Bush to pull US troops out of Balkans

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at SPAMgmx.net
Mon Jan 1 16:59:08 MST 2001

>From the December 31 Sunday Times


I wonder what US-American comrades make of this. Is this a major US
policy change or is this food not eaten as hot as it is cooked?


Bush to pull US troops out of Balkans
Tom Rhodes, New York

IN A MOVE certain to upset his European allies, George W Bush plans to
begin withdrawing American peacekeepers from the Balkans shortly after
he moves into the White House next month.

Senior advisers to the Republican president-elect have told The Sunday
Times that America will have removed all 10,000 of its ground troops
from Bosnia and Kosovo within four years, leaving only logistical and
intelligence teams behind.

John Hulsman, a conservative analyst tapped as a Balkans adviser for the
new administration, said Bush was concerned about "imperial overstretch"
- a buzzword within the new national security team for America's
involvement in "nation building" abroad during the presidency of Bill

"There will be a philosophical sea change when Bush is in the White
House," Hulsman said. "As soon as he arrives, there will be a drawing
down of American forces and after four years there will be no American
ground troops in the Balkans."

Hulsman, who works at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank
in Washington, advised the president-elect on Balkans policy during his
campaign for the White House. He said there was growing scepticism
inside the Bush camp about humanitarian missions that were not in the
American national interest.

Richard Perle, a former assistant defence secretary under President
Ronald Reagan and an even more senior adviser to Bush, said questions
were being asked about America's true role in the region.

Perle said incoming members of the national security team, including
Condoleezza Rice, General Colin Powell, the next secretary of state, and
Donald Rumsfeld, appointed last week as defence secretary, were unhappy
with some of the tasks being given to fighting troops in the field.

Some in the 82nd Airborne, the crack parachute division, for example,
had been acting as kindergarten escorts and social workers. "I think
they will look at what the soldiers are spending their time doing and
whether that is appropriate for American troops," he said.

Perle insisted any pullout would not take place without consultation
with allies. He speculated that German forces might shoulder the brunt
of future regional responsibilities.

The first hint of a withdrawal came in October, shortly before the
American election, when Rice spoke of a "new division of labour" in the
Balkans, requiring Europeans to "step up to their responsibilities".

Lord Robertson, the Nato secretary-general, telephoned the Bush camp
shortly afterwards and said he had been assured by the Republican's
advisers that no such move was afoot.

Powell said after his nomination earlier this month, however, that he
would undertake a review of all deployments soon after Bush's
inauguration on January 20.

"We're going to consult to see if we can find ways that are less of a
burden," he said of the missions in Kosovo and Bosnia. "We're not
cutting and running."

For all the talk of consultation and reviews, plans are already being
drafted to begin part of the withdrawal shortly after Bush enters the
White House.

Hulsman said the first of the 5,500 troops in Kosovo and 4,500 in Bosnia
could be brought home within months in what would be a symbolic change
of policy in Washington.

Under one proposal, the new administration would inform Nato at the end
of next month that its eventual goal was to turn over entire
responsibility for peacekeeping troops to its European allies. America
would agree to provide continued but limited logistical and intelligence
assistance to the Nato mission in the Balkans.

The proposal can only add to fears among allies already anxious about
the implications of a Bush presidency for European security. Concerns
centre on the president-elect's determination to build a "son of star
wars" missile defence system.

Bush has said he wants a system that would include America's allies.
Britain and other countries are worried it could have a destabilising
effect by violating the 1972 US-Soviet anti-ballistic missile treaty,
under which both sides agreed limits to defensive shields.

Bush's resolve to press ahead with the project has been confirmed by the
appointment of Rumsfeld, who oversaw a commission two years ago that
concluded that rogue nations could threaten America with ballistic
missiles sooner than analysts predicted.

The Foreign Office yesterday declined to comment on any likely changes
in American Balkan policy. One British diplomat in the region warned,
however, that even if Bush wanted a significant drawdown of troops it
would be difficult to win the approval of his Nato partners. "We've
always thought the American role is essential," he said.

In France opinion on American involvement has always been more divided,
with many military officers opposed to Washington's dominant influence
in peacekeeping. "There's always been strong resistance to Americans in
the Nato command," said one diplomat. "But the irony is that our
officers don't want to do peacekeeping on their own in the Balkans,
especially after the disasters with the UN in Bosnia."

Both diplomats agreed that any likely downsizing would first come in
Bosnia, where Nato is debating changing the current stabilisation force,
or SFor, into DFor, or deterrence force. One solution proposed by
Jacques Klein, the American head of the UN in Bosnia, is to diminish
Washington's role in the military side of reconstruction in the Balkans,
while enhancing its role in civilian structures.

Bush's plans have also prompted concern within the White House. American
forces stationed in the Balkans have already been depleted since 25,000
were sent to bolster the Dayton peace accord for Bosnia in 1995. The
outgoing Clinton administration warned last week any further withdrawals
could undermine relations between America and its European allies, such
as Britain.

Jake Siewert, the White House press secretary, said the decision made by
officials during Bush's father's presidency not to intervene in the
Balkans had allowed Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav leader, to
begin the conflict.

"When they said, 'We don't have a dog in that fight,' it was a green
light for Milosevic," he said. "Now it looks like Bush's son is planning
to do the same."

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