Shaping Perceptions During the Latest Balkans’ Imbroglio

Steven Collins

Submitted for Publication Consideration to European Security

May 30, 2000

(Reprinted with the author's permission)

"The truth is not simply what you think it is; it is the circumstances in which it is said, to whom, why, and how it is said." -- Vaclav Havel

Despite prevailing, at least temporarily, in the conflict with Yugoslavia, NATO members, especially the US, must quickly appraise the conduct of the conflict and determine the applicable "lessons learned" -- particularly those pertaining to shaping attitudes and behaviors, or as it is often called, ‘perception management.’ Not only is it likely Kosovo will remain an area of concern for years to come; but, much like the wrinkle in a carpet that once pushed down in one area only reappears elsewhere, crises in the Balkans are likely to continue to bedevil the architects of American foreign policy. Effective perception management offers policy makers a more deft and less destructive tool than bombings, or economic sanctions, as well as a more effective means to shape long term attitudes and behaviors.

Many policy "lessons learned" from the latest Balkans’ imbroglio are under detailed analysis (e.g.: the viability of NATO "out of area" operations, impact of the Kosovo action on US-China and US-Russia relations, future role of airpower, etc.). Some US analysts have opined that the operation in Kosovo is a definitive fin de siecle model to define the boundaries of a "Clinton Doctrine" for US intervention in humanitarian crises around the world. While these debates will continue for many months and years, one consequence from the Kosovo clash is clear. For much like the previous conflict in Bosnia, the battle to shape the international and regional perception of the conflict was more important than the casualties sustained or the land controlled. Because of the importance of this factor, an effective and puissant "battle for the mind" must be a central feature of future NATO and US actions in the region.

The effects of perception management often take time to be felt, and separating the strictly military effects of the bombing campaign in Kosovo from the information war results will be difficult. Estimates vary, but NATO’s bombardment caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure damage and economic dislocation. This effort figuratively and literally shook the Serbian people and may have caused Slobodan Milosevic to wonder if he could continue his efforts to defy NATO and still maintain power. Milosevic’s center of gravity was never the Serbian army in Kosovo but the acquiescence of the Serbs to his policies.

The effectiveness of the NATO perception management effort against Milosevic has drawn harsh criticism – some of which was not justified, while the Serbs were often considered to be the ‘masters of spin control’ – which was likewise an inflated view of reality. What is clear, though, is if the NATO perception management effort had been better planned and executed much less bombing would have been required. This essay examines the NATO and Serbian efforts to mold the attitudes of the US and Western European public, as well as against the Serbian people, how effective, or ineffective, these efforts were, and how the US and its NATO allies should proceed.


Kosovo – The First and Last Domino?

While the Balkans’ fissure precipitated by Milosevic’s drive to create a "Greater Serbia," was temporarily papered over by the General Framework Agreement for Peace for Bosnia and Herzegovina initialed in Dayton in 1995, it came as no surprise to Balkans analysts to see the crack re-emerge in Kosovo. In fact, as Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders were quick to point out, the current Balkans disintegration began in Kosovo, and it was foolish to ignore its significance. The Kosovo region, considered by Serbs, for religious and historical reasons, the "cradle of Serbdom," became increasingly dominated by ethnic Albanians. Tension and violence between Serbs and ethnic Albanians has been a characteristic of Kosovo for many decades.

Milosevic’s use of the Kosovo issue to springboard into power is an oft told tale. His inflammatory speeches in Kosovo in 1987 and 1989, which promised to protect the Serbs against ethnic violence, were critical in igniting Serb passions throughout all of pre-1991 Yugoslavia and spurred a drive to create an ethnically pure "Greater Serbia." Despite the critical importance of the Kosovo issue, it was left out of the Dayton negotiations, and this was the impetus for the irredentist Kosovo Liberation Army (hereafter referred to as the UCK – Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves) to ratchet up the violence in Kosovo while simultaneously discrediting the more measured and non-violent approach of ethnic Albanian leaders like Ibrahim Rugova.

In late 1997 violence escalated between the Serbs and ethnic Albanians. The US condemned the actions of Serbian police and paramilitary in Kosovo. However, on February 23, 1998, US Balkans envoy Robert Gelbard met with Milosevic and afterwards issued a statement calling the UCK "without question a terrorist group." Moreover, he praised Milosevic for his cooperation with the Bosnian Dayton Accords, and indicated some minor economic sanctions against Yugoslavia would end. Some believe Milosevic interpreted Gelbard’s statement as a signal that the US would not risk endangering the continuance of the Bosnian peace settlement over Serbian actions in Kosovo. This was a tragically poor perception to place in the mind of Milosevic.


The US and Western European Public

Milosevic and the NATO leaders were aware that the most vulnerable aspect of the NATO effort in Kosovo was US and Western European public opinion. Milosevic believed American public opinion was particularly susceptible to Serbian perception management. The Kosovo crisis was occurring in an area most Americans could not identify on a map, much less understand why the Serbs and ethnic Albanians were killing each other, or why America should get involved. Attacks upon Yugoslavia would have not have occurred without American military power. If the American public opinion had turned decisively against NATO intervention, Milosevic would have triumphed. While Milosevic attempted to pierce this Achilles’ Heel of NATO, the NATO and US perception managers sought to move the American public to, at best, support intervention, or, at worst, stay neutral towards the action.


Use of the Deaths of Innocents – Shaping or Advancing the Policy?

NATO, the ethnic Albanians, and the Serbs used powerful emotions caused by the deaths of innocents as a perception management tool. Exploitation of horrific massacres is nothing new. Human tragedy was an important rationale used by those in US government desiring to use military force in Bosnia. Similarly, Western public support for the decision to begin bombing Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999 was built through a series of terrible atrocities in Kosovo. Each atrocity buttressing the arguments made by those advocating intervention.

The current spate of interest in the Kosovo crisis began as a result of a massacre. A week after the meeting between Gelbard and Milosevic in February 1998, the UCK killed four Serbian policeman. Indiscriminate Serbian reprisals in the Drenica valley, in response to those deaths, left over 80 ethnic Albanian men, women, and children dead. This atrocity brought the Kosovo crisis into the headlines, and it became a subject of discussion on the news pages and programs of Western media.

A few months later, as the Lewinski Affair dominated the news cycle in the US, interest in Kosovo waned. Intervention by the West seemed remote, and it even appeared as if the UCK might have militarily gained the upper hand in some areas of Kosovo. However, in Europe, stories by reporter Erich Rathfelder for Berlin’s Tageszeitung and Vienna’s Die Presse in early August 1998 regarding the killings of ethnic Albanians by Serbs near Orahovac helped keep the Kosovo story from receding completely from view. The Serbs, realizing the power of such stories, cautiously allowed observers from the European Union to visit Orahovac, but harassed and prevented them from conducting a complete investigation. Before he could do anymore damage to the Serbian perception management effort, Serbian authorities quickly expelled Rathfelder from Yugoslavia.

