in international law, and also used as example or attitude to be imitated in other parts of Europe, as could well be in Catalonia.
I seize this opportunity to express myself due to the closeness in time of the twenty-first anniversary of a conflict that culminated many years of local tensions and abuses disguised as other kinds of apparent and "idyllic" freedoms. But, what they really contained were insane internal and external intentions, plagued by authentic massacres and persecutions under the mantle of religious, ethnic, economic, social and separatist aspects.
Due to its physical and commercial proximity to the central Europe, and also due to the great interest of the Russians towards the Serbs and Serbia´s Yugoslavia, the conflict was able to call the attention and participation of the International Community (IC). There was international attention to the point that Kosovo became the spot of observation and criticism because the serious implications and tensions generated at the highest level. The participation required the intervention of the UN in its various facets and Organisms, along with NATO and many other Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Each involved organization appeared on the scene with their particular agenda in an open, covert or totally hidden way.
Kosovo has been for various periods of time, although with frequent and significant interruptions, a beautiful Serbian region or province of not much extension and little population. Kosovo has less than two million inhabitants (90% Albanians with a Muslim majority and almost 6% Orthodox Serbs). Between 1998 and 1999 the region became the scene of public and notorious combat between the separatist guerrilla, self-proclaimed as the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), against the army and police of at that time Yugoslavia.
The fights led around 800,000 Kosovar-Albanians to the exodus, mainly to Albania, to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and to a lesser extent to Montenegro and other European countries. These massive migratory movements, culminated in the bombing by NATO of areas and cities in Kosovo and Yugoslavia as a preamble to a military intervention on the Kosovar terrain. The initial mission was protecting the return of refugees and providing them with security against Serbian excesses; although, as it will expose, shortly had to be changed the collective to be protected.
To be fairer to history, we must begin saying that the problem of Kosovo, like most of the conflicts of the Balkan "powder keg" in the vicinity of Yugoslavia, was not only consequence of the progressive dismemberment of that country after the death of Dictator Tito. The roots back several centuries and was dragged along history. To be honest, as time goes the state of affairs is losing interest and attention both internally and externally although the problem has not been healed or corrected; rather, has become entrenched.
In the middle ages, Kosovo became the settle of the holy places of the Serbian Orthodox. Therefore it was where important monasteries, places of worship and pilgrimage, were established. This gave the region a significant spiritual wealth and vital importance for the Serbian people, their history, culture, and religion.
In 1389 Lazarus, the Emperor of Serbia, lost near Pristina (the capital of Kosovo) the Battle of the Blackbirds, against the Turkish sultan Murat. As a result the area fell under the influence of the Ottoman Empire; the area became the place of relocation of a multitude of Muslims - the majority from neighbouring Albania - and its territory was dotted with mosques, although most Orthodox temples were respected.
Notwithstanding the above, since then and fundamentally since the nationalist movement of the eighteenth century, Kosovo became a land to recover for the Serbs with the idea of rescue the splendor of the old times, and also recover the important role of Kosovo in Serbian religiosity.
The Reconquest was not achieved until 1913 when the Serbs defeated the Turks and got an advantage before the incipient decline and subsequent fall of the Turkish Empire (1918). After that defeat, the Serbs recovered Kosovo; also a large part of Albania was annexed. The IC at that time forced Serbia to retreat from Albania although, in return, it was officially recognized the Serbian rule over Kosovo as a territory recovered after more than 500 years of Ottoman dominance.
This situation did not last long either because the Second World War hit the area, and Mussolini created in 1941 the so-called "Greater Albania" as a viceroyalty. This concept was bringing together the territories of Albania and Kosovo, both occupied by Italy during the war.
This hazardous and essential concept, which has been dragged up to our days, attempt to regroup territories that are considered with the right to be united by the existence of particular ethnic, religious, linguistic and moral ties; this concept is protected in a history that is not entirely real. This idea has flourished in other regions of southern Europe and could be the cause of great displeasure in short or medium term.
