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Wielding Diplomacy's Sword

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Oct. 23, 1998 – Military might is the sword diplomats are wielding to end the crisis in Kosovo, according to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has escaped the wrath of NATO allies, at least for the time being, by partially complying with U.N. demands, Cohen said. But NATO is prepared "to go in and do substantial damage to Mr. Milosevic" if necessary, he told service members during a mid-October visit to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia. NATO has combined air forces totalling some 430 aircraft, mostly from the United States.

Despite Milosevic's promises to comply, NATO approved an activation order for air operations and then gave him a 96-hour grace period. Shortly before its Oct. 17 deadline, NATO extended the deadline until Oct. 27 because Milosevic had only partially complied by withdrawing some troops and police forces from Kosovo.

Many army and special units normally based outside the province remain deployed within it, and NATO has called for their immediate withdrawal, an alliance spokesman said. In the meantime, NATO forces remained at the ready, and the alliance again told Milosevic to "take urgent steps" to ensure his full compliance by Oct. 27.

In Washington, President Clinton attributed Milosevic's initial agreement to the united stance of the international community and the threat of military force. Cohen echoed the president's sentiment in his address to the troops in the Persian Gulf.

"Once [Milosevic] saw our B-52s arriving in England and other forces marshaling, and he saw our determination to take action unless he agreed to the Security Council resolutions, then he made a decision it was time to accept," Cohen said.

The secretary used Kosovo developments to illustrate the important role American service members play around the world.

"You cannot achieve at the negotiating table what you cannot win on the battlefield," Cohen told service members at the remote desert air base. "Our negotiators cannot get peace agreements if we don't have a strong military capability to back it up, and that's precisely the reason you're here."

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