December 21, 1995 in Nation/World

Changing Of The Guard As Nato Takes Over, Some Ask If U.N. Peacekeeping Was A Success Or Failure

Robert H. Reid Associated Press
 

They were called peacekeepers. But there was no peace to keep. Now, those U.N. peacekeepers have been replaced by NATO warriors sent where there is no war.

In Sarajevo, the United Nations on Wednesday handed over its peacekeeping mission to NATO troops sent to enforce a peace treaty signed last week by leaders of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia.

The ceremony brought to an end a U.N. operation that humiliated the United Nations and raised questions over the very future of the world organization.

Some diplomats blame the Bosnian fiasco on the Security Council, dominated by the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China. They accuse the council of failing to give the peacekeepers enough resources or authority.

“The council seems overly prepared to take ambiguous decisions about peacekeeping operations - decisions which have not been thought out, or which are obviously based on incomplete information,” Canadian Ambassador Robert Fowler said Wednesday.

“The era of half-hearted, half-baked, under-resourced and ill-defined operations should now be over,” he added.

U.N. supporters say the transfer Wednesday should have taken place in reverse - from a heavily armed force that would have been more effective in the early, violent months of the war to lightly armed peacekeepers.

A lightly armed force has worked best only when the combatants agree on peace. That was the formula used in the Sinai Desert, Cyprus and in Africa.

“They were not sent there to stop the war, yet they were asked to shoulder the blame for the lack of peace,” the United Nations said of its peacekeepers in Bosnia. “They did their job; they did it well. This should not be forgotten.”

Even after the peacekeepers leave, the United Nations is to continue humanitarian efforts that fed hundreds of thousands of people in Sarajevo, Bihac, Gorazde, Zepa, Srebrenica, eastern Mostar and the Tuzla area.

The U.N. military record is more mixed.

U.N. commanders refused to call in NATO air attacks when Bosnian Serbs overran the eastern government-held town of Srebrenica last July - even though the Security Council had promised to protect the enclave.

The United Nations also remained impassive when Bosnian Serbs set up armed guards along the road to the Sarajevo airport, used to fly in aid supplies.

Forced expulsions of ethnic minorities by all three sides brought little more than hand-wringing.

U.N. troops were authorized to use force to defend themselves or when armed groups interfered with aid operations. Yet aid convoys were routinely blocked, sometimes for months.

U.N. peacekeepers were sent to the Balkans in February 1992 to support European efforts to mediate the conflict between Croats and Serbs in neighboring Croatia, another former Yugoslav republic.

The focus shifted to Bosnia when Serbs rebelled in April 1992 after the Muslim-led government seceded from Yugoslavia. U.N. peacekeepers were to guard aid convoys, not force an end to the fighting.

NATO’s orders are different. For the first time, everyone involved has agreed on a formula for peace. The heavily armed NATO troops are supposed to enforce that.

MEMO: Robert H. Reid, chief correspondent for The Associated Press at the United Nations, has reported from Bosnia on several occasions since the war began.

These sidebars appeared with the story: BOSNIA DEVELOPMENTS

Bosnia granted IMF membership Bosnia was granted membership in the International Monetary Fund Wednesday, Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic announced. Membership will make Bosnia eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the country after years of war.

Dole, senators may visit Bosnia over Christmas If a budget deal is reached, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole wants to spend Christmas with U.S. troops in the Balkans, joined by other senators. “I’d like to go if we can just get this finished,” Dole said Wednesday evening as intense budget negotiations continued. The Kansas Republican said “five or six” senators want to accompany him on the trip, which would begin Saturday. He declined to name them but said the group would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Bosnia to show solidarity with U.S. soldiers during the holidays.

