|U.S. Policy Toward the Balkans |
U.S. Policy Toward the Balkans
"Dialogue" with Deputy Assistant Secretary Janet Bogue. U.S. policy in the former Yugoslav republic (FYR) of Macedonia, and throughout the Balkan region, was the topic of a State Department interactive television program from Washington October 9 with Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Janet Bogue. Source: Transcript: State Department TV Program on U.S. Policy in FYR Macedonia (Washington File, EUR513), U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., October 12, 2001.
"Our policy toward the Balkans on the U.S. side has been one of long-term engagement," she said. "And that commitment has not changed in light of September 11th."
Interacting with viewers in three cities in Russia, Bogue discussed various U.S. programs designed to support political stability, economic reforms, refugee returns, and similar issues in FYR Macedonia and elsewhere in the Balkans. She also fielded a number of questions, including several about reports of suspected terrorist activity in the Balkans that might be connected to the al Qaeda network headed by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden.
"Well, obviously we would want to disrupt bin Laden activities all over the world," she said, noting that is President Bush's plainly-stated goal.
"In the case of the Balkans," she added, "we will obviously be concerned to assure that there is not international support for terrorism there, just like we are concerned to ensure that there is not local support for terrorism there."
Following is a transcript of the State Department program: (begin transcript)
"Dialogue": Unites States Department of State, Office of Broadcast Services, Washington, D.C.
- Guest: Janet Bogue, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State
- Topic: Crisis in Macedonia
- Posts: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinberg
- Host: Rick Foucheux
- Date: October 9, 2001
- Time: 09:00 - 10:00 EDT
Announcer: On September 27th, ethnic Albanian rebels formally disbanded in Macedonia as NATO's British and Spanish troops completed its Operation Harvest mission, collecting arms from the guerrillas there. The troops amassed over 3,000 weapons, almost 400,000 mines, explosives and ammunition items in accordance with the August 13th peace agreement signed by leaders of Macedonia's four political parties. The agreement ended over six months of intermittent warfare between Albanian rebels and Slavic-dominated government forces.
On September 24th, under the plan, in exchange for guerrilla disarmament, Macedonia's parliament approved 15 constitutional amendments to grant broader rights for the minority Albanians.
Mr. Foucheux: Hello, and welcome to "Dialogue," I am Rick Foucheux. To ensure the protection of international monitors overseeing the implementation of the peace plan in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, NATO agreed on September 27th to deploy 700 more troops under German leadership. And on September 28th, the OSCE decided to expand the number of its confidence-building monitors, police advisors and trainers, as well as other international support staffs, so that peace and stability continue to be maintained in the Balkan country. Still to be determined are issues that jeopardize peace, such as whether to grant amnesty to ethnic Albanians.
Here today in our Washington studio, to discuss the causes and consequences of the crisis in Macedonia, and Macedonian peace, we welcome our distinguished guest, Ms. Janet Bogue, deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs at the U.S. Department of State. We also welcome our participants who are standing by in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Yekaterinberg. But before we join them, Ms. Bogue, welcome to the program. It's a pleasure to have you.
Ms. Bogue: Thank you very much.
Mr. Foucheux: Do you have any opening remarks for us?
Ms. Bogue: I would just want to say how happy I am to be participating in this. We have had a lot of good strong consultations with our Russian diplomatic colleagues, and so it's a real pleasure to have a chance to join in a conversation with colleagues from journalism, and talk about the situation in the Balkans altogether. And I'd be very happy to take questions about other issues in the Balkans, in addition to Macedonia.
Mr. Foucheux: And taking questions is what we are all about. So let's begin. We join now our participants who are standing by in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinberg. Please go ahead in Moscow with your first question.
