14 January 2000 - 16 January 2000

Kosovo: implications for the international system

Chair: Sir John Weston KCMG

The first conference in the New Year brought together a distinguished group, some of whom had been key decision makers in the Kosovo crises, to look at the implications for the international system of what had happened, and was still happening, in Kosovo.  We concentrated on the three main institutions involved in the crisis – the UN, NATO and the EU.  The temptation to evaluate, with hindsight, the decisions taken, was not altogether resisted.  But under clear guidance from the Chair the majority of our time was devoted to thinking about possible changes and improvements to our current ways of thinking and acting should we be confronted by another case where “humanitarian intervention” might be called for.  This was in itself disputed by at least one participant who questioned both the gains claimed for NATO’s intervention as well as the wisdom of the precedent set.


The doctrine of humanitarian intervention was discussed in depth.  Should the international community try to define a set of principles or criteria under which future interventions might take place?  The Secretary General of the UN had opened up the debate but had so far received little support for his views.  The same ground had been covered by the British Prime Minister in his speech in Chicago.

It was argued that the Charter was already flexible enough to justify the sort of approach under discussion.  Intervention had occurred before in Pakistan, Uganda and Cambodia without Security Council endorsement.  While agreeing in principle on the importance of Security Council endorsement and regretting the road-block placed in its way by the Russians and Chinese over Kosovo, most of us though that any attempt to secure agreement on universal principles would be certain to end in failure.  Each case would have to be judged and justified on its merits.  One participant commented, however, that it would indeed be possible to define the criteria for intervention, the Secretary General had already mentioned some.  This could be complimented by a second set of criteria, some of which had been mentioned by Mr Blair, as to whether it would be possible or desirable to intervene.  As far as legality was concerned it was remarkable that the first regulation passed by M Kouchner arrogated extraordinarily wide ranging powers to the UN representative in Kosovo.  Not a single member of the international community had contested this.  The problem was not one of legality but timidity in using the powers now available, coupled with a lack of resources.

Inevitably discussion of criteria raised the question of the veto in the Security Council.  Hopes were expressed of a veto free culture but it was made clear that abandoning the veto was not a realistic option in Washington.  Some suggested it might be possible, when the enlargement of the Security Council took place, to redefine the scope of the permanent members veto rights to confine them to matters likely to affect international security in its widest sense.

It was argued that the UN and its specialised agencies could play an effective role in crisis prevention.  Together with the IMF and EBRD, they could, for example, help to tackle economic and social problems before they reached crisis proportions.  But, in terms of post-crisis involvement, there were unrealistic expectations about what the UN could achieve in Kosovo, where they had been deployed at short notice, without either the time to prepare properly, or adequate funding.  It was unacceptable that countries which had committed huge resources to the military operation in Kosovo were not now prepared to ensure that the UN had the funds it needed to carry forward essential peacebuilding programmes which would provide the basis for a lasting peace in the region.  Without adequate funding there was a real risk that Kosovo would fail, as Cambodia had done, for much the same reasons.

Discussion in all three groups was unanimous that one of the key elements in a move from military hostilities to some sort of civil society, was an effective police force.  Currently there were 1,800 police in Kosovo.  This was inadequate and dwarfed by the real power of the 45,000 soldiers of KFOR.  We noted that different countries had different traditions of policing and that language and other barriers could prevent “foreign” police from integrating into the societies which they were supposed to police.  The military among us were clear that soldiers, however resourceful some of the contingents in Kosovo might be, were not trained in police duties and were expensively misused assets in such a role.  We all agreed that this question should be examined as a high priority against the possibility of another Kosovo-type crisis.  Perhaps those countries, either in the EU or NATO, which did not provide combat troops might be invited to train units which could take on post-conflict police duties.

A number of points emerged in discussion of the need, following military intervention, for the recreation of a civil society as part of the process of helping a country on its way to independence.  The UN needed to change.  Its headquarters was a secretariat not an organisation capable of controlling field operations.  It also needed to develop a system for calling on “nation-building” assets (“Judges sans frontiers”) in the same way as it could now call on designated military forces for its peace-keeping operations.  Caution was, however, counselled on nation-building.  It took a long time and it was not clear that every society would accept western political and social values as the only model.  Equally, how many of these peace-making, followed by nation-building, operations, were we prepared to sustain?  We needed not just an entry, but also an exist, strategy.

