|WHAT NEXT FOR NATO?|
March 29, 1999
Margaret Warner talks with a panel of foreign affair columnists about Operation Allied Force.
JIM LEHRER: Some analysis now of what General Clark said and other developments in the story and to Margaret Warner.
WARNER: And joining us are three foreign affairs columnists: Jim Hoagland
of the Washington Post; Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer;
and Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of Foreign Affairs and a
contributing editor of Newsweek.
Jim Hoagland, you just heard General Clark say, This is exact -- it's gone right on schedule, this military operation -- this is exactly what all of us anticipated. Does it look that way to you?
JIM HOAGLAND: Well, I found General Clark a little less persuasive on that point than on some of the other things he said. It's hard for me to imagine that we really expected to have the kind of humanitarian catastrophe that seems to be occurring and that General Clark himself reported this occurring in Kosovo at this point. There seems to have been an appalling lack of preparations for a very predictable set of events that we are now facing. But having said that, I think it's important to underline that he's right in the sense that we now have to see this through.
The administration has launched, along with the NATO allies, an air campaign that may yet work. They're applying limited power for relatively limited goals. They're trying to take away the ammunition, the gasoline, the communications that Milosevic's forces needs to continue their campaign, their offensive. And it's possible that that can be done within the space of a week or two, as the General suggested. I think it's very important that we stay the course, that we not try to declare a false victory too soon, that the missing element in much of the policy has been a certain moral responsibility that we have now undertaken to the people of Kosovo.
MARGARET WARNER: Fareed Zakaria, how does this operation look to you so far? What's your assessment?
The operation thus far.
ZAKARIA: Well, Margaret, militarily it seems to me that NATO is doing
a superb job. The American military in particular is doing the kind of
first-rate job we have all come to expect. But politically, clearly, things
are spiraling somewhat. You now have a mass exodus out of Kosovo into
three areas: Macedonia, Albanian, Montenegro -- and permanently destabilized
the politics of these three areas. Now, the one thing we know about refugees
in the Balkans is they tend not to go home; despite all the guarantees
of the Dayton Peace Accords, very few refugees have gone home from Bosnia.
So what's likely to happen here is a permanent political instability in
the region in addition to permanent humanitarian crises, because these
refugee camps, after all, will become endemic to the area. So it seems
to me very unlikely that any of this had been predicted. Politically,
as I say, the spiral is probably not over yet because the instability
will tend to spread.
MARGARET WARNER: Trudy Rubin, does it look that way to you, that already this operation is almost generating the kind of instability that the President said we're going into this to try to prevent?
TRUDY RUBIN: Yes, it actually does look like that to me. What surprises me is that given the troop buildup even before this air war began, it surprises me that this was not anticipated. And what I worry about is that Milosevic basically has a hold on the situation. Another couple of weeks and at the rate refugees are flowing out, I think the anticipation is that in 40 days you might have no more Kosovars. So he's in a position, he could just call a halt. And he could say, well, we have to negotiate over this humanitarian crisis and offer to partition Kosovo, but I think that by holding the refugee card he is in a very commanding position.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, Jim Hoagland, yet, we heard General Clark also say essentially that Milosevic is trying to create a fait accompli on the ground and that he's doing it very, very fast. What can NATO do about that problem?
JIM HOAGLAND: Well, I think clearly NATO has to now shift into a much more active bombing, strafing of Serb troops on the ground. From General Clark's comments and from the other briefings today, I draw the sense that we are still hitting the infrastructure of the troops, rather than the troops themselves.
MARGARET WARNER: Like barracks or headquarters in the field in Kosovo, but not actually going after brigades going along the road?
JIM HOAGLAND: That's right. Because obviously there's increased risk, and we want to be very careful and protect the lives of our pilots as best we can, but at the same time, I think the kind of disaster that's occurring on the ground calls for NATO to accelerate quite rapidly the use of the A-10, the use of other weapons systems that can hurt directly the troops that are committing the massacres. The second thing to note I think from what General Clark and others said, air power alone cannot do it. We need then to move to a very active diplomatic campaign. We have to try to reengage Milosevic in a diplomatic negotiation and maneuver. I think the fact that Prime Minister Primakov of Russia is going to Yugoslavia tomorrow may prevent -- or may present an opportunity to do just that. I wouldn't dismiss that at all. I think it's important to note, as well, the European Union countries that are in NATO and are supporting us have held together very well. Public opinion is running at 60 percent in favor in Britain, France of all places, and in Germany. We have some cards to play.
MARGARET WARNER: Fareed Zakaria, do you agree with Jim Hoagland that really NATO needs a two-faced approach both intensifying further the military operation and also trying to reengage diplomatically at this stage?
FAREED ZAKARIA: Well, truly, I think that very soon if this continues, NATO faces a very difficult decision, which is to really decide whether or not the fate of Kosovo is in the national interest of the NATO countries and in particular for the United States in its national interest. If it is, then we must decide what our political objective is, which would have to be an independent or essentially independent Kosovo, and we would have to take all means necessary to make that happen, which would probably mean an intensified military campaign, arming the Kosovars, setting up base camps in Macedonia and Albanian, probably, in effect, fighting a contra war against Serbia to free this province and give it independence.
MARGARET WARNER: So you're talking about everything short of actual US ground forces in Kosovo, but everything else militarily?
