Remarks As Delivered for
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns
At The Woodrow Wilson Center
May 19, 2005
"Ten Years After Dayton: Balkan Stability and the Kosovo Question"
Thank you very much, good afternoon. It is a great pleasure for me to be at the Wilson Center to be with my friend John Sitilides and to see the happy merger between the Western Policy Center and the Wilson Center. I am a great admirer of the Tsakopoulos and Kounalakis families, know them well and have visited with them in California. I am very honored to give the first lecture under their sponsorship. I see a few Greeks in the room, not surprisingly, a few friends from Greece that I hadn't expected to be here when I looked out into this audience. It is a great day for us to reflect on the alliance and friendship with Greece because Mr. Karamanlis is arriving in Washington. He has a meeting with our President tomorrow and we are looking forward to that. I think we have a very strong partnership with Greece. I said to a Greek friend yesterday, "I can't remember a time when the relationship has been as strong as it is now, between the Greek and the America governments and everything we are doing together." So, welcome to all of you who are from Greece and who I remember from my ambassadorship there. Let me just say that I want to speak to you about the Balkans, about American policy there, about what we should do to further peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to resolve a long festering conflict in Kosovo, to try to affect a better United States relationship with Serbia and Montenegro and when I finish I would be very happy to take your questions.
This center is named from Woodrow Wilson. President Wilson was one of our great presidents and one of our great internationalist presidents. President Woodrow Wilson went to war reluctantly in 1917 and only as a last recourse. He is best remembered now as a President determined to defend the principles he believed were essential to a moral world order. Wilson was also a man who had a clear vision of a European future and foresaw a role for a democratic international community to preserve the peace. The war that embroiled the U.S. and the Wilson Administration in Europe began in the Balkans in the wars of 1912 and 1913 and in the shot fired by Gavrilio Princip in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.
The twentieth century began and ended with conflict in the Balkans. A decade ago, international peacekeepers were held hostage in Bosnia, and the International Community was held hostage by a lack of consensus for action. The Balkans were our top foreign policy priority – just as Iraq and the Global War on Terrorism are today. And for fundamentally similar reasons: to stop catastrophic human rights abuses, to stand against tyranny, and to stand up for the values that make us more secure. Today, the Balkans remain a vital part of that global mission. It is time to solve this missing piece in the President's vision of a single Europe whole, free, and at peace.
Nearly one hundred years after the First World War and a decade after Srebrenica, the U.S is resolved to move the Balkan region beyond the savage conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries and to integrate it into the democratic peace established in the rest of Europe after the end of the Cold War – because it is in our national interest to do so. This Center, named in President Wilson's honor, is perhaps the most fitting place to discuss United States policy in the Balkans and what we and our European partners must now do to help the people of the region find stability, democracy and peace. Ten years after the horrible massacres at Srebrenica, NATO's battle to stop the Bosnian war and the U.S.-inspired peace at Dayton, 2005 must begin a year of decision on the future of the Balkans.
Ten years ago the Balkans were in flames in a catastrophic conflict. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed and millions more were displaced from their homes. The Balkans also was a gaping diplomatic wound, which, if left untreated, was capable of infecting trans-Atlantic relations, not just between the U.S. and Western Europe, but also with a newly independent Russia, which had just emerged from the disintegrated Soviet Union. It was in the Balkans that the U.S. and its allies - and Russia - reached a consensus for action and put an end to the worst bloodshed Europe had seen since World War II.
It was in the Balkans that we learned anew that for diplomacy to be effective, it must sometimes be backed with the threat and use of force. We learned in the Balkans the danger of delay when crimes against humanity are committed by a wicked tyrant, and it was in the Balkans where the U.S. and NATO intervened to stop the Bosnian war and win the peace in 1995 and then acted again in 1999 to stop Slobodan Milosevic barbarous assault on Kosovo's Albanian communities.
