Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Business: The Economy
The cost of conflict
US Army paratroopers add to the multi-million dollar bill of war
By BBC Economics Correspondent Ed Crooks
The true cost of any war is obviously reckoned, not in money, but in lives lost or ruined.
High price of high-tech
Waging the modern kind of computerised, laser-guided war is a very expensive business. Of course, missiles and bombs have been paid for already, and only cost more when they are replaced.
But still, the additional cost of deploying British forces has been estimated at £2m a day. And Britain is contributing only about a twentieth of the total NATO effort.
NATO's commitment is rising, too. The force deployed is building up to three times the size of the initial number of aircraft and ships involved.
If NATO were to send ground forces into Kosovo, then the cost would rise sharply, and Britain's share of the burden would probably be proportionately much higher too.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has, despite all his talk about prudence, put rather less aside for emergencies than his predecessors.
The emergency reserve and the margin for error in this year's spending plans add up to just over £2bn.
Picking up the tab
But even so, the costs of the war should not mean higher taxes. Wars are, we all hope, relatively rare events: it should be perfectly acceptable for the government to borrow a bit more to cover the cost of fighting.
The damage done to homes and other property in Kosovo by the Serbs has already been estimated at £2bn.
The West will almost certainly have to pick up the bill once the war is over. If the Kosovar refugees are to return to their homes, they have to have homes to go back to.
Any peace settlement may well also have to include making good the damage done by NATO - just as the Allies used the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.
If Slobodan Milosevic is deposed, aid from the West would probably be offered to reconstruct the Yugoslavian economy and cement any peace deal.
The cost of knocking Yugoslavia down may be substantial. The cost of building it back up again will probably be much higher.
The Economy Contents