May 11, 1999
Foreign policy experts assess the impact of NATO's bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade on the war in Yugoslavia and the diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the conflict.
JIM LEHRER: We go first tonight to a what-now, what-next discussion about the Kosovo conflict. After 48 days, the bombing continues, and so does the diplomatic effort to end it, influenced by Russian involvement, complicated by Chinese anger over the accidental attack on its embassy in Belgrade. Our discussants are Donald McHenry, former UN Ambassador in the Carter administration and now a professor at Georgetown University; Peter Galbraith, US Ambassador to Croatia until last year and now a professor at the National War College; Charles Kupchan, on the National Security Council staff in President Clinton's first term and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; and retired Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, now deputy director of the Center For Disease - For Defense Information. Sorry, just had disease in the news summary. Sorry, Admiral. Mr. Kupchan, how would you summarize where matters stand tonight?
|Exploring other options.|
KUPCHAN: I think that NATO is in a very precarious position today. The
air war is not working. They're trying to escalate quantitatively, but
what they really need do is change the strategy qualitatively. I think
they have two options: Either a ground war, but I think that possibility
grows increasingly remote, or I think they really have to move through
the window of opportunity that's now open on the diplomatic front, make
some sort of offer to Milosevic that says if you get 25 percent, say,
of your troops out of Kosovo, we will pause the bombing and wait for you
to get the rest out. But I think just to continue with the bombing is
a no-win situation and shows no signs of paying off.
JIM LEHRER: Do you see a diplomatic opportunity, Ambassador?
DONALD McHENRY, Former UN Ambassador: I think there are things which can be explored. I don't think I would suggest a pause in the bombing. I think it goes on while you do explore things. For example, the hard-line position that every one of Milosevic's security forces has to be gone before you can do anything seems to me to be unreasonable. At the same time, he's shown from the last time that if you leave a significant number of them there, even with observers, that that doesn't work either. The question is how many and under what controls? And it seems to me that that's the kind of thing that can be explored.
JIM LEHRER: What about the bombing, the bombing pause we saw in Betty Anne Bowser's summary at the beginning, Ambassador Galbraith, that the Russians have now joined the Chinese in saying there must be a bombing pause before there's a discussion even of the G-8 proposal?
PETER GALBRAITH, former US Ambassador to Croatia: I think NATO is locked into a strategy that is not going to work. That is to say, it will not accomplish its objective of getting the Serbian forces out of Kosovo, which is an essential condition to getting the refugees back by air campaign alone. On the other hand, it is very much in Milosevic's interest now to begin a process of negotiation. And, in fact, he would be perfectly happy to have a process of negotiation that stretched on indefinitely, because at this point in time, he's ahead. He's actually solidified his control over Kosovo by expelling all the ethnic Albanians, as compared to where he was when the bombing campaign began. So I think NATO, in fact, has a terrible dilemma. I don't think it would be wise to have a complete bombing pause now, but I think NATO has got to reconsider a strategy of bombing in urban areas. The targets are not militarily significant to how Milosevic is controlling Kosovo. It causes unnecessary civilian casualties, or sometimes catastrophic diplomatic casualties, as we saw with the bombing of the Chinese embassy. Also, we're engaged in a process now of destroying Serbia's infrastructure, bridges petrochemical plants, the electric grid. And that serves no purpose, again to his control over Kosovo, but it is going to do a lot of lasting damage to Serbia, and I think none of us have an interest of Yugoslavia being a failed state at the end of this process. That damage will have to be repaired. There are no resources in Yugoslavia to repair it, and so that means in the end the western countries will probably have to pick up a substantial part of the bill.
