Making Milosevic Back Off: Will Sanctions Be Enough?

Ending The War In Bosnia Took Force

Just as the world seemed ready to reopen its doors to Yugoslavia, a week-long Serb police sweep against ethnic Albanians slammed them shut.

Hopes were high in Belgrade last month, after Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic helped the West install a moderate government in the Serb half of Bosnia. The United States, at least, appeared ready to ease its sanctions.

Belgrade was allowed to upgrade sparse diplomatic representation in Washington by reopening a consulate. Yugoslav Airlines, the national carrier shut out of the US since the Bosnian war erupted in 1992, was permitted to operate charter flights to major cities.

And Serb-dominated Yugoslavia was allowed membership in the US-led Southeastern European Cooperation Initiative. It was the first such organization Belgrade was permitted to rejoin since 1992, when the United Nations banned it from all international clubs because of its support of Bosnian Serb war efforts.

Though mostly symbolic, the concessions were meant to send Mr. Milosevic a message: Work for peace and democracy in Yugoslavia and other, more devastating sanctions would be lifted, too.

Yesterday's reported agreement among members of the Contact Group on the former Yugoslavia indicate a move in the opposite direction.

But does Milosevic care?

Though Serbia's state-run economy is bankrupt and more than half of the work force is unemployed, he remains at the helm. His closest supporters have amassed immense wealth, in part by exploiting sanctions loopholes. The last group of opposition figures to challenge him split in disarray last spring.

More than anything else, the Bosnian war was ended by NATO's resolve to use force against those opposing peace.

With the international community apparently still far away from such a drastic move in Kosovo, Milosevic is unlikely to bow to sanctions alone.

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