New Interview Of President
Milosevic With UPI's
Arnaud de Borchgrave
By Barry Chamish <>
Q: What do you hope to get out of this?
Milosevic: I find it hard to believe what is happening. America is a great country and Americans great people. But your leaders are not strategic thinkers. Short-term quick fixes, yes. They said let's bomb Yugoslavia and then figure out what to do next. Some said Milosevic would give up Kosovo after a few days of aggression from the air. To set out to destroy a country for a pretext no one can buy is simply unbelievable. I don't expect to get anything out of this because I did not start it. You may recall there were no refugees before March 24 when the NATO aggression started. But the Clinton administration did expect to get something out of this terrible decision.
I understand you had two general goals. One dealing with Europe, the other with the Balkans. First is to prove U.S. leadership in Europe and the second to re- establish U.S. leadership in NATO in the post-Cold War era. Regretfully, we were targeted as a guinea pig to achieve those goals. Simply because of our weaknesses and of the internal problems we faced. But, as you know, you will find in at least 100 countries around the world different ethnic separatist movements. If you decide to support separatist movements it is very hard to believe any country can survive.
There are 4,000 ethnic groups in the world and only 185 members of the United Nations. In Yugoslavia, we have 26 different ethnic groups. Any one of them could cause trouble if agitated from the outside. Which is what happened in Kosovo. In Belgrade, we have 100,000 Yugoslav Albanians. And never a problem with them. Walk from our Parliament building and you will see many shops with their Albanian names. Not one window smashed here in all those years of violence in Kosovo.
Our people never considered them responsible for the behavior of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army terrorists. In Kosovo, Albanian Kosovars were bigger victims of the KLA than Kosovar Serbs. When we looked at the figures the number of Albanians killed by them was twice as large as Serbs dead. They simply terrorized Albanians to join their underground and impose their idea of an ethnically pure state. That movement is Nazi in its character because of their publicly declared goals of a racially pure state. Where can you find such a state in the world today? It is precisely the opposite of what is happening in the world. Ethnically mixed states is the trend in the new global village. The Kosovar terrorists were trying to reverse a global phenomenon.
Q: Which you then attempted to do in Kosovo after March 24?
Milosevic: Absolutely not. That is the big lie which, repeated often enough, becomes conventional wisdom.
Q: You are denying that your armed forces drove people out of their homes and torched entire villages?
Milosevic: We are not angels. Nor are we the devils you have made us out to be. Our regular forces are highly disciplined. The paramilitary irregular forces are a different story. Bad things happened, as they did with both sides during the Vietnam war, or any war for that matter. We have arrested those irregular self-appointed leaders. Some have already been tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison. We reinforced our forces after Rambouillet for a major offensive against KLA terrorists, not to ethnically cleanse Kosovo as was done with the expulsion of 500,000 Serbs from Croatia, which was ignored by the world media. And the refugees were fleeing in panic because of the war against the terrorists and also because of disinformation horror stories being spread by the terrorists which then became word of mouth and forced ever more people to join the exodus.
Q: Satellite recon shows entire villages torched?
Milosevic: Individual houses, yes. But not whole villages as we saw on TV in Vietnam when American forces torched villages suspected of hiding Viet Cong.
Q: Just in the past 10 years, the Soviet Union has become 15 independent republics. Four former republics of Yugoslavia have declared their independence. Scotland and Wales are moving toward self-rule. As we approach the next millennium, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the nation-state is too big for small problems - and too small for big problems. Devolution is going on everywhere. Why not in Kosovo? What is so important there?
Milosevic: To us Kosovo is critically important because it is the heart of country (sic) and an integral part of our long history. It is also home to a quarter of million Serbs whose forebears have lived there for centuries. It is also home to some 5,000 Christian churches. A Swiss expert categorized 1,800 of them as historical monuments that are the heritage of world civilization and that list was sent to President Clinton.
Q: After thousands of NATO strikes against Yugoslavia, most of your country's communications and transportation networks, as well as your petroleum production and storage capacity, have been largely destroyed,
along with your principal bridges, or about $100 billion worth of damage and about 1,000 killed. Now NATO is raising the total number of warplanes in action against you from 700 to 1,000. Are you prepared to see Yugoslavia's entire infrastructure destroyed?
Milosevic: We never thought we could defeat NATO, an alliance of some 700 million people armed with the most advanced and sophisticated weaponry in the world. But NATO believes it can pick on a small nation and force us to surrender our independence. And that is where NATO miscalculated. You are not willing to sacrifice lives to achieve our surrender. But we are willing to die to defend our rights as an independent sovereign nation. The U.S. Congress is beginning to understand that bombing a country into compliance is not a viable policy or strategy. I think your strategic thinkers are also beginning to understand that missiles and other sophisticated weapons will not always be the monopoly of high-tech societies. And with the example it is now setting, we can see the day when lesser nations will be able to retaliate.
The development of these weapons is taking place so fast there is not a single spot on the planet that cannot be reached. America can be reached from this part of the world. We have no quarrel with America. We all know NATO is the strongest military machine in the world. We simply want them to stop being so busy with our country and worry about their own problems. NATO was formed to defend the western democratic nations from totalitarian aggression, not to commit aggression. We just want to be left alone and free.
Q: At the cost of another month of bombing?
Milosevic: Tell me, what choice do we have?
Q: It seems to be that left alone is not an option in what you called a global village. Doesn't your future lie with the European Union in an increasingly integrated Europe? This will require compromise to end this war. Surely the rest of Europe has a stake in what happens in Yugoslavia. Doesn't EU have a role to play in this impasse? Isolation is not an answer.
Milosevic: Just the opposite. In fact, our policy has been consistent on this front. We launched a series of initiatives with a view to increasing integration in the Balkans. We had a highly successful conference in Crete a year ago. I met with the Albanian prime minister in an attempt to normalize relations completely with open borders and freedom of movement, free trade and so forth. My point to him was that borders in Europe were becoming irrelevant and that we could not be holdouts against these trends. European countries have no other choice than to cooperate and integrate.
We had a follow-up conference of all the southeastern European nations in Istanbul. I suggested to Bulgaria we do the same we had already done with Macedonia, namely abolish customs duties and open borders for free trade. The same was offered to Bosnia and all other states in the region. With a very simple idea in mind. We are all market economies now. In fact, Yugoslavia is a little bit ahead in this respect having started before the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism. I told all my neighbors that we could not afford to wait to enter EU one by one in the years ahead. We had to do something together as a region which would then facilitate joining the wider European enterprise later but earlier than would otherwise be the case. Parallel with this was the process of privatization which we started long before our former communist neighbors. We privatized our telecommunications 18 months ago with Italian and Greek companies.
Telecom Serbia is now 50 percent owned by foreign entities. Up and down the line our policy has been one of integration, not isolation. Your policy has been to isolate us and demonize us and get NATO to treat us as a pariah state.
Q: After you walked away from the Rambouillet accords on Kosovo, did you really expect more than a month of sustained bombing?
Milosevic: Rambouillet was not a negotiation. It was a Clinton administration diktat. It wasn't take it or leave it. Just take it or else. We did not expect bombing. It was unbelievable to us that even as an excuse that we didn't want to sign something that we weren't even negotiating it would be used to bomb us as the Nazis did in World War II. Rambouillet was a recipe for the independence of Kosovo, which clearly we could not accept. Especially given the fact that we never contemplated depriving Kosovar Albanians of their legitimate rights.
The proof is what happened when half a million Serbs were forced out of Croatia. We never retaliated by expelling a single Croat from Serbia. When Serbs were expelled from Bosnia, we protected all our Muslims from retaliation. We never considered Muslims in Yugoslavia were responsible for what happened in Bosnia. Of course there were irresponsible Serb politicians in Bosnia making all kinds of demagogic threats. But this was heated rhetoric. Foreign visitors are invariably impressed at how we handle our unique minorities problems.
Go to Vojvodina in the north and see how the Hungarian minority of 360,000 is treated - it after Hungary became a member of NATO and has now offered its bases to American warplanes to attack us. They have schooling in their own language, their own newspapers and radio and TV programs. Twenty-six such communities enjoy the same rights. There is no other way in such a diversified society. It has been our philosophy from the very beginning. In Kosovo as well. Equality was the basic principle in Kosovo. Without equality between the two communities there would be no basis for durable peace.
