Waging diplomatic war

NATO is dictating a peace deal at the U.N. that will virtually guarantee Kosovo's future independence.


Ian Williams
June 9, 1999 5:00PM (UTC)

Diplomacy, as Von Clauswitz meant to say, is the continuation of warfare
by other means. Certainly NATO negotiators are as belligerent as the pilots in
their assault on Belgrade, and the U.N. resolution agreed upon by the G-8 Tuesday
takes few prisoners. Despite what the diplomats may say, the negotiated peace plan would inevitably lead to an independent Kosova.

In the meantime, the bickering over details continues. On Monday, the two sides reached an impasse. The Serbs would not withdraw without
a U.N. resolution. NATO would not stop bombing without Serbian withdrawal. And the
Chinese and Russians would not allow a U.N. resolution while the bombing continued.

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Tuesday, NATO tossed the explosive parcel right into the lap of the
Serbs. As they introduced the resolution for discussion at the U.N. Security
Council in New York, Western diplomats insisted on their chronology for peace:
First, the Serbs begin to withdraw, then the bombing stops. Only then would the
draft resolution agreed on Tuesday by the G-8 go to the Security Council.

The
bombers were already out over Belgrade and Kosovo as the Security Council began
its closed-door discussions, and with the negotiations with the Yugoslav military
resuming Tuesday evening in Macedonia, Wednesday would be the earliest time for
the resolution to be passed. With Russia signing on, no matter how reluctantly,
China is expected to go along, or, at worst abstain.

With the delay, it is left for Slobodan Milosevic to explain to his battered armed forces and
demoralized civilians why they are still suffering while he fails to execute the deal that he agreed to a week ago. His previous exit
strategies from Croatia and Bosnia have been equally tortuous and costly, but
this time it is his own disenchanted electorate that is suffering. NATO fully
expects its initial strategy of bombing Milosevic into submission will prevail.

Despite 12 hours of hard negotiations in Cologne, Germany, the resolution offers
little of substance to comfort either the Russians or the Serbs. As a symbolic
concession to them, the main text does not refer to NATO directly. But almost
like hypertext, it is dotted with references to other agreements -- Rambouillet,
the G-8's agreed principles and the agreement between Milosevic, Finnish
President Marrti Ahtisaari and Viktor Chernomyrdin last week.

Above all, it invokes Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, the crucial clause
authorizing the use of force because of a threat to international peace and
security. Even more galling, under pressure from Louise Arbour, the prosecutor of
the International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, it also enjoins all
parties -- including NATO -- to cooperate fully with the tribunal. Interestingly,
it calls for the demilitarization, not the disarmament, of the Kosovo Liberation Army and other
Albanian forces. The only thing the Serbs get out of it is an end to the bombing.

The United Nations will look after the civil side, which is charged with setting up an
autonomous administration and holding democratic elections in Kosovo. It does not
say what will happen when the Albanians vote overwhelmingly for parties wanting
independence, but that would be a separate issue. However, when the resolution
mentions the United Nations role, "pending a final settlement," in developing "substantial
autonomy and self government" it refers to the Rambouillet accords. This
particular piece of hypertext, although fudged, was sold to the Albanians on the
basis of an implied promise of a referendum after three years.

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The "security" presence "with substantial NATO participation" will report to U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will in turn report to the Security Council
-- thus putting a thin blue veil of United Nations cover over what is otherwise
fundamentally a NATO operation.

Having NATO as the "security presence" will enforce the resolution's demand that
the Yugoslavs "put an immediate and verifiable end to violence and repression in
Kosovo" and withdraw "all" their forces. Afterwards, some will be allowed back --
but certainly not for the role seemingly envisaged by the Serbian negotiators on the
Macedonian border, who want to check the papers of the returning refugees.

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Since
Serbian forces made a point of confiscating the documents of the people they were
expelling, this is a transparently unacceptable attempt to legitimize the results
of the "ethnic cleansing." Indeed, it was anticipated by the U.N. agencies, which are
already preparing I.D. cards for the refugees affected.

The Russian role in Kosovo remains unclear. By the time they have made up their
mind about the lines of command and started trundling in, NATO will have filled the vacuum, preempting the inevitable coziness and collaboration
between the Serbs and the Russians. Any last hopes Belgrade had of a de facto
partition are textually cleansed from this resolution.

To avoid the Bosnia-style impasse between the peacekeepers and the United
Nations, the U.N. special representative will only "coordinate closely with the
international security presence." The implication is that there will be no U.N.
veto on the trigger finger. Even so, it will be important to have a special
representative who all sides feel they can trust.

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An obvious choice would be Ahtisaari, the Finnish president who put the
squeeze on Milosevic in Belgrade. Officially his term as president is not up
until next year, but those who know him consider that his sights were always set
on the international arena, for which the presidency was just a launch pad.
Offered a prominent enough role, he could well resign his presidency early.

He is supported by Madeleine Albright, who persuaded him to take up the role of
negotiator -- even though he had turned down a similar request from his former
colleague Annan. The secretary of state, never especially enamored of the
United Nations, was reputed to be unhappy with Annan's choice of Swedish
conservative Carl Bildt as one of his representatives during the war. She thought
that Bildt had been altogether too conciliatory to the Serbs during his time in
Bosnia and turned to Ahtisaari to bypass him, and the United Nations as well.

However, some people with long memories at the United Nations wonder about
Ahtisaari's suitability for the job. While his oversight of the end of the South
African presence in Namibia is billed as a great success, it was a little less
triumphant for several hundred Namibian members of SWAPO, who crossed the border
from Angola to come to vote. The South Africans (Apartheid variety) panicked
Ahtisaari into letting the murderous "koevoet" anti-guerrilla troops out of their
barracks. They lived down to their reputation by taking very few prisoners and leaving
a lot of corpses. The Kosovars should watch him carefully.

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However, with all those caveats, looking at the strength of the resolution, and
the determination of the NATO forces, it is a complete defeat for Milosevic. The
Serbian population of Kosovo, like that of the Krajina, will probably, and wisely,
take the road back to Serbia. And in five years, there will be an independent
Kosova.


Ian Williams

Ian Williams' book "Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776" is due in late August 2005 from Nation Books. His last book was "Deserter: Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans and His Own Past."

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