The Demons of Kosovo

The Demons of Kosovo

Mini Teaser: The competing claims of Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo have been hopelessly tangled in the webs of history and myth.

by Author(s): Warren Zimmerman

Neither of these compromise outcomes is currently acceptable to the two parties. Therefore outside pressure would have to be applied even to get them into a serious negotiation. Since the Europeans lack the trust of the Albanians, only the United States has the credentials to mediate a result. There is too much local hostility and mistrust to rely on incremental agreements; a comprehensive settlement should be the objective. Any agreement would have to be secured, at least for a time, by a NATO force configured on the Bosnian model but unencumbered by corrosive "exit strategies" or deadlines. In almost any outcome, the special problem of Macedonia would have to be addressed. The preventive UN force currently in Macedonia, now consisting of 750 American and Swedish troops, should be increased as a matter of urgency and its mandate strengthened to enable it to deal with ethnic conflict.

What if the United States makes a good faith offer to broker a final settlement only to have Milosevic reject it and continue his oppressive tactics in Kosovo? It should then be clear that Milosevic remained the principal obstacle to a solution and that no agreement would be possible as long as he remained in power. At that point the United States should adopt a policy of avoiding any actions that would assist his staying in power, while doing what it could to hasten his departure. This policy would not be likely to bring immediate or decisive results, but it would be a useful signal to disenchanted Serbs that, for America, Milosevic is a pariah. Because of our misplaced gratitude to him for his compromises at Dayton over Bosnia, that is not the signal we are now conveying.

More and more Serbs are beginning to understand that Milosevic has brought his people nothing but disaster. He has decimated the Serbian population of Croatia, humiliated and impoverished the Serbs in Bosnia, provoked the inexorable exodus of Serbs from Kosovo, and wrecked the economy of Serbia itself. His rule is not eternal. One day the gray falcon will come for him. And it will not promise him a heavenly kingdom.

Warren Zimmermann, professor of diplomacy at Columbia University, was U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1989-92.

Essay Types: Essay