Clinton is set for prolonged air campaign

President is upbeat in assessment given congressional leaders

300 more planes sought

War In Yugoslavia

April 14, 1999|By Tom Bowman and Mark Matthews | Tom Bowman and Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The United States and Russia failed to agree yesterday on how to end the war over Kosovo, and President Clinton signaled a prolonged and costly air campaign by preparing to dispatch more than 300 additional warplanes and to call up Air Force and Army reservists.

As NATO's bombing attacks entered their fourth week, Clinton met for a second day with members of Congress to try to shore up support for the military campaign.

The White House told Congress the war would cost $3 billion to $4 billion through September. Congress is expected to overwhelmingly approve such an appropriation as a way of showing solidarity with the armed forces.

"Our campaign is diminishing and grinding down [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic's military capabilities," the president said after his meeting with lawmakers.

"We have weakened Serbia's air defenses and command and control. We have reduced his ability to move, sustain and supply the war machine in Kosovo. We have damaged his refineries and diminished his capacity to produce ammunition," he said.

"Now we are taking our allied campaign to the next level, with more aircraft in the region, with a British carrier joining our USS Roosevelt and a French carrier in the area."

A divided Hill

Reflecting the wide disparity of views on Capitol Hill, congressional leaders of both parties have decided to put off as long as possible any formal role for Congress in the war planning.

Individual legislators have suggested proposals that range from authorizing the president to use any force necessary to demanding an immediate end to the U.S. involvement in the air campaign.

But the leaders are refusing to allow any of these proposals to come to the floor for a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle say Congress would have to approve the use of ground forces. But they said they saw no reason to act unless or until Clinton sends them a request.

Kenneth H. Bacon, the Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday that Defense Department officials are still reviewing the request by U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, NATO's supreme commander, for 300 additional U.S. aircraft, from attack aircraft to refuelers, which would bring allied air power to nearly 1,000 planes.

`Selective' call-up seen

As a result, Bacon said, "there will likely to be a reserve call-up. The details aren't ready to be announced at this stage."

Most of the Air Force's refueling and cargo plane pilots are in the reserves. In addition, Bacon said, certain Army Reserve support units would be called up to serve in Macedonia and Albania.

Though there were no specifics on the number of reservists needed, Maj. Jerry Herbel, a spokesman for the Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, said it would be a "selective" call-up for pilots who fly certain aircraft, such as C-130 cargo and KC-135 refueling planes.

There is speculation among Pentagon officials that some of the additional aircraft could come from the USS Enterprise, which has 70 attack and support planes and is scheduled to pass through the Mediterranean Sea in the next week on its way back to Norfolk, Va. The carrier just completed six months in the Persian Gulf.

Yesterday's meeting in Oslo, Norway, between Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov served to ease some of the tension between Washington and Moscow, a Serbian ally that has condemned the NATO air campaign.

But the session in the Norwegian capital failed to produce any new Russian effort to broker an end to the crisis. Ivanov rejected Albright's proposal for an international force that would police Kosovo after Yugoslav forces withdraw.

Though the United States has tried to make the idea acceptable to the Russians by offering them a key role in the international force, Russia still objects to U.S. plans for a NATO-led military presence. Ivanov insisted that Milosevic should have to agree to the deployment.

"What we disagree on, or have not yet reached agreement on, is the character of that kind of force," Albright said. She said Washington reckoned that it "has to have a NATO core, with other countries being able to provide other aspects of it."

`Strengthen and intensify'

Meanwhile, Clark offered a more detailed review of the first three weeks of the bombing campaign and said the additional aircraft would continue to weaken Milosevic's military.

"What we intend to do is continue to strengthen and intensify the air campaign," Clark told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the Belgian capital.

Using a pointer and slides to show the bombing targets, Clark said: "We're going to make it increasingly painful and difficult for President Milosevic to maintain his control and the high-level command and control of the armed forces and police, which are essential to maintaining his authority."

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