Q: Yes, good day -- (inaudible). Last week we know there was some discord between Macedonia and the U.S. representative who -- and the meeting ended with some difficulty. What they talked about is that Mr. Pardew should become a persona non grata. All of this happened once the Macedonian security forces were brought in. What is the situation now in Macedonia-U.S. relations, and what is the American position on the security in the whole region? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: Thank you. U.S.-Macedonian relations remain very positive. I think any time that you are in a situation of negotiations, there are always bumps on the road, we might say. And it's a long and difficult process for everyone. But our relationship remains very strong. And I think evidence of that is that yesterday President Trajkovski issued a very strong statement in support of United States actions and U.S. and British actions in Afghanistan, and emphasized how strongly Macedonia supports U.S. efforts in this regard. So I think that overall our relationship is very strong. We support strongly the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia, and are working very hard to make that succeed.
Obviously it is a very difficult time in Macedonia, and I think sometimes, as I said, during the course of negotiations tempers flare. But Ambassador Pardew is there. He is working. He has not been declared persona non grata. I think that was a story or rumor that got away and has no basis in fact.
If I might follow up on your question a little bit about our goals for the whole region, they really are the same throughout the region. We would like to see peace be self-sustaining throughout the Balkans. We would like to see the countries of the Balkans be at peace not only within their own borders internally, but at peace with their neighbors, and on the road to becoming typical European states. And I think our Russian colleagues share that view very much, that we would like to see them develop politically and economically in ways that make them just part of the normal European experience.
We have seen that happen in many states, where the initial work of just stopping the fighting, helping refugees return, alleviating the immediate humanitarian crises, has really ended. And throughout the Balkans in most places the real work now is on things like political and economic reform.
Mr. Foucheux: We thank you in Moscow for that opening question. Let's move on now to St. Petersburg for your first question. Welcome to the program. Please go ahead in St. Petersburg.
Q: (Off mike) -- Agency. Tell me please, do you think it's correct and proper when the West -- in particular the European Union, NATO, the United States -- are imposing reforms on a country which respond to their interests and are set up as ultimatums instead of providing economic assistance? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: Well, there are several things I would like to say in response to that. First of all, the agreement was actually made between or among the four elected parties in Macedonia, the four main parliamentary parties, two of which are Slav-dominated parties and two are Albanian-dominated parties. And they are the signatories to the agreement -- that's an agreement which they have made with one another. It's not a case of NATO, the EU and the U.S. imposing that settlement upon them. The U.S. and EU acted as facilitators of the negotiation, at the request of the Macedonian government. Both the NATO initial deployment to collect weapons, the Task Force Essential Harvest, and the current deployment, Task Force Fox, which is to provide security for international monitors, are there at the request of the government of Macedonia.
I think it's quite a different situation than we have seen in the past in the Balkans where there was effectively a collapse of authority or no state authority. Here you have a government which has its own sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is working with international institutions. And I would just like to include in the list you mentioned very much the OSCE. And they are working together to try to solve a particular political problem in their country. There's no question that it is a very different approach on the part of NATO for instance than you would have seen in Bosnia or Kosovo. The NATO mandates in the case of Macedonia are very limited, limited in both time and scope of their activity, and they are there to do at the request of the government certain specific things in order to assist in the process of achieving a political settlement which is agreed by the Macedonian parties to be the goal, which is to find a political settlement to a particular crisis in their country.
Mr. Foucheux: Thank you, St. Petersburg. Yekaterinberg, let's move on to you now for your opening question. Please go ahead in Yekaterinberg.
Q: Professor Kuzymin (ph) from the university here in the Urals. I have a question which brings us back to the beginning of the situation. I would like to ask what was known to the U.S. administration concerning this situation of the Albanian population in Macedonia before the crisis began? What could you tell us about that, please? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: I think that before the crisis began -- in other words, more than six months ago -- we and other states and organizations were providing a significant amount of assistance, economic assistance and other kinds to Macedonia. We were also working with them, as were other institutions, including the OSCE, on questions of ethnicity and relations within the state. And I think that what we have seen in the course of both the crisis and the course of the negotiations is that there certainly were some aspirations for political and social involvement and development among the Albanian community that had not been met.
