NATO Chief: Kosovo Peace 'On Razor's Edge'

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

Washington ( - NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson said on Tuesday that the alliance's efforts to instill peace in the war-torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo is "on the razor's edge" between success and failure and urged the United States not to succumb to Balkan fatigue.

"A huge amount has been achieved to bring normality and peace and decency back to Kosovo," Robertson told policy makers and members of the media at the National Press Club on the 51st anniversary of NATO's founding. "But more, much more, still needs to be done."

European nations provide 80 percent of all the forces for the Kosovo Force (KFOR). Of some 45,000 troops in Kosovo, the United States has provided roughly 6,000, less than 15 percent of the total, Robertson said.

The European nations are picking up the lion's share of the reconstruction efforts in the Balkans. The European Union has provided $16.5 billion to this region since 1991 and has budgeted nearly $12 billion more for the next six years, he said.

"Underlying it all, the reason why NATO, at 51 years of age, should still matter to the United States is that, even in the very different world of today, Europe and North America share the same values.

"NATO is an unprecedented community of nations that is based on liberty, democracy, the rule of law, honest politics and of fundamental human rights, and, with Europe and North America acting together to defend these values, they do secure the future of generations still to come," Robertson said.

Robertson attempted to stifle criticism that NATO has not made much progress as a peacekeeping force.

Since the end of the 78-day NATO air war last spring, which drove the Serb forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic out of Kosovo, the Kosovo Liberation Army has been disarmed and turned into the Kosovo Protection Corps, Robertson said. In addition, some 300,000 children are back at school, local police are being trained and 200,000 houses destroyed principally by Serb forces are being rebuilt.

"We have to succeed ... for a whole series of reasons, but most of all, because we want to create a model ... for what the international community can do in stopping evil and rebuilding a healthy, ethnic, democratic society," Robertson said.

The United Nations took charge of running Kosovo after the war led to the withdrawal of troops loyal to Milosevic.

Commenting on the arrest of Memcilo Krajisnik, the most senior war crimes suspect ever to be arrested in the Balkans by KFOR personnel, Robertson said authorities are working to "gradually, one by one" arrest all those indicted for war crimes.

"It does take time because a lot of people are in hiding, a lot of people are in exile," Robertson said. "But we will arrest them when the time is right. ... We will continue relentlessly."