Release Date: April 21, 1999
Eric Margolis, c/o Editorial Department, The Toronto Sun
333 King St. East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3X5
Fax: (416) 960-4803 -- Press Contact: Eric Margolis

Without Total Victory, NATO Faces Total Defeat

by Eric Margolis

NEW YORK -- NATO's deepening military fiasco in Yugoslavia recalls the description of the brave, but ineptly-led British forces at the Crimean War battle of the Inkerman: 'an army of lions, led by asses.'

The political and military asses currently leading NATO into its first defeat are displaying a degree of cowardice and incompetence unseen in Europe since the 1930's. Unable to win this war without committing ground troops - which should have been done six weeks ago - NATO keeps hoping its futile, 'lite' bombing will give it a bloodless victory. Meanwhile, the alliance is cracking apart as its weak sistere whine for peace at any price with the Balkan nazis who are burning people alive, running rape camps, and committing what the UN calls 'near genocide.'

NATO is desperately seeking a face-saving way out of this war. But after Serb despot Milosevic's monstrous crimes, anything short of total victory -and his arrest- will be rightly seen as a major political and military defeat. If mighty NATO is bested by Serbia, a nation of only 7 million people - the population of New York City - a cascade of so far unforeseen disasters is likely to ensue:

A million Albanian Kosovar refugees will end up packed into tiny, crumbling Albania, now a de facto NATO protectorate. They will become the Palestinians of Europe, and wretched Albania a second Gaza Strip, teeming with the misery and explosive fury of a people driven from their homes by medieval terror.

Serbia, in this war, is a stand-in for Russia. The Russians have routinely broken the international embargo on Serbia, secretly supplying it weapons, military technology, spare parts, oil and gas. Russia is using Serbia as a tool to expand its influence in the Balkan Peninsula. The current fool's war presents Moscow with a golden opportunity to humiliate NATO, exact revenge for the alliance's eastward expansion, enflame Slav racist nationalism, and begin restoration of Russian influence and prestige in Eastern Europe.

Russia has backed Serbia since last century in order to open a corridor from southern Russia, across the Balkans, to the Adriatic and Mediterranean. Gaining control of Albania's deepwater ports at Durres, Shkoder, and Vlore has been a prime strategic goal for Russian and landlocked Serbia. The Soviets established a very important naval base in the 1950's at the southern Albanian port of Vlore(Valona), known as 'the Gibraltar of the Adriatic.'

NATO's pleadings with bankrupt Russia to help it out of the current mess is not only a sign of profound weakness and timidity, it opens the door to Russian influence in Eastern Europe. After struggling to oust the Russians for 50 years, NATO is inviting them back in. When Russia again grows strong and aggressive, Europe will rule the day it made this little Yalta.

Instead of such craven behavior, the west should threaten to cut off all food and financial aid unless Russia butts out of the Balkans. If pussyfooting NATO backs out of the war and makes a face- saving deal with Milosevic, a process now underway, the Serb strongman will finish 'cleansing' Sanjak of Muslims, overthrow the pro-western government of Montenegro, and drive out Albanian refugees who sought refuge there. Milosevic will make good his decade-old vow, 'to drive all the Muslims back to Mecca.'

After a pause, Milosevic's next stage in his campaign to restore a Serb-ruled Yugoslavia will be to drive NATO troops out of Macedonia and Bosnia by selective attacks. Having achieved this goal, Milosevic may then turn on Croatia and defenseless Slovenia.

NATO's failure to oust Serbia's criminal regime will prove a decisive historical turning point that will send tremors of fear through Eastern Europe, over which Russia's huge shadow still looms ominously, place the alliance on the strategic defensive, and embolden Russia to aggressively reassert its interests in Europe, the Mideast, and Central Asia.

If the Serbs are allowed to get away with crimes against humanity in the Balkans, other regimes around the world will be tempted to follow their bloodthirsty example. India may drive the Muslim majority from strife-torn Kashmir; Israeli right-wingers could make good on threats to expel Palestinians from the West Bank into the Jordanian desert; Indonesia to 'cleanse' Timor; Russia to complete its savage repression of Chechnya, where it already slaughtered 100,000 Muslim civilians in recent years; and Turkey to adopt a Serb-style solution to its Kurdish problem, or to drive the Greeks from Cyprus.

The cost of decisive military action to deal with Serbia will be high. But the cost of a shameful retreat and ultimate defeat will be much higher. Serbia, a little proxy version of the brutal Soviet Union, will, ironically, have beaten NATO. Race and religious war will be condoned. Crimes the west vowed never again to tolerate, will be permitted. Anything less than a total NATO victory will be a disastrous defeat for the weak-willed west.

On this 84th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide, we helplessly observe a new genocide underway in the Balkans. This bloody century has evidently taught us nothing.

[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]

Copyright © 1999 Eric Margolis - All Rights Reserved
back button