LANGUAGE
Due to translations, the other language editions of NATO Review go online approximately two weeks after the English version.
About NATO Review
Submission policy
COPYRIGHT INFO
Editorial team
 RSS
SEND THIS ARTICLE TO A FRIEND
SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATO REVIEW
  

Jamie Shea: Kosovo - then and now

Jamie Shea discusses NATO, Kosovo - and McDonalds hamburgers. See below to skip to a question.

Jamie Shea, NATO's spokesman during the 78 day campaign to end the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo in 1999, goes back to the press room where he held his daily press conferences and gives a personal insight into what lessons were learned by NATO - and Kosovo.

Video length: 30.41

 Subtitles: On / Off

Jamie Shea was NATO Spokesperson during the Alliance's air campaign in Kosovo in 1999,

which aimed to halt the humanitarian disaster in the country.

Each day for 78 days he explained NATO's operations to the world's press.

As the 10th anniversary of the Kosovo campaign approaches,

NATO Review takes Jamie Shea back to NATO's press room to ask about Kosovo then and Kosovo now.

KING: Did you always believe that the Kosovo campaign would always be a success?

SHEA: Well, yes, I did and the obvious reason is ...

I felt that an organization like NATO, the United States

and major European powers would put its credibility on the line in a massive way,

much greater than anything NATO had ever done previously by launching that operation.

And of course, once the credibility of the western democracies was on the line

for people like Tony Blair or Bill Clinton or Chirac,

it also became bound up with domestic political credibility.

So I felt having started, whatever, how long it would take,

no matter how difficult it would be, NATO would need to see it through.

I also felt that the allies had taken a lot of time to get to the decision.

There'd been months and months of negotiating with the Serbs and with the Kosovar Albanians.

There'd been months and months of discussing the internal strategy,

the air plan and the whole campaign.

So it struck me that we would have difficulty getting to the decision, but it's typical of NATO

that once that decision was taken, through thick and thin it would stick.

And I even believed that we would have used ground troops,

reluctantly, but inevitably, if the air campaign had not worked.

KING: Was there ever a Plan B?

SHEA: No, there really wasn't because NATO had invested, as I said,

all of its credibility in this operation and NATO, after all is not like another organization.

It's not an economic organization or a social organization.

It's a political military security organization and if you're going to say to your members,

hey, we're serious about defending you, we're a serious organization,

we do what we say and we say what we do...

... then the credibility factor is much more important for a security organization

than for a different type of international grouping.

KING: What preparations were made for the information and media war?

SHEA: Well, I've got to be honest about this, we weren't as prepared as we should have been.

Maybe I take responsibility for that.

All I can say is that Kosovo was something totally new for NATO.

NATO has never been at war, even if we didn't call it a war, rather a conflict.

But we'd never been involved in a live military action of this dimension before.

You know, now we're in Afghanistan and shooting and combat's taking place every day

it's become much more familiar, but Kosovo was really a loss of virginity in that way,

of moving for the first time from security, essentially, through deterrents

and prevention to security through action and combat and casualties and risk taking.

And I don't believe, because it was new,

that we really sort of thought through in advance exactly what was going to change,

once the first bombs in Allied Force were dropped.

I think, secondly, there was a view, which had proved to be totally wrong,

that Milosevic would throw in the towel after a couple of days of NATO bombing,

that he would immediately turn round and say I'm not willing to escalate.

I've tried to call NATO's bluff, I've failed, I now have to go back to the negotiating table.

So we didn't prepare for a long campaign,

and therefore we didn't prepare for the media stresses

that a long campaign would inevitably bring in its wake.

KING: What lessons were learned about the media being a weapon?

SHEA: Prepare for the worst.

Don't go on rose-tinted spectacle scenarios it's going to be all right on the night.

Prepare for the worst. And prepare to be criticized.

I think also, frankly, at the time, we felt here that we were doing the right thing.

We had a moral just cause, we'd tried negotiation. We'd played it by the book.

We'd gone to the UN, tried to get a Security Council resolution.

We'd threatened force before we actually used it.

We'd tried to come out with an equitable agreement for both sides,

which the Serbs reasonably should have accepted

and therefore public opinion would overwhelmingly support us.

It would be what the Americans call a no-brainer.

And therefore, you know, the media wouldn't be a problem because they'd all be cheering us on.

(Laughs).

Somewhat naive as it turned out.

We discovered that even if people believe you have a just cause

they don't necessarily agree with bombing,

they don't necessarily agree with your tactics, or your strategy,

they don't like collateral damage, the dreaded moment when with the best laid plans

things start going wrong and you actually kill some of the people that you're trying to help.

And that also, you know, the Serbs would be effective

at running their own sort of counter-information campaign against us.

So I think now we recognize

that any kind of military operation is going to be controversial with the public.

Some will be pacifists at any price.

Others, as I say, will be more focused on ‘is this a winning strategy?’.

Others will just get frustrated

that the thing is dragging on for a long time before producing success.

The media, in any case, see their job not as being cheerleaders,

but asking difficult, searching questions. So lesson number one is:

prepare for the worst, and organization, organization, organization.

You don't succeed in these ventures simply by relying upon master messages ...

... or gifted spokesmen, charismatic communicators.

No no no, you've got to have proper media organizations that prepare the facts,

that investigate, that deliver the message in the most effective way.

And you can't take the media side less seriously

than you actually take the military operation itself.

KING: Which was more powerful and effective: Allied unity or Allied airstrikes?

SHEA: Well, I don't think the air strikes were as effective as we'd hoped.

I mean, let's face it, we know that now.

The problem with air power is that if you use it in a very decisive way

you inflict tremendous damage on the economy, on society, even on civilian populations.

You could do that in World War II, Paul, we know that.

The allied bombing of Germany, Japan, you can't do that anymore.

You have to use air power in a much more discriminate way,

according to the rules of international law.

But, let's be honest, it makes it less effective, also,

or at least it means it takes longer to produce an impact.

So we would have hoped of course, that we would have destroyed more Serb tanks

than we'd ultimately destroyed, but that's why, as I mentioned a moment ago,

people like Tony Blair, towards the end, were thinking seriously ...

that it would take a ground campaign and not just an air campaign to prevail.

Fortunately, we didn't have to do that, but we were thinking about it towards the end.

So my sense is that it was definitely allied unity that prevailed.

Milosovic, I think hoped, like Napoleon used to say,

Lord, if I have to fight let it be against a coalition.

Coalitions are weak, they divide very quickly, people break ranks.

And I think it was only after 78 days when Milosevic realized that ...

despite all of the problems that we had that ...

that wasn't going to happen and NATO was going to stay united,

that he called in the United Nations and he started to look for a way out.

KING: Are you disappointed that the Allied unity during the campaign was not evident

when it came to recognising Kosovo's independence?

SHEA: Well, I'm disappointed in the sense that I would have hoped that ...

we would be much farther along the road with Kosovo than we are and upwards.

That it would be a healed re-integrated, reconciled society with a booming economy,

on its way into Euro-Atlantic integration,

and clearly that's all still very much in the future.

So I'm certainly disappointed that we haven't made more progress there over the last ten years,

and that many of the fundamental issues that were there in 1999,

particularly in terms of relations between Serbs and Albanians, remain.

And obviously it would be nice to have the international community fully united on

how it sees the future of Kosovo, but we live in the real world. The point I would make is ...

that clearly we did not launch the air campaign in 1999 to make Kosovo independent.

That was never the aim, nor to get rid of Milosovic,

though, you know, we may not have liked him particularly, but regime change was not the goal.

The goal was the humanitarian impulse of stopping the ethnic cleansing

and creating a stable environment in which politics could take its place again.

Because you couldn't do politics while Serb forces were conducting sweeps,

cleaning out the Albanians or the Kosovo Liberation Army was killing Serb policemen.

So I think to sort of say that today it's disappointing we don't have an independent Kosovo,

in terms of being recognized by everybody,

is a misreading of the reasons why we launched our Operation Allied Force in the first place.

I mean, had regime change or an independent Kosovo been the objective

you would not have had the unity of the allies to start the operation in the first place.

But unfortunately, of course, you have to deal with new situations

which arise from interventions. Interventions change the political dynamics.

I also feel that it's inevitably harder for some countries to agree to an independent Kosovo

when Serbia is a democratic country.

It would have been easier, frankly, to have done it while Milosevic was still in power.

Unwilling to move, unwilling to negotiate.

Much more difficult to impose a democratic Kosovo on a Serbia

which is now on its way towards the European Union,

signing a stabilization and association agreement with the EU, a partner of NATO.

That said, however, that the international community has agreed, rightly so in my view,

that Kosovo, given the past, cannot come under direct rule from Belgrade again.

The independence has been declared. It's been recognized by a number of allies.

So we simply have to find a constructive sort of solution

which satisfies the Kosovar Albanians’ desire for independence

but satisfies the feeling of the Serbs

that they want still to maintain close links with Belgrade.

And it's not easy, but I'm convinced that in the fullness of time

we'll come up with imaginative solutions for how that can be done.

There are plenty of precedents around the world

for where you've been able to achieve that kind of arrangement,

and we just have to sort of keep the politics moving. That's the key thing.

Not to stagnate, even though it's difficult, keep the politics moving.

KING: Is the situation now simply about Serbia accepting the reality on the ground?

SHEA: Well, yes, in the sense that we have to sort of somehow cut the Gordian Knot.

The Kosovar Albanians want to be independent.

That's not just one political party or a small percentage of the population.

That's an overwhelming sentiment and they've declared independence and a number of big allies,

the United States, the U.K., Germany, France, important allies, have recognized that fact.

In fact, I think about 45 countries around the world.

Okay, that's not yet a majority in the UN General Assembly that have recognized that fact,

and I'm sure the number of countries recognizing Kosovo will continue to increase.

So I don't think the Kosovars are going to go back on that declaration of independence.

I think on the other hand, though, we have to find, as I said a moment ago, a situation

which also recognizes that Serbia has a legitimate interest in the affairs of Kosovo,

because of a still very large Serb minority. And we want that Serb minority to stay in Kosovo.

We want Kosovo to be a multi-ethnic state. So, again, I'm repeating myself, but I think ...

we're going to have to, as the process goes forward, look for imaginative solutions.

I mean, one obvious solution is that Kosovo and Serbia join the European Union

and maybe even, who knows, NATO one day

because of course as you integrate into larger structures, like the European Union,

issues of borders, of territorial possession and so on become less important.

Societies become more fluid, more open to each other. So I'm certain that ...

the solution can only be found in some kind of European framework in the long run.

KING: One of the other interviews for this edition was with Paddy Ashdown.

SHEA: Yes, I know him well.

KING: He came out with a quote which basically said

that the independence of Kosovo was unfortunately a price

that Serbia simply had to pay for the folly of Milosevic's crimes. Is that fair?

SHEA: Yes, I can speak personally here, because as I mentioned

different allies have different views,

so I can only give you a personal view, but I do think though that's fair.

The Kosovar Albanians were prepared at Rambouillet

before the violence started in the beginning of 1999, or restarted in a major way,

they were prepared, reluctantly, under some pressure from the international community,

but they were prepared to accept autonomy.

They came back to Rambouillet saying okay, yes, we'll agree.

We'd like a referendum, consultative referendum on the future after three years,

but we can go along with living with the Serbs if we can have the autonomy

that Milosevic took away from us in 1989 restored. And it was the Serbs that...

I mean, a different government in Serbia, obviously, still the old Milosevic regime,

but which turned that down and was not prepared to restore substantial autonomy.

