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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK


Nato assesses Kosovo lessons

Belgrade under fire: Now Nato is looking to the future

By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

Defence ministers studying the lessons of Kosovo are finding that the war demonstrated several shortcomings in the Nato alliance.

While Nato is pleased with its performance in the campaign it is now turning its attention to resolving those problems.

Kosovo: Special Report
It was the Americans who put in the bulk of the air power. Many European allies had few precision-guided munitions in their own arsenals and other problems such as a lack of secure communications.

And in a conflict where maintaining the political cohesion of the alliance was paramount, this imbalance of contributions between Europe and the US was a source of potential strain.

The Americans, along with key European Nato members like Britain, believe that Europe must do more.

US Defence Secretary William Cohen told his colleagues that Europe spends about 60% of America's input on defence, but gets about 10% of the capability.

He said Europe needs to spend its money more effectively with less duplication in areas like logistics and support.

Moving forward

There remains no single reason for the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo.

Nato's victory depended on several factors, notably:

  • the success of its air attacks against strategic targets in Serbia
  • Russia's decision to throw in its diplomatic lot with the major Nato powers
  • and probably the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's belief that a Nato ground offensive was likely.

But for the defence ministers meeting in Toronto identifying the problems raised during the Kosovo conflict was easy. Solving them will be much harder.

Nato hopes to designate at least a small number of areas where progress can be made, with flexibility and the capacity for different national forces to operate effectively alongside each other the keynotes for any future conflict.

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