Ask TIME Daily: Kosovo
  TIME Daily's writers,  working with TIME magazine's correspondents in Yugoslavia and around the world, would like to help you understand the complex situation in the Balkans.  If you have questions about the conflict or its background,  we invite you to send them to us. We'll try to tackle as many representative questions as we can, and we'll answer them right here.

Ask TIME Daily at kosovoquestions@pathfinder.com. Put the phrase "Kosovo Question" in the subject line. Note: We won't be able to answer all inquiries or provide individual responses. Check this space for our answers.

We often hear in the media that Greece, Turkey and other countries in the region could get dragged into the Kosovo conflict if the situation deteriorates. Can you explain this?

How much does the bombing cost?

Why is the U.S. acting in Kosovo when it didn't intervene in other cases of ethnic bloodshed such as the massacres in Rwanda?

How can I find out about giving assistance to the refugees?

Why are the Russians so opposed to the NATO air strikes?  They have sent warships to the region; is there really a chance they will attack American forces in the area?

What, at this point, is the U.S. interest in bombing Kosovo?

What is the Kosovo Liberation Army, and have they also committed atrocities?

Is the conflict between Albanians and Serbs a religious war?

Has the U.S. declared war on Yugoslavia?

Does Yugoslavia possess nuclear weapons?

If the Serbs claim that Kosovo is part of their heartland, how come 90 percent of the population is Albanian?

Why is this a NATO and not a U.N. operation?

What are the NATO countries?

Is it safe to travel to Europe now?

Why is it necessary that the United States involve itself?

Wouldn't the end come quicker if NATO hit Serb units, particularly artillery and tanks inside Kosovo?

Is NATO's objective to give the ethnic Albanians control over Kosovo?

What exactly is "ethnic cleansing" and how does it relate to the current situation?

If the constitution gives the republics the right to secede, why can't Kosovo secede?

Does Yugoslavia still exist?

What's the relationship between the Yugoslavian federal government and the Serbian government -- and which one is running the show?

How is the conflict in Kosovo related to the Bosnia conflict?

Did the Dayton accords really work in Bosnia?




We often hear in the media that Greece, Turkey and other countries in the region could get dragged into the Kosovo conflict if the situation deteriorates. Can you explain this?

Greece and Turkey have different ethnic, religious and political allegiances to the peoples living in Kosovo and the nations surrounding Yugoslavia. If rising tensions in those countries -- Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria -- escalate into violent conflict, Greece and Turkey may be drawn in to protect their own interests.

Greece shares its Orthodox Christian faith with the Serbs and borders with both Albania and Macedonia. The Kosovo refugee crisis is already threatening the stability of Macedonia, which comprises both a sizable Albanian population and a restive, anti-NATO Serb community. Although it is a NATO member, Greece has called for an end to the alliance's bombing of Yugoslavia. Turkey, Greece's neighbor and historic rival, identifies with the Muslim majority of Kosovo, which was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for five centuries. Recent clashes along the Kosovo-Albania border signal the potential for Albania to be drawn directly into the conflict, while reports of growing harassment by Serbs of ethnic Hungarians in northern Serbia could also increase the pressure on Hungary -- one of NATO's newest members -- to respond.

Back to top >>


Why is the U.S. acting in Kosovo when it didn't intervene in other cases of ethnic bloodshed such as the massacres in Rwanda?

Before intervening in a foreign conflict, Washington assesses whether U.S. national interests are involved. In the case of Kosovo, the U.S. interest is defined primarily by its relationship with NATO. By virtue of its leadership of the alliance, the U.S. is bound to act alongside its NATO allies when their security is threatened. Both Washington and European NATO members have defined the Kosovo crisis as a threat to European security because of the potential for conflict to spill across Yugoslavia's borders. This argument has justified America's participation in NATO action against Serb aggression in Kosovo.

While President Clinton has spoken of a moral imperative to act against genocide -- and apologized when visiting Rwanda last year for Washington's failure to intervene in any way to stop the killing there -- the U.S. remains unlikely to commit military resources to stop bloodshed in a region where Washington has no strategic interest. This is particularly so after the military disaster the U.S. suffered during its Somalian humanitarian mission in the early '90s.

Back to top >>



Why are the Russians so opposed to the NATO air strikes?  They have sent warships to the region; is there really a chance they will attack American forces in the area?

Although Russia had supported the NATO countries' peace plan for Kosovo, Moscow has been staunchly opposed to military action against the Serbs. The reasons for this opposition are both domestic and international: On the home front, Russians' solidarity with their fellow Slavs now under attack by the West puts tremendous pressure on Moscow's leadership to take a stand. Internationally, the Russians fear the consequences of NATO's unprecedented military intervention -- without consulting the United Nations -- in what remains a domestic dispute in a sovereign country. Bypassing the U.N. marginalizes Moscow from influence over world events, which Russia finds unacceptable.

Despite the fact that Russia has moved a spy ship into the Adriatic to monitor air strikes, few observers believe Moscow is inclined to challenge NATO militarily over Kosovo. Events of the past two weeks suggest Moscow's priority is to broker a peace deal, in the hope of restoring its status as an important player on the international stage.

Back to top >>


How much does the bombing cost?
There are no official figures. But estimates by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments are that the first 15 days of bombing cost the U.S. $500 million. The breakdown: $220 million for 160 cruise missiles; $70 million for air-defense suppression munitions that target planes and antiaircraft sites; $70 million for one F117A shot down; $34 million for 3,400 air sorties at $10,000 each; $30 million for 6,000 sorties by guided munitions, and $76 million in miscellaneous costs.

Back to top >>


What, at this point, is the U.S. interest in bombing Kosovo?
NATO launched its campaign because it feared that unrest in Kosovo -- the terrorizing of ethnic Albanian residents by Serbs and the guerrilla war for independence being fought by the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army -- would lead to a political crisis that could spread to neighboring Macedonia, Albania and even Greece and Russia. It was also feared that the unrest would ultimately send tens of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees flooding across Europe. President Clinton stressed that the U.S. had an ethical responsibility to do whatever it could to prevent crimes against humanity -- Serbian "ethnic cleansing" of the Kosovar Albanians.

A week of NATO bombing has, ironically, resulted in exactly what NATO was trying to prevent. The Serbs stepped up their terror campaign, and battered and hungry ethnic Albanian refugees now jam the roads out of Kosovo. Still, Washington believes it must continue the air strikes to stop the Serbs, as well as to wreck their capacity for war. NATO hopes to prepare the way for the Kosovar Albanian refugees eventually to return to their homes. Just as critical, NATO does not want to end the campaign now, in defeat, with its military credibility in tatters.

Back to top >>


What is the Kosovo Liberation Army, and have they also committed atrocities?
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was founded secretly in Pristina in 1993 as a guerrilla organization to fight for independence from Serbia. Initially it was a violent fringe organization conducting occasional attacks on Serb policemen and officials, while the majority of ethnic Albanians put their faith in the moderation of pacifist leader Ibrahim Rugova. But last summer's violent clashes between ethnic Albanians and the Serb authorities in the Drenica region saw thousands of young men flocking to join the lightly armed and poorly organized guerrilla army. Escalation of the conflict put the KLA at the head of a Kosovo-wide rebellion, which eventually eclipsed Rugova's influence -- both at home and among the financially important exile community -- and left him playing second fiddle on the KLA-led negotiating team in France. Although the U.S. apportions most of the blame for the Kosovo crisis on the Serb authorities, the State Department has on a number of occasions during the past year cited the KLA for provocative acts of violence and for abuses against Serb civilians in Kosovo.

Back to top >>


How can I find out about giving assistance to the refugees?
Consult these relief organizations, which are among those assisting refugees:
International Rescue Committee
Unicef USA
Doctors Without Borders
World Vision
CARE: The Kosovo Crisis
InterAction
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
International Committee of the Red Cross
Disaster Relief from DisasterRelief.org
Catholic Relief Services
Kosovo Relief
ReliefWeb: Home page
Doctors of the World
Adventist Development and Relief Agency
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
International Committee for the Red Cross
World Food Program
U.N. Children's Fund
AmeriCares

You can also call the 1-800-USAID-REFUGEE hotline established by the U.S. government.