We think that the framework agreement that is now being considered in the parliament is very much a way of answering those aspirations. It's been agreed by all the parties, Macedonian and Albanian parties. And I think that the fulfillment of this framework agreement will really be a key to ensuring that the Albanian population has the full political participation.
I would just note also that, again, the OSCE was involved in this process, and the provisions of the framework agreement, whether they are on language issues or various other kinds of issues involving national minorities, are very much in keeping with OSCE principles and with practices that exist in other European states as well.
I ought to probably return, as you mentioned economic issues, and I probably failed to answer a previous question fully, which was on economic support. And I would just reiterate that is something we provided in the past to Macedonia, and of course will continue to provide in the future as well to assist Macedonia as it makes an economic transition as well as a political transition.
Mr. Foucheux: Thank you, Yekaterinberg. And now we return to Moscow for another round of questions. Please go ahead once more in Moscow.
Q: I am from Interfax, Vladimir Kulikov (ph). It's not a secret that Moscow, at least up until very recent times, was calling Albanian rebels, as you say in Washington -- we were calling them terrorists here. Well, in the light of the recent events, the tragic events in the United States, and the beginning of the anti-terrorist campaign, how would you now characterize the current view of the issue of the Balkans, on Kosovo, on Macedonia -- these crisis areas? Are these rebels now, or perhaps there is an element of terrorists that are here in these groups? Thank you for your comments.
Ms. Bogue: Thank you. And I want to make an important distinction, starting with Macedonia on this issue. The Macedonian framework agreement was signed by four leaders of political parties. Two of those were leaders of political parties which are dominated by ethnic Albanians. And these people are democratically-elected representatives, members of parliament, members of the government, members of the coalition government. And those were the parties to the agreement. Those who were in the so-called NLA, the fighters, are not a party to this agreement. We consistently on the United States' side from the beginning condemned the fighting, condemned acts of aggression or terrorism by them, and urged them to stop and lay down their arms and come to a peaceful political settlement. But the Albanians with whom we were working on this issue were democratically-elected representatives who sit in parliament, are members of the government, and are recognized political leaders in Macedonia.
We do have -- as you say, currently we are engaged in a worldwide campaign against terrorism, and terrorists with a global reach, as President Bush has said. We are concerned worldwide. We are not -- this is not just about Afghanistan certainly. It is about terrorism wherever we find it. And we have made that case in the Balkans as well. I mean, we have put out a very strong message that terrorism will not be tolerated. And we have worked very hard, as we have in the past, to try to ensure that there is not funding or international support for terrorist action in the Balkans.
And I would just point out that long before the events of September 11th -- in fact, last summer in late June -- it was the United States that issued executive orders which banned certain extremists in the Balkans from obtaining visas to visit the United States and banned any kind of fundraising or money transfers from the United States to those individuals and to those organizations. And we did this precisely to try to stop support for armed extremist elements which were committing those kinds of acts. That all happened well before September 11th, and it's something that we have been working to oppose in the Balkans, any kind of terrorist activity, any kind of activity that destabilizes the region and threatens innocent people is something we very strongly oppose -- that's true before September 11th, that's true after September 11th. I think that after September 11th people may be more attuned to that in a sense that you may be -- it may be something that you are noticing more, but in fact this is something that we have been very involved with for some time.
Q: National Information Service. My name is Yuri. Ms. Bogue, do you consider that the current situation in Afghanistan, and the calls of the Muslim extremists to a jihad can negatively impact on the world view of those Albanian parties that at the present time are cooperating with the government in Macedonia? How do you assess this situation within these parties? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: Thank you. I am not sure that that will be the case. I think that we have made it very, very clear that we are in a war against terrorism. We are not in a war against Islam. We do not equate Islam with terrorism anywhere in the world. We are strongly supporting an effort in Macedonia to reach a political settlement, peaceful, political negotiated settlement to a crisis. And that includes the Albanian parties in the government of Macedonia and in the parliament of Macedonia. And they have been full parties to that. We have certainly not seen on our side, I think, any sort of rejection to those parties, or any parties anywhere else in the world, on the basis of their being Islamic. Once again over the weekend, as you know, we have been dropping food into Afghanistan in part to make sure that it's clear in that part of the world as well that our quarrel is not with Islamic people, Muslim people or Afghan people. Our quarrel is pure and simple with terrorists.
