Remarks by the former Secretary, Lawrence Eagleburger,

of State to the people of Serbia,

broadcast by Voice of America

and Radio Free Europe, May 21, 1999



"My name is Lawrence Eagleburger. Some of you may remember me as I lived among you for 7 years, including 4 years as the U.S. ambassador to your country. Earlier, as a U.S. embassy official, I lived in Macedonia for several months with a U.S. Army Engineer Unit helping the victims of the Skopje earthquake. My wife and I developed deep friendships with Serbs from all walks of life, many of whom remain close to us to this day. Above all, we developed a deep respect and admiration for the Serb people -- for their courage in times of danger, fortitude in times of difficulty, and generous hospitality in times both good and bad.

You may have heard me say some tough things about Serbia in the last few years, but what I have said is directed against one man -- and it is directed against this man for what he has done to you as well as for what he has done to others. I cannot stand to see what Milosevic has done to a country and a people that I still love. You deserve better than this -- better than the international isolation and the economic ruin that he has brought the Serb people. And you would have done better than this if Yugoslavia had been free to enter the post-communist era with the rest of Europe 10 years ago.

I can only imagine what you are now going through. But I do know that none of my countrymen -- no American -- wants to see you suffer for the acts of one man. As someone who has been deeply committed to the relationship between the United States and Yugoslavia, I truly wish that the air campaign had not been necessary. In fact, there could have been a better way: Milosevic was given the opportunity to keep Kosovo within Yugoslavia and to keep forces there. Under Rambouillet, Kosovo would not have become independent; in fact, the KLA would have been disarmed. But Milosevic did not go to Rambouillet, and he did not allow his diplomats to negotiate seriously there.

Having lived among you for so many years, I understand the Serbs' deep attachment to Kosovo. Knowing your pride and your strength of character, I understand how angry you are. But at the end of the 20th century -- a century that has seen far too much of ethnic strife -- NATO could not simply stand by and allow Milosevic to brutalize an entire people. Milosevic is the reason for the NATO bombing. He is the one who created this conflict, just as he created previous conflicts with Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. And we know how they ended -- with Yugoslavia smaller, weaker, and more isolated.

That is how this conflict is going to end, too, if it goes on much longer. And I know that more and more people inside Serbia understand what the consequences for Serbia will be. More and more Serb voices, both within and outside the government, are calling on Milosevic to accept reality and do what he knows he must to bring peace to his unhappy and suffering people.

I am horrified at what is being done to innocent men, women and children in Kosovo. I cannot believe that the many Serbs I knew -- if they knew the truth about what has been going on in Kosovo -- would be any less horrified than the rest of the civilized world.

But I am also deeply sorry for the increasing suffering of the Serb people as this conflict continues. It is time for Milosevic to begin thinking about them and allow the conflict to end.

The Serbs are a great and proud people. I remember a time when they were closely united with the American people. I am proud of what I have been able to contribute to our relationship. I strongly believe that you belong at the heart of Europe and at the center of Western civilization. You deserve to join the community of democracies and to enjoy the same political and economic benefits that are the right of every free people. Indeed, a place is being reserved for a democratic Serbia in a reconstructed southeastern Europe. You have been living a nightmare since long before the start of the Kosovo conflict. It has been more than 10 years since your nightmare began. It must end -- and soon. When it does, I can assure you that the United States will be ready to rebuild the historic ties between our two peoples and to help Serbia on the road to democratic renewal and economic recovery."