THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
||June 10, 1999
ADDRESS TO THE NATION BY THE PRESIDENT
The Oval Office
8:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans, tonight for the first time 79 days,
the skies over Yugoslavia are silent. The Serb army and police are withdrawing
from Kosovo. The one million men, women and children driven from their land are
preparing to return home. The demands of an outraged and united international
community have been met.
I can report to the American people that we have achieved a victory for
a safer world, for our democratic values and for a stronger America. Our pilots
have returned to base. The air strikes have been suspended. Aggression against
an innocent people has been contained, and is being turned back.
When I ordered our armed forces into combat, we had three clear goals:
to enable the Kosovar people, the victims of some of the most vicious atrocities
in Europe since the Second World War, to return to their homes with safety and
self-government; to require Serbian forces responsible for those atrocities to
leave Kosovo; and to deploy and international security force, with NATO at its
core, to protect all the people of that troubled land -- Serbs and Albanians,
alike. Those goals will be achieved. Unnecessary conflict has been brought to
a just and honorable conclusion.
The result will be security and dignity for the people of Kosovo,
achieved by an alliance that stood together in purpose and resolve, assisted by
the diplomatic efforts of Russia. This victory brings a new hope that when a
people are singled out for destruction because of their heritage and religious
faith, and we can do something about it, the world will not look the other way.
I want to express my profound gratitude to the men and women of our
Armed Forces and those of our allies. Day after day, night after night they
flew, risking their lives to attack their targets and to avoid civilian
casualties when they were fired upon from populated areas. I ask every American
to join me in saying to them, thank you, you've made us very proud.
I'm also grateful to the American people for standing against the awful
ethnic cleansing, for sending generous assistance to the refugees and for
opening your hearts and your homes to the innocent victims who came here.
I want to speak with you for a few moments tonight about why we fought,
what we achieved and what we have to do now to advance the peace, and together
with the people of the Balkans, forge a future of freedom, progress and harmony.
We should remember that the violence we responded to in
Kosovo was the culmination of a 10-year campaign by Slobodan
Milosevic, the leader of Serbia, to exploit ethnic and religious
differences in order to impose his will on the lands of the
former Yugoslavia. That's what he tried to do in Croatia and in
Bosnia, and now in Kosovo. The world saw the terrifying
consequences. Five hundred villages burned. Men of all ages
separated from their loved ones to be shot and buried in mass
graves; women raped; children made to watch their parents die. A
whole people forced to abandon, in hours, communities their
families had spent generations building.
For these atrocities, Mr. Milosevic and his top aides have
been indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal for war
crimes and crimes against humanity. I will never forget the
Kosovar refugees I recently met. Some of them could barely talk
about what they had been through. All they had left was hope
that the world would not turn its back.
When our diplomatic efforts to avert this horror were
rebuffed and the violence mounted, we and our allies chose to
act. Mr. Milosevic continued to do terrible things to the people
of Kosovo, but we were determined to turn him back. Our firmness
finally as brought and end to a vicious campaign of ethnic
cleansing, and we acted early enough to reverse it -- to enable
the Kosovars to go home.
When they do, they will be safe. They will be able to
reopen their schools, speak their language, practice their
religion, choose their leaders and shape their destiny. There'll
be no more days of foraging for food in the cold of mountains and
forests; no more nights of hiding in cellars, wondering if the
next day will bring death or deliverance. They will know that
Mr. Milosevic's army and paramilitary forces will be gone, his
10-year campaign of repression finished.
NATO has achieved this success as a united alliance, ably
led by Secretary General Solana and General Clark. Nineteen
democracies came together and stayed together through the
stiffest military challenge in NATO's 50-year history.
