Balkans Security:

Current and Projected Factors Affecting Regional Stability

NSIAD-00-125BR: Published: Apr 24, 2000. Publicly Released: May 16, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on Balkans security issues, focusing on: (1) the current security situation in the Balkans, particularly in Kosovo and Bosnia; (2) the projected security in the region over the next 5 years; (3) factors in the decision to withdraw Yugoslav security forces from Kosovo; and (4) how the executive branch has defined U.S. interests in the region in the National Security Strategy and public statements.

GAO noted that: (1) despite the presence of two large North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led forces in the Balkans, the security situation regionwide remains volatile, as many difficult political, social, and other issues remain unresolved; (2) about 70,000 NATO-led military personnel were deployed in all five countries in the region, where they continued to ensure an absence of war in Kosovo and Bosnia; (3) the international operations in both locations, however, face severe obstacles in their attempts to achieve their broad goals of promoting an enduring peace and lasting stability in the region; (4) most importantly, the vast majority of local political leaders and people of their respective ethnic groups have failed to embrace the political and social reconciliation considered necessary to build multiethnic, democratic societies and institutions; (5) the international community has not provided the resources to fully staff key elements of both peace operations; (6) the election of opposition members to Croatia's parliament and presidency during early 2000 holds out hope for positive change in the region over time--however, all areas of the Balkans continue to face major unresolved political, social, and other problems that will contribute to regional instability over the next 5 years; (7) these problems will likely require the continued security presence provided by NATO-led forces; (8) according to a senior Yugoslav official in Kosovo, Yugoslavia's fear of a NATO invasion was the primary factor which led Yugoslavia to withdraw its security forces from Kosovo; (9) this official, as well as senior U.S. and NATO officials, also said that Russia's diplomatic efforts were important in persuading Yugoslavia's President to agree to the withdrawal; (10) other factors mentioned by U.S. and NATO officials included the ability of the NATO alliance to remain united during the bombing campaign, the impact of NATO's strategic air campaign against Yugoslavia, and the international war crime tribunal's indictment of Yugoslavia's President for war crimes in Kosovo; (11) in the December 1999 National Security Strategy, the President said that the United States has vital interests in European stability and important interests in NATO operations in Bosnia and Kosovo; and (12) the President said that U.S. interests in the Balkans and Southeastern Europe are abiding because instability there threatens European security.

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