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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement on Bosnia before the House National Security Committee
Washington, D.C., March 18, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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As Submitted to the Committee

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for offering me the opportunity to tell you about the progress the Bosnian people are making toward a lasting peace, and to ask your support for our continued participation in the NATO-led force there, as well as the assistance programs that, with the extensive contributions of our partners, are helping make peace self-sustaining.

It has been more that two years since the United States led the effort to stop the war in Bosnia. Now as then, American interests are ill-served when aggression is undeterred, hatred unleashed, and genocide unchecked and unpunished in the heart of Europe.

A stable peace in Bosnia is essential to stability in the Balkans, which have so often been a flashpoint for war across Europe. Only with peace can we build a Europe that is whole, peaceful and free -- a goal that will help ensure that U.S. troops need never again cross the Atlantic to fight a war.

A durable peace in Bosnia will deny a field of operations to the drug-smugglers, international criminals and terrorists who seek out instability and flourish in the midst of chaos.

A real peace in Bosnia will contribute to regional prosperity, in which our own economy and those of our allies have a stake; and that in turn will help counter the voices of extremism, hatred and violence.

And a just peace in Bosnia will help embed the values of democracy and tolerance to which many Bosnians aspire; the same aspirations which have motivated thousands of Americans to give time and money to the Bosnian cause; and the aspirations which inspire and sustain our armed forces and diplomats on the ground.

For the time being, Mr. Chairman, NATO's presence is essential to peace in Bosnia. And U.S. leadership is critical to NATO's success, and to its future.

Before discussing how far we have to go in Bosnia, let us not forget how far we have come. Let us not forget the years of ethnic cleansing, mass rape, indiscriminate shelling, bombed-out apartments and pre-meditated massacres.

Neither should we forget the uncertainty, insecurity and devastation the parties faced after the war, when the Dayton Accords were signed and the process of building peace began. One in every ten Bosnians had been killed or injured in a war that breached every law of decency; a war that had no end short of the total annihilation of one side. Of the survivors, five in ten had been displaced from their homes; eight in ten were relying on the UN for food; and nine in ten were unemployed.

At the time, there were many who said that Bosnians would never again be able to live together, that NATO soldiers would be subject to frequent attack, that democratic institutions could not take hold and that peaceful elections could not be held.

In truth, the implementation of Dayton did get off to a slow start. But last May, President Clinton made the decision to press for a reinvigorated effort on all fronts, and the progress since has been impressive and sustained.

Frustration that the NATO mission has taken longer and cost more than was originally anticipated is understandable; tough questioning of Administration plans for this next stage is highly appropriate. We ourselves have made a similarly searching review. But giving up now would be misguided -- and harmful to American interests.

Moreover, far from becoming entrapped in an endless quagmire in Bosnia, we have been able to reduce our troop presence; far from finding ourselves Bosnia's permanent administrators, we are handing more and more responsibility back to multi-ethnic institutions; and far from giving up on justice, we have stepped up the work of the War Crimes Tribunal.

We have turned things around because so many Bosnians are determined to rebuild their country and live in peace; because our armed forces are doing their job with their customary skill and with renewed vigor; and because our efforts have enjoyed bipartisan Congressional understanding and support.

Today, I ask your help in obtaining the funds we need to sustain our troops and maintain our share of the international community's assistance for Bosnian reconstruction.

I also urge that you vote against the "Bosnia War Powers Resolution," H. Con Res. 227, which the House is scheduled to consider later today.

I understand that there are varied motives for testing the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution: but this particular measure would do severe harm to U.S. credibility at a moment of high tension in the Balkans and elsewhere. It would send a message of confusion and uncertain resolve that could slow the peace-building process, discourage our allies from taking a larger share of responsibility, and possibly cause extremist leaders to seek renewed influence -- with potentially deadly consequences.

In just the last ten months, we have come a long way toward meeting the six core goals President Clinton set for reinvigorating the implementation of Dayton:

Around Christmas, I went to Bosnia with the President and Senator Dole and a number of Members of Congress, including Congressmen Skelton, Kasich and Buyer. I know that Representatives Abercrombie, Boyd and Fowler were in Bosnia just ten days ago. Many others of you have also seen first-hand the immense challenges that the advocates of peace face in Bosnia. But if you have occasion to visit Bosnia more than once, I suspect you will see welcome change on every visit. You will see more and more signs that economic and political life are returning to normal; more and more places where people of different ethnicities are again living and working together; and more and more Bosnians gaining faith that the logic of peace can win its race against the senselessness of war.

