Representatives of the United States and the European Union, among others, met recently in Brussels and Sarajevo to discuss assistance to the Balkans, including Kosovo. The United States, which carried much of the financial burden of the military operations against Serbia, reiterated its expectation that the EU would bear most of the cost of the long-term reconstruction of Kosovo. The EU agreed. Although burden-sharing is the preferred approach, the division of labor decided upon for Kosovo is bad policy for the United States and a bad precedent for transatlantic relations.
Burden-sharing in the best sense means close coordination, shared risks and responsibilities and common experiences among allies. The Kosovo model constitutes a division of labor -- the Americans do the war and the Europeans do the peace -- that will exacerbate already divergent perspectives between the United States and Europe on many defense and foreign-policy issues. The United States spends nearly four times as much as its European allies on defense research and development. The resulting technology gap in military capabilities, which is steadily growing larger, leaves the United States as the only nation with the military capacity to act decisively in most international crises.
The Europeans need to go beyond their recent step of creating a foreign-policy czar and sufficiently increase defense expenditures so that they too can effectively project power abroad and thus participate fully in multilateral military operations.
For those European countries that fail to invest further in improving their military capabilities, the United States should insist that they at least contribute financially to multilateral combat activities. During the Gulf War against Iraq, the United States was able to get countries from Europe and elsewhere to contribute to the cost of coalition military operations, even though U.S. military assets were predominantly used.
In this way, countries whose interests were just as much at stake in the Persian Gulf as those of the United States, but that were unable to contribute militarily, nonetheless bore the financial burden of defending their interests.
But the principle that all countries that are part of a multilateral coalition ought to contribute either compatible military assets or significant monetary resources has not been institutionalized and thus was not followed during the 78 days of NATO bombing of Serbia. The United States should urge that this principle be followed in future conflicts, rather than applied only on an ad hoc basis.
Some might be concerned that other countries contributing only financially to a military mission will demand an equal voice in the conduct of that mission. The Clinton administration already claims that, even without financial contributions from many NATO members, the political need to sustain a consensus among all NATO allies imposed severe constraints on the bombing campaign against Serbia.
But in fact, those countries with the greatest quantity of trained personnel and sophisticated equipment in the line of fire should assert the primary voice in conducting multilateral military operations, and they certainly should exercise that leadership role if other coalition members are not even bearing a proportionate financial burden. And if other countries are going to demand -- and be given -- a seat at the decision-making table, they must be prepared at the least to contribute their fair share of the cost of military operations.
It is equally important that the United States be a full participant in post-combat activities, which often are crucial in preventing the next conflict. If other countries relieve the United States of some of the financial burdens associated with military campaigns, then the United States should be willing and able to participate in a more substantial way in any subsequent economic assistance and reconstruction activities. Indeed, it is in the U.S. national interest to do so.
Large-scale U.S. participation in the rebuilding of Kosovo would increase the likelihood of restoring stability and establishing democratic institutions there, and would enhance U.S. influence in the region. U.S. participation also would enable U.S. companies to play a significant role in the reconstruction of Kosovo by reducing the prospect that the Europeans would use some form of tied aid to benefit solely European companies and by ensuring that business contracts are awarded under an open and transparent process.
Under the current division of labor for Kosovo, the United States will be perceived abroad as the warrior state, with its European allies viewed as the world's peacemakers. While those images may suit the Europeans just fine, they do not represent the role the United States should want to play -- or the burden it should have to bear -- in the post-Cold War world.
The writer, a Washington lawyer, was a senior official in the State Department in the Bush administration.