As State Department Spokesman in 1995, I remember all too vividly the feeling of horror upon receiving the first reports of the massacre at Srebrenica ten years ago in July. I recall the terrible sadness we all felt at learning that our friends Ambassador Bob Frasure, Nelson Drew and Joe Kruzel were later killed in an accident on the Mt. Igman road because the Bosnian Serbs refused to guarantee them safe passage in their mission of peace. I was privileged to be at Dayton when Ambassador Richard Holbrooke achieved a remarkable peace agreement very few thought was possible. As Ambassador to Greece during the Kosovo crisis, working closely with my good friend Ambassador Chris Hill, I saw first hand the suffering of Albanians forced to flee Milosevic's cruelty. And most recently, as U.S. Ambassador to NATO, I saw how far these countries have come. I've met with the region's leaders who have a genuine desire to move forward beyond the past in a responsible way and into our great trans-Atlantic alliance.
A Year of Decision
Ten years after Srebrenica the United States and our partners cannot define averting disaster in the Balkans as success: we must demand solutions to problems, not defer them. The days for diplomatic triage in the Balkans must give way to a final and decisive international effort to help the peoples of the region to put war behind them forever, find peace and find a future home in NATO and the European Union.
President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been and will continue to be fully supportive of a strong U.S. role in this last campaign to achieve a permanent peace in the Balkans region. Secretary Rice has asked me to travel to Sarajevo, Belgrade and Kosovo in early June to help take the final steps necessary to bring security and peace to the Balkans. The Balkans-—so often a source of instability in European history—-are now poised to be the last piece in forming, as President Bush describes, "a Europe that is truly whole, free and at peace." That objective is our largest strategic goal in Europe, and one that will be one of the most important accomplishments of the European-American alliance. With the Cold War over, the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union disappeared, most of Central Europe now part of NATO and the European Union, it is only in the Balkans that our work for a final, democratic peace in Europe is incomplete.
And yet the opportunity to move forward is not indefinite. We must act now to address the future status of Kosovo, the region's last and largest unresolved issue. The status quo is neither stable nor sustainable. On this, all parties agree.
Hope and Challenges in Kosovo
2005 is a year of decision for Kosovo. Six years ago the United States led the NATO Allies in a campaign to end Slobodan Milosevic's abhorrent abuse in Kosovo and halt his attempts at ethnic cleansing. After an intensive military air campaign, the international community demanded that Serb security and paramilitary forces leave, allowing Kosovar Albanians back to their homes under NATO protection. Belgrade reluctantly complied, but Kosovo was effectively made a ward of the international community-—administered by the UN and secured by NATO-—with its future status left to later determination. That time is upon us to resolve that issue, and to finally win the peace.
Winning the Peace in Kosovo
Together with the United Nations and our European partners, we hope to launch a process this year to determine Kosovo's future status. Getting there will not be easy. It will require continued U.S. engagement and trans-Atlantic cooperation. It will require Kosovo's leadership to continue progress on the UN-endorsed standards that are designed to ensure basic values of multi-ethnicity, democracy, and market-orientation while placing Kosovo decisively on the path to integration with Europe. For Kosovo to move forward, the timeline for accountability must accelerate, as responsibility moves over from the UN Mission in Kosovo to the Provisional Institutions of Self Government (PISG). No matter what Kosovo's final status might be, these values are at the heart of our effort to resolve the major remaining issue in the Balkans.
In 2003, my predecessor Marc Grossman proposed, and the UN Security Council endorsed, a process of regular reviews of progress on the standards, leading to a comprehensive progress review in mid-2005. We hope that review will begin shortly and have strongly endorsed Norway's able Ambassador to NATO, Kai Eide, to conduct the review. Further implementation of the standards, especially those related to the rights and security of Kosovo's minority communities, is essential for all the people of Kosovo to live in the kind of society they deserve, and for Kosovo to meet the rigorous criteria for Euro-Atlantic integration. Having put meaning in the UN slogan "standards before status" we are effectively moving to an approach of "standards with status" – recognizing that, only with a resolution of the status question will we bring the kind of stability to Kosovo necessary for the building of the kind of advanced democratic and market-oriented institutions that the standards process has sought to achieve.
