I saw him there, introduced myself, shook his hand, and asked if he
was Dr. Karadzic. He confirmed, "Yes I am." I told him that it was
my understanding he was responsible for the worst genocide to occur
in Europe since the Second World War. He should go before an
International Tribunal to stand trial and, if found guilty, spend
the rest of his life in jail. He was shocked that I would confront
him. He wanted to know who I was. And he said to me, "Nobody speaks
to me that way." He promised that I would pay a price. His exact
words were, "Sometime in the middle of the night you will awake to
cold steel on your throat, and I will slit your throat and the
throats of your family." Needless to say, I was scared. But I knew
that his tactics were based on fear. So I looked him straight in the
eye and said, "Dr. Karadzic, there is nothing you could do that
would hurt me." When he saw that I did not succumb to fear, he
walked away. One of his henchmen came up and tried to muscle me
against the wall. Scotland Yard was present in the conference hall
and officers intervened on my behalf.
Q: Would you be disappointed if Karadzic does
not spend the rest of his life, as you predicted to him, behind
A: Justice should be served. He and those who
supported him deserve punishment.
Q: But when you look today at the trial of
Karadzic and Mladic at ICTY, are you satisfied with the way the
trials are being delegated? What are your thoughts from the bottom
of your heart on the impact of a verdict?
A: It is good that these "gentlemen" are being
tried in The Hague for genocide. As leaders, they were responsible
for terrible atrocities. But they are not only culpable. Let us not
forget that their actions were blessed by a much wider circle of
people, who either committed atrocities themselves or, through
complicity, are also guilty. The only way Serbia can become a normal
country is to face the fact that many of its people turned the other
way or supported criminal acts. Of course, not every Serb can be
held responsible for what the leadership did. But, until Serbia as a
whole confronts its past, recognizes and accepts its culpability and
responsibility, it will not become a normal country that is fully
integrated into Europe.
Q: But how can Serbia become a normal country
if its new president Mr. Tomislav Nikolic, only few days after
taking office in Belgrade, denies there was a genocide in
A: Even today in Serbia, the Milosevic project is
still alive. The Milosevic project is based on division and ethnic
separation. It is based on ethnic hatred. Even though Milosevic is
dead, the virus of ethnic violence that he unleashed is alive and
well. There is no place for virulent ethnic nationalism in Europe,
the civilized world, or in Serbia herself.
Q: Are you saying that Nikolic won the election
because half of Serbia is "infected" with the "Milosevic virus"?
A: Nikolic is a self-declared "Cetnik." That
speaks volumes about his character. Tadic and Nikolic should be
judged by what they do, not only by what they say. In words and
deeds, there is very little difference between them. Tadic may be
more presentable. He may dress in fancy European suits and have a
European style haircut, but his actions suggest that he and Nikolic
are from the same cloth. That is the cloth that binds Serbia to the
past and prevents it from moving forward, as a part of Europe.
Q: It looks like Serbia is actually very
successful in keeping Bosnia as the last hostage of its policy in
the Balkans: I am talking about scare tactics to prevent Bosnia from
A: The Milosevic project was about establishing a
Greater Serbia on all territories where the Serbs reside. The
project is still being implemented, as evidenced by the approach of
the Republika Srpska in Bosnia, and by the occupation by Serbs north
of the Ibar River in Mitrovica in Kosovo. Until Serbia recognizes
its neighbors and commits herself to good-neighborly relations,
Serbia cannot move forward.
Q: You are talking about Kosovo?
A: I am talking about Serbia's general approach to
Western Balkans and specifically about Kosovo, where Serbia
continues to play a confrontational and divisive role, looking to
partition Kosovo and absorb a portion of its territory.
Q: Belgrade, besides its "European rhetoric",
while saying it would never recognize Kosovo, is still eying part of
Bosnia as a means of compensation? For how long will this be a part
of its "hidden political agenda"? Would it ever disappear from the
A: It's not a hidden agenda. Belgrade openly
foments violence. There was a terrible war in order to preserve
Bosnia as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural state. Until Republika
Srpska is fully integrated into Bosnia, the project that led to that
war endures. Many people died to preserve Bosnia's territorial
integrity and sovereignty.
