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By now it should be clear that relying exclusively on diplomacy to stop the Serbs’ aggression has failed. Western countries have suffered a serious loss of prestige and influence in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe, the political unification of Europe has suffered a blow, and both NATO and the Western European Union look dangerously impotent and hence irrelevant in post-Cold War Europe. The ineffectual policies toward Belgrade cannot continue without undermining U.S. security interests and superpower status.
The past two years have resulted ■n our steadily deeper involvement in the Balkans, but have accomplished little. This policy of creeping incrementalism” looks uncomfortably similar to the one that led us into the Vietnam quagmire. In the end, the United States Will have only two choices: abandon the entire area or intervene massively. A new policy is urgently needed if U.S. ground troops are not to be deployed.
We have vital national interests in the Balkans. As long as Europe is considered vital to U.S. security, no part of Europe should be embroiled in a long and festering conflict. This threatens to involve regional powers and major European powers. In the absence of resolute Western action, conflict in Yugoslavia is unlikely to stop.
Unfortunately, there are few options left for the West. A course that could avoid the two extremes of abandonment or intervention should be found and carried out.
Before deciding on any military action, however, we must determine our political and military objectives and the desired end state in the former Yugoslavia. Without clear, achievable objectives, no military actions should be contemplated. Therefore, U.S. political objectives in the former Yugoslavia should be to:
► Restore and preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
► Force the Bosnian Serbs to negotiate seriously to end their conflict with the legally elected government in Sarajevo.
► Preserve Macedonia’s independence. Force Serbs to stop their repressive policies toward the Albanians in Kosovo; prevent possible “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo, Sandjak, and Vojvodina.
► Disclaim any change of internal borders gained by force.
The military objectives of U.S. intervention should be to:
► Reduce the imbalance in firepower between the opposing forces.
► Deter the Serbs from renewing war in Croatia.
►Prevent the conflict from spreading to Macedonia, Albania, or Hungary.
The desired end state should:
► End hostilities and restore territorial integrity and sovereignty in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
► Put Bosnia and Herzegovina under a ten-year U.N. mandate, pending final resolution.
► Ensure Serbs relinquish control of all territories acquired by force.
► Reduce the offensive capability of the Yugoslav Army (under international supervision).
The mission of U.S. forces might be stated: “Use all available forces and assets to defeat Serbian- controlled forces to restore territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and reestablish the authority of the legitimate government in Sarajevo.” To accomplish our objectives in the former Yugoslavia, the following steps are necessary:
► Legal government in Sarajevo declares Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as the aggressor. It uses
Article 51 of the U.N. Charter and formally requests help from NATO. This move is immediately reported to U.N. Security Council.
► Lean on the Croatian government to order forces under its control in Bosnia and Herzegovina to support the Muslim-led forces.
► Announce that the crisis threatens NATO security. Ask NATO troops—currently under U.N. control—to redeploy to central Bosnia. Warn the Serbs against any attack on these troops.
► Lift the arms embargo against Bosnia and Herzegovina’s and Croatia’s elected governments.
► Arm and train the Bosnian Muslims and the Croatian forces.
► Issue an ultimatum to the Serbs to lift the siege of Sarajevo and other Bosnian Muslim enclaves.
► Conduct massive air strikes against selected Serbian military targets in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Specifically, these strikes should be aimed at cutting off all the main supply routes from Serbia and Montenegro to Bosnia and gun positions. Use air power to hold off Serbian attacks against the Muslim and Croatian forces.
► Carry out air strikes, if necessary, against vital military and economic installations in Serbia and Montenegro.
► Warn the Serbs against introducing fresh troops into Bosnia and Herzegovina.
► Deploy a small combat force to Macedonia and Albania, to deter any possible Serbian attack there.
To continue any longer with fainthearted attempts to resolve the problem inevitably will lead to a much larger and much longer commitment. The time for action is now.
Dr. Vego is a professor in the Department of Operations at the U.S. Naval War College. He graduated from the Yugoslav Naval Academy, served 12 years in the Yugoslav Navy, and resigned in 1973 as a lieutenant commander.
Proceedings / June 93