NATO must stay the course

Stall: Milosevic still probes for alliance disunity, to make ethnic cleansing permanent.

June 08, 1999

ENDGAME is a term in chess for the final stage of a match when most of the pieces have been removed from the board. But the struggle over Kosovo is no game. Real people are being killed, raped and left dispossessed. NATO can't afford to lose in the endgame the future for Kosovars that it won through military and diplomatic action.

This means no bombing pause that allows Serbia's forces to regroup or complete ethnic cleansing while the United Nations Security Council stalls over a resolution. The agreement that mediators President Martti Ahtisaari of Finland and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin of Russia wrung from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must be kept.

This requires that Yugoslav forces in Serbia start withdrawing before the bombing stops. NATO and other peacekeepers poised on the border would move in immediately. There should be no vacuum of authority. That would, among other things, protect the ethnic Serb minority of Kosovo from any rash actions by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The deal calls for a U.N. Security Council resolution as soon as possible to legitimize the peacekeeping by putting blue helmets on NATO and Russian troops. But implementation of the cease-fire cannot wait for that.

Such a resolution is subject to veto by great power China, which is not part of the deal and not well-disposed toward Washington at the moment. (That's only one reason why frivolous grandstanding against Beijing is not in the U.S. national interest.)

For the bombing to halt, the Yugoslav generals meeting NATO officers on the Macedonian border must agree to the fine print under the headings to which Mr. Milosevic agreed. The Serb centers of power have to be on the same page, and there is reason to think they are. Military-implementation talks are not a stage for Mr. Milosevic to win back what he lost or to finally achieve NATO disunity.

When that agreement is established, the bombing should halt very quickly. The air campaign appears to have succeeded, through the virtue of NATO unity, despite every effort by Mr. Milosevic to divide the allies. That is also his final tactic in the endgame. NATO has learned the power of its unity, and its members must keep it together to the end.

Pub Date: 6/08/99

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