The Serb leader, of course, has plenty of tactical motivation for appearing to be ready for a compromise. "He's rolling a hand grenade into the middle of NATO's party, hoping he can split the alliance with a peace offer," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "But that's unlikely to happen -- Washington will trust only action, not promises from a man who's broken so many. And even the more dovish NATO members insist that a cease-fire can only follow some withdrawal by the Serb forces." Just as NATO has been wary of rapid movement toward a ground war, it is also unlikely to rush to the negotiating table. In fact, says Thompson, "If Milosevic's offer is taken as a sign that he's weakening, that could induce the alliance to step up the pressure for further concessions rather than backing off." NATO's likely to give Milosevic time to show that he's serious -- and it won't stop bombing while it waits.
Slobodan Milosevic was always going to try and ruin NATO's 50th anniversary, but who knew he would try to do it by posing as a peacemaker? Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, after meeting the Yugoslavian president Thursday, announced that Milosevic is prepared to accept an "international presence" in Kosovo under U.N. auspices. It was not made clear whether this meant a military force, as demanded by NATO, or if it signaled any movement on other NATO demands, such as Serb withdrawal and the safe return of refugees. But it could significantly advance a diplomatic solution, since the standoff began over Milosevic's refusal to accept NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo.