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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Level Killing Field For Bosnia

The United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia can never provide an elixir for peace. It lacks both the mandate and capability to impose a solution. It can do little to prevent military incursions by any of the three sides in the conflict and is itself exposed to attack. Inevitably it has been accused of bias or weakness by all sides; its commanders are routinely criticized. And the war goes on.

But thousands -- possibly hundreds of thousands -- of people are only alive today thanks to the efforts of UNPROFOR. Its presence has served to curb some of the worst excesses of ethnic cleansing and even restored a semblance of normal life in a few parts of the country. As Bosnia plunges into its third winter of the war, the threat of starvation that hung over so many of its people at the outset has been more or less averted, mainly due to the countless land convoys and airlifts that UNPROFOR has managed to keep going throughout.

The last few days have seen evidence that the tide of the war is turning, with counter-offensives by Bosnian government and Bosnian-Croat forces against Bosnian-Serb positions in the center and west of the country. The Russian ambassador to the UN, Sergei Lavrov, has accused the Security Council of failing to react to these attacks, which he says are being carried out from UN-designated safe areas.

It is more than understandable that some of Russia's co-members on the Security Council find it hard to share Moscow's concerns about the Bosnian Serbs being forced to take some of their own medicine. Yet it is crucial that the UN avoids being seen as a front for any party to the war.

The Bosnian government has plainly been emboldened by the prospect -- strengthened by Thursday's UN General Assembly vote -- of the international arms embargo against it being lifted under pressure from the United States, despite opposition from Britain, France and Russia.

These developments put Belgrade in a quandary. In the last few weeks, largely thanks to Russian diplomacy, the rump Yugoslavia has maintained a blockade on its border with Bosnia and deprived the Bosnian Serbs of vital military supplies.

Slobodan Milosevic was rewarded with a partial easing of sanctions. Welcome as that must have been, the lifting of the arms embargo, coupled with the recent military successes by the Bosnian government, would make it virtually impossible for the Serbian leadership to leave their compatriots in Bosnia to their fate. The war would start up again in earnest, leaving UNPROFOR with no recourse but to pull out, and clearing the way for the real slaughter to begin.

Only the world's armchair warriors could welcome this turn of events.