Once the war was over, Tito, the communist leader of the Yugoslav anti-fascist resistance, came to power and again pledged his effort to maintain the integrity of a country artificially created by alluvium and annexation of others. Also, Tito´s efforts aimed to ensure that Kosovo would once again become part of Serbia.
To appease the various misgivings, pretensions, and all kinds of differences between the six federated republics and the two autonomous regions that made up Yugoslavia, successive Constitutions and multiple reforms were necessary. The Constitution of 1946 was the first one.
A few years later, under the 1974 constitution, both the Kosovo and Vojvodina regions were granted the status of "autonomous province." So, both regions began to enjoy very similar prerogatives than federated republics. However, this situation did not satisfy either one nor to others.
In 1981 - a year after Tito's death - important and growing Kosovar-Albanian demonstrations emerged to demand equal treatment with the other republics that constituted the Yugoslav Federation. Demonstrations were calling to the creation of the Republic of Kosovo although, and this is important, without leaving the federative framework. There were violent situations, which forced a harsh intervention by the police and the Yugoslav Army. Tensions between Albanian-Kosovar and Serbs increased in degree and intensity and led to severe hatred situations between them.
In 1989, Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, suppressed the aforementioned autonomy of Kosovo, which was a hard step backwards for the Kosovo-Albanians who were not willing to accept it. Milosevic decision gave rise to numerous civil and paramilitary mobilizations demanding to return to what was stipulated for the federation in the 1974 Constitution.
The IC, more focused at the time on the war - a little further north-west - being waged in Bosnia and Herzegovina, paid little attention to the radicalization of the demands of the Albanian-Kosovar, who, with little apparent external support, unilaterally declared their independence on 2 June 1990.
In reaction to this declaration that lack consensus and was contrary to the Constitution, Belgrade proceeded to dissolve all public institutions in Kosovo. The police were forced to repress and harshly disperse successive protests of what came to be known as the "peaceful resistance" (a well-known expression and recently reused at other borders) of the Kosovar people, led by the writer and politician Ibrahim Rugova.
The illegal acts did not cease with these demonstrations. Thus, in 1992 Kosovo held "general elections, not authorized by Belgrade" (a fact also well-known). The election was predictably won by the aforementioned politician, who was in favor of Kosovo leaving, although in a "negotiated and peaceful" manner (terms that have been widely used recently).
Another relevant and quite determining fact for the future conflict was the unilateral creation of the UCK at that time - in spite of attempts against some Albanian-Kosovar sectors. Revolutionary armed movement, which, contrary to what was "officially" advocated by the political leader, advocated for all-out struggle against the Serbs to achieve the longed-for independence by using arms (also known theory).
With this inspiration and hostile intentions, we spot ourselves before what has come to be known as the "Kosovo War", and NATO's subsequent bombings of Serbia and Kosovo in 1998. The war was originated after a series of confrontations between the UCK and the Serbian forces. The clashes resulted in 80 deaths and were the starting gun for the enlargement and internationalization of the conflict.
Thus, in view of the deterioration of the situation, the IC jaded with so much expenditure and effort to stop the bloody wars in Croatia and Bosnia, decided to stick its nose into the Kosovar conflict in order to prevent it before getting worse. On 6 February 1999, peace negotiations were held in Rambouillet (France) between the parties involved.
After the failure of these short and previously poisoned negotiations, and in view of the fact that the problem and its consequences (such as murders, rapes, displaced persons and refugees) were increasing NATO began bombing on 24 March 1999 in order to force the country's authorities to accept the conditions proposed at the negotiations table. The bombing lasted 78 days and left nearly 500 people dead (mostly Serbs).
In June, the Serbian army - forced by its substantial differences in military capabilities with NATO, the international pressure, and the promise to include certain UN guarantees on the maintenance of the region's status in its imminent Kosovo Resolution - agreed to withdraw from the province.
Weeks earlier, NATO initiated the deployment of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), now known as Northern Macedonia. KFOR would be in charge of fulfilling NATO's mission once the UN authorized it. The mission entered in Kosovo on 12 June 1999, two days after the UNSC approved Resolution 1244.
