Too Little Too Late in Kosovo?

  • Share
  • Read Later
As NATO frantically redoubled its attacks on Serb units in Kosovo, even its best effort may now be too late to avert Europe's worst humanitarian catastrophe since World War II. President Slobodan Milosevic's brutal "ethnic cleansing" campaign has driven a quarter of the Kosovar Albanian population from their homes, and has systematically targeted the region's political leaders for murder. NATO reported Monday that Fehmi Agani, who was a leading member of the Kosovar delegation at peace talks in France, was executed by Serb forces on Sunday. NATO stepped up its air attacks Monday, but these are of limited usefulness in stopping the Serbs from attacking civilians on the ground. "It might already be over by the time we manage to stop it," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "At this point, Milosevic is winning the race -- air strikes are a crude and imprecise means of stopping what's happening in Kosovo." Despite the growing clamor for NATO to introduce ground troops, Western leaders remain unwilling to take that risk.

The political outcome of the conflict looks more dubious now than when the Paris peace talks failed. Originally, NATO threatened air strikes to enforce an autonomy plan for Kosovo. But that deal is almost certainly a casualty of the current campaign: The Kosovars are unlikely now to accept a compromise on independence, while the Serbs' brutal depopulation of whole swaths of territory suggests their ultimate aim is to carve up Kosovo and keep control of at least part of it. Unless the tide of battle turns quickly, Milosevic looks set to win the game.