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<nettime> Kosovo Conflict FAQ

- April 14, 1999 -

Editor: Martha Honey, Director, IPS Peace and Security Program and
Co-Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, a joint project of Institute for
Policy Studies and Interhemispheric Resource Center

Has the NATO bombing met the three goals originally announced by President
Clinton on March 24: 1) to "demonstrate the seriousness of NATO's
opposition to aggression," 2) to deter Milosevic "from continuing and
escalating his attacks" in Kosovo, and 3) to damage Serbia's capacity to
wage war in the future?

The bombing has done just the opposite.  It has increased the repression
against the Kosovar Albanians, threatened to widen the war, strengthened
Milosevic, and weakened NATO.  The NATO air offensive has also failed in
the additional goals originally listed by President Clinton and others in
the administration:

1.  To "prevent a humanitarian catastrophe"-to the contrary, the attack
provoked one.
2.  "To prevent a wider war"-to the contrary, the war is threatening to
engulf other countries.
3.  To build a "peaceful, secure, united, stable Europe" by meeting the
following challenges: a. "strengthening our relationship with Russia"-the
reverse has happened.
        b. "ending instability in the Balkans"-the reverse is happening.
4.  "Demonstrating the seriousness of NATO's purpose"-but neither
President Clinton nor other top officials specified what would constitute
a successful NATO effort.  (New York Times, March 25)

Now, according to the New York Times (April 11), the NATO allies face an
ever more "daunting task" to:  1) stop the Serb attacks against civilians;
2) escort the half million-plus refugees back to Kosovo; and 3) guarantee
a lasting peace settlement through an indefinite peacekeeping operation.  
And to get there will take not only greatly escalating the bombing but,
military experts argue, sending in somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000
NATO ground troops-something President Clinton explicitly pledged would
not happen.

What has been the impact of the bombing on the Serbs' attacks against
ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the flow of refugees, and the democratic
Serbian opposition?

There is little question that the NATO air strikes accelerated the ethnic
cleansing and other Serbian atrocities against the Kosovar Albanian
population.  In the weeks preceding the bombing, Milosevic was clearly
planning a large military offensive against KLA rebel strongholds and
their political supporters, and may indeed have been planning such ethnic
cleansing (Washington Post, April 11).  Yet U.S. diplomat William Walker's
March 20 order to evacuate the unarmed monitors from the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) gave Milosevic the opportunity
to unleash his killing machine.  By bombing Yugoslavia, NATO gave him
nothing to lose.  The bombing provoked the Serbs into implementing a
threatened plan-and this, as well as the refugee flow, had been predicted
beforehand, but the Administration ignored the predictions.

Milosevic's power is based upon his manipulation of the Serbs' historic
sense of victimhood.  Their songs and epic poems portray a willingness to
be martyred for the fatherland.  NATO bombing plays right into the
dictator's hands, strengthening his popular support and hardening his
position as the bombing escalates.  The country's pro-democracy movement,
once the greatest hope for pluralism and tolerance, has been seriously set
back as its media has been silenced, its leaders in jail or hiding, and
the masses of Serbs-even those once anti-Milosevic-rallying around the

The bombing has mobilized Serbs against NATO.  This is not to say that
Milosevic is popular-as one opposition journalist put it, no one thinks
about him very much, because they're too busy hating NATO.  But since the
opposition was closely linked to the West and especially to the United
states, it has lost all credibility.  In 1996-97, the anti-Milosevic
demonstrators waved American flags.  Now the same people are burning those

What is the immediate and long-term impact of NATO bombing on Serbia and
the entire region?

The NATO destruction of Serbia's infrastructure, including felled bridges
which have blocked the Danube, will cause severe long-term damage to the
entire economic activity of the Balkans.  The larger region, which was
heavily hit by the 1992-95 sanctions on Yugoslavia, is hit economically
again.  While Milosevic is evil, his small country, under sanctions for
seven years now, simply does not have the ability to do much damage beyond
its borders. The fallout from the NATO assault will, however, extend
throughout the Balkans.

Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania are in severe danger of destabilization.
Macedonia's delicate ethnic balance has been disrupted, and its
irresponsible actions toward the refugees have further isolated it.
Albania's weak economy and infrastructure are being further stressed by
the flood of refugees and, reportedly, KLA guerrillas.  The democratic and
anti-Milosevic forces in Montenegro have been silenced and the country may
have to house refugees for a long time.

By intervening militarily in what is technically a civil war in Eastern
Europe, NATO has ignited ultra-nationalist, anti-Western sentiments in
Russia and elsewhere.  It has validated many of Russia's fears stated
during the debate on NATO expansion that the Alliance is not a defensive
organization anymore.  Russia has responded with the unprecedented step of
withdrawing its ambassador to NATO and its lower house of parliament voted
on April 7 to facilitate arms shipments to the Serbs.

While most of the provocative statements by Yeltsin and other Russian
officials may be largely to placate domestic opinion and are not an
immediate threat to Western security interests, there is little question
that this whole episode will damage relations for some time to come, with
possible serious long-term consequences, including promoting hardline
Russian political parties and delaying cooperation in arms control and
other areas.  While the West should not kowtow to Russian concerns when
not in the best interest of promoting democracy and human rights, pursuing
such a highly questionable military action without taking Russian concerns
into greater consideration is extremely short-sighted.

Was a NATO military action of this type appropriate and legal under the
organization's mandate?

NATO was the wrong instrument to respond to the Kosovo crisis.  Its use
not only violates the UN Charter, but is not encompassed by NATO's own
charter (signed in Washington in 1949), which, under Article 5, defines
the Alliance as collective defense against armed attack and limits NATO to
acts of self-defense.

Kosovo marks the first offensive action ever undertaken by NATO against a
sovereign nation and as such it constitutes what R.W. Apple (New York
Times, March 25) terms "a leap in the dark."

The NATO summit to be held in Washington (April 23 and 25) is intended to
chart the Alliance's new "strategic concept" defining its role into the
21st century.  But the Kosovo action and earlier Bosnian operation
(punitive air strikes and peacekeeping troops) constitute an end run
around this process, producing through action a new raison d'etre for
NATO:  what NATO officials term "non-Article 5" missions against ethnic
instability. This may turn NATO into a replacement for the United Nation's
role of defining and responding to international peace and security

Did NATO and the international community miscalculate in not anticipating
and preparing for the enormous flow of refugees out of Kosovo?

Yes, in a big way.  (Though it could be said that if relief agencies had
moved supplies, etc. into place, this could have been seen as an
invitation to the Serbs to expel Kosovar Albanians.)  In general, NATO was
incredibly naive to think that Milosevic would buckle after a couple of
days of bombing and-unable to challenge NATO directly-that he would not
unleash his forces against the most vulnerable population, with the
resulting refugee flow.  Clinton administration principles ignored the
advice of the Joints Chief of State, CIA and other analysts to prepare for
large-scale refugee flows.

In addition, the evidence emerging about Milosevic's "Operation Horseshoe"
indicates that the Serbian army engineered the mass exodus-the greatest
refugee crisis in Europe since World War II-in part "to overwhelm and
distract NATO forces." (Washington Post, April 11)

What is the propriety of NATO assuming many of UNHCR's functions, thereby
giving the military alliance responsibility for making decisions that
greatly impact the care, maintenance, and legal status of refugees?

Clearly, there is an enormous humanitarian crisis, requiring rapid and
massive response from UNHCR and other international relief agencies.  But
putting NATO in charge is not a good move, in the short term or long term.
Many relief and human rights agencies have voiced alarm that UNHCR's
"partnership" with NATO, which means being aligned with one side in the
conflict, compromises the traditional, vitally necessary, neutrality of
relief workers.  "Independence is our main asset," said Joelle Tanguy,
executive director of Doctors Without Borders. (New York Times, April 10)

Similar questions were raised in recent years when U.S. soldiers served as
escorts for relief missions in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and for Iraqi
Kurds returning from Turkey. But-unlike the Kosovo campaign-the U.S. was
not an active belligerent in these cases and/or the military operations
were UN-sanctioned.  UNHCR has the experience, the credibility and-if the
U.S. would just pay its debt to the UN (approximating the costs of just a
few days of the air war)-the financial resources.  UNHCR should be given
primary responsibility.  U.S. and other allied country resources,
including aircraft, logistical assistance, and personnel, should be made
available for relief work under the UNHCR's direction.

