On Thursday, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations and
Russia agreed upon an outline for a “political solution to the Kosovo
crisis.” The plan is intentionally vague and ambiguous on a number of
very important issues.
On its face the plan appears to call for the withdrawal of Serb
forces from Kosovo, the deployment of an international peacekeeping
force, the safe return of all refugees, self-government for Kosovo under
the sovereignty of Yugoslavia and the disarming of the Kosovo Liberation
NATO’s Clinton-led strategy (because it’s too squirrelly to have been
concocted by anyone other than Clinton) is to use Russia as its
negotiating intermediary with Slobo. But Clinton’s prideful refusal to
negotiate directly with Slobo carries a heavy price tag. While
administration officials boast Russia’s mediating role as an important
lever against Slobo, in reality it is a major NATO liability.
Before Russia was willing to carry NATO’s water into the
negotiations, it had to be satisfied with the proposed terms of the
settlement, which explains Russia’s anomalous involvement with the G-7
nations and certain NATO concessions that appear in the proposal.
There are a number of ambiguous provisions in the proposal, all of
which were designed to pacify the Russians. The plan provides that there
shall be “withdrawal from Kosovo of military, police and paramilitary
NATO tried and failed (over Russian objection) to insert the word
“all” in that provision to signify that all Serbian forces would be
removed from Kosovo. Russia argued that Slobo would never accede to
total withdrawal because it would be inconsistent with Yugoslavia’s
continued sovereignty over Kosovo, as contemplated by the plan.
An even more problematic element of the plan is that it confers broad
authority for the settlement on the United Nations, rather than NATO.
Until now we have been hearing incessant assertions about the importance
of maintaining the credibility and integrity of NATO.
The provision for the establishment of an interim government for
Kosovo is to be decided by the U.N. Security Council, a body in which
Russia and China hold vetoes. Also, the peacekeeping forces must be
“endorsed and adopted by the United Nations.” There is no mention of
NATO as being the designated peacekeeping force. Slobo has indicated
that he will not agree to the peacekeeping force including soldiers from
any NATO nation that participated in the air attack against Serbia,
which leaves such military powerhouses as Greece and Canada.
Since the “peace proposal” was outlined Thursday, Madeleine Albright
has been running around frantically protesting that “all” Serbian forces
must be withdrawn from Kosovo and that NATO must be the peacekeeping
force — even though NATO consciously settled for ambiguity on those
points in the plan. Albright may discover that, to the rest of the
literate world, words mean things. Clinton/NATO violated a cardinal rule
of negotiation: You never concede any ground on points that are
nonnegotiable, as Albright claims these points to be.
Because NATO’s authorized agents agreed to ambiguity, rather than
plain language in the document, it may have a difficult time
re-instituting its points. The bottom line is that credibility is an
essential component of effective negotiation and you cannot maintain
credibility when you have already given ground on a point you later
insist is nonnegotiable. Clinton’s ordinary domestic m.o. of pretending
to concede points only to later renege and repair through spin, will not
be as easy in the foreign arena with Russia, China and Yugoslavia.
While NATO nations are busy congratulating themselves for having
entered into a unilateral peacekeeping settlement with themselves and
Russia, a non-participant in the conflict, we better understand that
neither Slobo nor the KLA has agreed to the plan. The KLA has indicated
opposition to the plan because it does not include Kosovo’s ultimate
It is clear that the peace plan is inconsistent with NATO’s stated
war aims. Long ago (three or four weeks ago), when NATO was smugly
strutting its stuff and promising imminent victory, everyone was saying
that Rambouillet was a dead-letter, presumably meaning that Slobo’s
ethnic cleansing campaign ensured that Kosovo could never again live
under the sovereign rule of Serbia.
That the United States and NATO have conceded major points and
accepted ambiguity on others before the negotiations have even begun
with Slobo means, in a nutshell, that in terms of achieving our
political objectives through military means, we have lost this war.
Perhaps we should give Bill Clinton a Purple Heart on behalf of NATO and
the United States for having presided over the wounding of NATO and the
U.S. military in his deplorable mishandling of this “campaign.”
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