Chapter 22. The Rambouillet Accord: Pretext for a War of Aggression

By Richard Becker, San Francisco

The Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal, adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations in 1950, defines Crimes against Peace in Principle VI: Crimes against Peace:

(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

The Nuremberg Final Declaration in 1946 stated that a "crime against peace is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime." The death sentences of several Nazi leaders, including Hermann Goering, were based upon their convictions for crimes against peace.

The conduct of the "negotiations" prior to March 24, 1999 (the beginning of the U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslavia), and the content of the proposed Rambouillet Accord, indicate that the governments of the United States and its NATO allies are guilty of Crimes against Peace under the above sections.

In explaining why they launched a devastating bombing war against Yugoslavia, President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other U.S. and NATO leaders repeatedly attempted to place the blame on the Belgrade government for refusing to negotiate and failing to sign the Rambouillet agreement.

In a major speech on March 23, 1999 justifying the war that the U.S. was about to initiate, Clinton told the AFSCME union convention that "President Milosevic refused even to discuss key elements of the agreement."

The reality was very different. NATO presented the Rambouillet Accord to Yugoslavia as an ultimatum. It was a "take it or leave it" proposition as Albright and other officials often emphasized in February 1999. There were, in fact, no real negotiations.

The accord provided Kosovo with a very broad form of autonomy. A province of Serbia, one of two republics (along with Montenegro) that make up present-day Yugoslavia, Kosovo would have its own parliament, president, prime minister, supreme court and security forces under Rambouillet. The new Kosovo government would be able to negate laws of the federal and Serbian republic legislatures and conduct its own foreign policy. The agreement was to be enforced by 28,000 NATO troops.

The Yugoslav government indicated its willingness to accept the autonomy part of the agreement. It rejected the occupation of Yugoslavia by NATO as a violation of its sovereignty, but indicated its willingness to consider alternative international "peacekeeping" forces.

The U.S. rejected any negotiation on this point. On February 21, 1999, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared in Rambouillet: "We accept nothing less than a complete agreement, including a NATO-led force." On CNN the same day, Albright was asked: "Does it have to be [a] NATO-led force, or as some have suggested, perhaps a UN-led force or an OSCE force? Does it specifically have to be NATO-run?" She replied: "The United States position is that it has to be a NATO-led force. That is the basis of our participation in it."

Two days later, Albright repeated this position at a press conference: "It was asked earlier, when we were all together, whether the force could be anything different than a NATO-led force. I can just tell you point blank from the perspective of the United States, absolutely not, it must be a NATO-led force."

Over the next month, this position was repeated many times by State Department officials. The U.S. refused to allow the Serbs to sign the political agreement until they first agreed to a NATO-led force to implement it.

"The Serbs have been acting as if there are two documents but they can't pick and choose," Albright said, according to a French Press Agency report of March 13, 1999. "There is no way to have the political document without the implementation force that has to be NATO-led.... If they are not willing to engage on the military and police chapters, there is no agreement." (FAIR Media Advisory, May 14, 1999)

In a New York Times article dated April 8, 1999, Steven Erlanger wrote: "Just before the bombing, when [the Serbian Parliament] rejected NATO troops in Kosovo, it also supported the idea of a United Nations force to monitor a political settlement there."

The NATO leaders were clearly fixed on war and dismissive of anything that might interfere with their military plans. On March 24, 1999, the day the bombing started, State Department spokesperson James Rubin was asked at a press conference about the Serbian parliament's offer to consider an international force:

Question: "Was there any follow-up to the Serbian Assembly yesterday? They had a two-pronged decision. One was to not allow NATO troops to come in; but the second part was to say they would consider an international force if all of the Kosovo ethnic groups agreed to some kind of a peace plan. It was an ambiguous collection of resolutions. Did anybody try to pursue that and find out what was the meaning of that?"

Rubin: "Ambassador Holbrooke was in Belgrade, discussed these matters extensively with President Milosevic, left with the conclusion that he was not prepared to engage seriously on the two relevant subjects. I think the decision of the Serb Parliament opposing military-led implementation was the message that most people received from the parliamentary debate. I'm not aware that people saw any silver linings."

Question: "But there was a second message, as well; there was a second resolution."

Rubin: "I am aware that there was work done, but I'm not aware that anybody in this building regarded it as a silver lining."

Provisions of Rambouillet

In addition to its publicized aspects, the Rambouillet Accord contained many provisions that are extraordinary in their intrusiveness and violation of Yugoslavia’s sovereignty. Most of these provisions have never been mentioned in the mainstream media in the United States. A brief (and non-comprehensive) survey of some of the accords’ articles follows.

Chapter 4a, Article I -- "The economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles." Kosovo, it should be noted, is rich in mineral resources like gold, silver, mercury, molybdenum and other ores. Most of the mines were state-owned or joint ventures. Why it was necessary to stipulate the character of Kosovo’s projected new economy has never been publicly explained.

