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Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 15:04 GMT
Nato's incomplete victory
bomb
Nato flew more than 3,000 bombing missions
By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

Nato won a convincing military victory in Kosovo.

Whatever the initial hesitation of the air campaign; once it became clear to the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that Nato's political will would not break, the campaign was all but over.

Just how many Yugoslav tanks Nato warplanes may or may not have deployed is not the point. The only thing air power could do was to force Mr Milosevic to withdraw his troops and paramilitary units from Kosovo.

And this Nato did with the loss of only two aircraft and no pilots in combat.

Nobody seems to have a clear idea about Kosovo's future

However, Nato's political victory was far less conclusive.

The ending of the conflict has left the province with what promises to be an indefinite and significant garrison of Nato troops.

Inside Kosovo, relations between the remaining Serbs and the Albanian majority are bitter and explosive.

The United Nations civil administration is under-resourced.

Power

Though diplomats don't like to admit it, the international community has established a strange kind of power-sharing arrangement in Kosovo between the UN and Nato on the one hand, and the heirs of the Kosovo Liberation Army on the other.
K-For troops break up fighting
Tensions inside Kosovo are as high as ever
Nobody seems to have a clear idea about Kosovo's future.

And many other nagging problems remain; not least the tensions in the parts of Serbia closest to Kosovo where significant numbers of Albanians still live and the simmering tensions within Yugoslavia between Serbia and Montenegro.

During the conflict there was much talk of bringing the Balkans into the mainstream of Europe.

In the aftermath of the air campaign there has been little action to implement such lofty sentiments.

The Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is still in power in Belgrade.

Would there have been the same impassioned European response to the rise of the extreme right in Austria if Kosovo hadn't happened?

Just as the Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein survived the Gulf War and saw out his chief adversary, former President George Bush, so Mr Milosevic's regime looks set to see out President Bill Clinton's term of office.

Indeed in one of those ironies of history, if the Republicans win this year's US presidential race, President Saddam Hussein could be facing a second President George Bush in a few months' time.

Machismo

This situation has left many critics of western policy despairing; there are those who claim that the Kosovo war was not about defending human rights but about diplomatic self-interest.

In this view Nato had to square up to the bully not because of principle but to show that it still meant business. But this is a simplistic view.
President Milosevic:
Milosevic: Looks set to outlast Clinton
In the real world diplomatic machismo and political principle may be forced to walk hand-in-hand.

Nato did indeed prove in Kosovo not only that it still has a mission but also that it had the stomach for a fight.

And remember there were many people who insisted that after a week or so of bombing the Nato alliance would have to call it all off or risk fragmentation.

Chechnya

That didn't happen. An important new principle - that of humanitarian intervention in another country's affairs was established.

No, of course the same approach wasn't pursued in Chechnya. Moscow is no Belgrade.
K-For
About 40,000 peacekeepers are in Kosovo
But not to apply a principle consistently does not mean that there is no principle worth applying at all.

One contributor to this Kosovo anniversary coverage insisted that Kosovo had made a difference to the Europeans in particular. Whatever the deficiencies in their military capability, he said, they did act.

And this former senior officer also wondered if there would there have been the same impassioned European response to the rise of the extreme right in Austria if Kosovo hadn't happened.

Dilemma

But the very incompleteness of Nato's political victory does raise serious questions.

Western countries have resorted to armed force in the wake of the Cold War on several occasions. But these conflicts are always fought to a partial conclusion.
Nato target: Yugoslav Army HQ in Belgrade
Nato target: Yugoslav Army HQ in Belgrade
For one thing western public opinion - whose support is essential for any military campaign - tends to prefer limited goals, or that at least is what the politicians tell us, because they fear the casualties of a full-scale involvement.

Such are the dilemmas of wars of choice fought not for survival or to defend immediate interests.

In Kosovo, for example, Nato may be fated to struggle from one crisis to another.

For with the war over, other issues have risen up the political and diplomatic agenda.

Perhaps the greatest foreign policy problem of all is how collections of countries can retain sufficient engagement in key foreign policy issues to really make a difference.

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See also:

09 Mar 00 | Europe
Nato rejects mole allegations
17 Feb 00 | Europe
Nato 'stays until Milosevic goes'
28 Feb 00 | Europe
Kosovo: What happened to peace?
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