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Cluster Bombs and Cruise Missiles: The Aftermath of the 1999 NATO Air Strikes on Belgrade

Nato Bomb
The Ministry of Defense destroyed by NATO air strikes in Belgrade, Serbia

In 1999 NATO intervened in an escalating civil war, the Kosovo War, between ethnic Albanians and Serbs on the behalf of the outgunned Albanians. The intervention was controversial for many reasons. The initial fighting did not involve NATO nations. It coincidentally took media attention away from the Monica Lewinsky Scandal, and among numerous other controversies, three missiles were fired at and destroyed the Chinese embassy, supposedly surgically accurate missiles. For nearly 4 months NATO launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and flew over 38,000 combat missions targeting military installations, power plants, media broadcasting stations and the Ministry of Defense, pictured above.

The Ministry of Defense destroyed in 1999
The bombings took place in the center of the city, amongst commercial and residential buildings
I had no idea how extensive the bombing was, nor had I even seen the aftermath of a missile strike. I’m not sure why the buildings haven’t been demolished or repaired, maybe they are meant to be a monument or a reminder, regardless, it is grounding to see where the missiles tore through the concrete and steel buildings. Some of the sites are on the outskirts of the city, but if you arrive by train to Belgrade, the destroyed Ministry of Defense Building is only a short walk away, right in the middle of the city.
Building Left In Disrepair 10 Years Later
After 10 years, the buildings were still in disrepair, maybe as a reminder
I naively brought up the conflict in a conversation with our hostel hosts. They were teenagers at the time and were still very affected by the incident, so casually bringing up the conflict in conversation with a local or joking about it isn’t a good idea. The conversation should be handled delicately. The woman was kind enough to respond. She said, school was cancelled and her and her friends were left to roam the streets while jets blasted over the city and missiles shattered buildings. She described it as a delirious experience; they were drinking and dancing in the streets, just to do something because they couldn’t do anything else.

Map Location of Missile Strikes

The Ministry of Defense is number 11 on the rough map sites bombed in Belgrade

Ministry of Defense Map

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