Marking the 28th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization intervention that stopped a violent conflict in former Yugoslavia, Russia’s spy chief Sergei Naryshkin held a revisionist forum on August 30 at the Russian Historic Society, which he chairs, in Moscow.
Naryshkin, the director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, claimed that all countries where NATO intervened with peacekeeping missions now have living standards lower than they had prior to those interventions:
“I want to note that in no country in the world, wherever the forces of the North Atlantic Alliance invaded, neither the elementary order nor the pre-war standard of living of the local population was restored.”
That is partly false.
NATO has conducted military missions in six countries. In four of them, the quality of life and order has improved significantly. Two countries, Libya and Afghanistan remain turbulent. Below is the chronology.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
For more than three years prior to the NATO intervention in 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina was mired in civil war. A United Nations report at the time described the situation as “characterized by widespread and systematic human rights violations against civilian communities, often on the basis of ethnicity.”
At the request of the United Nations peacekeepers, NATO launched an air campaign it called Operation Deliberate Force on August 30, 1995, to force the Bosnian Serbs to negotiate an end to the civil war.
A U.N.-mandated, NATO-led multinational Implementation Force was deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina in December 1995. That was followed by a NATO-led Stabilization Force, which remained in the country until December 2004.
In 2022, the Rule of Law Index by the World Justice Project, a Washington-based international civil society watchdog, ranked Bosnia and Herzegovina 52nd out of 140 countries according to criteria that includes government transparency, absence of corruption, fundamental rights, order and stability, and the effectiveness of the justice system.
The U.N. Human Development Index (HDI) published in September 2022 rated Bosnia and Herzegovina's HDI as “high.” Between 2000 and 2021, the country’s HDI value increased by 16.9%, from 0.667 to 0.780.
The United Nations defines HDI as “a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.”
The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, reported in its annual Index of Economic Freedom that over the past 25 years, the level of economic freedom in Bosnia and Herzegovina has grown from “repressed” in 1998 to “moderately free” in 2023, which is higher than the world average.
In December 2022, the European Union (EU) granted Bosnia and Herzegovina EU membership candidate status, based on the country’s record of improvement “in the areas of democracy/functionality, the rule of law, fundamental rights and public administration reform.”
In 2022, the World Justice Project ranked Serbia 53rd out of 140 countries on its Rule of Law Index, measuring a country’s level of order and security.
After its authoritarian leader Slobodan Milosevic was overthrown in 2000, “Serbia introduced a strong reform program covering all areas of the economy while rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by war,” and “enjoyed periods of high growth” as a result, the World Bank Group said in its Serbia’s Growth Agenda report published in 2020.
Average monthly earnings in Serbia increased from $98 in January 2001 to $1,079 in April 2023.
Serbia’s economic freedom level grew from “repressed” in 2002-2003, to “moderately free” in 2023 — higher than the world average, the Heritage Foundation assessed.
Between 1999 and 2021, according to the U.N., Serbia’s HDI value increased by 18.5%, from 0.677 to 0.802. Serbia’s HDI in 2021 “put the country in the Very High human development category — positioning it at 63 out of 191 countries and territories,” the U.N. said.
The EU granted Serbia membership candidate status in March 2012. In order to become a full member, Serbia must implement reforms, including "strengthening the independence and accountability of the judiciary, public administration, fight against corruption and organized crime.”
The conflict lasted from February 1998 to June 1999 and was accompanied by systematic violations of human rights and ethnic cleansing, which led to a massive refugee crisis:
“At least 700,000 Kosovar Albanians have become refugees in Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. The remaining 275,000 refugees have been displaced to other countries,” the U.S. State Department stated in May 1999.
In 2022, the Rule of Law Index ranked Kosovo 33rd out of 140 countries for its level of order and security. Kosovo was among the five countries in the world where rule of law improved the most in 2021.
“Kosovo’s economic growth in the past decade has outperformed its neighbors and has largely been inclusive,” the World Bank stated in April.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based intergovernmental organization, said that in Kosovo, sustainable and inclusive economic growth is equitably distributed throughout society and “creates opportunities for all," which is essential for reducing poverty.
From August 2001 to March 2003, NATO conducted three military interventions in North Macedonia, to disarm ethnic Albanian groups, protect international peace plan monitors, and “assist the government in ensuring stability throughout the country."
Per Encyclopedia Britannica, Macedonia was “the poorest of the Yugoslav republics.” However, six years after NATO’s intervention, independent North Macedonia had a robust economy, which “weathered the worldwide economic downturn that began in 2008 better than many other countries.”
Between 2000 and 2021, according to the U.N., North Macedonia’s HDI value increased by 14%, from 0.675 to 0.770. North Macedonia’s HDI in 2021 “put the country in the High human development category—positioning it at 78 out of 191 countries and territories.”
NATO deployed its forces led by the U.S. to Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Those forces remained in Afghanistan until 2021 under a U.N. mandate "to assist the Afghan Interim Authority in maintaining security in and around Kabul so that the Afghan Interim Authority, as well as United Nations personnel, can operate in security."
From 2000 to 2021, the value of the HDI in Afghanistan, according to the U.N., increased by 42%, from 0.335 to 0.478. Afghanistan's 2021 HDI "put the country in the Low human development category—positioning it at 180 out of 191 countries and territories."
Gross national income per capita on purchasing power parity nearly doubled in Afghanistan, from $985 in 2000 to $1,824 in 2021.
Following the withdrawal of the NATO-led military force from Afghanistan in 2021, including the departure of its last contingent — 3,500 U.S. troops — on August 30, 2021, the Taliban seized power in the country.
Since then, the human rights situation in the country, particularly for Afghan women, has sharply deteriorated along with living standards.
According to Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, living standards in Afghanistan were worse in 2022 than before NATO’s intervention in 2001. While 62% of Afghans faced food insecurity before 2001, that number reached 92% in 2022.
The proportion of children under five years old experiencing acute malnutrition rose from 9% to 50%, and the proportion of Afghans living in poverty rose from 80% to 97%.
NATO intervened militarily in the civil war in Libya after the U.N. Security Council in March 2011 adopted Resolution 1973, declaring the protection of civilians as the armed intervention’s goal.
As part of Operation Unified Protector, NATO imposed an arms embargo and created a no-fly zone over Libya “to prevent any aircraft from bombing civilian targets.”
Libya’s longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was captured and summarily executed by rebel forces in October 2011 after his convoy was attacked by NATO aircraft.
Libya's GDP has fluctuated significantly over the past 13 years, falling during the first civil war in 2011 and the second in 2014-2020. While a ceasefire was signed in October 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a severe economic recession in the country.
According to the World Bank, Libya's GDP in 2022 was $45.75 billion, lower than its 2011 GDP of $48.17 billion.
Between 2010 and 2021, according to the U.N., Libya’s HDI value decreased by 2.8%, from 0.739 to 0.718. Gross national income per capita on purchasing power fell from $18,663 in 2010 to $15,336 in 2021.