What is Congress' role in authorizing this military action?  Is a
declaration of war necessary?

The President needed congressional authority to launch the air strikes; he
did not get it.  As of this writing, the role of Congress in the air
strikes against Yugoslavia has been limited to three senses of Congress.
First, a House vote on H. Con. Res. 42 (passed March 11) stating that the
President is authorized to deploy troops as part of a NATO peacekeeping
mission after a peace agreement has been reached.  The bill limits the
American contribution to that mission to 15 percent, but would allow a
greater contribution if U.S. troops are in danger.  Second, the Senate
passed S. Con. Res.21 on March 23 authorizing military air operations and
missile strikes.  The third, H. Res. 130, which passed the House on March
24, merely expressed "support for the troops."

When President Clinton notified Congress, as required by the War Powers
Resolution (WPR), that he had begun bombing Yugoslavia, he cited both
H.Con. Res. 42 and S. Con. Res. 21.  But these are insufficient to comply
with constitutional requirements.  Article I, section 8 of the
Constitution requires that the President obtain congressional authority
prior to launching the air strikes.  While a formal declaration of war is
not required, at a minimum the same resolution authorizing use of force
must be passed by both houses.  However, both of the resolutions passed
prior to the bombing were non-binding and had different texts.  The House
resolution did not even mention air strikes. The third resolution was
insufficient as well.  It was passed by only the House and merely
supported the troops; it did not authorize the use of force.

The President's notification triggered an automatic clock mandating that
Congress must vote to authorize the use of forces within 60 to 90 days
under Section 5(c) of the WPR, or the forces must be withdrawn.  To
prevent the automatic withdrawal of U.S. forces, WPR states that a
congressional resolution must "specifically authorize the introduction of
United States Armed forces into the situation and state that it is
intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning
of this joint resolution."  A joint resolution containing this language
must be passed. Certainly what has been passed to date does not comport
with either the Constitution or the War Powers Resolution.

Congress may also authorize use of forces by passing a formal declaration
of war-and such a resolution has now been introduced in the House.  It
would be extremely unwise for Congress to pass this war declaration
because it carries with it serious collateral consequences for domestic
policy.  It opens up, for example, grave dangers to civil liberties in
this country, including controls over free speech, travel, and possibly
the media, as well as the possibility of returning to the draft.

What authorization, if any, has the UN given for NATO's military action?

None.  The U.S. bypassed the UN Security Council in anticipation of a
likely Russian and Chinese veto.  The UN has given no authorization for
NATO's military actions, although UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (April
9) called for a ceasefire and issued a 5-point demand to Belgrade for
ending the conflict:  1) end intimidation and expulsion of civilians from
Kosovo; 2) withdraw its forces; 3) allow the return of refugees; 4) permit
deployment of an international military force; and 5) agree to
international monitoring for compliance.

Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, only the UN Security Council can
authorize the use of force (except in cases of self-defense).  While the
Council has passed resolutions regarding repression in Yugoslavia, none of
these authorizes the use of force.  In fact, UNSCR 1199 specifically
stated that the Security Council "remained seized of the matter," meaning
future decisions belong to the Council.  This has not been done.

Article 51's right of inherent self-defense does not give any authority
for individual countries or regional organizations to use force for
political, military, or humanitarian intervention within a state.  
Likewise, the Charter prohibits the use of force by individual nations
unless authorized by the Security Council, except in self-defense to
respond to an armed attack.  That exception is a narrow one, which
recognized that a nation being attacked could not wait for Security
Council authorization to respond.

A.  If a Security Council vote were deadlocked (i.e., if Russia and China
veto any military action against Yugoslavia) is there any other UN
mechanism for voting for military action?

A purpose of giving the Security Council authority in these matters is to
ensure that war is difficult to make, and potential Security Council
vetoes are intended to force more negotiations.  President George Bush,
for instance, went through the trouble of going through the Security
Council prior to the Persian Gulf War.  Fear of a veto does not justify
President Clinton's end run around the Security Council.

