Nato's Hard Choices

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The Independent Online
Who would run the intervention force in Kosovo?

The North Atlantic Council, which controls Nato. The force would go into action whenever the council decides to act. The council meets on Wednesdays but it could convene at a moment's notice

Will it be legal?

Nato says it can intervene when it chooses. But some of the 16 member states may feel unhappy without explicit authorisation from the UN Security Council. Others will say that last week's resolution 1199 gives Nato the authority it needs. Ultimately it will come down to public opinion and to the wishes of the United States, Nato's most powerful member.

Is the armada ready, and where is it?

Almost. All 16 countries are finishing the job of identifying and assigning what assets they will offer. Most are jets, but they include ships in the Mediterranean. There is no single assembly point, and no need to transfer much of the weaponry as much of it is nearby, in Nato bases in Italy

What would the West do?

The most likely option is an air campaign against radar sites and air bases in Serbia and Montenegro. The biggest air bases are at Batajnica, near Belgrade, and at Nis in southern Serbia. The only "land" option is to police a peace settlement, so Nato troops will not be going in to fight the Serbs on land.

So would air strikes stop the bloodshed?

No. They may even make it worse. Serb power in Kosovo is maintained by the army, a well-armed police force and paramilitary "volunteers". But strikes may demoralise and intimidate the Serbs into making political concessions

Could the Serbs strike back at the West?

In the war in Bosnia, the Bosnian Serbs took UN peace-keepers hostage to stop intervention. In Serbia and Kosovo there are no Western peace- keepers, so that would not be a problem. The Serbs are threatening military retaliation, but Belgrade's surface-to-air missiles could easily be knocked out. However, they are well placed to attack peace-keepers still in Bosnia.

The Serb nationalists are warning of terrorism

It sounds a nightmare scenario - Milosevic linking up with Saddam Hussein and the world's terrorist masterminds. It's also unlikely, as many of them are Islamist fanatics and the Serbs say they are waging war against Islamic fundamentalism

What are the main arguments against intervention?

Unlike Bosnia, an independent state, Kosovo is part of Serbia, so intervention would be interference in a sovereign state. This would create dilemmas for Western states that have separatist wars in their backyards, such as Spain's Basque region.

Should the West help Kosovo to become independent?

The Kosovars want to be free from Serbia but they also want to be part of a Greater Albania, including the Albanians in Macedonia. So there is a danger that intervention in Kosovo might create a chain of instability throughout the Balkans.

So we shouldn't intervene?

More killings of women and children will put tremendous pressure on the West to do something, or it will look as if Milosevic is literally getting away with murder. The best outcome would be to disable Serbia's war machine without creating a separate state in Kosovo.