Washington’s Kosovo Policy: Consequences and Contradictions

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Although U.S. ambassador Christopher Hill is trying to broker an interim political agreement between Belgrade and moderate ethnic Albanians in the embattled Serbian province of Kosovo, there is no assurance that the militant Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) will end its violent struggle for independence if an agreement is reached. Meanwhile, the UN has issued Security Council Resolution 1199 demanding a cease-fire in Kosovo, and the Clinton administration has poised itself militarily and rhetorically for intervention in the conflict. Yet the White House still has not explained to the American public how U.S. national security is threatened in Kosovo, what the potential costs of intervention are in American lives and defense spending, and how another military commitment in the Balkans will affect the nation's readiness to respond to crises elsewhere in the world.

Above all, the Clinton administration's present course in Kosovo is both contradictory and potentially counterproductive -- a dangerous mix that threatens to mire the United States in another internecine conflict overseas. Specifically, the interventionist measures that Washington is now considering could further encourage the KLA, widen the con-flict, set back the prospect of democratic reform in Yugoslavia, and perpetuate European security dependence on the United States.

Gary Dempsey

Gary T. Dempsey, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, recently returned from Kosovo and Montenegro.