Recognizing the potency of such atrocity claims, the Serbs publicized an allegation that ethnic Albanians killed over 22 Serbs and subsequently burned the bodies in a kiln near the Kosovo village of Klecka. This time, given full cooperation by the Serbs, international observers went to the site, examined the evidence, and were unable to conclusively establish any atrocity claim.

Just when it seemed as if Kosovo might fade altogether from the Western media and public view altogether, a massacre of over 30 ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces in the towns of Gornji Obrinje and Vucitrn at the end of September 1998 led to calls for intervention by some Europeans and Americans. Action by NATO seemed very close indeed at the beginning of October as feverish negotiations were underway. In terms of timing, the atrocities at Gornji Obrinje and Vucitern could not have occurred at a worse time for the Serbs, or at a better time for those who desired intervention.

Not surprisingly, as they did with the February 1994 Markale Massacre in Sarajevo, the Serbs tried to discredit the reports. The Serbs contended ethnic Albanians contrived the physical evidence regarding the atrocities at Gornji Obrinje and Vucitrn in order to provide an impetus for NATO intervention. Although intervention seemed imminent, it was temporarily averted when US Balkans troubleshooter, Richard Holbrooke, convinced Milosevic to sign an agreement which effectively established a truce between the UCK and the Serbs and allowed for the insertion of up to 2000 monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Just as the second Sarajevo Marketplace massacre in August 1995 was the trigger for decisive NATO bombing in Bosnia, the Racak massacre on January 15, 1999 was the incident that began the final spiral towards NATO bombing in Kosovo. The deaths of 45 ethnic Albanians in Racak, the quick arrival of the press at the scene before the Serbs could sanitize the area, and the powerful statements of Kosovo OSCE Chief William Walker, proved to be a strong, emotive force. Tellingly, at the subsequent Rambouillet Conference, an anonymous, and evidently frustrated US official in the Clinton Administration confided to a reporter from The New York Times that, ‘"It may turn out that we may need another Srebrenica before we have a Dayton. But wasn’t Racak sufficient?’" Ultimately, the Racak Masssacre was sufficient to cause the US and NATO to intervene. The mass executions in Kosovo attributed to the Serbs helped advance a policy that many in the West wanted to enact. Having witnessed, but failing to respond immediately to the previous carnage in Vukovar, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, and Zepa, here in Kosovo, for some in the West, was an opportunity to atone for perceived past sins of omission and give the Serbs that "little bit of bombing" some believed they were due.

While Western officials used Serbian atrocities committed against the ethnic Albanians to pull policy toward intervention, once NATO’s military involvement began, the Serbs did their best to use NATO’s bombing errors and the deaths of innocent civilians to break Western public support for intervention. One observer of the situation opined:

…it’s enough to portray the people as hapless and demonize the leaders… Clinton and Secretary of State Madeline Albright sold Kosovo in that fashion: as a quarrel with Milosevic rather than the Serbian people. But surgical propaganda is risky business. What happens when bombs miss the villains – Milosevic and his generals – and land on their people instead? You are, by your own terms, killing innocents.

NATO bombing errors were, in terms of percentages, extremely small. But while small in number, they were still exceedingly exploitable by the Serbs, as Milosevic hoped to derail NATO’s prosecution of the war. As a result of the cumulative effect of the 55 killed on a train crossing a bridge at Leskovac on April 12th, the 75 ethnic Albanians killed by NATO near Djakovica, the 15 killed in Nis and the 3 dead as a result of the Chinese Embassy bombing in downtown Belgrade on May 7th, and the death of 16 at a retirement home in Surdulica on May 31st, the Serbs hoped Western public pressure would bring an end to NATO’s attacks.

But, just as US President Clinton admitted to underestimating the steadfastness of Milosevic and his capacity to endure the physical destruction of large sections of Serbian civilian infrastructure, it is also clear Milosevic overestimated the sympathetic impulses of the West – especially the American people. Milosevic correctly identified the center of gravity for the NATO effort – American public opinion; but, the American public showed tremendous indifference to Serbian civilian casualties. While American support for the intervention was paper thin, as long as the US military suffered few casualties, it seemed as though few Americans really cared what occurred in Yugoslavia.

With precision weapons available to the US, and with military technological supremacy over nearly every potential adversary, bombing areas like Iraq, Bosnia, Sudan, Afghanistan, or Serbia has become, in terms of American lives, cost free. Zero American lives lost equates to very little domestic political risk and gives US Presidents an extraordinary amount of freedom in executing overseas military strikes. With virtually no political downside and public support almost always rising for a President exercising military power, there is little reason not to use the military option. Reinforcing the seemingly automatic American indifference to the deaths of hundreds of Serbian civilians was the demonization of the Serbs by the international press and US policymakers since 1992. When Milosevic grasped the depth of this American apathy, and realized he could not cause the casualties to the American military necessary to shake US public opinion, he must have realized he had no chance to outlast NATO.


Use of Cyberspace – Leveling the Field

While military coalitions led by the US can militarily overwhelm adversaries with technology and precision guided munitions, the use of cyberspace can help level the playing field. The potential use of Internet chat groups, websites, and email, has long been touted as a tool for future propagandists. The Kosovo perception management struggle attested that the future is now. The use of cyberspace was vital to the Serb and ethnic Albanian endeavors to present their view of events in Kosovo.

Both Serbs and ethnic Albanians used Internet websites as information banks. Reporters, as well as interested members of the public around the world, visited these sites to quickly and easily gain background material. With the use of cyberspace as a propaganda medium, it was important to discredit or degrade the credibility of the opposition’s website. The Serbs attempted this on October 19, 1998, when the self-proclaimed "Black Hand" group hacked into the ethnic Albanian site at <> and posted this message: "Welcome to the Web page of the biggest liars and killers!"

When NATO became the primary Serbian opponent, the Serbs were helpless in trying to combat the Western coalition militarily. Therefore, the Serbs formed ad hoc groups like ‘Captain Dragan’s Serbian Cybercorps’ to participate in chat groups, send out email, and try to win the information war on the Internet. This effort included over a 1000 volunteers scattered throughout six sites in Belgrade. The Serbs hoped to splinter popular support for NATO actions among the world’s "cyber-citizens." Ultimately, though, these actions did not significantly decrease Western public support for NATO’s actions.

Dissident Serbs also used cyberspace to send information that would have otherwise never reached the outside world. Media-savvy Serbian Orthodox Priest, Father Sava Janjic, sent out voluminous email to those registered at his website. Other Serbs reported anonymously for various independent news websites.

As part of the wider rubric of Information Warfare, both NATO and Yugoslavia used cyberspace in areas other than perception management. Soon after the bombing began, NATO accused the Serbs of spamming the NATO email system and inserting viruses. Conversely, it was reported that US Central Intelligence Agency computer hackers tried to strip the finances of Milosevic by electronically draining his accounts in banks around the world.


