After 50 Days of Bombs, Serbs' Resolve Cracking

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The Serbs showed "Wag the Dog" when the bombing began, and now Belgrade is venturing into creating its own made-for-TV events. The Yugoslav army staged a tiny "troop withdrawal" Thursday, moving about 120 soldiers out of Kosovo before assembled Western reporters at a border post. A senior officer then spun the reporters the line that the only thing slowing Yugoslav withdrawal was NATO's continued bombing. It was a lame stunt, but it pointed to the key obstacle to a Russian-mediated peace process: Moscow wants a simultaneous Yugoslav withdrawal and cessation of NATO's bombing, but NATO won't stop bombing until Belgrade backs down on a number of fronts. "Milosevic can't end the bombing simply by appearing to meet some single, minimum requirement," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "NATO won't allow him to get away with half measures."

The alliance kept up heavy bombing overnight Wednesday, encouraged no doubt by signs that Milosevic's will to resist may be crumbling. Belgrade Thursday upped its official casualty toll in the conflict to 1,200 killed and 5,000 wounded, double the previous figures -- the enlargement may be designed to prepare the Serbs for a compromise by Milosevic. For NATO, the political dynamic may be getting easier, with 50 days of continual attacks having made the Western public more accustomed to the air war over Kosovo. "The key thing there is lack of casualties," says Thompson. "As in the slow-simmering war over Iraq, the West can endure as long there aren't boys coming home in body bags." Serb media stunts won't change that. Besides, CNN revealed Thursday that it had lost $1.1 million in equipment during this war, some bombed by NATO but most confiscated by the Serbs. Made-for-TV military maneuvers are a little pointless if there are no cameras to film them.