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Small Success in Bosnia

HAMBURG: If the Balkan War had you worried about NATO’s ability to cope with conflict in Europe, you can, apparently, relax. Since NATO finally decided to show its teeth, in particular since IFOR troops entered Bosnia to secure a fragile peace, Western politicians have hailed this as proof that the crisis in the alliance is over. Now they run the risk of fooling themselves by believing what they say.

Addressing an international gathering that included Russia’s First Deputy Minister, US Secretary of Defense William Perry summed up the optimists’ version: "It is in Bosnia where we are sending the message that NATO is the bedrock on which the future security and stability of Europe will be built. It is in Bosnia where future NATO members are showing themselves ready and able to shoulder the burdens of membership. And it is in Bosnia where we are showing that we can work as partners with Russian forces. Bosnia is not a peacekeeping exercise. It is the real thing." NATO’s new Secretary General, former Spanish Foreign Minister Solana, echoed these sentiments: "In Bosnia we have opportunity not only to end a war in the Balkans, but to lay the foundations for an enduring structure of peace across a now undivided and democratic Europe."

Bosnia the answer to NATO’s prayers? To a lack of common purpose; to feckless American leadership; to membership for East European democracies; to cooperative relations with Russia? After years of frustrations, politicians may be excused for surrendering to the temptations of oversell. But none of the fundamental questions facing the Western Alliance have been answered in Bosnia.