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BOTH SIDES MISCALCULATED! NOW WHAT?

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1999 23:26:35 -0500 (CDT)
From: alert@stratfor.com
To: alert@stratfor.com
Subject: Weekly Analysis -- April 19, 1999

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STRATFOR's
Global Intelligence Update
April 19, 1999

Weekly Analysis: 
Understanding the War in Kosovo in the Fourth Week

Summary:

The war in Kosovo grew out of fundamental miscalculations in 
Washington, particularly concerning the effect Russian support 
had on Milosevic's thinking.  So long as Milosevic feels he has 
Russian support, he will act with confidence.  If Russia wavers, 
Milosevic will have to deal. With the air war stalemated and 
talks of ground attack a pipe dream, diplomacy remains NATO's 
best option.  That option depends on Russian cooperation.  
However, Russian cooperation will cost a great deal of money.  
That brings us to the IMF, the Germans, and former Russian Prime 
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is Russia's new negotiator on 
Serbia, a leading economic reformer and a good friend of the 
West.

Analysis:

On March 24, 1999, NATO aircraft began to bomb Yugoslavia.  We 
are in the fourth week of the campaign, which now appears to be a 
stalemate.  NATO is unable to force Belgrade to capitulate to its 
demands using the force currently available.  Yugoslavia is 
unable to inflict sufficient casualties on the attackers to 
dissuade NATO from continuing the campaign nor has it been able 
to drive a wedge into NATO from which a peace party might emerge 
that is prepared to negotiate a conclusion to the conflict on 
terms favorable to Serbia. As in most wars, the rhetoric on both 
sides is filled with purple prose, horrible accusations and much 
confusion.

Given that the current stalemate cannot be maintained 
indefinitely, we are, almost by definition, at a turning point.  
While the stalemate can, theoretically, go on indefinitely, 
neither side has it in its interest to permit this to happen.  
NATO's unity is fragile at best, particularly if the conflict 
fails to resolve itself.  Yugoslavia is losing valuable economic 
assets that it would rather not lose.  Since neither side appears 
ready to capitulate and neither side wants the current stalemate 
to continue, it is useful to consider, leaving rhetoric aside, 
how we got here and where all this is likely to go.

It is clear to us that the war began in a fundamental 
miscalculation by NATO planners and particularly by the civilian 
leadership of the United States: Madeleine Albright, Sandy 
Berger, Richard Holbrooke and the President.  They made a 
decision to impose the Rambouillet Accords on both sides in 
Kosovo.  It was simply assumed that, given the threat of 
bombardment, Slobodan Milosevic would have no choice but to 
capitulate and accept the accords.  By all accounts, Richard 
Holbrooke, architect of the Dayton Accords and the person most 
familiar with Milosevic was the author of this reading of 
Milosevic.

Holbrooke had good historical precedent for his read of 
Milosevic.  After all, when Serbs in Bosnia were bombed in 1995, 
Milosevic capitulated and signed the Dayton Accords.  Holbrooke's 
reasoning was that history would repeat itself.  The evidence 
that Washington expected capitulation was in its complete lack of 
preparation for an extended conflict.  At the time the air 
campaign began, NATO had about 400 military aircraft available 
for the campaign, with less than 200 hundred for bombing 
missions.  Even with the availability of cruise missiles, no 
serious military observer, including apparently senior U.S. 
military officials, believed this to have been anywhere near the 
amount required to inflict serious damage.  Indeed, most 
observers doubted that an air campaign by itself could possibly 
succeed without a ground campaign.  Thus, Washington and NATO 
were either wholly irresponsible in launching the campaign with 
insufficient forces, or had good reason to believe that Milosevic 
would rapidly capitulate.  Since Albright, Berger, Holbrooke and 
the President are neither fools, nor irresponsible, we can only 
conclude that they were guilty of faulty judgment about how the 
Serbs would respond.

