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Why NATO can't go away; Testimony: Political alliance to keep security of Europe is challenged by rogues like Milosevic


MARYLANDERS who heard Gen. Wesley K. Clark address the Baltimore Council on Foreign Relations Jan. 20 were not surprised by his testimony to the House Armed Services Committee last Thursday.

The supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe told both groups that the security problem in the former Yugoslavia and the need for U.S. peace-keeping troops will not end until democracy comes to Belgrade and President Slobodan Milosevic leaves to face trial.

The NATO peace-keepers are struggling to suppress ethnic Albanian persecution of the few Serbs remaining in Kosovo. It is not surprising to see brutal paybacks for the horrors perpetrated by Serbian forces answering to President Milosevic.

That led to the 78-day NATO bombing of Serbia under the command of General Clark. NATO exists for the security of Europe and is now prepared to act beyond its borders. The more members it has, the harder to make decisions. NATO is still needed as a political alliance to preserve security. While the United States remains deeply involved in Europe, the idea of a larger European role is embraced by all.

General Clark, who will. retire from the army in June, is an eloquent spokesman for a proactive foreign policy concerned for human rights. His advice differs from that of the more cautious Gen. Colin Powell, the last military spokesman to obtain a high profile in policy debates.

The flirtation of U.S. officials with Serbian opposition figures may come to nothing. The United States is not skilled in changing the governments of other countries. But as long as the indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic rules in Belgrade -- with one more war in him, for neighboring Montenegro -- U.S. troops will be needed along with Europeans to help keep the peace of Europe.

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