66. The Serbian Information Centre argues that
"the so called Rambouillet negotiations were doomed from
the start because nobody believed the Milosevic regime any more,
and because a decision to punish Serbia by an armed attack had,
at that time, already been made."
One interpretation of the oral evidence given to us by FCO officials
is that they never really believed that Milosevic would sign at
Rambouillet, but that as Dr Jones Parry told us, "we had
to go through a process",
presumably with the aim of promoting unity among the international
community in favour of military action by showing that Milosevic
was unwilling to negotiate.
Sir John Goulden told us that "we were at the sceptical end
of the spectrum of NATO about the Holbrooke Agreement."
This scepticism apparently continued at Rambouillet: according
to the FCO "the UK was under no illusions about the difficulty
of the task at Rambouillet."
This is not necessarily a criticism of the FCO, given Milosevic's
track record, and seeing that the subsidiary aim of promoting
alliance unity was reasonable under the circumstances.
67. However, regardless of whether a negotiated
settlement was expected or not, NATO needed the Kosovo Albanians
to sign the agreement. Primarily, this was because without this
there was no hope for a negotiated settlement, the optimal outcome
from NATO's point of view. But it was also because unless Milosevic
could be blamed for the collapse of the talks, it would be difficult
to justify the use of force against him, andin NATO's eyeswithout
the start of a military campaign, attacks on the Kosovo Albanians
could continue unhindered. The next best outcome was therefore
that the Kosovo Albanians would sign and Milosevic would not.
If neither side signed, the killing would continue, and it would
have been difficult for NATO to do anything about it. It was therefore
necessary to tilt in favour of the Kosovo Albaniansand
as we discuss above, the USA was prepared to tilt further than
the United Kingdom-French co-chairs.
68. Another criticism of the Rambouillet package
was that there were threats made to Milosevic, but no inducements
offered. However, we were told by Dr Jones Parry that "we
made it quite clear throughout Rambouillet what was on offer by
way of eventually lifting the outer wall of sanctions, provided
that Kosovo was solved, provided that we could see a democratic
future for FRY."
Mr Donnelly went on to say that Milosevic "showed not the
in the inducements offered to him by Mr Holbrooke.
69. Dr Levitin, from a Russian perspective, argues
that "the collapse of Rambouillet had nothing to do with
the quality of Hill's [USA negotiator] political drafts: they
offered a realistic compromise and an applicable provisional solution."
Professor Roberts told us that "on the main text of the Agreement
proper...it was not unreasonable."
Of course, the central issue is whether the agreement could have
been accepted by Milosevic. As well as the inducements offered
to Milosevic referred to above, the Foreign Secretary told us:
"the Rambouillet peace process did envisage...an assembly
with remarkable over-generous representation for the Serb population,
and had the Serb side accepted Rambouillet they would be in a
much better position now."
One view, from Jonathan Steele, was that Rambouillet "was
well judged, if Milosevic had been a normal politician, but he
is not, he is a war criminal."
According to this lineand it is a variation of one we have
heard from many sourcesMilosevic was not susceptible to
threats that his country would be bombed, because he did not care
about his people, or at least, he cared about maintaining his
own position more, and agreeing to Rambouillet would have been
more dangerous to his position than NATO launching a bombing campaign.
70. Dame Pauline Neville-Jones told us: "I
suspect by [Rambouillet] he regarded the Western position as being
one where this negotiation was a disguised way of getting an international
presence on to Serb soil which would lead to the separation of
Kosovo from Serbia, and he was not going to have that. It was
easier to be bombed and show the national strength and willingness
to defend the national integrity than actually to be put in the
position that this lot came in and outwitted him and took his
Tim Judah argued that Milosevic believedpresumably because
many of NATO's leaders believed the same, as we discuss belowthat
the bombing campaign would last only a few days, and that he could
withstand this: "Milosevic decided to gamble and he lost
On this reading, the problem was not with the reasonableness or
otherwise of the Rambouillet package, but partly that it was difficult
to threaten Milosevic because of his lack of concern for his people
and his country, and partly that the NATO threat lacked credibility.
Jane Sharp told us that she was "sure that Milosevic would
not sign Rambouillet because he was getting assurances from the
Russians of various things."
One of these was presumably that UN Security Council approval
for military action would be blocked, and on past practice it
was perhaps a reasonable assumption that NATO would not proceed
without this authorisation. Again, the issue turns, not upon whether
the Rambouillet package was reasonable or not, but on whether
Milosevic really believed that he would be bombed hard and long
enough to do serious damage, or whether he faced the prospect
of a ground assault, which as the FCO itself admitted to us, probably
contributed to him giving up Kosovo in the end.
The Foreign Secretary himself told us: "the fact is we had
a very clear impression that President Milosevic did not believe
that we would take military action and, because of that, was not
willing to participate fully in the peace process."
We conclude that considerable efforts were made to find a peaceful
means of averting the Kosovo crisis. Leaving aside the Military
Annex, a matter not raised at the negotiation, the Rambouillet
proposals were reasonable. Milosevic was not reasonable, but despite
this, it was worth making a determined effort to find a diplomatic