Back to top >>


Has the U.S. declared war on Yugoslavia?
No, the U.S. has not declared war. The air strikes are being conducted under the auspices of NATO. President Clinton, as Commander-in-Chief, has authorized U.S. participation in the operation. How far his authority to make this type of decision stretches has always been a point of contention between the President and Congress. So far, this Congress has chosen to back the President and has not yet challenged his decision to involve American personnel and equipment in the Kosovo conflict. The bottom line is that Congress can always cut off funds for the operation, or raise strenuous objections if the President proposes to send U.S. ground troops. The first option is very difficult because of the dangers it would pose for the troops, while the issue of ground troops is at best hypothetical at this point.
Back to top >>


Does Yugoslavia possess nuclear weapons?
During the Cold War, Yugoslavia would have been protected by the Soviet nuclear umbrella, but it is not believed to possess nuclear weapons of its own.
Back to top >>


If the Serbs claim that Kosovo is part of their heartland, how come 90 percent of the population is Albanian?
Back in the Middle Ages, the Islamic Ottoman Empire conquered large swaths of Europe, including Serbia, its territory of Kosovo -- which fell in a battle known as the "Field of the Blackbirds" in 1389 -- and Albania. During Ottoman rule, Albanians converted to Islam and, over time, many moved into nearby Kosovo. By the begining of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was in a state of disintegration, and in 1912 -- more than 500 years after losing it -- the Serbs regained Kosovo. They took control of a territory where Christians were now in the vast minority. About three quarters of Kosovo's population of 300,000 were Muslims, ethnic Albanians and Turks. The Muslims chafed under Christian Serb rule and thousands of ethnic Albanians were killed. Their chance for retaliation came during WWII, when, armed by German and Italian fascists, they drove out thousands of Serbs. Kosovo was made part of Tito's unified Yugoslavia at the end of the WWII, and in 1974 Tito granted Kosovo autonomous rule. Ethnic Albanians used their majority position to harass Serb residents and thousands of Serbs left. By the time Milosevic revoked Kosovo's autonomy in 1989, only about 200,000 Serbs -- 10 percent of the population -- were living there.

Some excellent maps showing the growth and contraction of the Ottoman Empire are located at http://www.friesian.com/turkia.htm.

Back to top >>


Why is this a NATO and not a U.N. operation?
The U.N. has not voted on the use of force against Yugoslavia. Once the governments of the NATO countries decided it was necessary to intervene in Kosovo, they acted without taking the issue to the U.N. Security Council because military action would have almost certainly been vetoed by both Russia and China. Russia has a traditional alliance with the Serbs, while China -- particularly because of its own internal political situation -- opposes any international intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign nations like Yugoslavia.
Back to top >>


What Are the NATO Countries?
With the recent addition of three Eastern European states, NATO now has 19 members: Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States. NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and its home page is located at
http://www.nato.int/

Back to top >>


Is it safe to travel to Europe now?
We suggest you consult the State Department's Travel Warnings page at
http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html.

Back to top >>


Why is it necessary that the United States, which is not a party to either side in this conflict, involve itself?
Because of the potential for this conflict to destabilize Europe. President Clinton insists that the current action is designed to stop the conflict from spiraling out of control and spreading to countries as far away as Greece and Russia. Balkan conflict sparked the outbreak of World War I, and NATO powers believe that if they don't subdue the current fighting it will spill over into Macedonia and Albania, and send hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding into Europe. The President also stresses that the U.S. has an ethical responsibility to do whatever it can to prevent crimes against humanity.
Back to top >>


Wouldn't the end come quicker if NATO hit Serb units, particularly artillery and tanks inside Kosovo?
That remains NATO's stated objective if Milosevic fails to back down. However NATO's priority in Phase 1 of the air campaign has been to disable Serb air defenses to ensure the safety of pilots who will undertake the more dangerous low-flying missions against Serb units on the ground in Kosovo.
Back to top >>


Is NATO's objective to give the ethnic Albanians control over Kosovo?
NATO's peace plan is a compromise between the ethnic Albanian demand for full independence and Serbia's desire to maintain control of the province. Serbia would withdraw most of its police and military forces, and Kosovo would be given autonomy within Serbia. It would hold democratic elections and govern itself on all matters except defense and foreign affairs, which would remain in Serb hands. Because of their numerical majority, the Kosovar Albanians would be expected to guarantee the safety of the Serb minority.
Back to top >>


