June 9, 1999
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And we hear from journalists in four NATO nations. Christine Ockrent, veteran TV anchor and editor and now a commentator with France 3 Television; Josef Joffe, columnist and editorial page editor for the German newspaper "Suddeutsche Zeitung." His work often appears in American publications. David Buchan, diplomatic editor for the "Financial Times" in London. And Lucio Caracciolo, editor in chief of "Limes," an Italian bimonthly political review. Welcome all. Josef Joffe, what is your reaction to the way this peace process is unfolding?
JOSEF JOFFE, Suddeutsche Zeitung: Well, it's a very highly unusual peace process. We always say, once a day, peace is at hand, and then Mr. Milosevic slips it right out from under us. It's a strange process also in the way that Mr. Milosevic has first agreed on the principle, and now he keeps chipping away at the agreement, whereas normally, you argue hard about the details and then you come to an agreement. So this is going to be a long story, and he's going to fight us every inch of the way, extracting the last bit of -- last ounce of benefit from this, and we don't really know who is going to win this.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Hmm. Christine Ockrent, do you agree that this is a strange process because of the way that Milosevic can take advantage of it?
CHRISTINE OCKRENT, France 3 Television: Well, you know, Milosevic has been deceiving us for the past ten years and murdering quite a few people in the process, and also the Russians. I think we have been quite naive. We are so hypnotized by our own media electronic pace that we sort of expect that these very complex procedures will just, you know, take place in -- by snapping the fingers. I think, again, there's a pace for diplomacy, especially with such players. And again, Milosevic is a particularly vicious one, and by this time, we should certainly know that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Lucio Caracciolo, what's your reaction to the way the process is working itself out?
LUCIO CARACCIOLO, Limes Magazine: In any case, I think that the crisis is far from settled, because there is no clear winner on the ground. I think that, to give you an example, UCK and, generally speaking, Albanian people, will never accept anything less than full independence, and the Serbs will never accept that Kosovo can become in the future some sort of Albanian-Muslim territory. So you see, the geopolitical questions are not settled at all.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Buchan, do you agree with that, not settled at all?
DAVID BUCHAN, Financial Times: Well, I think there are many loose ends that -- and ambiguities that are still left open. I think that nonetheless, it's a -- it's a more or less a cave- in in terms of the -- for Milosevic in terms of the U.N. Security Council resolution, the draft resolution and these draft annexes with it, the Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin agreement. But negotiators with Milosevic in the past have said that he generally needs two or three kicks to get him to move anywhere. I think one additional factor here is of course that because it is very largely a cave-in, he is having enormous difficulty accepting that it is a defeat and passing the message down the line to his generals that defeat it more or less is, and retreat it has to be.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think people agree with you in Britain that this is a victory, a defeat for Milosevic and a victory for NATO?
DAVID BUCHAN: Oh, I think most British opinion would -- would agree that it's a defeat for Milosevic. Whether it's a victory for NATO is highly debatable and debated in Britain, because we haven't got the 800,000 refugees there are in Albania and Macedonia, we haven't got them back to their homeland. So until the consensus in Britain is that until they are back safely, it ain't a victory.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mr. Caracciolo, how do you think Italians are seeing this, whether it's a victory or not for NATO?
LUCIO CARACCIOLO: I would say that probably we have here in Italy some I would say mixed feelings about this war. In any case, if the goals of this war were humanitarian, we lost it, because we have probably one million refugees now, 800,000 Albanians, 100,000 Serbs, and even more probably. And the situation on the ground is awful. I think that after this war, Kosovo will be a desert.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Miss Ockrent, if -- if the goal was humanitarian, the war is lost?
CHRISTINE OCKRENT: I don't agree. I think the goal has been humanitarian, and the war is won. And we have one million refugees, and it's better to have one million refugees rather than one million dead. And I think it will be remembered in history that at the end of this century, for the very first time, our democratic nations have taken the right to intervene within the boundaries of a sovereign state in order to protect and to save an ethnic minority, and indeed, the history of the 20th century is loaded with exactly the reverse, so I think it's quite a progress. Now, it's complicated, it's messy, and I agree with Mr. Caracciolo that the most difficult task remains to be done. And of course it will take a lot of time and a lot of money to build again Kosovo and to make the situation such that all these refugees who will want to go back will be able to do so.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Joffe, do you agree that -- with Christine that the historical view of this will be just what she said it was, that there will be a view that it was a victory?
JOSEF JOFFE: I think we have to distinguish between two objectives of this war, the unspoken one and the spoken one. The spoken one clearly was the humanitarian one, and right one it was, and we should not fall prey to the myth that the bombing actually unleashed the misery. The misery had begun well before, in fact, a year before in the way of a sustained campaign to cleanse the Kosovo. But there was also another objective, unspoken one, because people don't like to use that kind of terminology anymore. Call it realpolitik, and the realpolitik objective I think will have been won more clearly than the other one because humanitarian disasters take so much more time to heal again. And that was very simple. You had a small a small -- let's not call him Hitler; let's call him a Mussolini, an expansionist in the midst of Europe who has been making war for the last ten years, and this is his fourth war. There was a war against Slovenia; there was a war against Croatia; there's a war against the Muslims in Bosnia and now this one. And his power had to be reduced. His power to make mischief had to be reduced, and I think that, I believe, we won.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: David Buchan, do you agree? And also comment on the historical significance of this.
DAVID BUCHAN: Well, it depends how -- what the outcome is and how permanent it is. His power -- Milosevic's power is obviously reduced. Removed? Obviously he can never step outside Serb is now because of the indictment of the war crimes tribunal, but he may still have further opportunity for -- for mischief-making in Serbia and by Serbia, as long as he stays in power. And that's -- obviously a number of neighboring countries who are increasingly, even ambivalent -- even Macedonia, which was ambivalent at the start, they've begun to sort of more or less bet the ranch on, you know, Milosevic losing. They will be -- his neighbors will be very anxious I think to see him go. So I'm a little reluctant to -- to start drawing up any historical verdicts and judgments until he's actually departed the scene.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mr. Caracciolo, on the realpolitik victory here that Joe Joffe sees?
LUCIO CARACCIOLO: No, I think that we were and probably we are still too focused on Milosevic. This is wrong for two reasons: First, because if you are so focused on Milosevic, you have to get rid of him, and we didn't manage to get rid of him; and, secondly, because he is a peculiarly awful crook, but there are many crooks in the area, and we will have, I think, some experience with those crooks in the near future.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Christine Ockrent, you touched -- oh, sorry. Go ahead.
LUCIO CARACCIOLO: No, no. Just -- to state just one point. Through this war we managed to destabilize not only Kosovo but all the area. I think that's Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia itself are on the brink of a disaster.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You're very pessimistic about what's going to come out of this war, aren't you?
LUCIO CARACCIOLO: Yes, I am.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Go ahead. Mr. Joffe?
JOSEF JOFFE: I think it was a Serbian power and Milosevic's ambitions that destabilized the neighborhood, and that's why it was important to virtually wipe out this capacity to go further on that road and to conduct war. Think about Saddam Hussein. Look, he's still giving us grief. He's still in power, but he's no longer a threat to the neighborhood, and neither will be Milosevic. I think that's a very important thing to keep in mind.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Christine Ockrent, you touched on this earlier, but expand on how you and how editorial opinion in France is seeing Russia's role in all this.
CHRISTINE OCKRENT: Well, I think there is great nostalgia in Europe, as well as in Washington, about the Soviet Union. Wasn't it wonderful when there was a strong state and a powerful diplomacy with such influence over all the satellite Communist countries? And somehow, of course, diplomats need to be able to have the Russians in the game. And what struck me in the past few days at least was that -- that willingness to -- to make Moscow a major player, which is signed diplomatically of course; we all know it's needed. But at the same time, perhaps to overplay the actual power of the Yeltsin regime, vis-à-vis its own negotiator, vis-à-vis its own army, and, of course, vis-à-vis Milosevic. And I think that is something, which makes the diplomatic game very difficult indeed with the surrealistic scene of the Chinese asking today to minor modifications to the agreement. And I think, again, it's this diplomatic theater as opposed to what has been happening on the ground and, of course, what has been happening, too, in our various public -- as we have discussed earlier on this program in the past few weeks, have then to change on different cycles and different patterns.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. And finally, David Buchan, what conclusions are Europeans drawing coming out of this war about their own future security relationship among the European nations and about their security relationship with the United States?
DAVID BUCHAN: Well, that's -- this is a very interesting question. I think that -- well, diplomatically, it's given them a little -- given them a bit more self-confidence. They feel -- the European Union feels it's played a part in brokering this settlement. I think this is a bit exaggerated, and that -- that judgment underestimates the role that the U.S. played, and particularly someone like Strobe Talbott, who is the most -- has been the most continuous contact man with the Russians, whose role I think is important diplomatically in getting us this far. I don't think their role will be very important in the implementation of the peace. But on the defense side, it's difficult to tell. The initial effect, certainly in Britain, has been throughout this crisis, been going on for a year -- the British government, Tony Blair, has shifted his position on European defense. They have said they no longer have a hang-up in seeing the European Union assume a defense role, but -- and so they don't have a problem about institutions anymore in the way that Britain did in the past. But Britain is very keen-- and the Kosovo war illustrates this-- to emphasize the need for Europe to improve its military capacity, particularly its capacity to fight a high-tech war. Two-thirds of the planes, after all, were provided by one country, the U.S., and the other 18 allies could only produce a third of suitable -- suitable bombers. So short term, I think it's having -- for the first time since the end of the Cold War, it's having a galvanizing effect. It is, I think, making people think about not exactly raising defense budgets, because that's too painful, but perhaps redirecting some of the defense procurement money to meet the needs, where Europe was most clearly lacking and the U.S. was so clearly superior and had to take the lead.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Josef Joffe briefly -- I'm sorry to interrupt, but I want to get to Josef Joffe on this, too. Briefly, your view on that.
JOSEF JOFFE: Look, the -- I agree with -- with most of what our British colleague said. There's this idea now that the Europeans think they did much more than they actually did, and that they should do much more in the future, but this will is not at all accompanied by the more important kind of will, which says we will raise our defense spending to buy all the kind of equipment that is required to fight this kind of war. We essentially still have World War II armies with -- with no projection capabilities, no satellites, no ships, no aircraft carrier, and we are talking about very, very serious money. So I think after we sober up a little bit, we'll probably remember what NATO is good for, and we will cheer this -- cheer ourselves for having kept NATO together in this first and only war NATO has ever fought.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you four very much.