We are working actively with our fellow members of the Contact Group -- the EU, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United Kingdom –- to implement our vision for Kosovo and hope to move forward with the comprehensive review this summer. The review will look not only at the technical fulfillment of the standards, but also at the larger political issues. While the result of the review is not a foregone conclusion, we are hopeful that Kosovo is on course to a positive review. We expect the Contact Group and the UN to meet this fall to consider the results of the comprehensive review and to decide whether to launch a status process. If the result of the review is sufficiently positive, the United States will advocate a swift launch of status talks. We believe a senior European political figure should lead the talks and Secretary Rice has offered to identify a senior American to serve as deputy.
The exact shape of a status process remains undefined, and in order to preserve our role as facilitators of a negotiated solution, the United States and our partners in the Contact Group have not advocated any specific outcome for status talks. However, the Contact Group has already identified three essential elements: status talks will involve dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina; Kosovo's Serbs and other minority communities will have a role in the process; and all parties are expected to engage constructively and not obstruct the process. The goal will be to agree on Kosovo's future status in the international community.
Belgrade has set forth a position of "more than autonomy, but less than independence" for Kosovo. Kosovo's Albanian population insists on immediate and unconditional independence. Finding common ground between these positions will be a major challenge but we believe that with U.S. leadership and trans-Atlantic cooperation, we can find a solution that produces long term stability for the Balkans by moving the whole region into the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.
The Contact Group has also identified some basic principles that it believes should guide a settlement of Kosovo's final status. We ruled out a return to the situation before March 1999 and made clear that Kosovo's final status must enhance regional stability and contribute to the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Balkans. Accordingly, Kosovo's final status must:
- Be based on multi-ethnicity with full respect for human rights including the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes in safety;
- Offer effective constitutional guarantees to ensure the protection of minorities;
- Promote effective mechanisms for fighting organized crime and terrorism; and;
- Include specific safeguards for the protection of cultural and religious heritage.
Just last week, the U.S. pledged one million dollars to a UNESCO effort to raise funds to protect all of Kosovo's religious and historical sites, including especially Serb sites, to ensure the preservation of Kosovo's rich cultural and ethnic heritage.
Additionally, the Contact Group told the parties that we believe that Kosovo's final status must:
- Not be decided by any party unilaterally or result from the use of force;
- Not change the boundaries of the current territory of Kosovo, either through partition or through a new union of Kosovo with any country or part of any country after the resolution of Kosovo's status;
- Fully respect the territorial integrity of all other states in the region;
- Ensure that Kosovo continues to develop in a sustainable way both politically and economically; and
- Ensure that Kosovo does not pose a military or security threat to its neighbors.
We expect that the UN's international civilian and NATO's military presence would continue past a status settlement to ensure its full implementation and to monitor the political and security situations for Kosovo's minorities. We are discussing with our friends in the European Union placing an EU focus on the international efforts following a status settlement. We ask them to think creatively and to act decisively and assure them that the United States will remain an active partner in Kosovo and throughout the region.
That means we will continue to honor our Alliance commitments and to lead efforts to ensure that KFOR is the most capable and effective force it can be.
Serbia and Montenegro
In resolving the status of Kosovo, we look to Belgrade to play a role of continued constructive engagement. How the U.S. and our European allies choose to move forward on relations with Serbia and Montenegro will be determined in part by how effectively and democratically that country chooses to address lingering questions regarding the future of the State Union, its full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and Belgrade's commitment to cooperate constructively on Kosovo. We are determined to remain engaged with reformers to realize the promise of October 2000, when Milosevic finally had to accept that democracy had come to Serbia and his day was done. We want Serbia to succeed, and will respect any decision regarding the State Union's future status as long as it is made in accordance with established constitutional and legal principles and reflects the democratic will of its citizens.
We are encouraged by recent statements from Belgrade indicating a willingness to cooperate on Kosovo. Belgrade's clear determination could be immediately demonstrated by supporting the return of Kosovo Serbs to the Assembly and political life in Kosovo. I look forward to discussing all of these issues with the Serbian leadership in a few weeks' time.
Hope and Challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ten years after the horror of Srebrenica and the fragile hope of Dayton, the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina is also beginning to be written. In December 2004, the NATO-led Stabilization Force, SFOR, officially ended, having completed its historic and enormously successful mission to end the war, enforce a peace and separate two warring armies in the same state. The United States and our European allies should be particularly proud of NATO's decisive role in keeping the peace for nearly a decade. It was NATO's finest hour. NATO restored peace to Bosnia and maintained it for nine years with only a few casualties among the tens of thousands of allied soldiers who served there as peacekeepers. To move on to today's challenges, an EU-led force --Operation Althea -- stands watch in Bosnia, while a NATO headquarters in Sarajevo retains the lead in international efforts on defense reform, counterterrorism, and the ongoing search for the remaining fugitive war crime indictees. Bosnia and Herzegovina is also moving steadily forward with a massive reform effort to rebuild its economy, strengthen state-level institutions and meet the criteria for EU and NATO integration.
High Representative Lord Paddy Ashdown has been an especially important and effective leader in moving Bosnia along the path of reconciliation and integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. But Bosnia and Herzegovina's future increasingly must be defined by Bosnians themselves. In the months to come, we will need to reexamine the international civilian presence to ensure that it accurately reflects the progress made and where Bosnia and Herzegovina is headed. The key to success in Bosnia has been the international community's resolve to meet challenges with determination and flexibility without creating a culture of dependency. We would like to see the development of a political climate in Bosnia and Herzegovina where citizens are confident that their vote matters and where campaigns are defined not by narrow ethnic interests and complaints against the international community, but by the ideas and issues that will move Bosnia and Herzegovina forward into the EU and NATO.
The peoples of the region have waited long enough for the justice, security and freedom that other Europeans have enjoyed for generations. The Tito era in Yugoslavia never dealt with the lingering issues of the First and Second World Wars, as Western Europe did so successfully. Instead, Yugoslavia's slogan of "Brotherhood and Unity" was just that, a slogan. It was no substitute for accountability and justice. The demise of Yugoslavia in 1991 was followed by a decade of chaotic disintegration of state institutions, massive refugee flows, brutal ethnic recriminations, and senseless war. But today, ten years after the Bosnian's war's end and six years after NATO's intervention in Kosovo, the Balkan countries have the opportunity to put that past behind them and to join a unified democratic Europe, where they will be welcomed as partners and future allies.
To secure that future, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, and other countries need to face squarely their past. This requires first and foremost the political will to arrest the remaining fugitives indicted for the most serious war crimes in Europe since the Second World War, in particular Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and Ante Gotovina. They should all be transferred to The Hague where the War Tribunal's doors remain open and justice is waiting. We must not forget the horrific murders they stand accused of committing on a massive scale. We owe it to their victims and their families to convince Belgrade, Banja Luka and Zagreb to capture these fugitives and extradite them to The Hague, just as we owe the living the opportunity to return to their homes in safety.
Through international resolve and the efforts of the local Governments, all but a remaining ten indictees have gone to face justice at the Tribunal. Those that remain know that our resolve to hold them accountable has never been greater, nor have the benefits of meeting their international obligations. We have been encouraged by the recent political will and actions demonstrated in the past few months by Serbia and by Bosnia and Herzegovina. We recognize their efforts in bringing more than a dozen indictees to the Tribunal, including ones like former Army Chief of Staff Nebojsa Pavkovic. The U.S. will not support NATO membership for countries that have not fully cooperated with the ICTY and will encourage the EU to apply a similar standard in deciding on its new members. In addition, the U.S. will not agree to admit Serbia and Montenegro into NATO's Partnership for Peace until the major war criminals face their crimes in The Hague, especially Ratko Mladic.
As all parties meet their obligations to cooperate with the Tribunal by ensuring the remaining fugitive indictees are transferred, we look forward to the Tribunal's successful completion of its mandate. All indictments have now been issued, and we continue to support the Tribunal in its efforts to complete trials by 2008, and appeals by 2010. We also provide considerable assistance to countries region to help build the capacity to credibly and transparently adjudicate war crimes cases domestically, including those transferred by the Tribunal itself.
