Nato chief favours action on Bosnia: Manfred Worner tells Andrew Marshall in Brussels the UN should consider air strikes against Serbian forces

THE United Nations should consider air strikes in Bosnia, according to Manfred Worner, Nato's secretary general. In an interview with the Independent, Mr Worner said that 'more decisive measures' are needed than the no-fly zone over Bosnia which Nato is policing. 'We have gone as far as the United Nations authorised us to go,' he said.

Mr Worner did not specify what action should be taken, saying that was a matter for the UN Security Council, but noted that 'Lord Owen proposes even air strikes. If a man like him requests that it deserves serious consideration by the United Nations.'

Today Mr Worner meets Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, in Brussels. Nato sources said the former Yugoslavia was top of the agenda. So far Nato has enforced the naval embargo on Serbia and Montenegro and the no-fly zone over Bosnia. On Tuesday it reported the first breach of the no-fly zone, a helicopter spotted south of Banja Luka, the main Serbian air base.

Nato is preparing plans to police the Vance-Owen plan for Bosnia, but this has been hampered by disagreements over its command structure and a lack of forces. Mr Worner feels that Western Europe is in danger of making excessively deep cuts in its forces, and should not ignore the residual threat from the former Soviet Union.

'We are very close to the threshold below which our main defence forces will not be able to do the job, to leave Nato as the main factor of stability in the European-Atlantic community,' he said.

The end of the Cold War has spurred a bout of defence cuts in pursuit of an elusive 'peace dividend'. Nato sources said that the overall cut in forces was likely to be 25 per cent between 1990 and 1997. But in the central region, which embraces Germany, both ground combat units and air forces were to be cut by 45 per cent. The biggest cuts, proportionately, have been made by Belgium and the Netherlands, according to Philip Mitchell of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Both are working to cut their budget deficits to enable them to hit the convergence criteria specified by the European Community in its Maastricht treaty.

Instead, more countries are now offering mobile units, which Mr Worner regarded as a worrying trend. 'Some of our member states seem to neglect main defence forces and concentrate just on rapid reaction forces,' he said. Although such forces had a key role to play in the future, in Nato and elsewhere, 'once you have lost the possibility of reconstitution of forces, you can't reconstruct such a capacity very quickly'.

The renewed emphasis on the possibility of a threat from the former Soviet Union reflects both Western Europe's rush to disarm and fears over stability to the east of Nato. There are still more than 100,000 troops from the former Soviet Union in Germany, and troop withdrawals from the Baltics have stalled. Russia and Ukraine remain important military powers.

Mr Worner said he had been reassured personally by President Bill Clinton that United States troop numbers in Europe would not fall below 100,000. He emphasised that 'the classical role of Nato' - to provide security in Europe - remained of prime importance. Beyond this, Nato now also had a responsibility 'to project stability to the countries of central and eastern Europe'.

The third role of Nato, he said was 'to participate in crisis management, peace-keeping and even peace-making'. This will be done under the auspices of both the UN and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. Relations with the UN are now 'quite good', Mr Worner said, though a lot remained to be done at a more senior level. 'There may be certain misperceptions as to the character of this new alliance,' he said.

Relations with the Western European Union, the embryonic defence arm of the EC, were also good, he said, though he emphasised that it is 'part of our European pillar'. Despite the proximity of the two organisations, there is 'practically no co-operation' with the EC, and none was needed since the Community did not yet deal with defence or security questions, he said.

He added: 'There is neither the intention nor the means to establish a second independent or autonomous military structure in Europe by the Western European Union. I do not see where the cash would come from.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect