Kosovo War: framing the narrative

Who has the power to frame the narrative? Why public history and memory are being distorted? A good example of this logic happened last week, on occasion of the 15th anniversary of the so called Operation Allied Force.

 A Great power, after the recent events in Crimea, thought it was convenient to exploit that anniversary. The crisis in Ukraine left the Balkans in a dilemma, especially in Serbia, and affected the internal issues in Bosnia. The most striking case is a video-documentary produced by Russia Today, titled “Zashto? Why?”, while it is not the only one.


On the Western side, Oana Lungescu’s retweet (she is a NATO spokeperson) of a controversial image “lauding NATO’s air war against Serbia”, offended Serbia’ authorities. While a single retweet can hardly be put on the same level of a pervasive media campaign, like the one held by Russia, the temptation to frame the narrative, for egoistic reasons, is real. More often than not, this happen without offering to the reader a proper historical background, picking up just what is more convenient.


It is understandable that Serbs and Albanians have quite different narratives of the Kosovo War. It is also clear why Russia or America do not share the same interpretations of that historical event. Anyway, beyond partisanship and rivalries of competing communities, is it possible to make sense of that story?

I have already mentioned an arbitrary interpretation of what led the American administration, in 1999, to intervene in Serbia. While it is probably easier to get the reasons of Slobodan Milosevic in defending the territorial integrity of Serbia, and the reaction of Kosovo Albanians to protect their lives, looking for independence from Belgrade, it is less immediate to grab Washington’s stakes in that fight. To say, Milosevic could easily defend the thesis, in the eyes of the Serb population, that the Albanian terrorists were killing Kosovo Serbs. For the late Serbian leader, this position gave him enough political legitimacy to stay in power.

What then about America’s interest? At the time, in 1999, to put it simple, the rhetoric was that the human rights are more important than a nation’ sovereignty. So the West, after what happened in Bosnia, had to stop another humanitarian crisis in the Balkans, with or without a UN resolution. Let aside some even more trivial thesis, one of the most popular unproven interpretation was that Bill Clinton needed a war in order to “cover” the sexgate, from the eyes of the American public opinion. I have previously expressed my skepticism about this thesis, so I would like to approach the problem from a different perspective.

I would like to make a brief comparison between what led Washington to the Dayton agreements in 1995, with the decision to intervene in Kosovo in 1998/1999. I will try to advance an hypothesis, adopting, once again, some newly released documents, held by the Clinton Presidential Library.

The basic idea, is to try to isolate the internal and external reasons who pushed Bill Clinton to take action in that specific moment, and not before or later. I will adopt a few documents like this one:


While the US were developing a “Bosnia Endgame Strategy” (a peace plan) in July 1995, the eventual bombing of Serbia, was already a remote possibility, as Sandy Berger wrote in his Memorandum to Madeleine Albright and others, under the Regional containment strategy:

Reinforcing UNPREDEP in Macedonia to deter Serbian border encroachments and a new crackdown in Kosovo, together with a reaffirmation of our warnings to Milosevic regarding air strikes against Serbia in the event he provokes armed conflict in Kosovo




To be continued…


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