Assault inflicts crippling blow on Nato strategy

THE Serbian assault on Gorazde has inflicted what may be a fatal wound to Western policy in Bosnia. Even if further air strikes are called to defend the Bosnian Muslim enclave, it is far from clear what purpose they serve.

The bloody finale of the Serbian assault will deal a crippling blow to the US administration, as well as to all the international organisations involved - the UN, the EU and Nato. It has ramifications for the whole post-Cold War strategy of rebuilding the security order in Europe.

The fall of Gorazde would represent a lethal blow to the policy of United Nations 'safe havens' in Bosnia backed by Nato's military force, long derided, but now looking bankrupt. It was always uncertain whether this represented a commitment to defending UN soldiers or civilians or territory. Indeed, there were signs last night that the presence of the United Nations in Bosnia was being completely reconsidered.

There will now be an uncomfortable examination of how the situation deteriorated. It is still uncertain why air strikes requested by General Rose last week were not carried out, apparently after permission was refused by the UN special representative. And US Defence Secretary William Perry will have to answer some tough questioning as to why he said that the West would not stop the Serbs taking Gorazde, apparently giving them the green light for their onslaught.

At the same time Mr Perry is also under attack over the fiasco that left 26 dead in Iraq when US fighters shot down US helicopters. This is unlikely to be a happy week at the Pentagon.

The Gorazde debacle shows the bankruptcy of Nato's use of air power without any commitment to a broader strategy in the former Yugoslavia. Nato diplomats and officials were warning two months ago that a situation like Gorazde could happen. They were concerned that the West would do something with limited and incoherent objectives and referred to this as 'ill conceived and probably dangerous'.

Now the pieces must be picked up. There are likely to be rancorous arguments over the next steps. The looming failure of a policy leaves the West with a dreadful decision: to escalate the fighting still further, raising the possibility of a Vietnam-style quagmire, or to pull out, abandoning the Bosnian Muslims.

With the US refusing to commit ground troops, it is hard to see how escalation could achieve anything. But with civilian casualties mounting, politicians will be loathe to admit failure and retreat. Last year the US and Europe clashed over Washington's suggestion that the embargo on selling arms to the Bosnian Muslims should be lifted. Similiar fights are likely to break out, hampering any decisive response. If the UN does indeed withdraw, then 'lift and strike' may be the only option left on the table.

Beyond the immediate decisions, the debacle at Gorazde has once more exposed the strategic vaccuum in Europe. The longer-term diplomatic cost of Western activism in Bosnia may be high, and not just because Nato's credibility has been holed. The effort has increasingly alienated Russia, the West's not-so-silent partner in the Yugoslav endeavour. Moscow had been intending to sign a deal with Nato under its Partnership for Peace deal this week. Now that seems unlikely: and no new date has been set.

Throughout the crisis US and Europe have vacillated between working with Russia and taking unilateral initiatives - avoiding air strikes when it seemed Moscow objected last week, then launching them again. At the same time, Russia has seemed to outflank the West, through its links with the Serbs. There are ominous parallels to the events which destroyed detente in the 1970s.

The problems with Russia may well be overcome, if the West shows more readiness to consult with Moscow, and if it makes concessions to Russian pride by providing the elements of a 'new strategic relationship'. But the appearance of building a new security 'condominium' with Russia was precisely what the West had sought to avoid, through both Partnership for Peace and a more assertive policy in Bosnia.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
John Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP SD OTC Consultant | 12Months

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP SD OTC Consultant | 12 Months | 500/...

Business Systems Analyst - London - £40,000 plus benefits

£35000 - £40000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Business Syst...

Campaign Manager

£40000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Campaign Man...

JQuery Developer (JQuery, C#, front-end, JQuery, UI, Tomcat)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organ...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil