Europe Seeks Coordinated Effort On Bosnia to Avert Catastrophe
NATO considers a broader mandate for airstrikes as the West tries to recoup credibility
BONN AND MOSCOW — HUMILIATED by their inability to stop the Bosnian Serb advance on the ``safe haven'' of Gorazde, the world's Great Powers are now desperately searching for a way to regain credibility as a force for peace in the former Yugoslavia.
Bosnian Serb troops poised outside Gorazde resumed an artillery barrage on the city center the afternoon of April 19, Sarajevo radio reported. And Bosnian Serbs stormed an arms depot in Sarajevo, seizing 18 antiaircraft guns from United Nations peacekeepers there.
France is spearheading a European Union initiative to unify the positions of the major players in the Bosnia peace effort - including the United States, Russia, and the EU - in the hopes of heading off a humanitarian catastrophe.
``We did not succeed in Gorazde where we succeeded in Sarajevo because of uncoordinated political initiatives,'' French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told reporters on April 18, referring to the Feb. 9 NATO ultimatum that resulted in a cease-fire around the Bosnian capital.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali sent a letter to NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner April 18 in an effort to expand NATO's mandate to conduct bombing missions to defend the six UN-designated safe havens in Bosnia. Mr. Ghali's request for beefed-up air power will top the agenda of the NATO meeting in Brussels April 20. Currently, there is no UN mechanism to enforce the inviolability of the safe havens, as NATO has only a mandate to protect UN personnel endangered by fighting.
In Washington, Clinton administration officials said they were reviewing all their options in the former Yugoslavia, including possible military operations against Bosnian Serb targets. But US officials added that the situation in Gorazde had reached a point that bombing there could do little to influence the situation.
In Moscow, Russian officials were resisting the UN proposal to widen NATO's military mandate, while ordering the dispatch of a fresh Russian paratrooper unit to serve as UN peacekeepers in Bosnia.
Russia has insisted that only patient diplomacy, along with consistent pressure on all warring parties, can bring results. Russian officials have also trumpeted their ties to their brother Slavs in Serbia as a key card they can play in the search for a negotiated settlement.
But the Bosnian Serb action in Gorazde has made a mockery of Moscow's policy and has left Russian diplomats and political analysts seething. ``Bosnian Serbs must realize that Russia embodies a great power and not a banana republic,'' says Vitaly Churkin, Russia's peace envoy to the former Yugoslavia.
ILITARY analyst Pavel Felgengauer, writing in the Moscow daily Segodnya, attacked the Serbs for trying to draw Russia into the war. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev warned the Bosnian Serbs not to renege on any more cease-fire pledges.
``We continue to receive the Serbian side's assurances that they intend to stop shelling Gorazde, won't take the city, and will agree to set up a safe haven under UN control,'' Mr. Kozyrev told reporters April 19. ``I would strongly recommend that the Serbian side no longer try the world community's patience,'' the Russian foreign minister added.
There are indications that the Russian government is preparing to back more forceful action by the UN. Mr. Churkin on April 19 met with Russian parliamentary leaders, apparently to convince them to go along with a tougher Russian line toward the Serbs.
The signs coming out of Sarajevo indicate that a negotiated solution to the Bosnian war may be harder than ever to achieve. Indeed, while the West, Russia, and the UN mull new initiatives, the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government is now talking about a fight to the finish.
``We too will go for all or nothing,'' Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic told a Sarajevo crowd. ``We have learned our lesson. The lesson is: We have to be strong, because in this world, only force is respected.''
During the Gorazde offensive, Bosnian Serb forces have shrugged off two limited NATO airstrikes, shot down a British jet, and gone back on numerous cease-fire agreements - events that have greatly embarrassed the US, Russia, the EU, and the UN.
A key to restarting the Bosnian peace process, one European political expert says, will be the Great Powers' ability to recover from the slap in the face administered by the Bosnian Serbs.
``We've got to swallow our pride and focus on combined efforts to stop the fighting and hope they can produce some results,'' says Andrew Duncan, a scholar at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.