|SHADES OF BOSNIA|
August 5, 1998
During their recent push to take back strategic highways from the Kosovo Liberation Army, Serbian forces have pursued a campaign feared to resemble the worst parts of the recent war in Bosnia. After a background report, Elizabeth Farnsworth leads a discussion of the Serb's latest offensive and whether the U.S. and its allies can do anything to prevent ethnic cleansing in the breakaway Serbian province.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We get four views now. Lionel Rosenblatt, president of the non-profit organization, Refugees International, was in Albania interviewing refugees in June. Alex Dragnich is Professor Emeritus of political science at Vanderbilt University; Gary Dempsey is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute. He was in Kosovo in June. And John Fox is director of the Open Society Institute, which promotes the rule of law and civil society in Central and Eastern Europe. Thank you all for being with us.
Mr. Fox, can you add anything to that report? What are the numbers you know of for internally displaced people and refugees pouring into other countries?
|"This humanitarian crisis is upon us."|
JOHN FOX, Open Society Institute: Yes. The numbers continue to grow. They're now upwards of 300,000 IDP's, displaced persons in Kosovo. And easily, another 100,000 have left the country, both registered and unregistered. The attacks of the last two weeks, which continue today, principally against civilians and civilian targets are swelling those numbers. So the pressure is building--this humanitarian crisis is upon us. There are also warnings from international humanitarian agencies about epidemics in the offing, terrible food shortages. And this now in the middle of what would be a harvest season. There's clearly a systematic campaign in the words of the UN, itself, of depopulation of Western and Central Kosovo, and it's well underway.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Rosenblatt, do you have anything to add to that, and when you interviewed refugees, what did they tell you that would help us understand what they're going through?
LIONEL ROSENBLATT, Refugees International: Well, just underscore there's 70,000 at least refugees displaced in the current offensive alone, so what's happening now is an order of magnitude larger than anything we've seen in the weeks of war up to now. What the refugees told us a few weeks ago was hauntingly reminiscent of what we saw in Bosnia, villages set upon, with no warning or maybe a few minutes' warning before artillery rained in on them. The villagers had an awful choice at that stage to either run in the slippers and bathrobes they were wearing-usually this occurs in the early morning-or wait it out. If they wait it out, when the Serbs do come in on the ground following the artillery barrage, the houses are often fired at randomly and people-anybody remaining is accused of being a terrorist. Those who do leave at the first instance leave with nothing, hide out for a while in the vicinity of their villages, and then usually give up and try to go on. In the case of those who make it to Albania, they have a huge mountain pass to cross. In the case of those who are either infirm or too afraid or don't want to leave family members, they're hiding out in the field and forest. What's happening now, though, is particularly acute because of the 70,000 that I mentioned, most are still unaccounted for, not being reached by the UN international relief agencies, and cringing in fear in either the forests or the fields of Kosovo. And they are not yet in anybody's safe care.
|What are the Serbs' goals?|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Dragnich, what do you think the goal of this offensive is?
ALEX DRAGNICH, Vanderbilt University: The goal of the Milosevic forces?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yes.
ALEX DRAGNICH: Well, it's obvious-to try to get rid of the guerrilla warfare against its officers, its police, its other officials. Obviously, the recent fighting there in the last several months was started by the extremists of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and having said that, I should also say that unless the Yugoslav forces can soon bring an end to this insurrection, then I think all kinds of Balkan dominoes will fall. It seems to me that the list warrants, in the United States, in particular, warrants a negotiated settlement. You're going to get a negotiated settlement only if we can see a stop to the fighting. The Kosovo Liberation Army says they're not going to stop. The military forces, our Yugoslav forces are out to try to stop them and try to rid the country of that insurrection, and if they can't do it, then I see all kinds of terrible omens for that part of the world.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Gary Dempsey, do you agree that that's the goal of Milosevic's forces, to get rid of the KLA here?