Use of Spin Doctors – Mutual Ineptitude

In the past, the Serbs clumsily handled their attempts to manipulate international public opinion regarding matters in the Balkans. During the Kosovo crisis, their effort was better but still relatively unskilled. The Serbs never were able to put forward an effective, articulate, and telegenic representative. The Serbs offered Vladislav Jovanovic, Yugoslavia's UN ambassador, to news shows in the United States to present their point of view. His ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ stare, sweaty countenance, and Stalinesque and implausible responses to questions about Serbian actions in Kosovo served the Serbian side poorly. Nebojsa Vujovic, the former Yugoslav charge d’affairs to the United States, was a better spokesperson. However, by stationing him in Belgrade instead of outside of Yugoslavia, Serbian authorities limited international public exposure to his smoother responses.

Fortunately for the Serbs, NATO was little better in convincing the world audience of the correctness of the NATO stance. Unfortunately for the Serbs, this made little difference. The emotional capacity of the international audience to see, absorb, and disregard the deaths of hundreds of innocent Serbs and ethnic Albanians as a result of NATO’s bombing errors was unexpectedly large. This certainly surprised Milosevic, who was counting on a backlash. For Western spin doctors, it must have been an unanticipated boon.

NATO spokesperson, Jamie Shea, was an unlikely media star. Chummy and popular with reporters at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, he was best in one-on-one question and answer sessions. In this environment he came across to viewers as sincere and honest. During the daily news conferences, however, it was a different story. He seemed to exhibit a different persona. Despite the seriousness of the situation, he appeared as a smirking and somewhat cocky spokesperson, and often gave the impression NATO was indifferent to the suffering caused by its bombing mistakes.

Shea’s efforts got off to a very shaky start. Originally, he had a ridiculously small staff of six and was unable to directly contact NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark. As a result, Shea was constantly embarrassed by distributing inaccurate and outdated information fed to him NATO military authorities. After several debacles where Shea claimed NATO was not involved in an bombing incident only to backtrack and claim responsibility, with the oft used qualifier that NATO was still "99% on target," Shea was supplemented with a heavy reinforcement of staff and high powered advisors, including P.J. Crowley, a White House National Security Staff member, Jonathan Prince, a Clinton speech writer, and Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s spokesperson. After the intervention by 10 Downing Street and the White House, Shea’s office was given heightened priority. Shea began to talk with General Clark twice a day by phone. Nearly a month into their effort, NATO belatedly realized bombing alone would not win the conflict. More attention was paid to the perception management struggle.


Use of Bombs and Bombast – Controlling the Message

The Serbs were better at controlling the movements and dispatches of international reporters in the Yugoslavia. Even prior to NATO military action, Serbian authorities closely monitored and restricted the actions of reporters. After the NATO bombing began, most reporters were evicted from Yugoslavia. Those remaining knew the Serbs were attempting to manipulate the perceptions of their readers, listeners, and viewers. Likewise the Serbs were taking a risk in letting outsiders gain a firsthand view of what was happening in the country. For the Serbs, allowing a few reporters to remain was worth the risk in order to counter the NATO image derived from antiseptic bombing footage from 15,000 feet. The Serbs needed to get out the message that bombing errors were occurring, and civilians were dying as a result. Reporters in the region chronicled what they saw and reported with as much objectivity as was possible.

Serbian attempts to shape US public opinion against the NATO actions in the Balkans through exploiting the capture of three American servicemen early in the conflict, dramatizing the downing of the US F117 Stealth Fighter aircraft, or by highlighting NATO bombing mistakes, failed miserably. The biggest propaganda coup for the Serbs was the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. Yet even this episode failed to create serious protests in the key NATO countries of the US, the United Kingdom, Germany, or France.

Additionally, as the bombing campaign lengthened, the Serbs found their outlets to the world gradually choked off by NATO actions. NATO strikes destroyed cellular phone relays and satellite up-links. Due to communications interruptions, Serbian Internet websites were forced offline. Also noteworthy was the decision by the European consortium controlling the communications satellite EUTELSAT, many of them NATO members, to suspend dissemination of the Serbian government Radio Television Service (RTS) at the end of May. When NATO suspended the airstrikes, Serbia was largely cut-off from outside contact.

While NATO was strangling the ability of the Serbs to put out their spin on events, the willingness of NATO and Western leaders to exaggerate and hyperbolize the Kosovo conflict in an apparent attempt to whip-up and maintain public support probably did as much to create skepticism on the part of international public opinion as did the inept manner of delivery of that message by people like Jamie Shea. The tendency on the part of Western leaders to equate Milosevic to Hitler, etc., stretched credulity. While this language reflected the feelings of some Western leaders, notably UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who viewed the action against Serbia as almost a crusade, such characterizations struck many as overblown.

Beyond hyperbole, NATO’s error riddled statements seriously shook the international press’ belief in NATO credibility. Several prominent ethnic Albanian leaders NATO reported as killed, it would later prove, were very much alive. In the early stages of the NATO bombing campaign, NATO reported moderate ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova was injured and in hiding. This was also not true. Another NATO report had up to 100,000 ethnic Albanians herded into a soccer stadium in Pristina by the Serbs. This was proven false. NATO overstated the number of ethnic Albanian refugees, and inflated claims of military damage to the Serbian Army. There have even been assertions documents produced by NATO purporting to show the details of Operation HORSESHOE (Serbia’s alleged attempt to ethnically cleanse Kosovo in the Spring of 1999) were fabricated.

Whether NATO’s misleading statements were intentional or merely due to information manipulation by the UCK, who NATO relied upon for a great deal of its ground intelligence in Kosovo, it is clear that reporters, and their listeners and readers, developed a jaundiced view of NATO. As a result, in the future, the press will certainly more critically question the credibility of any information given by a Western military headquarters. The non-governmental group Reporters Sans Frontières issued a scathing report calling into question NATO’s methods and veracity, stating that NATO’s information was "scarcely better" than that from Belgrade and concluding with:

…the information provided by one side or the other may be liable to be used as a propaganda tool…. But it could still be hoped that a coalition of democracies, which claims to have right on its side, would behave with more integrity than the dictatorship it is fighting against.

Hand-wringing and Arm-twisting – Constraints on NATO’s Alternatives

An area where NATO did well in maintaining support for its actions was through a public hand-wringing exercise where its officials were careful to show a gradualist approach in applying force. On the other hand, a lot of behind the scenes arm-twisting also occurred. All of this coordinated action was designed to put pressure on Milosevic to accept the NATO terms regarding Kosovo.

While many criticized NATO’s incrementalist approach to the military attacks on Serbia, this strategy was essential in maintaining US and Western European support for the operation. One of the prime reasons why NATO initiated the air war against Serbia was to maintain the viability and credibility of the alliance. It was nonsensical to endanger the stability of NATO by immediately undertaking a ground campaign. The prospect of a NATO ground offensive was extremely unpopular in Greece and Italy. Maintaining support for the incremental approach was difficult enough. If NATO had initiated a ground war early in the conflict with Serbia, keeping the support of NATO member fence-sitters like Italy and Greece might have been impossible. While unpalatable to some in NATO’s military leadership, the incrementalist approach to military action enabled the NATO to maintain the necessary level of support among the Western European and US populace.

