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The NATO Coup That Failed
10 Jun 1999 - commentary by Jeffrey Benner
Yesterday, Yugoslav Generals signed a withdrawal agreement that has finally brought an end to the war. At the press conference held just after the document was signed, NATO General Jackson, who represented NATO in the military negotiations, said it was "tragic" that "intransigence has made it necessary for the international community to resort to air strikes in order to reach the settlement."
Jackson has it basically right, only backwards. This whole affair has been a tragedy attributable to intransigence: NATO's unwillingness to allow yield any authority to the U.N. Security Council. And the damage the air strikes have inflicted on NATO's credibility is what has finally forced them back to the negotiating table.
Now that we have an armistice, its terms are not surprising. The peace deal is a predictable halfway point between the NATO (Rambouillet) and Serb positions which have been on the table since before any bombs began to fall. The question is, why couldn't this agreement have been reached through negotiations at Rambouillet?
The answer is that NATO was unwilling to compromise at that time. There have been reports that the State Department purposefully set the "bar too high" at Rambouillet, presenting Milosovic with a document they knew he couldn't sign.
The crux of the haggling over the past week has clearly been about whether the body with final authority over the international force deployed in Kosovo would be the U.N. or NATO, and it seems reasonable to assume this was the "bar" which the U.S./NATO refused to lower at Rambouillet.
Even previous to those negotiations it had been reported that Milosevic was willing to allow a U.N. led force into Kosovo. Indeed, before NATO had even threatened the use of force, he had already allowed 2,000independent observers to enter Kosovo to investigate potential crimes against humanity. These are not the actions of man with whom it is impossible to negotiate.
It was NATO, not Milosevic, who sat down at the "negotiating table" with a gun in its hand and issued an ultimatum. If, at that time, NATO had been willing to negotiate on the point of U.N. vs. NATO "auspices," it seems very possible that a compromise similar, or even preferable, to the one just signed could have been reached without the terrible destruction wrought by NATO bombs and the rampage of Serbian forces.
Let that sink in for a second. NATO preferred bombing to a U.N.-led peace mission. Why was NATO so hard set on this point? Would a U.N. mission have really been so much worse than a NATO one? Wouldn't having some sort of peacekeeping force inside Kosovo have been preferable to none?
It can be argued that NATO had legitimate reasons for wanting its own troops in charge. The list of U.N. peacekeepers failing to keep the peace is long.Srebinica and Rwanda are just two shameful examples.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to believe NATO was willing to go to war simply to ensure the success of a peacekeeping mission in an obscure corner of Europe. A more plausible explanation is that NATO was unwilling to accept a U.N. mandate because it wanted to shake itself free of the U.N. Security Council, where Russia and China enjoy veto power, and to grant itself the authority to take military action as it sees fit.After months of destruction and loss of life,
NATO apparently came to realize the Serbs and their allies would not acknowledge NATO authority.The alliance realized it would have to, at least formally, come crawling back to the U.N. Security Council with its tail between its legs, and ask to be bailed out of the mess it had created. Once NATO conceded defeat on this key point, an agreement on Kosovo was worked out in a matter of days.
That a U.N. Security Council resolution was necessary to bring about a cease-fire is strong evidence in itself that NATO has bowed to U.N. authority. Any remaining doubt can be cleared up by a look at the text of the U.N.resolution, and the terms agreed to by the Serbian parliament.
The Rambouillet Accords required:
"The Parties invite NATO to deploy a military force (KFOR), which will be authorized to use necessary force to ensure compliance with the Accords,protect international agencies involved with implementation, and provide a secure environment for everyone in Kosovo."
There is no mention of the U.N.
Compare this to the present agreement, which is essentially the compromiseworked out through negotiations with Russia.
While the peacekeeping force in Kosovo will, in effect, be NATO led, with the nature of Russian participation still undecided, the draft U.N. resolution calls for the "deployment in Kosovo, under United Nations auspices, of civil and security presences." An annex to the resolution allows for an"[i]nternational security presence, with an essential NATO participation."
Compared to the language of the Rambouillet Accords,the shift of focus from NATO authority to U.N.authority is unmistakable. Essentially, the new deal reached puts a NATO-led force formally under U.N. control. This is a reasonable compromise. The problem is, it took a massive loss of life before NATO became interested in compromise; even during negotiations earlier this week, NATO quietly, and clumsily, tried to remove any reference to U.N. forces. Fortunately, NATO's attempted coup, which aimed to transfer authority from the United Nations (i.e. Russia and China) over to the "international community"-- an imaginary town dreamt up by the U.S. State Department and populated by about 30 employees of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair -- has failed. Tragically, thousands of lives and the well being of a nation have been sacrificed to the US/NATO's arrogance, intransigence, and lust for power.
Return to the 'NATO Bombing - has it brought peace to the Balkans?' Alert.