Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/4466
NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 was a prime example of a forcible intervention in the internal
affairs of a sovereign state, justified by humanitarian concerns and without support from the UN
Security Council. Some policy-makers celebrated what they saw as the creation of a precedent based on
humanitarian rationale as opposed to traditional adherence to international rules regarding the
inviolability of sovereign states. This paper aims at establishing whether too much emphasis has been
put on humanitarian issues at the expense of long term concerns such as adherence to international law
and the maintenance of global stability.
A careful analysis of the Kosovo campaign demonstrates a less clear-cut gap between genuine
humanitarian concerns and national/organizational interests than one might conclude based on the
rethoric of NATO leaders. Furthermore, a case study of three recent forcible interventions, in
Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia, all of which involved humanitarian claims, does not support the
argument that NATO’s operations in Kosovo led to the creation of a precedent. As in the case of Kosovo,
the case study reveals a troubling propensity of states to use the humanitarian rationale to conceal
domestic and other interests.
The research concludes that NATO’s intervention in Kosovo has so far not resulted in the establishment
of a precedent in international law, although there are strong parallels with the Russian intervention in
South Ossetia. The study reveals that the concept of sovereignty in its Westphalian conception is undergoing a slow redefinition into which human rights values are being integrated, although states overwhelmingly choose to abide by the traditional rules of non-intervention in the interest of international stability.