This led to consideration of UN protectorates and trusteeships.  Many argued that this was the logical next step after the conclusion of the sort of hostilities we had seen in Kosovo.  However, careful thought needed to be given to the implications.  The international community could not just pass their problems to the UN without willing the means to resolve them.


In reviewing NATO’s role in the Kosovo conflict, attention was drawn to the problems of the civil-military interface.  In the eyes of some, a few of the politicians had not only been ignorant of what the military could reasonably be asked to do, they had also not welcomed military advice.  They had not been prepared to accept that, at a certain point, the logic of diplomacy would have to be replaced by the logic of war.

Because of political sensitivities, it was claimed, it had not been possible to undertake timely planning on an agreed NATO basis even though planning had inevitably gone ahead, sometimes on an informal or national basis.  NATO planning, it was suggested, needed to be de-politicised.  It was no longer the case that agreement was being sought on a single Activation Order for a possible war with the Soviet Union.  Planning and procedures needed to reflect the changed circumstances of humanitarian intervention.  It was not clear whether planning was in train for the possibility of a Serb intervention in Montenegro.  If not, NATO might again find itself under time pressure should the position deteriorate.  This elicited a strong warning against equating the situation in Montenegro with that in Kosovo.  Military intervention, in Montenegro or even the threat of it, could prove highly counterproductive.  Reference was made to Russia’s role over Kosovo with its cooperation over the end-game but with some uncertainty expressed about Russia’s future intentions.

In response it was argued that given the almost total transparency of discussions in NATO, the planners and commanders would have to accept that every military move had a political significance.  Preparing and positioning troops was all part of the process of building pressure for a political settlement.  One participant welcomed the political checks on the exercise of military power.  It was reassuring to know that at every step of the way, the military were under close scrutiny by the politicians.  But at some risk of not being able to fulfil their mandate as a result of delay and restrictions, commented the military.

NATO, it was claimed, was not a “full service” organisation.  It was not able to conduct diplomacy on its own, nor was it able to take part in civil reconstruction, nor were its forces suitable as police.  Nevertheless it was uniquely able to co-ordinate the political and military interests of a wide coalition of countries during the active use of force.  It was an indispensable forum for transatlantic cooperation.

We agreed that in addition to its military operations, NATO needed to be able to handle the public relations demands of transparency in a new media environment.  Modern communications meant that military commanders were pressed for comment almost as soon as their operations had taken place.  Finding a balance between transparency and credibility had proved difficult.  It had not been easy to withhold comment until information could be verified.  But there was no retreating behind a screen of confidentiality.  A close observer of the NATO scene suggested that the Alliance also needed a rapid reinforcement capability on the PR front, and that this capability needed to be exercised from time to time in the same way as the military exercised their operational plans.


Kosovo, it was alleged, had marked a seismic shift in the EU in relation to the European Security and Defence Identify.  The St Malo and Cologne statements had moved matters forward in the direction of a military capability and not just institution building.  Nevertheless it was acknowledged that 90% of the EU’s impact on the security of Europe lay in its non-military activities.

On the military front, it was argued that this would continue to be built around coalitions of the willing, with a core of France, Britain and increasingly, Germany.  Given that lives might be put at risk it was not an area for activity by the Commission or the other European institutions.  The potential for division and misunderstanding between ESDI and the US was noted.  It was important that any fledgling European military capability was seen as working with, and not against, the Americans.  This required political leadership on either side of the Atlantic.  Nevertheless hopes were high that close co-ordination between General Secretary Robertson, Commissioner Patten and High Representative Solana would allow both NATO and the EU to play to their respective strengths.  These were seen as complimentary, with the EU exercising political and economic influence on its neighbours in Europe, most of whom had ambitions to become members of the EU.  The EU could also contribute resources to help war damaged countries back to economic and political stability.  To achieve this, a close working relationship between the EU and NATO was essential.

At the end of the conference one participant noted that the Balkan Security Pact had hardly been mentioned.  It might not bulk large in western thinking now, but it held out the prospect of eventual membership of the EU to the Balkan countries which they certainly took seriously.  But given what appeared to be a general reluctance on the part of the EU to move forward with any sense of urgency on eastern enlargement, there was potential for serious disillusion in the Balkans.