There are three reasons for the difference in Milosevic's 
behavior in 1999 and 1995.  First, Kosovo is strategically and 
psychologically critical to the Serbs.  The demands of the 
Rambouillet Accords were crafted in such a way that the Serbs 
were convinced that NATO occupation would mean the loss of Serb 
sovereignty over Kosovo. Thus, where NATO was calculating that 
Milosevic could not survive politically if he brought a bombing 
campaign on Serbia, Milosevic was making the exact opposite 
calculation: that he could not survive if he accepted NATO's 
demands.  In fact, Milosevic's view was that a bombing campaign 
over Kosovo would increase his domestic political power, by 
positioning him as a champion of Serbian national unity, thereby 
limiting the ability of his opposition to oppose him.

The second reason had to do with the shift in Russia's position.  
In 1995, Russia was deep into its love affair with the West.  
That meant that Serbia was politically isolated, without hope of 
support or resupply.  Milosevic saw the world very differently in 
1999.  He had observed the U.S. bombing of Iraq in December 1998 
and Russia's reaction to it.  He concluded that not only was he 
no longer isolated, but that the internal dynamics of NATO were 
such that they would limit the intensity and duration of the 
campaign.  Milosevic expected a vigorous Russian reaction to war. 
 
It was also his expectation that NATO's fear of a return to the 
Cold War would create a peace faction inside of NATO.  He was 
confident that Greece would not join in the campaign, and he had 
great hopes for Germany, France, and Italy.  It was Milosevic's 
view that the Germans would be terrified of a breakdown in good 
relations with Russia; that France would play its normal game of 
being a good NATO member while simultaneously hoping to weaken 
the Anglo-Americans; and that the Italian government was so weak 
that it would not give NATO carte blanche for the use of its air 
bases, particularly after the cable car incident.  Thus, 
Milosevic felt that the geopolitical and diplomatic situation had 
shifted in his favor, and that the NATO operation would be 
limited in time and intensity. 

Finally, Milosevic was acutely aware that, although the U.S. and 
Britain had been conducting an air campaign in Iraq since mid-
December, the constraints on U.S. and British air forces were 
such that they were extremely reluctant to enter into two 
simultaneous air campaigns whose intensity was not fully under 
their control.  Milosevic was convinced that the small number of 
aircraft allocated to the anti-Serb campaign represented resource 
limitations on the United States.

In a sense, both sides miscalculated.  The United States assumed 
that Milsosevic would capitulate when he realized that the United 
States would actually bomb Serbia.  Milosevic assumed that the 
Russians would be a more limiting factor on NATO behavior and 
that American concern for the Iraqi theater would deter them as 
well.  But of the two, the American miscalculation was the 
greatest.  NATO has not yet split as Milosevic hoped, but a split 
in the coming weeks, as discussions of a ground campaign 
intensify, is not only possible, but even likely.  Moreover, 
while the U.S. has transferred air assets into the Serbian 
theater at an increasing rate, the transfer has been slow in 
coming, precisely because it strips air reserves from the United 
States and forces the redeployment of scarce aircraft from the 
Iraqi theater.  There is no doubt in our mind that Washington's 
misunderstanding of Belgrade's thinking was much more profound 
than Belgrade's misreading of its opponents.

Thus, Milosevic is quite content to absorb the current level of 
air attacks.  He has established what is for him an acceptable 
reality on the ground in Kosovo.  He has cemented his political 
supremacy in Belgrade, helped along by Clinton's extraordinary 
error in identifying the removal of Milosevic as a war goal and 
thereby wedding the idea of Serbian national interest and 
Milosevic's personal survival together in the Serbian mind.  
Milosevic is quite content with the situation as it stands.  He 
is so content that he has, for the time being, rejected the 
German proposals for a compromise on Rambouillet including non-
NATO police forces.  He sees no need for a compromise right now.  
Milosevic is waiting for NATO to make a move and, in his view, 
they don't have many moves to make.

