Bosnia: No Way Out for the West?

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Peace in Bosnia may now demand a permanent Western presence, following the apparent triumph of Serb hard-liners in presidential elections. "Although the European election supervisors are holding back the result until next week, it does appear that [radical nationalist] Nikola Poplasen has beaten [moderate] Biljana Plavsic," says TIME Central Europe bureau chief Massimo Calabresi. "And that's a serious blow for the West."

Victory by supporters of Bosnia's most-wanted war criminal, former president Radovan Karadzic, undermines what has been the West's optimistic strategy: move the country toward democratic stability by building a moderate political center (while dangling the carrot of financial aid). With the triumph of separatism, all that remains is to keep the two warring factions apart. "This challenges the idea that Bosnia is a situation from which the West will be able to withdraw at some point," says Calabresi. "It's starting to look more like Cyprus, where keeping the peace demands a long-term commitment."