‘What we need for the Balkans, as a whole, is a political perspective for the future’

Many say that NATO was caught napping in Kosovo. NATO was not napping. We may have underestimated to some extent the preparedness of people to hurt and kill other people. But as there is no prospect for a political solution, this will always be a problem; there is no question about that. Maybe what we did not expect was to what extent these events had obviously been organized in one way or the other, and that is of course an area of concern. And we were disappointed at the reaction of the local politicians, at least at the beginning. Later, they changed when political pressure was exerted on them. For me, these are the two main lessons learned. We are working in more detail, trying to work out a more detailed assessment of what happened, what was wrong, what was good, and what are the lessons in general. From a military perspective, I am very happy with the performance of the military command structure, of course the NATO commander but also the Joint Force commander who reacted swiftly and they are pleased with the positive reaction of nations. We deployed our reserve forces in a very short period of time so that is a clear indication that NATO is still a powerful military organization and if we want to and we are challenged, we can react swiftly and with the necessary power. That is very positive. That was exactly the criticism, that NATO had only been looking at terrorism in recent years and had forgotten it was a military organization. I personally don’t think that the only risk we are facing is terrorism. It is an acute risk that is challenging our society, but NATO is an organization that must be in a position to cope with all possibilities so we need to cover a broad spectrum of possible risks and of course we need the necessary forces to do that. Are you going to send more troops to Kosovo? For the moment we have no plans to do that, we will keep the reserve forces that we have deployed there as long as necessary and decide what we need to do in future. If you say from the military point of view Kosovo was a success, could you say the same about Afghanistan? You are right. Militarily we were very successful in Kosovo, however, the military is always an instrument for politics so in the end we have to be measured by the political success and we are not yet there. So, I would not at this point say we have done very well, as far as the fine political solution is concerned. Here, of course, we have to take into account the overall situation in the Balkans, because Kosovo is only part of the Balkan problem. When we compare that with Afghanistan, we are at the beginning of accepting more responsibility in Afghanistan, we are expanding the mission. I think this is a good approach, it is reasonable but it is not comparable with Kosovo. We need to wait for the results of the elections. Success is always measured at the end of the day in terms of political progress, economic growth, social balance, and not just military. Can you define the Balkan problem? Let me put it another way. What we need for the Balkans is a political perspective for the future. That is for the Balkans as a whole. Some say one nation or other is maybe prepared to join the Partnership of Peace process or the European Union, but that is not an overall solution. It is so diverse, the Balkans, that it is difficult to find a common solution for the whole area. This is an area where NATO, the UN and the EU have to play a major role. Military measures go hand in glove with economic growth and political stabilization and that is not something NATO can do.

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