Let me discuss the progress I have seen toward meeting our core goals and building a self-sustaining peace in Bosnia, ensuring that when American troops leave the country, they leave for good.

Military Stability

Since Dayton, IFOR and SFOR successively have worked with the parties to separate armed forces and decommission more than 300,000 troops. An arms control process overseen by the OSCE has resulted in the destruction of more than 6,600 heavy weapons -- the same weapons that rained terror on Sarajevo and other cities only three years ago. All heavy weapons remain in cantonment under SFOR supervision. SFOR continues to confiscate forbidden types of weaponry, and to discipline units of any side found to possess them. And SFOR support for the removal of anti-personnel landmines is helping train Bosnians to eliminate that terrible legacy of conflict.

Our troops, and those of our NATO allies and non-NATO partners, have done a tremendous job. But establishing stability from the outside will not be enough to maintain peace from the inside, after our troops are gone.

For that reason, we have also used our Train and Equip program to create a stable military balance and a secure environment within Bosnia. This program has been successful in reducing Federation military forces from 250,000 to 45,000; removing Iranian and other extremist foreign influences from the Bosnian military; building and strengthening joint Bosniak-Croat defense institutions; and ensuring compliance with the arms control obligations intended to help stabilize the situation in Bosnia.

Public Security

As the false promise of security through military aggression recedes from Bosnia, it must be replaced by the real promise of safety among peaceful citizens, founded on professional, impartial and reliable police forces. The International Police Task Force -- run by the UN with a strong contingent of America's finest -- has made great progress toward restructuring and retraining police in the Bosnian Federation. Now that the Republika Srpska has a new government that is committed to implementing Dayton and reaping the benefits of peace, we are seeing progress there as well. And we are working with our European partners to increase their role in funding and training Bosnian law enforcement operations.

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this goal. The recent actions of Serbian police units in Kosovo are an all-too-vivid reminder that law enforcement officials across the region have too often been tools of repression and agents of ethnic cleansing.

The effort to train professional police is one of the most important elements of an "exit strategy" for international forces in Bosnia. We must make sure that, as our armed presence is drawn down and ultimately departs, Bosnian authorities are prepared to ensure the safety of all their citizens. We have seen that as police reform takes effect, freedom of movement improves, refugee returns increase -- and the community's confidence is restored. I hope that I can count on this committee's strong support for American police monitors in Bosnia, and for our reform programs there.

Democracy and the Rule of Law

There is no question that Bosnia remains deeply divided. But multi-ethnic institutions are beginning to function. And the psychology of cooperation, as well as the ethos of democracy, are beginning to replace the psychology of confrontation and the ethos of corruption which flourished for so long.

The series of local and national elections held under OSCE supervision during the past two years has brought some new faces to government, though certainly not as many as we would like. Those elections have succeeded because of the strenuous efforts of the OSCE, SFOR, the IPTF and the Office of the High Representative. But most of the credit must go to the Bosnian people, who shamed the skeptics by turning out in large numbers -- to vote peacefully for a wide variety of parties.

Bosnia's national government, and the governing bodies of its two entities, are in place and functioning as well as could be expected for a country where the history of armed conflict and authoritarian rule is long, but the experience of democracy so short.

When one party or another has blocked progress on joint institutions, High Representative Westendorp has used the authority given him under Dayton to make binding interim decisions. Through his intervention, a new Bosnian currency is being printed, new license plates in one style for all Bosnian vehicles are being manufactured, and a common flag now flies over Bosnian institutions -- including the Bosnian Embassy on E Street here in Washington.

The human rights monitors and ombudspersons established by Dayton are now operating, helping ensure that Bosnians know their rights and have legal avenues to safeguard their liberties. And they are supported by monitors from the international community, including the new UN envoy for human rights in the region Jiri Dienstbier. He is the former foreign minister of Czechoslovakia, and someone who knows first-hand the importance of protecting human rights.

As we work to build viable democratic institutions, we also face the challenge of helping re-build, and in some places create, the independent structures that are so crucial to a well-functioning democracy. One of the more important of these is a free media.

Press freedom faces obstacles in all parts of Bosnia, but determined Bosnian journalists and entrepreneurs have made important progress in the last year. High Representative Westendorp has used his authority to suspend networks or broadcasts that contravene the spirit of Dayton -- making significant progress toward banishing hatred and xenophobia from Bosnia's airwaves.

