NATO must speak in one voice

Finale: As bombing takes effect, appearance of disunity encourages Milosevic, delays diplomacy.

May 21, 1999

REPORTS of troop mutinies in Serbia and the quickened diplomacy over Kosovo suggest that NATO bombing is producing results. The campaign should be halted when Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ends his terror against Kosovars and agrees to Yugoslav troop withdrawal, the return of refugees, a NATO-led international force to ensure the security of all Kosovars and a political settlement.

While NATO's unity behind the bombing campaign and the five conditions remains strong, some of its members dilute the cause by making unilateral noises for home consumption. But because Mr. Milosevic's aim always is to drive wedges between his opponents, anything suggesting he has succeeded encourages him to dig his heels in longer. That is not a good idea.

Massimo D'Alema, the former Communist and somewhat uncomfortable prime minister of Italy, proposed a three-day NATO bombing moratorium to allow the Serbian authorities to think -- after a United Nations Security Council resolution supporting NATO's goals. The catch is that such a resolution is unlikely.

So this suggestion might sound good to those Italian voters who disapprove of NATO's policy, asdid Mr. D'Alema's warning that hitting the wrong targets could weaken public support. Mr. D'Alema also said he fully supports the air raids. That bit may not have made it onto Serbian television.

The explanation is somewhat the same for German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's press conference Wednesday denouncing the proposal for a NATO invasion of Kosovo. No such proposal is on the table. Britain has met resistance as it has tried to explore the idea.

German planes are bombing Serbia now. Mr. Schroeder said on Thursday that NATO remains united and "that will stay like that." Another soundbite unlikely to make it on Serbian media controlled by President Milosevic.

The Serbs need to hear again and again that NATO is united on what it is doing. The sooner the Milosevic regime accepts that, the sooner NATO can stop the bombing.

Pub Date: 5/21/99

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