Perry says troop plan still on target The full U.S. peacekeeping force of 20,000 soldiers will still make it to Bosnia by February as scheduled, despite weather problems that slowed the pace of early deployments, Defense Secretary William Perry said Wednesday. In an interview, Perry said President Clinton is anxious to visit the troops but has agreed, on Perry’s advice, to wait until late January to avoid complicating the already difficult job of getting troops and supplies into snowy Bosnia. Perry disclosed that he will visit the U.S. troops in Bosnia on Jan. 2 and 3. Associated Press

LOOKING AHEAD Events scheduled by the Bosnian peace treaty, although NATO officials say some could be delayed: Today: Deadline for Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, Croatia and the Bosnian factions to start talks on “confidence-building measures,” which could include restricting their military activities and exchanging information. Jan. 13, 1996: Deadline for Islamic “holy warriors” who fought on the side of the Bosnian government to leave the country. Jan. 28: Target date for reaching agreement on confidence-building measures. March 13: End of ban on some weapons imports by Croatia and Yugoslavia, although they aren’t allowed to import artillery, mines, helicopters and planes for another 90 days. June 11: End of ban on imports by Croatia and Yugoslavia of artillery, mines, helicopters and planes. The ban could end sooner if an arms control agreement is reached. Also, deadline for Yugoslavia, Croatia and Bosnian factions to reach agreement on limiting their numbers of tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. If they don’t, limits in the Dayton agreement will take effect. Sept. 13: Deadline for holding internationally supervised elections for presidents and legislatures of Bosnia and the Bosnian Serb republic, as well as local offices, if possible. Dec. 14: Deadline for reaching agreement on status of town of Brcko. Associated Press

Robert H. Reid, chief correspondent for The Associated Press at the United Nations, has reported from Bosnia on several occasions since the war began.

These sidebars appeared with the story: BOSNIA DEVELOPMENTS

Bosnia granted IMF membership Bosnia was granted membership in the International Monetary Fund Wednesday, Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic announced. Membership will make Bosnia eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the country after years of war.

Dole, senators may visit Bosnia over Christmas If a budget deal is reached, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole wants to spend Christmas with U.S. troops in the Balkans, joined by other senators. “I’d like to go if we can just get this finished,” Dole said Wednesday evening as intense budget negotiations continued. The Kansas Republican said “five or six” senators want to accompany him on the trip, which would begin Saturday. He declined to name them but said the group would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Bosnia to show solidarity with U.S. soldiers during the holidays.

Perry says troop plan still on target The full U.S. peacekeeping force of 20,000 soldiers will still make it to Bosnia by February as scheduled, despite weather problems that slowed the pace of early deployments, Defense Secretary William Perry said Wednesday. In an interview, Perry said President Clinton is anxious to visit the troops but has agreed, on Perry’s advice, to wait until late January to avoid complicating the already difficult job of getting troops and supplies into snowy Bosnia. Perry disclosed that he will visit the U.S. troops in Bosnia on Jan. 2 and 3. Associated Press

LOOKING AHEAD Events scheduled by the Bosnian peace treaty, although NATO officials say some could be delayed: Today: Deadline for Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, Croatia and the Bosnian factions to start talks on “confidence-building measures,” which could include restricting their military activities and exchanging information. Jan. 13, 1996: Deadline for Islamic “holy warriors” who fought on the side of the Bosnian government to leave the country. Jan. 28: Target date for reaching agreement on confidence-building measures. March 13: End of ban on some weapons imports by Croatia and Yugoslavia, although they aren’t allowed to import artillery, mines, helicopters and planes for another 90 days. June 11: End of ban on imports by Croatia and Yugoslavia of artillery, mines, helicopters and planes. The ban could end sooner if an arms control agreement is reached. Also, deadline for Yugoslavia, Croatia and Bosnian factions to reach agreement on limiting their numbers of tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. If they don’t, limits in the Dayton agreement will take effect. Sept. 13: Deadline for holding internationally supervised elections for presidents and legislatures of Bosnia and the Bosnian Serb republic, as well as local offices, if possible. Dec. 14: Deadline for reaching agreement on status of town of Brcko. Associated Press


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