FAREED ZAKARIA: I think we might even have to use US ground forces but more in the role of training and providing logistics and supply. I think that's the decision in some ways that NATO has hoped it will not have to make by going the air power route. I don't think it will work, and I think it will have to ask itself, is it the mission of NATO to create an independent Kosovo? And is that in its national interest? If it decides it is, then it has to do everything possible.
MARGARET WARNER: Trudy Rubin, do you agree that that's going to be, if we stay on the military for a moment now, that that's going to be the choice facing NATO and the United States fairly soon?
|The ground troop question.|
TRUDY RUBIN: I think that it's very hard to get away from the ground troops question because air power clearly cannot protect the Kosovars. And when we were in Bosnia and used air power, the Croats and the Bosnian Muslims were fighting on the ground, and they were the ground troops. On the other hand, there doesn't seem to be any preparation being made for the use of ground troops, which makes me very leery about even advocating that.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, that's right. We heard General Clark say essentially to Jim that it would take a long time to get that prepared.
TRUDY RUBIN: Yes. Now, I'm not a military expert, but some people have told me there are things that could be done in the shorter term. For example, there are 10,000 troops in Macedonia who were supposed to go in as peacekeepers. You could airlift in heavy equipment for them. They could be joined by airborne troops being dropped into Kosovo if the aim was to carve out a small area that would be a safe zone. But on the other hands, that doesn't seem to make much sense because the area near the Macedonian border has already been cleansed. And so if you had a safe zone there, how could people get there? So it's very hard to see what the military strategy would be if you were going to use ground troops. And yet, if you don't, I think what you're going to be confronted with is a cleansed Bosnia, in which case your options are either to call it victory and go home, which is a debacle for NATO right before its anniversary, or to get very intensely into diplomatic negotiations, which means basically you have to go to Milosevic or use Primakov, the Russians whom we've dissed. And you have to go to Milosevic when he can then say, "All right. I'll pull back my troops," because he's already cleansed most of Bosnia. And then -- I mean - sorry -- most of Kosovo - and then - Freudian slip -- both cases -- and then he can bargain for the return of some refugees or humanitarian assistance. So I think we're in a terrible situation.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Jim Hoagland, you raised this negotiation possibility and Primakov. What are really your expectations? One, are you essentially agreeing with General Clark that it's going to take Milosevic to order this to stop? And, if so, should the United States be in a position of offering something essentially in return, of dialing back its definition of victory in some manner?
JIM HOAGLAND: Well, I think the deal that, in fact, is on the table that was reached at Rambouillet and offered to Milosevic is not a bad deal for Milosevic.
MARGARET WARNER: But he doesn't see it that way.
JIM HOAGLAND: That he should take it; he doesn't see it that way now. Another week might enable him to see it a little more clearly. And I think the fact that Primakov is going there just as the IMF has announced an almost agreement, which is a good place to be -- they've almost agreed to provide another $4.8 billion to Russia -- he's got to know and it should be made very clear to him that his performance in Belgrade on Tuesday will determine whether or not Russia is going to get that aid. The United States can block that aid in the IMF if we want to. And if he, the Russians, do not produce a strong push on Milosevic at this point, I'm not sure that aid should be forthcoming. I think again we do have cards to play. We have diplomatic, economic, and military cards still to play. The biggest single tactical error we have made and are continuing to make is to rule out the use of ground troops, to tell Milosevic that he does not have to fear that. We should stop doing that.
MARGARET WARNER: Fareed Zakaria, what do you think -- first of all, of course we don't know what the US Government has told Primakov before his mission tomorrow, but do you think we should - the United States and NATO should still be insisting on an end to the slaughter or the massacre or the driving of these refugees and also Milosevic being willing to essentially accept the frame work of this Rambouillet agreement, which includes of course NATO troops on the ground? In other words, should we stick to that?
FAREED ZAKARIA: I think in all honesty if that is the goal, it is very unlikely that Primakov will be the agent or the broker who makes this happen. Primakov is not in there as NATO's representative. Primakov is essentially there to try to cut a deal quite different from the one NATO proposed. Remember, this is the regime that brutally suppressed the secessionist movement in Chechnya. The Russians do not have any incentive to try to provide quasi independence or hyper autonomy or independence for the Kosovars. So they will probably try to present a different deal, one that re-negotiates the issue of NATO ground troops, probably gives less autonomy than Rambouillet did, things like that. NATO will have to decide whether or not to take that on the basis, as I said, of whether or not it really wants to go through with the alternative, which will be a deepening, deepening involvement in this conflict.
I think, in a way, if Primakov comes up with something that is a reasonable starting point, it is something that NATO should consider very seriously because I don't think that actually most of the countries in NATO have thought through the level of commitment they would have to make and the political instability that supporting a independent Kosovo means.
MARGARET WARNER: Trudy Rubin, we don't have a lot of time left; but what's your view on whether NATO should be open to something like that?
TRUDY RUBIN: I agree with Fareed, but I think there are certain things that would have to be part of that deal. For one thing, I think what would be extremely destabilizing if you have refugees forced to stay in Macedonia where there's a large Albanian minority already and in Montenegro, which Milosevic wants to destabilize, and in Albania, which is poor and on the ropes. So if there were any kind of a deal that could be concocted, I think you would have to have a provision for refugees to go home. In addition, I don't see any chance of getting Rambouillet now, so I think that it' going to have to be a deal that's less salable to the Kosovars, and then America is going to have to be in a position of pressuring them. But frankly, I think at this point a diplomatic deal is better than the alternative because I don't think there's the political will for ground troops, although I think it should have been considered before we started the air war.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Well, thank you all three very much.