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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Post-Cold War World

NEW YORK - Although the all-important means and concrete steps are only beginning to be addressed, the Clinton administration has already made three crucial foreign policy decisions.


It will seek as far as it can to support the Russian reform movement led by President Boris Yeltsin, including a demonstrative effort to involve Moscow as a key partner in European security, especially in the Yugoslav crisis. It accepts that the war in Bosnia and the threat to the region is a strategic interest of the U. S. , and therefore America must be actively engaged in pressing for a solution. It wants to be sure of an allied coalition on these problems and will take the lead but will not go it alone.


This emerged in numerous conversations with senior Washington officials and diplomats at the U. N. No doubt President Clinton will continue taking care to show the American people that the home front is his top priority. But the question of whether foreign affairs should also get urgent attention has been resolved.


How to go about it, how to reach an over-arching concept of America's role in what is recognized as a new era with many new dangers is being approached more cautiously. There is still essentially a piecemeal approach, a sense of facing a bewildering jumble of crises and therefore a reluctance to propose initiatives for the long term.


But that is exactly what is needed now. The post-Cold War era is not so different from the post-World War II era in the sense that a whole new start is required, but this time there was no planning. and it is more difficult, because the enemy is a faceless, diffuse threat, without front lines. It challenges the old principles of self determination, national sovereignty, the acceptable use of power.


The enemy is disorder, but status quo is not and cannot be the defense. The world has changed at a dizzying speed, and will continue to change ever more rapidly. Politics remains territorial, national. Economics and technology are increasingly global. The tug-of-war between the two cannot last. One or the other will overwhelm, producing raw new hostilities which reject rational solution, or new compromises and adjustments to everybody's ultimate advantage.


The Balkans are a prime example. On a regional scale, they are acting out this confrontation, at a level of cruelty and bestiality that is not new in human history, but that Europe thought it had outgrown. It is not only cynical but stupid to say, as many do, also in high places, "Oh, well, what do you expect. It's the Balkans". As president, George Bush said that these people have been killing each other for centuries so there was no reason for the U. S. to feel a responsibility to be involved.


That isn't even true. like many other areas, they have had brutal wars, and they have had periods of beneficial amity and cooperation. As President Kiro Gligorov of Macedonia told me recently, "We never went through the 19th century period of state formation that other parts of Europe did. We have to catch up".


But catching up means either repeating devastating wars or leaping forward to a different idea of state relations than the 19th century provided to spark the horrors of the 20th, an idea embodied in Jean Monnet's common market, which made regional cooperation so enormously attractive that war between members became unthinkable.


All Balkan economies have been hurt by the wars in former Yugoslavia, though as usual in wars some individuals have profited enormously from smuggling and black market dealing. Yugoslavia had just launched a promising reform when emotional, nationalist politics triumphed and the break-up came in 1991.


I am not proposing, at this stage, some version of a Balkan common market. But I am convinced that there is no solution to the tragedy except on the basis of a regional package. As the war moved to Bosnia once Croatia was temporarily calmed, it will move to Kosovo and Macedonia and beyond if a purely Bosnian cease-fire is achieved, though bound to be temporary.


There is an argument that the fighting must be stopped first, and then haggling can begin about the future. I am convinced the opposite is true. There must be a context, a large package promising future benefits for all, if the fighting is to be definitively ended. The two goals must be pursued simultaneously, including all countries concerned with the Balkans: Greece, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, the European Community and the United States, with the idea of moving the region forward, into the mainstream world, not backward to where it has been stagnating and brewing eruptions.


The key issues are security and development. On security, there could be a great conference like the 19th century Berlin conference which drew lines limiting power confrontation in Africa, or, more feasible, a closely interwoven net of bilateral security treaties, already coming to focus, with outside guarantees. That means the U. S. , Russia and Europe.


On economic issues, a functional approach is wisest, looking to transportation, communications, trade, but not yet a Monnet-type institution. The promise of eventual inclusion in the European Community would be a powerful lure, but the immediate benefits to both Greece and Serbia should be magnetic.


There won't be any little settlement that can endure. The Clinton people should lift their sights and propose, within the decisions already made, an ambitious move out of the past and into the new century, as they are trying for the U. S. If they don't, it won't happen.


1993 Flora Lewis