members over committing ground troops in Kosovo
NATO HAS recently been giving the impression of prudent indecision and of having a complete lack of perspective - its game plan seems to consist always of a little more of the same bitter potion which it can't even guarantee will cure the ill - and the "mistakes" Nato has made are beginning to weigh heavily on morale. But what's causing these fissures that are becoming obvious between those countries involved in air strikes? You just have to look at the over-zealousness of Paris, Bonn and even Washington over the past few days when trying to defuse the British insistence that we all look seriously at the inevitability of eventual ground intervention.
TO NO one's surprise, Nato's divisions over whether to launch a ground war in Kosovo have now gone public, with unhappy consequences nearly certain. The only question is how unpalatable they'll be. The flaw in Nato's ambulation is blindingly obvious: having bombed to take a stand against ethnic slaughter, Nato now will be forced to negotiate with its author, Slobodan Milosevic. Worse, if Schroder's advocacy of a pre-emptive cease-fire is an indicator, Nato is in danger of dealing Milosevic the stronger hand. The record of Nato leaders to date doesn't generate much confidence they would manoeuvre this tough line successfully. They've failed to back their words with overwhelming military force, and troublingly, they appear willing to give the heinous Balkan leader a victory before he has won.
WHAT UNITY can we hope for when, faced with a crisis of such direct transcendence for Europeans, they adopt such divergent, even conflicting, positions? Whilst Tony Blair and Robin Cook lead Nato's hawks, clearly ahead of the US, and propose a land invasion of Kosovo, the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder insists he will veto any deployment of land troops. Massimo D'Alema yesterday proposed an immediate pause in the bombing, while China and Russia approve a peace plan drawn up by the G8. We have to conclude that the seed of discord is sown, even before a possible future polemic opens over land invasion.
IN THIS phase of war, Blair is pushing forward, Clinton is hesitating. There are three scenarios for the deployment of troops: submissive, semi- permissive, non-permissive. In Nato coalition, Britain is probably the only member prepared to let Nato go as far as step three. Robin Cook will again beat the drum today in Washington. British diplomats have the task of using US domestic politics to influence the White House, namely that compromise with Milosevic would not help Al Gore's election campaign. For the British Government, there is more at risk than the future of Kosovo: it could isolate itself in Europe again and even alienate itself from the US this time. Since Blair has stuck his neck out more than the others, an ambiguous compromise in Kosovo would appear to the British public as a New Labour defeat. That would be the most embarrassing end to Blair's Sturm und Drang period.
AS FAR as Nato countries are concerned, a post-heroic war means no coffins and no weeping families. But in the final analysis, the post-heroic war will erode public support for the military essence of an Alliance that has shown itself to be incapable of using its extremely expensive armed forces in a real fight. This in turn is bound to have interesting repercussions on the world order.Reuse content