That was our approach for Rambouillet. But the American approach was to favorize the Albanian community. This could only lead to ethnic cleansing of anyone who was not of Albanian origin. Serbs clearly could not have stayed under the overlordship of Albanians. There are 250,000 Serbs in Kosovo and 200,000 Muslim Serbs who are not of Albanian origin but whose families converted to Islam under the Ottoman Empire. Then you have 150,000 Gypsies and 50,000 Turks. Even this last community has its own newspaper and TV program. U.S. diplomats knowledgeable about Kosovo have confirmed that we were indeed respecting those principles. So I said to them, "OK, gentlemen, now please put those principles into the Rambouillet agreement." Equality means nothing unless incorporated into the institutions.
Q: And how did you propose to do this in practice?
Milosevic: Very simple. Takes only one minute to explain. The parliament in Kosovo has to be composed of two houses. The lower house elected on the basis of one-citizen one-vote and the other house to be made up of national communities, with each community entitled to five representatives. That way everyone is guaranteed against majority domination. That way, too, Serbs could not impose anything on Albanians and vice versa. When I talked to Ibrahim Rugova (the moderate Kosovar Albanian leader), we agreed that it was in our common interest to have real peace, welfare for all citizens, clean towns and villages and develop industry. But at the back of the minds of Kosovar Albanians is how to become the masters of the rest of the population.
Several decades ago when the Albanians had complete power in their hands, they started a process of Albanization of the rest of the population. Gypsies, for example, could not register newly born child unless willing give it one of the officially recognized Albanian first names. In Rambouillet, regardless of the fact that the delegations never met, never exchanged so much as a single word, we had a delegation in which Serbs were a minority. We had three Albanians, Serb Muslims, Turks and four Serb Christians. Our delegation represented a real cross-section of Kosovo.
The Albanian Kosovars were all representatives of the Albanian separatist movement. EU's dilemma at the end of the 20th century is whether they are going to support a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society and multi-religious approach to society or a kind of Nazi-like approach with one racially pure ethnic group ruling a diverse society like Kosovo. Henry Kissinger said Rambouillet was a mechanism for permanent creation of problems and confrontation. President Clinton should have listened to this wise geopolitical expert rather than some of his own less knowledgeable advisers.
Q: So how do we get out of this mess?
Milosevic: A political process, not by more bombing.
Q: But you must be prepared to compromise.
Milosevic: From the beginning of April I have had five meetings with Rugova. He was not a prisoner or under duress. This week, the President of Serbia went to Pristina (the capital of Kosovo) and he and Rugova signed a statement of agreed joint principles, which called for respect for the equality of national communities, respect for the equality of all citizens, direct negotiations, because U.S. shuttle diplomacy was completely useless as Rambouillet demonstrated. So we have ourselves begun a real political process. This first joint statement with the Albanian Kosovar leader is the first joint victory in our struggle for peace.
At the same time we have been talking about the formation of a temporary joint executive board for Kosovo composed of representatives of all national communities in Kosovo. Its first task will be to help refugees return home. The problem for returning refugees will be bombing. So clearly this insanity will have to stop. Before bombing, regardless of what you hear from NATO and Pentagon briefings, there were no refugees. It wasn't only the Albanians who fled, but also the Serbs, Turks, everyone [deer squirrels and birds too]
Q: Are you saying that the idea of a U.S.Trusteeship or protectorate is a non-starter in your mind?
Milosevic: Please tell me why a U.N. protectorate is needed. That is not to say we are against a U.N. mission. Before the war, we accepted 2,000 verifiers from OSCE. It was OSCE's biggest ever mission. We also had in Kosovo the International Red Cross and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, both with huge missions. Plus 1,000 journalists from all over the world, with no restrictions. Plus Kosovo Observation Diplomatic Mission run by Embassies from Belgrade. All this in Kosovo. So who could say we were not open to the international community? They were all free to verify what was happening in this small territory. But this was abused.
Q: How?
Milosevic: Foreign diplomatic missions were to all intents and purposes supporting KLA terrorists. Instructing them how to organize and what to do to achieve their objectives. Also to create something that would look more like a regular army. That way they were told to create the kind of situation that would make it look to the rest of the world that there was a war between the regular Yugoslav army and the KLA. The KLA was then composed of different terrorist groups. Just judge them by their acts. They were never able to attack any military or police unit. Instead they were taking hostages and killing civilians. One hundred and fifty hostages were never seen again. They were planting car bombs and dynamiting supermarkets. Classic terrorism.