While the public hand-wringing over incrementalism took place, behind the scenes, a lot of arm-twisting occurred. In particular, NATO leaders placed Russia in the unenviable position of either supporting Milosevic and forfeit major financial support from organizations like the International Monetary Fund, or support the NATO actions and infuriate the Russian people, who favored support for Serbia. While it was a difficult decision and the Russian stance wavered on many occasions, Russia ultimately backed NATO.

Russia was not the only country subjected to arm-twisting. The US and the United Kingdom used a significant amount of pressure and incentives on their fellow NATO members during the NATO Washington Summit of April 23-25, 1999. Originally designed as a self-congratulatory celebration of NATO’s 50th anniversary, the Kosovo crisis turned the event into a test of NATO unity. Contrary to the hopes of Milosevic, the NATO members emerged unified from this seminal experience. In particular, President Clinton was effective in convincing other NATO leaders that Milosevic would eventually capitulate and no ground action would occur without additional consultation.


The Serbian Public

While attempting to shape the international audience’s impressions of the Kosovo conflict, all sides also initiated a regional perception management struggle within the Balkans. The population segment in Balkans under the heaviest information manipulation was the Serbian people. Even though Milosevic eventually banned all Albanian language media in Kosovo and initiated a campaign of violence and intimidation against local journalists, only the Serbs were truly susceptible to perception management. Ethnic Albanians had long before decided Serbian rule was intolerable and overwhelmingly desired separation from Yugoslavia. No amount of propaganda would have changed the ethnic Albanian perceptions. The information struggle within the ranks of ethnic Albanians was whether they would support the moderate efforts of Ibrahim Rugova and his political party, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which sought greater autonomy for Kosovo within the Yugoslav federation, or embrace the more militant UCK, which called for complete independence from Belgrade.


Use of Language – Intentional Signals or Ignorance?

One of the earliest and more subtle perception issues regarding the Kosovo crisis was the use of language. The nuance of this issue is no doubt lost to most in the Western public, especially Americans. But the ethnicities within former Yugoslavia used language and words to stake out territory on both the ground and in the mind.

The Serbs officially designate the region referred to in this article as "Kosovo" as "Kosovo-Metohija" (contracted form is "Kosmet"). "Kosovo" is the term in general international use. The other part of the hypenated Serbian title, Metohija, is a reference to lands allocated to the more than 200 Serbian Orthodox churches in the area, and is rarely seen in use outside of Serbian documents.

However, the ethnic Albanians prefer the term "Kosova." All of this uproar over a vowel might seem like much ado about little to the uninitiated, but to those familiar with the region and each side’s propaganda, it had tremendous symbolic impact. Using the term "Kosova" was tantamount to mentally separating the region from the Serbs and saying "Kosova" implied support for increased ethnic Albanian autonomy, if not independence from Yugoslavia.

To understand the importance of this point, one merely needs to remember the great stock Bosnian Muslims placed in being referred to by the secular term "Bosniac," or the important achievement Bosnian-Serbs knew had been accomplished at Dayton in having a nebulous "Republika Srpska" recognized within the bounds of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It greatly encouraged the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo to hear US officials, to include US President Bill Clinton, constantly pronounce the name of the region as "Kosova," as opposed to Kosovo. Whether this was merely due to Clinton’s southern dialect, an ignorance of the issue, or a subtle show of support to the ethnic Albanians, it is not clear – but it was a distinction not lost on the people of the area. US National Security Advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger, as well as US-sponsored Radio Free Europe (RFE), habitually used the term "Kosova." Former NATO Supreme Commander, US General Wesley Clark, sometimes used both "Kosovo" and "Kosova" within the same sentence. Intentionally, or as a result of ignorance, the language used by US leaders encouraged the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo to believe America was behind their drive for recognition and separation from Belgrade.


Use of Intimidation and Fear – Serbian Law of Information

Milosevic’s efforts to mold the attitudes of the Serbian people to back his Kosovo policy were well honed. His skillful use of the media in the past, particularly television, to whip-up nationalistic fury among Serbs is well documented. Initially, it was relatively easy for Milosevic to reinforce Serbian fear and paranoia and to channel it to support his actions in Kosovo. While many Serbs would never want to live in a province as desperately isolated and poor as Kosovo, the emotional tug of a region seen as the Serbian Jerusalem was as strong as their fear of the ethnic Albanians who constituted nearly 90% of the population in Kosovo.

But by the end of September 1998, as NATO was intensifying the pressure, Milosevic’s edifice of support among the Serbs began to crack. Dissenting voices within Serbia threatened Milosevic’s hold on the people. Unlike the period between 1989 to 1992 when Milosevic monopolized the media and was able to mobilize Serbian support for wars in Croatia and Bosnia, by 1998 a viable alternative Serbian media, operated by courageous Serbs and nurtured by outside money from the non-governmental Open Society Institute, the US State Department’s US Information Agency, and other groups, was making an impact.

The most visible Serbian independent radio and television group, the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), was a major target of Milosevic. ANEM was a collection of 34 radio stations and 18 television stations put together in a loose knit confederation by Veran Matic, founder of Belgrade’s popular B92 radio station. ANEM was an opponent Milosevic needed to discredit, or, if need be, eliminate. In early October 1998, the Milosevic government ordered Serbian independent radio stations to stop re-transmitting foreign news programs – from organizations like the British Broadcasting Company, Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle. Ultra-nationalist Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj warned these stations of possible future criminal action. Exasperated by the foreign broadcasts within Serbia, Serbian Minister of Information Aleksander Vucic said:

How long would, for example, a radio station or TV channel last in France which would be broadcasting programs of some other country in which the government of the French Republic, its laws and French history are being insulted, falsified, and in which ideas of full independence for Corsica are being promoted?

Soon after this statement by Vucic, the Serbian Law on Information was passed and used to impose enormous fines on publishers, editors, and journalists. ANEM was specially targeted, and dismantled station-by-station, with the flagship station of the Milosevic opposition, B92, going off the air the night the NATO bombardment began. One-by-one in late 1998 and into early 1999, independent Serbian publications like Danas, Nasa Borda, and Dnevni Telegraf were also shutdown. Milosevic’s approach to use fiscal and physical intimidation against the media within Serbia to maintain public support was effective to a degree.


Use of Patriotism – The Limitations of Emotionalism

In the early portion of the NATO bombing campaign, Milosevic’s government benefited from a patriotic outpouring by a wide cross-section of Serbs. "Turbo-Folk" concerts, combining traditional Serbian folk and modern rock music, as well as nightly vigils on bridges in the major cities in Serbia, with participants holding paper "bulls-eye" targets daring NATO bombers to strike, seemed to indicate deep support for Milosevic. The Serbian government Radio Television Service (RTS) cleverly reinforced these early emotions by comparing NATO actions to Nazi bombings on Belgrade and frequently playing the eerily prophetic American movie, "Wag the Dog," a film about a US President, dogged by sexual embarrassments, attempting to divert public attention to a contrived conflict in Albania.

