Balkans Post: What’s your take on NATO’s bombing of former Yugoslavia in terms of its political and economic outcomes?
Diana Johnstone: Both the political and economic outcomes are extremely negative. Working together, the Yugoslav Republics constituted a European nation of some significance in the world, whereas divided into ministates, they are pawns of Western powers, primarily of the United States. Their mutual antagonism ensures their powerlessness, as they can be played off against each other. European Union membership has not brought the advantages anticipated by Slovenian and Croatian leaders, and disintegration has left all of them poorer than they would have been had the 1970s debt crisis been solved intelligently so as to avoid breaking up Yugoslavia.
The human cost is much worse than the economic losses, not least in the mutual hatred left over from the conflict.
Balkans Post: By its involvement in former Yugoslavia, was the West in pursuit of full implementation of international law and human rights?
Diana Johnstone: After the disappearance of the official enemy, the Soviet Union, the Clinton administration saw the interethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia as the perfect occasion to perpetuate NATO by providing it with a new mission: humanitarian intervention on behalf of human rights. This was actually in violation of international law, but the U.S intention was to force changes in the law by violating it. The idea was that U.S. influence is so great that it can change the rules by its own practice and “principles”: especially “human rights” and the “responsibility to protect”. The intervention in Yugoslavia was intended as a fait accompli to provide the United States with a permanent pretext to intervene militarily anywhere in the world. This was in total violation of national sovereignty, the actual foundation of international law.
Balkans Post: How have the “humanitarian interventions” affected the region?
Diana Johnstone: Probably the worst effect is the lasting bitter hatred created by the Manichean treatment of the conflict by outside powers. As if the material damage from bombing weren’t bad enough, the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has added nearly irreparable psychological damage. ICTY, along with Western media and governments, has made reconciliation almost impossible, by taking sides, putting all the blame on Serbs and branding them as “criminals”, while treating Bosnian Muslims and Albanians as pure victims. This is the very opposite of what peace-making intermediaries should do. Rather, they should strive to understand all sides and help all sides to understand and forgive each other. Instead, Muslims and Albanians feel confirmed in their role of pure victims, who can never be compensated enough, whereas Serbs are embittered by the double standards and unfair treatment by the Western powers.
Balkans Post: What is, in your opinion, the main purpose of U.S. intervention in the former Yugoslavia? Is the U.S. gaining more influence in the region through NATO?
Diana Johnstone: That is the point. The Yugoslav wars were an opportunity to reassert U.S. influence in Europe and transform NATO from a defensive into an “out of area”, that is potentially global, alliance. NATO is a prolongation of U.S. occupation of Western Europe at the end of World War II, which now extends to include countries of the former Soviet zone. The current incorporation into NATO of Montenegro, against the will of many of its inhabitants, has no military or “defense” value but serves mainly to defy Moscow by showing that the American empire can take over even a country with strong historic ties to Russia. In the guise of defending “human rights”, U.S. policy toward former Yugoslavia is simply a current instance of classic “divide and rule”.