The Height of Hypocrisy: Russia Criticised, But How Many Times Has NATO Acted Without Approval?
16:54 GMT 24.02.2022 (Updated: 16:45 GMT 08.01.2023)
After Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics this week, Russian forces have embarked on a special operation in the Donbass region. The US and NATO have criticised Moscow, but how many times has NATO or NATO states embarked on operations without international approval?
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed in 1949, as the Cold War gripped Europe and the United States and its allies sought to counter the power of the Soviet Union, which had become dominant in Eastern Europe.
But when the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO did not stop expanding, but recruited Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltic states.
Under US domination, NATO soon became a global “police force” which involved itself in the affairs of countries all over the world, often without any invitation or international agreement.
Between March and June 1999, NATO forces carried out a series of air raids on targets in Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict.
Human Rights Watch estimate more than 500 civilians were killed - 60 percent of them in Kosovo - while the Yugoslavian authorities put the number at up to 2,000.
According to the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia, there have been numerous requests for prosecutors to examine whether senior NATO leaders committed serious violations of international law during Operation Allied Force.
It was alleged that “NATO aircraft operated at heights which enabled them to avoid attack by Yugoslav defences and, consequently, made it impossible for them to properly distinguish between military or civilian objects on the ground”.
Two particular incidents - the bombing of a train at the Grdelica Gorge, in which at least 10 people died, and the bombing of the Djakovica Refugee Convoy, causing 75 civilian deaths - have been highlighted.
A NATO missile also killed 16 employees of the Radio Television of Serbia TV station in Belgrade on 23 April 1999.
said at the time it was a “legitimate target".
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established.
ISAF was led by NATO from August 2003 to December 2014 and was replaced in 2015 by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM).
Under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2189, the RSM was supposedly a “non-combat mission”, but few believe NATO forces were not still fighting the Taliban*.
The RSM was terminated by President Joe Biden in September 2021, after the Taliban retook Kabul.
Famously, several NATO armies, led by the United States and Britain, invaded Iraq in 2003 on a bogus mission to locate weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
NATO member Poland also supplied troops for the invasion of Iraq, as did staunch US ally Australia, and in May 2003, according to its website
, NATO “agreed to support one of its members – Poland - in its leadership of a sector in the US-led Multinational Stabilization Force in Iraq”.
The US sent a total of 177,000 troops into Iraq, which is more than the number of Russian troops involved in the Ukraine special operation.
Despite the infamous “dossier” compiled by the government of Tony Blair, based on US intelligence - including evidence produced under torture by inmates of the Guantanamo detention camp - no evidence of WMDs was ever found in Iraq.
Pakistan Border Attack - 2011
In November 2011, NATO Apache helicopters attacked a checkpoint on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, killing 28 Pakistani soldiers.
The Pakistani military said the attack was “unprovoked and indiscriminate” and the country’s prime minister called it “outrageous”.
But NATO simply said it would investigate what happened and offered its condolences to the affected families.
In July 2012, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologised to the Pakistani military and the incident was largely forgotten.
NATO forces were involved in enforcing a no-fly zone and an arms embargo during the Libyan civil war.
Since the killing of President Muammar Gaddafi by NATO-backed rebels and the fall of his government, Libya has spent the last 10 years wracked by internal, often tribal, conflict, which has claimed thousands of lives.
The Libyan coastline has also been the go-to jumping-off point for migrants heading to Europe, using the services of Libya-based people traffickers.
Turkey, which is a NATO member, asked the alliance for help protect its airspace from possible missile attacks from Syria, thus causing a possible wider war.
Then in April 2017, more than 50 Tomahawk missiles were launched from US naval vessels in the Mediterranean, hitting a Syrian airbase at Shayrat in the Homs governorate. This came after the White House ruled that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack against civilians south-west of Idlib.
A year later, the US, Britain, and France bombed Syrian government targets in Damascus and Homs in response to another alleged chemical weapons attack at Douma.
Neither the 2017 nor 2018 air strike was authorised by the UN Security Council, while the chemical attacks have not been definitively proved to have been conducted by the Syrian government.