A very complete and specific Resolution that authorised the international presence in Kosovo - civilian and military -, also created the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (MINUK) and, at the same time, as it were previously announced, offered to Serbia a series of guarantees regarding respect for its integrity and its own laws, and obliged Kosovars to comply with them.
Having reached this point, and after this sufficient but brief historical summary of the events in Kosovo, I would like to digress to be able to contribute with part of the many experiences and situations I knew and suffered in first hand. I had my fate in NATO in those years, and the facts I mention occurred before, during, and after the current reaches point of this article.
To be able to explain it reasonably, it is necessary to review the historical evolution of the events that directly implied the Spaniards in this matter. Spain was fully integrated into NATO's military structure on 1 January 1999. Previously, back in December 1997, the Alliance had approved our proposal for integration into the structure of its General Headquarters (HQs) with the creation of Retamares (Madrid). That meant that we would gradually have to fill a series of organic posts in the staff of all of them (slightly more than two hundred in total) independently of the already existing liaison offices and the delegations or national representations in some of them.
It was not a very simple task for several reasons: lack of experience or total ignorance of the procedures and requirements used in NATO command bodies, not very high level of English among many of the officers and the few non-commissioned officers to fill these positions, and the necessary budget to fill them.
Thus, it was not until the summer of 1998 that the places assigned to Spain began to be progressively filled. In the first batch of the places, I was selected and ready to fill one of them as Lieutenant Colonel, expert in arms control, Peace Operations, Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) and with a good level of English read, spoken and written.
Due to my experience and previous knowledge, it was decided that I would occupy the position offered to Spain by the recently created CIMIC (J-9) -as this Division or Section is called in military jargon- in the CG of AFSOUTH in Naples which, given its minimal entity, was integrated into the Plans Division (J-5), which therefore became J5-J9 under a mime chief (a Turkish General).
First of all, I must say that the specialty of CIMIC as such was a very recent application in NATO. There was only basic satisfying experience - copied from the Americans - in what was called Civil Affairs (CA). This specialty, with certain similarities, began to be applied in UN and NATO military operations in Bosnia. Thus, upon my incorporation into my assignment in October 1998, the Area consisted of a single person as Chief and subordinate planner of myself.
It is true that after three years in the destiny and more than two years dealing with the Kosovo conflict, the area became a Section and integrated more than 25 people when I left Naples, by chance on the sadly famous day of 11-S of 2001, in the middle of a terrorist attack on the twin towers.
The CG of AFSOUTH, by a delegation of the Supreme CG of Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) in Mons (Belgium), exercised direct command of the remaining operations in Bosnia and was already beginning to plan possible actions in Kosovo. I soon understood that I had to get fully involved in the plans concerning the more than likely humanitarian crisis in Kosovo and its neighboring countries.
The dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945-1992) was the result of a series of political upheavals and conflicts during the 1990s. The six constituent republics and the two autonomous regions of Yugoslavia separated, despite Russia's efforts to prevent it, after suffering a period of a political crisis in the 1980s and after the death of the only one who had it cohesive after World War II; Marshal Tito. The many unresolved ethnic, religious and nationalist problems, dragged along for centuries, caused a series of bloody conflicts, known as Balkan wars, which mainly affected Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and the province of Kosovo.
The religion of the Ottoman Empire was Islam, but the expansion of its territories was due, in principle, to the need to bring its faith to the whole world. However, the Turks showed great tolerance for the other religions with which they lived, such as Christians or Jews, who had to pay a personal tax in exchange for being considered "protected" (dhimmi).
In 1946 was the first and whereby the Kingdom of Yugoslavia adopted, on the one hand, the republican form of State and, on the other, the name of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. Within the federal structure of the FPRI, two administrative and political categories are distinguished. One sector, the federated republics: Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia, At the other sector, two autonomous regions within Serbia which will be Vojvodina and Kosmet, the latter corresponding to the abbreviation of Kosovo and Metohija.