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End the Arms Race

Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

April 8, 1999

End the Arms Race,
Vancouver, Canada

The Honourable Jean Chretien,
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister Chretien:

End the Arms Race is one of Canada's largest and most active peace groups. We are writing to express our absolute opposition to the bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO and to Canada's support for this act of war. Foremost, we are fundamentally opposed to Canada's supporting this military action because it is not helping to resolve the political problems facing Yugoslavia and the province of Kosovo. NATO and Canada's goals seem to be narrowly focused on the military outcome and are at best fuzzy in respect to the expected political outcome. Indeed, NATO military involvement has only further exacerbated the humanitarian and political problems and may even widen the conflict to engulf the region and the rest of Europe.

End the Arms Race has many concerns and many serious arguments for opposing the bombing of Yugoslavia. Allow me to briefly expand on issues of prime concern:
1) It is apparent that NATO did very little to defuse the conflict over the past few years and in the past months did not exhaust all diplomatic efforts to resolve this crisis. The offices and diplomatic resources of both the United Nations and OSCE were not fully utilized. For example, money and resources for diplomatic efforts by the OSCE were not as quickly forthcoming as were the hundreds of millions, and maybe even billions, of dollars to be spent without hesitation on military action. OSCE efforts to send observers were often slowed and stalled by the same nations that hastily sent their militaries to bomb Yugoslavia. The office of the United Nations General Secretariat was not called upon to intervene in the conflict.
2) Not only did Yugoslavia refuse to sign what it perceived to be an imposed peace deal but so did Russia. Russia's refusal to sign this deal should have sent a clear signal to NATO that this was a flawed proposal that needed further diplomatic negotiations.
3) There is no precedent or evidence to suggest that air strikes would have met the primary humanitarian goal of protecting the Kosovars. On the contrary, many commentators predicted that the air assaults would only worsen the situation. Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario has now been realized.
4) Little aid or support was given to neighbouring countries to deal with the influx of refugees stemming from the civil war before the NATO bombing campaign. Since the bombing campaign started, the refugee crisis has become a true catastrophe - an obvious indication that the bombing is making the situation worse.
5) The flow of small arms to the Kosovo Liberation Army has never been stemmed to help defuse the violent conflict. The obvious fact is that the western world turned a blind eye to the trading and smuggling of small arms into Kosovo. Serious efforts should have been made to stop the trafficking of these arms through Macedonia and other border areas.
6) Throughout the past few months, U.S. negotiators have obviously placed more value on the demands of the Kosovo Liberation Army than on the more moderate non-violent demands of the elected government in Kosovo. This is even more apparent now as moderate Albanian leaders call for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
7) Under international law the bombing of Yugoslavia is blatantly illegal - NATO has no authority to bomb an independent country.
8) Canada has failed the United Nations. The unilateral military action of NATO has further undermined the authority of the United Nations and the new International Court of Justice and other UN bodies. Canada has contributed to international anarchy by demonstrating that international politics is governed not by law but by military power.
9) The bombing has clearly undermined western cooperation with Russia. This is among the most destabilizing outcomes of this war against Yugoslavia. Russia will likely rescind its efforts to adopt the Start II treaty and progress toward nuclear disarmament may come to a halt. Although Russia has stated that it does not intend to get involved in the conflict, mixed messages are being sent. The dispatching of Russian military ships to the region is alarming.
10) A goal of Canada and the international community should have been to contain the conflict. Instead, by involving NATO the conflict now threatens to involve neighbouring countries and provinces, including Montenegro, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Albania.
11) The primary goal of Canada and the collective international goal should have been to help resolve the internal conflict and to prevent a 'humanitarian disaster.' Instead NATO has taken sides in an internal conflict. NATO bombing has contributed to the mass exodus of refugees, the killing of civilians and the seemingly inevitable destruction of Yugoslavia's civilian infrastructure, further impoverishing millions of people.

The outcome of NATO's bombing campaign is an unmitigated disaster that must be immediately stopped. Further bombing will only exacerbate and prolong the problems already outlined: more civilian deaths and refugees, destabilization of the region, worse relations between Russia and NATO members, and increased international anarchy.

Political solutions are available but will only be found if all sides involved are willing to negotiate. This means that NATO, its members, and in particular the United States, cannot dictate the terms of peace as was done prior to the bombing campaign of Yugoslavia. Madeleine Albright publicly committed NATO to bombing Yugoslavia if the President refused to sign the 'peace' deal. No country, including Canada, would have accepted this type of bullying tactic. Instead of helping, the threat of bombing hardened positions on all sides.

The peace deal was flawed from the beginning. Even the most casual observer realized the stationing of NATO troops in Kosovo would be unacceptable to Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had brought proposals to the negotiations in Paris that NATO refused to consider. Thus, we can only conclude that NATO's priority was not a peaceful settlement and the prevention of a humanitarian disaster but instead was the imposition of western demands on an internal conflict.

If Canada's goal is truly humanitarian - to save lives - then war is simply wrong. This is already clearly evident, given the humanitarian disaster now taking place in the Balkans. A peaceful resolution of conflict is often the more difficult route to take, but the right one.

It is time to stop the bombing of Yugoslavia before we are pulled even further into this quagmire. The only solution is a diplomatic one. It is time to return to the negotiating table to correct the mistakes we have made and this will require compromise on all sides. Russia must be key to any negotiations and its approval will be required on any future agreements.

Obviously, NATO troops will not be able to participate in any capacity as either observers or as peacekeepers. We must demonstrate the political will to put significant resources into the OSCE and the United Nations to help achieve and monitor a viable peace agreement.

Sincerely yours,

Peter Coombes

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