However, as days added up into weeks, and then into months, early Serbian enthusiasm wilted under the withering and increasing NATO bombardment. Early jingoist attitudes became extinguished by the daily struggles with water and electricity shortages as well as the collapse of nearly all organized commercial enterprise. The appearance by Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic on April 25, 1999, on Draskovic’s Serbian Revival Movement-owned Studio B Television Station in Belgrade was an important watershed event and showed how the NATO bombing campaign had started to chip away Milosevic’s support. Draskovic stated Yugoslavia was losing the war, was isolated world wide, and was being misled on these facts by the Milosevic-controlled news organs. Milosevic’s precarious position was highlighted by the fact that Draskovic was not attacked in the streets of Belgrade for his statements. Rather his remarks were cathartic, as the Serbs knew someone was finally telling them the truth.

The Serbs knew the truth behind Draskovic’s assertions because the Serbian government’s attempt to control the flow of information to the Serbian people was a failure. Wary of Milosevic because of his previous lies and broken promises, the Serbs were skeptical of any information coming from the government. Moreover, the predilection of RTS to ‘go over the top,’ such as claiming Serbian forces downed several NATO aircraft each night, and tell the really big lie rather than working in the gray areas where truth and lies coexist, caused the Serbs to become increasingly distrustful of any news. This universal distrust worked against NATO information efforts in Serbia too, as the Serbs became unlikely to "listen to anyone’s truth anymore" and turn towards light entertainment on the radio and television rather than news.

Additionally, in contrast to the previous conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia when Milosevic had near full control of the information flow to the Serbian people, Serbs during the Kosovo conflict has access to other news sources other than state controlled RTS. Even after the dismantling of ANEM and the closure of independent print publications, a few Serbs could surf the Internet for other sources of information. NATO also attempted to get information to the Serbs through leaflet drops and radio/television broadcasts. Without his traditional information monopoly, Milosevic’s ability to control perceptions in his own country was undermined.


Use of Leaflets, Radio, and Television – More Like Goebbels or Begala?

While high tech conduits like cyberspace were a prominent feature in the perception struggle between the West and Serbia, traditional tools of propaganda: television, radio, and leaflets – were still the mainstays of the NATO effort to undercut Serbian support for Milosevic. Just like the efforts of Jamie Shea in Brussels, NATO’s information activities in Serbia drew derisive analysis from the press. Critics compared these NATO efforts to the propagandist techniques of a Josef Goebbels, as opposed to using the slick, marketing techniques of a modern ‘spinmeister’ like former White House advisor Paul Begala.

Some of this criticism was warranted, and some was not. NATO’s attempts to change Serbian perceptions were mixed. There were some positive aspects, but there were more areas where clearly there was room to improve. Prior to the bombing campaign, radio outlets like the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), Deutsche Welle, Radio Free Europe (RFE), and the Voice of America (VOA), were heard all over Serbia in the Serbian language through both powerful transmitters out of the country, but, more importantly, by the ANEM system of stations within Serbia. Also, Serbs with satellite dishes could view Cable News Network (CNN), BBC television, and numerous other international television news outlets. Hence, subjected to years of interpretations at odds with RTS, the Serbs were predisposed to question Milosevic’s accounts of what was occurring. Effective perception management is a long and often imperceptible process. The best psychological operation effort is one that is methodical and enduring. It is clear the most effective portion of the Western perception management in Serbia effort occurred in the years before the first NATO bomb was dropped.

After the bombing began and Serbian authorities eliminated the independent media, NATO attempted by other means to win the battle for Serbian minds. At first, NATO’s propagandists, similar to the planners conducting the bombing campaign, were not geared or seemingly authorized to engage in an aggressive media effort within Serbia. NATO, believing the struggle against Milosevic would only need to last a few days, was unprepared for an extensive psychological operations effort. Over time, NATO’s perception management effort did change and radically so. Steven Erlanger, a reporter for The New York Times, who spent much of the bombing campaign in Belgrade noted:

What began as a campaign against the Yugoslav military, to get Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate quickly over Kosovo, veered, perhaps out of frustration, into a psy-ops war aimed also at civilians, at their electricity and their water and their heating plants.

Outside radio broadcasts in Serbian, like those from the BBC, RFE and VOA, continued from transmitters stationed in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Central Europe. NATO also used its flying radio and television broadcast airplane, the US EC-130 Commando Solo, to beam 4 hours of programming daily on television channel 21, and four separate radio frequencies towards Belgrade. Some of the programs transmitted from the EC-130 aircraft were original and some were relays of VOA and RFE broadcasts. Ironically, the actions by the Serbian government to shutdown many independent indigenous stations, coupled with NATO bombings of the media infrastructure in Serbia, temporarily cleared the crowded airwaves and made transmission into the region much less difficult.

In addition to the electronic media, NATO also attempted to communicate to the people of Yugoslavia via leaflets. NATO dropped over 100 million leaflets over the course of the 78 day bombing campaign – nearly 9 leaflets for every man, woman, and child in the country. Because of the unwillingness to risk the life of any NATO airman, there was no pretense on the part of NATO that any of these leaflet drops would be surgically targeted. Reports were that in some areas of Serbia, the small 3 inch by 6 inch paper leaflets covered the ground like snow for many kilometers.

While the NATO intensity of propaganda delivery became vigorous after a slow start, the psychological themes employed often were heavy handed and clumsily packaged. These qualities caused many Serbs to be turned off by NATO’s information efforts. Betraying an astonishingly shallow knowledge of the political and cultural dynamics of the region, NATO propagandists made the mistake in many of their products of tying the Serbian desire to push the ethnic Albanians from Kosovo to a perceived loyalty to Milosevic. Instead, many Serbs agreed with Milosevic’s goals in Kosovo, but not necessarily with his methods of carrying out his policies in Serbia. Rather than trying to widen the gap between the Serbian people and Milosevic by acknowledging a legitimate right of Yugoslavia to govern Kosovo while, at the same time, condemning the methods used by the minions of Milosevic as barbaric, NATO’s message was one of widespread condemnation of nearly all Serbs. There was very little "carrot" dangled in front of the Serbian people by NATO and a whole lot of "stick." Whether this was driven by a misreading of the situation or the desire to give the Serbs the "little bit of bombing" some may have believed they deserved, one is not quite sure. As an example of one of these crude messages, one leaflet read: "No fuel, No power, No trade, No freedom, No future = Milosevic." Another leaflet featured burning buildings in Belgrade next to a picture of Milosevic with the message: "Is it really his to gamble?"

And while NATO’s messages were often off the mark, the media products themselves were regularly clumsily packaged. Cheerful Western pop music often filled the voids between blunt news segments in NATO radio broadcasts. This struck many Serbs as gallows humor at best and insensitively mocking at worst. Serbian language pronunciation and translation errors were common in both electronic and printed media products. One Serbian student (and the student population was probably a segment of the population more predisposed to the NATO messages) said of NATO television: "This is the same as our television. They are quoting foreign newspapers, but they are choosing what they like to choose." Said another, "I cannot understand how such an organization [NATO] with so many analysts and brains can transmit something like this to Serbs. They should at least broadcast our folk music. It is completely unconvincing."


