Updated: 30-Jun-2000 NATO Speeches

At The Club of
Three Luncheon
Chteau du Lac, Genval, Belgium
30 June 2000

"Kosovo: One Year on"

Address by the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson,
Secretary General of NATO

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Being asked to address an audience as experienced as this makes me feel like Rudyard Kipling at the opening of the telegraph line to India: "But what shall we tell India?"

Well, I think there are a lot of things to tell you, but as this is a Luncheon, I will be rather brief.

A little over a year ago Operation "Allied Force" ended. This air campaign was unique and uniquely complex in many respects: militarily, politically, legally. It was the most crucial test for this Alliance in its entire 50-year history. But NATO passed this test with distinction. Operation Allied Force achieved all its objectives.

At the end of the day, Serb forces were out, KFOR was in, and the refugees were home. This is as good a definition of success as you can get.

Today, one year after the air campaign came to an end, the situation in Kosovo is much better than it was. For the first time in many years, the majority population, the Kosovar Albanians, need not live in a constant state of fear. The state-sponsored, state-organised crimes of hatred committed against Kosovar Albanians have been ended. 1,3 million refugees and displaced persons have returned to their homes. 50,000 homes have been rebuilt. Last winter, not one person died due to a better winter. About 1,000 schools have been cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance. And, perhaps more significantly for the long-term, multi-ethnic civilian organisations have been created to begin to govern Kosovo in future.

In a nutshell, we won! No flurry of revisionism will change that. Barely a month ago, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) decided that there was no justification for an inquiry into NATO's actions last year. This decision that there was no case to answer was doubly important: it took away the last straw that the revisionists were holding on to. And it ensured that the world's attention is focused exactly where it belongs -- on bringing the real war criminals to justice.

But while we have won the military conflict, the peace remains to be won. Yes, since KFOR's arrival, the murder rate in Kosovo has been brought down to a level comparable with many large European cities. Yes, thousands of arms have been collected and destroyed. And, yes, the KLA has been disbanded and disarmed.

But the fact remains that there is still too much hatred, still too much revenge, and still way too little preparedness to look ahead. In short, there is unfinished business aplenty.

So, what needs to be done?

First, we must stay engaged. Bosnia shows the value of patient engagement. Slowly but surely the people in that country have developed a stake in peace. They vote hard-liners out and moderates in. They can see the progress made by their neighbours, such Croatia's recent joining of Partnership for Peace, and they, too, want their share of stability and prosperity. I do not believe that there is a law of nature that would prevent Kosovo from taking a similar turn for the better -- provided that we stay the course. Crisis management in today's Europe means long-term engagement -- I know of no crisis that was resolved by debating exit strategies.

Staying engaged also means providing civilian support -- from economic aid to police officers. The Stability Pact is a crucial piece of the puzzle here; but for it to have its desired effect, nations must devote sufficient resources to it. At the end of the day, accelerating the integration of Southeastern Europe into the European mainstream is the best insurance against a return to the past.

Second, we must condition our support on the progress made by the Kosovars themselves. We must make it clear to them that is they who bear the ultimate responsibility for Kosovo's future. They must know that intransigence will make them lose international support. We are in there for the long haul, but not forever. The international community is providing the foundation -- but sooner or later, the house must stand on its own. The Kosovars must know that if they do not seize this chance, they won't get another one.

Third, we must also look beyond Kosovo. We all hope that Kosovo was an exceptional case, but it would be naïve to believe that it will be the last crisis in Europe. So another crucial task is to enhance further our crisis prevention tools. We are currently tailoring elements of the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council towards supporting the objectives of the Stability Pact. This shows how useful these mechanisms have become. But there is even more potential in these frameworks -- potential that needs to be fully explored.

Fourth, and again looking beyond Kosovo, we must improve our military capabilities. NATO's credibility as a crisis manager rests on its military competence. To maintain that competence, we need effective forces -- forces with precision guided munitions, modern command and control systems, and high mobility.

And these capabilities must be shared across the Alliance, not just among a few advanced members. Our Defence Capabilities Initiative is set to address these issues. But let us be clear: improving NATO's military capabilities cannot be done on the cheap. In my opinion, it is incumbent on all of us here to remind our Governments of the importance of these improvements. In particular, we need to remind our Finance Ministries of that.

Fifth and finally, there is ESDI. For the European Allies, Kosovo was a wake-up call. And, to their credit, that wake-up call actually did wake them up! That explains the rapid progress on developing ESDI since last year. NATO-EU relations are being put on a concrete footing. Participation by non-EU Allies in EU-led operations is being defined. And the development of ESDI is increasingly moving forward in a spirit of inclusiveness and confidence.

The results of the EU's recent Feira Council will continue that positive trend.

But, like DCI, ESDI will stand or fall on capabilities. We simply cannot afford a situation in which the EU proclaims that it wishes to take the lead in handling a security crisis -- and then falls back on NATO, for lack of capabilities. For Europe to maintain its credibility on this issue, and for the United States to keep supporting this project, ESDI has to deliver real capabilities. Not just fine words, nice speeches or new bureaucracies, but troops that can move.

I believe the EU and NATO have made real progress, very quickly, in making stronger European capabilities a reality. But the hardest nut to crack, once again, will be expenditures. In the real world, capability costs.

If the resources are made available -- and I have every confidence that this can be done -- we will have a win-win situation: a stronger Europe, a stronger NATO and a healthier transatlantic relationship, where burdens and responsibilities are shared more fairly. And our ability to prevent -- and, if need be, manage -- crises, will improve dramatically.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A little more than a year ago, the Kosovo crisis looked like a regression into Europe's darkest days. Atrocities were committed on large scale, deportation trains were rolling, extreme nationalism carried the day. Until the Atlantic community said "stop". We ended the violence. We stopped and reversed ethnic cleansing. We committed ourselves to the long-term future of Southeastern Europe. And we are learning the lessons of Kosovo to prepare ourselves for the future.

Edmund Burke wrote that the only thing that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. We refused to do nothing. We acted. And we prevailed.

Thank You.

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