February 10, 1999




A principled, strategically sound resolution of the Kosovo crisis requires three basic elements: first, Serb forces must be removed from Kosovo; second, the autonomy Kosovo lost when Milosevic came to power in 1989 must be restored; and, third, the chief cause for the current crisis, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, must ultimately be removed from power.

Press reports indicate, however, that talks at Rambouillet and current plans for implementing a peace accord will not meet these basic tenets. Instead, Serb army and police will be allowed to remain in Kosovo, Kosovar autonomy will be less than what it enjoyed previously, and Milosevic's legitimacy will be reaffirmed as we make him a "partner" in final settlement.

This need not be. NATO has the power to dictate the terms of a just and workable settlement. But instead, the U.S. and NATO are handing off responsibility for negotiating an end to the conflict to the Contact Group consisting of, among others, France and Russia, just as they are handing off the subsequent supervision of Serbian paramilitary forces to unarmed and therefore, ineffectual OSCE monitors. Instead of resolving this conflict in a decisive fashion, the Clinton Administration is creating a situation in which the U.S.-led NATO will be acting as neutral arbiter in a conflict clearly started by Serbia and will be trimming its policies to placate Russian and French domestic political concerns.

Conservatives have a legitimate concern about the possibility of American troops getting mired down in Kosovo. The solution to that problem, however, is not to avoid deploying U.S. and NATO troops but to deploy them in service of a decisive and strategically sound policy. At the moment, NATO has given Milosevic a veto over the outcome of the talks by declaring that it would not send troops into Kosovo until a political agreement has been reached. If we want to avoid a muddled agreement which will satisfy no one and, accordingly, require an indefinite stay by American and NATO troops in Kosovo, then, the administration should stop avoiding its leadership responsibilities. NATO should fix the terms of the final agreement so as to insure an end to Milosevic's rule over Kosovo.

By his actions, Milosevic has lost all legitimate rights to have a say about Kosovo's future. And a Kosovo free of Serb troops and his rule is the best way to minimize the size and duration of an American troop deployment there.