UN Vote on Bosnia Relief Prompts Few Nations to Volunteer Troops


NOW that the United Nations has cleared the way for use of force to get relief supplies into Bosnia-Herzegovina, where are the volunteers?

The short answer is that the question is still under study. Diplomats say that much hinges on the outcome of the Aug. 26-28 London conference on the former Yugoslavia. The talks will be cochaired by the UN and the European Community.

Most Western nations are reluctant to commit ground troops to any relief protection effort. France, which already has 2,700 peacekeeping troops in Croatia and Bosnia, is a notable exception; it will send another 1,100 troops for the new task.

NATO military planners last week estimated that at least 100,000 troops would be needed to ensure that relief supplies get through. The planners must report back on options with fewer troops by Aug. 24.

The carefully worded UN resolution passed the Security Council Aug. 13 by a vote of 12 to 0, with China, India, and Zimbabwe abstaining. States are asked to take "all measures necessary" nationally or through regional agencies, in coordination with the UN, to facilitate aid deliveries in Bosnia. Force is not ordered but authorized as a last resort. Council members hope that, just by demonstrating the UN's commitment to those in need, the resolution itself may have some positive impact in reducing the fig hting.

The Council action also moves the UN a key step forward in reinforcing the "gradual emergence" of the international right to intervene in any nation's affairs on human rights grounds, says John Ruggie, dean of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

While few nations have offered troops, analysts say it is too soon to dismiss the new resolution as an empty threat.

"Why was there all this fuss and negotiation over a week to agree on a resolution?" asks Abram Chayes, a professor at Harvard Law School. "Because they [Council members] knew they were committed by it.... I don't think the permanent members of the Security Council vote for this kind of resolution without having decided that they're going to ... make at least limited troop commitments."

Donald McHenry, a former US ambassador to the UN and now a professor of International Relations at Georgetown University, says the latest Council step is basically "a good move" but one that might have been more effective if taken earlier. He also warns that the line between humanitarian and political action is not as distinct as some suggest.

"After all, the humanitarian problem arises because people are willing to do whatever they feel is necessary to get their political objectives," he says. "Though this resolution is couched in humanitarian terms, probably the better to sell it to our various publics, there is a political dimension to it. And the minute the Serbs believe that their political objectives are being hampered by cooperating on humanitarian questions, the humanitarian [concerns] are likely to go down the tubes. We've seen that o ver and over again in trying to get relief into Somalia, into Sudan, into Ethiopia...."

Many Council members have been concerned as to whether the new humanitarian involvement in Bosnia could jeopardize peacekeeping forces already there and lead to a wider war.

If the situation in Bosnia deteriorates into a more blatant threat to international peace, says David Scheffer, an international lawyer with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Security Council may consider a more explicit use of force resolution.

For the moment, Mr. Scheffer says, the decisions on any military response to the latest Council resolution are up to individual governments and to regional organizations. He says NATO and the Western European Union in particular have been "floundering" in their response.

"If such organizations truly want to maintain their utility they will have to step up to the challenge," he says. "It's their opportunity to breathe new life into Chapter 8 of the UN Charter [which deals with the role regional groups can play in collective security] and give it new meaning. The [UN] secretary-general is quite determined to activate that chapter."

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