Balkans Exit Debated at Conference

July/​August 1999 • Policy Report

The actions of the Clinton administration in Kosovo could severely damage relations with Russia, Rep. Curt Weldon (R‐​Pa.) warned on May 18 at a Cato conference, “NATO’s Balkan War: Finding an Honorable Exit.”

Weldon, who had recently returned from negotiating with Serbian and Russian contacts, reported that he was warned that the war was giving credibility to Russian nationalists and could possibly result in their winning the upcoming Duma elections.

Calling the war “one of the greatest foreign policy disasters in U.S. history,” Cato senior fellow Doug Bandow said NATO had shredded relations with Russia, blasted the Yugoslav economy into rubble, triggered escalating violence against Kosovars, increased the number of refugees in Albania and Macedonia from 45,000 to 640,000, and destabilized all of southeastern Europe.

Alton Frye, presidential senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, insisted that NATO’s goal should be to provide an international security presence to accompany humanitarian relief teams. William Hyland, former editor of Foreign Affairs, concluded that NATO can best promote a long‐​term peace by partitioning Kosovo. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago said that proposals for autonomy for Kosovo won’t work in the long term because Washington can’t force people in the Bal‐​kans to live together. Only a comprehensive regional settlement, with Serbia relinquishing most of Kosovo but being allowed to merge with the Bosnian Serb Republic in return, offers a viable strategy in the long run.

Differing with them was William H. Taft IV, former deputy secretary of defense, who said NATO was justified in pursuing a war to stabilize the region, to ensure the Kosovar Albanian political leadership a dominant position in the liberated region, and to unify and strengthen NATO.

More than 150 people attended the conference, which was broadcast live on the World Wide Web and is available for viewing online along with other Cato programs. Excerpts from Mearsheimer’s remarks are also available on the June edition of CatoAudio.

This article originally appeared in the July/​August 1999 edition of Cato Policy Report.