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6. The former Yugoslavia: lessons of war and diplomacy




The beginning of 1994 seemed to show a heightened involvement and resolve on
the part of NATO and the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia
and Herzegovina and Croatia with the successful ultimatum to the Serbs laying
siege to Sarajevo, the downing of four Serbian aircraft by NATO in February,
and the increasingly active role played by the US Administration to support the
more resolute use of force in both NATO and the UN. The situation appeared to
stabilize somewhat with agreements between the Bosnian Government and Bosnian
Croats, and Muslim-Croat military cooperation, after February and March.

However, the second part of the year witnessed an increasingly bitter dispute
between the United Nations and NATO and among the NATO members about when and
how to apply force. The conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina had an increasingly
negative impact on the functioning and legitimacy of both organization—all
this against a background of continuing failure to reach a political solution.
As the year ended there were signs on the one hand of increasing fatigue and
exhaustion among the warring parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on the other
of a possible rekindling of the conflict on Croatian territory.

The UN and NATO had different objectives and different views of the use of
force. The UN's objective was humanitarian relief, for which operation NATO was
to provide protection by its overflights; it specifically saw its role as
protection, not punishment. Yet even these objectives in fact required measures
that went beyond traditional peacekeeping measures. For NATO, consistency,
credibility and speed of response were crucial if its overflights or (slightly
later) air strikes were to be at all effective. The UN was frequently reluctant
to make use of NATO power; there were instances of the Secretary-General or his
representative in the former Yugoslavia, Yasushi Akashi, refusing to authorize
air strikes which UNPROFOR commanders had requested. The resolve apparent at
the beginning of the year disappeared after Bosnian Serbs detained UNPROFOR
personnel to use them as `human shields' after NATO had bombed the runway at
Udbina in Krajina in November. By the end of the year NATO was making
contingency plans for UNPROFOR's withdrawal.

Domestic pressures confused relations within the two organizations. In the USA
there was pressure from Congress (particularly after the November 1994
congressional elections) for resolute action and for the lifting of the arms
embargo on the Bosnian Government. This led to the USA unilaterally withdrawing
from the policing of the arms embargo and to conflicts within NATO. Russia
played a useful role in the spring in putting pressure on the Serbian
Government after the siege of Sarajevo, but later turned to seeking some
rewards for Serbia for its cooperation.

In the closing months of 1994 the UN had 13 500 peacekeeping troops in
Croatia and over 22 000 peacekeepers in about 20 locations in Bosnia
and Herzegovina.