So to some degree, yes, it has to be said,

the Serb government at the time bears responsibility for using excessive force

which alienated permanently the Kosovar Albanian population

and refusing a fair political compromise.

They believed at the time, falsely, that they could gain more on the battlefield

than the negotiating table, and the conflict, we've said this, created a dynamic

where the Kosovo Albanians were not prepared to accept anything short of independence

and at the same time the contact group,

the group of the international community that negotiated the arrangements in the UN,

also agreed that there was no return to the status quo ante.

And if you can't return to the status quo ante clearly you have to come up with something new.

KING: Talking about autonomy I'd just like to read you a quote.

Something that you said at the time. You mentioned,

when a people have been badly oppressed within their own country

they probably see that the only solution is independence,

but if Serbia were to be a democratic Serbia, a Serbia based on pluralism,

a decentralized type of Serbia with a market economy,

and in which different ethnic groups had a role in politics,

then I think the situation would be different. What do you feel about that today?

SHEA: Well, I said that at the time, but maybe I was wrong

and I have to have the courage to say that, to the extent that, yes

I think lots of people did hope, sincerely, that once Serbia became democratic,

as it did after the fall of Milosevic and the election of Kostunica and Tadic,

that the Albanians and the Serbs might be able to get back together, again, and negotiate,

and come up with a solution that ultimately could have satisfied both sides.

And again, we have to recognize the international community gave it a good go.

Martti Ahtisaari, who was so instrumental at the time in '99,

in persuading the Serbs to withdraw their forces, came back on the scene,

as you know, empowered by the UN to come up with the Ahtisaari plan. Negotiations started.

A second exercise took place under the EU with Wolfgang Ischinger

involving the Russians, the parties, the United States, the European Union.

So again, we gave it a fair crack, but at the end of the day the two sides were very far apart.

We also have to be frank, there was a certain, even under a democratic Serbia,

there was a strong nationalistic streak still that ran through their attitude towards Kosovo.

So that is the reason, I think, why now many NATO countries,

not all though, but many have decided that the independence is the only viable way forward.

But at the same time, while looking, particularly with regards to the north of Kosovo,

the largely Serbian-dominated enclave there,

what kind of special arrangements can be found which could guarantee those Serbs the sense

that they're not sort of stuck in an alien state, that they can have links over the border.

You know, we've got European solutions here. I mean, look at Northern Ireland now.

The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland was a big breakthrough

because the Catholics suddenly understood that they could live in a Northern Ireland,

with the Protestants, under a power-sharing arrangement, while still having lots

and lots of links with the south, with the Irish Republic across the border

and many of them had dual citizenship, for example, which you find elsewhere.

You know, look at the German speakers who live in Belgium,

who live in Belgium very happily and cross the border to go and work in Germany every day.

I mean, within the European Union you find lots of sort of cross-border activities

because integration has made these issues of borders

and territory gradually lose their meaning.

I'm sure that we'll arrive in the Balkans one day at that kind of situation,

but the problem now is not to stagnate in a way which frustrates both sides,

that there's no real progress

and could tempt some people, at least, to sort of go back to the violence.

As I said, before, even if, you know, the ultimate solution is still beyond the horizon,

the key thing is to keep the political process going, of sides talking, of communication.

NATO and the EU, now that we are sort of assuming the responsibility jointly

for the future of Kosovo, we need also to talk to each other

so that we steer the process in the most sensible way we can.

KING: You talk about the fact that many efforts were made by the international community

to ensure that this process could go forward

with as many people being happy with the outcome as possible.

It didn't work out. There was the Kai Eide, there was Ahtisaari, a succession.

At what point did you feel there's only going to be one end to this and that's independence?

SHEA: Well, I think the problem, of course, is after 1999

Serbia had no role any longer in Kosovo,

even though 1244 continued to assert Serb sovereignty,

it also made clear that it was not Belgrade which would define the future of Kosovo.

It would the UN, the international community. And then, as I said, the contact group agreed

that there was no return to direct role for Belgrade, no return to the status quo ante.

So we were always in a situation where we simply couldn’t go back to the past.

We'd have to come up with something new.

And of course, the Kosovars, in the ten years since they've been sort of living with NATO

and living under the UN, but not living under Belgrade,

have got used to sort of being masters of their own fate.

Power has been progressively transferred to them in terms of the provincial institutions,

self-government and so clearly even before independence was declared,

they were increasingly psychologically seeing themselves as heading towards independence.

And once that psychological momentum is created

where Belgrade has disappeared, if you like, out of their daily lives,

at least for the Kosovar Albanians, it becomes very difficult to persuade people

that suddenly you're going to sort of stop the clock and go backwards.

That's undoubtedly, I think, the consequences of what we had to live with.

But of course, the other lesson is that you cannot intervene somewhere and stop violence

and then walk away and not deal with the political fallout.

We've learnt that lesson in Afghanistan. We learnt that lesson in Bosnia,

that he who intervenes also picks up responsibility for the long-term fate of a place.

You can't just be a military force without getting involved also in the politics.

So you know Colin Powell when he was the U.S. Secretary of State

used to call this the Pottery Barn effect. He used to say if you break it you pay for it.

Well, I'm not saying we broke Kosovo, but we've certainly been paying for it.

KING: And looking at today's Kosovo,

obviously there's been the declaration of independence, the new constitution, flags, anthem.

One of the developments that's coming up shortly is the creation of the Kosovo security force.

Some people have said this is the final break with its past

because this creates a security force that has no links with the former Kosovo Liberation Army.

Do you feel that this is the key moment when Kosovo stands on its own two feet?

SHEA: Well, no, I think that ultimately, to my mind,

the key things are going to be the economic viability of Kosovo,

because if you want the Serbs to feel at home in Kosovo and to stay,

they have to have the sense

that they're not going to be sort of on life-long unemployment benefit,

or dependent upon pensions or handouts being paid from Belgrade,

which Belgrade can ill afford, by the way, given its own transformation programme.

