Prague, 27 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, James Woolsey, says he believes it's of vital importance for NATO to deploy promptly ground forces near the territory of Yugoslavia.
Woolsey, who directed the CIA from 1993 to 1995, gave his views on the Kosovo crisis in an interview with RFE/RL in Prague at the weekend (April 23).
He said he believes there should be some troops stationed to the south of Yugoslavia. But there should be a "substantial" number of troops, probably several divisions, placed to the north, in Hungary. This would be so that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic could be aware of the presence of large armored units only a hundred miles from Belgrade across open tank country.
Woolsey says Milosevic might then become convinced that he could lose everything, and would settle with the NATO powers on some reasonable terms that would actually protect the ethnic Albanian Kosovars who are now being driven from their homes. Woolsey says this kind of pressure is necessary to use with Milosevic. He says unless Milosevic is afraid that he would lose everything, the chance that he would agree to "any settlement that would actually protect the Kosovars, let them return to Kosovo to their homes and be safe, is essentially zero."
"I believe any settlement that we reach with Russia as a intermediary or without Russia as a intermediary under present circumstances is going to be settlement that is not in the Kosovars' favor, and that the world will perceive as a victory for Milosevic."
Asked whether pubic opinion in the Central and East European countries can be swung around to give more enthusiastic support for the conflict, Woolsey said this is not an easy question. But he said it depends on political leadership. In the U.S. and western Europe, he said he believes a majority are already in favor of moving ground forces at least into the region.
Woolsey says that ironically, it is national leaders, particularly in the United States and to some extent in Europe, who have been very cautious about suggesting that ground forces ought to be involved:
"That caution is understandable at one point, but it has now gone on so long that we are running into the situation that we may not be able for any further delays to get ground forces deployed to fight effectively during the good weather of the summer months. You don't want to be fighting a war in the mountains of Yugoslavia or really any places you can avoid it in the middle of autumn rains or winter snows."
Woolsey was also asked what kind of NATO he believes is likely to emerge from the Kosovo crisis. He replied by pointing out that NATO was "phenomenally successful" in maintaining cohesion of Western Europe and North America in winning the Cold War. He recalled that by contrast the old League of Nations was created as a device for collective security after the First World War, but that it failed miserably in dealing with Mussolini and Hitler and Japan and the other aggressors of the period of the early-mid 1930s.
He said that collective security means that you have to actually be able to use force, and the people who are violating the international norms have to know that.
Woolsey says that if NATO members, which together comprise well over half of the world's gross national product and most of the world's military power, cannot stop Slobodan Milosevic's action in Kosovo, then there is reason for concern for the neighbors of other rogue nations such as Iraq.