Serbian capitulation was the result of a partition manoeuvre that went wrongby Zbigniew Brzezinski / November 20, 1999 / Leave a comment
Published in November 1999 issue of Prospect Magazine
The unresolved mystery of the Kosovo crisis is why Milosevic capitulated. Several interpretations have been advanced, but none can explain why the 79-day air campaign suddenly produced the white flag in Belgrade. The principal explanations can be summarised as follows.
Version one (favoured by Nato): Nato, the military victor. Milosevic gave in because Nato bombing finally became more effective, especially after the KLA drew the Serbian military out of their positions. The problem with this claim is that it is now clear that the Serb army withdrew from Kosovo in relatively good condition, having suffered few of Nato’s claimed losses.
Version two (the Nato fall-back position): Nato, the strategic victor. Milosevic gave in because Nato bombing of the Serbian economic infrastructure finally became painful. It may have become more painful but the bombing had not cracked Serb civilian or military morale, and the Serb army seemed willing to wait until Nato gathered the courage to engage in ground combat, at which point it was hoping to inflict politically damaging casualties. Milosevic is not a sentimentalist, so it is doubtful that the limited economic discomfort of his people was decisive.
Version three (favoured by the White House): Nato, the relentless warrior. Milosevic gave in because he realised that Nato was quietly gearing up for a ground campaign, with the US president gradually accepting its necessity. The problem with this version is that any Nato preparations for ground warfare were, in fact, minimal at the time of Milosevic’s capitulation. Moreover, it is far from clear that the US leadership would have mustered the courage to undertake a bloody ground operation.