With its planned air power demonstration and possible armed intervention, NATO is sending a message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that he should halt the slaughter of innocent people in Kosovo, Defense Secretary William Cohen said Friday.
Cohen, in an interview with ABC Television, said he and his Russian counterpart, Gen. Igor Sergeyev, agreed "the situation is dangerous in terms of its capacity to expand even further, sending thousands of refugees into neighboring countries."Russia opposes the military options NATO is considering for the Serbian province. Cohen said Sergeyev urged that a diplomatic solution be found to the crisis and pointed to a meeting Monday in Moscow between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Milosevic.
But Cohen warned that NATO's dim view of the crackdown in Ko-so-vo not be taken too lightly.
The NATO alliance agrees "the bloodshed has to stop; that a very strong message has to be sent to Mr. Milosevic that he has to cease and desist the slaughter, the shelling of villages and killing of innocent people and to resolve this peacefully," Cohen said.
"We're sending a signal that an air exercise will demonstrate that we have the capacity to mobilize very quickly and demonstrate rapidly deployable power. But secondly, it also demonstrates there is solidarity of support and consensus throughout NATO and beyond NATO itself," Cohen said.
Cohen met for 45 minutes with the Russian at NATO headquarters here. Gen. Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also attended.
Cohen's meeting with Sergeyev was "very friendly and frank throughout," said a U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It came a day after the NATO alliance approved a show-of-force air exercise over Yugoslav neighbors Albania and Macedonia. NATO also ordered options be drawn up for possible intervention in Kosovo, including direct air strikes or the use of ground troops.