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Thursday, 9 March, 2000, 11:40 GMT
The implications: Strains within Nato
headquarters
Was there a spy operating at Nato headquarters?
By defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus

The full truth of the alleged leaks of military secrets to Serbia during the Kosovo war may never be known but if the daily air tasking orders were being passed on to Belgrade, then the effectiveness of Nato's air operations during the vital first weeks of the war would have been dramatically diminished.

Kosovo: Special Report
The Serbs would have been able to move men and equipment out of the way.

Worse still, the air tasking order would have given the Serbs a good idea of the make-up of the groups of aircraft assigned to each mission and their likely routes to and from the target.

amry office
The Serbian army main office was one of Nato's targets
Why, Nato officials are already asking, did the serbs not make more use of this information to set surface-to-air missile traps for Nato aircraft?

One answer might be that they did not want to reveal the level of their knowledge of Nato's plans.

As so often in the shadowy world of intelligence you can argue things both ways.

Rumours and suspicions

No conclusive evidence has yet been provided about the existence of a Nato mole - despite widespread rumours and suspicions.

Whatever the truth behind this story it is inevitably going to strain US-European relations.

Trans-Atlantic ties are not especially warm at present within Nato, with many Americans both in the Defense Department or on Capitol Hill deeply sceptical about Europe's plans to develop a more independent defence capability alongside Nato.

The Europeans counter by saying that they are damned if they do and damned if they do not.

Washington wants its European allies to come up with stronger military forces, but just when they plan to do so, say the Europeans, the US gets suspicious.

What this spy story will do is to accentuate an already existing view, widely-held in Washington, that its European allies are divided into a small-number of reliable friends, and some countries who are at best reluctant partners and who in one case at least may not be wholly trustworthy.

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See also:

09 Mar 00 |  Europe
Nato rejects mole allegations
28 Mar 99 |  Europe
Nato loses first plane
27 Aug 99 |  Europe
Spy 'betrayed' stealth fighter
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