They've got to have to feel Kosovo is the place of opportunity where you can get on

and I genuinely believe that economic prosperity is a fantastic integrator.

The one area in the Balkans, as you know,

where the ethnic communities have always got on famously, has been in organized crime.

Where there's a prospect of making money the differences fade very, very quickly.

So I believe personally that issues like anti-corruption, governance,

ethnic representation in the civil service, the police, for instance,

just a sense of this place is taking off and I want to be part of it, is important.

I mean, one of the reasons why the Russian-speaking minorities

in the Baltic states have been very happy to stay

is of course they've seen a dynamic economy

and better standard of living than they could have had elsewhere.

So to my mind that is the key thing. But the security forces are very important because,

let's face it, there are a lot of weapons in Kosovo. There are a lot of structures.

There's the Kosovo Protection Corps, which grew out of the old Kosovo Liberation Army,

and Martti Ahtisaari made the point very well

that it's better to have these guys above the surface where you can see them,

doing legitimate things under international supervision, than it is underground,

with arms caches, secret training in the woods in the middle of the night,

with balaclavas and hoods over their heads ready to engage in some sort of insurgent activity.

I think it's also in the interest of Belgrade that that should be clearly the case.

And of course, the longer that NATO delays taking on that role of mentoring them

and helping to form this force, the more the Kosovars are just going to go ahead

and do it themselves anyway and come up with a structure

that we may not be very pleased about,

which may not make sense, but which we will have to live with.

So I think that is the rational way, reason why we have to move forward there.

The other thing, is that lots of new countries

or countries who have declared independence like Kosovo often think too big.

They want 50,000 people in the army...

Maybe not Kosovo, but you know what I mean, they want tanks, they want fighter jets.

They want all of the trappings of a military force. And you have to say to them,

look, wait a minute, you can't afford this, this is not the priority.

This is going to be a big drag on your economy.

This is only going to send negative signals to your neighbours. Stop.

You need help to come up with something which is economically viable,

which is not going to be negative vis-à-vis your neighbours,

which is going to take care of the kind of security tasks by combating organized crime,

or whatever that you need to combat. And I think, again, that is an area

where with all of its experience of security sector reform in other countries

in central and Eastern Europe, where NATO can be very useful to the Kosovars.

KING: That touches on the next question which is, I mean, as you say,

economic development is possibly the biggest carrot towards Kosovo

becoming a more stable and developed country.

But as you say, organized crime is a major factor.

SHEA: Absolutely.

KING: There are a high number of arms among civilians

and smuggling, trafficking are major issues in the area.

Do you think that's the biggest security issue facing Kosovo at the moment?

SHEA: Yes, I do. Because this is obviously going to poison the state structures from within,

if you have corrupt politicians or corrupt judges,

if the tax receipts that you should be collecting to fund the national budget aren't collected

you're going to depend increasingly on foreign aid because you can't raise your own revenues.

People will be very reluctant to set up businesses, if they feel they have to pay off everybody

before they can start producing McDonald's hamburgers and selling them to the public.

We've had some pretty bad experiences.

I remember a few years ago having a breakfast with Jacques Klein,

who was the UN administrator at the time in Bosnia. And he said to me,

Jamie, you know, this is the only place in Europe where there's no McDonald's.

This was back in nineties. Because even McDonald's, which can make money anywhere,

just finds doing local business too risky.

I mean, obviously the situation has been transformed since,

but I think it's an example of how this becomes a cancer and to my mind

this is the problem, number one, absolutely. It's also an image issue.

We all know that countries have to rebrand themselves to convey an image

that they respect the rule of law, are transparent, protect foreign investments.

Business is so much an issue of confidence.

So obviously the Kosovars have to deal with that first and foremost,

but those are the kind of areas where I think, yes, they need help.

KING: The last question is also about the rule of law issue.

With so many of the criminals

who committed the atrocious acts in Kosovo having escaped justice,

with 2,000 people from all ethnic varieties still missing in Kosovo,

with all of these issues of justice that hasn't been observed ongoing in Kosovo,

can you ever see this being tied up?

Can you ever see the rule of law actually pervading all areas of Kosovo?

SHEA: Well, certainly the war criminals issue is obviously

in the hands of the Tribunal in The Hague, at ICTY.

It's indicted Serbs on what took place in Kosovo,

but it's also indicated Kosovar Albanians for what has taken place in Kosovo,

and where necessary KFOR has done its bit, the NATO force in Kosovo,

to ensure that those people are transferred to The Hague.

We are completely impartial in that respect.

An indicted war criminal is an indicted war criminal

who has to go to The Hague or be tried in some local court.

And it's very important for both sides to see that ...

the people who are responsible for these atrocities face justice and have their day in court.

And it's not simply one community which is held to be responsible,

because we know very well that even if some people may have been more responsible than others,

once the fighting started war crimes were committed by both sides,

or in the case of Bosnia, all sides. And I think it's essential for reconciliation

because people always harbour animosities and frustrations

where there's no sense of closure on these issues.

They don't know what happened to their loved ones.

They feel that the person responsible is still free.

It becomes much harder then to appeal to reconciliation. But I think ultimately, yes,

one of the things that's lacking in that part of the world so often is simply the word "sorry",

a willingness to... you know, one thinks of Willy Brandt, the German Chancellor,

on his hands and knees in front of the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland in 1972,

begging forgiveness on behalf of the German people.

This simple ability to go somewhere and say I'm sorry,

and identify with your suffering and let’s reconcile,

instead of blaming the other community all the time.

This sort of act of statesmanship, I think, is what's needed.

And ultimately, I think it is right for historians to go to work and come to a joint agreement.

There's a remarkable thing that France and Germany now have a common historical textbook.

One that both governments have approved, on their relationship in the 20th Century.