Chapter 5, Article V -- "The Chief of the Implementation Mission (CIM) shall be the final authority in theater regarding interpretation of the civilian aspects of this Agreement, and the Parties agree to abide by his determinations as binding on all Parties and persons." The CIM is to be appointed by the European Union countries.

Chapter 7, Article XV -- "The KFOR [NATO] commander is the final authority in theater regarding interpretation of this Chapter and his determinations are binding on all Parties and persons." This chapter refers to all military matters.

Together the CIM and the NATO commanders were to be given complete dictatorial powers, the right to overturn elections, shut down organizations and media, and overrule any decisions made by the Kosovo, Serbia or federal governments.

Appendix B

Appendix B, the "Status of the Multi-National Military Implementation Force," includes even more intrusive provisions for Yugoslavia as a whole.

Section 6a. "NATO shall be immune from all legal process, whether civil, administrative, or criminal." Section 6b. "NATO personnel, under all circumstances and at all times, shall be immune from the Parties’ jurisdiction in respect of any civil, administrative, criminal or disciplinary offenses that may be committed by them in the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)." Section 7. "NATO personnel shall be immune from any form of arrest, investigation, or detention by the authorities in the FRY."

Together, Sections 6 and 7 comprise the old colonial concept of "extraterritoriality," under which the colonizers were immune from being tried by the courts of the occupied country.

What followed next was even more intrusive, and indeed, must be seen as the key section of the entire agreement:

Section 8: "NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations."

This astounding provision, for NATO to occupy not just Kosovo, but all of Yugoslavia, was never reported in the corporate media here during the period leading up to the war.

Section 11: "NATO is granted the use of airports, roads, rails, and ports without payment of fees, duties, dues, tolls, or charges occasioned by mere use."

Section 15: "The Parties (Yugoslav government) shall, upon simple request, grant all telecommunications services, including broadcast services, needed for the Operation, as determined by NATO. This shall include the right to utilize such means and services as required to assure full ability to communicate and the right to use all of the electromagnetic spectrum for this purpose, free of cost."

Section 22: "NATO may, in the conduct of the Operation, have need to make improvements or modifications to certain infrastructure in the FRY, such as roads, bridges, tunnels, buildings, and utility systems."

The Rambouillet accord required that Yugoslavia allow NATO unfettered access to any and all parts of the country's territory, with all costs to be borne by the host country. The accord blatantly violated Yugoslavia's sovereignty in so provocative a manner that it could not have been accidental.

Clearly, U.S. policymakers never intended for Yugoslavia's leadership to sign this document. It was just another step in the preparation for war. The role of Rambouillet in this process was to put the onus on the Yugoslav side for the failure to achieve a peaceful resolution, in order to justify the massive bombing of the entire country.

In the June 14 issue of the Nation, George Kenney, a former State Department Yugoslavia desk officer, wrote:

"An unimpeachable press source who regularly travels with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told this [writer] that, swearing reporters to deep-background confidentiality at the Rambouillet talks, a senior State Department official had bragged that the United States "deliberately set the bar higher than the Serbs could accept."

Kenney's account was supported by Jim Jatras, a foreign policy aide to Senate Republicans, who reported in a May 18 speech at the Cato Institute in Washington that he had it "on good authority" that a senior Administration official told media at Rambouillet the following: "We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need some bombing and that's what they are going to get."

In an interview on Pacifica Radio’s "Democracy Now" program on June 2, 1999, Kenney said that the "senior State Department official" in his article was Secretary of State Albright.

Both Kenney and Jatras state that they have seen the reporter's notes with exact quotes.

The other leading NATO powers have collaborated with the U.S. administration in planning the war of aggression against Yugoslavia, a country that has not threatened any other state. As one example, the German Foreign Ministry, headed by Green Party leader Joschka Fischer, justified Germany’s intervention in Kosovo by references to a "humanitarian catastrophe," "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" occurring in the year prior to March 24, 1999. Yet, intelligence reports from its own Foreign Office, and from various regional Administrative Courts in Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg, Munster, Mainz and elsewhere in Germany, during the year before the start of NATO strikes, repeatedly and amply testify to the lack of any such dire circumstances. (Junge Welt daily newspaper, April 24, 1999).

Moreover, all of the NATO leaders collaborated with the U.S. State Department in blocking any real negotiations at Rambouillet.

In conclusion, the content of the Rambouillet Accord and the conduct of the U.S. and other NATO leaders in the period leading up to March 24, 1999, presents clear evidence of Crimes against Peace, Principle VI, section (i) and (ii) under the Nuremberg Principles.



Commission of Inquiry
c/o International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
phone: 212 633-6646
fax: 212 633-2889


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