The next step won't come until after President Boris Yeltsin's Thursday meeting with Milosevic, where he'll try and persuade Russia's traditional ally to back down. "The U.S. believes it has nothing to lose by giving Yeltsin's initiative a chance," says Fischer, "but they're not optimistic about his prospects -- past experience has shown that Milosevic doesn't change course unless he feels the heat." If the West manages to muster the political will to use force over and above Russian objections, NATO's task won't be easy: "NATO can do considerable damage to the Yugoslavian army, but to what end?" says Fischer. "We're not trying to eject them from Kosovo, we're trying to stop them attacking civilians inside what remains their own sovereign territory," says Fischer. And that makes target selection far from simple.
NATO staged mock air raids today to warn the Serbs against further aggression in Kosovo, but it'll probably take the real thing to force President Milosevic to back off. "There's little expectation in Washington that today's action will have any effect," says TIME State Department correspondent Dean Fischer. "It's unlikely that there will be a diplomatic solution without military action."