I think if those two countries, which fought 1870, 1914, 1940, these wars against each other,

you know, can work on a history in a way

where they now have an agreed sense of the responsibilities, that ...

... that is a good sort of model that this part of the world should follow as well.

KING: Jamie Shea, thank you very much.

SHEA: Thank you.

Jamie Shea was NATO Spokesperson during the Alliance's air campaign in Kosovo in 1999,

which aimed to halt the humanitarian disaster in the country.

Each day for 78 days he explained NATO's operations to the world's press.

As the 10th anniversary of the Kosovo campaign approaches,

NATO Review takes Jamie Shea back to NATO's press room to ask about Kosovo then and Kosovo now.

KING: Did you always believe that the Kosovo campaign would always be a success?

SHEA: Well, yes, I did and the obvious reason is ...

I felt that an organization like NATO, the United States

and major European powers would put its credibility on the line in a massive way,

much greater than anything NATO had ever done previously by launching that operation.

And of course, once the credibility of the western democracies was on the line

for people like Tony Blair or Bill Clinton or Chirac,

it also became bound up with domestic political credibility.

So I felt having started, whatever, how long it would take,

no matter how difficult it would be, NATO would need to see it through.

I also felt that the allies had taken a lot of time to get to the decision.

There'd been months and months of negotiating with the Serbs and with the Kosovar Albanians.

There'd been months and months of discussing the internal strategy,

the air plan and the whole campaign.

So it struck me that we would have difficulty getting to the decision, but it's typical of NATO

that once that decision was taken, through thick and thin it would stick.

And I even believed that we would have used ground troops,

reluctantly, but inevitably, if the air campaign had not worked.

KING: Was there ever a Plan B?

SHEA: No, there really wasn't because NATO had invested, as I said,

all of its credibility in this operation and NATO, after all is not like another organization.

It's not an economic organization or a social organization.

It's a political military security organization and if you're going to say to your members,

hey, we're serious about defending you, we're a serious organization,

we do what we say and we say what we do...

... then the credibility factor is much more important for a security organization

than for a different type of international grouping.

KING: What preparations were made for the information and media war?

SHEA: Well, I've got to be honest about this, we weren't as prepared as we should have been.

Maybe I take responsibility for that.

All I can say is that Kosovo was something totally new for NATO.

NATO has never been at war, even if we didn't call it a war, rather a conflict.

But we'd never been involved in a live military action of this dimension before.

You know, now we're in Afghanistan and shooting and combat's taking place every day

it's become much more familiar, but Kosovo was really a loss of virginity in that way,

of moving for the first time from security, essentially, through deterrents

and prevention to security through action and combat and casualties and risk taking.

And I don't believe, because it was new,

that we really sort of thought through in advance exactly what was going to change,

once the first bombs in Allied Force were dropped.

I think, secondly, there was a view, which had proved to be totally wrong,

that Milosevic would throw in the towel after a couple of days of NATO bombing,

that he would immediately turn round and say I'm not willing to escalate.

I've tried to call NATO's bluff, I've failed, I now have to go back to the negotiating table.

So we didn't prepare for a long campaign,

and therefore we didn't prepare for the media stresses

that a long campaign would inevitably bring in its wake.

KING: What lessons were learned about the media being a weapon?

SHEA: Prepare for the worst.

Don't go on rose-tinted spectacle scenarios it's going to be all right on the night.

Prepare for the worst. And prepare to be criticized.

I think also, frankly, at the time, we felt here that we were doing the right thing.

We had a moral just cause, we'd tried negotiation. We'd played it by the book.

We'd gone to the UN, tried to get a Security Council resolution.

We'd threatened force before we actually used it.

We'd tried to come out with an equitable agreement for both sides,

which the Serbs reasonably should have accepted

and therefore public opinion would overwhelmingly support us.

It would be what the Americans call a no-brainer.

And therefore, you know, the media wouldn't be a problem because they'd all be cheering us on.

(Laughs).

Somewhat naive as it turned out.

We discovered that even if people believe you have a just cause

they don't necessarily agree with bombing,

they don't necessarily agree with your tactics, or your strategy,

they don't like collateral damage, the dreaded moment when with the best laid plans

things start going wrong and you actually kill some of the people that you're trying to help.

And that also, you know, the Serbs would be effective

at running their own sort of counter-information campaign against us.

So I think now we recognize

that any kind of military operation is going to be controversial with the public.

Some will be pacifists at any price.

Others, as I say, will be more focused on ‘is this a winning strategy?’.

Others will just get frustrated

that the thing is dragging on for a long time before producing success.

The media, in any case, see their job not as being cheerleaders,

but asking difficult, searching questions. So lesson number one is:

prepare for the worst, and organization, organization, organization.

You don't succeed in these ventures simply by relying upon master messages ...

... or gifted spokesmen, charismatic communicators.

No no no, you've got to have proper media organizations that prepare the facts,

that investigate, that deliver the message in the most effective way.

And you can't take the media side less seriously

than you actually take the military operation itself.

KING: Which was more powerful and effective: Allied unity or Allied airstrikes?

SHEA: Well, I don't think the air strikes were as effective as we'd hoped.

I mean, let's face it, we know that now.

The problem with air power is that if you use it in a very decisive way

you inflict tremendous damage on the economy, on society, even on civilian populations.

You could do that in World War II, Paul, we know that.

The allied bombing of Germany, Japan, you can't do that anymore.

You have to use air power in a much more discriminate way,

according to the rules of international law.

But, let's be honest, it makes it less effective, also,

or at least it means it takes longer to produce an impact.

So we would have hoped of course, that we would have destroyed more Serb tanks

than we'd ultimately destroyed, but that's why, as I mentioned a moment ago,

people like Tony Blair, towards the end, were thinking seriously ...

that it would take a ground campaign and not just an air campaign to prevail.