NATO has three options:

*  Intensified Air War: This is the option it is officially 
pursuing.  The available air power is being raised to over 1,000 
aircraft, although it is not clear when all aircraft will be in 
theater.  There are three weaknesses with the strategy.  First, 
air campaigns, no matter how intense, simply have not 
historically succeeded in forcing capitulation.  An air campaign 
can be effective in wearing down a military force but to take 
advantage of it requires a ground option.  Moreover, wearing down 
a military force in Serbia's terrain and with Serbia's climate 
will take substantially more aircraft than are currently 
contemplated.  Second, building a sufficient attack force of 
aircraft against Serbia will require stripping forces from Iraq 
and elsewhere.  As a result, the United States will find itself 
wide-open for attack in other areas.  Finally, and most 
important, NATO is committing the fundamental error of air power 
as a weapon of psychological warfare: gradualism.  Rather than 
overwhelming the enemy with sudden, terrible power, NATO is 
permitting the Serbs to adjust themselves psychologically to 
increasing levels of violence.  An air war by itself will not 
cause Milosevic to capitulate, let alone resign.  The increased 
commitment to the air war compounds the original error and the 
expectation that it will result in capitulation is sheer wishful 
thinking.

*  Ground attack option: This is a complex matter about which we 
have prepared a fuller study "Analysis of NATO's Ground Invasion 
Options" at http://www.stratfor.com/crisis/kosovo/.  We will 
simply summarize our findings here.  First, the only doable 
option from Albania alone is an attack on the Pagarusa Valley.  
Not only is this a complex and costly operation, but it achieves 
little.  Second, an invasion of Kosovo proper is impossible from 
Albania alone because the roads will not sustain the necessary 
supplies to the size force required.  At the very least, an 
invasion must also come from Macedonia, but Macedonia has refused 
to permit this.  It must also be supported from Greek ports, 
which the Greeks have refused to allow NATO to use.  A general 
invasion of Yugoslavia would require the cooperation of both 
Hungary and Romania as well as permission from Austria or 
Slovakia for transshipment of men, equipment and supplies.  A 
build up of military assets for such an operation will take many 
months and the result could be a quagmire like Vietnam if the 
Serbs retreat into their national redoubt, which they plan to do. 
We simply do not see a credible ground attack option available 
for logistical and diplomatic reasons before the end of the 
summer.  The only option, the Pagarusa invasion, is so trivial in 
its effect on Belgrade as not to be worth mounting.

*  Diplomatic option: Germany and Russia appear to be working in 
tandem in bringing about some sort of proposal.  The United 
States has adopted the role of "bad cop" to Germany and Russia's 
"good cop."  Milosevic is not particularly impressed.  There is a 
key here, however: Russia.  If Milosevic becomes convinced that 
Russia has abandoned him, he may become much more flexible.  It 
is, of course, very hard, for the Russians to abandon the Serbs 
for internal political reasons.  However, it is interesting to 
note that Viktor Chernomyrdin, former reform Prime Minister has 
been appointed to manage Russian diplomacy on Serbia.  Why 
Yeltsin would want to frighten Milosevic by appointing a liberal 
who is well liked by the West is an interesting question?  A 
press report out of Moscow, saying that they expect to start 
receiving IMF money in a few months may be part of the answer.  
The Russians may be for sale.  If so, NATO had better go 
shopping.

Neither the air campaign, nor a ground attack, nor Clinton or 
Albright's ferocious rhetoric worries Milosevic.  The loss of 
Russia as an ally does worry him.  Now, for political reasons, it 
is not clear that the Russians can completely abandon the Serbs.  
However, the mere hint of Russian softness could cause Milosevic 
to become more flexible in his terms.  But Russia needs to be 
motivated to turn soft, and the color of motivation remains 
green.  If we were cynical, we would be tempted to say that 
Russia encouraged Milosevic in order to put Russia in a strong 
position vis--vis Germany and other nations able to extend 
credit.  However, since we are not cynical, we will be simply 
startled at the sudden opportunity the West has to work closely 
with the Russians in solving their financial problems.

Washington's nonsense about overthrowing Milosevic, bombing him 
into submission and invading Serbia is of little consequence.  At 
the center of this crisis now is Russia, and the price it will 
charge for placing Milosevic back into isolation.  Milosevic 
undertook his adventure in part because of the Russia factor.  As 
Russia softens, Milosevic has to weaken.  Therefore, the question 
for this week is how Milosevic reads Moscow?  If he is getting 
concerned about Russia's commitment to Serbia, then German peace 
proposals might suddenly get a warmer reception.  If not, the war 
goes on.

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