Is the conflict between Albanians and Serbs a religious war?
No, although religious differences certainly play a role in shaping the outlook of both sides. The Serbs are of the Eastern Orthodox church (and ascribe a particular religious significance to Kosovo), while the Kosovar Albanians are Muslim. However, religion is just one of a slew of differences between the Kosovar Albanians and Serbs -- the two peoples have different origins, histories, cultures and even languages. The war is best characterized as one between two ethnically diverse groups over the political status of Kosovo.
Back to top >>


What exactly is "ethnic cleansing" and how does it relate to the current situation?
"Ethnic cleansing," a term coined by the Serbs, is a euphemism for terrorizing civilians into abandoning their homes, villages and cities. The cleansers target civilian populations for military attack, ousting them from their homes and even massacring them in order to spread terror. The Serbs used this strategy against Bosnians and Croats to expand the territory under their control. In the current conflict, they've used similar tactics to depopulate much of eastern Kosovo in a bid to flush out the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Back to top >>


If the constitution gives the republics the right to secede, why can't Kosovo secede?
Kosovo wasn't a republic as defined by the old Yugoslavian constitution; it was an autonomous region within the Serbian republic.
Back to top >>


Does Yugoslavia still exist?
Yes. Yugoslavia was a federal state whose constitution gave its component republics the right to secede. The former Yugoslavian republics of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia took that route, while Serbia and Montenegro remain part of the Yugoslav federation.
Back to top >>


What's the relationship between the Yugoslavian federal government and the Serbian government -- and which one is running the show?
The Yugoslavian federal government is the supreme power, under
President Milosevic, who is also the former president of the Serbs. The Serb government is a component member of the federation -- the dominant component -- but ultimate authority rests with Milosevic's federal government.
Back to top >>


How is the conflict in Kosovo related to the Bosnia conflict?
Both conflicts are rooted in the nationalist "Greater Serbia" campaign through which Milosevic built his power. After taking office as president of Yugoslavia, Milosevic in 1989 moved to secure the Serbs' historic claim on Kosovo by revoking  the autonomy that Kosovo -- where 90 percent of the people are ethnic Albanian --had previously enjoyed within Serbia. That sparked resistance to Serb rule, which evolved into the current fight for independence. Earlier, in Bosnia, under the banner of the "Greater Serbia" campaign, Milosevic's allies pursued horrific "ethnic cleansing" of non-Serb people in order to expand Serb territorial control. Their brutality sparked a war with the region's Bosnian and Croat populations.
Back to top >>


Did the Dayton accords really work in Bosnia?
Dayton successfully ended the fighting in Bosnia, although the roots of the conflict -- and therefore its potential to flare up again -- persist. And this has prompted NATO to repeatedly renew the mandate of its peacekeeping force. Democratic elections in the Serb section of Bosnia, for example, repeatedly return leaders hostile to Dayton.
Back to top >>

Ask TIME Daily at kosovoquestions@pathfinder.com. Put the phrase "Kosovo Question" in the subject line. Note: We won't be able to answer all inquiries or provide individual responses. Check this space for our answers.



 



Breaking News & Background
From CNN

The Kosovo File: Main Page

Analysis
Latest reports on Kosovo from TIME Daily

Photo Essays
   Faces of Flight
   Helping the Refugees
   Inside Pristina
   The Refugees
   Bombing the Balkans
   The Battle Over Kosovo

A Kosovo Primer
How we got here, and what's at stake

Military Info
A rundown of the military armor assembled

Who's Who
Key players

Maps
Maps of Kosovo and the conflict

Inside Clinton's War
From TIME Magazine: The President weighs his choices as Slobodan Milosevic betrays little sign of desperation amid NATO's growing assault

Ask TIME Daily
We answer your questions about the conflict

Postcards From the Balkans
TIME's Ed Barnes reports from the field

Kosovo Chats
Transcripts of our discussions with the experts

Poll
Do you think NATO has mishandled the mission in Kosovo?

Transcripts
From CNN: Clinton's address to the Serbs and more

Outside Links
Links on Kosovo from around the Net