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Dr Janez Drnovšek: On the Balkans

Western Security Structures and the Balkans


By now it's almost a truism to say that during the 90's, European and world developments were significantly influenced by the Balkans - more precisely, by the Yugoslav wars. The post-Cold War security policies of the West were severely tested, and forced to develop, because of these corrosive crises. Attempts to resolve them led to many misjudgments and mistakes, but also to some positive achievements. First as President of the Presidency of the former Yugoslavia and later as Prime Minister of Slovenia, I actively participated in many of the events of the decade. What follows is an attempt to combine my own personal experiences with a more analytical distance, in order to try to clarify this ambiguous and tragic picture.

One of the most important questions which has lingered over the battlefield was: Could the international community have prevented the Yugoslav conflict? Could some combination of decisive moves have averted, or at least significantly ameliorated, these wars which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives? I will argue that, although though there was a window of opportunity during which the international community could have averted the disaster, in practice that chance was minimal.

It should be remembered that in 1989 and 1990, the attention of the West was largely focussed on an immense drama unfolding within the Soviet Union and its satellites - an empire was quite literally coming undone. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the communist Warsaw Pact regimes absorbed most of the policy-making abilities and political energies of the Western democracies. In this picture, Yugoslavia was somehow always a very separate case. Although some analysts were warning about the possibility of civil war - most notably, in a CIA study which was made public - the demise of Soviet power meant that there was never really a chance for Western politicians seriously to contemplate the consequences of a Yugoslav implosion, let alone preventive activities.

In addition, of course, to major changes in Eastern and Central Europe, during the second half of 1990 the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq created an unprecedented crises in the Gulf region - clearly an event capable of absorbing the rest of the political energies and security resources of the international community. In this context it's perhaps more understandable that a very evident majority of Western politicians didn't feel a need to focus on the Yugoslav problem (which after all had not yet flared into actual armed conflict). A desired solution was stated - that the territorial integrity of the country be maintained, while a democratization similar to that occurring in the formerly Warsaw Pact countries had a chance to develop among the Yugoslav republics as well. Although the Yugoslav federation was an artificial formation, encompassing nations with very different cultures and historical experiences, its dissolution was obviously not a very convenient or desirable option within the context of rigid post Cold-War European structures.

In such circumstances, it was handy for the West to accept the so-called defenders of the territorial integrity of the Yugoslav federation. Verbally the biggest such defender was the Serbia of Slobodan Milosevic. In practice it took many years before it finally became clear to the West that rhetoric about Yugoslav unity was a rhetorical strategy cloaking the real nature of the Serbian regime and its real objectives. For many years we heard accusations that secessionist republics like Slovenia and Croatia had ignited the Yugoslav wars by prematurely declaring their independence. In this way the propaganda and sometimes quite skilful diplomacy of Belgrade succeeded in convincing Western scholars and politicians that those at fault where anywhere but in Belgrade. As recently as a year ago, when I was speaking in Harvard, I had to answer questions founded on the thesis that "early" German recognition of these two republics led directly to the war.

The truth is just the opposite. If there was any chance at all to prevent the Yugoslav wars (and again, I'm not sure such a chance was very realistic) it would have been by stopping the aggressive nationalistic policies of "defending" Yugoslavia. In reality, as we have seen, it was attempting to create a Greater Serbia, and many people had to die before that attempt ultimately failed.

It goes without saying that the Yugoslav situation was extremely complicated. I happened to be the president of the Yugoslav Presidency precisely during a transitional year that was in many aspects crucial to the future of Tito's socialist Yugoslavia (I served from May 15th 1989 to the same month of the next year). In my many meetings with Western leaders during this period I clearly stated that there was a very real possibility of a civil war - that there was an unambiguous race going on between the forces of an aggressive nationalism and of a peaceful democratization within the country. Despite my attempts to get the attention of the West, however, we didn't really expect any outside intervention. Since Yugoslavia was at that time a sovereign state with fully functioning federal institutions, it would have been unrealistic to hope for some kind of external intervention to stop Milosevic. What we were hoping for instead was something less tangible, but potentially just as critical: decisive, publicly stated political and moral support, from the big powers, backing our endeavors to democratize the country.