JIM LEHRER: Admiral, where do you think things are? We'll pick up on some of these points in a moment.
|Stop the bombing?|
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL, Center For Defense Information: Lost in an ineffective strategy. We have limited our action in the area to an air campaign which cannot possibly resolve the situation on the ground, either in Kosovo or in Serbia. We can't control events there from the air. And to continue just pounding away at the infrastructure of Serbia doesn't protect Kosovars. So there has to be some form of a negotiated arrangement which stops the violence. Now, I didn't agree with the beginning of the air war, but it obviously cannot stop without some firm demonstration by the Serbs that they are going to withdraw their forces and permit the admission of an international force, possibly not under NATO leadership, to take over the safety of the Kosovars while then the long-term questions of the political status of Kosovo, the economic measures to restore Yugoslavia are taken under negotiation. The one thing that I've been taught over the years since Korea and Vietnam is if you give the other side what they ask is the price for beginning negotiations, then the negotiations go nowhere. You have to keep the air campaign in place until the other side does what we need them to do, stop abusing the Kosovars and start moving out. I agree that all of the troops don't have to go to reach that point.
JIM LEHRER: Do you see any evidence that -- by these announced troop withdrawal and the fact that the Russians are now involved in a negotiation process at least that there is some sign that Milosevic may be willing to do some of this, that the bombing has, in fact, caused him to back off a little bit?
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: I think so. I think the framework for an agreement is shaping up. What's being said in public by President Clinton or Chancellor Schroeder is one thing. What's being said privately with Chernomyrdin in these discussions is finding where the give is on both sides where there's face-saving literally that's available to say, well, they're getting out and the Serbs to say, well, we're keeping sovereignty in Kosovo, and then you can stop the violence.
JIM LEHRER: How big a complication is the Chinese Belgrade accident? What has that done to the G-8 process and the potential for getting this thing over with?
CHARLES KUPCHAN: I think it creates a short-term problem and a long-term problem. The short-term problem is getting some sort of resolution through the UN Security Council that the Chinese could live with. I think that's probably doable in part because the Russians will twist arms and try to get the Chinese on board. But the longer-term --
JIM LEHRER: Because the Russians -- you think -- are committed to getting this thing over with.
CHARLES KUPCHAN: Yes, because I think the Russians see this as a way to bring themselves back in to the mainstream of Europe. They've been marginalized, they see the war in Kosovo somewhat paradoxically as a way to get back into the game of politics.
JIM LEHRER: What argument do they make to the Chinese?
|The Chinese embassy bombing.|
CHARLES KUPCHAN: They make the argument that you've got to do this and that it makes sense and that it's the right thing to do. Now the question is -- and this comes to the long-term problem -- can you bring the Chinese along? And it's not just the leadership because part of the reason, I believe, that the protests have been taking place and the government has provided buses, is that the government was taking a lot of hits from the populace and from the bureaucracy for being so quiet on Yugoslavia. I think what we've seen in the past few days is the government having to respond to this popular up-swell of anger against the United States. And that raises the big question: Will, as we look toward the end of this conflict, the Chinese, the Russians, perhaps other countries, see the United States in a different light -- that American power will not be so benign as it has been, but it may be seen as unilateralist, or wayward - and then we're talking about a very different world in which countries balance against or distance themselves from the United States. And I think that's a real worry.
JIM LEHRER: How do you read the Chinese? In fact, do they now have leverage over the Kosovo process that they didn't have before because of this accidental bombing?
PETER GALBRAITH: Well, they've always had leverage in the sense that if anything went to the UN Security Council, they had the option of exercising a veto. But in fact, they have gone along with UN Security Council resolutions where they've been agreed to by the western powers and Russia. Now they're signaling they might adopt a different strategy. But in the end, in fact I think they will go along with any kind of UN Security Council resolution that the Russians agree to, because their goal is to end the military action. And it would be counterproductive for them to block a UN Security Council resolution that laid down the basis for a peace plan that could end the fighting.
CHARLES KUPCHAN: And they still want into the W.T.O. And the other organizations, so they have an incentive.
JIM LEHRER: I was just going to ask Ambassador McHenry that. As a diplomat, how would you phrase the argument to the Chinese, okay, this is a terrible thing that happened in Belgrade, but it's in your interest to get this thing over with?
