Events

Preventing War in Macedonia: The Legacy of Preventive Deployment and Current Challenges to U.S. Engagement

April 17, 2001 // 12:00am

On April 17th, the Project on Conflict Prevention and the East European Studies Program cosponsored a timely and engaging meeting the legacy of preventive deployment and U.S. engagement in Macedonia. While most recognized that the mandate and mission structure of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) would have rendered it incapable of countering the recent violence, they insisted that the very presence of UNPREDEP, had it continued, would have obviated the current situation. Other panelists stressed the importance of U.S. engagement in the region and suggested that such long-term commitment by the United States and the European countries is mandatory for peace in the Balkans.

UNPREDEP: An Example of Prevention Done Right. In his welcoming remarks Wilson Center Director Lee Hamilton noted that as violence raged in one Balkan country after another in the 1990s, Macedonia was often cited as the best example of conflict prevention done right. The commitment to peace by the Macedonian people and government, and the first United Nations preventive deployment mission, UNPREDEP, enabled Macedonia escaped the warfare that enveloped most of the former Yugoslavia. But since the discontinuation of UNPREDEP's mandate in February 1999, and the Kosovo war of that year, Macedonia has begun to fall victim to internal fighting between Albanian rebels and the Macedonian government. He asked the panelists and audience to consider what role should the United States—and its partners in Europe—play in seeking to prevent further fighting in Macedonia and in encouraging a peaceful resolution of the conflict?

The Legacy of UNPREDEP UNPREDEP was indeed a successful mission according to Henryk Sokalski, Former Head of Mission to UNPREDEP in Macedonia and Former Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, and currently a Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Noting that with its maximum budget of $50 million per year, versus the much higher operating costs of the budget for the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague, Sokalski stressed that UNPREDEP showed that prevention is better and cheaper than cure. The success of UNPREDEP and its ultimate demise rests in the debating chambers of the United Nations, said Robert Orr, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Former Deputy to UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Director, US-UN/Washington with the U.S. Department of State. The UN and its member states moved expeditiously to support this mission, however the mission was terminated after China, angered by Macedonia’s recognition of Taiwan, vetoed its continuation.

Preventive Deployments as Not Panaceas The mission would have altered the current state of affairs, agreed Ljubica Acevska, Woodrow Wilson Center Public Policy Scholar and Former Ambassador of Macedonia to the United States, primarily because its mandate was peace maintenance instead of peace enforcement. In her opinion the fragile peace in Macedonia must be encouraged through incentives such as economic development, trade, and foreign investment. Interestingly, UNPREDEP’s partnership between the Macedonians and the international community may have unwittingly fostered a “pupilship,” that to some Macedonians, hindered their acceptance into the European mainstream. According to James O'Brien, former U.S. Special Envoy to the Balkans, a graduation strategy for UNPREDEP might have encouraged a strategic partnership arrangement more amenable to the Macedonians. Others on the panel cautioned that while the mission of UNPREDEP was successful, the UN should not become enamored with small deployments as panaceas. If full commitment—economic and political assistance—does not accompany the military mission, it will most likely be doomed to failure.

Strategies for U.S. Engagement Panelists warned that the lull in violence was probably temporary and suggested different strategies to for U.S. engagement. In addition to encouraging the Macedonian government and Albanian leaders to reach a peaceful, political solution, they suggested that more attention be paid to strengthening law enforcement capacities to combat the illegal activities of the rebels and the influx of illegal funding of such groups throughout the region. In particular, the United States, through economic and political assistance and military training, is working to support the Macedonians and help themselves, noted Colonel Greg Kaufmann (USA), Director, Balkans Task Force, Office of the Secretary of Defense. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s recent trip to the region did much to convey U.S. support for continued engagement in the region, said Tom Countryman, Director of the Office of South Central European Affairs at the Bureau of European Affairs, U.S. Department of State.
The international community must stress its support for justice throughout the region—encouraging inclusive behavior of the Macedonians toward the Albanian minority as well as between the majority Albanians in Kosovo and the minority Serbs still living there, said Michael O’Hanlon, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The Use of Force is Not a Strategy While the panelists disagreed on the number of troops necessary to protect the region, where they should patrol, or the proper role for U.S. forces in Macedonia, they concurred that force alone would do little to end the violence. Likening the loosely coordinated bands of ethnic Albanian fighters from Macedonia, Kosovo and abroad, to a counter insurgency, they suggested that Albanian grievances should be addressed to discourage the rebels from mobilizing Albanian support inside Macedonia. Several audience members pointed out that it was precisely this increase in violence that returned the spotlight on Macedonia and has hastened the Macedonian government’s efforts to be more inclusive. To counter this belief, the international community, in particular the United States must make clear to Albanians, both in the region and within the diaspora community, that violence will not achieve the intended results.

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