It was too early to be talking about western military intervention, after all. The crucial question at the time was who would control the Yugoslav army, which at the time was still viewed as the real defender of the shaky Yugoslav federation - and therefore of Tito's heritage. And the army generals in turn were closely observing events in the Soviet Union. If Soviet generals decided to put a stop to perestroika and the accelerating disintegration of the Soviet Union, it was assumed that the Yugoslav army would undertake a similar action. But the Soviet Union disintegrated relatively peacefully, and the willingness of Yugoslavia's multinational army to defend Tito's federation terminated soon thereafter. When the JNA finally acted several years later, it did of course operate behind a rhetorical smokescreen justifying its actions in the name of Yugoslav unity - but in practice it was no longer a Yugoslav but a Serbian army.

To put it mildly, my presidential term was marked by intensive internal changes, but also by processes intended to lead towards democratization. The elections in which I was chosen as the Slovene representative to the Federal Presidency were the first free ones in the former Yugoslavia. And they were followed during my presidential term by free parliamentary elections in Slovenia and Croatia. For a while it seemed as though the inflation-plagued Yugoslav economy could recover, and I even succeeded in initiating some activities intended to start a process of European integration. But behind all this a race with nationalistic destruction was lurking, and it's initial focus was Kosovo.

Milosevic famously started his political career by earning the support of the Kosovo Serbs against the Kosovo Albanians in 1987. After riots by Kosovo's Albanian community, a state of emergency was introduced and the autonomy of Kosovo was eliminated just before I became President in 1989. During my term in office I tried to reconcile both sides by fostering a dialogue. Milosevic, however, didn't want to talk to the Kosovo Albanian leaders. Still, I succeeded gradually to eliminate the state of emergency in Kosovo and to liberate Albanian political prisoners. At the time this generated an impression that there perhaps was still a chance to achieve a political solution for Kosovo and Yugoslavia - but it was only an illusion. When my term as president of the Presidency expired on May 15, 1990, I was quickly succeeded by the Serbian member of the collective presidency, and the suppression of the Kosovo Albanians accelerated. At that time the newly elected governments in Slovenia and Croatia were still reluctant to declare independence; the Kosovo situation made it clear that there was no real choice. Milosevic advocated a more centralized federation - which, if achieved, clearly would have been the realization of a divisive dream of a Greater Serbia.

It should be remembered that this was the period during which Milosevic had already conducted palace coups in the previously moderate regimes of Montenegro and Vojvodina. His skillfully-organized populist revolutions posed an obvious threat to the well-established autonomy of the other republics. In such circumstances it's very difficult to blame Slovenia and Croatia for seeking an exit strategy from the growing mess (it's also anti-democratic). By the end of 1990, and after internationally validated referendums, each had decided on independence - although both proposed a six-month period to negotiate with the other republics before a formal declaration to that effect.

The six months that followed were crucial; they determined whether Yugoslavia would lurch in the direction of peace or war. This was perhaps one period where the international community could have influenced developments before a decisive turn towards the latter. But, apart from the distractions of the Soviet dissolution and the Gulf War, most western diplomats and analysts didn't quite realize that the second half of 1990 was a fateful turning point for Yugoslavia. Even if they by and large supported the democratic inclinations of Slovenia and Croatia and were out off by Milosevic's increasingly aggressive nationalism.

In practice, as we have seen, it was no longer possible to reconcile the two sides of the Yugoslav map. To the east was Milosevic's Serbia, which had declared direct rule of Kosovo and which was also firmly in control of Vojvodina and Montenegro, two regions which, like Kosovo, previously had enjoyed autonomous status within Yugoslavia. In the west was Slovenia and Croatia, each with a democratic election behind it. In between, of course, lay the complex multi-ethnic weave of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which at that time would still have preferred to keep the federation intact (although many Bosnians felt increasingly threatened by the Milosevic regime).