Q: Ms. Bogue, returning to the problem of terrorism in Macedonia, as is known there are two armies -- the National Liberation Army and the army of Macedonia -- which -- and another one, which is the Albanian National Army, which does not recognize any agreements, any accords, and sets out as its goal the unification of all Albanian territories, including Kosovo, even Macedonian territories that are settled by Albanians. All of these events relating to September 11th -- are you looking at them in the context of waging a campaign against international terrorism? Are you applying this to Albania? Are you looking at their army, the national army, as a representative of an international terrorist organization? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: Again, just to clarify, as I understand your question is that in addition to the National Liberation Army, the so-called NLA, another armed Albanian extremist group appeared in the course of a conflict in Macedonia, which has been called the Albanian National Army. And you are asking if we are going to consider that as an international terrorist group? Is that correct?
Q: Yes, that's quite right.
Ms. Bogue: Thank you. Again, as I just mentioned, in the case of the Albanian extremist group -- in the case of the National Liberation Army, NLA, they made an agreement to lay down their weapons and to disband their forces. And the NATO Operation Essential Harvest came into Macedonia for a 30-day period with a sole purpose of collecting those weapons. And as we saw in the little introduction to the program very briefly, and as you have seen in other news reports, that collection did take place. NATO collected well over 3,300 weapons, and those weapons were destroyed. And the National Liberation Army groups, in accordance with the agreements that they had made then, turned in those weapons and disbanded their units.
It is true that there are other groups that operate in the Balkans, who have an interest in continued fighting, and are extremist groups. As I mentioned, we had acted already in June to ban -- put various kinds of sanctions on those groups. We have also acted with KFOR forces in Kosovo to interdict those groups when they try to take weapons or personnel munitions across the borders or boundary lines. And we have been working to find ways in which to assure that these groups are not able to conduct any kind of either fighting or terrorist activities in the future. And that is true throughout the Balkans, not only in Macedonia, but in Kosovo or southern Serbia as well. And we will continue to do so. As I said, this started well before September 11th and it continues now. And our goals are similar to those that you have heard us enunciate in other cases, which is to cut off funding, cut off availability of material to these groups, and make it impossible for them to operate and do actions which are destabilizing throughout the region.
Q: One more question, if you will allow me, Ms. Bogue. Tell me, please, is the American side carrying out any special measures or operations to identify the possible intentions that are aimed at carrying out this sort of battle by individual terrorist groups, which as you just recognized still exist in the Balkans? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: Again, that's an ongoing effort, an effort we have been making for some time, and will continue to make. Obviously I wouldn't get into details of those kinds of efforts. But it is something we have been working on for a very long time. We want to see a stable, peaceful situation in the region. We do not want to see any sorts of acts of terrorism or violence, and are committed to continuing to be engaged in the Balkans on any number of fronts, as I said political reform, economic reform, as well as issues of combatting terrorism.
Mr. Foucheux: Thank you in Moscow for those questions. Let's move on now to St. Petersburg for another round. Hello once again in St. Petersburg. Please go ahead with your next round of questions.