GARY DEMPSEY, Cato Institute: I'm a little bit more skeptical. I think he has an ulterior motive, an agenda. I think he's trying to deflect attention away from his collapsing regime, his failed economic policies, and so on. And so he's-
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Inside of Serbia.
GARY DEMPSEY: Inside of Serbia, yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And the forces that are razing towns and moving through Kosovo are mostly about solving some kind of domestic political problem?
GARY DEMPSEY: I think so. I think he's trying to deflect public attention away from what is really the root of the problem in Serbia, which is the collapsing economy. Most people aren't aware of the fact that the reserves, the hard currency reserves that exist in Belgrade consist of $200 million, which is about the equivalent of the sum to make the movie "Titanic." The economy is falling apart. You also have his natural consistency, various unions now defecting from supporting his regime. So I think it's imperative for him to shift attention away from these various problems in his economy to a crisis, he's created a crisis.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Fox, you said he's trying to clear Albanian-ethnic Albanians from a part of Kosovo. Do you think that's the key goal?
JOHN FOX: Well, it appears that he's trying to-he already has-forced the movement of most of the civilian population from western Kosovo. He's working on central Kosovo now. So this could be the preparation of a partition, attempted partition. It could be further cleansing that's in mind. What is clear is that he has a free hand, a completely free hand now, and there's nothing stopping him.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you mean, free hand?
JOHN FOX: Well, it's been-it's really been made quite clear in the last-particularly in the past two weeks by the international community, including the U.S., that (a) nothing is going to be done about this, and that was underscored today when President Clinton apparently agreed with the German government that the UN Security Council approval would be required for any NATO action in Kosovo. So that's a real turning point of the back on the situation. But there have also been clearly-there was actually agreement last week that the U.S. thought it had with Milosevic that this latest action would be to retake roads, and it has gone well beyond that. It has principally been about forcing out these hundreds of thousands of civilians, as in Bosnia. It looks very much like Bosnia in several respects.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I'm going to-yes.
ALEX DRAGNICH: I would really say that we have to come back to sort of the basic thing. Milosevic has said for several years now he's willing to negotiate anything, except secession. The Albanians, on the other, said that's the only thing we want to talk about, we want to talk about independence. So, you know, you're talking about a negotiated settlement. You're talking about two sides where each finds some satisfaction, and here I think it's-the gap is so large that I think it's almost-well, it's frightful-you know, because-if you can't negotiate, what do you do then?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Rosenblatt. Go ahead.
LIONEL ROSENBLATT: The cycle of violence began when the Milosevic forces attacked. It's not correct to say this was begun by the UCK. What happened was the Milosevic Serbian security forces attacked, which has been a marvelous way to generate guerrilla opposition.
ALEX DRAGNICH: But after some 50 Serbian officials were shot in the past year or so.
LIONEL ROSENBLATT: That's right. And now we've seen 90 plus villages shelled in the last week alone. This is this kind of disproportionate response, is exactly what we saw in Bosnia.
ALEX DRAGNICH: I'd like to come back to that.
|Should NATO stop the fighting?|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Lionel Rosenblatt, I want to come back to NATO, but I want to get into something right now. What are the repercussions for neighboring countries of the refugees that are coming out of Kosovo?
LIONEL ROSENBLATT: Well, they're two-fold-three-fold actually. In Albania they're fleeing to the poorest part of the poorest country in Europe, and the response from the local people has been astounding. They have actually lined up, volunteering apartment space, sheltering refugees, but they won't be able to sustain that capacity indefinitely, and many are moving south, into the hinterland of Albania. Montenegro-the situation is much worse. We've wanted to get in there, but there's no way we can get a visa to see what is going on. But the 20,000 refugees in Montenegro are allegedly in much worse shape. The most worrisome, though, to is us that the conventional wisdom is that refugees will go into Macedonia could provoke an explosion in Macedonia. If that reasoning is correct-and we believe it is-we earnestly are seeking some transparent planning now by all parties--what will happen to those refugees-clarity among all parties so that the Macedonia part of the region doesn't blow up. If that blows up, then you bring in the Greeks and the Turks, NATO members on the opposite side of the equation. This is why I can't understand NATO's passivity, because NATO's survival is at stake here.
|Possible drawbacks to NATO intervention.|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. Mr. Dempsey, what do you think NATO should do?