If the Council fails to act, the General Assembly is not prohibited under
the UN Charter from placing the item on its agenda. There is one UN
precedent:  early in the Cold War, when the U.S. feared a Soviet veto, it
went to the General Assembly and obtained the "Uniting for Peace," giving
UN endorsement for the Korean War.

B.  What is the relationship between the United Nations and regional
organizations like NATO?

The UN Charter identifies the importance of regional organizations and
their role in maintaining international peace and security.  Those
organizations, like the UN itself, are urged by the Charter to exhaust all
peaceful means of resolving disputes "before referring them to the
Security Council" (Article 52) where presumably non-peaceful means might
be considered.  The Security Council might have looked to NATO to carry
out an "enforcement action under its authority" (Article 53) in Kosovo,
but no such authorization was requested or granted.  And the Charter is
explicit that "no enforcement action shall be taken under regional
arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorization of the
Security Council."

Can NATO intervention be justified on grounds of humanitarian intervention?

The UN can engage in humanitarian intervention and has done so in Somalia,
Rwanda, Haiti and Bosnia.  But there is no provision for non-UN or
individual countries to do so. And the UN, including the United States,
has historically condemned unilateral interventions for humanitarian
reasons. When Vietnam invaded Cambodia to stop the genocide by Pol Pot's
forces, the UN refused to recognize the Vietnamese-installed
government-despite the fact that it did stop the genocide.

What are Russia's interests, how serious are Russia's military threats, and
what role should Russia be encouraged to play?

Russia has had interests in the Balkans for centuries, and it has an
interest in seeing that NATO does not become an offensive alliance
operating outside of the framework of the UN and international law.  They
want stability in eastern Europe, but they do not want it to become a NATO

In May of 1997, NATO and Russia signed an agreement-the NATO-Russia
Founding Act-and created a Permanent Joint Council in order to cooperate
and resolve differences over situations such as Kosovo where both parties
have an interest in maintaining peace and security.  The Founding Act
states that "any actions undertaken by NATO or Russia, together or
separately, must be consistent with the United Nations Charter and OSCE's
governing principles."  NATO has violated the spirit and the letter of
this agreement with Russia, which has now removed its ambassador to NATO
in Brussels.  The future of NATO-Russia cooperation looks bleak.

The Russians are probably the only power on good enough terms with all
parties concerned to play a mediating role in the conflict.  As much as
they are opposed to the bombing, it should be noted that they supported
the Rambouillet proposals, and have been critical of Yugoslav policy in
Kosovo, supported economic sanctions, and contributed to the OSCE
monitoring force.

Russia's presence in any final determination of Kosovo's status is
essential.  Shortly after the bombing began, Russia offered to help
mediate a settlement.  After NATO ignored the Russian Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov's March 30 mission to Belgrade, President Boris Yeltsin
threatened to target NATO with its strategic nuclear forces.  On April 9,
Yeltsin warned, "I told NATO, the Americans, the Germans:  Don't push us
toward military action.  Otherwise there will be a European war for sure
and possibly world war."

Recent statements by the NATO foreign ministers and Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright's meeting with her Russian counterpart hopefully signal
a genuine realization that Russia can and must help broker a peace

Besides NATO, what other options are there for a peace implementation force
in a post-war Kosovo?  What would be the benefits of a UN or joint UN-OSCE
force rather than a NATO peacekeeping force?

A UN or joint UN-OSCE force would be at least as capable of maintaining the
peace.  Such a protection force would be consistent with, rather than in
violation of, international law and the UN Charter.  And, Milosevic would
be much more likely to agree to a non-NATO force, thus ending the war sooner.

On a continent devoid of superpower rivalries, the new type of challenges
for peacekeeping and conflict prevention could be handled by the 55-member
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the designated
European collective security organization.  The OSCE, which includes all
European countries, the United States, Canada, Russia, and the former
Soviet republics, specializes in conflict-monitoring and prevention, arms
reduction, and post-conflict reconciliation.  This move would be
consistent with recent Clinton administration calls for Milosevic to
accept an "international," rather than an explicitly NATO, protection
force in Kosovo.