Fortunately, we didn't have to do that, but we were thinking about it towards the end.

So my sense is that it was definitely allied unity that prevailed.

Milosovic, I think hoped, like Napoleon used to say,

Lord, if I have to fight let it be against a coalition.

Coalitions are weak, they divide very quickly, people break ranks.

And I think it was only after 78 days when Milosevic realized that ...

despite all of the problems that we had that ...

that wasn't going to happen and NATO was going to stay united,

that he called in the United Nations and he started to look for a way out.

KING: Are you disappointed that the Allied unity during the campaign was not evident

when it came to recognising Kosovo's independence?

SHEA: Well, I'm disappointed in the sense that I would have hoped that ...

we would be much farther along the road with Kosovo than we are and upwards.

That it would be a healed re-integrated, reconciled society with a booming economy,

on its way into Euro-Atlantic integration,

and clearly that's all still very much in the future.

So I'm certainly disappointed that we haven't made more progress there over the last ten years,

and that many of the fundamental issues that were there in 1999,

particularly in terms of relations between Serbs and Albanians, remain.

And obviously it would be nice to have the international community fully united on

how it sees the future of Kosovo, but we live in the real world. The point I would make is ...

that clearly we did not launch the air campaign in 1999 to make Kosovo independent.

That was never the aim, nor to get rid of Milosovic,

though, you know, we may not have liked him particularly, but regime change was not the goal.

The goal was the humanitarian impulse of stopping the ethnic cleansing

and creating a stable environment in which politics could take its place again.

Because you couldn't do politics while Serb forces were conducting sweeps,

cleaning out the Albanians or the Kosovo Liberation Army was killing Serb policemen.

So I think to sort of say that today it's disappointing we don't have an independent Kosovo,

in terms of being recognized by everybody,

is a misreading of the reasons why we launched our Operation Allied Force in the first place.

I mean, had regime change or an independent Kosovo been the objective

you would not have had the unity of the allies to start the operation in the first place.

But unfortunately, of course, you have to deal with new situations

which arise from interventions. Interventions change the political dynamics.

I also feel that it's inevitably harder for some countries to agree to an independent Kosovo

when Serbia is a democratic country.

It would have been easier, frankly, to have done it while Milosevic was still in power.

Unwilling to move, unwilling to negotiate.

Much more difficult to impose a democratic Kosovo on a Serbia

which is now on its way towards the European Union,

signing a stabilization and association agreement with the EU, a partner of NATO.

That said, however, that the international community has agreed, rightly so in my view,

that Kosovo, given the past, cannot come under direct rule from Belgrade again.

The independence has been declared. It's been recognized by a number of allies.

So we simply have to find a constructive sort of solution

which satisfies the Kosovar Albanians’ desire for independence

but satisfies the feeling of the Serbs

that they want still to maintain close links with Belgrade.

And it's not easy, but I'm convinced that in the fullness of time

we'll come up with imaginative solutions for how that can be done.

There are plenty of precedents around the world

for where you've been able to achieve that kind of arrangement,

and we just have to sort of keep the politics moving. That's the key thing.

Not to stagnate, even though it's difficult, keep the politics moving.

KING: Is the situation now simply about Serbia accepting the reality on the ground?

SHEA: Well, yes, in the sense that we have to sort of somehow cut the Gordian Knot.

The Kosovar Albanians want to be independent.

That's not just one political party or a small percentage of the population.

That's an overwhelming sentiment and they've declared independence and a number of big allies,

the United States, the U.K., Germany, France, important allies, have recognized that fact.

In fact, I think about 45 countries around the world.

Okay, that's not yet a majority in the UN General Assembly that have recognized that fact,

and I'm sure the number of countries recognizing Kosovo will continue to increase.

So I don't think the Kosovars are going to go back on that declaration of independence.

I think on the other hand, though, we have to find, as I said a moment ago, a situation

which also recognizes that Serbia has a legitimate interest in the affairs of Kosovo,

because of a still very large Serb minority. And we want that Serb minority to stay in Kosovo.

We want Kosovo to be a multi-ethnic state. So, again, I'm repeating myself, but I think ...

we're going to have to, as the process goes forward, look for imaginative solutions.

I mean, one obvious solution is that Kosovo and Serbia join the European Union

and maybe even, who knows, NATO one day

because of course as you integrate into larger structures, like the European Union,

issues of borders, of territorial possession and so on become less important.

Societies become more fluid, more open to each other. So I'm certain that ...

the solution can only be found in some kind of European framework in the long run.

KING: One of the other interviews for this edition was with Paddy Ashdown.

SHEA: Yes, I know him well.

KING: He came out with a quote which basically said

that the independence of Kosovo was unfortunately a price

that Serbia simply had to pay for the folly of Milosevic's crimes. Is that fair?

SHEA: Yes, I can speak personally here, because as I mentioned

different allies have different views,

so I can only give you a personal view, but I do think though that's fair.

The Kosovar Albanians were prepared at Rambouillet

before the violence started in the beginning of 1999, or restarted in a major way,

they were prepared, reluctantly, under some pressure from the international community,

but they were prepared to accept autonomy.

They came back to Rambouillet saying okay, yes, we'll agree.

We'd like a referendum, consultative referendum on the future after three years,

but we can go along with living with the Serbs if we can have the autonomy

that Milosevic took away from us in 1989 restored. And it was the Serbs that...

I mean, a different government in Serbia, obviously, still the old Milosevic regime,

but which turned that down and was not prepared to restore substantial autonomy.

So to some degree, yes, it has to be said,

the Serb government at the time bears responsibility for using excessive force

which alienated permanently the Kosovar Albanian population

and refusing a fair political compromise.

They believed at the time, falsely, that they could gain more on the battlefield

than the negotiating table, and the conflict, we've said this, created a dynamic

where the Kosovo Albanians were not prepared to accept anything short of independence

and at the same time the contact group,

the group of the international community that negotiated the arrangements in the UN,

also agreed that there was no return to the status quo ante.

