Bargain-Basement War

You can say this for the NATO air operation in Serbia: As these things go, it’s pretty cheap. Official numbers for the Kosovo mission aren’t yet available. But various organizations have roughed out cost estimates based on what is known about the air strikes thus far.

One high-end estimate for the Kosovo operation is provided by Lehman Brothers. The global investment bank calculates a 30-day aerial operation would add about $3 billion to the defense budgets of NATO countries. In addition, some $12.5 billion could be spent on aid to 2 million displaced Kosovars. Even so, notes the bank’s global chief economist, John Llewellyn, the extra cost would amount to only 0.25 percent of the tax revenues of NATO countries and a mere 0.1 percent of their combined GDP. Even compared with the currently projected 1999 net U.S. budget surplus of $110 billion–from which most of the costs are likely to end up being paid–the burden is modest. Such a cost, says Lehman Brothers, should barely cause a flutter in interest rates and thus have no “significant impact” on financial markets–which, of course, is what really matters in the end.

As for U.S. troops serving in the Yugoslavia area, their sacrifices have not gone unnoted by their representatives in Congress. Already the House Ways and Means Committee has approved a bill that would not only extend the deadline for filing their 1998 federal income taxes but exclude from taxation the pay they receive while in the combat zone. The soldiers want reinforcements? Let ‘em eat refunds.