Dealing with dictator will not bring peace

The West still cannot figure out how to stop the violence in the Balkans. The recent negotiations were saved at the last minute by the Albanians, who declared that they would agree to the peace conditions laid out by western diplomats, provided they had two weeks to consult officials in Kosovo. However, the agreement is but another bandage for a gaping wound. In order to stop the violence in the former Yugoslavia, the West must cease dealing with Slobodan Milosevic.
Milosevic is renowned for being able to manipulate any agreement to suit his own political agenda. He has repeatedly escalated conflicts in the region, hoping to force the West to act. The need for a resolution, and the need to persuade Milosevic to agree to it, has given him the opportunities he has needed to consolidate his own power in Yugoslavia.
While Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, attempted to persuade the Albanian delegation that NATO can protect them from the Serbs, Milosevic sat and gloated. Due to the squabbling surrounding the intransigent Albanians, Milosevic has gained popularity at home, as he appears to be standing up to the world.
The Italians and the Russians now argue that air strikes are out of the question, leaving the West without a tool to pressure Milosevic into agreeing to NATO demands.
The refusal of Serbia to agree to NATO troops in Kosovo prolonged the talks. Meanwhile, the reluctance of the West to provide for a referendum on Albanian independence led to the Albanian refusal to sign the agreement. This stalemate allowed Milosevic to hold his line concerning NATO troop deployment without incurring the wrath of allied warplanes.
Now the West is left with stalled talks and renewed violence in Kosovo, while Milosevic still rules in the Balkans. The lesson western diplomats must learn is that Milosevic will continue to take advantage of NATO as long as they accommodate him. The very fact that Milosevic is the only representative of Yugoslavia with whom the West will deal strengthens his position.
In 1997, when democracy movements paralyzed Serbia for eight weeks, the West was silent. As the movements eventually sputtered, Milosevic was able to co-opt the pro-democracy leaders and crack down on the media. Had the West possessed the courage to shun Milosevic in favor of the pro-democracy leaders, perhaps the violence in Kosovo would have never occurred.
Instead, Milosevic remains the darling of the West, and his machinations have resulted in death and destruction in Kosovo, division among the western allies and an even stronger power base than before the fighting in Kosovo.
Until western negotiators begin to deal with a different leader in Yugoslavia, Milosevic will continue instigating conflicts and manipulating the West to further his own gains. The West is propping up a ruthless dictator at the expense of all Balkan peoples.