NATO has failed thus far to impose its will on the battlefield, and alliance officials now concede privately that there's little chance of enforcing the full Rambouillet agreement. "Milosevic's actions over the past two weeks have changed the facts on the ground in Kosovo," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "Reversing Milosevic's facts would require a massive ground invasion to capture the territory from the Serbs, and NATO's a lot less united on that idea than it is on the current bombing campaign." Belgrade's peace offensive will increase the pressure on NATO to find a political settlement -- which would likely amount to less than what the alliance has been fighting for. "NATO insists on having forces inside Kosovo to protect returning refugees in some form of international protectorate, but the Serbs are unlikely to willingly give up those parts of Kosovo they consider sacred," says Thompson. "That suggests things may be moving toward some form of partition solution." If NATO isn't able to send in ground troops to engage the Serbs, it will be up to the diplomats to salvage what they can.
NATO may be pounding Belgrade and Serb armor on the ground in Kosovo, but President Milosevic is shifting the theater of battle to the negotiating table. NATO dismissed Milosevic's unilateral Easter cease-fire as meaningless, but that initiative has forced the alliance to begin defining its own terms for a settlement. The alliance on Wednesday insisted that Milosevic withdraw his forces from Kosovo, allow the return of refugees and the introduction of an international security force to Kosovo, and accept a political solution based on the Rambouillet principles. Washington also enlisted Moscow's help in the search for peace, with Vice President Gore phoning Prime Minister Primakov to encourage Russia's mediation efforts.