MR. RUBIN: With the arrival of the Kosovo team, let me make a couple
of brief announcements and then turn the podium over to Ambassador
As you know, the Department has been organizing itself and working
very, very hard on the subject of Kosovo in recent months. Ambassador
Holbrooke did a heroic job in trying to get President Milosevic to do
what the international community demanded. That was followed up with a
lot of work by people in this room, including the work of our NATO
generals and including the work of NATO Secretary General Solana, to
bring us to a point where we were able to say yesterday that we had
achieved substantial compliance. We have now organized ourselves for
the implementation of the agreement and the promotion of a political
Before turning the podium over to Ambassador Holbrooke, let me just
introduce two people -- at least two people -- with him. First, we
have Ambassador William Walker, who has the job of holding President
Milosevic's feet to the fire in terms of compliance. It is his people
who will be doing the verification. As we know, that is no easy task.
He will run the Kosovo Verification Mission as soon as the OSCE gets it
up and running. He is sitting to Ambassador Holbrooke's left.
His success running the peace-keeping operation in eastern Slavonia and
dealing, at that time, in mano a mano discussions with Milosevic and
Tudjman make him the right choice to supervise the roughly 2,000
international personnel that will be allowed to verify compliance on
security and humanitarian aspects.
In addition, we have Ambassador Pardew, sitting to his left, who has
been appointed by the Secretary as U.S. Special Representative for
Kosovo Implementation. Actually, Assistant Secretary Marc Grossman
made that appointment specifically. He will lead a team in the Bureau
of European Affairs and will serve as the single point of contact in
the Department for implementation issues related to Kosovo. He is
currently U.S. Special Representative for Military Stabilization in the
Balkans, and will continue to carry out those functions while assuming
his new responsibilities for Kosovo.
In addition, to his left, is Larry Rossin, the Office Director for
Southern and Central Europe; and then my next-door neighbor, Jim
O'Brien, is sitting over there, who is senior advisor to Secretary
Albright, who has been assigned by the Secretary, with the strong
encouragement of Ambassador Holbrooke, to go over and spend time with
President Milosevic, along with Ambassador Hill, in trying to pull the
necessary teeth to get progress on Kosovo in both the political and
With that introduction, let me turn the podium over to Ambassador
Holbrooke, who will bring others to the fore as appropriate.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Thanks, Jamie. It's good to be back and to see
you again. Let me try to give you a couple of brief headlines and then
take your questions.
In the last month, we have been conducting this intense negotiation
with Belgrade, the outcome of which is now beginning to become
apparent. I will review the details in a minute, but I want to make
two overarching points.
First, what has been agreed to represents -- and here I'm not speaking
only from my own point of view, but quoting such observers as The
Financial Times, The Economist and Roger Cohen in The New York Times.
What has been agreed to by Belgrade represents enormous concessions --
provided, of course, they're carried out; but I'll get to that in a
minute. I stress this because there seems to be some doubt about that
among some observers who talk about NATO blinking or comparing it to
other parts of the world.
So let me be clear -- starting in 1989, the authorities in Belgrade
began taking the rights of the Albanian people in Kosovo away from
them. The world protested; President Bush issued his famous Christmas
warning, repeated by this Administration. But until the last month,
nothing was done about it that was effective. In fact, Milosevic and
his colleagues threw all international presence out of Kosovo in the
early 1990s; took away property rights; broke down the Albanian police;
and did immense -- I hope not irreparable -- damage to the Albanian
political and social structure; and then this summer launched what can
only be described as a rampage through the countryside of Kosovo.
The President of the United States, Secretary Albright, and other
American officials made clear, starting early this year, how strongly
they opposed what had happened. It was not until the last few days and
weeks that we were able to achieve the present situation, which is a
hell of a lot better than it was.
What has happened, in a nutshell, is that the Kosovo problem has become
internationalized; notwithstanding the fact that on April 23 of this
year, a referendum was held in Serbia, where well over 90% of the
people voted that there should be no foreign interference -- a
referendum which Belgrade used as justification for keeping the OSCE
and the international community out. All of this has now, I believe,
begun to turn the other way.
Now, again, I stress, the proof is in the implementation. That is why
Ambassador Walker, Ambassador Pardew and others have joined me here
today, because Jamie Rubin and I wanted you to meet the team that's
going to do the hard part, which is implementation. I would remind
those of you who were at Dayton on November 21, 1995, that when we
initialed that agreement I said that day that implementation is going
to be the hard part. And as those of you who have read my book --
copies on sale in the lobby -- know, I consider the early
implementation phase on the civilian side in Bosnia to have been a
failure -- with consequences which were not reversed until Madeleine
Albright and Jamie made their historic trip -- historic for different
reasons -- in the spring of 1997.
The implementation is the key. But let's focus for a minute on what
happened. We are going to have an air verification mission, which you
have been fully briefed on. The radars will be turned off, the anti-
aircraft will go into cold storage; we will fly when and where we wish.
We are going to have 2,000 or more OSCE verifiers on the ground, and I
want to stress a couple of points about them. First, they are
verification people; they are compliance verifiers. I know you are not
going to find that phrase in your dictionary; but they are not
monitors, they are not observers. They are verifiers. Milosevic
wanted the words observer and monitor. Those are bureaucratic babble
words. Verification, compliance are active words. This is going to be
a hands-on activist mission. And if you read the agreement -- and I
hope that you all have read the agreement, I want to highlight a few
points on it, and in a minute or two you will see that there is a
significant mission here.
Second: I keep reading up to 2,000 or maybe we won't reach 2,000. Read
the agreement -- it is 2,000 or more. Ambassador Walker has the right,
under this agreement, to bring in any additional people at any time. I
quote, "Two thousand unarmed verifiers from OSCE member states will be
permitted, headquarters and support staff included. The mission may be
augmented with technical experts provided by OSCE."
President Milosevic and I agreed clearly that if Ambassador Walker
wants more people to conduct elections -- and I stress the election
will be conducted by OSCE -- or if he wants additional people to train
local police, and that is one of his most important missions, he will
get them. He doesn't need to apply for permission to go over 2,000;
2,000 is a floor, not a ceiling. So my second point is we have the
ground verification system.
Point number three -- that ground verification system will include
some extraordinarily important activities which I believe will reverse
the trend of the last/next decade if implemented -- again, if
implemented. Number one, we are going to supervise the elections
within 9 months. Now, all of you who have been to Kosovo know that the
Albanians are not going to trust an election conducted by the Serbs.
But an internationally supervised election -- and the word is the word
in the Dayton agreement, and any of you who covered the elections in
Bosnia know that it would be run by OSCE -- know that that means
internationally run. That's very important.
Secondly, the police will be -- local Albanian police -- will be
trained and advised by OSCE. These are major events -- again, if
implemented. But implementation has to be preceded by agreements, and
the agreements, if they work, can retroactively and retrospectively
later be regarded as turning points, perhaps, arguably, historic
We can revisit that in a year or two. I stood at this podium after
Bosnia and heard a lot of doubts about it and predictions that the
fighting would resume. Three years later, the fighting hasn't resumed.
Let's see how things go in Kosovo.
The fourth thing that has come out of the last few weeks is the
explicit public description of Chris Hill and his team as the
negotiators or mediators between the Albanian and Serb sides -- a
tremendous step forward. As Jamie said a moment ago, Jim O'Brien is
here today. He and Chris Hill are the senior members of the
negotiating team. As we speak, Chris is in Pristina, in Kosovo,
meeting with leading members of the Albanian factions. Jim is
backstopping the effort here, along with Larry Rossin, who is the head
of the office in the European Bureau. That is without question the
most complicated part of this negotiation.
And I wish to stress, we did not ask any Albanians to sign anything or
agree to anything last week or the week before -- nothing -- nor did we
sign or agree to anything with the Serbs. The announcement on the 11
points concerning politics was a unilateral announcement of the
Belgrade authorities -- far short of what we think is desirable and
necessary. But since it was a unilateral step in the right direction,
if an inadequate step, it should be recognized as such.
Those are the main ingredients of the process. I left one out I should
add, and that is Macedonia -- F.Y.R.O.M. It is extremely important
that there will be a NATO force in the country next door, The Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Secretary Albright discussed this for
the first time in public yesterday. It's something that she and I have
long believed, going back at least 2 or 3 years, was an essential
concomitant of stability in the southern Balkans. The UNPREDEP forces
there, including 300 Americans, are very important. An additional NATO
force, which will not -- repeat, not -- include American combat troops,
but may have a small American liaison cell of some sort, for obvious
reasons, because we need uplinks to the NATO planes overhead and we
need links to the American-led force in Bosnia and we need links to
NATO headquarters elsewhere.
But this force in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is
immensely important. Details cannot come from this podium -- they must
come from NATO headquarters. The British and the French are in
extended talks on this now. Secretary Albright has, if I'm not
mistaken, Jamie, been in constant communication with Robin Cook and
Hubert Vedrine and Solana on this point for the last week. I stress
the importance of the announcement she made yesterday.
So those are the headlines. One last generic point: Foreign policy is
not architecture, no matter what Dr. Brzezinski and others like to
compare it to. In architecture, you make a plan down to the last nut,
the last bolt, the last stress beam, and then you build the thing.
Foreign policy, in my view, is more like jazz; it's an improvisation on
a theme, and you change as you go along. Dean Acheson did not have a
clear vision of what is now his legacy when he started out. He created
the best he could taking account the domestic factors, Euro factors,
the Russians, and so on.
I want to stress that this is a work in progress, but it is of enormous
historic consequence. It begins with this Administration's decisions
to make the United States a resurgent presence in Europe, working in
partnership in the post-Cold War world so that resurgence should not be
misunderstood to mean unilateralism, working in close partnership with
our NATO allies in enlarging NATO, in the Bosnia events, the bombing,
IFOR, SFOR, and so on, and now Kosovo.
History will decide how this movie comes out -- whether it succeeds or
fails -- but Kosovo and Bosnia, while totally different in almost every
technical detail, are bound together by the commonality of the area of
the world they are in, by the core problem which emanates from the
leadership in Belgrade and always has, and by the fact that the crises
in Bosnia and Kosovo have required the United States to try to forge
new rules and new alliances and new relationships for the post-Cold War
world. These are of immense importance.
We think that, if implemented successfully, what has happened this week
will be of tremendous long-term importance. If it is not implemented
successfully, the ACTORD is going to be reactivated. The threats which
were essential to reach this point are still available and we have
learned a lot in the last few weeks about how to pull together a
situation without any precedent in NATO's history; and, although there
were many bumps along the way, in the end the Alliance held together
and performed very well. Let nobody in Belgrade or anywhere else
misunderstand us: The coalition whose threat was credible and which
will remain viable is ready to be reactivated at any time that the
situation on the ground necessitates.
QUESTION: I want to invite you to "Take the A Train" with us -- the
Albania train, speaking of jazz, and tell us if you would where that
side of the equation is headed. Now, the U.S. Government says they're
not in favor of independence, they're in favor of self-rule, but, for
heaven's sake, only the U.S. was able to stop Milosevic. This has got
to have improved the optimism of Albanians that they will be able to go
beyond self-rule to a state. Isn't that likely to lead to a new flair-
up, to new conflict? Nobody likes parallels because, as Albright says,
we don't have a cookie-cutter foreign policy. You've restrained
yourselves in the Middle East, although we know you are down the road
to statehood for the Palestinians. Aren't you down the road to
statehood for the Albanians? Do you think Milosevic is going to stand
for that, especially Anschluss with Albania, or federation of Albania?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Is this question about Anschluss or the
QUESTION: The question is about the other side of this diagram, which
you haven't addressed. What have you done for the Albanians? How can
you stop them from pushing for statehood? Do you intend to and if you
do, what's about to happen?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: First of all what has been done -- I don't want
to use "we" because this was a collective effort that involved not only
the United States but our allies and even the Russians. What has been
achieved for the Albanians is, first of all, they are coming home out
of the forests and the hills. Jim Pardew talked to Shaun Byrnes this
morning again. The returns are continuing. There are some minor
incidents along the way -- booby-trapped refrigerators, some booby-
trapped foxholes. Jim tells me that some of the Serbs are cooperating
and identifying them. But people are coming home and that's real --
that's not an abstraction of foreign policy. Serb police checkpoints
are disappearing, and we are making real progress there.
In regard to the political goals that you are talking about, Barry, I
said a minute ago that these are the most difficult. It is
demonstrably true that the core stated objective of most Albanian
political leaders in Kosovo is independence, and that is not supported
by the European Union, the United States, or any other international
entity that I am aware of for many different reasons. That's a long-
standing policy, and therefore we are going to have to sort this out as
we go along. There's no way to answer your question except that
everyone is aware of the dilemma and the problem.
QUESTION: The flash point?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I don't think the flash point is the difference
in goals; that's well understood. I think the flash point, if there
were one, would be if either side provoked the other deliberately in a
way designed to re-escalate the fighting. Many of you have already
written about the danger that fighting could break out again at any
time and particularly in the spring. We're well aware of that problem.
And when I said if implemented, repeatedly in my opening comments,
that's what I was referring to. That could happen any time.
QUESTION: This force --
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: But that -- excuse me for interrupting, that
could happen any time. No, I'm not even going to say it's less likely.
It's one of our major concerns; it is why the Administration and
Madeleine Albright and myself, Marc Grossman, Chris Hill, Jim O'Brien,
Larry Rossin have all been engaged, along with our colleagues at the
NSC, in an intense evaluation of how to deal most effectively with
people who are members of the UCK or the KLA.
Shaun Byrnes has been in constant contact at the checkpoints and in the
field with KLA commanders, talking to them, making clear to them that
it takes two to have a cease-fire, insisting from them on guarantees
for the safety of the OSCE verifiers. Larry Rossin has been having
meetings all over Europe and the United States with people who have
ties with the KLA to insist to them on the importance of this.
This is a very important part of our policy. We do not ask people to
renounce their dream of independence. But we do insist that they work
within the framework of the UN resolution 1199 for peaceful resolution
of it. If either side provokes the other into breaking down the cease-
fire, we're going to have real problems.
QUESTION: Yesterday in talking about the force in Macedonia, the
Secretary talked about the size and the limitations. She didn't talk
about the role. It's since been described elsewhere as an extraction
force. Is that what it's mean to be?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I'm going to let NATO describe the force -- its
mission, its size, its configuration, its leadership. All I want to
say is its presence on the Yugoslav border is an enormously important
part of stabilizing the region. What she said yesterday struck me as
QUESTION: On the subject of humanitarian situation, I understand from
the experts at DOD that there are enough shelters for those who are now
outdoors, coming back to their villages, to get by the winter -- stay
warm enough to survive. There's going to be enough food, I believe, if
there isn't already, on the ground. My basic question is, was this
agreement -- did it come in time, really, to save the humanitarian
disaster that was impending with the onset of winter?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I think the answer to that is a qualified yes.
Anyone who's still alive is not, in my view, in any danger anymore.
That couldn't have been said a few weeks ago. Are you comfortable with
But a lot of people died already, including as recently as 2 or 3 days
ago. For them, the disaster has already occurred. We just feel
heartsick that we weren't standing up having this kind of briefing 3 or
4 months ago.
QUESTION: Have they got housing if they go back home?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Yes, this is not Rwanda. There's been a
tremendous amount of houses damaged, but there's a tremendous resilient
spirit in the countryside. People are rebuilding as fast as they can.
There is material down there. The UNHCR is out in force without any
opposition. The OSCE document that we negotiated in Belgrade
specifically empowers Ambassador Walker's Kosovo Verification Mission
to assist the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations -- a very
minor point to all of you, but a very big point for anyone who ever was
in Bosnia and watched the OSCE people refusing to help the UNHCR people
15 feet away because "it isn't in our mission." It is in the mission.
So any one of the verification mission members can, at Bill Walker's
direction, help on this issue.
QUESTION: I just want to understand better the policy now on political
recognition of Kosovo independence. The starting point, from the
Clinton Administration's point of view, is that one side wants
independence and the other side doesn't want to give it, and they
should negotiate from that point; is that correct?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Well, no, it's a little more complicated than
that. The international community's position, including our own, is
that the boundaries of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as currently
shown on a map, are the correct boundaries. We are not supporting the
separatist movement for independence; although I think everyone who
knows the Kosovar Albanians understands their desire for it and has
great sympathy for the motivations that led them there.
The ultimate political settlement of the future is for the people
themselves to work out. Chris Hill and Jim O'Brien are going to be the
leaders of the team, now formally acknowledged -- even though they've
been working for months, they'd always worked in a kind of a limbo
status. Now they have been explicitly, formally announced towards that
resolution. It may take a while. It is far and away the toughest part
I described in my last press meeting, which was in Belgrade, I
described the differences between the crisis and the emergency. The
crisis is a decade old and hasn't been solved. That's the issue you're
talking about -- the question of Kosovo. The emergency, which was
caused by the summer rampage and which led us to the brink of war, now
appears -- the resolution of the emergency appears to be within sight.
By the way, I just want to take a diversion here. I saw a
distinguished former ambassador of the United States say on television
yesterday that NATO was bluffing. So let me just be very clear on
something. When our team, Larry Rossin, Jim O'Brien, Chris Hill,
General Short, General Thrasher, myself, Dick Miles, got to Belgrade,
all of us thought that bombing was almost certainly going to happen.
In the middle of our negotiations, we moved the B-52s forward to the
U.K. -- not for theater but to get them ready for 6-hour deployment. I
judged the chances of military action -- that is, an aerial war -- as
well over 60% when we started. That was not a bluff. I want to be
clear with everybody because it should be understood, especially in
Belgrade. It was the credible threat of the use of force.
The President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and
NATO were all ready to move. The targets had been picked and we knew
exactly where we were and we knew exactly how to get everyone out if we
needed to. In fact, as you know, we did get everyone out.
QUESTION: The North Atlantic Council approved the Activation Order
only after you visited the Council and briefed them on your
deliberations. Some have said, including another former ambassador,
that they may not have approved that Activation Order if you had not
been able to give them as optimistic a report -- this is now that
Monday -- as you were able to give them. Are you confident that they
would have approved that Activation Order even if you had come back
with, say, a less hopeful assessment?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I'm a little confused by your comment. Jim, you
came up with me to Belgrade, to Brussels. The way I envisage it -- Jim
may have a different view -- I thought that there were only two
possible choices that night: an Activation Order with a suspension, or
an Activation Order without a suspension. It was what you call the
optimistic report, and I would call a status report, that led the NAC
to decide to do the Activation Order but tell General Clark to hold off
on launching the planes.
If we had given a totally bleak picture, absent the OSCE document,
absent the air verification, then the bombing would have been
authorized without a pause, and we would now be in the middle of an
So that's how I remember it. So whoever has talked to you, I think, is
perhaps a little out of sync. Is that your memory, Jim?
QUESTION: The idea being that perhaps some allies approved that in the
belief that they were already convinced it wouldn't be necessary.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: That's in their minds. These are ambassadors in
a room with a round table doing what they are instructed. The real
heavy lifting was being done by the Secretary of State and Jim
Steinberg, Sandy Berger and others -- even from the Wye Plantation, by
the way -- to make sure the key allies were on board. We had to make
sure the Russians understood what was happening. And there was a New
The only choices that night were to bomb or to authorize bombing and
give an additional pause for compliance; there was no third choice.
What you call the optimistic report, which was two pieces of paper --
this is one of them -- and Geremek was there too that night, remember,
so we briefed Geremek for the first time. He was stunned by it, but
very enthusiastic. That led immediately to Ambassador Walker's
designation by Madeleine as the head of this mission.
All of this created the sense that maybe the credible threat of NATO
use of force was going to produce a result, but we weren't quite there
yet -- so let's keep the planes aimed at our targets, but not quite
have them start down the runways yet. That's what happened.
After the 96 hours ran out, a lot of the people in this room or
elsewhere reported that NATO had blinked and made invidious comparisons
to other parts of the world and said that we had given them a reprieve.
But that was not at all what the Administration and NATO thought they
were doing. What the Administration and NATO were intending was to
keep the pressure on Belgrade. Somehow it came out quite the opposite
-- I remember reading the paper Saturday a week ago, reading the
newspapers and kind of saying, this is amazing; the newspaper account
is 180 degrees off the intention. So we had a bad week with you guys
because you thought NATO had blinked.
QUESTION: You didn't talk to us.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: That's true, I didn't talk to you, Sid. But
that's personal, so -- (laughter).
No, I didn't talk to you because I really didn't think it was
necessary. I thought what was happening was so clear. I had done the
media the first day and then I had gone off and done other things. But
when that happened, we all realized that there had been a
miscommunication with the public and with the press. I hope at least
now, retrospectively, you all understand what happened.
The extension after the 96 hours was because there was no way he could
get his forces back that quickly. The KLA was still in the field doing
a lot of stuff which made it complicated. Who started this incident in
Malisevo? Are you going to start bombing because of an argument at a
checkpoint that turned into a shooting match, when that shooting match
may well have been started by an Albanian, you don't know? We had to
sort out. But we wanted to keep the pressure on, and that's what
QUESTION: You said a few moments ago that you feel heartsick that you
weren't here 3 or 4 months ago. Why didn't that happen 3 or 4 months
ago? And I have a follow-up.
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Oh, God, that is -- I'm sorry I said that.
Heartsick because if we had been here 3 or 4 months ago, we wouldn't
have had all that destruction, that photograph of all those burned-out
buildings, people who died, a polarization of a society that was
already ripped to hell by this thing. Your question is why weren't we
QUESTION: Why weren't you there 3 or 4 months ago?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Well, now that we're in a position we feel
pretty good about, I don't want to go back and do a blame-game
business. But it was a combination of several factors. I would lump
all of them except the Russian factor, which is separate -- and you're
all aware of that -- under one general headline, which is called
"democracies take a while to get their act together." At the risk of
repeating something I've said from this podium before, it takes a while
for democracies to get their act together; but when they get it
together, they have more strength and unity and effectiveness than
The British and the French and the Germans had a very well-publicized
view -- and you're all aware of this -- that NATO's action required a
prior UN Security Council resolution. That was not our view, but we
had to work that through and it took time. That was, I think,
something that Madeleine Albright spent most of the summer on. And
there were other factors. So it took a little while longer than it
should have, just as it did in Bosnia. But in Bosnia, it took 4 years
longer than it should have. Kosovo, I would put the time delay at
something like 12 to 15 weeks.
If you compare the two crises and the American-led NATO alliance
response, I think it's demonstrably true that we're doing better. The
Russians are working more closely with us; the British and the French
are sorting it out. A very key factor was the German election. But
then President Clinton saw Gerhard Schroeder at that decisive meeting
on Friday 2 weeks ago, and the next morning Jim O'Brien and Chris Hill
and I went in to see Milosevic and we said, "The Germans are on board
and any residual thought you had that the election in Germany would
change the outcome, forget it."
At that point, Prodi's Government fell and other people were saying,
aha, okay, now we have a crisis in Rome. The Italians said it doesn't
matter. All of this takes time; that's what I mean by democracies.
QUESTION: When you said that you're not asking people to give up the
dream of independence, are you -- it sounds to me like you might be
holding the door a open a little bit more than you had in the past to
perhaps the United States --
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: No, you misread me. We are not supporting
independence. But I am not going to stand up here and tell people who
dream about it that they shouldn't dream that dream. I just want to be
Larry Rossin and I and Jim have spent a lot of time with the Albanian-
American leadership in the United States -- in New York and elsewhere.
They all understand this. They all want independence; they understand
our position and within that agreement to disagree we're trying to work
out ways we can all go forward together.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that? If you're going to mediate
between the two parties -- if you're not, then say so -- then by
definition you have to go into that without a position. In other
words, leaving open the possibility that the two parties could agree on
independence. How do you square that?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I would say that chances of that happening range
from zero to zero.
QUESTION: Which -- mediation or --
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: No, that the two parties would agree to
independence. There is no possible chance that Belgrade will agree to
independence. I'm not speaking on behalf of the Belgrade authorities;
I'm just giving you a self-evident fact.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the point of why something couldn't
have been done earlier, you said you put the time frame at 12 to 15
weeks. But why couldn't the war have been prevented before it even
started, back in February, when the Secretary said that the United
States was not going to allow what happened in Bosnia to happen in
Kosovo? Why couldn't preventative action have been taken?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Well, first of all, let's be clear -- what the
Secretary said did turn out. What happened in Kosovo is not what
happened in Bosnia. Bosnia had 300,000 killed and 2.5 million
homeless. As a percentage of population, what happened in Kosovo is
far, far smaller.
Nonetheless, I take your point. If you want to change my number from
15 weeks and backdate it to February -- I don't know how many
additional weeks that is -- I accept it; because my own personal
concern has run much longer than that. But in February, the fighting
had not yet reached a very significant level. I was thinking of the --
my first trip out there was in May with Bob Gelbard, then I went out
again in June; I went out in July. We could just see it coming, and we
couldn't stop it.
QUESTION: I guess my sort of question is, why, instead of waiting for
the fire to break out, why can't action be taken to prevent it from
breaking out in the first place?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: I answered that question -- I think it was your
question. You're the one who asked why it took us so long. I've
answered already, Michael. It takes a while for the democracies to get
their act together, particularly when you also have to work with the
Russians and you have all these different issues -- the UN, NATO, and
I'm not defending that delay. It drove Madeleine Albright and I and
the people sitting along that wall who were then involved in policy
such as Jim O'Brien and Larry Rossin, when he joined the team, and Jim
Pardew, who is watching from his equip-and-train perch from Bosnia, we
were doing everything we could to move forward the process for it. But
let me say this -- without yielding to what is sometimes criticized in
Europe as American triumphalism, I don't think it is unfair to say that
without the leadership of the Administration of the United States, we
would not be where we are today. There were a lot of factors involved.
By the way there is another factor we haven't mentioned which is
important, which is the congressional factor.
QUESTION: Ambassador Holbrooke, do you believe that you can achieve
your goal and get a final, long-standing, durable solution for Kosovo
as long as there is no democracy in Serbia proper? If your answer,
sir, is no -- and I hope it will be no -- could you tell us, is the
U.S. Government planning to do try to do something to start to support
democracy alternative, opposition for assisting Serbia?
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Well, I thank you for the question. It is a
question that we discuss an awful lot. Let me start with the
independent media and put to you an anomaly. The independent media is
now suffering greatly in Belgrade. During our 9-day mission to
Belgrade, we were bombarded with faxes and messages, directly and
indirectly, from the independent media saying don't bomb -- if you
bomb, the independent media will be shut down. (Veran Matic was
sending these faxes to my home each day because, as many of you know,
my wife is the head of ANEM, the international support group for B-
92.) And if you bomb it will help -- Milosevic will help Seselj. So
they were the first victims of the agreements.
Why? Obviously because the Belgrade authorities-and here I would note
that the Minister of Information is in the hands of Seselj -- did not
want the public to understand what had actually happened.
So, Chris Hill has spent a great deal of time meeting with the
independent media and Dick Miles is making it a major issue because you
can't have democracy without free media. The larger point is
critically important: In the end, democracy in Yugoslavia is essential
to stability in the region. It is as simple as that.
I would like very much to see if Ambassador Walker and/or Ambassador
Pardew could get a question or two. You ought to get to know them
because we are really passing the baton on to them. The other thing
that I would like to stress is the high importance of the details of
this agreement which are remarkable, unprecedented. So before we
adjourn, if you have any questions for Bill or Jim.
QUESTION: On the same subject, how do you assess the role of Greece to
diffuse the crisis -- (inaudible) --
AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Ah, yes, well, thank you; finally a question on
your subject that I will answer.
We were very gratified by the position of the Greek Government, very
gratified. Foreign Minister Pangalos made calls to Belgrade during the
crisis making absolutely clear to the Yugoslav authorities that Greece
was part of NATO and would support the process, although with certain
specific reservations that they had with their own right. Because of
the special ties between Greeks and Serbs, the fact that the Greeks
were so supportive was something that we deeply appreciated.
Ambassador Burns -- in fact Ambassador Hill went down to Athens to see
the Greek Government in that regard.
QUESTION: Can I ask Ambassador Walker question?
MR. RUBIN: Let's proceed as follows. I think Ambassador Holbrooke has
done very well in taking your questions for a long time. Let me just
say again, on behalf of Secretary Albright, how proud she is of the
work that you and the rest of your team have done and turn the podium
over to Ambassador Walker to respond to this question.
QUESTION: Ambassador Walker, your verifiers are unarmed and presumably
out among the population. What happens if things go sour? How are you
going to protect them?
AMBASSADOR WALKER: I think Ambassador Holbrooke has mentioned the
force that will be in Macedonia next door. I think we are taking a
good look at that as to how it might react in terms of an extraction in
case things really go wrong or something less than that if it is not
quite as serious as I think you are implying.
QUESTION: Will they at any point be accompanied by any armed people?
AMBASSADOR WALKER: Verifiers? No, the agreement is my verifiers will
QUESTION: They can't be accompanied by paramilitary police or
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- Serb police to protect your people?
AMBASSADOR WALKER: Let me preface my remarks by saying that I've been
in the job for exactly 9 days -- of which 5 were spent going to some of
these places that Ambassador Holbrooke and the other fellows sitting on
the wall there have spent the better part of their last year or two in.
I spent a couple of hours with President Milosevic and we went over
this point. He accepts, as he did in the agreement, responsibility for
the safety, security, well-being and very lives of the verifiers. So
up until we have evidence to the contrary, we will take that assurance.
But other people are looking at other options, should his compliance
not be total.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- emergency evacuation?
AMBASSADOR WALKER: Yes, exactly.
QUESTION: It's actually, I'm afraid, a very similar question. Do you,
given that one of the important roles that you'll have to play will be
to determine what happened -- when there is trouble, to determine what
happened, who is responsible, maybe even who fired first and so forth.
How will you be able to operate in conflictive or potentially
conflictive situations when you are not armed? I think there was
already an incident where the KDOM group was not able to go in because
they decided it was too dangerous. I mean, will you not be able to go
into areas that are considered dangerous?
AMBASSADOR WALKER: We will be trying to go into every area, every part
of the Kosovo region as the situation demands. Obviously, no one is
more concerned with the safety and well-being of these verifiers than I
am. I feel personally responsible for each and every one of them when
we get in there.
But our instructions are to be as robust in terms of verifying what is
going on, in terms of compliance with the agreements as we can possibly
Obviously, I will try not to put people's lives in danger, but we will
try to mount as robust a verification regime as we possibly can.
MR. RUBIN: Thank you all very much.
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