NATO lacks 'will,' says its leader 'Passivity' over Balkans cited

September 11, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner said yesterday that the Atlantic alliance lacks the "political will" to intervene militarily in Bosnia.

Speaking to the annual meeting of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr. Woerner said that "disorder and a crisis of confidence" dominate NATO's European agenda.

The former German defense minister, in unusually frank terms, told an audience of diplomats, senior officers and strategic scientists that the West's "passivity" in dealing with the collapse and conflict in the former Yugoslavia has taught NATO some bitter lessons. Among them, he said, are that:

* "Political solutions and diplomatic efforts will only work if backed by the necessary military power and the credible resolve to use it against an aggressor."

* "If you cannot or do not want to help the victim of aggression, enable him to help himself."

* Threats should be used "only if you are determined to implement the threat."

* "Crisis prevention, like deterrence, will work only if your resolve to prevent conflict is credible and accompanied by firm action."

* "Situations in which your own troops become hostages" should be avoided.

By implication, Mr. Woerner was criticizing the British and French for sending to Bosnia peacekeeping and humanitarian forces that have become "hostages."

The British and French have opposed U.S. proposals for air strikes to relieve Sarajevo because they fear their troops might -- be endangered by Serbian reprisals.

Mr. Woerner also appeared to be faulting President Clinton for threatening U.S. air strikes but not following through.

NATO's secretary-general tends to be diplomatically discreet on the policies of the 16 members. But he has been rankled by critics who blame NATO for what he has called "the failure of the international community to solve the Bosnian conflict."

Early last month, Mr. Woerner supervised NATO planning to deploy warplanes to relieve the siege of Sarajevo, but the final decision to strike was left in the hands of United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. No action has been taken.

In another clear reference to Bosnia, Mr. Woerner said, "If there is one lesson from history, it is that the sooner one stands up to a bully, the less the force required and the fewer the risks encountered. To the extent that our democracies prove their resolve, they are less likely to be challenged."

Earlier, European Commission President Jacques Delors told the same audience, "We should not have stated on the outbreak of hostilities that we would not use force. Even if military intervention was debatable, it made little sense to signal to the warring factions that they would not have to face the military might of the West.

"In other words, without a plausible threat to use force, we needlessly undermined the credibility of our warnings and ultimatums."

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