The USA and the Kosovo question (5): Senators want "Kosovo - a republic"

Dragan Bisenić
Source: Print Screen/YouTube - Podkast kod Brane

Writing for Kosovo Online: Dragan Bisenic, journalist

At the end of September 1988, in the office of Senator Tom Lantos, a meeting was held again, where, in addition to the "pro-Albanian four", there were also representatives of the State Department, the Director of the Department for Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia, Tim Dill, and his deputy, Jack Seymour. The meeting was opened by DioGuardi, who thanked Lantos for taking care of the "Albanian question" and assessed that the situation in Yugoslavia was getting worse and was reaching a point where relations between different nationalities would no longer be able to be repaired. “The Serbs, under the Stalinist leadership of Slobodan Milosevic, the President of the League of Communists of Serbia, are becoming increasingly nationalist. Widening anti-Albanian protests in the streets led to the Serbs shouting slogans such as "We want Russians" or "Death to the Albanians". The press that dominates in Serbia propagates racism and exaggerations directed against the Albanians. The Yugoslav Government has refused any significant reform or dialogue with the Albanians while tolerating Serbian revanchism. Albanians now enjoy fewer political, social, and economic rights than in the past, face systematic discrimination in all matters of life, and have no opportunity to express their opinions or present their side of the story in media controlled by Serbia.

Kosovo no longer enjoys the fully limited autonomy granted to it by the Constitution of 1974. Milosevic continues his attempts to bring Kosovo under the full control of Serbia, DioGuardi said, and urged that the US must insist on the equal position of all ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, "because it is in the interests of Yugoslavia Government to resolve the conflict peacefully", and the alternative is "severe consequences for US interests in the region". DioGuardi also said that he was worried about the complete ignorance of this problem in the US press, especially in the "New York Times". He questioned whether the State Department was a part of the problem, noting that Vice President Bush had supported these efforts and called for a "signal to be sent."

Tim Dill responded that he was surprised by the "absence of news" and was concerned. He informed the audience that two weeks ago an "interagency meeting" was held by the CIA, where more reports were requested. State Secretary Schultz met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Yugoslavia, Budimir Loncar. The meeting lasted 30 minutes, 25 of which were devoted to the internal problems of Yugoslavia. The Secretary of the State Department, Tom Simons, will be in Belgrade next week to talk about technology transfer. He would visit Kosovo and convey to Belgrade his great concern about the protests, Dill announced.

Senator Lantos stated that efforts were being made to "reverse the processes by giving Kosovo the status of a republic". In another sense, "things are going to blow up, and it's not a hypothetical situation," and asked if the State Department could take a "stronger position," admitting that there were things that "the Albanians have done against the Serbs, but that's natural, given the " disproportionate population in Kosovo". For his part, DioGuardi commented that "we want to see Kosovo as a part of Albania and the State Department's passivity can inflame such extremists." Senator Lantos confirmed, "We are not interested in sovereignty. We are interested in human rights".

Jack Seymour commented that Albanians were the majority in Kosovo, and that "the problem is a weak central government" while Yugoslav officials were "increasingly moderate". Senator Lantos continued his offensive by asking "how can we be ambivalent towards the creation of Serbian hegemony in areas where they are a huge minority such as Kosovo".

Senator Gilman asked if a statement had been issued, and Dill replied that Loncar and Schultz had spoken about it, but that Loncar's response was "not satisfactory." Lantos added that "our Ambassador has no idea about it", announcing that he and Gilman would talk at the State Department about it, before the Ambassador went to Belgrade, stating that he did not want to go public in a "counterproductive way". Gilman joined the conversation saying that "we speak with one voice about our dissatisfaction with the conditions in Yugoslavia," asking that it be "spread through the State Department." "As long as Yugoslavia thinks that the State Department is cold on this issue, we cannot help the Albanians in the right way," Lantos added. Dill dismissed the remark, saying the State Department was not disinterested. "We are worried about the disintegration of Yugoslavia." We are against the mistreatment of nations and we will take this to the next level. "Warren Zimmermann will be our next Ambassador," Dill announced. Lantos added that Zimmermann should find out from "Schultz and down about our concerns."

Seymour warned that ways had to be found to strengthen the central government, while DioGuardi referred to the conversation with Ambassador Kovacevic who "had the courage to tell us that we are in a trade surplus and that they do not need trade with us." Dill said that "American banks are very stingy and that this represents a certain tool for us in the Albanian issue". Gilman asked for preparations for a more active role of the State Department, while DioGuardi presented the following scenario, "The Albanians are very worried here. They feel that the Albanians in Kosovo are disenfranchised by the Serbs who come to suppress Albanian "separatism" by violent means. Albanians will be used as a currency for bribery if we do not act from here. "Slovenia and Croatia will try to secede, leaving Albanians at the mercy of Serbian nationalists," DioGuardi said. Dill recommended that a letter be sent to the State Department, announcing that Under Secretary John Whitehead would go with Tom Simons and not return until October 22. Lantos emphasized that the State Department should have a stronger position, adding that "they want to preserve the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia" and that Whitehead would be interviewed by Senator Lee Hamilton next Monday, so he recommended the others to try to ensure their participation.

Tomorrow: "The Second Battle of Kosovo" in the US Congress