Why did Milosevic concede?
119. We discuss above the role played by the
growing likelihood of a ground offensive, and the role played
by Russia in bringing about Milosevic's retreat. Clearly we do
not know exactly why Milosevic backed down. However, an FCO telegram
written shortly after the end of the bombing campaign attributes
Milosevic's decision to "the cumulative effects of NATO's
bombing campaign; the continued unity and resolve shown by NATO
partners; the mounting likelihood of a ground offensive in Kosovo;
and the realisation that the Russians were not going to bail him
out of this."
The subsequent FCO memorandum elaborates that "more than
three hundred [static targets] suffered moderate to severe damage.
There is clear evidence that air strikes against Milosevic's forces
in the field were successful in restricting their operations...air
operations had an impact on public opinion in Serbia: from an
early stage, there were reports of mothers demonstrating against
their sons being forced to serve in Kosovo."
The FCO also argues that Milosevic's indictment by the International
Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia "appears to have
added to the psychological pressure on him to strike a deal, although
there was and is no prospect of him being given any sort of amnesty."
Tim Judah suggests an additional reason: "fear of a KLA breakthrough
on the border" with Albania, where in the last stages of
the air campaign, the KLA received strong air support from NATO,
and Albanian army artillery.
120. In some ways the deal which concluded NATO's
bombing campaign was better than that offered to Milosevic at
Rambouillet, and also better than that demanded by NATO during
the campaign itself. Unlike the Military Annex at Rambouillet,
there was no requirement in the Military Technical Agreement (MTA)
to permit the transit of NATO troops through the territory of
Serbia (although it does specify that NATO troops have the right
to travel five kilometres into Serbia). It is also the case that
Milosevic has not had to "provide credible assurance of his
willingness to work for the establishment of a political framework
agreement based on the Rambouillet accords" as was demanded
by NATO. However, as we discuss above, the Military Annex was
not decisive in Milosevic's refusal to sign Rambouillet,
and it is unlikely to have been decisive in his decision to concede
to NATO. Moreover, while there was no commitment under the peace
deal to a referendum in Kosovo as some argued there had been under
the Rambouillet proposals, post war Kosovo has only a nominal
link with Yugoslavia, whereas, under the Rambouillet proposals,
the linkage would have been more substantial. Overall, it cannot
be considered that Milosevic got a "good deal" as a
result of NATO's campaignrather he was forced to accept
NATO's demands because his situation was bad and getting worse
in the face of an alliance, not divided as he had expected, but
we identified from Government statements and those by international
organisations of which the United Kingdom is a leading member
the following objectives for diplomatic action before the Kosovo
humanitarian situation in Kosovo;
promoting dialogue between the Kosovo
Albanians and Belgrade;
promoting greater autonomy for the Kosovo
Albanians while maintaining the internationally recognised borders
maintaining regional stability by avoiding
large refugee flows into neighbouring states;
discouraging the use of force to settle
We discuss below
how far these have been achieved.
122. The Government set itself tough objectives,
and in the end it was not possible to settle our political differences
with Milosevic without the use of force. As Jonathan Steele told
us, Kosovo had "a 90 per cent Albanian majority, there was
no way that Serbia could really legitimately or seriously, practically,
think of holding it for very many years in the future."
However, it was most unlikely either that Serbia in general, but
in particular the Milosevic regime, would give up Kosovo peacefully,
or that the Kosovo Albanian population would remain quiescent
under Milosevic's brutal regime. Of course, this does not mean
that the Government was wrong to attempt to achieve a diplomatic
solution. It would obviously have been preferable to do this:
the NATO campaign was expensive, both financially and, more importantly,
in terms of lives lost, and the wounds it has caused will take
many years to heal.
123. But having arrived at the situation of March
1999or even March 1998it is difficult to see how
military action could have been avoided. As Tim Judah told us,
"at any time we could have had a new Srebrenica: how was
one supposed to know that was not going to happen?"
The issue in Kosovo was in fact not whether Srebrenica would happen
againit was whether in the absence of NATO intervention,
the Serb campaign would have continued over many years, eventually
resulting in more deaths and instability in the region than if
NATO had not intervened. We believe that it would. Milosevic spent
a long time in Kosovo doing the minimum necessary to avoid provoking
NATO intervention. Once that intervention had started he had a
free hand: despite the fact that he could not use his heavy weaponry,
NATO could do no worse once it had started bombing. But this does
not mean that NATO was wrong to threaten or eventually use force.
Without an outside constraint in 1997 and 1998, there would have
been nothing to prevent Milosevic acting earlier as he did after
March1999. It is likely that the conflict in Kosovo would have
continued, possibly drawing in other countries in the region.
And despite the exodus of Kosovo Albanians, almost all Kosovo
Albanians welcomed the NATO intervention. We conclude that,
while mistakes were made in the period before the NATO campaign
against Milosevic, overall the Government was right to support
the launching of air strikes on 24/25 March 1999.