Bolton: I Hope that the U.S. Won’t Recognize a Unilateral Declaration of Kosovo Independence

Interviewer Branko Mikasinovich, Voice of America, Washington, Oct. 30, 2007

Shortly before publication of the book of former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, titled “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad,”  Branko Mikasinovich talked with Bolton about his experience at the United Nations and the State Department, about US relations with Serbia and about the issue of the future status of Kosovo.
Bolton: I wanted to write a book on the foreign policy of President Bush, in other words about the things we did well or we did badly, especially about decisions in which I have personally participated, and about how the policy is actually formulated within the State Department and the United Nations. I quote, for example, a statement of one senior State Department official who told me once that if they knew how we formulate our foreign policy, Americans would be very dissatisfied. I wanted to point that out so people could have a better understanding of the whole process. I hope that I have managed to do that.

VOA: Is there a denial of reality in US policy regarding extreme Islam?

Bolton: Historically, it is very difficult to identify a new threat, as the case was with Nazism in Europe, and it took us a long time to spot the international danger of Communism. I am not sure whether radical Islam would reach such a level of threat, but the threat is real as we have all witnessed during the terrorist attacks on the US in 2001, attacks in Madrid and London, then in Asia, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian-occupied territories. We need to pay more attention to that threat and we shouldn’t take any steps which would further increase it, especially not in Europe.
VOA: Recently, the Washington Post published an article about your strong disagreement with the State Department regarding some disputed international issues. Is there a disagreement regarding Kosovo too?
Bolton: I think that the State Department has had an anti-Serbian policy for more than 15 years. When Yugoslavia was falling apart and Milosevic conducted his policy, there was some logic to our opposition to such a policy. Unfortunately, this biased policy has continued, even though there’s no logical explanation for it. While Serbia is trying to establish an effective and functional democracy regarding human rights and other issues, the anti-Serbian policy has continued, especially with regard to Kosovo, where a decision in favor of its independence could only create other concerns, and such a decision could impact on the democracy in progress in Serbia, and the possibility that the Security Council would step beyond its authority, which would be very unfortunate. This is one of the numerous examples of behavior by the State Department, which is a problem the next President has to solve.
VOA: In your opinion, what is the most important reason for US support for Kosovo independence?

Bolton: It is an attitude inherited from the 1990s from the policy of the former administration, when some parts of former Yugoslavia, according to legitimate and historic reasons, wanted their independence and their own road to democracy. This trend has continued, so now you have smaller and smaller entities asking for independence, but such a policy is the opposite of democracy. I think that now this has been spotted much better in Europe than it has been here in the United States.

VOA: If the US recognizes a unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence, how could that affect Washington’s relationship with Russia or relations with some countries of the European Union and on the international level in general?

Bolton: I hope that the United States will not recognize a unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence, although I think that things are currently moving in that direction, and I am afraid that it could cause more damage than it can bring good in the Balkans. Such a decision, which would be taken under threat of violence, would actually represent a way to reward bad behavior. The issue of Kosovo should be solved by two parties at the negotiation table. I understand that strong positions are taken regarding the issue by both sides – Albanian and Serbian. These are and will be tough negotiations in order to reach a solution which would satisfy both parties, but this is much better than to impose a solution on one side or the other, based on a wrong understanding of the situation.

VOA: What could Belgrade do in order to influence Washington’s position on Kosovo?
Bolton: I am not sure if there’s anything that can be done at this moment regarding official US pronouncements. It would be best for Belgrade to focus its diplomacy on Europe, where they have a much better understanding of the problems which could arise in the Balkans with a unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence. Since the breakdown of Yugoslavia, we have tried to ensure stability in the Balkans but we haven’t managed to complete it, and there are lots of unresolved issues. However, it seems to me, that the last thing we should do is to sow the seeds for future conflicts under the pressure of one side or the other.
Translation from a Serbian edition of VOA courtesy of American Council for Kosovo

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