Declaring Bosnia a NATO problem, the United States’ European allies said Tuesday they cannot run a peacekeeping mission in that country without U.S. troops.
“Bosnia remains the responsibility of NATO,” German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe said after a meeting of European Union defense and foreign ministers.
The Clinton administration is under pressure from members of Congress to withdraw its 8,500 American soldiers from Bosnia in June - the scheduled end of the NATO-led peace mission.
Clinton appears to be leaning toward keeping them there.
Ruehe said the Americans should not leave Bosnia, but he added that “the Europeans need to become a more equal partner” in peacekeeping there.
France has long argued for a stronger European profile in NATO. Britain and the United States are wary of tinkering with the alliance, fearing this could disengage Washington from its European allies.
Tuesday’s session of the Western European Union - the EU’s embryonic defense arm and NATO’s European pillar - also dealt with how the West Europeans can forge a credible European defense organization within NATO.
Unless EU governments give their defense arm some teeth and show “political will to give the WEU real substance … we can see the WEU fade away,” French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said.
He cited the EU’s failure to deploy troops to Albania this year to secure humanitarian aid deliveries amid civil unrest. After weeks of waffling by EU governments, Italy cobbled together a 6,000-strong multinational force.