Who'll Pick Up the Tab for Kosovo?

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When Bill Clinton and his European counterparts sit around a table savoring their Kosovo achievement at this weekend's summit in Germany, there'll be no gentlemanly rush to get the check for the war and its cleanup. The Europeans and the U.S. have each politely indicated that they expect the other to slap down a heftier share than they'd been planning to. They also have figure out if that check should include any monies to rebuild Serbia, or simply leave it broken and impoverished as long as its reviled leader remains in power. Either way, while the guesstimates vary widely, the first year of peace looks set to cost the allies at least 10 times what they spent on war.

Bombing Yugoslavia and providing relief for refugees may have already cost NATO as much as $7 billion. But the war has all but destroyed the economy and infrastructure of Kosovo and wiped out as much as half of Serbia's already depleted economy. Even for the neighboring countries not involved in the conflict, the impact of refugee flows and loss of markets, transport routes and tourism is estimated by the IMF to run in the region of $2.25 billion. Here's a reckoning of the factors being weighed in the allies' minds as they look forward to the postwar reconstruction era:

Peace Ain't Cheap

The Cost of War
Current cost estimates for the war in Kosovo

78-day air war and refugee crisis:
$7 billion

Rebuilding Kosovo:
$18 billion

One year of KFOR peacekeeping:
$25 billion

Five-year regional economic recovery plan:
$50-$100 billion

$100-$150 billion NATO believes that avoiding future wars in the Balkans depends on creating viable economies throughout the region, which can serve as a foundation for democracy and integration. But Balkan peace will cost the allies a lot more than Balkan war. The allies have spent $5 billion rebuilding Bosnia over the past five years, but the estimated cost of reconstructing Kosovo alone is estimated to run at $18 billion. And the European Union - which will coordinate the reconstruction effort - plans to make that part of a comprehensive five-year plan to rebuild the economies of the region at a cost of $50 billion. Many experts believe that figure hopelessly optimistic, setting a more realistic target at somewhere between $75 billion and $150 billion. And that's over and above the tab for keeping 50,000 KFOR peacekeeping troops in Kosovo, which is estimated to run at about $25 billion a year (the U.S. contingent is expected to cost Washington $3.5 billion a year).

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