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Albright on the diplomatic toolbox and the Balkans I

The conflict between the Balkans and the changing policy in the United States as it related to the post Cold War ethnic cleansing in Bosnia under Milosevic.  Fmr. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in conversation with Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute.

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Video transcript

I'm Walter Isaacson with the Aspen Institute here with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and we're talking about the tools we have in American diplomacy let's drill down on the Balkans first of all explain what that conflict was about with Serbia Milosevic and the rest of the Balkans well first of all what happened was that Yugoslavia had in the immediate end of world war two was run by Tito who was a communist but a genuine hero to a lot of Yugoslavia fought against the Nazis and and he was the one that had the power of the Communist Party there and and he ran this very complicated country that had a lot of different ethnic groups in there were Serbs and Croats and Slovenes and macedonians and Bosnians and lots of different ethnic groups and and and related different religions the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church and Muslims he dies and the question is what happens next in terms of who really runs the place and complications in terms of the economic diversity of northern Yugoslavia versus the southern one that was the basis of it and Milosevic wanted to get power and he did it the old-fashioned way which is to appeal to people's national sentiments and the Serbs had a sense of having not been treated fairly with in Yugoslavia itself Tito actually had been a Croat and the Serbs felt discriminated against and what is peculiar is when they feel that they need to their greatest celebration was the Battle of Kosovo and 1369 when the Serbs were defeated by the Ottomans the Turks and to have that be your major to celebrate a defeat is something that doesn't inspire you to think that using that will be a great weapon of gathering support but that's what happened and Melissa vich then initially goes to Kosovo which is a part of Serbia because this battle took place the Battle of Kosovo and wants basically vindication and so Kosovo that it had some autonomy under Tito all of a sudden is threatened about that the Bosnians were primarily a combination of Serbs and Bosnians and Croats and slowly but surely this place splits up and there is a war Slovenia becomes independent Croatia becomes independent but the real problem then focused Kosovo was still there simmering but the real problem was bosnia and there began to be a real sense of something that looked like out of World War two when there's a religious ethnic compare definitely religious the Bosnians are Muslims and the crow ads are Catholics and the Serbs are Orthodox and so there was the religious part and the ethnic part despite the fact that for many years there were intermarriages among all these people but the appeal to nationalism got them all hating each other and that's one of the things that happens when the cold war ends we have a Pandora's box around the world really where a lot of ethnic struggles then can emerge absolutely and the thing I used to say the Cold War froze the earth and with the thawing all the worms crawled out and the ethnic struggles that have been suppressed all of a sudden become very very evident and the problem in Bosnia itself was that I mean as vicious and when you talk about information what I found interesting one could argue that people didn't know what was going on during World War two with new information technology very the people knew that there were crow ads for instance or the Bosnians that were being put into trains and carted off to the modern version of concentration case so what is Milosevic doing to Bosnia what he is doing is saying that Bosnians themselves should be quote ethnically cleanse move out of their homes and there began to be fights along the way various skirmishes and villages people being killed women being raped a destruction of the the bosnian was called bosnia-herzegovina that particular place with the idea that the Serbs who lived in one piece of it and then serves who could come from Serbia itself would be in control so what was the policy what did the policy of the United States become in terms of autonomy or breakup of that Union well I think that what was beginning to happen some of it was a given the slovenians became independent the Germans recognized them first it was something that was just kind of miss yugoslavia breaking us law as we say vulcanized vulcanizing exactly and so then what happens is it is very evident to the united states that in fact the Serbs were systematically undermining the independence or even the potential independence these were Republic's with in Yugoslavia so of Bosnia so it becomes US policy that Bosnia should become a separate should become separate but mostly that the ethnic cleansing needed to stop and so you have to get Milosevic to as a Serb to stop doing that to Bosnia how do you have to deal with the Russians let me just go back on something our initial policy was to make sure that the ethnic cleansing stopped it was only as this evolved that we supported bosnia's independence our whole thing was more human rights thing in the beginning or that ethnic cleansing and rape and killings was not something that could happen in the early 1990s what was interesting was this all started at like 90 91 and the first Bush administration very involved in the first Gulf War actually thought that this was not America's business that the Europeans should take care of it and it was when the Clinton administration because when Governor Clinton was campaigning he had said that he felt that we could not just watch this go on and then as we moved into the administration there really was a sense that the United States needed to take a more active role in this why because it was that we believed and this was building on something that the first president Bush had said is that Europe had the right to be whole and free