We are also seeking to build a partnership in the Balkans with nations that are not only independent and free, but capable of working with us in Europe and beyond in our larger ambition to win the war on terrorism. Our friends in the Balkans are showing that they can and want to meet this challenge. Albania and Macedonia have contributed soldiers to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and to NATO's peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. Bosnia and Herzegovina is about to deploy a military team to Iraq. Croatia is with us in Afghanistan and is also assisting with training Iraqi police forces. Serbia and Montenegro are contributing to the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Balkan states all seek future membership in NATO and the EU. They must earn that distinction but have begun to walk down the road in partnership with us. We want to see progress on that road become irreversible.
Regional Challenges: Adriatic Charter
There is a great deal of progress to recognize, but more work remains. Work that we undertake with our partners, and that they undertake with each other. Two years ago Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia signed the Adriatic Charter with the United States, pledging mutual support as they pursue the political, economic, defense, and social reforms to achieve their eventual NATO membership. The Adriatic Charter has proven to be an especially useful forum for regional security and cooperation, something that did not exist just a few short years ago. Through the Charter the countries have learned to help themselves by helping each other, building on the lessons learned by NATO's seven newest members. Thus, the Charter countries have also reached out to both Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, including them as observers at recent meetings and promoting greater regional cooperation. Earlier this month in a meeting in Tirana, seven neighboring NATO countries again pledged their support and assistance to see the Adriatic Charter countries ultimately obtain an invitation to NATO. The door to NATO remains open to the Adriatic Charter members. It is not a question of if they will join the Alliance, but rather a question of when they will meet all the requirements of membership. That task is in their hands and we wish them well. They have our full support and encouragement as they continue to invest the effort and the resources necessary to realize their aspirations.
Albania in particular faces an important task in the weeks ahead, with Parliamentary elections set for July 3rd. We and our European partners regard these elections as very important: first because the ability to conduct free and fair elections is an essential indicator of democratic development, critical criteria for integration, and secondly because the government which emerges will need to undertake other reforms that will be needed to bring Albania up to NATO and EU standards.
Although we have seen perhaps the most progress from Croatia in moving toward the Euro-Atlantic community, we ask of Croatia no less than we ask of all nations. As Croatia moves closer to the EU and NATO, it must continue to cooperate constructively, as it agreed to do at Dayton. Most notably, it must undertake all efforts to locate and arrest Ante Gotovina. Until that happens, the United States cannot consider Croatia for NATO membership.
Ten years ago, the crisis in the Balkans was a source of considerable friction in the trans-Atlantic relationship. Today, winning the peace in the Balkans is one of the areas where we cooperate most effectively with our European partners. Working closely with our allies and the people of the region, we will help write the next chapter to a story that began with the breakup of Yugoslavia and a series of tragic wars—-wars that ended only after the collective action of the world's greatest alliance. That alliance - NATO - today remains the bedrock of the trans-Atlantic community and is preparing for the eventual day when the Balkan states will be full members of both NATO and the EU.
Europe has shown the will to take on a greater role in the region, recognizing that the Balkans' stability is linked to a future within Europe. As Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini noted, "Forging a common identity and outlook for the Balkans is a responsibility that Europe must accept if it wishes to measure up to its historic mission of offering continuous prospects for peace prosperity and stability to the peoples of the entire continent." So, while much of the Balkans final integration will be a European-led project, the United States will remain centrally involved in the years to come. We have invested too much and have too important a stake in the region's success-—and in our partnership with Europe-—to do otherwise. The U.S. has unique credibility in the region as we led the effort to end the two wars of the 1990s. The U.S. has a unique responsibility and will remain centrally involved. Thus, the reasons for this speech and for my trip to the region.
In his attempt to secure a peace for Europe after World War I, President Wilson defined a lasting peace as "....only a peace the very principle of which is equality and common participation in a common benefit." In this year of decision, we look forward to working with our European allies and those partners in the Balkans committed to democratic ideals to secure for ourselves and for all people of the region this common benefit of a Europe that is truly and forever whole, free, and at peace.