Since the end of the Cold War, the OSCE has proven its ability to tackle
the crucial preventative/diplomatic aspect of European security by
monitoring, mediating and dispatching missions to potential zones of
conflict.  As the Danish Foreign Minister, Niels Helverg Petersen, has
noted in an article in NATO Review (Nov-Dec 1997), the OSCE's "track
record is impressive."

In October and November of 1998, the OSCE assigned 2,000 observers (with
Milosevic's approval) and was, according to eyewitness accounts in Kosovo,
able to prevent overt atrocities from occurring in the province.  When the
OSCE Mission in Kosovo withdrew just before the NATO airstrikes, the
systematic atrocities began.

A larger, better organized and better trained OSCE monitoring group could
serve as an effective deterrent to further Serb aggression while allowing
the Yugoslav government to save face.  It would also be less costly
financially and less likely to provoke possible attacks by Serb

How viable is the KLA as a military force? How much political support does
it have within Kosovo?  Is NATO arming the KLA?

Until a year ago, the Kosovars waged their struggle nonviolently, using
strikes, boycotts, peaceful demonstrations, and alternative institutions.
However, the world chose to ignore the Kosovars' nonviolent movement.  It
was only after the shadowy armed KLA emerged about a year ago-as the
Serbian repression in Kosovo increased and not long after the civil unrest
in Albania made thousands of rifles suddenly available-that the world
media, the Clinton administration and other Western governments finally
began to take the Albanian Kosovars' autonomy demand seriously.  It is a
tragedy that the West squandered a full eight years when preventative
diplomacy could have worked.  It has also given oppressed people around
the world a very bad message:  in order to get the West to pay attention
to your plight, you need to take up arms.

By waiting for the emergence of guerrilla warfare before seeking a
solution, the West gave Milosevic the opportunity to crack down with an
even greater level of savagery than before.  The delay allowed the Kosovar
movement to be taken over by armed ultra-nationalists who have proven to
be less ready to compromise or to guarantee the rights of the Serbian
minority in an autonomous or independent Kosovo.

The KLA has now eclipsed the unarmed resistance and appears to have the
popular support of the majority of ethnic Albanians.  They are a rather
hardline group, and include those who have openly called for the ethnic
cleansing of the Serbian minority.  They have assassinated civilian
Serbian officials and conscripted Kosovar peasants against their will.  
(Having said this, it is not fair to consider them a terrorist group or to
imply that their human rights abuses come anywhere close to what the Serbs
are doing.)

The KLA is no match for the Serbs, even with NATO air power on its side.
It has offered only little pockets of resistance.  There are unconfirmed
press reports that the KLA has been launching attacks against the Serbs
from inside Albania and that KLA guerrillas are using satellite phones to
act as forward air controllers and spotters for NATO bombers.

The United States is considering supporting the KLA, according to wire
service reports.  A private company, Military Personnel Resources
Incorporated (MPRI), made up of former U.S. forces personnel, is ready to
provide training to the guerrillas if Washington agrees.  MPRI made its
name by providing the planning expertise in 1995 which led Croatia to
clear Serbs from their province of Krajina.  If Kosovo is to be retaken,
NATO would prefer to see KLA lives expended rather than its own.  But
undertaking direct training of the rebels would be politically risky, with
Russia likely to demand the right to send Serbia compensatory military

What would a negotiated, diplomatic settlement to this conflict look like?

Any settlement would almost certainly begin with a ceasefire, as the UN
Secretary General noted.  The process should be done under joint UN and
OSCE auspices and include:

1.  Reasserting the primacy of the UNHCR as the highest authority to
coordinate international response to the refugee crisis and, eventually,
their safe return to Kosovo.

2.  The safe return of the ethnic Albanian Kosovars to their original
communities, with adequate financial support for rebuilding them, and
permanent settlement in the United States and other NATO countries for
those Kosovar refugees who choose that option.

3.  The stationing of international peacekeepers in Kosovo, perhaps a
joint UN-OSCE armed protection force, to create and hold corridors and
safe havens throughout Kosovo to enable the safe return of refugees.

4.  Autonomy, independence or partitioning for Kosovo?  The precise
formulation remains to be determined:  what is key is that negotiations
are broad-based and inclusive.

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