After World War II, the recovery of a war-ravaged Europe had to rely almost exclusively on the United States. Now the recovery of the Balkans can rely on both the United States and the European Union -- democratic and prosperous countries that are also the fountainhead of technological innovation.

Meanwhile, it will be necessary to reaffirm beyond a shadow of equivocation that the existing national borders are inviolate and unchangeable by the use or threat of force. Such a declaration will go a long way to reassure Yugoslavia's neighbors that their borders will be inviolate. Cooperation and international arrangements may make the borders between countries as open and symbolic as the borders between Maryland and Virginia, but this can come only through free and voluntary action.

Nor can we promote stability by encouraging separatist movements among minorities. Encouraging or tolerating a separatist movement such as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) might set the stage for another Balkan war. What we need is to establish a new, more effective international charter prescribing the rights of ethnic, religious or cultural minorities wherever they may exist. Violations would be subject to prosecution by the international court for war crimes. (The prospect that those guilty could be arrested the moment they stepped out of their country might be a strong incentive to behave.) Minorities that initiate acts of violence without provocation or violation of their rights would forfeit their international protection under the special charter.

In the case of Kosovo, a major challenge will be the "demilitarization" of the KLA, which appears unwilling to surrender its arms and disband. Since their avowed goal is the independence of Kosovo, their aims are in conflict with the stated NATO position. No durable peace in the area is possible unless the KLA is neutralized and, after the return of most of the refugees, a democratic and moderate governing authority emerges in an autonomous Kosovo as part of Serbia. Hatreds made deeper and stronger after the tragic events of the past few months will make such arrangements difficult, but their implementation will be the litmus test.

Whatever NATO's motives in launching the airstrikes, the action was technically an attack against a sovereign country that had not attacked any of the NATO countries. In the eyes of many this was a violation of international law. Many also saw it as a violation of Article 5 of the Charter of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which provides only for the defense of the members in the event of outside aggression.

NATO and in particular the United States need to reestablish their image as defenders of law and justice. One policy that could go a long way might be the consideration of a "Mini-Marshall Plan" to help all the Balkan countries. Such an economic recovery plan would be much less daunting and costly than the original Marshall Plan. This time a prosperous Europe should be a major contributor.

Should Slobodan Milosevic remain in power to administer the plan? We may find that it is more prudent and effective to leave his fate in the hands of the Serbian people. Direct pressure to remove him might drive many Serbs to his side or to the ranks of Vojislav Seselj's ultranationalist Radical Party. However, with subtle encouragement we might bring about an election in the next six or 10 months (elections are now scheduled for 2001) under conditions of freedom and fairness.

At the present time, 105 seats in the 250-member legislature are held by Milosevic's Socialist Party and the Yugoslav United Left (JUL), led by his wife, Mirjana Markovic. The challenge is to ensure that the majority of their followers shift their support not to Seselj's party but rather to the Serbian Renewal Movement, led by Vuk Draskovic, whose pro-Western orientation is well established. If we adopt a conciliatory and friendly stand toward the Serbs, we may be able to bring about the desired outcome -- especially when most Serbs come to realize that recovery depends on Western help and that they can support a pro-Western result at the polls without betraying their history and their national pride.

Constructive policies such as those suggested above will also help us restore our relations with the Russian people. The Russians need our help to revitalize their unhinged economy, but we also need Russia's cooperation in setting the foundations for a durable peace in Europe. Stability in Europe cannot be ensured with a disgruntled, hostile or unstable Russia. Fortunately, whatever differences may emerge from time to time, the Russians, too, are interested in the inviolability of their borders and in preventing violent eruptions among their minorities, of which they have many.

NATO's military presence in Kosovo can provide the element of power needed to resolve the complex issues that spring from ancient history as well as from yesterday's events. If we approach their solution without the euphoria of arrogance that occasionally afflicts victors, our chances to leave a lasting and positive legacy will be that much greater.

D. G. Kousoulas has written extensively on the Balkans.