Montgomery: Kurti is destroying the relationship with the US, throwing the cooperation away, and behaving in an inexcusable way
Former United States Ambassador to Serbia, William Montgomery, says that Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti behaves in an inexcusable way and is destroying relations with the US, adding that Kosovo is a primary concern for all Western leaders.
In an interview with Kosovo Online, Montgomery said that the US and EU currently lacked new ideas or a new approach to dialogue and resolving the ongoing situation, and without a new approach, progress would be difficult to achieve.
How much do the messages from the President of Serbia, Vucic, addressed to the United Nations, impact Washington's position towards Serbia and its territorial integrity? Does the State Department understand Serbia's argument that it also expects respect for the UN Charter regarding Kosovo, similar to what is expected in the case of Ukraine?
Let's start by saying that President Vucic is exactly right in his claim that the United States along with some of its European allies circumvented the UN, and with NATO, undertook a bombing campaign in Serbia. He is correct that the same group unilaterally recognized Kosovo's independence, not using the UN. The consequence of this is that Putin was able to use this as a justification for his use of violence in Ukraine. Absolutely true. The problem is that it is like ringing a bell, and there is no way to go back now. Our focus is very much on trying to connect this whole region to look ahead and work together. I give a lot of credit to Miroslav Lajcak for what he has been doing, patiently, for years now.
But let me explain to everyone that this decision that we made was not made suddenly. For ten years, we were concerned about the situation in Kosovo. Beginning with when Milosevic arbitrarily withdrew the autonomous status in Kosovo and other benefits for the Kosovo people. From that time on, we were concerned about Kosovo. We were more concerned about Kosovo, in fact, than we were about the fighting in Croatia and Bosnia. Why? Because the potential violence in Kosovo could have easily spilled into other countries, and we absolutely did not want that to happen. As a demonstration of this, I can tell you, that in December of 1992, seven years before the bombing campaign, I helped draft what is called Christmas Warning, which was a very blunt statement. We had our representative request a meeting with Milosevic and we told him - say absolutely nothing to Milosevic, even alone, say only, 'I have a message to deliver from the US government. Here it is,' hand it over and leave. Do not engage in any conversation with him. The message said: If there is any military violence in Kosovo, the United States will use all means necessary, including the military, to resolve the situation. We said that in 1992. From 1992 on, we had a neverending series of conversations and meetings, we had the Rambouillet Summit, etc., trying to get Milosevic to adopt a more reasonable position regarding Kosovo. So, the bombing campaign only came after ten years of nonstop efforts by our government to resolve the situation. But, we are where we are, and our concern now is trying to have the region resolve the issues peacefully, and not look backwards.
The last round of dialogue in Brussels, held last week, ended unsuccessfully, as did several previous ones. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti rejected the EU's proposals. How do you view the further development of dialogue in the current format?
Let me be very blunt, the United States of America, in disregarding the UN, and working around it, took a major step to help Kosovo Albanians. A major step. We have worked together from that time on, with a very good relationship. Kosovo's Prime Minister is throwing that cooperation all away. He is destroying our relationship. He is acting in a way that is inexcusable. All leaders in the West have the primary problem in the Kosovo issue. He is doing the Kosovo Albanian people no favors because we had a good relationship and he is in the process of destroying it.
How do you see the role of the US in the current format of the dialogue? Biden's administration has a different approach than Trump's. Should the US engage more directly?
Frankly, neither the United States nor the European Union have any new ideas or any new approaches and how to resolve the situation. Without those new ideas and without a new approach, I don't think we are going to get anywhere. I would say that this is primarily, believe it or not, the most important issue that Kosovo faces now, because for Kosovo to grow economically, and to get foreign investments, it absolutely must have a decent relationship with all of its neighbors, including Serbia. Kosovo should be bending over backward to have a good relationship with Serbia. Because in that way it can progress economically. As it is, Kosovo is a third-world country, in terms of economics, and that needs to be changed. It can only be changed by moving ahead instead of constantly provoking the Serbs and causing problems. I have seen people like Kurti all over the Balkans who want to bring out the past constantly because it gives them support, but it does not solve the issues. It needs to stop.
One of the topics of discussion during the United Nations General Assembly session in recent days was expanding the Security Council to include major countries like India, Japan, and Germany. In your opinion, how would such a change affect the resolution of issues like Kosovo, but also Ukraine, and similar conflict situations?
At the end of World War II, we formed a number of international organizations, including the World Bank and the UN, to name just two. The fact is that those organizations no longer fit today's situation. The idea that these five countries, the United States, England, France, China, and Russia, have permanent seats on the Security Council with veto power makes the UN almost totally irrelevant in today's world. If you look at almost any major international issue today, the UN is irrelevant because one of the Security Council members has this veto power.
If we want the UN to work, all of us with veto power need to give it up. We are all guilty of using this veto for all purposes, and not to make the UN successful. We need to change this, get rid of the veto power, and we need to look closely at making the UN reflect today's world, not the world in 1945. This means, as you say, adding major countries like Brazil, India, Japan, and others into the whole process. The problem is that it does not guarantee that things will work because all these countries have their own interests. But no one should have the veto. Until we get rid of this veto, the UN will continue to be ineffectual, that's the reality.