In their place, we have had tremendous support from U.S. industry in providing programming that connects Bosnia to the outside world. And whether that programming has included independent television news, soap operas, or NBA games, it has proven very popular.

Of course, a truly free Bosnian media will include Bosnian as well as foreign sources; it will feature a variety of viewpoints; and it will be regulated by unified Bosnian institutions. Bosnia's media are not there yet. But for the first time, both journalists and audiences are getting a taste of what freedom of information can mean in this age of global communications.

Perhaps the most important step towards Bosnian democracy has been the election of a new government in the Republika Srpska that is committed to implementing Dayton. This has happened because increasing numbers of Bosnian Serbs, like other Bosnians, are fed up with the politics of hatred and corruption. And it has happened because the international community promised to stand by those leaders who are willing to take risks to end isolation, make prosperity possible, and real peace achievable.

Prime Minister Dodik and his government in the Republika Srpska face the difficult task of living up to the commitments they have courageously made to their people and the international community: raising living standards, rooting out corruption, permitting the return of refugees and doing what is necessary to let life in Serb areas begin, at long last, to return to normal.

And we must make good on our pledge to support Bosnian Serbs as they work toward these goals. That is why I have waived restrictions on our assistance to help rebuild infrastructure and revitalize private business -- when and where Serbs are ready to work with their neighbors throughout Bosnia, with Europe and with the United States.

Our aid to Serb regions will be strictly conditioned on the new government's progress in implementing Dayton. It will support those who seek to build peace, not those who would undermine it. And for that purpose, it is essential -- and it is right.

Mr. Chairman, often enough our discussions of promoting human rights and ensuring that countries obey international norms are very abstract. But when seven survivors of the Srebrenica massacre were arrested two years ago and convicted by a court in the Republika Srpska on trumped-up war crimes charges, the violation of human rights was very real.

But earlier this year, a higher court in the Republika Srpska threw out the convictions and agreed to retry or release the men, known as the Zvornik 7, because their trial violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The cause of justice, and of human rights everywhere, scored a very real victory.

And across Bosnia, that cause is making small but lasting gains every day.

Freedom of Movement and Refugee Return

Since Dayton, more than 400,000 Bosnian refugees have returned home. We hear a great deal about areas where returnees have faced problems, intimidation and even violence. And these pose for us an ongoing challenge. But there are also a significant and growing number of communities which have welcomed returnees; which are working to provide housing for all; and which are committed to rediscovering the spirit of tolerance on which Bosnians once prided themselves. I am guardedly optimistic that we are making progress through programs such as Open Cities; and we are seeing encouraging signs in both Bosnian entities.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Dodik took the very welcome step of pledging to prepare the return of 70,000 refugees and displaced persons to the Republika Srpska this year. At the Sarajevo conference on refugee returns held earlier this month, that city's authorities pledged to accept 20,000 Serb and Croat returnees in 1998, and to take steps to remove bureaucratic impediments to their re-integration. We will work with the High Representative and others to assist as we can; see that appropriate laws are passed; and ensure that communities where returnees are barred or mistreated do not reap the benefits of peace.

War Crime Indictees

Since last April, the number of indictees in custody has quadrupled, and the speed of trials has increased.

Just this past week, an important legal precedent was set when a suspect admitted his guilt in using rape as a weapon of war.

Prime Minister Dodik has made clear that he will improve cooperation between the Republika Srpska and the Tribunal. For the first time, Bosnian Serb suspects surrendered themselves to the Hague last month. Srpska authorities have also committed to investigate war crimes allegations concerning two of the Republic's ministers, and to remove them if the allegations prove justified.

The pace of voluntary surrender by indictees has picked up dramatically in recent weeks. I believe we are finally succeeding in convincing the peoples -- and governments -- of Bosnia and its neighbors that Tribunal proceedings can be swift and fair; and that they offer the best chance for long-term reconciliation based not on collective guilt but on the rule of law and individual accountability.

SFOR will continue to detain indictees who are encountered in the course of normal SFOR operations, as the tactical situation permits. We are committed to doing what needs to be done to see that indicted war criminals face justice.

Currently, we are in the process of transferring $1.2 million of additional U.S. assistance to the Tribunal, specifically earmarked to support forensic work and to address problems of translation and processing. These improvements should build the confidence of those indictees still at large that, if they turn themselves in, they will receive treatment that is expeditious and fair; while the only alternative remains flight, insecurity and isolation.

