LAST week's London conference on Yugoslavia made symbolic gestures and adopted 13 principles intended to guide warring parties in the Balkans toward peace. But the diplomats, gathered from 22 nations in a joint European Community-United Nations forum, neglected to note that Serbs have already taken 70 percent of an internationally recognized country by systematic violence (Croats hold most of the rest). Bosnia will collapse if substantial help does not come soon.
Conditions in Bosnia make this conclusion inescapable. "Ethnic cleansing," carried on mainly by Serbs, continues. The shelling of cities and killing of civilians is unceasing.
The only concrete actions from the London meeting were tightened sanctions against Serbia and additional soldiers to protect relief convoys - needed steps, but not likely in themselves to alter the course of events in Bosnia. Western diplomats also decided on a "permanent mechanism" for negotiation on Yugoslavia in Geneva.
But, sadly, negotiation may be exactly what Serbian leaders want. What will happen in Geneva that did not happen in EC talks on Croatia last fall and winter at the Hague? Or EC talks on Bosnia this spring and summer in London? How many cease-fires (40 so far) must be broken to see that Belgrade wants time to secure land?
Consider this touch of reality: During the London talks, Serbia mobilized reservists in the Muslim province of Kosovo. Is Kosovo the next Bosnia?
The London gathering could prove to have been more a surrender conference than a peace conference. Britain and France shied from intervening in Bosnia. That left the US to help stand up to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Acting US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger sounded tough beforehand, saying the US would not accept a Serb partitioning of Bosnia. But that tone did not prevail in London - leaving Bosnia's Muslims near surrender.
It took a US foreign service officer, George Kenney, head of the State Department's Yugoslav desk, to put the US role in London in true perspective. Mr. Kenney, who first made public the "ethnic cleansing" campaign in Bosnia, last week resigned his post, saying White House policy was to appear active, but remain passive. In the face of war crimes, a trail of Muslim refugees, and ongoing killing, Kenney said, this was morally wrong. Stronger action now will in the long run decrease the violence in the reg ion, he argues. Kenney rightly advocates limited intervention in Bosnia. Why? Because this aggression, too, should not stand.