March 10, 1999

MEMORANDUM TO: OPINION LEADERS

FROM: MARK LAGON

SUBJECT: Kosovo

Later this week the House will begin debate on a resolution authorizing deployment of U.S. troops to Kosovo. The House should approve the resolution but insist on three conditions:

• First, the President should submit a new request for defense spending accounting for the cost of deploying troops to Kosovo. America's armed forces are so stretched, and President Clinton's defense "increase" proposal is so thin, that the Kosovo operation merits a boost in the overall Pentagon budget.

• Second, it is essential that NATO be clearly in charge of any deployment in Kosovo. The failures of the UN and the EU in Bosnia earlier this decade, and of unarmed OSCE monitors in Kosovo this autumn and winter, demonstrate why this should be so. As the most efficacious international organization of the last half-century, with its institutionalized American leadership role, NATO’s capacity for taking decisive action should not be compromised by any “dual-key” arrangements.

• Third, the only long-run source of stability for Kosovo and the surrounding region is for
Slobodan Milosevic to be removed from power. This should be the core goal of U.S.-Balkan policy and, as a condition for deployment, the House should insist that the administration begin assisting the Serb democratic opposition and codifying existing sanctions aimed at Belgrade (preventing any reward to Milosevic for accepting a Rambouillet peace pact). Conservatives in Congress concerned about the lack of an "exit strategy" should press for an anti-Milosevic strategy as the best way to assure peace in the region and, hence, the need for NATO -- and U.S. -- troop presence in the Balkans.

With these provisos, Congress ought to back the insertion of NATO forces into Kosovo. Conservatives voting against deployment will find themselves in league with Pat Buchanan and Henry Kissinger. This alone should give conservatives with any memory of past foreign policy debates pause. Instead, it is better to side with Bob Dole, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Richard Perle, Vin Weber, and Caspar Weinberger, who wrote a letter to the President on January 29, 1999, saying, "Only a NATO ground presence can prevent the return of those [Serbian] forces, the growth of radical Albanian nationalism and spread of war in southeastern Europe." They are still right today.