206 paratroopers who shocked the world

5 years ago Russian troops marched to Kosovo.
The forced march of Russian paratroopers from Bosnia to Kosovo on June 11-12, 1999 became history as currently Russians withdrew from former Yugoslavia.

Today many people think that the Soviet Union was a powerful country and nobody would dare to offend its allies (if the USSR had existed, no war in Iraq could have broken out), while contemporary Russia is weak and nobody takes it into account. However, there are some facts contradicting this idea. Since the 1960s, Vietnam probably was the main ally of the USSR outside the Warsaw Block, but Americans were fighting against Vietnam for 10 years. The USA did not invade North Vietnam not because it was scared of the USSR, but because it did not want big losses of its troops.
On the other hand, “weak” Russia did all it wanted in Georgia and Tajikistan in the beginning of the 1990s. There was no much success in Georgia, but it was a result of Russia’s own mistakes, not the intrigues of the West. The forced mach to Kosovo was another proof of Russia’s strength.

There were only 206 paratroopers. Their most powerful weapons were 15 large-caliber machine-guns in the turrets of their armored vehicles and 20 grenade cup discharges. They had no cannons. The entire world was watching their 17-hour march to Kosovo on live TV. No NATO troops took a risk to prevent Russians from taking over the important strategic aerodrome in Pristina. First NATO did not understand where the Russian paratroopers were heading, when they understood they go scared. Commander of NATO forces in Europe general Wesley Clarke ordered British Commander of NATO troops in the Balkans general Michael Jackson to take over the aerodrome earlier than Russians, but the British general said that he was not going to start World War III. Strong NATO had to take “weak” Russia into account and negotiate wit it.

The paratroopers’ march was marvelous, this was the case we seldom experience: we did not follow events, but overtook them. Our opponents were shocked. However, later the things got worse, that our former “brothers” – East European countries - did not let the aircrafts with reinforcement to Pristina.  This happened because we did not know for what reasons we arrived in Pristina. Moreover, it was the style of former Russian President Yeltsin to have a brilliant victory, to demonstrate his strength and then to lose interest and not to benefit from the victory.

Finally, we just did a bad turn to the West, but we did it with inspiration. We could be proud. Later the five landing ships of Black Sea fleet landed Russian paratroopers brigade in Greece, and this brigade was served as peace-keepers in Kosovo. This did not prevent Albanians from banishing Serbs from Kosovo which made Kosovo’s return in Serbia impossible. Our peace-keepers’ conduct was perfect, they sympathized with Serbs, but were impartial as they were doing assignments composed in Brussels and in Washington, not in Moscow. Nobody in Moscow dared to formulate assignments for Russian peace-keepers.
In addition, in Yugoslavia we were supporting the loser (Milosevic), he had nothing to be loved for. Moreover, like all our friends-dictators, he despised Russia and deceived when it was possible. As a result, Moscow has no good relations with the current authorities of the country.  Recent rude statements about killed Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic made by some Russian politicians and journalists, demonstrated lack of moral of a part of Russian political elite. For these reasons, Russia’s withdrawal from former Yugoslavia was a natural thing. There are no interests left there to fight for. Generals will successfully steal the saved money. However, the march to Pristina demonstrated what the ideal Russian army should be.

Alexander Khramchikhin

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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova