Letter: The Balkans crisis in historical perspective

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Sir: Lord Blake's article on the Balkans massacre of 1876 was erudite and readable ('Steer clear of the Balkans', 24 August). It was also depressing for accepting so unquestioningly 19th-century assumptions about British interests.

One big change since then is the existence of the United Nations. However limited its present authority, scope and power, it represents a genuine hope for the future. The Independent, to its credit, argued more than a year ago for forceful international intervention in the former Yugoslavia. Now the Serbs have almost achieved their war aims.

In the next decade there will, sadly, be scores of ethnic conflicts in and around the former Soviet Union. Are we simply to stand back and let them slug it out to the death? We need a coherent European policy towards such conflicts (which we have signally failed to have towards the former Yugoslavia), and we need to strengthen the peacemaking potential of the United Nations in every possible way.

Yours faithfully,



24 August