Problems with Current U.S. Policy

By Greenberg, Robert D. | Foreign Policy in Focus, November 22, 1999 | Go to article overview

Problems with Current U.S. Policy


Greenberg, Robert D., Foreign Policy in Focus


In an August 1999 news conference held in Kosovo, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DL) and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke reiterated the U.S. policy of promoting a multiethnic society in Kosovo for all of Kosovo's citizens, no matter what their ethnic origin or religion. Biden warned that failure on the part of the KLA and the Albanian population to guarantee the rights of the Serb minority would result in immediate action by the U.S. Congress to cut off financial assistance for rebuilding Kosovo. Such pronouncements have had little effect on the behavior of either the KLA or Albanians seeking revenge. Three months after the ending of the bombing campaign, there were still daily attacks against the Serb minority; over 160,000 Kosovo Serbs have fled the province, i.e., more than 85% of the prewar Serbian population.

During the bombing campaign, the KLA was used as NATO's ground force and was given open U.S. support for its military actions. This policy was implied in President Clinton's May 23rd New York Times opinion piece, in which he declared that although Milosevic "has driven hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians from their homes, [he] ... has not eliminated the Kosovo Liberation Army. Indeed, its ranks are swelling, and it has begun to go on the offensive against Serb forces hunkered down to hide from air strikes." When the Serbs withdrew from Kosovo, the KLA rushed into the province and took over key towns and villages. NATO has been reluctant to challenge the KLA, as such a move could jeopardize relations with Kosovo's Albanian population.

The KLA's leadership, emboldened by NATO support during the bombing campaign, is determined to establish an independent Kosovo. Such an agenda contradicts the stated U.S., UN, and NATO policy of preserving the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. However, the current arrangement has stripped Yugoslavia of its authority over Kosovo and constitutes a de facto detachment of Kosovo from Yugoslavia. The Kosovar Albanians and the KLA are closer than ever to achieving their goal of an independent Kosovo. As Steven Burg of the Woodrow Wilson Center has suggested, a KLA-controlled Kosovo would have a destabilizing effect on the entire region. It may attempt to create an expanded Albanian state or to foment unrest among Albanians in neighboring Macedonia, where relations between an Albanian minority (estimated at 30-35%) and a Slavic majority have been strained. The U.S. and the Western alliance have been slow in responding to this new crisis. …

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