GARY DEMPSEY: First and foremost I think it should stop giving the impression to the ethnic Albanians that it will come in on their side to defend them. Mr. Rosenblatt mentioned the prospect of a wider war thesis. I think he's correct; that's only half of the danger. The other danger is that you could have a similar result, a widening conflict as a result of NATO intervention. For example, you have upcoming elections in Bosnia in six weeks. There's already a backlash against American policy in Kosovo. Recent polls have shown that a lot of the Serb people in the Republic of Serbska are moving towards the radical party. You also have the question of bombing that was mentioned in your report, bombing targets inside of Serbia, inside of Kosovo. I think the result of that could be two-fold. One is it could unite the Serbian people behind Milosevic and further entrench him and his regime, and the second is it'll create a cushion or a shield for the KLA to seize upon that strategic opportunity to retake lands. We saw something very similar to that in 1995 in the Krajina, when the Americans were bombing various targets. The result was the Croats retook a great deal of territory and I think there were over 200,000 Serb refugees-
ALEX DRAGNICH: I agree fully with what Gary has just said.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You do. What about you?
JOHN FOX: By standing by NATO, as on Bosnia, risks its own cohesion, its own future, and by standing by-
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Because?
JOHN FOX: Well, because if NATO cannot respond to the biggest security crisis in Europe, of what relevance is it? I want to point out that the White House apparently has given up a key equity of the United States here today, and in this crisis, if it's true that Security Council approval be required. That will mean and it does mean in this case that in order to do NATO actions in Europe, the US has to go to Beijing and then Moscow, so this newly expanded alliance isn't worth much in that circumstance.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Fox, what is it you would like to see NATO do?
JOHN FOX: Well, I think what's needed here is, in fact, a humanitarian intervention. Unattended, unaddressed, we will get spillover-we're already getting it, so either way we're going to get it. What clearly needs to be done, we've got more than a million people now in Kosovo in serious to dire need. We need a humanitarian intervention to bring relief to them and to impose a cease-fire. This-there are a variety of scenarios for doing that. NATO has those worked up. They involve limited air power. They involve credible threats and possible use of force, and it is possible as well to restrain the KLA I think in this case, which is in any case not in the shape that it was even two weeks ago. If this fire is not put out, as it's on the third floor of the house, it will surely reach the second and the first, and the policy right now is let it burn.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Mr. Dragnich, if you don't think NATO should be involved, how would you stop what's happening?
ALEX DRAGNICH: I think what you need to do is to try to put pressure on both sides but the Kosovo Liberation Army people say, you know, we're not going to give up, we're going to fight to the last man. This is where I said that they had opposite ends here, and the only thing you can do-of course I agree with Mr. Fox here-the one thing you can do is bring in humanitarian aid, you know-I think both sides will probably accept humanitarian aid. But beyond that, I don't see military intervention as an option, because-for two reasons: one, this is an independent sovereign country that you'd be going in; secondly, what is the end game, once you go in with the military, what are you going to achieve, are you going to just simply say we're going to rule all of you, and do we want American soldiers there ruling Kosovo for the next 50 years?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay, Mr. Rosenblatt, your response to that. We don't have much time left.
LIONEL ROSENBLATT: Yes. The end game is to stop crimes against humanity. The only way to do that is a credible threat of force to be used immediately if that doesn't cease, and access for the international relief community, and President Clinton, if he wants to leave a legacy, at least internationally that's meaningful, has to exert leadership now. It's the 11th hour.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Well, thank you all very much for being with us.