As later events certainly proved, the biggest problem was posed by the complicated multiethnic structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Already in 1990 Bogicevic, the Bosnian member of the Federal Presidency, warned me that the Serbs, Croats and Muslims of Sarajevo would shoot at each other from their houses if the dangerous developments of the time continued. For his part Milosevic told me in January 1991 - immediately after the successful plebiscite on independence in Slovenia - that my country could leave, but not Croatia, with its Serbian-populated regions. It was obvious at that time that the Serbian regime was contemplating two options: If possible to get a control over the entire Yugoslav federation. But if that was not possible, at least to control the major part of it, meaning everything but ethnically homogenous Slovenia and the non-Serbian parts of Croatia. The Serbian leadership, of course, continued to talk about "Yugoslav integrity" - a seductive concept in view of the well-known fact that the international community preferred this option, and also because of the Yugoslav generals who still saw themselves as defenders of that federation.

For example General Kadijevic, the defense minister of Federal Yugoslavia, told me at the time that he and the other generals should be hung if they didn't prevent a civil war. I know that the generals had been looking at different options, including how to stop Milosevic. This was still a period when Milosevic could not count on the unquestioning obedience of the Yugoslav military. But the Serbian influence on that institution ultimately prevailed, and the generals turned against Slovenian and Croatian secessionism, even seriously considering the prevention of multiparty elections in those republics in the spring 1990, while I was president. But I made it clear that the Presidency as the supreme commander of the army supported elections. To their credit, the generals didn't want to act on their own, but wanted to be covered formally and constitutionally by the Presidency.

By a year later, in the first months of 1991, a struggle for the Presidency had started. After stripping Kosovo and Vojvodina of their autonomous status and after deposing the moderate political forces in Montenegro, the Serbs could control four out of eight votes in the Presidency. Together with Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia, Slovenia held the other half of the votes. Still, in March 1991, when under Serbian pressure the generals proposed a kind of martial law which would lead to military intervention in Slovenia and Croatia, the Kosovo representative voted in support of the western republics. The generals thus didn't receive the approval of the Presidency and Milosevic immediately replaced the Kosovar. Soon after the Presidency was effectively blocked from fulfilling its constitutional function when the Serbs didn't allow the Croatian member, Stipe Mesic to become the president of the Presidency on May 15th 1991. (Mesic is now the president of Croatia.) From here on the federal army acted without a supreme commander - a situation which allowed the military intervention in Slovenia in July 1991.

Concurrently with these dramatic events, political negotiations were being conducted. They started in fall of 1990, when Slovenia and Croatia presented their proposal for a loose Confederation to the other republics. The federal Presidency and the presidents of the republics met together on several occasions before June 1991,when Slovenia and Croatia announced their independence. Different proposals on exit strategies were discussed, including ones that envisaged various forms of an asymmetric confederation. One idea proposed was that Slovenia, as an ethnically homogenous republic, would become independent, while the other republics would form an association not dissimilar to the one finally agreed to four years later at Dayton (the latter of course involved only the Bosnian ethnic groups). Milosevic refused all the "confederative" proposals, and for that matter Croatian president Franjo Tudjman probably never really believed in them either. Milosevic wanted a Greater Serbia; Tudjman was dreaming about a Greater Croatia.

Even while Serbia was establishing definitive control over the federal army, Slovenia and Croatia, confronted with the fact that these negotiations weren't bearing fruit, prepared their defenses.

And here is where Western diplomacy should have acted differently. But the West was by and large ignoring the facts on the ground, preferring to listen to the unrealistic reasoning of the federal Prime Minister, Ante Markovic - who, against all evidence, believed the Yugoslav federation remained sustainable - and to the skillfully tailored rhetoric of Milosevic, who repeatedly said that his motivation was to keep the federation together. Meanwhile western support for the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia - publicly stated by US Secretary of State James Baker during a brief visit in 199X - was interpreted as an endorsement of military action against Slovenia and Croatia.

Thus the federal army intervened in Slovenia, and during the course of the next decade war spread inexorably to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and finally to Kosovo. Even though it might sound unrealistic in the light of the international distractions which I've already described, I'm convinced that if the western powers, instead of giving a verbal support for an obviously unsustainable federation, had organized a kind of Dayton conference aimed at achieving the peaceful dissolution of Yugoslavia, then these disasters might have been averted. Proposals, after all, were already on the table, and the international community would only have had to include itself in the negotiations between the republics. But unfortunately many years had to pass and hundreds of thousands to die before the international community managed to react in an effective manner.

With the short, ten day war in Slovenia in 1991, the Yugoslav crisis saw blood for the first time. My country succeeded in defending itself quite effectively, and in fact the old Yugoslav army disintegrated as the Croats, Macedonians, Bosnian Muslims and ethnic Albanians in its ranks realized that to fight against Slovenia meant that tomorrow their people could be the victims of just such an attack. In trying to answer the question of how effective the international community was in "managing" the Yugoslav wars (while failing to prevent them) we can say that in the Slovenian case it actually was successful. After 10 days a cease-fire was announced during European Union-sponsored negotiations on the island of Brioni. A "constructively ambiguous" agreement that there be a three month moratorium on Slovenian independence was reached. It managed to preserve Slovenia's momentum towards independence while providing a face-saving way out for the Yugoslav army. Only ten days later, and while still formally the Slovenian member of the Yugoslav federal Presidency, I negotiated an agreement for the complete withdrawal of the Yugoslav army from Slovenian territory. Following a demand by the European union, the federal Presidency itself had been restored for a three month period, and it ratified the withdrawal. This meant de facto official recognition of Slovenian independence, and so my country successfully escaped from what rapidly became Balkan hell. After initial reluctance, formal diplomatic recognitions of Slovenia's new status started coming at the end of 1991.

It didn't take long for the war to spread to Croatia, where the now predominantly Serbian Yugoslav army defended and armed the rebellious Croatian Serbs. This new JNA was now doing what it continued to do for the next decade: defending the ethnic borders of Greater Serbia. I participated in two fruitless conferences in the Hague in September and October 1991. The European Union Attempted to find a political solution for what was now the "former" Yugoslavia - but nobody within the borders of that evaporating country would listen. No matter how many official declarations were made, or EU observers sent, it didn't make much impact on the battlefield: the Serbs had inherited the bulk of the Yugoslav army, were incomparably stronger militarily and were convinced that they could achieve their objectives on the ground without anybody stopping them. By the time the war spread to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian methodology had become predictable: the army started by "ethnically cleansing" the territories to be claimed, a term which didn't manage to hide a murderous reality in which Croats and Moslems were killed or expelled from what had been ethnically mixed territories.

The West, of course, tried to intermediate and searched for a political solution, but it was far too late. The logic of war had taken over. Even in the brief periods when political decisions, declarations and diplomacy seemed to be moving in right direction, the EU and the UN's observers weren't able to stop the war. In May of 1992, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia became members of the United Nations. Macedonia soon followed. The international community had formally recognized the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Serbia (including Kosovo and Vojvodina) and Montenegro now comprised the so-called Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but clearly the Serbs weren't satisfied with it's nominal, inherited borders and had managed to annex vast parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The war continued.

If in this context we come back to the much-quoted statement that "early" recognition of Slovenia and Croatia and perhaps Bosnia and Herzegovina actually triggered the Yugoslav wars, we can see it's inherent absurdity. By the time it was actually recognized, Slovenia had been out of war for half a year; when Croatia and Bosnia were recognized, war had already broken out. Would a political solution have somehow been easier without these recognitions? It's very hard to believe so. Either way, the Serbs would have continued their military actions; the only way to stop them was by force, even if they were far superior in both heavy equipment and in manpower.

As we have seen, for many years the West was either unwilling or unable to put a halt to the Serbian ethnic cleansing by force. The situation in the United States was not favorable to such a solution, both because the Gulf war had recently been concluded and because 1992 was an election year. As for the Europeans, they were divided and unprepared for military action. The Serbs were inclined to inflate and give unwarranted credence to historical differences in relations with the western powers. The French and British were initially considered historical allies dating back to both World War I and II. The Germans were regarded as historical enemies. Since along with the army the Serbs had inherited the diplomatic network of the former federation, they used it very efficiently to sell their propaganda. In addition, when the UN deployed peace-keeping forces they sometimes had problems keeping their impartiality, in practice even making friends with Serbian officers. The Serbs, as is well known, can be very charming, and I can imagine that it was sometimes difficult to believe that this were the same people who were murdering, torturing and violating the most basic human rights of the non-Serbian populations of the former Yugoslavia. While it's clear that others also committed crimes, it's equally unambiguous that the Serbs initiated the policy of ethnic cleansing with all its consequences.

Although a parade of EU and UN mediators came to the region, their knowledge of the situation was by and large insufficient, their task almost impossible, and their missions unsuccessful. The Serbs largely accepted the many different cease-fire agreements in order to rest and re-arm for further action or to placate the international community when the pressure for more decisive intervention by the west became too strong. The dismal record is by now very well known: many people had to die, many more were detained and tortured, and only the comparatively lucky ones managed to simply flee their homes without being beaten or thrown into concentration camps. From the beginning of 1992 to August 1995 - four long years - nothing decisive happened to block the Serbs in their war aims.

But by the fall of '95 the Croatian army, together with Bosnian Moslem forces, succeeded in reversing many of the Serbian gains and in establishing a kind of tenuous equilibrium on the battlefield. And of course the Srebrenica massacre took place; the execution of thousands almost directly in front of UN peace-keeping forces probably finally showed clearly that only determined military action on the part of the West could "persuade" the Serbs. Anything less was understood by the Serbs as the weakness of the international community.

Finally the United States decided to bomb the Serbian positions, producing "Holbrooke diplomacy" - in practice, a credible threat combined with intensive negotiations. Its direct result was the Dayton agreement of 1995. The main principles of this agreements was recognition of the previously existing borders between the republics and a refusal of the results of ethnic cleansing. Bosnia's ethnic groups were permitted maximal internal autonomy, but no ethnically clean states were accepted on Bosnian territory. Bosnia and Herzegovina remained a sovereign state with Serbs, Croats and Moslems continuing to live together - at least on paper. Refugees, according to the agreement, were supposed to be permitted to return to their homes. Further, war criminals were supposed to be apprehended and punished, and a fortified peacekeeping force was to remain in the country for quite some time.

The Dayton agreements represented very positive achievement. The basic principles were that the de facto situation on the ground wouldn't be accepted, and thus the bad guys were not rewarded. Furthermore, the previous situation - a multiethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina - was supposed to be reestablished. The main question was, and remains, if this was at all possible. Can the Serbs, Croats and Moslems live together again after the heinous crimes committed during three and half years of conflict? I believe the answer is yes, if not yet voluntarily. The fact of an international protectorate and the presence of international military forces are needed.

Obviously, earlier military intervention would have made the human and material costs of the Bosnia conflict much lower, and it would have been easier to reestablish the previous multiethnic situation if the war was shorter. A number of times before Dayton, it seemed clear that many diplomats and politicians believed that it would be much easier and less expensive for the international community to simply accept the partition of Bosnia. The ethnically Serbian part, in other words, could be annexed by Serbia, and the Croatian by Croatia. In any event, it was clear at the time of Dayton agreements that the three ethnic groups were oriented towards having their national states and regarded Dayton's solutions as transitional. The Serbs and Croats in particular expected that their visions of Greater Serbia and Croatia were still achievable, and they counted on the international community tiring of the Balkans sooner or later and accepting the realities on the ground.

It's clear that a long-term international presence was needed in order to consolidate the situation, to reconstruct the area and to perhaps enable people to forget the war and even find other priorities in their lives than nationalistic ones. Furthermore, support for moderate politicians was required as well as a lot of patience, time and resources. All this was worthwhile for several clear and compelling reasons. First, the acceptance of ethnic cleansing and ethnically purified micro-states would set an extremely dangerous precedent. Needless to say, multiple other complicated ethnic situations exist in the Balkans and around the world. Accepting force and violence to try to resolve ethnic problems is not acceptable. Multiethnic and multicultural states are a reality and individual and minority rights should be protected. In order to defend these principles the democratic world should be able to invest not only the knowledge and material resources but also the military means if necessary.

