March 30, 1999
After meeting with Russian Prime Minister Primakov in Belgrade today, Yugoslav President Milosevic offered to withdraw some forces from Kosovo if NATO first halted its bombings. The alliance promptly rejected the proposal and called it "unacceptable". Following a background report, Margaret Warner and guests discuss.
MARGARET WARNER: For analysis of and reaction to the day's diplomatic developments, we're joined by Robert Hunter, ambassador to NATO in President Clinton's first term, who is now a senior advisor at RAND, a research organization dealing with political and military affairs; Ivo Daalder, European Affairs Analyst on the National Security Council from 1995 to 1996 - he's now a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution; and Michael McFaul, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He's written extensively on Russian foreign policy.
MARGARET WARNER: Bob Hunter, what did you make of Primakov's proposal?
ROBERT HUNTER: I think it is a non-starter. I'm glad we rejected it out of hand because I think it was very important for Mr. Milosevic to know that even with Primakov, one of the architects of the Rambouillet Accords coming there and giving his best shot, we will have none of that. And I think it was useful for Primakov, if he wants to go back. The big problem here is getting across to Milosevic the credibility of what the West is doing and the fact that NATO is going to see this through.
MARGARET WARNER: Non-starter?
IVO DAALDER: Absolutely. There was nothing here.
MARGARET WARNER: Why?
IVO DAALDER: Because none of the even minimal demands that NATO has made are even close to being met -- return of refugees, acceptance of autonomy. There was no word of autonomy in the plan. And everything was predicated on NATO stopping the bombing -
MARGARET WARNER: First.
IVO DAALDER: -- first. First one needs to -- Mr. Milosevic needs to understand that he has to act. The bombing is in response to his actions. The bombing will only stop when he acts. And until he does so, the bombing will continue.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree with that, non-starter?
MICHAEL McFAUL: Yes. I don't think it was a proposal. I think it was really Mr. Milosevic's proposal. And Primakov, as a first attempt wanted to make sure that he had the ear of Mr. Milosevic and then he wanted to engage NATO. However, this is just the first foray, let's hope it's just the first foray, and I think we should take seriously bringing in the Russians should, in fact, we want a negotiated settlement here. We still are -- the official policy of the United States and NATO is still to reach a settlement. There may be some doubt about that as of today, but, if it is, the Russians can be an ally in that regard.
MARGARET WARNER: So, you don't think that Primakov really thought that NATO would immediately welcome this with open arms or even invite further negotiations?
MICHAEL McFAUL: No, I don't think so. First of all, had he thought that, he would have had a press conference on TV with Mr. Milosevic. He did not do that. He went to Bonn for private consultations. He didn't go to Brussels; he did not go to Washington. And, secondly, you have to realize that Mr. Primakov is doing this as much for domestic political reasons in Russia as he is for finding a peace settlement. What is striking in Russia -- and I think this is really misunderstood in the West so far, is that anti-Americanism has reached a qualitatively new stage. Before this, it was an elite affair. The elite were all against NATO expansion and Western aggression in Europe -- quote unquote. Today the youth is involved and now it's a popular cause and Mr. Primakov is a politician first and foremost.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you share the view that even though this was, in your view a non-starter, this particular proposal, that the United States should be working with the Russians in trying to find a negotiated solution?
ROBERT HUNTER: I suspect in the end when - I don't say "if" -- but when Milosevic has to back down, it is going to be easier for him to do it with the Russians than to come directly to NATO. But it was absolutely critical that this be rejected out of hand. And for Primakov, if he does go back again, to be able to demonstrate we tried that one on -- it didn't work -- next time you have to get serious -- maybe this won't work. The thing that is going to work is the NATO military activity. At the end, maybe the Russians can play a constructive part. One thing they need do as well is to start getting on the right side of history -- to get rid of this loser, Milosevic. And if he does deliver Primakov, this could help Russia find its way into a central role in European security. That's to the good but Primakov has to see his way as does Milosevic.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. But let's go back today to this offer, which, of course, not only the United States but the German Government summarily rejected - yet, people in Europe and the United States are seeing these floods of refugees. Do you think this offer will have any impact within the alliance among some of the allies who are a little less enthusiastic about continuing the bombing campaign?
ROBERT HUNTER: I think this will help with NATO cohesion because it was so contemptible. The idea of being able to go back to last week -- what are they going to do resurrect the people that he has already killed and say, in effect, let bygones be bygones? I think this really showed Milosevic for a man -- I'm sorry to say on television -- but a man of evil.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree that it's not going to have any impact within the alliance?
IVO DAALDER: No, I think Bob is right. I mean, this has strengthened NATO's resolve here. After all, Mr. Primakov tried to go the extra mile and he basically got rejected out of hand. He went to Milosevic and said what about a UN force to enforce a peace agreement; what about an OSCE, an Organization for Security and Cooperation force? What about the Greek proposal that there would be a peacekeeping force consisting also of Yugoslav soldiers also?
MARGARET WARNER: All this in lieu of the Rambouillet idea which was NATO force?
IVO DAALDER: Exactly. And it was rejected by Mr. Milosevic out of hand. I think the fact that Primakov did not make his press conference means that he himself knew that Milosevic was putting an offer on the table that was simply unacceptable.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. So do you think though that the US should be pursuing a negotiated solution here that falls somehow short of what the US has said is its goals or should we waiting for Milosevic to wave the right flag?
IVO DAALDER: Right.
ROBERT HUNTER: I think somewhat beyond what we've set our goals. I think it's time we took the Rambouillet agreement off the table. It gives Milosevic no independence for Kosovo, at least for three years and maybe longer -- the disarming of the KLA, keeping Serb troops in. Right now he believes at any moment he can turn around and say I give up; I accept Rambouillet. I think we should take it off the table, increase the pressure, and also put on the table some of the military instruments that we've been holding back like the possibility of ground forces.
MICHAEL McFAUL: Well, we could do that but then we will have a very difficult relationship with our Russian allies. The Russians are -- want to have a bigger role in the peace negotiations and I think first and foremost they want Russian partnerships in any peacekeeping force. We can forfeit that but then we have a very difficult relationship with Russia, which should be taken very seriously. Mr. Primakov today looks like a bad guy dealing with Mr. Milosevic but let me tell you two years from now, we may look back nostalgically at the day when a guy like Primakov was running that country. Extremist forces in Russia, this is a godsend for them in an election year in Russia. We could be dealing with some characters that look more like Mr. Milosevic than Mr. Primakov.
IVO DAALDER: But we're beyond negotiation at the moment. The kind of reports we are seeing of refugees flowing out of the country at a rate of sixty to eighty thousand a day, meaning that this country will be empty of Kosovar Albanians within two weeks - that's the fact we are facing. There is very little to negotiate. We can't go back to Rambouillet for the very simple fact that the Kosovar Albanians will not accept it. How can they accept living under Serb sovereignty? It's impossible to even contemplate that. We should welcome any effort by Mr. Primakov or anybody else, to try to find a negotiated solution, a solution that brings Mr. Milosevic to his senses, but I think the value here was for Mr. Primakov to see that, in fact, Mr. Milosevic is not a man interested in negotiation; he's interested in ethnic cleansing.
MARGARET WARNER: But when you say negotiated, are you - are you thinking that the NATO allies would give anything, or you're just saying-- or you're saying, in fact, you agree with Bob Hunter, that NATO should now up the ante?
IVO DAALDER: We would give -- stop the bombing, stop threatening which we will in the future -- putting ground troops in Kosovo in a war-like situation. What we will do and give Mr. Milosevic is stability in Kosovo by our presence. That's what we have to offer. But until he accepts that the kind of behavior he's been engaged now in for the last year, in fact, in the Balkans for the last ten years - that is totally unacceptable - we'll continue to do what we're doing.
MARGARET WARNER: How did you interpret, Bob Hunter, what the president said today - we ran the clip - when he said, "And Milosevic has to realize that the prospect of international support for Serbia's claim to Kosovo is increasingly jeopardized. Now we've always stood behind Kosovo, autonomous, though part of Serbia." How did you interpret those remarks coming from the president?
ROBERT HUNTER: I think he's upping the ante. I think he's recognizing the fact that it would be extremely difficult for these people -- even if they were allowed back in -- to live with a bunch of butchers. It's like asking a bunch of people to go back to Germany and live under the Gestapo or with them in the neighborhood during the Third Reich. That can't happen. I think we're finally waking up to the idea that we can't let Milosevic believe he can pocket certain things like "I get to keep Kosovo no matter what happens." I think we need to hold out that an independent Kosovo is not the worst evil that we were saying last week. The worst evil is what is going on now. Incidentally, I don't agree that what we're doing to the Russians is going to drive them in the lap of the Zhirinovskys or others. If this works - and I think NATO has to make it work for its own credibility of the future of the alliance -- and we do get settlement, at that point, I suspect the Russians will want to play in a future process, including in a peacekeeping force, just as they do today in Bosnia, and are being very effective even during the bombing in Kosovo.
MARGARET WARNER: Is that possible?
MICHAEL McFAUL: Well, it's true, I think Russian diplomats might agree with you. I'm not so sure the Russian students, who have had a sit-in for the last four days at Moscow State University, would agree with you, and that's what worries me most of all; that it's not just the babushkas, the 55-year-old grandmothers, protesting NATO intervention in Serbia. It's now the young people of Russia. The only way we can bring them back is to bring in Mr. Primakov - to bring in the Russians. As you say, I think at the end, don't get me wrong, not now, but they need to be part of the process; they need to believe that engaging in the West has a payoff and that they can be part of the international community.
ROBERT HUNTER: If they will engage in a way that is constructive and it's open to the Russians to be the heroes.
MICHAEL McFAUL: Well, that's right. And, in fact, the lesson Russia has to teach Mr. Milosevic and Kosovo is I think very appropriate right now. After all, let's remember the Russians went into Chechnya, using force for precisely the same reason and the result of that force was an independent Chechnya. Had they done something else before, Chechnya might be part of Russia. They have a lesson that they might share with their Slavic brothers.
MARGARET WARNER: How much do you think consideration of the US-Russia relationship and Russia's internal domestic situation should figure into alliance calculations on how to resolve the Kosovo?
IVO DAALDER: The relationship with Russia is important, but I think we're at a critical moment here. We basically have gone to war against Mr. Milosevic. We cannot afford to lose that war. And losing the war would mean that Kosovo is empty and we would stand and let that happen. If it is necessary to win the war by putting in ground troops, we will put in ground troops, because that is how you win the war in the end. That is what is a stake here -- the very future of the NATO alliance is at stake in my view. If NATO fails in its mission here, what good is NATO going to be for, if it cannot do Kosovo? What can it do in the future? The credibility of the United States in a very real sense is on the table here. The president said there is a moral imperative to protect the Kosovar Albanians, who put their faith in our hands. He was right. But that means that the moral imperative cannot stop at air power. It cannot mean that the only way we're going to protect them is in Macedonia, Montenegro or Albania. It means that they have to live in a Kosovo in which they can feel secure, in which their houses are not burned down, and which they don't have to fear masked men knocking on their doors.
|Issue of ground troops.|
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree with that, that ultimately ground forces might be needed either to protect the Kosovars that are left, or to help Kosovars return?
ROBERT HUNTER: Ground forces are going to be needed.
MARGARET WARNER: You're talking now about inserted not as just peacekeepers.
ROBERT HUNTER: Well, one way or another, there are going to be ground forces there. That was the Rambouillet proposal - there are 28,000 NATO forces getting ready for that. The question is whether they have to fight their way in. I think, frankly, the more ready we are to do this kind of thing, the sooner it is that Milosevic is going to get the message. You see, it's a matter of building support within the alliance. It took a long time, took nearly a year before the air campaign started. But the 19 allies are absolutely unified. If we start building now to the prospect of putting in ground forces, then I think NATO's credibility will go up and Milosevic will finally begin to realize he is up against something real.
IVO DAALDER: But let's be -- I agree -- but let's be prepared this time that if he doesn't believe that he is up against something real that we're prepared to follow through; that is if we build up ground forces there, we have got to be prepared for a war.
ROBERT HUNTER: Let's not threaten anything we're not prepared to do.
IVO DAALDER: Exactly. And part of the problem is with the air power and air campaign we've seen in the last couple of days, that what our credibility has been undermined by the fact that we have said no to ground forces, thereby making it clear to Mr. Milosevic that there was a limit to what we were willing to do. That limit needs to be taken off the table.
ROBERT HUNTER: We have to take it off certainly for bargaining purposes, resolve purposes. But if the air campaign goes on and Milosevic sees NATO is serious, at some point he has got to realize he is losing one of the instruments that keeps him in power.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you gentlemen very much.
IVO DAALDER: Thank you.