Q: Sergei Vatichev (ph). I will have two questions for you, if you will allow me. The first one is: Is the U.S. government planning to cooperate with Russia in any way to solve the Macedonian crisis? And, secondly, the representatives of the U.S. administration have stated that the matters which pertain to Afghanistan, that this whole action will not be limited to Afghanistan. How are we to understand that? Does that mean Iraq? Or will Macedonia be included in this action? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: In reply to your first question, we do in fact cooperate closely with our Russian counterparts on Macedonia and on other issues in the Balkans. We have regular opportunities to consult, both at the working level and at very high levels, on issues in the Balkans. And we will certainly continue to do so. In fact, we have had -- I think we share a great deal of common interests in seeing the kind of outcomes in the Balkans that provide for stability in the region, and regular participation by the Balkan states in normal European lives. And I am convinced from all my conversations with my Russian counterparts that your goals are very much the same. We consult both bilaterally with the Russian government; we also consult in the various international fora on that, whether it's OSCE or whether it's the United Nations and other kinds of international organizations.
Your second question was referring to, I think, press reports from the weekend that said that the United States had indicated that there might be action in other areas other than Afghanistan, and I really don't have any further comment on that. Obviously operations are ongoing, and we will see how they develop and where they develop. But I don't have any comment on that.
Q: Ms. Bogue, I am from the literary gazette here. You recognized and admitted that on the territory of Macedonia there are Albanian terrorists, and elsewhere in the Balkans as well. And at the same time you stated that the U.S. back last year took some preventive actions to combat terrorism -- for example, banning the entry into the United States and stopping financing. I would like to ask what sort of criteria will be used in regard to the Albanian groups that we mentioned earlier? Roughly speaking, should we wait until some sort of provocative actions would be taken by them before we render them harmless? And will these actions be compatible with those actions that the U.S. is undertaking under the operation of Enduring Freedom? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: As I said a little earlier, I think we have been trying for some time to put an end to the actions of all extremist groups throughout the Balkans. I mean, one of our goals there is that it be a stable situation in which peace is self-sustaining. And that means that none of the extremist groups, armed extremist groups, those who use violence in any way, should be operating, whatever ethnicity or whatever side they happen to be on, because that's a situation which is obviously inimical to peace and development of the region, politically and economically. So that's been a strong goal of ours all along, to isolate, marginalize and undermine the support for extremist groups throughout the Balkans.
We have worked on that, as has the international community, in any number of ways. Some of those ways have been, in the case of Bosnia and Kosovo for instance, we have actually, as you know, had international forces in which your forces participated as well, who were there to provide security and peace in that situation. In the case of our executive orders that came out in June, those were again intended to make it much more difficult for extremist groups to operate in the Balkans, and not just in Macedonia, but throughout the Balkans as well. And we are continuing to pursue those goals.
I think that there are clearly some significant differences between the situations in Afghanistan and situations in the Balkans. And one of those is very much the role of the Taliban in assisting, harboring, sheltering terrorists. And in the case of the Balkans what you have are various extremist groups, many of which are very small but who are trying to disrupt the processes of either democratically-elected government, as in the case of Macedonia, or trying to disrupt the peace process, which is guaranteed by international guarantors, as in the case of Bosnia for example. And these are quite different situations.
I think that certainly what you will see in the Balkans is continued efforts on our part to marginalize, isolate extremist groups who threaten peace and security there, to try to ensure that they do not have financial or material support. I think that there will be far less political support for them in the Balkans than perhaps there might have been some years ago, in the sense that I think people are looking forward to a more normal life with regular economic development, regular political life. And I think that in itself, those positive developments where they are taking place in the Balkans, tend themselves to undermine support for extremism, whether it's armed violent extremism or political extremism. And we will certainly continue to support those forces who stand for democratically elected governments with protections for human rights, and we will try to marginalize and isolate and make it very difficult for extremist groups to operate in the Balkans. We have certainly all seen in the past the kind of impact extremists can have, again regardless of their ethnicity, the kind of impact that violent extremist groups can have throughout the Balkans, and just how terrible situations that they can create.
So I think that our approach actually has been quite consistent. Obviously one of the things that we are doing worldwide is to try to disrupt and undermine any kind of international connection between or among terrorist organizations as well. And that's something that we are looking at all over the world.