In December 1995 I participated in the signing of the Dayton agreements together with leaders of the leading Western states and other leaders of the former Yugoslav republics. The last time I had seen Milosevic was in the Hague in October 1991; there we had discussed political solutions quite similar to those in the Dayton agreements. It took four years of war before these same solutions actually become acceptable. Milosevic had succeeded in imposing himself during the Dayton process as a factor of stability in the region, despite the fact that his aggressive nationalism had initiated the tragic developments of the decade. Those who executed his politics were put on the list of war criminals whereas he was now considered as a peacemaker. Further, the United Nations suspended the sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - a kind of compensation for giving up the idea of Greater Serbia, even though he was convinced more on the battlefield than by diplomacy.

While to any reasonable person this might have seemed like a very good chance for a new start for both Milosevic and Serbia, the Kosovo issue remained unresolved. The Albanians in Kosovo had been waiting, ever since the suppression of their autonomy in 1990, for a positive outcome of the Yugoslav crisis. They had hoped that Milosevic Serbia would be weakened and that they would get a chance to regain their autonomy or gain independence. They had accepted the politics of passive resistance advocated by their elected leader Ibrahim Rugova, and they waited. But Milosevic survived the Yugoslav wars with a regime that was not weakened but even strengthened after Dayton. So gradually the Kosovo Albanians, feeling they had no real alternative, and having witnessed the dynamic in the region and its outcome, started with armed resistance. The Kosovo Liberation Army formed quite quickly; in the face of the reality of continuing Serbian oppression, Rugova finally was unable to convince his countrymen that passive resistance would bring them results.

Given the recent history of the region, not to mention the fact that the Kosovo Albanians were ignored at Dayton, it's easy to understand how the KLA concluded that the world had forgotten them, and that only violence could attract its attention. So in 1998 we saw more and more KLA activity and increasingly violent repression by the Serbian police and military. Almost inevitably, again the international community started to attempt mediation again. A déja vu situation reigned, as broken agreements were followed by monitoring by unsuccessful OSCE observers. The US sent Richard Holbrooke into action again - by now the harbinger of a strategy combining diplomacy with the threat of military action. This time everything went faster than it had a few years before in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the British, French, Germans and Italians were all present at the Rambouillet negotiations, in practice the Americans ran the show, demanding that Milosevic accept an international military force in Kosovo and also stipulating that the Albanians should give up their demand for independence and accept substantial autonomy within the framework of Serbia. Clearly, a Dayton Agreement-type solution. But Milosevic, knowing that he would lose de facto sovereignty over Kosovo - the same place where he had started his nationalistic ride ten years before - reasoned that it was easier to risk a war and hope he could avoid it than expose himself to the possible repercussions within the internal politics of Serbia if he capitulated without a fight.

It was also not easy for the Albanians to accept the Rambouillet conditions. But they were informed, in no uncertain terms, that they would loose international support if they didn't signing. Having received a signature from the Kosovo Albanians and a refusal from Milosevic, NATO decided to bomb Yugoslavia. It was very much an American-led game, in which the credibility of NATO had been put at stake; despite sometimes palpable reluctance, the allies had to follow. As was widely reported, Milosevic had counted on Russians as traditional allies and on divisions within Europe. In practice neither could undermine the American decision. Although the legal basis for the intervention was questionable, NATO didn't demand a new UN resolution authorizing their action because they had reason to believe that Russia and China might block it. Milosevic played poker and lost.

Why did the Americans act so quickly and with such determination this time? I think it was partly the result of accumulated experience coming out of a decade of Balkan wars. They didn't repeat the mistakes of the Bosnia conflict, meaning they didn't accept Milosevic's delays and broken promises. Further, postponing the solution wouldn't have improved the situation; on the contrary. And this time the internal political situation in the United States was more favorable.

Why did the European allies acquiesce so promptly, although some had very mixed feelings? Because Yugoslavia is Europe and the Europeans had clearly failed in its dealings with the crises in previous years. And the Atlantic alliance was at stake. NATO was now fully committed to a new post-cold war mission: humanitarian intervention in order to prevent massive killings and ethnic cleansing. The experience of Srebrenica had not been forgotten, and the European allies were now able to overcome some of the traditional differences that were so visible at the beginnings of the Yugoslav crises. In fact, the NATO action actually deepened European unity. The decision to establish a common European foreign and defense policy, which materialized at the Helsinki summit in December 1999, was significantly motivated by the recent Balkan experience. Not only did the European see clearly that they were unable to act in tackling this kind of crisis without the United States; they also experienced the humiliation of realizing, during the NATO intervention, that they were distinctly the inferiors throughout the operation.

