American Hellenic Institute


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NATO and Kosovo: Turning a Serious Mistake Into a Catastrophe
April 29, 1999 No. 18/99 (202) 785-8430

NATO and Kosovo: Turning a Serious Mistake Into a Catastrophe

On April 28, 1999 Mr. Ted Galen Carpenter, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the CATO Institute, gave a presentation at the American Hellenic Institute on the subject of "NATO and Kosovo: the Implications for the Southeast European Region."

Mr. Carpenter traced the origin of the NATO operation in Kosovo, which he described as "spectacularly counterproductive to U.S. objectives," to an "institutional crisis" within NATO following the end of the Cold War. This led to a "concerted and desperate" search for a new role to keep the Alliance relevant. This search culminated in two new roles: expansion and "out of area" operations.

Mr. Carpenter described the "out of area" concept as "troubling in many instances." Instead of being a defensive organization for collective territorial defense, NATO had become an "expeditionary force." Mr. Carpenter questioned whether this made sense either as a solution to global security problems or an expression of U.S. interests.

Turning to Kosovo, Mr. Carpenter described NATO's actions as a combination of "ignorance and arrogance." The original objectives of humanitarian relief, regional stability, and weakening of the Belgrade regime were all in doubt. There was no doubt that the Administration had made a serious mistake. Those who now advocated escalation were taking a "tremendous risk with the alliance" and risked turning "a serious mistake into a catastrophe.

In a lively question and answer session, Mr. Carpenter covered a variety of topics including the dangers implicit in the Rambouillet agreement of a Greater Albania and the dangerous damage done to the U.S. relationship with Russia. Mr. Carpenter warned of the wider regional dangers implicit in the Kosovo crisis, including potential impact on China and India, both of whom were expanding their relationships with Russia. Mr. Carpenter criticized NATO's attack on Serbian television which he feared might result in a NATO "information monopoly."

In answer to various questions about Turkey, Mr. Carpenter criticized the Administration's proclivity for finding "1001 excuses for ignoring Turkey's human rights abuses against the Kurds." He said that the Administration's routine exaggeration of Turkey's importance, for example Richard Holbrooke's comparison of Turkey's present importance to the U.S. as equal to that of Germany during the Cold War, as having encouraged Turkey's aggressive and assertive policies. Mr. Carpenter agreed that Turkey's defense association with Israel contributed to Turkey's "free pass" in Washington.