Commentary Interview

Zeman: NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was a mistake

With the passage of time, Czech President Miloš Zeman considers the governmental approval of NATO bombing Yugoslavia in 1999 a mistake. The Alliance’s action was an act of arrogance, he said on the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic's accession to NATO.

Zeman said it gives him no pleasure to think back on the Czech government’s decision-making. He emphasized that the Czech Republic was the last country to agree with the bombing. And only because we had just acceded to NATO and it would be rather unusual to veto that decision alone, moreover as newcomers, added Zeman. As he recalled, they were trying to find allies but failed, only later supported by Greece.

When I look back, I see it as a mistake and think of it as of an act of arrogance of power, said Zeman. However, he doesn’t consider the Alliance’s bombing of Afghanistan a mistake. At the time, Zeman was the Prime Minister, and the Czech Republic became a member just a few days before the bombing. Czechia, together with Poland and Hungary entered the Alliance on March 12th, 1999. NATO decided to bomb the Serbian and Montenegrin part of Yugoslavia because of the situation in Kosovo.

Zeman also expressed his support for the strengthening of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. I don’t want to say an exact number, but I totally agree with the idea, he said, adding that he has doubts about the capability of the Afghan army. In that regard, he suggested not only strengthening NATO’s presence but also to focus on the discipline of Afghan forces.

Peace talks with the Taliban behind the back of the Afghan government somehow reminds me of the Munich agreement; the Taliban is not going to play nice, that’s an illusion, thinks Zeman. According to the Czech President, it looks like the policy of appeasement towards Hitler’s Germany before World War II. If there will be a deal with the Taliban, it is going to rule the whole country and turn it into a terrorist hotbed, he added.

According to Zeman, the main benefit of the Czech Republic's membership to NATO is the sense of security. Nowadays, he believes, international terrorism is the only threat to the Czech Republic. Zeman doesn’t think Russia or China pose a threat to the Alliance. Both countries are nothing more than our competitors, not enemies, he said.

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