New York, June 28, 1999

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations

As released by the Office of the Spokesman 


(As Prepared for Delivery)


After Kosovo: Building A Lasting Peace

Thank you Les, and good evening to you all. Members of the Council on Foreign Relations and distinguished colleagues, friends and guests. NATO's confrontation with Belgrade over Kosovo has ended in accordance with the conditions the Alliance set. Now, we face the even harder task of building a lasting peace there and throughout Southeast Europe. This evening, I would like to discuss with you this historic challenge.

Churchill once described Russia as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. In Kosovo today, we see a success folded within a tragedy stamped with a question mark.

Consider the reactions of the refugees and displaced as their time of exile ends. For some, coming home means a joyous reunion of family and friends. For others, it means a heart-stopping confirmation of terrible fears as bodies are identified and mass graves found. For all, it means uncertainty about what will come next.

As a result, Kosovo today is a cauldron of grief mixed with exhilaration, of unresolved anger and unfilled dreams. Out of this the international community, and the area's people, must build a future secure and free.

A starting point is provided by UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and the military and political arrangements to which it refers.

In accordance with these, Serb forces have left, KFOR is deploying, and the Kosovo Liberation Army will demilitarize over the next 90 days.

In addition, the United Nations Interim Mission is being set up. It will operate in partnership with the EU, the OSCE, donor countries and KFOR. And its duties will encompass civil administration, humanitarian relief, economic recovery, and the creation of democratic institutions, including--most crucially--a new local police.

Assembling the nuts and bolts of a durable peace in Kosovo is a daunting challenge. Our expectations should be realistic. The mission will take time; complaints will surely be heard; and despite KFOR's presence, the danger of violence will persist. As is usual, the good news will often be treated as no news, while setbacks receive the spotlight. Success will require an extraordinary team effort.

Notwithstanding all this, I am hopeful--for three reasons.

First, for most of the past decade, Kosovar Albanians coped with Serb repression by maintaining parallel political, educational and social structures. They have experience managing institutions.

Second, in past weeks, I have seen an extraordinary determination on the part of European officials to get this job done and done right. This is true from London to Helsinki and from Ankara to Lisbon. Failure is not an option.

Third, the international community has learned some hard lessons in recent years about the do's and don'ts of building peace in post-conflict situations.

It is essential that, in Kosovo, these lessons be heeded. The military and civilian components must work together well both internally and with each other. Both must take effective use of their mandates and focus on results. Donors must back them not just with promises, but with resources of sufficient quantity and timeliness to make a difference.

Above all, we must have faith that the mission's underlying principles of democracy and tolerance, economic reform and the rule of law, are the right ones for all the people of Kosovo.

There are some who see an insurmountable obstacle in the desire of many Kosovars for immediate independence, a position that neither NATO nor governments in the region support.

Having met with the Kosovar leadership, I know the yearning for independence is powerful.

But I also know that Belgrade's withdrawal has altered the reality within which the people of Kosovo will formulate their aspirations. Until now, independence has seemed the only alternative to repression.

But in the future, Kosovars will have something they have never had, which is genuine self-government. They will be out from under Milosevic's boot, with the freedom to choose their own leaders and shape the laws by which they are governed. Milosevic, meanwhile, won't be able to arrest so much as a jaywalker in Kosovo. And his henchmen won't have the capacity to intimidate Kosovars or deny them their rights.

That is why the Kosovar Albanian leadership signed on to the Rambouillet Accords, despite the absence of an independence guarantee. And why I will go out on a limb and predict that KFOR will receive strong cooperation from most Kosovars in the months ahead.

Another key issue is whether the new Kosovo will include its ethnic Serb, Roma and other minorities, and whether they will be able to live safely now that Belgrade's forces have withdrawn.

Given the extent of destruction inflicted by Serbs, the risk is obvious that some ethnic Albanians will take the law into their own hands. Many unacceptable incidents have already occurred.

But KFOR takes seriously its mandate to protect all Kosovars, including Serbs. And its effectiveness will increase as deployment continues, and demilitarization gains steam.

Kosovo will be a better place if Serbs who did not commit crimes stay and help rebuild. But that is their decision to make. We will measure our success by whether the rights of all those who choose to live in Kosovo are respected.

The same principle, incidentally, should apply elsewhere in the region. The international community must continue to press for the safe return of other refugees, including ethnic Serbs to the Krajina region of Croatia. This is crucial, for there could be few greater gifts to the 21st Century than to bust the ghosts of Balkans past and consign Milosevic's tactics of hate to the trash bin of history.

Even as we work to help Kosovo regain its feet, we are acting to secure the future of the region. With our partners in the European Union playing a big role, we have launched a Pact to stabilize, transform and eventually integrate all of Southeast Europe into the continent's democratic mainstream.

We undertake this effort because it is right, but also because it is smart; for we know that America cannot be secure unless Europe is secure, which it will not be if its southeast corner remains wracked by division and strife.

Our strategy, with our partners, is to apply the model of help and self-help reflected in the Marshall Plan half a century ago, and in efforts to aid democratization in Central Europe this decade. In this spirit, President Clinton will meet with his counterparts in the region this summer.

Together, they will discuss ways to mobilize the resources of a wide range of governments and organizations, while coordinating with the European Community and World Bank. Our intention is to work urgently and effectively with leaders in Southeast Europe as they strive to attract capital, raise living standards, reconcile ethnic and religious tensions, and promote the rule of law.

In this way, we hope over time to enable countries throughout the region to participate fully in the major economic and political institutions of the Trans-Atlantic community. This would greatly serve America's interest in expanding the area within Europe where wars simply do not happen. And it would mark another giant step towards the creation of a continent whole and free.

We do not start from square one, but rather with a strong base of democratic leadership. Hungary has already joined NATO. Hungary and Slovenia are well along in accession negotiations with the EU. And officials in Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Albania and Croatia demonstrated throughout the recent crisis that they want their societies to grow, prosper and live in peace.

The same is true of Montenegro, where President Djukanovic and his people endured grave danger without wavering in their support for democratic principles. They have earned the right to participate in our initiative.

We look forward as well to welcoming a new Serbia, because our efforts at regional integration cannot fully succeed until that occurs. But Serbia will not receive help, except for humanitarian relief, until it is democratic and Milosevic is out of work or--better yet--in jail.

This is only common sense. Milosevic led Serbia into four wars this decade. He has been indicted for crimes against humanity. He has lied repeatedly to his own people and to the world. His regime is hopelessly corrupt. He portrays himself as a hero, but he is a traitor to every honorable Serb and has no place in the region's future.

We learned in Kosovo, as in Bosnia and Rwanda, that in this era of varied and mobile dangers, gross violations of human rights are everyone's business. Earlier this century, our predecessors confronted not only Hitler, but Fascism; not only Stalin, but Communism.

In recent weeks, we confronted not only Milosevic, but ethnic cleansing. NATO's leaders simply refused to stand by and watch while an entire ethnic community was expelled from its home in the Alliance's front yard.

By acting with unity and resolve, NATO reaffirmed its standing as an effective defender of stability and freedom in the region. It validated the strategy for modernizing the Alliance approved at the Washington Summit in April. And it underlined the importance of the leading nations on both sides of the Atlantic acting together in defense of shared interests and values.

If we are as resolute in building peace as we were persistent in conflict, the crisis in Kosovo may come to be viewed as a turning point in European history.

In the past, Balkan strife has torn Europe apart, as big powers took sides and made local fights their own. The Dayton Accords established a new model of nations coming together to promote peace. Milosevic gambled that Kosovo would prompt a reversion to the earlier model, splitting the Alliance and opening an unbridgeable gap between Russia and the West. Thanks to a careful assessment of mutual interests in Moscow and Allied capitals, he bet wrong.

Russia and NATO did not see eye to eye on the use of force against Belgrade. But both wanted to prevent the conflict from spreading, and following President Clinton's lead, we worked together to bring the conflict to an end. And now, with Russia in KFOR, we are working together to sustain the peace.

More generally, the time-tested marriage of diplomacy and force played a central role from the beginning of this crisis. At Rambouillet, we sought an interim political settlement that would have protected the rights of all Kosovars. To the vast detriment of Serb interests, Milosevic rejected that agreement. But the talks helped bring the Kosovar Albanian leadership together in an unprecedented way.

After NATO launched its campaign, we shifted from diplomacy backed by the threat of force to diplomacy in support of force. We worked hard to assist the frontline states in coping with the flood of refugees. We received help from countries on every continent, including those in the Muslim world. We consulted constantly with our Allies, who stayed together every step of the way. And we made full use of public diplomacy to explain NATO's objectives.

Ultimately, we were able to use diplomacy to help bring the need for force to an end. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, we reached an understanding with Russia's envoy Victor Chernomyrdin on the terms of peace. We solicited the help of Finnish President Ahtisaari in presenting those terms to Belgrade. By then, an isolated Milosevic had no other choice but to accept. And we proceeded to gain Security Council approval for an international force with NATO at its core.

Now we are in a new stage of practicing diplomacy to build peace. During the past two weeks, we have consummated agreements on an appropriate role for Russia in KFOR, KLA demilitarization, and the Southeast Europe Stability Pact.

Our strategy throughout has been grounded firmly in U.S. interests. By meeting massive ethnic cleansing in the Balkans with a red light, we make it less likely that NATO will be called upon to use force in the future. And by supporting democracy and promoting human rights, we contribute to a future of stability and peace throughout Europe. This is fully consistent both with American interests, and with NATO's purpose, which is to prevent war, while defending freedom.

Some hope, and others fear, that Kosovo will be a precedent for similar interventions around the globe. I would caution against any such sweeping conclusions. Every circumstance is unique. Decisions on the use of force will be made by any President on a case-by-case basis after weighing a host of factors. Moreover, the response to Milosevic would not have been possible without NATO, and NATO is a European and Atlantic, not a global, institution.

We have been laboring throughout this decade to improve the world's ability to prevent and respond to humanitarian disasters, but this remains a work in progress.

We conceived the Africa Crisis Response Initiative to improve indigenous capacities on that continent.

We are the largest contributor to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

We are backing strongly the War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda and the Balkans.

And we have supported peace initiatives from Northern Ireland to the Middle East and Central Africa.

The United States remains the world's leading force for justice and stability. But a leader cannot stand still. We need help from Congress to support the President's requests for resources to back our leadership, and to ensure that our commitments in Southeast Europe do not cause the neglect of other priorities.

Not long ago, I visited a refugee camp in Macedonia. And I was never prouder to be an American than when I heard the chant "USA, USA, USA" and saw a little boy's handlettered sign that read, at the top, "I Love America" and at the bottom, "I want to go home."

As someone whose own family was twice forced to flee its home when I was still a little girl, I remember how it feels to be displaced. And now I know how it feels, as Secretary of State, to be able to tell that little boy and his family that--with America's help--they would go home, safely and soon.

There are some who say that Americans need not care what happens to that child or to those like him.

Others suggest that until we can help all the victims of ethnic violence, we should be consistent and not help any.

Still others believe that by trying to bring stability to the Balkans, we are taking on a job that is simply too hard.

Finally, there are some--overseas and even here at home--who see NATO's actions as part of a master plan to impose our values on the world.

Such criticisms are not original. They echo voices heard half a century ago when America led in rebuilding war-torn societies across two oceans, helped to reconcile historic enemies, elevated the world's conception of human rights, and attempted--and achieved--the impossible by supplying more than two million people in Berlin entirely by air for more than nine months.

From that time to this, the United States has defended its own interests, while promoting values of tolerance and free expression that are not "Made in America" or confined to the West, but rather universal and fundamental to world progress and peace.

It is in this spirit of melding present interests with timeless values--a spirit fully in keeping with the highest traditions of U.S. foreign policy--that we have acted in Kosovo, and that we strive now for lasting peace throughout Southeast Europe.

It is to the success of this mission, and the continuation of this tradition, that I pledge my own best efforts tonight, and respectfully solicit your wise counsel and support. Thank you very much.