The meaning of victory

There's a chain reaction that war generates on alliances and blocs

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V-B Day ... victory in the Balkans ... and what now for vanquished Yugoslavia?

After World War I the Allies imposed stringent terms on Germany and set the stage for Hitler and World War II. At the end of World War II, Hitler had the grace to commit suicide in his Berlin bunker and open the way for a new Germany. The Europeans, fashioning their response to the Marshall Plan program, had the vision to see that Germany could not remain a black hole in the center of Europe and had to be included. The onset of the cold war with the Soviet Union helped.

Yugoslavia, in the center of the Balkans, sitting astride the vital Danube artery, cannot remain a black hole either.

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It is, ironically, today's German chancellor, Gerhard Schrder, who, as rotating chairman of both the G-8 industrial powers and the European Union, speaks for the outside world when he says peace is only possible if "we move quickly to promote the kind of economic and political integration that we enjoy in the West."

President Clinton speaks of following the Marshall Plan pattern by getting "the people of the region to work together to define their own future." But aid to Yugoslavia remains problematic as long as President Slobodan Milosevic stays in power, defying his indictment as a war criminal.

Russia managed to get a ban on aid to Serbia deleted from the final statement at the Cologne G-8 summit. But it was generally agreed that, as long as President Milosevic is there, Yugoslavia can get humanitarian, but not reconstruction assistance.

That, however, remains subject to definition. The Allies agree that restoring power plants to avert suffering during the winter is humanitarian.

But President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair openly disagree about whether rebuilding bridges so Serbs can go to work is permissible.

"I don't buy that," Mr. Clinton says. "That's part of their reconstruction and I don't think we should help - not a bit, not a penny."

Allied leaders hope the elimination of Milosevic can be soon accomplished. He is under increasing strain as Serbs stream in from Kosovo.

Soldiers have demonstrated, demanding back pay. Clinton has signed a "presidential finding" authorizing a covert action against his regime. And contact has been made with opposition leaders.

Meanwhile a donors' conference is being called to parcel out quotas for a reconstruction plan for Kosovo.

The US, which has made it clear that Europe should bear most of the burden, is likely to have less and less influence over the decisions.

One effect of the Kosovo war has been to stimulate movement toward a European defense organization and a less submissive relationship with the US.

As with Europe after World War II, it is hard to perceive short range the chain reaction that a war can generate on alliances and blocs.

But the outlook is for Europe to look more to itself and less to the superpower across the Atlantic.

The Clinton administration constantly argues that instability in the Balkans is primarily a European problem. Europe is inclined to agree - as long as it does not need America's awesome military arsenal.

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