NATO Orders Kosovo Strike, but Without Endgame

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BELGRADE: The battle lines are drawn, the risks are higher than ever and it's only a matter of time before the first cruise missiles blast the Serb military in Kosovo. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana ordered NATO air strikes on Tuesday, after Richard Holbrooke's last-ditch peace mission to Belgrade failed to move President Slobodan Milosevic. "Milosevic has decided that he can afford at least a first wave of air strikes," says TIME Belgrade reporter Dejan Anastasijevic. "After that he'll assess the damage and decide again whether to accept the deal or fight on." While the Serb leader may be willing to withstand a little bombing to bolster his image as a tough leader, the sustained and steadily escalating campaign favored by the Pentagon could sap his army's will to fight. But NATO faces an even tougher choice: It has opted to launch a military campaign without a clear endgame if Milosevic chooses to take the pain of air strikes.

President Clinton on Tuesday corralled doubters on Capitol Hill into supporting the mission. And Russia's Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov canceled his planned Washington visit after a phone call from Vice President Gore, turning back in mid-Atlantic rather than find himself the guest of the U.S. even as it bombed his Serb allies in Kosovo. President Clinton beat the war drum during a speech to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, telling them, "If you don't stand up to brutality and the killing of innocent civilians you invite them to do more." But with the Serbs showing no signs of backing down in the face of NATO air power, nobody in Washington is feeling gung-ho over U.S. involvement in a messy Balkan civil war.