Soldier-turned-singer: US ordered me to attack Russian troops

By Daniel Tencer
Sunday, November 14, 2010 16:52 EDT
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‘I’m not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War 3,’ top UK soldier reportedly said

A British pop singer who served during the war in Kosovo says he refused an order from US Gen. Wesley Clark to attack 200 Russian troops, a move he says could have started World War 3.

James Blunt, most famous for his 2005 hit song “You’re Beautiful,” recounted to the BBC his experience in the taking of Pristina airfield in Kosovo in 1999. When 30,000 NATO troops arrived to take the airfield, they were surprised to find Russian troops had already occupied it.

According to a BBC documentary, the Russians had evidently believed that their role in peace-making efforts with Serbia meant they would be allowed to control a portion of Kosovo under their own flag, and so occupied the airfield.

Blunt said he was heading up a unit of British soldiers that were at the forefront of the 30,000-strong NATO force.

“I was given the direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there,” Blunt said in the radio interview.

“The direct command [that] came in from General Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as ‘destroy’ came down the radio.”

Blunt said that ultimately he was backed up by the then-head of Britain’s armed forces, Gen. Sir Mike Jackson.

“I’m not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War 3,” Blunt quoted Jackson as saying.

But he noted the near-standoff ended peacefully a few days later, when the Russian troops ran out supplies and came to the NATO forces for help.

“After a couple of days the Russians there said ‘hang on we have no food and no water. Can we share the airfield with you?’” Blunt said.

Blunt’s account is not the first time that the conflict between Gens. Clark and Wesley over the Pristina airfield has been reported.

In a 1999 editorial, the Guardian opined, “No sooner are we told by Britain’s top generals that the Russians played a crucial role in ending the West’s war against Yugoslavia than we learn that if NATO’s supreme commander, the American General Wesley Clark, had had his way, British paratroopers would have stormed Pristina airport, threatening to unleash the most frightening crisis with Moscow since the end of the Cold War.”

Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” reached number one on both the British and US pop charts in 2005, and reached sales of 1.2 million. The single ranked in 7th place in a Rolling Stone survey of “most annoying songs of all time.”

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