Q: (Off mike) -- agency. Ms. Bogue, you said that you are striving to break up these international ties that they have. But as we know, from sources in Greece and the interviews that have been given by the fighters in Albania, there are camps in Macedonia where these Albanians have been trained by Osama bin Laden's group. Perhaps in this light the U.S. could respond, because this really is a place where terrorism is raised. But if you look at the bombing campaign that was carried out by the U.S., perhaps it was done too excessively than it should have been called for originally. Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: I don't know what sources you're referring to in terms of Greece -- you say that you have evidence that there are bin Laden training camps in Macedonia. And I certainly have not seen that evidence at all. And so I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on something that I don't know to exist.
In the case of -- again, as I said, in the case of the Albanian armed extremist groups in Macedonia, the NLA has given up its weapons and disbanded in accordance with its agreement. And the smaller -- apparently smaller Albanian National Army, which appeared rather late on the scene, is a group that again we are working to try to make sure that they do not have support -- doing that by the way as I described before through financial bans, through visa bans, and through interdictions by the KFOR forces along the border with Kosovo, and try to make sure that those extremists can't cross the border and find haven elsewhere.
And we will continue those efforts. But I have not seen what you are describing from Greek sources, so I am not familiar with that at all.
In terms of the campaign in Afghanistan, I think that we have tried to make it clear that our aim is only not to target the Afghan civilians, and that what we are looking to do is to target the terrorists and those who harbor them. And President Bush has said that repeatedly, that that is our target. And the fact that we have also dropped food for people in Afghanistan to try to assist them in a humanitarian way is, I think, evidence that we are not trying to target the Afghan people in any way.
Mr. Foucheux: We thank you in St. Petersburg for that round of questions, and move now to Yekaterinberg once again. Hello again in Yekaterinberg. Please go ahead with your next round of questions for Janet Bogue.
Q: Good evening. This is -- (inaudible) -- I'll try to be more specific and repeat the question that my colleague posed in St. Petersburg. Just a few days ago there was a report that there are two bases belonging to bin Laden in Kosovo. How seriously do you look at this, and what are you planning to do about this?
Ms. Bogue: Well, obviously we would want to disrupt bin Laden activities all over the world, and obviously where we very much want to break up -- again, the president has said repeatedly those terrorist organizations with a global reach. In the case of the Balkans, we will obviously be concerned to assure that there is not international support fo
r terrorism there, just like we are concerned to ensure that there is not local support for terrorism there. Again, I can't speak to a specific report about bin Laden bases in particular places. But we will -- we clearly are concerned to ensure that there is not an ability for the al Qaida network to operate anywhere in the world, and that has been made very plain by the president that's his goal.
Again, I don't know on what basis these reports are being given. Your colleague referred to a Greek report, and perhaps these are press rports. I honestly don't know -- haven't seen the reports you're referring to.
Q: Alexander Nitsorov (ph) from the Ural State University. Ms. Bogue, tell me please your opinion on the following issues. The Balkan crisis has been going on now for some 10 years, and the leading tendency is ethnic fighting which broke nations apart. In Bosnia and Yugoslavia, Kosovo, in Serbia, the only thing that is saving these countries from complete disintegration of the situation is the presence of NATO forces, the peacekeepers or whatever you want to call them. Do you believe that these forces should remain there for an indefinite period of time, or are these states going to be able to stand up to this disintegration? Perhaps other nations' forces should be removed from the Balkan area. Could you comment on this, keeping in mind the ethnic conflict situation? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: Yes, thank you very much. I think if you look at the Balkans, the states of the former Yugoslavia, and except for the current issue in Macedonia I think you actually see quite positive trendlines. Certainly, Croatia has a government that is working for political and economic reform. In Belgrade now it's been just over a year since the new government came into office, which is also committed to political and economic reform. Bosnia has the Alliance for Change government, which is a determinedly multiethnic and reform-based government, at the state level. And so just taking these particular examples, I think that you can actually see some very, very positive trendlines. As I mentioned before, the sort of immediate task when the former Yugoslavia disintegrated, to use your phrase, were to stop the fighting, give humanitarian relief to people who had been forced to leave their homes or were in other kinds of situations where they were just in desperate need of basic care. And that issue has really shifted now, and the issues now in the Balkans, in most of the Balkan states, are political reform, economic reform, supporting the return of refugee populations, and so on.
