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Friday, 24 March, 2000, 03:29 GMT
Robertson: Kosovo one year on

Robertson: 'Milosevic was organising an orgy of violence'
The Kosovo campaign was a success but brought home uncomfortable truths, the then British Defence Secretary George Robertson has said.

What we sought to do was to stop the violence from escalating... ultimately we were successful.

George Robertson
One year on, Lord Robertson - now Secretary General of Nato - says the campaign was justified but it revealed some difficulties with modern warfare and how to "win the peace" after the air strikes ended.

"We were not declaring war on the people of Yugoslavia. We were trying to stop what Milosevic was doing," he told the BBC's World Service.

International forensic teams have been investigating mass graves
"What we sought to do was, by air attacks, to stop the violence from escalating in the way that it was; [to] disrupt the killing, the intimidating, the demolition of villages and the forced exodus of many people, and disrupt the machine that was actually conducting that."

'We had to act'

Lord Robertson answered criticisms that Nato's briefings during the campaign overplayed the ethnic cleansing of Kosovan Albanians by saying subsequent investigations had justified the "strong language".

He said war crimes investigators had found 2,000 corpses and suspected 10,000 civilians had been killed in total.

"In a population of two million, that is a pretty large total.

"So, whatever you want to call it, it was a horrifying orgy of violence that Milosevic was organising and we had to act."

Continuing hatred

Nato had learnt "very clear military lessons" from the conflict, he said, adding: "The first one is that you win with unity."

Lord Robertson admitted there had been problems during the campaign.

He said it had become clear European member nations "depended far too much on America" for high-tech weapons and that it had taken "far too much effort" to raise a peacekeeping force in Europe once the air strikes ended.

Concerns have been raised that despite those peace-keepers, Kosovo is still a dangerous place for civilians on both sides of the ethnic divide.

serb demo mitrovica
Serbs demonstrating in the divided town of Mitrovica
Serbian-Kosovans fled from the province after ethnic-Albanians launched revenge attacks.

But Lord Robertson said the success of the peace process should not be underestimated.

"You're not going to create Switzerland in seven months," he told the BBC.

"The level of violence in Kosovo is still too high, but it's lower than it is in Johannesburg and lower than it is in Moscow today.

Increased peacekeeping

"And a lot of determined efforts are being made to put in place the machinery that will keep multi-ethnicity as a principle. And the commitment to a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo is something that we will work towards.

The world had "grown up" since the end of the Cold War, he said, and force was now more likely to be used to "create and maintain peace" than to start aggression.

He went on: "I hope that that is going to be the pattern for the future: many more multinational formations, essentially keeping the peace and occasionally having to make the peace in the first place - but inculcating values of democracy which will ultimately remove the tyrants like Milosevic."

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23 Mar 00 | Europe
Kosovo 'requires patience'
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