Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 0, No 32
10 May 1999

Andrew Stroehlein E U R O P E   A T   W A R :
Will the G8 Peace Proposal Burn in
the Fires at the Chinese Embassy?

Andrew Stroehlein

The recent G8 peace proposal is a diplomatic manoeuvre that sacrifices NATO's once lofty aims simply to gain the support of the UN Security Council. But NATO's most recent "unfortunate accident," the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, is likely to scupper the faulty G8 proposal's chances in the Council. As the proposal would represent an abandonment of NATO's erstwhile humanitarian goals, the failure of the G8 plan would be no great loss.

If the new G8 peace deal were to somehow survive and bear fruit, NATO will have admitted failure and defeat. NATO will have senselessly spent billions proving what every military expert has said for decades: aerial bombardment alone does not win wars. More importantly, NATO will have proven to the world, especially to authoritarian regimes, that democratically elected grin-and-spin leaders have no stomach for real war, and thus democracy can no longer provide a deterrent to dictators' genocidal intentions.

The G8 plan for a "Deployment in Kosovo of effective international civil and security presences," was a major surrender of NATO's declared goals in this war. If an international force did go into the ultimately Belgrade-controlled Kosova as outlined in the G8 deal, it would probably be without NATO forces. This is even more likely now with the increased wrath of Beijing, which had openly rejected NATO's mission (and even doubted Belgrade's genocide of the Kosovars) long before last Friday night's embassy attack.

Worst of all, NATO's primary aim, protecting the Kosovars, has been abandoned. Most of them have been successfully booted out of their homes and their country. Very few of them are ever going to want to go home under a perverse deal which gives Milosevic power over them: despite calling for "substantial self-government" within Kosova, the G8 declaration supports the "principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia". Asking the Kosovars to accept Milosevic as even their nominal leader today is essentially like asking the Jews in Israel to accept Hitler as their honorary head of state.

The real test of any solution to the Kosova crisis is the degree to which it inspires the refugees with the confidence to freely return home to a place where they and their families have been systematically raped, murdered and expelled by the authorities.

Fighting only half a war

Shirking responsibility, many NATO politicians tried to limit their personal political risk to an inappropriate degree. The result was an attempt to fight only half a war, and even that only from a safe distance away.

So worried was Clinton about public opinion that he gave up trying to lead his country and persuade its citizens to do the right thing. Now, he is on the verge of making another agreement with a mass-murderer who directs and protects the most horrifying torture and killing machine Europe has seen in half a century.

There is a strong stench of American politics in Clinton's willingness to consider backing down and accept the G8 deal. It is very likely that Clinton was starting to get worried about being out-flanked on the hawkish end of the spectrum - abroad by Tony Blair and at home by Senator John McCain (R), two politicians who have been, to varying degrees, more realistic about the necessity of a ground war. If the war were to develop into a major ground conflict, these two would likely be the heroes of the piece, and that would be intolerable for Clinton and his spindoctors. Clinton's desire to dominate the international limelight and his eagerness to defeat a potential Republican challenger to Al Gore's presidential hopes, could end up costing thousands of lives and keep Kosova a desolate, unpeopled wasteland for years.

Political considerations of all kinds hampered the war effort by limiting the military's methods. This point was made last week by NATO's senior military official, the chairman of the Alliance's Military Committee, General Klaus Naumann. Just before retiring from his post, General Naumann criticised NATO's approach in the Kosova conflict. With the difficulty of co-ordinating 19 different political entities, the Alliance had neither surprised nor overwhelmed the enemy right from the beginning as a military force should do when fighting a war. The "deliberately light" first phase of the bombing, he said, had only prolonged the conflict.

The message from the retiring General was clear: if you are going to fight a war, do it completely. There is no way to win if you do things only half-way.

Perhaps this military advice will be the greatest political lesson of the conflict. The democratic world needs to treat military matters in a more clear-cut manner, and adopt an on/off switch approach to war. At the appropriate moment, NATO should simply be told the objective and to obtain that objective by all means available. It does no one any good to pussyfoot around and have politicians declare what percentage of a war they are willing to fight. Wasting time on half measures only costs lives in the long run. (We discussed this in CER weeks ago, HERE).

Milosevic victorious

In his critical statements last week, General Naumann also said, "President Milosevic's campaign of mass deportation is still achievable." Sadly, Naumann again spoke the truth.

Let's tally the score. The West has ended up with hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees to take care of, spent billions on bombing, will spend additional billions on repairing Serbia's infrastructure and will still have to keep a costly eye on a renegade dictatorship.

Obviously, nothing has been learned from the Gulf War experience. Will Milosevic end up being the regular thorn in the West's side every six months like Saddam? How much will continued surveillance of this barbarous regime cost every year? How many more wars will it start? How many more refugees will it send to the West?

Milosevic, on the other hand, has accomplished everything he set out to. Kosova has been more than half emptied of ethnic Albanians and will be emptied no matter how many bombs NATO drops. Milosevic's grip on power within Serbia has been strengthened. His henchmen and allied paramilitaries have all enriched themselves on personal possessions looted from the homes of the Kosovars they have murdered and expelled. In the cases where they did not destroy the people themselves, the Serb officials have destroyed the documents of expelled Kosovars, thus complicating their possible future return. To top it all off, Milosevic has gained two protectors in the UN Security Council.

After ten years of picking fights throughout the Balkans, Milosevic should be quite pleased with the results of this one; in fact, it is the only war he's ever won.

NATO and the West will be left with only their shame. Still, that's better than the Kosovars who, if the G8 plan were to be implemented, would be left with nothing.

Andrew Stroehlein, 8 May 1999

G8 Statement in Bonn, 6 May 1999:

1) The G8 foreign ministers adopted the following general principles on the political solution to the Kosovo crisis:

-- Immediate and verifiable end of violence and repression in Kosovo.

-- Withdrawal from Kosovo of military police and paramilitary forces.

-- Deployment in Kosovo of effective international civil and security presences, endorsed and adopted by the United Nations, capable of guaranteeing the achievement of the common objective.

-- Establishment of an interim administration for Kosovo to be decided by the Security Council of the United Nations to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants in Kosovo.

-- The safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons and unimpeded access to Kosovo by humanitarian aid organisations.

-- A political process towards the establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for a substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accords and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other countries of the region and the demilitarisation of the UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army).

-- Comprehensive approach to the economic developments and stabilisation of the crisis region.

2) In order to implement these principles the G8 foreign ministers instructed their political directors to prepare elements of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

3) The political directors will draw up a roadmap on further concrete steps towards a political solution to the Kosovo crisis.

4) The G8 presidency will inform the Chinese government on the results of today's meeting.

5) Foreign ministers will reconvene in due time to review the progress which has been achieved up to that point.


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