We are also fortunate to have Senator Dole as head of the International Commission on Missing Persons, leading efforts to resolve the fate of thousands of Bosnians missing since the war to help bring uncertainty to an end and allow the long process of reconciliation to begin.

Economic Reconstruction

Bosnia's GNP today is twice the level to which it had fallen when Dayton was signed. Economic growth is accelerating, and unemployment is falling -- signs that give more and more Bosnian families a tangible stake in maintaining peace.

Improved cooperation between Bosnian entities and with Bosnia's neighbors should speed this trend in the months ahead. Already, trains and mail are crossing between the Bosnian Federation and the Republika Srpska for the first time in years. Air service between Belgrade and Sarajevo has recently been restored.

Throughout Bosnia, U.S. assistance is helping rebuild infrastructure and revitalize private business.

Our "Open Cities" program of economic support for communities that welcome returning refugees of all ethnicities has helped its participants knit their neighborhoods and their livelihoods back together. We now hope to expand it to cities and towns in the Republika Srpska that are ready to do the right and decent thing as well.

All these programs are designed to continue and make irreversible the progress that Bosnian communities are already feeling: in quality of life, in quality of governance, and in hope for the future. They are essential if Bosnians are to take advantage of this breathing space to build a lasting peace -- and rebuild a single nation.

But that breathing space could not exist without the presence of our armed forces. Bosnia's progress is not irreversible yet.

If we persevere, peace will be sustained. But if we turn our backs on Bosnia now, as some urge, the confidence we are building would erode. The result could well be a return to genocide and war.

Quitting is not the American way. In Bosnia, the mission should determine the timetable, not the other way around.

The Road Ahead

That is why we and our allies have agreed that NATO will continue to lead a multi-national force in Bosnia after SFOR's current mandate expires in June. Its mission, again under U.S. command, will continue to be deterring hostilities, supporting the implementation of the Dayton Agreement, and contributing to establishing a secure environment in which Bosnian authorities can increasingly take charge of their country's stability themselves.

Without expanding SFOR's mandate, we will ensure that the new force has an enhanced capability, if needed, to deal with the task of ensuring public security.

U.S. participation should decrease from the current 8,500 troops to 6,900. Americans will make up a smaller percentage of the new total troop level. And we will review the size of the force periodically as part of our strategy to gradually transfer its responsibilities to domestic institutions and other international organizations.

President Clinton has made clear that our mission in Bosnia "must be achievable and tied to concrete benchmarks, not a deadline."

With the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we have established concrete and achievable benchmarks for the success of our presence. The extensive list has been discussed with Congressional leadership and staff, and we are happy to provide more information to any Member who requests it. Benchmarks include police re-training, media reform, democratic elections, elimination of barriers to nation-wide commerce and institution of a framework for refugee returns. As they are met, U.S. and NATO forces will be reduced; and over the long term, Dayton implementation will be based on traditional diplomacy, the work of international organizations and NGOs, confidence-building and economic assistance.

To meet those benchmarks, and make every moment of our troop presence count, we must accompany our military presence with robust support for democratic institutions, economic recovery, and refugee returns. If we do not, Bosnia's wounds will never heal enough to allow it to function without the life-support of peacekeepers.

Let me emphasize that the United States is not doing this job alone. We contribute only 17% of the economic aid Bosnia receives; EU nations contribute over 50 percent. And we are looking for increased European support for critical priorities such as police reform.

But just as our leadership was necessary to end the fighting in Bosnia, and our intervention essential to bring the parties along at several crucial moments, so our continuing military and financial support will be vital to leveraging contributions from our allies and friends.

We need those resources to meet several challenges this year which have the potential to derail Bosnia's progress -- or put it on the fast track to completion.

Challenges This Year

Bosnia's second nation-wide elections will be held in September, under OSCE supervision.

We still face the challenge of fully implementing the results of last year's municipal elections by ensuring that all elected officials are seated and local governments functioning.

We have made a promising start on the return of refugees and displaced persons. The new RS government has made a strong commitment to improve what has until recently been a dismal performance. We will be watching their efforts.

Corruption and the growth of organized crime are major problems that must be tackled with even greater vigor this year -- especially through police reform.

Both the Bosnian Federation and the Republika Srpska must do more to re-integrate and reform their economies, if they are to re-establish Bosnia's self-sufficiency and work toward integrating their country with Europe and the world.