And if you can't return to the status quo ante clearly you have to come up with something new.

KING: Talking about autonomy I'd just like to read you a quote.

Something that you said at the time. You mentioned,

when a people have been badly oppressed within their own country

they probably see that the only solution is independence,

but if Serbia were to be a democratic Serbia, a Serbia based on pluralism,

a decentralized type of Serbia with a market economy,

and in which different ethnic groups had a role in politics,

then I think the situation would be different. What do you feel about that today?

SHEA: Well, I said that at the time, but maybe I was wrong

and I have to have the courage to say that, to the extent that, yes

I think lots of people did hope, sincerely, that once Serbia became democratic,

as it did after the fall of Milosevic and the election of Kostunica and Tadic,

that the Albanians and the Serbs might be able to get back together, again, and negotiate,

and come up with a solution that ultimately could have satisfied both sides.

And again, we have to recognize the international community gave it a good go.

Martti Ahtisaari, who was so instrumental at the time in '99,

in persuading the Serbs to withdraw their forces, came back on the scene,

as you know, empowered by the UN to come up with the Ahtisaari plan. Negotiations started.

A second exercise took place under the EU with Wolfgang Ischinger

involving the Russians, the parties, the United States, the European Union.

So again, we gave it a fair crack, but at the end of the day the two sides were very far apart.

We also have to be frank, there was a certain, even under a democratic Serbia,

there was a strong nationalistic streak still that ran through their attitude towards Kosovo.

So that is the reason, I think, why now many NATO countries,

not all though, but many have decided that the independence is the only viable way forward.

But at the same time, while looking, particularly with regards to the north of Kosovo,

the largely Serbian-dominated enclave there,

what kind of special arrangements can be found which could guarantee those Serbs the sense

that they're not sort of stuck in an alien state, that they can have links over the border.

You know, we've got European solutions here. I mean, look at Northern Ireland now.

The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland was a big breakthrough

because the Catholics suddenly understood that they could live in a Northern Ireland,

with the Protestants, under a power-sharing arrangement, while still having lots

and lots of links with the south, with the Irish Republic across the border

and many of them had dual citizenship, for example, which you find elsewhere.

You know, look at the German speakers who live in Belgium,

who live in Belgium very happily and cross the border to go and work in Germany every day.

I mean, within the European Union you find lots of sort of cross-border activities

because integration has made these issues of borders

and territory gradually lose their meaning.

I'm sure that we'll arrive in the Balkans one day at that kind of situation,

but the problem now is not to stagnate in a way which frustrates both sides,

that there's no real progress

and could tempt some people, at least, to sort of go back to the violence.

As I said, before, even if, you know, the ultimate solution is still beyond the horizon,

the key thing is to keep the political process going, of sides talking, of communication.

NATO and the EU, now that we are sort of assuming the responsibility jointly

for the future of Kosovo, we need also to talk to each other

so that we steer the process in the most sensible way we can.

KING: You talk about the fact that many efforts were made by the international community

to ensure that this process could go forward

with as many people being happy with the outcome as possible.

It didn't work out. There was the Kai Eide, there was Ahtisaari, a succession.

At what point did you feel there's only going to be one end to this and that's independence?

SHEA: Well, I think the problem, of course, is after 1999

Serbia had no role any longer in Kosovo,

even though 1244 continued to assert Serb sovereignty,

it also made clear that it was not Belgrade which would define the future of Kosovo.

It would the UN, the international community. And then, as I said, the contact group agreed

that there was no return to direct role for Belgrade, no return to the status quo ante.

So we were always in a situation where we simply couldn’t go back to the past.

We'd have to come up with something new.

And of course, the Kosovars, in the ten years since they've been sort of living with NATO

and living under the UN, but not living under Belgrade,

have got used to sort of being masters of their own fate.

Power has been progressively transferred to them in terms of the provincial institutions,

self-government and so clearly even before independence was declared,

they were increasingly psychologically seeing themselves as heading towards independence.

And once that psychological momentum is created

where Belgrade has disappeared, if you like, out of their daily lives,

at least for the Kosovar Albanians, it becomes very difficult to persuade people

that suddenly you're going to sort of stop the clock and go backwards.

That's undoubtedly, I think, the consequences of what we had to live with.

But of course, the other lesson is that you cannot intervene somewhere and stop violence

and then walk away and not deal with the political fallout.

We've learnt that lesson in Afghanistan. We learnt that lesson in Bosnia,

that he who intervenes also picks up responsibility for the long-term fate of a place.

You can't just be a military force without getting involved also in the politics.

So you know Colin Powell when he was the U.S. Secretary of State

used to call this the Pottery Barn effect. He used to say if you break it you pay for it.

Well, I'm not saying we broke Kosovo, but we've certainly been paying for it.

KING: And looking at today's Kosovo,

obviously there's been the declaration of independence, the new constitution, flags, anthem.

One of the developments that's coming up shortly is the creation of the Kosovo security force.

Some people have said this is the final break with its past

because this creates a security force that has no links with the former Kosovo Liberation Army.

Do you feel that this is the key moment when Kosovo stands on its own two feet?

SHEA: Well, no, I think that ultimately, to my mind,

the key things are going to be the economic viability of Kosovo,

because if you want the Serbs to feel at home in Kosovo and to stay,

they have to have the sense

that they're not going to be sort of on life-long unemployment benefit,

or dependent upon pensions or handouts being paid from Belgrade,

which Belgrade can ill afford, by the way, given its own transformation programme.

They've got to have to feel Kosovo is the place of opportunity where you can get on

and I genuinely believe that economic prosperity is a fantastic integrator.

The one area in the Balkans, as you know,

where the ethnic communities have always got on famously, has been in organized crime.

Where there's a prospect of making money the differences fade very, very quickly.