So really the dynamic is very, very different than what it was a few years ago. And what again we would like to see, and I think our Russian counterparts share this view with us -- what we would like to see are a continuation of those positive trendlines in ways that make peace self-sustaining, in ways that make it unnecessary for there to be forces in the Balkans anymore. We certainly do not see this as an indefinite commitment of forces there, but rather as a measure that was taken in the aftermath or in the course of a crisis in order to create a stable and peaceful situation on the ground, stop the fighting, get food and shelter and medical care to people who needed it, and then to begin the process of reconstruction. And I think that we are very definitely in a new phase in the Balkans in which there are some real possibilities for positive change.
I think that as we see the governments of the states in the region more and more able to take on security responsibilities for themselves, we see the kind of political reform come along that makes people not only achieve a sort of internal peace but be at peace with their neighbors. And if we see the civilian implementation increase -- that is, the non-military side, those things that the civilian side does, which includes things like rule of law, creating appropriate judiciary and body of laws, economic development, this creates the kind of ground for investment, both local investment and foreign investment, creating jobs and a self-sustaining economy. We see all those kinds of developments going along.
I think what we will see in fact is these states beginning to take on more and more responsibilities themselves and being able to exist on their own, be it in a situation in which they have good relationships with their neighbors and throughout the region, in which they have good relationships with all the states of Europe, as well as the United States, and which they can operate as, as I said, as just normal European countries. That will happen certainly at different times for different states, and it will happen at a different pace for different states. But in fact, after many, many years of really terrible conflict in which many, many thousands of people were dying or suffering from terrible atrocities and abuses, you have now a much more stable, much more peaceful situation, and really a situation in which governments themselves are committed to a very strong reform path. And I think that gives us a lot of reason to be optimistic that as time goes on -- I mean, developments accelerate, there will be an opportunity for states to stand on their own, but military forces will not need to be there on an indefinite basis. And these countries will take their place in Europe.
Q: One more small question that's connected with the previous one. You expect that now we can talk about the existence of inter-ethnic tolerance in the Balkans? Is that correct?
Ms. Bogue: I think that there is still clearly a long way to go in establishing the kind of real sustained and permanent ethnic tolerance in the Balkans that we would all like to see. And, again, that will develop at a different pace and in different places. In some places I think, if I might say, the wounds are more raw; in other places they are more healed. And I think that it's something that we are now seeing growing and developing in better ways in many parts of the Balkans. And you see that in cases where, for instance, there are increased numbers of refugee returns among people who would be in fact an ethnic minority in places that they'd return to, and as their confidence rose that they and their security will be assured, and that they can live again, and with the normal life they will have adequate representation, security, economic and political participation. They are an indicator, if I might say, of this positive trend -- one thing that we have seen in a number of places in the Balkans.
We have also seen some terrific efforts by, for instance, the NGO community, non-governmental organizations, who are promoting programs of ethnic harmony among young people in the Balkans. And I think that it's clearly a difficult situation, given the memories of the recent years. But we do have much more, I think, commitment among reform governments in the Balkans to ensure adequate rights and adequate representation, adequate security for all of their populations, whatever ethnicity, whatever religion, whatever background they happen to be. And, again, that's a positive trendline that needs to be encouraged and supported and developed by all of us who are interested in the Balkans, so that they can in fact become normal European states.
Mr. Foucheux: Thank you, Yekaterinberg. We begin another round of questions now with all three of our sites participating. So let's return once more to Moscow. Hello again, please go ahead with more questions.
Q: Ms. Bogue, this is Kulikov (ph) again from Interfax. Could you please give us a clarification who at the State Department at the present time is the highest official who cares for the relations between the U.S. and Russia? And your title, which is the deputy assistant secretary on Europe and Eurasian affairs, that Eurasia includes Russia as well -- is that correct? Thank you.
