Warsaw And The Air War

No country lobbied harder to join NATO than Poland--and no new member has been a stronger supporter of the alliance's war against Yugoslavia. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, a medieval historian who was a key member of Solidarity's brain trust in the 1980s, dealt extensively with the crisis in Kosovo when he served as chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1998. He talked with NEWSWEEK's Andrew Nagorski in Warsaw last week. Excerpts:

NAGORSKI: Poland joined NATO on March 12, and 12 days later the war started. Any misgivings?
GEREMEK:
This in no way diminished Poland's satisfaction at finding itself again in the camp to which we naturally belong. Poland gained a powerful guarantee of its security [by joining NATO] and a sense that it isn't alone. But at the same time, there arose the need to demonstrate solidarity with the whole alliance--solidarity with its military actions.

Of the three new NATO members, Poland has been the most enthusiastic supporter of the war. Why?
Poland takes no joy in what is happening. Poland is a country whose wartime wounds have not yet healed. Poland also has a sense of shared fate with Serbia during the last world war, when we had [similar] resistance movements against the Nazis. But since its rebirth in 1989, Poland is a country which has attached supreme importance to human rights. That's the reason why there is so little doubt in Poland that this operation is justified--why there's less doubt than in other countries.

Some Poles say that anyone familiar with this part of the world would have known that the Serbs would not surrender easily to airstrikes.
The airstrikes are merely an instrument for attaining the goal: the five conditions which have been laid down not just by NATO but by the international community, represented by the U.N. secretary- general. To reach this goal, it is necessary to apply violent and brutal means. If anyone thought this would be a short operation, he was mistaken.

If combat troops are required, will Poland send in its own troops?
The [NATO] Washington summit's position was that the airstrikes should be effective. We hope that this will be the case. But it is those who are conducting this operation who must address this issue. Poland is a loyal member of the alliance and will be ready to participate in the actions that the alliance decides to take. No option should be ruled out.

Are cracks appearing in Slobodan Milosevic's regime?
I'm convinced of this. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia includes Montenegro, whose leader is dedicated to democracy. According to the Yugoslav Constitution, the president of Montenegro could become the president of Yugoslavia. Montenegro is small, but it's important that there is an alternative to Milosevic. And the actions of [fired deputy prime minister Vuk] Draskovic mean that the Serb opposition, which had completely disappeared, is again appearing. This is a sign that gradually people are coming to their senses.

You met with Milosevic several times last year. Is he a man who will back down?
President Milosevic is a very stubborn and tough man, and as a deft player, he managed to mislead some Western politicians. I never felt I could trust him. The West should be willing to talk to those who can speak in the name of Serbia. It's possible that President Milosevic will be brought to his senses, but he shouldn't be treated as the only possibility, because there are others, too.

Can Russia broker a diplomatic solution?
The Kosovo crisis has underlined Russia's weakness: it has shown that it no longer plays the role of a superpower and that its right of veto in the Security Council couldn't influence the situation. But there are expectations that Russia may be able to propose a peace settlement that won't be based on the humiliation of Serbia--but on acceptance of the five conditions. This is a great challenge for Russia.

Isn't the sticking point that NATO wants to make Kosovo into a protectorate and later effectively into an independent country?
It would be reckless to abandon the principle of the sovereignty of a state over its territory. Kosovo should remain a part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, not part of Serbia. [But] it would be hard to imagine Serb policemen directing traffic in Kosovo and issuing fines. The intensity of hatred between the two communities excludes such a possibility. This necessitates an international military and administrative presence.

Poland joined what it believed to be a defensive alliance, but now it's also an offensive alliance.
I wouldn't say "offensive." NATO is the only viable force that ensures security. In Bosnia, NATO forces, along with Russian troops, took part in a peacekeeping operation, and they are still there. This change in NATO will be gradually accepted as a positive evolution--especially if there is also an internal reform of the U.N. so that the veto system no longer blocks decision-making.

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