Fact Sheet released by the U.S. Department of State Washington, DC, March 26, 1999:The U.S. and NATO objectives in Kosovo are to stop the killing and achieve a durable peace that prevents further repression and provides for democratic self-government for the Kosovar people. We have three strong interests at stake in the Kosovo conflict: averting a humanitarian catastrophe; preserving stability in a key part of Europe; and maintaining the credibility of NATO. First, Belgrade’s sustained and accelerating repression in Kosovo again is creating a humanitarian crisis of staggering dimension.
- Estimates are that up to 30,000 Kosovars have been displaced from their homes and villages just since the adjournment of the Paris talks on March 19;
- More than 60,000 Kosovars have been displaced since the end of the first round of peace talks in late February;
- The total number of displaced in Kosovo is estimated at 250,000;
- There are already 18,500 Kosovar refugees in Albania, 10,000 in Macedonia, and 25,000 in Montenegro with more on the way;
- In north central Kosovo, Serb forces in recent days have burned villages. Homes throughout the region have been looted and are smoldering;
- Nearly the entire population of one small city in north central Kosovo fled as Serb commandos stormed in over the weekend; and
- 40,000 Serbian security forces (military and police) are now positioned in and around Kosovo, poised for a military offensive.
Second, instability in Kosovo directly threatens peace in the Balkan and the stability of Europe. There is no natural boundary to this violence. Continued fighting in Kosovo has the potential to:
- Re-ignite chaos in Albania;
- Destabilize Macedonia;
- Exacerbate rivalries between Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies; and
- Create thousands more refugees and create a breeding ground for international criminals, drug traffickers, and terrorists.
No one should forget that World War I began in this tinderbox. If actions are not taken to stop this conflict now, it will spread and both the cost and risk will be substantially greater.
Third, NATO’s credibility is at stake in Kosovo. Last fall NATO’s credible threat of force was decisive in obtaining Milosevic’s agreement to a cease-fire and the establishment of the OSCE and NATO verification regimes. That enabled hundreds of thousands of Kosovars to come down from the hills and return to their homes as winter approached. In January, NATO warned Milosevic that it would respond if his intransigence was responsible for failure to reach agreement at the talks; he did not come into compliance with the October agreements; and his repression continued. All these conditions now exist.
The preference has been to achieve these objectives through peaceful means. Since the eruption of fighting in February 1998, the international community has been actively engaged seeking resolution of the conflict through diplomacy under the auspices of the Contact Group backed up by NATO. Those intensive efforts led to the Rambouillet and Paris talks which produced a fair agreement, one that keeps Kosovo in Serbia but gives Kosovars the self-government they deserve. The Kosovar Albanians have signed the agreement.
Belgrade has refused to sign and has to date rejected out of hand all efforts to achieve a peaceful solution. The Contact Group clearly assigned exclusive responsibility for failure to reach agreement to Belgrade.
While we are mindful that the Kosovo Liberation Army also frequently violates the cease-fire and its provocations added to the overall tensions, it is the Belgrade regime which has systematically followed a policy of undermining last October’s agreements and thwarted all efforts to arrive at a just solution.
Since October, Milosevic has been out of compliance with solemn commitments to NATO and the OSCE. Serb security forces have:
- Consistently and blatantly violated the cease-fire;
- Moved troops and police out of garrison in violation of his commitments;
- Refused to cooperate with and continued to impede the work of the Kosovo Verification Mission and international relief agencies; and
- Committed atrocities such as the mid-January Racak massacre.
NATO action has three objectives:
- To demonstrate NATO’s seriousness of purpose in order to make clear to Milosevic the imperative of reversing course;
- To deter Belgrade from launching an all-out offensive against helpless civilians; and
- To seriously damage Belgrade’s military capability to take repressive action against Kosovars.
Fact Sheet: U.S. and NATO Objectives and Interests in Kosovo