Thursday, 9 March, 2000Spy story 'will damage Nato relations'
The full truth of the alleged leaks of military secrets to Serbia during the Kosovo war may never be known. But, as the BBC's defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus reports, the story will inevitably strain US-European relations.
If a military officer from a Nato alliance country really was leaking the daily air tasking order to Belgrade then the effectiveness of Nato's air operations during the vital first weeks of the war would have been dramatically diminished.
The Serbs would have been able to move men and equipment out of the way.
Worse still, the air tasking order would have given the Serbs a good idea of the make-up of the groups of aircraft assigned to each mission and their likely routes to and from the target.
Why, Nato officials are already asking, did the serbs not make more use of this information to set surface-to-air missile traps for Nato aircraft?
One answer might be that they did not want to reveal the level of their knowledge of Nato's plans.
As so often in the shadowy world of intelligence you can argue things both ways.
Rumours and suspicions
No conclusive evidence has yet been provided about the existence of a Nato mole - despite their being widespread rumours and suspicions.
Whatever the truth behind this story it is inevitably going to strain US-European relations.
Trans-Atlantic ties are not especially warm at present within Nato, with many Americans both in the Defense Department or on Capitol Hill deeply sceptical about Europe's plans to develop a more independent defence capability alongside Nato.
The Europeans counter by saying that they are damned if they do and damned if they do not.
Washington wants its European allies to come up with stronger military forces, but just when they plan to do so, say the Europeans, the US gets suspicious.
What this spy story will do is to accentuate an already existing view, widely-held in Washington, that its European allies are divided into a small-number of reliable friends, and some countries who are at best reluctant partners and who in one case at least may not be wholly trustworthy.