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Target: Milosevic and His Cronies

While the attempt to change the perceptions of the average Serb was an abject failure, NATO was more successful in influencing the outlook of the senior Serbian leadership. As the air war against Serbia dragged on into weeks and months, Western leadership made the decision to personalize the conflict and specifically target Milosevic and his inner circle. Western intelligence attempted to drain Milosevic’s bank account, and NATO bombs struck his personal residence and the factories owned by his allies. A Balkans’ Rubicon was crossed when Western agencies provided evidence to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) concerning the culpability of Milosevic to war crimes. On May 27, 1999, ICTY issued indictments against Milosevic and four other senior Serbian officials for committing crimes against humanity, including mass murder. The conflict was now personal, and it was clear the goal of the West was nothing less than the total overthrow of the Milosevic régime.


Life after the Bombings – Where to Go From Here?

With the end of bombing a few days after Milosevic’s acceptance of the NATO peace deal on June 3, 1999, the attempt to shape the perceptions of the international audience largely ended, but attempts to frame what had happened in the minds of the Serbs continued in earnest.

Thus far, Milosevic has succeeded in holding onto power. As before, his survival is dependent to a large degree on effective use of the state controlled media. Still, Milosevic’s continued support within Serbia seems surrealistic. Independent polling shows Milosevic is still a relatively popular figure in Serbia.

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Inexplicably, many Serbs still viewed Milosevic as trustworthy after the Kosovo conflict. While many of those who would vote against Milosevic do so in response to his disastrous nationalist policies over the last ten years, some desire to see him out of power because of his concessions to NATO and want to see a more uncompromising leader like Vojislav Seselj take the reins of government.

In the West, the policy goal is to see the Serbian leader overthrown and tried at The Hague for war crimes. How then, does the West achieve its goals and gain something from the recent confrontation in the Balkans other than the difficult tasks of reconstruction, resettlement of refugees, and a long-term peacekeeping mission in Kosovo? Any psychological momentum achieved within Serbia by NATO during the bombing campaign has largely dissipated.

Independent media outlets within Serbia have been targeted by the Milosevic regime and nearly eliminated through violent intimidation, vandalism, and financial penalties. One of the most popular independent daily newspapers, Vecernje Novosti, was taken over completely by the Serbian government. Vuk Draskovic’s Studio B television station and radio station B2-92 were taken off the air by Serbian government authorities on May 17, 2000. This action was followed by waves of protest in Serbia. Similar actions ended the transmissions of relatively moderate media outlets in Kraljevo, Pozega, and Nemanja.

Instead of making the protection of these independent outlets within Serbia a priority, the US is concentrating upon external transmission and continues to beam radio and television programming into Serbia and has built six transmitters along the Serbian border. However, providing an effective message is just as important as getting it there. Unless the content and packaging of the message improves dramatically, the West would be better served attempting to preserve and assist independent media, rather than concentrating on broadcasting unconvincing and ineffective messages from outside the region. As noted by the International Crisis Group, outside transmissions can easily be dismissed as "NATO-Nazi propaganda" and such transmissions often have "a geriatric, 1950s feel to its programming."

Time and again, studies have established that limitations of perception management. The West should not attempt to change core Serbian beliefs but work on the margins with more subtle messages, with the use of as many "carrots" as "sticks". Western perception managers must re-evaluate its methodology and try to understand the Serbian perspective of events in the region, rather than judging it from theirs’. This is not to say the West should approve of this perspective, but in order to change an attitude, it must first be understood and not dismissed or disregarded out of hand. Promising Serbia economic aid, possible future incorporation into the European Economic Community, and a regional peace conference where all the ethnic and territorial issues will be put on the table for negotiation and settlement should be just some of the "carrots" considered by the West to dangle in front of Serbians if Milosevic is overthrown and a democratic government is in place in Belgrade.

Beyond the current events in the Balkans, the West, and the US in particular, must reassess its pursuit of foreign policy objectives. The punishing bombing used by NATO may have psychologically shaken the Serbian people and leadership, but the NATO barrage reverberated in many areas – both predicted and unexpected. Stability in Macedonia and Vojvodina has been harmed. Pan-Albanian irredentist aspirations, bolstered by NATO actions, threaten the political integrity of Macedonia. Moreover, bilateral US-China and US-Russian relations have been damaged. As a result of the Kosovo experience, even NATO’s position as the primary mechanism for European defense is under assault, as the European Union creates its own military structure.

More effective perception management offers Western policy makers a more adroit and less invasive tool than bombings. As General Sir Michael Rose, former UN Commander in Bosnia, recently said: "You cannot solve complex political, human and military problems from a flight level of 15,000 feet." While Americans and Western Europeans will seemingly tolerate large scale loss of civilian life in other countries, such a cavalier attitude will ultimately come back to haunt the West. The moral capital accumulated by the West is not inexhaustible. The West must soberly reappraise its methods and determine if it wants to be perceived as the world’s intimidator or mediator.


1 Perception management is defined as: "Actions to convey or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning; and to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objective." From US military Joint Doctrine Publication 1-02, DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, (23 March 1994): 347. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the policies or positions of the US Government or the Department of Defense.

2 For an interesting analysis of the Kosovo "Lessons Learned," see Ivo Daalder and Michael O’Hanlon, "Unlearning the Lessons of Kosovo," in Foreign Policy (Fall 1999): 128-40. For a view regarding the conduct of the war see Barry R. Posen, "The War for Kosovo: Serbia’s Political-Military Strategy," in International Security (Spring 2000): 39-84.

3 The purpose of this article is not to evaluate the moral correctness of any side in the conflict but rather to analyze attempts to manipulate the perception of the conflict, both regionally and internationally.

4 Hundreds of factories, oil refineries, and bridges were destroyed. Surprisingly little damage was done to the Yugoslav military. A report prepared by the US Air Force, and suppressed by the Pentagon, verified as destroyed only 14 Serbian tanks 18 armored personnel carriers, and 20 artillery pieces. See John Barry and Evan Thomas, "The Kosovo Cover-Up," in Newsweek (May 15, 2000): 23-6. Some have called for a ‘Balkans Marshall Plan’ and suggest pumping up to $30-$50 billion into the region. The efficacy of such a plan is seriously in doubt, especially with allegations that up to a $1 billion in aid project funds have been funneled away by corrupt local officials in Bosnia. See Chris Hedges, "Leaders in Bosnia Are Said To Steal Up To $1 Billion," in The New York Times (August 17, 1999): A1. The EU and the US have joined in an attempt to create just such a ‘Balkans Marshall Plan’ – the South East Europe Stability Pact. For a critique of the Stability Pact see Steven Collins, "Building Stability in Southeastern Europe – Symbolism or Substance?" in Strategic Review (forthcoming).