In our final discussion we returned again to the future of “humanitarian intervention”.  There were both supporters and opponents of the idea (an opponent commented that at times during the Conference he had had the impression of sitting in on a meeting of the Knights Templar discussing the Fourth Crusade).  But whatever one’s views, the precedent had been set and we needed to think more seriously about the implications of what we had done.  Some kind of moral and legal underpinning was needed but we also had to recognise that each case would be different and that sovereign countries would not tie themselves down in advance to commit forces.  We also needed to think more clearly about the long term commitment of support involved in the Bosnia and Kosovo operations.  Starving the UN of the necessary resources would compound, not solve, the problems.

As a final thought, a participant suggested that Ditchley could help by organising a conference to which all the agencies in the UN, NATO, EU, OSCE etc could be invited to discuss ways in which their contributions could best be co-ordinated and dovetailed in any future crisis.  The Director took note.

This report reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.


Chairman:  Sir John Weston KCMG
Formerly Ambassador and Permanent Representative to North Atlantic Council and to Permanent Council of WEU

Vice-Admiral James A King CMM CD

Canadian Military Representative to NATO Military Committee in Permanent Session
Mr David M Malone
President, International Peace Academy

Professor Guillaume Parmentier

Head, French Center on the United States, IFRI

Dr Oleg Levitin

Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College

Dr Edgar Buckley

Assistant Secretary-General for Defence Planning and Operations, NATO
Lt General Sir Mike Jackson KCB CBE DSO
Commander, Ace Rapid Reaction Corps, JHQ Rheindahlen
Ambassador Klaus-Peter Klaiber
Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, International Staff, NATO

Dr Mats Berdal

Social Studies Faculty Centre, Centre for International Studies

General Wesley K Clark

Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, SHAPE

HE Mr Jan Eliasson

State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Mr Julian Braithwaite

Press Office, No 10 Downing Street
Mr Jeremy P Carver CBE
Partner and Head of International Law Group, Clifford Chance
Dr Malcolm Chalmers
Senior Lecturer, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford
Dr Andrew Cottey
Lecturer, Department of History, University College, Cork
Mr Charles J Dick
Head, Conflict Studies Research Centre, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
Sir John Goulden KCMG
Ambassador and UK Permanent Representative to NATO
Mr Nik Gowing
Main presenter/anchor, international TV News Service, BBC World
Mr Richard Gozney
Chief of the Assessments Staff, Cabinet Office
Professor Christopher Greenwood QC
Professor of Law, London School of Economics and Political Science
Mr Richard Hatfield CBE
Policy Director, Ministry of Defence
The Rt Hon Lord Hurd of Westwell CH CBE PC
Life Peer (Conservative), formerly Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1989-95)
Mr Simon Jenkins
The Times
Dr Mukesh Kapila
Head, Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department, Department for International Development
Mr Mark Laity
Defence Correspondent, BBC
Mr Mark Leonard
Director, Foreign Policy Centre
Mr Anatol Lieven
International Institute for Strategic Studies
Ms Bronwen Maddox
Foreign Editor, The Times
Dame Pauline Neville-Jones DCMG
Formerly Deputy Under Secretary of State and Political Director, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1989-96)
Sir Michael Quinlan GCB
Formerly Permanent Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (1988-92) and Director, The Ditchley Foundation (1992-99)
Mr Peter Ricketts
Director, International Security, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Professor Adam Roberts
Montague Burton Professor of International Relations, Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford
Mr Ivor Roberts CMG
Ambassador to the Irish Republic;  formerly Ambassador to Yugoslavia
Mr John Spellar MP
Minister for the Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence
Air Vice-Marshal GE (Jock) Stirrup AFC
Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, Ministry of Defence
Lord Tugendhat
Life Peer (Conservative)

Mr Kevin M Kennedy

Director, Emergency Liaison Branch, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations

Mr Dennis McNamara

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ Special Envoy to former Yugoslavia and Albania, and Deputy to Special Representative of the Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs in Kosovo

Mr Arthur C Helton

Senior Fellow, Refugee Studies and Preventive Action, Council on Foreign Relations
Mrs Wendy W Luers
President, The Foundation for a Civil Society
The Hon William H Luers
Chairman and President, United Nations Association of the USA
The Hon Helmut Sonnenfeldt
Guest Scholar, The Brookings Institution
The Honorable William H Taft IV
Partner, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson;  formerly US Permanent Representation to NATO (1989-92)