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Albright on strategic interests & humanitarian interests, the Balkans II

How the United States and the UN Security Council came to a resolution: Milosevic and Kosovo, NATO and Russian Opposition.  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 so we did this for Moral Sentiments rather than strategic calculation of our national interest both I think we felt that the Balkans were important if you look at the map they are at the eastern end of the Mediterranean obviously very close to what we do consider a strategic interest in the Middle East if you look at where the Balkans are they are essential geographically and so it was a combination of our strategic interests and our humanitarian interest the question always out there is our human rights and humanitarian interest part of our national interests there is a debate about that I happen to believe they are there not everybody does well one group that doesn't is the Russians they believe only looking at their strategic interests how did you deal with the Russians who also had strategic interest in the Balkans with difficulty because what we were trying to do was to get them because they are close to the Serbs their Slavs they have had a relationship for a long time was to try to get the Russians initially to try to get Milosevic to not act in the way that he did to have some positive influence on him it was difficult because the Russians really did have a different view and the fact that Milosevic had support from Moscow made him more in transition so one tool you pull out of the toolbox that is actually going to the UN is that right absolutely and because our feeling is if you go go back to the my toolbox force can be either bilateral or multilateral and in many ways the United States always prefers the statement was unilaterally if you must multilateral if you can because it's better to have support from other countries and I was at the United Nations at the first part of the Clinton administration and the point was what would happen is the Bosnians would come to the UN and say we are being killed we need the help of the community and there were discussions in the Security Council a number of resolutions that said that what was going on in Bosnia was a threat to peace and security which meant that the Security Council had the purview of it and then trying to get a mandate that would in fact allow there to be peace keeping operations within Bosnia which we were able to get and that was after you move from the UN to become Secretary of State you deal with the UN resolution and you deal with your counterpart in Russia the foreign minister in order to make sure he will go along with the UN resolution is that right yes well that was more uncover because Bosnia we had dealt with and that was done in the first term of the Clinton administration when I was Secretary of State our real problem was Kosovo which had been kind of on the back burner but all of a sudden bubbled to the front and the question was we did prefer to go to the UN again and get NATO engaged in what was going on customer which by the way similar ethnic cleansing every attempt to undermine any sense of autonomy for Kosovo and still Milosevic what are you still Milosevic yes absolutely we would have preferred to do the UN but it became clear to me in discussions that the Russians were going to veto any kind of a mandate for Kosovo so I went to Moscow and I met actually at the Opera with my counter party or even off and he made very clear to me that they were going to to veto it I was sitting in my hotel room which you know is bugged and so I called them and I said I have just heard from the Russians that they're not going to allow a Security Council resolution I figured that if I'd gotten the message wrong the Russians would tell me the next day but it was very clear they would do that so we decided not to get stuck in a cul-de-sac and do nothing so we decided to go to NATO and so the Kosovo operation again was under NATO multilateral and again we Congress knew about it and at some point though you're able to get some accommodation with even off right so that you have some statement that helps you show that the Russians not going to be totally opposed to you we able to neutralize well we were we did four but they are we're in a difficult position i have to admit because their allies were doing something else but ultimately we went ahead and the Russians participated in it got very complicated in terms of once the air part was over who who in fact would supervise various parts of kosovo and who would be in charge and never was easy that's for sure and it's still not mean we have now recognized Kosovo as an independent country that has not been universal so between Kosovo Serbia the whole Balkans used every tool that wasn't absolutely absolutely and by the way also the public diplomacy part because we did need to explain to the people what was going on and that's the syncopation because you use bilateral and multilateral diplomacy the number of meetings that we had multilaterally to deal with it and the number and and economic sanctions and threat of the use of force and use of force which was an air war and it took 78 days and Milosevic capitulate and we ended up being successful I'm Walter Isaacson and we're talking to Madeleine Albright about the toolbox of American diplomacy