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NATO Makes A Force-Full Point

CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips is on the scene at Aviano Air Force Base in Italy, covering the NATO air exercises over Macedonia and Albania.

In this report for CBS.com, Phillips describes what NATO hopes to accomplish with its show of military might:

What if the world's most powerful military alliance held a major exercise and nobody noticed?

That's a question NATO was determined to avoid Monday as it launched "Operation Determined Falcon" from airbases across Europe.

The point of Monday's exercise was to get the attention of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and to acquaint him once again with NATO's ability to project power in the region.

This, it was hoped, might deter Milosevic from further aggressive action against Albanian nationals who make up 90 percent of Serbia's Kosovo province.


NATO war planes take off
So that Milosevic wouldn't miss the point of the exercise, NATO not only invited a contingent of Serb journalists from Belgrade to witness Monday's action, it arranged to fly them to Italy so they could see NATO's air power up close and personal.

As it happened, representatives of Serbia's state-controlled media declined the invitation, but members of the fledgling opposition press and television did take advantage of NATO's hospitality. They saw an impressive display as U.S., Spanish, and Portuguese aircraft took off, loaded with air-to-air and air-to-ground ordinance.

In all, 85 aircraft from 13 of NATO's member countries participated in Monday's exercise. Sixty-eight of those were jet fighters, which flew over Albania proper and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia before returning to their bases. They never got closer than 15 miles of Yugoslav airspace, but the man in charge of NATO's Southern Command, U.S. Air Force Lt General Michael C. Short, says he's sure the Serbs knew the NATO planes were there.


Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
The operation was a military success. Whether it will achieve its political objective with Milosevic is another matter, no matter how much coverage it gets in Belgrade's opposition press.

This show of military might was a media show as well. And its primary audience may well have been in Serbia.

Written by CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips
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