NATO aims to make Milosevic allies pay

Some industrial targets picked for connection to political supporters

April 19, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- In listing its bombing targets in Yugoslavia, NATO has generally described them as facilities that feed Slobodan Milosevic's war machine. What the Pentagon does not usually say is that some of the refineries and factories have also been chosen as targets because they are run by cronies of the Yugoslav president.

The idea, according to senior NATO and Pentagon officials, is to undermine Milosevic's control by chipping away at his system of political and economic patronage.

"He doesn't care if his soldiers die in Kosovo, as long as he stays in power," one senior military officer said of Milosevic. "But if you blow up some things near and dear to him -- or to somebody close to him -- then that could have an effect."

While NATO's bombing seems to have solidified popular support for Milosevic, the officials said they hope the attacks against some of the targets will turn loyal supporters against him by destroying their own sources of wealth and power.

Yugoslavia's oil and gas industry, for example, has suffered enormously under NATO's strikes. While the stated aim of those attacks has been to choke off fuel to the armed forces operating in Kosovo, the strikes must also be a blow to Dragan Tomic, the director of Yugo Petrol, who as speaker of the federal Parliament in Belgrade is a close ally of Milosevic.

On April 9, a missile strike destroyed the Zastava auto plant in Kragujevac. Its director, Milan Beko, has served under Milosevic as minister of privatization.

Four days earlier, NATO struck a tobacco factory and warehouse in Nis, and damage to tobacco factories has been reported in other cities. According to American intelligence reports, a major player in Yugoslavia's tobacco distribution is Milosevic's son, Marko.

So far, economic and industrial targets have made up only a small portion of NATO's targets. Of the roughly 200 targets attacked since the air war began on March 24, only a dozen have been strictly industrial sites, like factories. That percentage grows when those targets are combined with fuel storage and ammunition factories.

Some NATO and Pentagon military leaders have advocated striking still more economic and industrial targets, the officials said.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Henry H. Shelton, disclosed that NATO's political leaders had not yet approved a small group of targets that he grouped under the objective "decimate." He said NATO warplanes could begin striking such targets "in a few days."

Shelton declined to identify those targets, but the highly classified list includes additional industrial and economic sites, according to a senior administration official.

A senior U.S. military officer said the targets on NATO's list included strikes at "the things that keep him afloat." The idea, the officer said, is to instill fear in those whose economic standing depends on Milosevic, to make them think "we didn't bargain for this."

"If you can achieve that mind-set, then who knows what will happen?" the officer said.

In Yugoslavia's state-run economy, virtually any industrial or economic activity can be linked to Milosevic's government.

Pub Date: 4/19/99

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