So I believe personally that issues like anti-corruption, governance,

ethnic representation in the civil service, the police, for instance,

just a sense of this place is taking off and I want to be part of it, is important.

I mean, one of the reasons why the Russian-speaking minorities

in the Baltic states have been very happy to stay

is of course they've seen a dynamic economy

and better standard of living than they could have had elsewhere.

So to my mind that is the key thing. But the security forces are very important because,

let's face it, there are a lot of weapons in Kosovo. There are a lot of structures.

There's the Kosovo Protection Corps, which grew out of the old Kosovo Liberation Army,

and Martti Ahtisaari made the point very well

that it's better to have these guys above the surface where you can see them,

doing legitimate things under international supervision, than it is underground,

with arms caches, secret training in the woods in the middle of the night,

with balaclavas and hoods over their heads ready to engage in some sort of insurgent activity.

I think it's also in the interest of Belgrade that that should be clearly the case.

And of course, the longer that NATO delays taking on that role of mentoring them

and helping to form this force, the more the Kosovars are just going to go ahead

and do it themselves anyway and come up with a structure

that we may not be very pleased about,

which may not make sense, but which we will have to live with.

So I think that is the rational way, reason why we have to move forward there.

The other thing, is that lots of new countries

or countries who have declared independence like Kosovo often think too big.

They want 50,000 people in the army...

Maybe not Kosovo, but you know what I mean, they want tanks, they want fighter jets.

They want all of the trappings of a military force. And you have to say to them,

look, wait a minute, you can't afford this, this is not the priority.

This is going to be a big drag on your economy.

This is only going to send negative signals to your neighbours. Stop.

You need help to come up with something which is economically viable,

which is not going to be negative vis-à-vis your neighbours,

which is going to take care of the kind of security tasks by combating organized crime,

or whatever that you need to combat. And I think, again, that is an area

where with all of its experience of security sector reform in other countries

in central and Eastern Europe, where NATO can be very useful to the Kosovars.

KING: That touches on the next question which is, I mean, as you say,

economic development is possibly the biggest carrot towards Kosovo

becoming a more stable and developed country.

But as you say, organized crime is a major factor.

SHEA: Absolutely.

KING: There are a high number of arms among civilians

and smuggling, trafficking are major issues in the area.

Do you think that's the biggest security issue facing Kosovo at the moment?

SHEA: Yes, I do. Because this is obviously going to poison the state structures from within,

if you have corrupt politicians or corrupt judges,

if the tax receipts that you should be collecting to fund the national budget aren't collected

you're going to depend increasingly on foreign aid because you can't raise your own revenues.

People will be very reluctant to set up businesses, if they feel they have to pay off everybody

before they can start producing McDonald's hamburgers and selling them to the public.

We've had some pretty bad experiences.

I remember a few years ago having a breakfast with Jacques Klein,

who was the UN administrator at the time in Bosnia. And he said to me,

Jamie, you know, this is the only place in Europe where there's no McDonald's.

This was back in nineties. Because even McDonald's, which can make money anywhere,

just finds doing local business too risky.

I mean, obviously the situation has been transformed since,

but I think it's an example of how this becomes a cancer and to my mind

this is the problem, number one, absolutely. It's also an image issue.

We all know that countries have to rebrand themselves to convey an image

that they respect the rule of law, are transparent, protect foreign investments.

Business is so much an issue of confidence.

So obviously the Kosovars have to deal with that first and foremost,

but those are the kind of areas where I think, yes, they need help.

KING: The last question is also about the rule of law issue.

With so many of the criminals

who committed the atrocious acts in Kosovo having escaped justice,

with 2,000 people from all ethnic varieties still missing in Kosovo,

with all of these issues of justice that hasn't been observed ongoing in Kosovo,

can you ever see this being tied up?

Can you ever see the rule of law actually pervading all areas of Kosovo?

SHEA: Well, certainly the war criminals issue is obviously

in the hands of the Tribunal in The Hague, at ICTY.

It's indicted Serbs on what took place in Kosovo,

but it's also indicated Kosovar Albanians for what has taken place in Kosovo,

and where necessary KFOR has done its bit, the NATO force in Kosovo,

to ensure that those people are transferred to The Hague.

We are completely impartial in that respect.

An indicted war criminal is an indicted war criminal

who has to go to The Hague or be tried in some local court.

And it's very important for both sides to see that ...

the people who are responsible for these atrocities face justice and have their day in court.

And it's not simply one community which is held to be responsible,

because we know very well that even if some people may have been more responsible than others,

once the fighting started war crimes were committed by both sides,

or in the case of Bosnia, all sides. And I think it's essential for reconciliation

because people always harbour animosities and frustrations

where there's no sense of closure on these issues.

They don't know what happened to their loved ones.

They feel that the person responsible is still free.

It becomes much harder then to appeal to reconciliation. But I think ultimately, yes,

one of the things that's lacking in that part of the world so often is simply the word "sorry",

a willingness to... you know, one thinks of Willy Brandt, the German Chancellor,

on his hands and knees in front of the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland in 1972,

begging forgiveness on behalf of the German people.

This simple ability to go somewhere and say I'm sorry,

and identify with your suffering and let’s reconcile,

instead of blaming the other community all the time.

This sort of act of statesmanship, I think, is what's needed.

And ultimately, I think it is right for historians to go to work and come to a joint agreement.

There's a remarkable thing that France and Germany now have a common historical textbook.

One that both governments have approved, on their relationship in the 20th Century.

I think if those two countries, which fought 1870, 1914, 1940, these wars against each other,

you know, can work on a history in a way

where they now have an agreed sense of the responsibilities, that ...

... that is a good sort of model that this part of the world should follow as well.

KING: Jamie Shea, thank you very much.

SHEA: Thank you.

Share this    DiggIt   MySpace   Facebook   Delicious   Permalink