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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Clinton says NATO could not let history forget Kosovo Albanians

April 18, 1999
Web posted at: 3:50 a.m. EDT (0750 GMT)

LONDON (AllPolitics, April 18) -- The following is the text of a letter written by U.S. President Bill Clinton, which appears in the Sunday, April 18 edition of the London Sunday Times.

The letter was solicited by the Times and reads as follows:

Today in the Balkans, forces from the United States, the United Kingdom and our NATO allies are standing strong against ethnic cleansing, working to end the atrocities, save lives and restore hope to Kosovo. We are determined to prevail. And we are determined to strengthen the foundation for a Europe that is ever more integrated, democratic, prosperous and at peace.

The NATO allies did everything possible to obtain a peaceful solution in Kosovo. Slobodan Milosevic chose conflict instead, escalating the violence, moving towards fulfilment of his brutal design: to rid the land of its inhabitants, once and for all. We could not stand aside and let history forget the Kosovo Albanians. And we could not turn our backs on the danger of conflict spreading, igniting ethnic tensions and threatening stability in the region.

Today, many nations in Europe's east are trying to realise the very vision of multi-ethnic democracy that Mr. Milosevic is trying to kill. Under communist rule, such nations projected a picture of stability, but it was a false stability imposed by rulers whose answer to ethnic tensions was to suppress and deny them. When communist repression lifted, the tensions rose to the surface, to be resolved by co-operation or exploited by demagoguery. We are in Kosovo because Europe's worst demagogue has once again moved from angry words to unspeakable violence.

Day by day, the air campaign waged by our allied forces is grinding down Mr. Milosevic's war machine. We have weakened his air defences, command and control, and capacity to produce fuel and ammunition. We are striking at his tanks, artillery and aircraft. Now we are taking our campaign to the next level, with more aircraft in the region and HMS Invincible joining American and French carriers in the area.

Meanwhile, our allied humanitarian effort is providing food and shelter for the refugees, restoring their strength and hope in preparation for the day when they can return to their land in peace. And we are seeking the means to aid those Kosovars trapped within their own country by Serbian forces.

They are hungry, living outside, afraid to return to their villages. Mr. Milosevic apparently wants to use them as hostages and human shields. As Prime Minister Blair has said, Mr. Milosevic is responsible for the welfare of those people - and we will hold him responsible.

Our alliance wants to end the crisis, to end the suffering of the Kosovars, to end the trials of a Serbian people forced into struggle by a cynical leader who has no regard for their welfare, who conceals from them the truth about what he is doing in Kosovo. Mr. Milosevic can end the crisis today - by withdrawing his forces from Kosovo, permitting an international security force and allowing the unconditional return of all of the displaced, with the security and self-government to which they are entitled.

But if he will not do that, our campaign will continue, shifting the balance of power against him until we succeed. Our timetable will be determined by our goals, not the other way around. Ultimately, Mr Milosevic must either cut his mounting losses or lose his ability to maintain his grip on Kosovo.

As we persist, we will also plan for the future. I continue to believe that the best answer for Kosovo is autonomy, not independence. Kosovo lacks the resources and infrastructure to thrive on its own. Instead, its independence could actually spur more instability.

Moreover, I do not believe the solution to hatred in the Balkans is even greater Balkanisation. Once we start redrawing maps, the disputes and displacement of people would be hard to stop. The best solution is not the endless shifting of Europe's borders along ethnic lines, but greater integration among European states that work together to make a virtue, not a blood feud, out of diversity.

Realistically, the realisation of this vision will require a democratic transition in Serbia itself, for the region cannot be secure with a belligerent tyrant in its midst.

Kosovo's tragedy should and must spur the efforts of NATO nations, ongoing for some time, to support deeper democracy, ethnic and religious tolerance and integration among nations of southeastern Europe. These nations are now under strain from Kosovo's conflict, from the flood of refugees and turmoil in the region.

We must work together with the European Union, the OSCE and other political and economic institutions to assist them in this crisis and, for the long term, to accelerate their political and economic reforms and support multi-ethnic societies that can build better lives.

We must engage Russia in this process whenever possible, for even if we cannot agree now on the crisis in Kosovo, we have common goals and aspirations. Our alliance's goal for southeastern Europe is the same as we had for western Europe after the second world war and for central Europe after the cold war - integration into a true community of nations, committed to freedom and human rights, living together in peace as part of a Europe whole and free.

This week, the leaders of more than 40 countries will gather in Washington for NATO's 50th anniversary summit. Our alliance has never been more united. Our partnerships with other European nations have never been stronger. Kosovo has demonstrated beyond doubt the continued importance of our alliance and the need to keep adapting it to new challenges - to strengthen the capabilities and responsibilities of our European allies within the alliance; to enhance our capacity to address regional conflicts near our borders; to protect our citizens against weapons of mass destruction; to strengthen partnerships across the continent; and to help aspiring members, including those in southeastern Europe, enter through NATO's open door.

In our own countries, we work hard to build respect for religious, ethnic and cultural differences and to find strength in our diversity. We must now bring that strength to bear against forces of organised ethnic hatred who are committing atrocities in NATO's own neighbourhood.

If we want the 21st century to be different for our children, we must not end this century with a victory of tyranny over democracy, hatred over tolerance, bloodshed over community. We must do what is necessary to turn back the forces of racial violence and build a peaceful future.


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Strike on Yugoslavia

The Conflict:

  • From TIME: The Kosovo Catastrophe: In Pictures
  • Kosovo Primer

    Message Board:

  • Your thoughts...


    Sunday, April 18, 1999

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