5 See comments by US Army Colonel (ret.) Kenneth Allard in Richard Hill, "NATO May Control Allied Force Air War, But Serbs Command Air Waves," in Defense Information and Electronics Report (May 21, 1999): 1.

6 See Peter Goff, ed., The Kosovo News & Propaganda War (Vienna: International Press Institute, September 1999).

7 For a historical perspective of the tensions see Miranda Vickers, Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998) or Noel Malcolm, Kosovo: A Short History (New York: New York University Press, 1998).

8 The importance of the Dayton Agreement as a stimulus for a change in tactics by the ethnic Albanians has been noted by many. Kosovar ethnic Albanian shadow Prime Minister, Bujar Bukoshi, stated after the initialing of the Dayton Agreement: "‘Let it be noted that it is in Kosovo that everything started and unless our issue is allotted due attention and deep understanding, followed by intense international pressure on Belgrade, the perspective is rather bleak…’" quoted from Vickers, 287.

9 Tim Judah, Kosovo: War and Revenge (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 138 (ppbk).

10 For instance, the Sarajevo Marketplace (‘Markale’) Massacre of February 1994 was used by the Clinton Administration to push a policy it desired, but which it had been unable to build popular support. White House spokesperson Dee Dee Myers noted: "‘It was a short window. We took advantage of it. We moved the policy forward, and it was successful,’" quoted in Warren P. Strobel, Late-Breaking Foreign Policy: The News Media’s Influence on Peace Operations (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997), 155. Also see: Tihomir Loza, "A Need for Atrocities," in Transitions (March 1999): 16-19. Atrocities can even change the minds of ardent pacifists. See the impact the fall of Srebrenica, Bosnia, had on the thinking of the current German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer in Josef Joffe, "A Peacenik Goes to War," in The New York Times Magazine (May 30, 1999): 30-3.

11 For the Serbian point of view regarding Rathfelder’s claims, see: "Convincing truth denies Rathfelder’s fabrication," (August 7, 1998) at . Also see Robert Fox, "Serbs slash and burn to a dead endgame," in The European (10-16 August 1998): 12-13.

12 See: Jane Perlez, "New Massacres by Serb Forces in Kosovo Village," in The New York Times (September 30, 1998): A1, A6.

13 At a meeting at London’s Heathrow Airport, October 8, 1998, the decision was made by representatives from the key NATO members that the alliance could bomb Serbia without a UN Security Council Resolution authorizing such a move. Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov was also present and made it clear Russia would not do anything militarily to stop NATO from bombing Serbia. This meeting recounted in Judah, 183-4.

14 See: "Markale in Gornje Obrinje," (October 2, 1998) at <>.

15 For a fascinating view of Holbrooke’s improvisational method of diplomacy during this period see Michael Ignatieff, "The Diplomatic Life: The Dream of the Albanians," in The New Yorker (Jan. 11, 1999): 34-39.

16 Quoted by Jane Perlez, "U.S. Hope is Slim as Talks Restart on Kosovo Crisis," in The New York Times (March 15, 1999): A1, A6.

17 Michael Powell, "How to Bomb in Selling a Good War," in Washington Post (May 27, 1999): C1.

18 Judah, 264, reports that 500-2000 Serbian civilians were killed and 6000 wounded as a result of NATO’s bombing. It is estimated Serbian forces killed approximately 10,000 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. It is unclear how many of the 10,000 were UCK combatants.

19 The long-term effects of a US ‘Tomahawk Diplomacy’ are possibly not as sanguine. See Samuel P. Huntington, "The Lonely Superpower," and Gary Wills, "Bully of the Free World," in Foreign Affairs (March/April 1999): 35-59.

20 For an interesting perspective on the moral aspects of the US conduct of the air campaign, see: "The victors of Kosovo," in The Economist (June 12, 1999): 23-4 and Powell, "How to Bomb in Selling a Good War,": C1. The impact of more than seven years of demonization of the Serbs analyzed in: David Binder and Walter R. Roberts, "The Only Good Serb is a …," in Mediterranean Quarterly (Summer 1998) and in Frank Bruni, "A War of the Words: Based on Perspective, Two Sides to the Story," in The New York Times (April 18, 1999): 11 (International Section). Binder, Roberts, and Bruni make the point that emotional comparisons (e.g.: Milosevic compared to Hitler, etc.) are often used to describe the Serbs or their actions. Clearly the Serbs have become the ‘politically correct’ target for righteous indignation. Many US politicians and intellectuals who vigorously opposed the Gulf War in 1991 were just as aggressive in supporting the NATO bombing in Yugoslavia, and many lobbied for a ground offensive in Kosovo as well.

21 While the Internet was used to influence audiences external to the Balkans, less than 1 percent of the population in Yugoslavia can connect to the Internet. From Florian Bieber, "The Internet and the Balkan Wars," in Current History, March 2000: 124-28.

22 Frequently selected web sites for the ethnic Albanian perspective were  and the website for the most popular ethnic Albanian paper in Kosovo   . For the opposite viewpoint, some surfed to the official Serbian government site . However, because of the ‘over-the-top’ exaggerated nature of the Serbian government website, others turned to the Serbian Unity Congress website at <> to gain a perspective with more balance.

23 See Vesna Peric-Zimonjic, "Kosovo Combatants Fight New War – In Cyberspace" at 15_039.htm .

24 Michael Satchell, "Captain Dragan’s Serbian cybercorps," in U.S. News & World Report (May 10, 1999): 42.

25 Jane Perlez, "Serbian Priest in Ancient Monastery Is a Thorn in Milosevic’s Side," in The New York Times (October 12, 1998): A8. Father Sava’s website is: .

26 Douglas Waller, "Tearing Down Milosevic," in Time (July 12, 1999): 37-9.

20 Craig R. Whitney, "How Voice of NATO Honed His Delivery," in The New York Times (May 4, 1999): A14. Shea commented that he believed, although his staff was unprepared, the ‘spin doctors’ sent in to help him did more harm than good, in "Spin Hurt Nato, Shea Admits," in London Sunday Times (July 25, 1999).

27 For an interesting and very readable account of this period, consult Greg Campbell, The Road to Kosovo: A Balkan Diary (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1999), 157-62.

28 See informative comments by BBC’s Jacky Rowland’s on the reporter’s lot in Yugoslavia at: .

29 Koha Ditore publisher and member of the ethnic Albanian representative to the talks in Rambouillet, France, Veton Surroi, and the editor of the Koha Ditore English edition, Dukagjin Gorani, were discovered to be alive after their deaths were reported by NATO. As it turned out, NATO was getting the information regarding their deaths from the Kosova (ethnic Albanian) Information Center.

30 Barry and Thomas, "The Kosovo Cover-Up." When asked by a reporter to explain the discrepancy between the official estimates of damage to the Serbian military and actual destruction verified by the Air Force, former NATO Commander Wesley Clark responded that NATO had been under pressure by the press to provide figures and had given the best information they had available at the time. Interview with Clark conducted by Martha Raddatz on ABC World News Tonight, May 12, 2000.

