Twenty years ago, in July 1992, NATO started taking on a limited crisis-management role in support of international efforts to end the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Within a few years, the Alliance was called upon to play a more robust role: it deployed its first ever peace-support operation to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 and later intervened to end the crisis in Kosovo in 1999. NATO’s involvement in stabilising the Western Balkans has played a key role in the transformation of the Alliance after the end of the Cold War.
In July 1992, NATO ships started patrolling the Adriatic Sea to monitor compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions imposing an arms embargo and sanctions on the former Yugoslavia. NATO aircraft were soon called upon to enforce a no-fly zone over the country and to provide air support to the UN peacekeeping force, UNPROFOR.
The rest is history. NATO became increasingly involved in efforts to end the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Eventually, NATO deployed its first ever peacekeeping force in December 1995 to oversee the implementation of the military annex of the Dayton Peace Accords. A few years later, in 1999, the Alliance intervened to end the crisis in Kosovo, which led to the deployment of its second Balkan peacekeeping operation.
NATO’s involvement in stabilising the Western Balkans played a key role in the transformation of the Alliance after the end of the Cold War. It signalled the development of a robust crisis-management role for the Alliance, marking the end of the debate over whether the Alliance should go “out of area” – i.e., operate beyond NATO borders.
It also heralded the beginning of working with troops from partner countries and with other international organisations in peace-building and stabilisation efforts. Lessons learned in the Balkans about the need for a comprehensive approach, involving both civilian and military actors, are being applied and further developed in Afghanistan today.