Arbitrator Roberts Owen recently announced that he would defer for another year the final decision on the status of the city of Brcko. He made clear that the extent of both sides' compliance with Dayton will be a significant factor in his final decision -- and put squarely on the Republika Srpska the burden of showing that it should retain the city.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, while we work to improve Dayton compliance within Bosnia, we must not lose sight of the broader picture. Bosnia's neighbors -- particularly Croatia and Serbia -- have commitments they must fulfill and responsibilities they must meet in order to promote regional peace and make possible their own integration with the West.

Unfortunately, from cooperation on war crimes investigation to the development of regional infrastructure, that broader picture remains disturbing.

In Croatia, we are watching for actions to demonstrate Zagreb's commitment to all aspects of the regional peace process. The government must make good on its promise to pursue national reconciliation within Croatia by facilitating the return of refugees; specifically, by making good on its pledge to announce plans for the return and documentation of refugees this month. Croatia's failure to make progress in building democracy at home is disappointing, and it has delayed the country's integration into European and trans-Atlantic institutions.

We also expect Croatia to use its influence with the Bosnian Croat community to encourage refugee returns; promote full integration at all levels of the Bosnian Federation; and assist in seeing that persons indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal face justice.

We are even more concerned by developments in Serbia. Most importantly, President Milosevic has again thrown the stability of the entire region into question with his campaign of bloody repression in Kosovo.

Mr. Chairman, it took us seven years to bring Bosnia to this moment of hope. We must not hesitate in working to resolve the crisis that is growing in Kosovo; and we must not allow President Milosevic's brutal and illegitimate methods there to undo the progress toward peace and stability that has been made throughout the region.

The United States has already taken steps to see that those who are responsible for the violence in Kosovo pay a price. With our partners in the Contact Group, we have agreed to deny President Milosevic resources for his police state. We have imposed a moratorium on government-sponsored export credits and privatization assistance that Belgrade desperately needs. We will not grant visas to senior officials responsible for repression in Kosovo.

We are working to establish a comprehensive arms embargo through the UN Security Council. We are working with neighboring states to ensure that conflict does not spread -- and in particular, we are working to ensure that an international military presence in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues after the mandate of the current UN force expires in August.

And next week, I will chair another meeting of the Contact Group in Bonn, to discuss next steps.

Let me stress that the purpose of these measures is not to return Kosovo to the status quo of last month. Stopping the killing is not enough; too much damage has already been done. If Serbia wishes to ease its international isolation, it must show that it is ready to shift from repression to a search for a genuine political solution.

We will continue to explore all possibilities for dialogue, and to emphasize that the use of violence by either side to resolve a political problem is unacceptable and wrong.

But there should be no doubt that we are prepared to take additional steps if Belgrade elects to continue repression in Kosovo. We will keep all options open to do what is necessary to prevent another wave of violence from overtaking the Balkans.


Mr. Chairman, to a great extent the Dayton Accords and the peace process they built were made in America. They combine our faith in the resourcefulness and determination of human beings with the recognition that no single nation, not even the United States, can solve every problem and right every wrong. They combine a pragmatic consideration of our global interests with the deeply American desire to respond to people in need.

I began my testimony by offering a clear statement of purpose for our presence in Bosnia. Let me conclude by sharing with you another statement of purpose, written by a sergeant in the First Infantry Division stationed in Bosnia last year. Representative Frank Wolf came across it on a bulletin board in Tuzla, and I think it says quite a bit about why Americans should be in Bosnia right now -- and about the Americans who are there. It reads:

There's the good-byes and tears, the uncertainty and fears. There's the mud and the dirt, the pain and the hurt...and then there's the children.

There's the food and the showers, the long working hours. There's the cold and the heat, the blisters on the feet... and then there's the children.

And then there's the children, who always wave as we pass by. Beaming with a precious smile, making all this worthwhile... and then there's the children.

Who with one precious glance are thanking us for taking this chance. One look, one hug, one moment shared will bring joy beyond compare.

If as each and every day goes by, one more person does not die... If all this trouble and strife I only save a single life...then worthwhile has it all been and I Would do it all again...for the children.

Those children will live under the institutions that are being built today, whether those institutions prove unifying and democratic or fail and become despotic. Their inheritance may be the future for which so many Bosnians struggle and so many Americans pray; or it may be the future we all fear. And those children will choose whether the destiny of Bosnia, and indeed of the region, is peace -- or war.

Let us, then, make our own choice the right choice.

Let us hold fast to the hope which inspired that sergeant, and to the conviction that, with our help, Bosnia's children can again be children of peace; and let us have the courage to do our part in securing peace for them -- and thereby helping to maintain it for ourselves.

[End of Document]

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