Q: In addition to that, Mr. Dodik is now saying
Republika Srpska will follow Belgrade rather than Sarajevo when it
comes to (not) joining NATO? How can America can stop that? By
acting in Belgrade, via Banja Luka? Both are instruments of Russia
and its anti-NATO attitude and politics.
A: NATO's Membership Action Plan provides clear
guidelines. Dodik's policies clearly violate Atlanticist principles
and will hinder further Euro-Atlantic integration for Serbia.
Q: We also have some protocol mistakes: how do
you explain when a U.S. or Turkish ambassador goes to see Mr. Dodik
and talks to him in his office with a U.S. or Turkish flag together
with only a Republica Srpska flag, without a Bosnian one? Is that
playing into hands of Dodik's separatism?
A: I don't know the details of those visits or
what was discussed. I do believe, however, that dialogue is
important and necessary. The optics of that meeting under the flag
of the renegade entity is not conducive to the broader goal of
promoting the Republica Srpska's integration into Bosnia and
Herzegovina where it belongs.
Q: Americans were warned at the time (even at
the London Conference) that Milosevic's project ("virus" as you say)
could survive even after Dayton, after ICTY verdicts; should anyone
regret this on this side of the Atlantic? Looks like Serbia
continues with its agenda?
A: That virus not only survived in the Western
Balkans, but also in Western Europe. The attitude of chauvinism
exists in many countries, including some EU member states. By not
stamping out the virus in Bosnia, the West allowed it to become
contagious. Now countries in Western Europe stand at-risk. The
Euro-zone crisis exacerbates this problem. Look what has happened in
Greece with the emergence of a Nazi party, "Golden Dawn."
Q: Since we were talking about history, and
since you knew late president Izetbegovic, do you think that he was
always under pressure to accept the peace plans, and never able (not
in the situation) to think twice, especially about Dayton Peace
Accord? How do you see it from a distance?
A: There are the couple of great heroes in
Bosnia's recent history. It is thanks to the efforts of Alija
Izetbegovic and Haris Silajdzic that Bosnia survived as a country.
It is easy for the younger generation to forget those years and the
enormous contributions that they made to save the country from
Q: Should President Izetbegovic have made more
demands before accepting Dayton? Is use of the term "Republika
A: At the time, the Dayton Peace Agreement was the
best deal possible. It ended a terrible war and it was a diplomatic
success. The U.S. should have followed up the Dayton negotiation
with a proactive effort to address Kosovo's political status and a
follow-up conference on Bosnia to upgrade Dayton, aimed at bringing
the agreement in line with evolving conditions.
Q: Are you talking about the "Dayton Two", and
what were or still are the major evolving conditions?
A: Yes, you may use that term "Dayton Two," if you
wish. Letting Bosnia fester as a divided country with nationalist
politics playing a toxic role made implementing the Dayton
principles harder over time.
Q: And now that we have the situation that
some, especially Mr. Dodik, are using Dayton "a la carte", Dayton
Two will almost certainly not occur. What else could be done in
A: Bosnia should be fully integrated based on the
belief that all citizens have a shared interest, a common future, a
commitment to democratic principles, and a desire for peace and
Q: Was any other peace plan like Vans-Owen or
Cutilliero's plan better than the Dayton Peace Accord?
A: The gold standard for power-sharing and
minority rights is the Ahtisarri plan for Kosovo. It builds on the
Dayton Peace Accord. Both agreements represent diplomatic innovation
and important steps forward in statecraft. The problem has to do
with implementation and monitoring by the international community so
that signatories do what they said they would do. Without the
political will to keep the pressure on, agreements that look good on
paper do not realize their promise in practice.
Q: How do you comment on the election of Mr.
Vuk Jeremic of Serbia as the president of the UN General Assembly?
A: It is astonishing that a Serbian diplomat is
the president of the GA, when Serbia continues to have a shameful
record of antagonism toward its neighbors, as well as a disregard
for international law.
Q: How do you look at the role of Russia in the
part of Bosnia and Serbia, and in the election of Mr. Jeremi to the
UN General Assembly, bearing in mind the politics of Moscow toward
the current situation in Syria?
A: Russia's approach has been consistent over many
years, providing political and material support to criminal regimes.
It continues to do so by supporting Assad in Syria, who is guilty of
war-crimes and has committed a terrible injustice against the Syrian
Q: Tell me something about your new book? Why
did you choose the topic of Kosovo?
A: The book is called "Liberating Kosovo: Coercive
Diplomacy and U.S. Intervention." It is edited by Harvard's Kennedy
School and published by MIT Press. NBC published an enhanced e-book
with an hour and a half of interactive footage embedded in the
electronic text. I wrote a book because I believe that the United
States is a force of good in the world. Kosovo is not the last time
that the U.S. will confront a genocidal regime and come to the
defense of defenseless victims. There are important lessons to be
learned from the Kosovo experience about when, why and with whom the
U.S. should intervene to prevent genocide. The book not only offers
the diplomatic history of the events in Kosovo leading up to NATO's
action and then the coordinated declaration of independence. It also
suggests intervention criteria and maintains that there is a
responsibility that comes from intervention. I hope its pages are
instructive, as the U.S. confronts other humanitarian emergencies
that demand a principled and moral response.
Q: Whenever someone talks about the imperative
of the humanitarian intervention, as you do in your book, it comes
to me why the international community was so late in Bosnia. I mean,
Bosnians were lied to that they were going to be helped that way,
and during the London Conference, the Prime-Minister of UK, John
Major, promised Mr. Izetbegovic that the Royal Air Force will bomb
Serbs who were shelling Sarajevo and others. You were there. What
A: Yes, I was in the room when that promise was
made. I wrote about it in my most recent book. Larry Eagleburger and
John Major were present. President Izetbegovic and Haris Silajdzic
were there. The U.S. and UK representatives talked about their
unprecedented cooperation to stop the attacks of Sarajevo.
Izetbegovic asked what guaranties could be provided. John Major
said, "You have my word of honor. If the shelling of Sarajevo does
not stop in 30 days, the Royal Air Force will be overhead."
Q: But, then the siege of Sarajevo continued to
go longer than the siege of Stalingrad. It was the longest siege of
one city in the modern history. How do we explain that?
A: In retrospect, the London Conference was an
attempt to push the issue of Bosnia under the rug and get it off the
front pages. Mr. Major simply lied to get what he wanted. The London
Conference addressed the symptoms of conflict without addressing its
Q: Let me ask you bluntly: in 2009,
Vice-President Biden hinted in Sarajevo that Bosnia and the region
are somehow on the top of U.S. political agenda. But they are not.
Although in, perfect Dayton was put aside and was not enhanced, but
rather applied like "Holly Scripture"? What is going on with Bosnia
disappearing from the top of the Washington agenda?
A: You often hear U.S. officials talking about
"Strategic patience." This is about incremental steps to create
conditions for progress. Absent strong U.S. leadership, problems do
not ripen for solution. The U.S. should not make a rule of leading
from behind. It must not sacrifice principles for stability. Unless
the Balkans are addressed in a proactive fashion, there is risk that
conflict could be renewed.
Q: After all these years, what would then be
the step in the right direction in order not to be consumed by
mistakes made in the past, when it comes to Bosnia in the first
A: The EU in its entirety should recognize Kosovo
as an independent state, and send a clear message to Belgrade that
its politics of division and partition will not be accepted. And
Bosnia, of course should recognize Kosovo. Kosovo has a historic,
cultural and political right to independence.
Q: But how would that help Bosnia?
A: Bosnia suffered to uphold principles of justice
and fairness. It should remain true to those principles.