This week in history: February 11-17
11 February 2019
25 years ago: NATO sets bombing ultimatum in Bosnia
This week in 1994, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began a 10-day countdown to carry out airstrikes against Bosnian Serb forces, demanding they withdraw weapons and artillery from around the city of Sarajevo, capital of the former Yugoslav state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The decision marked the first-ever foreign intervention by NATO and an escalation of the civil war into a full-scale war involving the major imperialist powers.
The pretext for the intervention was the February 4 attack on the Markale market, a popular open-air location in Sarajevo, when 68 people were killed and another 144 injured in the open-air market by a mortar shell. The United Nations admitted at the time that it was not clear whether the mortar was fired by Bosnian Serb forces or by loyalists of the Muslim-led government. Regardless of who was actually responsible for the attack, UN and NATO forces were determined to bomb Serb forces in Bosnia—not because of “humanitarian” concerns but based on the strategic interests of the imperialist powers and in “restoring NATO credibility.”
The week prior to the attack, prime ministers from Turkey and Pakistan visited Sarajevo to call for international support for the Bosnian regime. Russian officials including then President Boris Yeltsin warned against outside military intervention.
Two days prior to the decision, European Union forces were deadlocked over the issue. France, Germany and Belgium called for supporting the ultimatum, with Spain, Portugal, Greece and Britain against. The Canadian government initially resisted until the day of the vote, ultimately yielding to pressure by American…