We also preserved our critically important partnership with
Russia, thanks to President Yeltsin, who opposed our military
effort but supported diplomacy to end the conflict on terms that
met our conditions. I'm grateful to Russian envoy Chernomyrdin
and Finnish President Ahtisaari for their work, and to Vice
President Gore for the key role he played in putting their
partnership together. Now, I hope Russian troops will join us in
the force that will keep the peace in Kosovo, just as they have
Finally, we have averted the wider war this conflict might
well have sparked. The countries of southeastern Europe backed
the NATO campaign, helped the refugees and showed the world there
is more compassion than cruelty in this troubled region. This
victory makes it all the more likely that they will choose a
future of democracy, fair treatment of minorities and peace.
Now we're entering a new phase: building that peace -- and
there are formidable challenges. First, we must be sure the
Serbian authorities meet their commitments. We are prepared to
resume our military campaign should they fail to do so.
Next, we must get the Kosovar refugees home safely: mine
fields will have to be cleared; homes destroyed by Serb forces
will have to be rebuilt; homeless people in need of food and
medicine will have to get them; the fate of the missing will have
to be determined; the Kosovar Liberation Army will have to
demilitarize, as it has agreed to do. And we in the peacekeeping
force will have to ensure that Kosovo is a safe place to live for
all its citizens -- ethnic Serbs, as well as ethnic Albanians.
For these things to happen, security must be established.
To that end, some 50,000 troops from almost 30 countries will
deploy to Kosovo. Our European allies will provide the vast
majority of them; America will contribute about 7,000. We are
grateful that during NATO's air campaign we did not lose a single
serviceman in combat. But this next phase also will be
dangerous. Bitter memories will still be fresh -- and there may
well be casualties. So we have made sure that the force going
into Kosovo will have NATO command and control and rules of
engagement set by NATO. It will have the means and the mandate
to protect itself while doing its job.
In the meantime, the United Nations will organize a civilian
administration while preparing the Kosovars to govern and police
themselves. As local institutions take hold, NATO will be able
to turn over increasing responsibility to them and draw down its
A third challenge will be to put in place a plan for lasting
peace and stability in Kosovo and through all the Balkans. For
that to happen, the European Union and the United States must
plan for tomorrow, not just today. We must help to give the
democracies of Southeastern Europe a path to a prosperous, shared
future -- a unifying magnet more powerful than the pull of hatred
and destruction that has threatened to tear them apart. Our
European partners must provide most of the resources for this
effort, but it is in America's interest to do our part, as well.
A final challenge will be to encourage Serbia to join its
neighbors in this historic journey to a peaceful, democratic,
I want to say a few words to the Serbian people tonight. I
know that you, too, have suffered in Mr. Milosevic's wars. You
should know that your leaders could have kept Kosovo as a part of
your country without driving a single Kosovar family from its
home, without killing a single adult or child, without inviting a
single NATO bomb to fall on your country. You endured 79 days of
bombing, not to keep Kosovo a province of Serbia, but simply
because Mr. Milosevic was determined to eliminate Kosovar
Albanians from Kosovo, dead or alive.
As long as he remains in power, as long as your nation is
ruled by an indicted war criminal, we will provide no support for
the reconstruction of Serbia. But we are ready to provide
humanitarian aid now, and to help to build a better future for
Serbia, too, when its government represents tolerance and
freedom, not repression and terror.
My fellow Americans, all these challenges are substantial,
but they are far preferable to the challenges of war and
continued instability in Europe. We have sent a message of
determination and hope to all the world. Think of all the
millions of innocent people who died in this bloody century
because democracies reacted too late to evil and aggression.
Because of our resolve, the 20th century is ending not with
helpless indignation, but with a hopeful affirmation of human
dignity and human rights for the 21st century.
In a world too divided by fear among people of different
racial, ethnic and religious groups, we have given confidence to
the friends of freedom, and pause to those who would exploit
human difference for inhuman purposes.
America still faces great challenges in this world, but we
look forward to meeting them. So, tonight, I ask you to be proud
of your country, and very proud of the men and women who serve it
in uniform -- for in Kosovo, we did the right thing. We did it
the right way. And we will finish the job.
Good night, and may God bless our wonderful United States of
END 8:12 P.M. EDT