Slobbo Offers to Cop a Plea Bargain

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Hollywood bad guys usually get their comeuppance; the end for geopolitical bad guys is seldom as satisfying. As the Kosovo war grinds down toward an outcome untenable at the multiplex, NATO faces some uncomfortable choices over the eventual fate of Slobodan Milosevic. According to French reports Thursday, Milosevic has signaled that he's prepared to accept the NATO-Russia peace deal, but only if he's guaranteed immunity from prosecution as a war criminal. "Milosevic imposed the same condition on the Bosnia peace agreement," says TIME Central Europe reporter Dejan Anastasijevic. "He has a lot of blood on his hands and he knows that Western intelligence has more than enough evidence to indict him at the Hague war crimes tribunal."

In fact, indicting Milosevic is not included in the aims of NATO's Kosovo campaign, which is focused on Serb withdrawal and the safe return of refugees under protection of an international security force. Without a ground invasion of Yugoslavia that actually topples Milosevic's regime, NATO's objective can be achieved only by bombing the Serb leader into signing a deal -- which means, ultimately, accepting him as a guarantor of peace in the Balkans. "It is widely believed that Milosevic was given some form of assurances over immunity during the Dayton process, and until recently U.S. intelligence has been very reluctant to give any assistance to the Hague tribunal," says Anastasijevic. But it may be politically impossible for a White House that has compared Milosevic with Hitler to withstand pressure to indict Milosevic. Yet in the absence of a massive escalation of the war, realpolitik may dictate that Milosevic's crimes are left as unfinished business of the Kosovo campaign: "He may be formally indicted but not actually arrested," says Anastasijevic. "Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was indicted as a war criminal, but NATO hasn't made a serious attempt to go after him." In Hollywood terms, it's a setup for a sequel.

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