By May of 1995 the crisis in Bosnia had reached a decisive stage. Hostilities had resumed and were spreading rapidly. Political negotiations had stalled despite six months of concerted and united diplomatic efforts on the part of all the great powers. Given the substantial investment of time, energy, and resources on the part of the great powers, especially the Western powers, international credibility was now heavily on the line. French Prime Minister Alain Juppé spoke for many when he declared at the end of May 1995 that “[w]e can no longer accept a situation in which the international community is permanently defied.” 1 The “last straw” came when the Bosnian Serbs violated the NATO-guaranteed heavy weapons exclusion zone around Sarajevo and started bombarding the city for the first time since the zone was established in February 1994.
In response to the renewed shelling of Sarajevo, in late May 1995 the United Nations embarked on a policy of using consistent force against the Bosnian Serbs in order to revive prospects for peace and restore compliance with the exclusion zone. 2 The commander of UNPROFOR issued a warning to both the Bosnian Government and the Bosnian Serbs that their forces would be attacked by air if all heavy weapons did not cease firing. When the Serbs did not comply, NATO launched air strikes against a Bosnian Serb munitions dump near Pale on two consecutive days. Not surprisingly, the Bosnian Serbs retaliated by taking numerous peacekeepers hostage and using a number of them as human shields to deter further air attacks.
In the face of this latest hostage taking, the Contact Group reacted much differently than it had on similar occasions in the past. Whereas in