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Operation Kinetic: Stabilizing Kosovo by Sean M. Maloney, The University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, US $38.95, Pp 472, July 2018, ISBN 978-1612349640

In 1999, NATO led Kosovo Force (KFOR) to stop Yugoslavia (Serbia) from carrying out genocide and to stabilize Kosovo and (the former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia. This difficult decision was taken to stop Yugoslavia from repeating what they had done in Bosnia and Croatia. Americans, British, French, Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish forces also joined the Canadian forces in this mission to stop the further genocide in the Balkans. In Operation Kinetic, Sean M. Maloney gives the history of the origins and operations of the KFOR during 1999 and through 2000. He also gives the history of the vital operations conducted by the Canadian Army and other allies. The Canadian called this mission ‘Operation Kinetic,’ and like that physics-based name NATO was prepared to use its energy to punch a hole into the heart of Kosovo.

When Rambouillet talks failed, NATO quickly started air strikes against Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999. On June 3, 1999, Yugoslavia conceded Kumanovo talks which lasted five days. Those talks ended with agreement on the manner and timing of KFOR’s entry into Kosovo and the Serb security forces’ withdrawal. The KFOR entry started on June 12 early morning and the Serb withdrawal was completed on June 20, a few hours before their deadline. In his Foreword, General Mike Jackson says that it was a hectic, confused, and dangerous nine days during which KFOR had to stamp its authority on both the Serb forces and their opponents, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), while assuring so far as we could the safety of the civilian population, of whatever ethnic origin.

Sean M. Maloney says that the atmosphere was filled with uncertainty. There was a hum of purposeful activity, but it was tempted by uncertainty. Despite all of the assurances made by the diplomats, KFOR might not actually have a smooth entry. There was a fear that the Yugoslav army might decide at the last minute to play the spoiler in this latest drama in the little shop of horrors called the Balkans. Canada and its allies were not going to stand idly by and observe the wholesale ethnic cleansing of yet another Balkan minority group. This new conflict had potentially huge repercussions in the volatile region, especially in recently stabilized Bosnia. The situation was made more fluid because the Russians were now threatening to intervene.

Throughout 2000 Serbian opposition to the Milosevic regime, exemplified by the Otpor movement and supported by the persuasive and creative staff at Radio B92, coalesced. In October, the man who had led the former Yugoslavia into the heart of darkness, misusing Serb nationalism as his unholy banner, was removed from power. Several factors got the ball rolling. Maloney argues that the intervention and stabilization of Kosovo likely played a role as well. Up until 1999, the Milosevic regime behaved with impunity and repeatedly humiliated the international community. By standing up to the regime with pervasive KDOM and KVM surveillance by using coercive force from both airpower and the threat of a ground intervention, by finally standing up to Belgrade’s machinations, NATO members demonstrated that it was, in fact, possible to coerce dictators and get them to cease their genocidal activity.

For critics of the NATO intervention and the ensuing stability operations, neither will ever be viewed in a positive light, regardless of the facts. Maloney says that the critics have not suggested any other alternative or solution to the intervention that would have stopped the high levels of ethnic violence instigated and supported by Belgrade and the destabilization of the Balkans that followed. Maloney says that the connection between the 1999-2000 stabilization operations and the status quo today is relatively linear. Despite the spike in violence in 2004, here we are more than a decade later working toward a compromise that would permit Kosovo, Serbia, and the overlapping jurisdiction of northern Kosovo to enter into the European Union and the cornucopia of economic benefits that the various stakeholders hope will result from that relationship.

Operation Kinetic is perhaps the first comprehensive and authentic history of KFOR and the role of NATO in preempting another genocide in the Balkans and the rise of former Yugoslav republics of Kosovo and Macedonia as new nation-states in their own right on the world map. Maloney has powerfully argued that the NATO intervention and other operations were the only options to preempt another genocide in the Balkans at that time. Operation Kinetic is a meticulously-researched work by a leading historian with unmatched academic credentials. Maloney has extensive field experience in the Balkans and draws on numerous interviews and primary sources to write this authoritative account of KFOR. This is a required reading for both students and experts of Balkan region.

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