Q: Are you suggesting that since the U.N. and other international organizations couldn't do anything before, you see no point in bringing them back now?
Milosevic: No, not at all. The U.N. can have a huge mission in Kosovo if it wishes. They can bear witness to the legal behavior of our law enforcement agencies and to the fact that everything is now peaceful, that the KLA has ceased to exist except for scattered small groups that can still stage ambushes.
Q: Is it possible to have a U.N. presence without a U.N. peacekeeping force?
Milosevic: We cannot accept an occupation force, whether it flies under a NATO or U.N. flag.
Q: So you accept a U.N. peacekeeping force?
Milosevic: Yes, but no army.
Q: Without weapons?
Milosevic: Self-defense weapons is normal, but no offensive weapons.
We cannot accept anything that looks like an occupation. The idea behind Rambouillet was 28,000 troops, including 4,000 Americans, who would be occupying Kosovo with tanks, APCs and heavy weaponry. Kosovo has social
and economic problems which an army of occupation cannot alleviate. Aid, not arms, is what Kosovo needs.
Q: So in your judgment what is the nature of a compromise between NATO and Yugoslavia?
Milosevic: I will tell you. Several points. First of all, cessation of all military activities. Second, simultaneity between the withdrawal of NATO troops now concentrated on our borders in Albania and Macedonia, on the one hand, and the decrease of our own troops in Kosovo from their present level of 100,000 to the normal garrison strength of between 11,000 and 12,000, which was the regular Pristina Corps.
Q: You went from 40,000 to 100,000 troops in Kosovo since the bombing started?
Milosevic: Yes, because of the danger of aggression across our borders by NATO forces. Every day we heard NATO voices urging political leaders to order ground forces into action. But if the danger of NATO aggression is over, we can send our troops back to Serbia. Some are mobilized reservists and they are anxious to get back to their regular jobs.
Q: How long would such a simultaneous withdrawal take in your judgment?
Milosevic: We can do it in one week.
Q: And the third point?
Milosevic: The return of all refugees, regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation.
Q: And when would the U.N. peacekeeping force go in? Before the refugees can return presumably.
Milosevic: I don't like the word "force." We would welcome U.N. mission not what "force" implies. There is no job for forces. What would such forces do? Just ruin our roads with their tracked vehicles. We would welcome anyone, any mission, that accepts to be our guests. Their mission would be to observe that all is peaceful and not to act as an occupation force. They can see that we are not terrorizing anybody. Even now we are not terrorizing anybody. When the U.N. is here they can bear witness that what we are saying is the truth.
Q: I assume you know that NATO will not accept your idea of a compromise.
Milosevic: Well, I don't know what NATO will accept. IF NATO insists on the occupation of our country, we have no choice but to defend ourselves against this further act of aggression.
Q: If you wouldn't quibble about the word "force" for U.N. peacekeepers, the end of hostilities could be speeded up.
Milosevic: But I told you we are willing to accept a U.N. presence and are ready to negotiate its composition. But please understand that after all those crimes against our nation and its people, we cannot accept representatives of the countries that committed aggression against us. We would like to see representatives of neutral countries.
Q: Any further points?
Milosevic: My fourth point is the political process. We will continue direct negotiations with Mr. Rugova in the presence of the international community. They can listen to every single word that is spoken, but they cannot act as mediators. We want to achieve the widest possible autonomy for Kosovo within Serbia.
So we must negotiate the composition of new institutions and the local police. Before the war, there were 120 villages with elected Albanian local police. Some were killed by KLA terrorists. My fifth point is free access for UNHCR and the International Red Cross. Sixth, an economic recovery plan for the three Yugoslav federation states that have been heavily damaged by NATO aggression.
Q: Back to the compositon of U.N. peacekeepers, which you don't like
to call a force. Since NATO members are not acceptable, what would you see to European participation as EU, not as individual NATO countries.?
Milosevic: There are European countries that are not members of NATO, like Ireland, that would be acceptable.
Q: Contingents from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have also been mentioned.
Milosevic: They, too, would be acceptable.
Q: Surely you are not prepared to face several more weeks of NATO bombing as the diplomatic haggling continues.
Milosevic: One more day is too much. But what choice do we have if NATO insists on occupying Yugoslavia. To that we will never surrender. We Serbs are as one on this life and death issue of national honor and sovereignty.
Copyright 1999 by United Press International