DONALD McHENRY: Well, the Chinese, despite all the violence of the last few days, first on our part and accidentally, and on their part, have shown that they can control crowds. They can either open the flood gates and let them through or pull them back as we're beginning to see. The irony of all of this is that we tried to avoid the UN Security Council and freeze out both China and Russia because we were concerned about veto. We wanted control. We didn't want all of these other countries trying to influence things. In the final analysis, however, we need both of them. We need the Russians to help bring about this deal, and if it goes back to the Security Council, as I think it will and should, we're going to need the Chinese. It seems to me that the Russians -- it was possible to have gotten Russian support all along, maybe not as quickly as we might have wanted, and it seems to me that the Chinese concern is always with what is this going to mean in terms of a precedent for China. All along the Chinese have developed a pretty good theatrical approach to problems; that is, they make a lot of noise, they indicate that they are opposed to an action because of sovereignty and so forth, and then they finally say we'll abstain so long as you all know that it's not going to apply to us. And I think that's going to be the same thing here. They have too many other interests which they have to follow, not the least which is WTO.
|Keeping the heat on Milosevic.|
JIM LEHRER: All right now, Admiral, let's go back to the bombing. Forget how we got to where we are today, you're saying the bombing should continue. Now, the question that Ambassador Galbraith raised is, yes, but it's counterproductive because we're destroying too many infrastructure targets, et cetera. What should the shape of the bombing be from this point on?
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: It should be reduced and certainly less directed at the infrastructure in Serbia and more concentrate on the forces within Kosovo, with an attempt literally to take the pressure off of the Albanians.
JIM LEHRER: And forget about Yugoslavia itself?
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: To a large measure; unless there's something coming out of there that is immediately effective in Kosovo, leave it alone. We're going to have to go back in there and rebuild this place anyway -- why in the world increase the level of destruction when it has nothing to do directly with the situation in Kosovo? Keep the pressure on, but keep it on where it counts, and be ready to negotiate and end that level of violence in exchange for the pullback of the Serbian forces and the admission of the international peacekeeping force.
JIM LEHRER: How do you feel about the bombing targets, what they should be?
CHARLES KUPCHAN: I actually don't agree with the admiral, in that I don't think given the nature of the ground war in Kosovo that we really can get at it from the air. It's not a war that's occurring with fixed heavily-armored divisions that need lots of oil and petroleum and ammunition. These guys are wandering around with machine guns and killing people, and most of the Kosovars are already refugees either inside or outside the country. So I really think that the air war is a coercive issue now and it's not a tool of military power. It's a political tool.
JIM LEHRER: Not specific targets; it's just keep it going for psychological reasons.
CHARLES KUPCHAN: And to try to turn up the heat on Milosevic, but I don't think he's making these maneuvers now in this ploy to withdraw troops because the heat's too high, I think it's partly because he's succeeded in destroying the K.L.A. In Kosovo.
|Is the end in sight?|
JIM LEHRER: Quickly, starting with you Ambassador Galbraith, from each of you, does this thing -- do you see a quick ending ahead, or have we still got weeks or months?
PETER GALBRAITH: I do not. In fact, I don't think that Milosevic's interests in negotiation reflects his view that he's been weakened by the bombing, but simply the fact that he feels that he's ahead, he's accomplished what he wants. And so I don't see him as agreeing to -- he'll make some concessions, but I don't think he'll come close to the essential NATO conditions.
JIM LEHRER: Do you see a quick ending?
DONALD McHENRY: I think both the bombing and the negotiations are going to go on for a little while. It does seem to me, however, that the framework for a settlement is in place.
JIM LEHRER: Admiral?
REAR ADMIRAL EUGENE CARROLL: Not a quick ending. And we're talking in terms of weeks, but the openings are there, and they should be exploited.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Kupchan?
CHARLES KUPCHAN: I think sooner rather than later, because people are getting scared that the alliance will crack, and because a lot of people are saying it's not working and they need to start walking through the diplomatic door.
JIM LEHRER: So you mean sooner from the NATO end, rather than from the Milosevic end?
CHARLES KUPCHAN: Well, it's a dance between the two; we both have to lower our expectations.
JIM LEHRER: And it takes two to dance. All right. Thank you all very much.