Ms. Bogue: Well, there's an easy answer to this. The highest official at the State Department who cares for relations with Russia is Colin Powell, the secretary of State. And then of course there is a deputy secretary and undersecretary. The chief official for Europe and Eurasia is the assistant secretary of State, Elizabeth Jones. She covers all the states of Europe and Eurasia. And then she has a group of deputies who cover different parts of that very vast region. I happen to cover the Balkans. That's my responsibility. And in that context I do have the occasion to consult also with Russian colleagues as well as with colleagues from other European states who have an interest in the Balkans. Although Russia is not my particular area of responsibility, the deputy assistant secretary, my colleague who covers Russia, is Steve Pifer. But again, I would reiterate that the highest ranking official at the State Department involved in Russia is of course Colin Powell, who is very actively and frequently in contact with his counterpart in Russia.
Mr. Foucheux: Thank you. St. Petersburg once more, please go ahead again in St. Petersburg.
Q: As far as we know the basic strike force in settling the Macedonian problem would be played by the German armed forces. Could you tell me what is the plan, and how this realistically would be implemented? Could you comment on that please?
Ms. Bogue: Yes, as I mentioned before the NATO mandates in Macedonia have been very specific and limited, both in time and scope. This is not the same kind of effort that you are familiar with from Bosnia and from Kosovo. The Task Force Essential Harvest, which was led by British forces, was there for 30 days to collect weapons from the insurgents, which they did. At the end of that period the government of Macedonia asked that a small NATO contingent come to Macedonia for a period of just a few months in order to provide security for an international monitoring mission. The international monitoring mission is being carried out by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, as well as by the European Union monitoring mission, which also has people on the ground there. Those monitors will assist the government of Macedonia in monitoring a number of issues including cease-fire, including assisting in the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes and the like. And in order to ensure that there is adequate security for them, a small NATO force called Task Force Fox, will be present, and that is led by a German contingent. It includes contingents from other nations who participate in NATO as well.
Mr. Foucheux: Thank you. And we return once more to Yekaterinberg for another question. Please go ahead again in Yekaterinberg.
Q: Alexei Burkov (ph) from the state television. In your conversation you talked about long-term prospects of the U.S. policy in the Balkans. What can you say about the short-term actions? Are there any sort of U.S. or NATO actions that are planned that might be of economic, political or perhaps even military character? Could you comment on that?
Ms. Bogue: I just mentioned the NATO deployment in Macedonia led by the Germans, Task Force Fox, and that's again a limited-duration mission. That of course there are also SFOR and KFOR missions which are in Bosnia and Kosovo respectively. Our policy toward the Balkans on the U.S. side has been one of long-term engagement. We are in for the long haul. We are committed to the kinds of work we are doing throughout the region -- politically, economically, as I mentioned before. And that commitment has not changed in light of September 11th. I think there may have been some curiosity about that after September 11th. But certainly from our point of view here in Washington we remain completely committed to engagement in the Balkans to assure a stable situation there. We have a lot of programs to support political and economic reforms, to support stability, to support refugee returns and similar issues throughout the Balkans. In the case of Macedonia in particular, we are looking forward to the opportunity to work together again with other countries to support Macedonia through a donors conference, which will be called once the framework agreement is finalized by the parliament of Macedonia. And that will give us and other donor states and organizations the opportunities to assist Macedonia as it comes out of its political crisis and gets back -- gets itself back on track economically.
Mr. Foucheux: Unfortunately we have come to the end of our time together here at "Dialogue." For more information, though, on the Macedonian peace, click on www.usinfo.state.gov. A very special thanks to our guest today, Deputy Assistant Secretary Janet Bogue for joining us, as well as all of our participants who are with us in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinberg. From Washington, for "Dialogue," I am Rick Foucheux. Have a Good day.