Wasn't the NATO decision to bomb Yugoslavia detrimental to United Nations? For some time during the bombing tensions were large. Russia had been excluded from the game almost entirely, and the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade didn't exactly improve the climate for international relations. But the Europeans, particularly the Germans (where public opinion was quite divided) engaged themselves in diplomatic efforts intended to provide a meaningful role for Russia in final peace agreements confirmed by the Security Council. Finally it was UN and not only NATO peace-keeping forces that were deployed in Kosovo, and this provided a face-saving solution for Russia (and even for Milosevic). But clearly NATO had achieved its objectives: Milosevic finally had to accept nothing less than the conditions set out at the Rambouillet conference.

Of course this agreement was only reached after three months of continuous bombing, during which public opinion in some NATO countries began seriously to waver. On the other hand, pressure built to deploy forces for a ground intervention. Milosevic knew this and it certainly influenced his decision to accept NATO's conditions. And finally it was not in the interest of Russia and China to block the Security Council's decision to give a retroactive legitimacy to NATO's action. A constant vetoing of UN decisions would only undermine their influence in world affairs and the role of the UN would also be diminished.

Is the Yugoslav crisis now finally consolidated? While it's close to the end, the Milosevic regime remains in charge in Belgrade. Now even Montenegro - which followed Milosevic so faithfully back when he confronted Slovenia and Croatia with military force - wants to leave. The international community should intervene to prevent possible bloodshed in Montenegro if it comes to that point. The tool exists; by now, Milosevic should believe in the seriousness of NATO threats.

Kosovo, meanwhile, is slowly following the Bosnian experience. It's not yet clear how much time will be needed to reconcile mortal enemies and to build democratic institutions. Bosnia and Kosovo will remain international protectorates for a long time. Hopefully the international community will invest enough patience and resources to finish the job they started. A lot of energy, time and resources were invested in peace and stability in the Balkans. It's also of major importance for post-cold war security arrangements. To finish this job, successful implementation of the Pact for Stability of South-Eastern Europe will be necessary. It's stated goals include the building of democratic structures and the economic recovery of the region.

What more could the international community have done? We've analyzed the process of the crisis management throughout the decade. Surprisingly, one of what might seem to be the relatively easier questions has not been resolved: the issue of the succession of the former Socialist Yugoslavia. Milosevic has been successfully blocking the succession procedures for years, claiming that his Yugoslavia is the only successor of the former federation. With equal persistence, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina keep saying that there should be five equal successors. Milosevic insists that all the others seceded and should negotiate all succession issues with him. This is a contradiction of UN resolutions regarding this case, but in practice the UN was unwilling to press the issue (although meanwhile all kinds of other sanctions have been introduced against Milosevic).

Actually, there is something more that NATO could have done but didn't. In 1997, at the Madrid summit, NATO decided to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the alliance. Slovenia was widely considered a very good candidate but wasn't accepted. No NATO statesman could give me a good explanation; it seems this decision resulted from a kind of cold war inertia. NATO had integrated three former Warsaw Pact members - but not Slovenia, which successfully emerged from the Yugoslav crisis and was justifiably viewed as an element of stability in the region. The Slovenian model - a stable democracy with an efficient economy - had already confronted the aggressive nationalism of Milosevic ten years ago, and emerged successfully. Indeed, the Slovenian case is a success story, and could logically be viewed as an example for other countries in the region. Since NATO will be involved in south-eastern Europe for a long time to come, it's clear that such an ally directly at that region's borders, and with the necessary knowledge and experience, should be appreciated. Paradoxically, when I participated at the Washington summit in 1999, NATO was focussing all its concentration on Yugoslavia. It was seeking solutions and developing instruments for a long-term presence in the region. I wouldn't be surprised if the summit in 2002 will end up still focussed on Yugoslavia.
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