Six days after NATO started bombing Yugoslavia to stop the genocide against the ethnic Albanian minority in Kosovo, Janusz Bugajski, Director of the East European Studies Department at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington visited Slovakia to share his opinions about the Balkan crisis.
After an interview with The Slovak Spectator on March 30, Bugajski revealed that his friend Baton Haxhiu, editor-in-chief of the Kosovo daily paper Koha Ditore, had been murdered the day before along with four other opponents of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What do you think of NATO's decision to bomb Yugoslavia to stop the genocide of ethnic Albanians?
Janusz Bugajski (JB): The measures NATO has taken were probably the only options left after months and months of negotiations with Milosevic, after his promises of a ceasefire to [American peace envoy] Richard Holbrooke, after all indications that Belgrade was willing to come to some sort of compromise with the Albanians, and after the Kosovo leadership signed the [peace] accords in Rambouillet [France] and committed themselves to the peace agreement for three years. NATO was left with very little choice not only for the sake of the peace accord but also for the sake of its own credibility.
If it hadn't acted, Milosevic would have conducted his operations without international interference. At least now he faces a strong international action against him.
TSS: Are air strikes the most efficient tool of achieving NATO aims?
JB: I don't think bombing in itself is efficient. It's necessary, but it's not sufficient to either make Milosevic desist from further slaughter, or to make him sign the agreement. I think several political steps and also other military steps will be needed. On the political side, I think that what we've witnessed in the past week - mass expulsions, the ethnic cleansing of Albanians - indicates that we have only three or four political options.
First of all, we must recognize that unless this offensive is brought to a halt, Yugoslavia ceases to exist as a legitimate state. In other words, the independence of Kosovo and Montenegro should be recognised. Secondly, moves to try Milosevic and his cabinet as war criminals must be started; far smaller fish have been fried [at the International War Crimes Tribunal] in The Hague, and Milosevic is a big fish in terms of war crimes. Thirdly, greater support must be given to neighbouring countries, including Albania and Macedonia, both in terms of humanitarian assistance as well as military assistance against Milosevic.
Fourthly, the war so far has targeted military targets, but I think what we have to do is to go after Serb propaganda, which has so brainwashed the Serb people that they think they are the victims. Independent media [in Yugoslavia] has been destroyed, some journalists have gone into hiding, and some universities and basically the whole NGO sector in Serbia have been wiped out.
I think it's high time that either we completely blacked-out Serb propaganda, or that we broadcast international services directly onto Serbian television to give them a truer picture of what's going on in Kosovo.
On the military side, I think that the Serb forces cannot be effectively countered without [a NATO] ground force. I don't think this malice can be stopped without a ground force. If NATO isn't willing to commit a ground force, there are tens of thousands of Kosovars who are willing to fight. They just need the weapons. I think the next alternative would be to arm the Kosovo Liberation Army to defend the Kosovo people, as well as to strike back at Serb mailce.
TSS: Which is more likely - for NATO to arm the Kosovars, or send in a ground force?
JB: The chances of a ground force are very slim, because there's no political support for it in Washington, London or Berlin. The Albanians know the terrain, they know the enemy, they have the organization, they have the basic structure of this force, but what they need is more sophisticated weapons, with which they could be more effective in defending their villages.
5. Apr 1999 at 0:00 | Ivan Remiaš