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Forum 2000: Kissinger Questions Goals In Kosovo

  • Don Hill

Prague, 12 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Henry Kissinger, a former U.S. Secretary of State and winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, said today that he favors international intervention to end bloodshed in Serbia's Kosovo province.

But Kissinger said it is unclear to him what can be accomplished in what he called "an ethnic conflict at the edge of the Balkans."

He made the comments in Prague on the second day of this year's Forum 2000, one in a series of international forums initiated by Czech President Vaclav Havel. The first was in October, 1997, and two others are to be held next year and in the year 2000. The theme of this year's gathering is globalization of the world's economy, politics, and culture.

Kissinger said that the West is moving toward military action in Kosovo with the military means it needs but without clear goals.

He said some would like to blame Serb attacks in Kosovo on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whom Kissinger referred to as "a war criminal." But, Kissinger said:

"No one man (can be blamed) for the ethnic crisis in the Balkans. It is a crisis of the interaction between Islam and Christianity at the edge of the Balkans which has been going on for hundreds of years."

Kissinger said that he "strongly favors action to end the immediate killings" of Kosovar Albanians. But, he added, there is a danger that any temporary solution to one problem in Kosovo may ignite new ethnic conflicts.

He acknowledged that the United States is the world's only remaining superpower. However, he said, the United States is only a superpower "in one field of action and that is military." He said he hopes that the West will consider how to regulate conflicts in the Balkans so as to avoid starting new ethnic conflicts while suppressing one.

Kissinger said that the majority of leaders in Kosovo --both ethnic Albanians and Serbs-- support the conflict. What is needed there, he said, is a detailed proposal as to how Kosovo will be governed when the hostilities are ended, and a village-by-village discussion of how autonomy works.

Kissinger also commented on the prospects for future European integration. He said he believes that the technical side of unification is far ahead of its political side. He went on to say he can see arguments both for the proposition that unification will succeed and that it will fail. But he went on:

"I suspect it will succeed, which will be a huge shock to all the people whose political consciousness has been formed around the nation-state for three hundred years. It will also be a huge shock to the United States which has not yet had to deal with a Western partner of such a magnitude."

French political scientist and author Jacques Rupnik, who spent much of his childhood in Czechoslovakia, told today's gathering that 1998 "is the darkest tide of our time."

Russia is near collapse, he said, Asia is in economic chaos, and the United States, as he put it, "is weakening its presidency for partisan political reasons."

These and other factors are responsible for what Rupnik called "the world's current feeling of uncertainty and apprehension."

Some would say, Rupnik declared, that now is the end of history, the end of liberal democracy and free-market economies. Rupnik said that Russia and other nations in transition from communism have adopted what he called "illiberal democracies". But Rupnik added that despite problems, others would call this time the age of peace, and the beginning of a new international order.

More than 500 people attended yesterday's Forum 2000 opening ceremony. Participants this year include more than 40 Nobel laureates, international human rights activists, diplomats and government leaders, writers and scholars from India, Russia, the United States, Japan, and all over both Western and Eastern Europe.

Others expected to speak at this year's Forum 2000 conference include Polish Minister of Justice Hanna Suchocka, U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton, and EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek. President Havel is scheduled to give a closing address Thursday.