NATO DEBATES THE MERITS OF MILITARY AND NONMILITARY ACTIONS TO END THE BOSNIAN CRISIS by: Clare Newman

NATO member states and other countries debated the values of long term peaceful solutions to the Bosnian Crisis against the values of immediate military action over the two years that passed during the first and second sessions of debate.

The conditions for Bosniaks and Croats in the Balkan states have been getting worse over the past two years, with ethnic cleansing enacted by the militant and nationalistic Serbs. Hence, NATO member states and visiting countries’ delegates deliberated on when and if military force would be necessary to stop the atrocities being committed.

One side of the issue, led by Germany and Belgium, pushed for embargos on luxury goods and weapons, claiming that any military intervention  will only add fuel to the fire and worsen the situation. Their opposition, headed by Denmark and Canada, advocated for deploying peacekeeping troops to the country as soon as possible in order to end the situation immediately.  because the situation needed to come to an end immediately.

Delegates on Belgium’s side reminded the committee of many member states’ financial instability in the aftermath of the Cold War, which would make it difficult for certain member states to provide military assistance.

The Czech Republic delegate cited her country’s amicable split from Slovakia as an example for the way to deal with the split of Yugoslavia. Other nonviolent delegates reminded the committee that it was imperative to respect the sovereignty of the Balkan states even in these trying times.

France, one of the more military-minded delegates, recommended deploying peacekeeping troops to guide refugees to safety and to defend safe-zones established by the UN and NATO. The peacekeeping forces would be ready to defend UN and NATO safe-zones and the victims who are protected by them if attacked, but would never start a conflict themselves. The delegate from Canada emphasized that military intervention in a conflict does not have to mean war, and that in situations such as ethnic cleansing and genocide, NATO must be a proactive force, and not a reactive one.

Friendly debate turned sour two years in. Some of the delegates who previously praised economic sanctions had quietly come around to their opposition’s ideas for military action, especially in light of how many lives had already been lost while they were contemplating solutions.

Still, the delegate from Denmark argued that these countries were not changing their minds quickly enough. The delegate emphasized that while while sanctions and embargoes and compromises could  work in six months, NATO already did not have six months. NATO did not have six months even a full year ago, he underscored, since countless people have died while NATO was just contemplating solutions.

However  justified Denmark’s anger at the inaction of the committee was, the country  would not be able to get a resolution passed on its own. If the delegate’s  and his opposition’s anger could not be bypassed, more lives would be lost in the Balkans while NATO just considers imposing economic sanctions.

A spark of diplomatic hope was found in the delegate from the Republic of Turkey, who tried to find a compromise solution. He described his country’s position as “more along the pathway of militaristic intervention, but at the same time [with] economic sanctions.”  

“[The Republic of Turkey] would like to focus on the military aspect of things,” he said.“Because of the damage, hardship, and atrocities that have been carried out in the Balkan region over the past five, six, years or so, we believe immediate action is required, but not to the most violent extent at this time.”

His ideas seem  to reflect the needs and wants of all sides of the committee, and should not be allowed to fall on deaf ears.

Denmark (Left) and Turkey (Right) engage in a spirited debate during an unmoderated caucus

Denmark (Left) and Turkey (Right) engage in a spirited debate during an unmoderated caucus