NATO Escalation of Bombing Is Unlikely to Deter Ethnic Cleansing

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As Kosovo's humanitarian crisis escalates, NATO has chosen to let its missiles do the negotiating. Dismissing President Slobodan Milosevic's conditions for halting his offensive as unacceptable, NATO on Wednesday vowed to step up its bombing both in Kosovo and in Belgrade. As media reports of horrific executions streamed out of the region, Washington raised the rhetorical heat by using the term "genocide" in reference to Milosevic's campaign, and suggested it may withdraw its recognition of Serbia's claim on Kosovo. Its matchmaking attempts stymied, Russia sent a cautionary signal to the Western alliance by announcing it was deploying seven warships in the Mediterranean.

Despite the apparent escalation of the conflict, NATO's strategic dilemma remains unchanged. "This is going badly for the West," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "NATO has admitted that a week of air strikes have had no discernible deterrent effect on the Serb offensive. Milosevic has shrugged off the air campaign, and has used it as license to complete his 'ethnic cleansing.' But since the alliance has ruled out ground troops, it has no other option but to hope that escalated bombing will eventually force Milosevic to buckle." Now that NATO estimates that the Serb campaign has made refugees of one third of the Kosovar civilian population, Milosevic may already have achieved his objective of changing the facts on the ground in Kosovo.

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