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Rome Speech on Peace Challenges
At an Aspen Conference in Rome Jan 14, 2000, I addressed some of the coming challenges of conflict prevention and peace preservation in Europe.

Peacekeeping and conflict prevention; what risks and threats in geopolitics in the future?

Remarks by Mr Carl Bildt, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the UN for the Balkans, in Rome, January 13, 2000.

Two weeks ago, we all celebrated the advent of the century and the new millennium.

But in most respects, the old century ended a decade ago, and we have spent the past ten years trying to handle the different and difficult geopolitical and security challenges of this new period.

Previously, we lived in a world where security concerns where dominated by inter-state conflicts, and most issues seen through the prism of the bipolarity then dominating.

Now, it’s all different

Now, the security concerns confronting us are in most cases dominated by intra-state issues, and very few if any of them can be seen through the prism of larger global conflicts.

The Balkans has been the great testing ground for these new challenges during the past decade. And it is testing grounds were we have gone from the one failure to the other.

In my view, our business concept, if this term can be applied, is neither about ending wars nor about winning them. Our business concept should properly be about preventing war.

And by this the most fundamental of standards we have failed time after time in the Balkans in the 1990’s.

Others were the driving forces behind the different conflicts that have escalated into open wars. But ours was the task to prevent that from happening. And in that we failed.

We failed to avert the war in Croatia. We failed to avert the war in Bosnia. We failed to avert the war in Kosovo.

And after a decade of war, the region is thoroughly destroyed. Most of its economies are in a state near desperation. There are close to two million refugees who have not yet been able to return home. Key political issues are still open. The forces of disintegration are substantially stronger than the forces of integration in most parts of the region.

The international presence is huge. We have app 80.000 international soldiers protecting two more or less developed international protectorates. In Bosnia, the High Representative has been forced to use his powers over and over again. In Kosovo, all public powers rest with the UN Interim Administration. We have massive humanitarian and reconstruction programmes ongoing.

We must be ready to discuss the lessons of the past ten years in the Balkans if we are to handle further challenges in this region – or similar challenges in other regions – better.

In my opinion, these lessons are not primarily military.

I believe it is imperative for the European Union to develop proper common security and defence policies, including the forces necessary. And I do believe that it is necessary for all nations to pay more attention than has been the fact during the past few years to the state of their armed forces.

But the key lessons of the past decade – including Kosovo - are political rather than military.

Military force is only useful when used as part of a clear and comprehensive political strategy. Our failure in the past has not primarily been a failure to use military force, but rather the failure to develop these clear and comprehensive political strategies.

And we have been forced to seek to compensate for the failure of diplomacy with the use of military force.

But there are distinct limits to what can be achieved in this way. In the context of the present conflict in Caucasus, we keep repeating that there is no military solution, but only a political one, however difficult to achieve that might be. The same naturally applies to the Balkans.

Looking ahead, there are thus a number of tasks that follow from the lessons of the past decade.

In the Balkans, we must start to explore the options for self-sustaining structures of stability. We must not go from the previous delusion of quick solutions to the political solutions of the area to the equally dangerous delusion of there being no solutions at all.

The war in Bosnia ended with a peace agreement, accepted by all the internal and external actors in the conflict. It was made possible by a concerted political effort by all the key international actors, i e the Europeans, the Americans and the Russians.

In Kosovo, we have no peace agreement. We might even be further from a peace agreement today than we were a year ago. But I believe that we must now accelerate our preparations for a search for a peace in this part of the Balkans as well.

The longer the present situation without a peace agreement persists, the more difficult will be the task of achieving one without upsetting the region as a whole once more.

The basic ingredients of a peace agreement for Kosovo must be the same as for Bosnia.

A peace agreement must be the result of a political process driven by all the three key international actors in the area – the Americans, the Europeans and the Russians. We must not forget, that the issue now rests with the Security Council of the UN, and that any changes in and concerning Kosovo must have the support of the Security Council.

A peace agreement must bring in all the surrounding entities and interests. The Kosovo conflict is part of the wider issue of relations between Slavs and Albanians in much the same way as the Bosnian conflict was part of the wider conflict between Serb and Croat interests. And the longer that conflict is open, the more dangerous it risks becoming.

And we must make clear to all concerned, that a peace agreement can only be successful if it meets the minimum demands of everyone, while meeting the maximum demands of no one. There has to be an element of compromise in any peace agreement.

To start to face the issues of peace in the Balkans will be a key task for policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic. And if they fail in this, they should know that they are likely to be faced with issues of war instead.

The Balkans was the first area where we large-scale encountered the new challenges of the new era. We must learn from the failures there when it comes to developing policies for other areas.

Although often talked about, we have so far not been successful in setting up the structures for alerting us to the dangers ahead, and trying to develop and implement the policies necessary to avert them.

Intelligence agencies write reports. Diplomats talk about what might happen. Journalists write about the dangers ahead. But very seldom is all of this translated into concrete action on the ground, or comprehensive strategies bringing the Europeans, the Americans and others - when called for - together in common action.

There are numerous reasons for this. Our national security structures are still oriented primarily towards military challenges that should be meet by military means. And we also have the fact that very many of the challenges we see ahead are challenges inside traditional states or the result of what we called failed states.

Although I strongly support moves to increase military cooperation in the European Union, and to strengthen forces more generally, I am concerned with the risk of an imbalance between the development of software and the development of hardware in the years ahead.

We need the hardware of military forces. But we even more need the software of policies and programs without which hardware becomes irrelevant if not outright dangerous. We need to develop the policy institutions and the political instruments.

This need is obviously particularly obvious in the European Union. But we also need to look more carefully at strengthening the global instrument that is the United Nations.

And there is an urgent need to start to address the question of the software differences that are obvious across the Atlantic. We cannot have different operating systems guiding the way in which we act and react.

In the Balkans, we have seen the one side of the Atlantic talking about short and sharp air operations as the key to success, while the other side has tended to stress the necessity of long-term and messy operations on the ground as the only way to really achieve something. And there is a risk of these strains increasing in the years ahead.

The challenges to peace and stability around us are obvious. Seen from the European perspective, there is an arch of instability stretching from Agadir on the Atlantic in the West to Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea in the East.

Here, we are faced with issues that are hardly new, in very many cases the legacies of the Empires of the past, but which we tend to see as new because they are not the ones our still present structures of security were designed to deal with.


Bildt Blog Comments

In addition to this webpage, and the email letters ongoing since 1994, I have now started a blog as well.

You find it at

At you will continue to find articles, speeches and different documents.

At the blog there will be the shorter and perhaps somewhat faster comments.

And the e-letter continues to give at the least an attempt at analys.

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