Italy is NATO’s air anchor, or, perhaps better, NATO’s overlord in the sky. Indeed, Italy has made Italy a supporter of various NATO air-policing programs. Italy pioneered the use of the F-35 for NATO air policing missions; Italy was the first to withdraw patrol aircraft from Iceland and Estonia, and the F-35s of the Baltic air police mission were intercepted for the first time in the past 12 months. Successive Italian governments have established that participation in NATO air policing is exclusively what Italy does, simply because Italy provides a disproportionately mammoth number of soldiers for several NATO, UN, and EU missions in the Mediterranean and the past.
Given a political tradition so opposed to talking about military realities, it is not surprising that Italian governments do not acknowledge their outstanding contribution to NATO air policing. However, the police still do not value anyone’s life. Conversely, as the NATO skies become less and less pleasant, NATO wants the Air Police to be bigger than ever. NATO airstrikes on Serbia in the 1990s are living proof of this. During the ten weeks of the war in Kosovo, NATO aircraft made more than 38,000 Cam4 sorties.
The Yugoslav security forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army used different weapons.
During the conflict, NATO used only aircraft and naval units. Privately, NATO’s European members discussed the goals and necessity of the war in Kosovo. More than 164,000 Serbs left Kosovo in the seven weeks following the withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serb forces and the entry of the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) into Kosovo. Efforts existed to convince Milosevic to allow NATO peacekeeping forces to enter Kosovo.
He then accepted the terms put forward by the Finnish-Russian mediation team and agreed to an UN-led military presence in Kosovo, but with the participation of NATO forces. The Rambouillet Agreement stipulates that NATO will make Kosovo an autonomous province within the Serb-dominated Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In addition, 30,000 NATO troops maintain order in Kosovo; NATO troops have unhindered access to Yugoslav territory, including Kosovo; NATO and Immunity of its agents from Yugoslav law. At first, NATO claimed to have killed 10,000 Yugoslav soldiers, while Yugoslavia claimed only 500; a NATO investigation team later corrected this among the hundreds of Yugoslav soldiers killed in airstrikes.
Since May 2021, the Italian contribution to the Alliance Air Police in the Baltics at Amari Air Base, called “Baltic Eagle II,” underlines the commitment of the Italian Air Force to NATO. Protecting the integrity of the sovereign airspace of Alliance members is an ongoing peacetime challenge that contributes to NATO’s collective defense and provides support to civilian aircraft in distress. The patrols are part of a beefed-up air policing launched by NATO after Russia annexed Crimea and helped separatists occupy eastern Ukraine. However, in the case of Italy’s role in protecting NATO’s skies, indeed, most people are not aware of this.