More Weapons 'Last Thing We Need' Say Europeans
As U.S. Prepares to Upgrade Bosnian Army
(BRUSSELS, March 12 Reuters) The U.S. and its European allies, in a row ominously reminiscent of previous squabbles that paralysed Balkan policy, are publicly feuding over Washington's plans to arm the Croat-Muslim federation. "It's appalling, it sends completely the wrong message," said one senior European diplomat.
On Monday, the United States said it would make available a first payment of some $100 million dollars to help the Muslim-Croat federation in Bosnia build an army able to match the Bosnian Serbs. James Pardew, U.S. special representative for Military Stabilization in the Balkans, said exact details of the controversial funding would be made available at a pledging conference in Ankara on Friday.
European states, arguing the move threatens to undermine fledgling disarmament attempts in the region, will either boycott the conference entirely or send low-level representatives with only observer status.
"It is not right to undermine arms control by rearmament," German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said last weekend during an informal EU ministers meeting in Palermo, Sicily.
Money for Arms, but Not Reconstruction
Kinkel, echoing the views of other European leaders, said he could not understand why there is money for arms "but not for reconstruction." Acting Spanish Foreign Minister Carlos Westendorp called it "the last thing we need."
The U.S. Congress has indicated it will make as much as $800 million available for the controversial "train and equip" project, but as yet Washington has not come up with promised funds for reconstruction projects. "Congress resents paying, arguing it is already bearing the brunt of the cost of the NATO peace-keeping force," said one senior diplomat. NATO's 60,000-strong Implementation Force (IFOR), monitoring the Dayton peace accords which ended the 3½-year Bosnian war, is expected to cost $5.2 million.
Pardew dismissed European worries, saying the training and equipment would only be available to the federation, the highly fragile entity on which the long-term success of the peace accord rests. "The whole deal is provisional on the federation being in compliance with Dayton," he said. "We want to reduce weapons in Bosnia," Pardew said, but added that a second way of spreading security was to "improve the quality of a future Federation force."
U.S. politicians argue it was the imbalance between the forces of the Bosnian Serbs and the Muslim-led Bosnian government, exacerbated by an unfair arms embargo on the Muslims, which allowed the conflict to drag on for so long. By balancing the two sides, they argue stability will be enhanced.
Dispute Rooted in Differing Views of Bosnia
By Europe and the United States
Independent analysts say the roots of the dispute lay in extremely differing views of the Balkan crisis which stymied effective action by the United Nations for several years. The U.S., driven by a pro-Muslim Congress, wanted tough action against the perceived aggressors, the Bosnian Serbs, while the Europeans, with an anxious eye to an exposed ground force in the U.N. operation, argued all sides were at fault.
"It is the old fissure, resurfacing, that is what makes this dispute so worrying, it could actually undermine Dayton and the Federation. It is naive and is being pushed for U.S. domestic political reasons," said another top alliance diplomat. The long-term success of the Dayton accords rests largely on how well the Muslim-Croat Federation works. Diplomats and independent analysts warn early signs have not been good. They point to the failure to reunite the divided city of Mostar, the slowness in creating a federation police force, and any significant merger or creation of joint ministries.
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