bosnia report
New Series No. 4 June - July 1998
 
Appeasement No Solution
by Jane M.O. Sharp

Western leaders repeat ad nauseam that they will not allow Kosovo to become another Bosnia. Yet they show no sign that they have any idea how to deal with Slobodan Milosevic, the instigator, perpetrator and paymaster of ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia since 1991. In Kosovo, as in Bosnia, they ignored early warning signs of violence and so missed opportunities for conflict prevention. They continue to squabble among themselves in the absence of decisive leadership, to issue empty threats without any military follow-through, and to appease Milosevic at the expense of his victims. Nor does any of them appear capable of thinking long-term about peace in the Balkans.

On Christmas Day 1992, George Bush threatened Milosevic with military action if he took the war into Kosovo. Under Clinton, Secretary of State Warren Christopher repeated the warning in February 1993, as did special envoy Robert Gelbard in February of this year. In March the Contact Group demanded removal of Serbian security forces from Kosovo and the presence of an international mediator at any negotiations between Milosevic and Rugova on the future of Kosovo. Nevertheless in May, after Richard Holbrooke interceded on behalf of his old Dayton sparring partner, the United States unilaterally lifted sanctions and bullied Rugova into bilateral talks with Milosevic. Small wonder the latter sees Western threats as empty rhetoric and continues to slaughter Kosovars with impunity.

Holbrooke brokered a peace settlement based on partition of Bosnia that rewarded the ethnic cleansers at the expense of the cleansed. We risk the same kind of injustice in Kosovo, appeasing Milosevic and bullying Rugova into submission - all in the name of containment. Appeasing Milosevic also delays the development of democracy in Serbia, by discouraging the emergence of alternative leaders, and maintains the whole country in a pariah state. Milosevic should be brought to account in the Hague with all the other (lesser) war criminals.

The Kosovars want independence. Western leaders are too quick to dismiss this. It could be the best solution for all concerned, especially for Serbia, where ethnic Serbs otherwise will soon be in the minority. A good interim solution would be to establish Kosovo as an independent republic within Yugoslavia, with the same status as Montenegro and Serbia. As in Bosnia, this would require a short, sharp NATO intervention to end the war, followed by a longer-term peacekeeping force to protect the citizenry (both Serb and Albanian) until a new political settlement has been negotiated and implemented. After five years, the question of independence could be reopened. The sine qua non for stability in the Balkans, however, must be to remove Milosevic from power and influence. So any limitations the international community has placed on the prosecutors at the Intemational Criminal TribunÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ al should be lifted forthwith.

From a longer article in The Washington Post 18 June 1998

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