NATO Sets Precedent in Deciding to Violate a Border Hitting Yugoslavia to Stop Killing Might Lead to Sovereignty Beingignored Elsewhere

By Justin Brown, | The Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 1999 | Go to article overview

NATO Sets Precedent in Deciding to Violate a Border Hitting Yugoslavia to Stop Killing Might Lead to Sovereignty Beingignored Elsewhere


Justin Brown,, The Christian Science Monitor


Nato's decision to bomb the sovereign state of Yugoslavia for atrocities within its borders has set a new precedent: It came with no UN approval and no immediate threat to an international border.

The decision was made easier by an emerging consensus in the international community that intervention in civil wars can be justified to prevent mass killings.

Yugoslavia's leaders don't see it that way. They argue that they should be able to handle the year-old uprising among ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo. And many critics say the 19-nation NATO alliance is setting a dangerous precedent by expanding its role beyond its borders. But, says Kurt Bassuener of the Balkan Action Council in Washington, NATO is now understood to be the protector of Europe, while the US is responsible for the Americas. "{NATO} has the structure and ability to intervene in Europe," he says. "We have the responsibility to act." And a string of massacres in Kosovo by Yugoslavian forces has shown there is legitimate concern "that their forces will continue in an unacceptable way," says Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "There are reasonable grounds to support intervention {in Yugoslavia} because of human rights alone." American intervention in sovereign countries has a long history that has paved the way for today's action. During the Vietnam War, the US extended fighting into Cambodia, calling it "an incursion." In 1983, the US invaded the small Caribbean nation of Grenada without UN approval to oust a communist- friendly group. In 1992, the UN approved the use of American soldiers in Somalia to prevent starvation, but the action turned tragic when the US expanded its role. In 1994, the US, with UN approval, was within hours of invading Haiti to reinstall an elected president, but entered peacefully when the military regime there capitulated. "Human rights issues push sovereignty to the edge," said Kofi Annan, who is now secretary-general of the United Nations, in 1993 in reference to Somalia. "When you have a cruel and painful situation, the suffering of these people is so much more important than sovereignty." But it was the lack of foreign intervention in the 1994 massacre of some half-million people in Rwanda and in the 1992-95 massacres in Bosnia that has hardened the consensus among Western leaders to justify invading a country's sovereignty. …

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NATO Sets Precedent in Deciding to Violate a Border Hitting Yugoslavia to Stop Killing Might Lead to Sovereignty Beingignored Elsewhere
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