WASHINGTON -- Congress will effectively destroy the North Atlantic Treaty Organization if it blocks the Clinton administration's plans to commit U.S. troops to a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said yesterday in some of his strongest language on the subject.
"If we get a peace settlement and the United States does not participate in the enforcement, I believe it would be the end of NATO," he said in a breakfast interview.
Mr. Christopher said the Muslim-led Bosnian government has made it clear that it will not agree to a peace settlement at all unless it gets advance assurances that Americans will be part of the NATO force.
Some Republicans in Congress have expressed doubts about the wisdom of sending U.S. ground troops to the Balkans.
Mr. Christopher derided the opponents as misguided lawmakers who believe the United States should exercise world leadership but are unwilling to spend the money or run the risks that leadership demands.
"When the time comes, if all of the issues get posed, if we answer them well, I think the Congress will support what the president has done here," he said.
Mr. Clinton pledged two years ago to contribute about half the NATO peace force, estimated at about 50,000. Some U.S. and NATO officials have suggested recently that the force might be somewhat smaller.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary William J. Perry said NATO defense ministers meeting in Williamsburg, Va., will consider a plan to assign some NATO peacekeeping troops to the job of training the Bosnian government army.
The training plan would seem to further strain NATO's position as an impartial umpire in Bosnia's ethnic conflict.