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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Oil Blockade Unnecessary And Perilous

NATO has apparently become so carried away with the moral justification for its war to protect the Albanians of Kosovo that it has decided to throw international law out the window.

NATO leaders meeting at their 50th birthday proposed an embargo on all fuel deliveries to Yugoslavia, which will be imposed on third countries by military force if necessary.

This policy involves huge risks, especially a major confrontation with Russia, and yet it offers only the most marginal benefits to the war aims of protecting Kosovo's Albanians.

Even key NATO members like Italy and France are scared of a measure which is clearly illegal. In the absence of UN sanctions, third countries like Russia are entirely within their rights to deliver non-military equipment such as fuel there.

Conversely, if NATO ships tried to board or even fired on a Russian ship carrying fuel, it would be an act of aggression against a non-belligerent country. It was such attacks on neutral U.S. shipping that pushed the United States to join World War I.

Under a doomsday scenario, seizing a Russian ship could lead to World War III. This would perhaps have been more likely two decades ago but it is still a significant danger that should be weighing upon the minds of NATO leaders.

Even if the ICBMs don't fly, seizing Russian ships will only force Russia into the arms of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Any hopes of using Russia as an intermediary in peace negotiations will vanish and Russia will be under tremendous pressure to ship arms to Serbia.

And all this for what benefit? NATO says its ultimate goal is to cut off the supply of fuel to the Serb militias that are now ethnically cleansing Kosovo.

This is questionable. Even an ironclad embargo would take months to have an impact on military units with their own supplies. The embargo will only hurt Serbia's civilians in the foreseeable future. And in any case, the war in Kosovo is a low-tech tribal affair fueled more by raw hatred than gasoline.

Unless NATO intervenes with ground troops, the Serbs have all the diesel they need to go on killing Albanians.

NATO justifies the embargo by saying that even though it has bombed Serbia's fuel refineries, fuel is still getting in via Yugoslavia's ports. But the reasoning is all backwards. Rather than pushing for an embargo, NATO should be asking why its generals didn't think this through before they bombed the refineries in the first place.