31 Tom Walker, "Serbian Ethnic Cleansing Scare was a Fake Says General John Goetz," in The Sunday Times, April 2, 2000.

32 "War in Yugoslavia – Nato’s media blunders," at .

33 The key event was the June 3, 1999 meeting between Milosevic, Russian Viktor Chernomyrdin and his EU counterpart, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, where Milosevic agreed to peace on NATO’s terms.

34 Enver Maloku, head of the Kosova Information Center, was shot and killed on January 10, 1999, and Albanian language newspapers and magazines like Kosova Sot, Gazeta Shqiptare, Rilindja, and eventually even the most widely circulated Koha Ditore, were shutdown under Article 67 of the Serbian Information Law for "fomenting religious and ethnic hatred." Radio Kontakt, a radio station in Pristina that sought to promote inter-ethnic dialogue, was likewise put off the air by the Serbs.

35 Unhappy with the pro-Rugova slant of many ethnic Albanian news outlets in Kosovo, on January 3, 1999, the UCK announced it would establish its own radio station and news service.

36 For one of the better accounts, read Mark Thompson, Forging War: The Media in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina (Avon: The Bath Press, 1994).

37 In fact, many Serbian refugees from Bosnia and Croatia had been forcibly re-settled by the Milosevic government in Kosovo in attempts to bolster the tiny Serbian minority in the province.

38 "What is the Real Interest of Information Houses Broadcasting Propaganda and Information Programs of Foreign Media," by Aleksander Vucic (Serbian Minister of Information) (October 2, 1998) at .

39 B92 came back on the air but under the control of the Serbian government. Cleverly they still used the same name, logo, and website – as if Veran Matic was still in control. The old B92 came back on the air, with the assistance of Milosevic’s sometime political opponent Vuk Draskovic, and called themselves "Radio B2-92."

40 Draskovic was nearly killed during an October 3, 1999 car accident. An out of control truck struck a three car convoy carrying Draskovic and several members of his entourage. Four people were killed in what Draskovic believes to have been a deliberate assassination attempt by the Milosevic government. The driver of the truck escaped from the scene of the accident and was never found by authorities.

41 Teolfil Panic, "On Air in Serbia: Freedom of Media Unsealed," at .

42 For examples of the harsh criticism see David Abel, "Propaganda Spreads Fear More Than Information, Critics Say," in Defense Week (May 10, 1999): 1 and Carlotta Gall, "NATO TV Is Sent to Serbs, Who Are Harsh Critics," in The New York Times (May 26, 1999): A13.

43 US Secretary of Defense William Cohen admitted in testimony before the US Senate Armed "Services Committee on October 14, 1999 that Serbia won the perception battle. Cohen observed the Serbs were ‘"far more skilled in the manipulation of the media than we were.’" Quoted in Elizabeth Becker, "Military Leaders Tell Congress of NATO Errors in Kosovo," in The New York Times (October 15, 1999): A8.

44 Steven Erlanger, "Beneath the Falling Bombs," in The New York Times Magazine (June 13, 1999): 86.

45 In controversial bombing raids (the first strike was April 21, 1999), NATO eliminated the transmitters of RTS, TV Pink, TV Palma, and RTV Kosova – all stations favorable to Milosevic. Radio Yugoslavia and Radio Kosova, also controlled by the Milosevic government, were frequently knocked off the air and from their websites off the Internet. The bombing of Serbian media has led some to ask the question as to whether this reduces the protection of Western journalists if they are deemed by a régime to be ‘biased,’ see: Thomas R. Lansner, "Same Spin, Different War," in The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs (September 1999): 6-7.

46 For example, leaflets intended for Serbian troops fell on an ethnic Albanian refugee camp near Kukes, Albania. This caused one aid worker to quip, ‘"I hope NATO has better accuracy with their bombs.’" Quoted by Jon Anderson, "NATO Leaflets Miss Their Mark And Fall to Refugee Camp," in European Stars and Stripes (May 20, 1999): 4. Another leaflet was unintentionally humorous, as hundreds of thousands of them dropped on Serbian troops in Kosovo featured a picture of the US Apache helicopter, which was grounded for the entire conflict, with the caption: "Don’t wait for me!"

47 See: .

48 David Abel, "NATO Bombs Serbs With Warning Leaflets," in Boston Globe (May 9, 1999): 22.

49 Gall: A13.

50 For an analysis of why Milosevic’s attempts have met with some success, see Gillian Sandford and Duska Anastasijevic, "Inside Milosevic’s Propaganda Machine," in Time (July 12, 1999): 38-9. Polling of 1000 Serbs by Partner Marketing Research Agency the week of August 9th. According to this research, opposition parties to Milosevic would defeat him 40% to 24%. See: "Poll Shows Over 70 Pct. Of Serbs Want Milosevic Out," at

51 Data from polls conducted inside Serbia.

52 Polling was done by the firm Medium between June 9th through 14th, as reported in International Crisis Group, "Back to the Future: Milosevic Prepares For Life After Kosovo (28 June 1999)," : 14, available at .

53 Douglas Waller, "Tearing Down Milosevic," in Time (July 12, 1999): 37-8. Recent cost cutting measures has forced Radio Free Europe and Voice of America to curtail their Serbian-language broadcasts. See Steven Erlanger, "Despite U.S. Heat on Belgrade, Radio Services Cut Broadcasts," in The New York Times (January 24, 2000): A3.

54 Action taken by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to establish a Media Regulatory Commission in Kosovo to vet and regulate local media has drawn some criticism, but this is a much needed mechanism in order to establish a free, open, and accountable media in the region. See Steven Erlanger, "NATO Peacekeepers Plan a System of Controls for the News Media in Kosovo," in The New York Times (August 16, 1999): A8. The problem of creating free media in Eastern Europe and why it is often more difficult than expected is explored in Tom Van de Weghe, "Why the Media are Still Not Free," in The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs (September 1999): 8-9. The OSCE announced on May 24, 2000 that its Radio FERN (Free inter-Ethnic Radio Network) in Bosnia would begin to cover Serbian internal politics and do whatever it could to support B2-92 and other independent media outlets in Serbia.

55 Quoted from International Crisis Group, "Transforming Serbia: the Key to Long Term Stability": 21,22. Available at: <>. In the same report, The International Crisis Group urges VOA and RFE to use Serbian journalists to revitalize its programming and "…devise entertaining programs with likeable, identifiable hosts and popular guests artists who can subtly, through humour, satire, or rap, perhaps, begin to impart the truth of the Serbian condition": 22.

56 Lt Col Philip P. Katz, USA, Retired, et al., "A Critical Analysis of US PSYOP," in Frank L. Goldstein and Benjamin F. Findley, Jr., eds. Psychological Operations: Principles and Case Studies (Maxwell AFB: Air University Press, September 1996), 137.

57 Craig R. Whitney, "U.S. Raises Objections to New Force in Europe," in The New York Times (October 11, 1999): A9.

58 Matthew Grant, "At war over truth and peace," (July 13, 1999) at: