COULD AN EARLIER THREAT OF THE USE
OF FORCE HAVE AVERTED THE CRISIS?
40. We examine when a threat of force was made,
and then whether NATO should have made the threat earlier. The
threat of force was a vital element of the diplomatic process,
frequently used in connection with Kosovo: after all, the international
community believed that force had brought Milosevic round during
the crisis in Bosnia.
As we discuss above, threats of military action over Kosovo were
first made by President Bush in 1992, and repeated by President
Clinton in February 1993.
Until the emergence of the KLA and the increasingly harsh campaign
by Belgrade against the KLA and those perceived as supporting
them in 1998, no further threats of the use of force were made.
Kosovo was, however, discussed by NATO. NATO Foreign Ministers
first expressed concern in December 1997. On 5 March 1998, the
North Atlantic Council (NAC) issued a statement describing NATO's
interest in the area, and the same day the US Special Envoy to
the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, reiterated President Bush's warning.
On 6 May 1998 the NAC commissioned advice on options for more
active Partnership for Peace engagement in Albania and Macedonia.
A ministerial meeting of the NAC held on 28 May 1998 identified
two objectives for NATO:
"To help achieve a peaceful
resolution of the crisis by contributing to the response of the
international community; and
To promote stability and security in neighbouring
countries, with particular emphasis on Albania and the former
NATO also began building up its forces and undertaking
manoeuvres in the region, with the intention of signalling "NATO's
interest in containing the crisis and in seeking a peaceful resolution"
including Partnership for Peace exercises in Macedonia and Albania.
The FCO informed us that NATO's aim at this time "was to
support diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, including through
the credible threat of force."
At this point, therefore, NATO was implicitly but unmistakably
using the threat of force to compel Milosevic to undertake negotiations.
41. On 23 September 1998, UNSCR 1199 called on
all parties to cease hostilities, and in particular for Yugoslavia
to "cease all action by the security forces affecting the
Failure to comply with this Resolution led the NAC to authorise
activation orders for air strikes: following the signature of
the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement on 12 October, the activation
orders for the air strikes was suspended. UNSCR 1203 of 24 October
1998 established the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), and
also mentioned NATO for the first time in relation to Kosovo,
stating that the Security Council "Endorses and supports
the agreements signed in Belgrade...on 15 October 1998 between
the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and NATO, concerning the verification
of compliance by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and all others
concerned in Kosovo with the requirements of its resolution 1199
(1998)." NATO was therefore by this time fully involved in
the crisis. From 27 October 1998 until the launch of air strikes
in March 1999, the NATO threat remained present in the background,
on what the FCO described to us as "a 'soft' trigger".
Following the Racak massacre, which "provided incontrovertible
evidence that Belgrade was ignoring the will of the international
this threat was brought into the foreground. On 30 January "NATO
issued a solemn warning: both parties must respond to the Contact
Group summons to Rambouillet, halt the violence, and comply with
the October agreement."
Once again, therefore, the threat of force was used to compel
the parties to negotiate.
42. As we discuss above, the first indication
of NATO concernwhich could be construed as an implicit
threatwas made in December 1997. A more explicit threat
was issued from March 1998 when NATO manoeuvres began and the
Gelbard warning was made. Thereafter, threats of force became
more and more public, and were backed up by greater and greater
deployments to the region. In addition, while there were atrocities
committed against the Kosovo Albanians before the summer of 1998,
there was a significant escalation at this time as a result of
the Serb offensive. December 1997 was eight months and March 1998
was eleven months after this Government entered office, and it
would have been a dramatic move, out of line with the thinking
of our allies, to threaten the use of force before then. More
criticism has been made of the Government for resorting to force
too quickly, and not allowing negotiations to run their course,
rather than for threatening force too late. In addition, at no
point was the threat of force used credibly by NATO against the
Kosovo Albanianshow could NATO be seen to be threatening
those who were seen, on the whole, but not exclusively, to be
the victims of Milosevic's oppression? With regard to Milosevic,
as we discuss below,
the problem was not the timing of the threat of force, but its
credibility. We conclude that threatening to use force against
Milosevic before mid-1998when there was a significant escalation
in the assault on the Kosovo Albanianswould have been out
of line with the thinking of our allies.
COULD FURTHER DIPLOMATIC ACTION
HAVE AVERTED THE CRISIS?
43. We examine above the diplomatic efforts to
address Kosovo before May 1997.
Dame Pauline Neville-Jones argues that there was an opportunity
to produce a diplomatic solution between 1996 and early 1998as
we discuss above, this time saw "the emergence...of the KLA
as a guerilla force, which was a decisive turning point."
Once this point had been passed "the political forces by
then at play (with the internal security situation in Kosovo justifying
in Belgrade's eyes the forcible suppression of a guerilla movement
and, among the Kosovo Albanians, increased resistance) drastically
reduced the chances of getting an agreement which avoided combat
William Hopkinson, Director of Studies at the Royal Institute
for International Affairs, agreed with Dame Pauline's assessment,
arguing that "it appears, in retrospect, that the winding
up of the EU-UN led International Conference on Former Yugoslavia,
after Dayton, but before a more comprehensive settlement of Balkan
issues, was a mistake."
Dr Woodward told us that she "felt that there were very real
opportunities for [a] diplomatic outcome beginning in 1997"
and Mrs Roberts told us that "it might have been possible
to do something post Dayton to further negotiations in Kosovo."
Dr Levitin judged from his "interviews with leading Kosovar
politicians in 1996-1998" that "as late as...the beginning
of 1998" it might have been possible to gain the Kosovo Albanians'
consent for a special status for Kosovo within Yugoslavia, although
Milosevic's consent was another matter.
44. Dame Pauline argues that the opportunity
which existed until early 1998 was missed because "on the
American side, there was short termism...the political embarrassment
of dealing with a pariah; and a strong preference for bilateral
diplomacy rather than operating through the Contact Group or with
the High Representative. On the European side, there was a recognition
of the importance of the issue but insufficient backing for Carl
Bildt's [the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to the region]
attempt to start a mediating process."
Dr Levitin adds that "Russia missed a lot of opportunities
to prevent the Kosovo conflict, contrary to its own interests"
resulting in the latter half of the 1990s from "a habit of
delay and the lack of clear vision."
45. Dame Pauline told us, "Milosevic is
impressed when the world is united against him and is not impressed
until that happens."
As ever with international diplomatic action, there were problems
of co-ordination, not only between states, but within them. Tim
Judah records in detail how divisions in the US administration
between Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke
undermined US negotiations with Milosevic.
However, "the nature of Milosevic's personality and Serb
emotion over Kosovo makes Kosovo an especially hard issue to resolve.
It would not therefore be right to claim that had there been greater
effort, success would have been assured."
We conclude that there may have been a missed international
opportunity to achieve a peaceful settlement in Kosovo before
the emergence of the KLA, but that this is only apparent with
57 Ev. pp. 14-49. Back
The Contact Group consists of France, Germany, Italy, the Russian
Federation, the United Kingdom and the USA. It was established
during the crisis in Bosnia. Back
Ev. p. 13. Back
See para 33. Back
Kosovo Verification Mission. See paras 49-52. Back
See para 31. Back
See para 29. Back
On 11-12 June 1998 NATO Defence Ministers directed NATO Military
Authorities to assess and develop a full range of options for
operations that might become necessary to reinforce or facilitate
efforts to achieve a solution. Also on 12 June the Contact Group
threatened "further measures" including those requiring
Security Council authorisation if steps were not taken. On 15
June Exercise "Determined Falcon" began, "demonstrating
NATO's capability to project power into the region." On
12 August the NATO Secretary General issued a statement confirming
that the NAC had reviewed a full range of ground and air options
to bring an end to violence and create the conditions for negotiations,
and that informal force generation was to begin, followed by another
statement on 9 September noting that NATO had completed contingency
planning for a "full range of military measures." Ev.
pp. 14-47. Back
Ev. p. 6. Back
Ev. p. 8. Back
Ev. p. 8. Back
Ev. p. 8. Back
See paras 77-81. Back
See paras 28-33. Back
Ev. p. 110. Back
Ev. p. 110. Back
Ev. p. 277. Back
Ev. p. 361. Back
Ev. p. 110. Back
Ev. p. 362. Back
Judah, p. 153. Back
Ev. p. 110. Back