“This is my first visit to Washington as Britain’s Leader of the Opposition.
I wanted to mark it this morning by paying my respects at Arlington National Cemetery, where so
many of your country’s heroes are buried.
Men and women who have served not just the United States, but the cause of freedom the world over.
In Europe, we will never forget the sacrifices Americans have made for our liberty.
I and my colleagues represent a new generation of leadership in the Conservative Party.
But the Party I lead today in Opposition, and which I hope to lead in Government, is proudly Atlanticist, proud of the ties of history and family that bind our two nations.
Britain and America have stood alongside each other in so many of the battles for liberty over the last century.
In two World Wars. My own grandfather landed with the liberation forces on the Normandy beaches and fought alongside our American allies before he was wounded and evacuated to Britain.
We stood together in the battle against Soviet expansionism.
And today we must stand together against global terrorism fuelled by a perversion of the Islamic faith.
I’ve seen our soldiers serving together in the deserts of Afghanistan and the dust of Iraq, and I pay tribute to their professionalism, their courage, and their comradeship.
The relationship between our two countries is indeed special.
And it will remain special for any British Government I lead – grounded in the long history we share together, and the ability to talk freely to each other as only old friends can.
My view is clear: the cause of peace and progress is best served by an America that is engaged in the world. And the values we hold dear are best defended when Britain and the United States, and the United States and Europe, stand together.
CONSERVATIVE FOREIGN POLICY
Today is not the occasion for a grand tour d’horizon of the global situation.
Instead, I plan to focus on a specific issue of considerable immediate concern: developments in the Balkans and their impact on our security.
My argument is straightforward: there is a crisis developing in the Balkans, and we must act now to prevent it, in the interests of national security not just in that region but around the world.
But before I address those issues in detail I would like to place my arguments in the context of the two key principles of foreign policy that drive my thinking.
NATIONAL SECURITY FIRST
First, I believe that in today’s complex and interconnected world, the protection of international security requires that any state must put its own national security first.
This may sound perverse: surely the reality of globally linked security threats means that it is more important than ever that we put international security first?
I don’t agree.
Every good military commander understands that no campaign will succeed unless you secure your home base first.
Only from a position of security at home can states confidently promote security abroad.
And in the modern world, I believe there are four types of security that any successful state needs to provide.
Institutional security - the rule of law and a strong civil society to serve as the platform for stability.
Cultural security – a clear and confident national identity to close down the space for ethnic conflict and extremism.
Economic security – to provide the jobs, wealth and opportunity that are essential for social progress.
And of course physical security - strong defences and secure borders to deter aggression and stop terrorists and those who inspire them.
States that provide these four types of security will be in a stronger position to provide both an example to others and assistance to others.
And I believe that if all states put their national security first, in the terms that I have outlined, our world would be a safer place.
But the principle of national security first should not be misinterpreted as a disengagement or a refusal to intervene where necessary.
Rather, it is a principle which, if applied effectively, will ensure that any necessary intervention is itself more effective.
And that brings me to the second key principle of my foreign policy - a principle that I know will require particularly clear explanation for an American audience – the principle of liberal conservatism.
When I talk about liberal conservatism, I am not referring to the narrow party partisan political meaning of those terms. Let me explain:
Liberal – because I believe civil rights, democracy, pluralism and the rule of law are the source of progress and a key component of lasting security.
But conservative too: because I recognise the complexities of human nature, am sceptical of grand utopian schemes to remake the world, and understand that you have to be hard-headed and practical in the pursuit of your values.
These two principles – national security first, and liberal conservatism – provide a clear guide to the foreign policy of the next Conservative government in Britain. We will be clear-eyed in recognising the dangers we face, and the dangers that the world faces.
We will proudly accept our responsibility to play our part in upholding international security. We will recognise that Britain can only play that part effectively if we put national security first and ensure that we are strong at home. And we will approach every security challenge – and assess every potential intervention – on the basis of hard-headed practicality: liberal conservatism, not liberal interventionist utopias about remaking the whole world.
I believe that this represents the right combination of realism and idealism that we need to deal with the serious dangers of the modern world.
And today I want to apply those principles, and the foreign policy approach I have outlined, to a part of Europe where I fear we may once more be heading into crisis.
I want to speak about the situation in the Balkans.
Twelve years ago this month, decisive American intervention brought an end to the only war on European soil since 1945.
That Balkan conflict – all three and half years of it – is a dark and blood-stained chapter in Europe’s history.
Television footage night after night carried images that looked more like the early 1940s than the 1990s.
Columns of refugees. Emaciated figures clinging to the barbed wire of concentration camps. Mass graves.
The cosmopolitan melting pot of Sarajevo – the Jerusalem of Europe – imprisoned for 1,426 days under medieval siege.
All of it culminating in the massacre in the hills above Srebrenica, in which some 8,000 men and boys were executed in cold blood.
In a country of just four million people, up to 200,000 are estimated to have lost their lives, and nearly two million were driven from their homes.
To those who say Europe is better off without the US, I say look don’t just at the history of the 1930s, but look at the 1990s.
DAYTON AND BEYOND
Your leadership at Dayton persuaded the parties to lay down their arms and ended the war.
As American-led NATO troops deployed into Bosnia on Christmas Eve 1995, the people of that devastated country dared to hope that their nightmare was over.
Among them, Bosnia’s two million Muslims, who see your country as their saviour– a fact that Al Qaeda propaganda chooses not to mention.
In Europe and America the response to this tragedy was ‘never again’.
So in 1999, when Slobodan Milosevic began orchestrating a renewed round of ethnic cleansing, this time in Kosovo, we acted promptly and decisively to stop it in its tracks.
Tony Blair was right to take the lead in galvanising NATO, and in pressing for military action.
Britain and the United States stood firmly together, and acted without delay.
So too did our NATO allies.
The campaign was not easy.
But it succeeded and prevented another round of blood-letting in the Balkans.
In the intervening eight years, long after the television crews packed their bags, the United States has stayed actively engaged on the ground, working with Britain and the rest of the international community patiently and persistently to keep the peace, to repair the devastation of war, and to nurture democracy, the rule of law and protection for minority rights across the region.
It has been slow, expensive work.
But compare the situation in the region today with the situation a decade ago, and the progress is clear.
Slovenia is a prosperous, stable democracy; a NATO ally.
Croatia has bounced back, its Adriatic beaches more popular than ever.
Newly independent Montenegro was the world’s fastest growing tourist destination in 2007.
Macedonia is now a candidate for entry to the EU and NATO.
Albania – once the poorest country in the world – is slowly reforming its institutions and making gradual progress.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has repaired, with international aid on a vast scale, the bulk of the physical damage inflicted by the war.
250,000 thousand homes have been re-built, and one million refugees returned.
And the whole world rejoiced when the people of Serbia rose up, and overthrew the architect of so much misery and mayhem, Slobodan Milosevic.
In an act of great bravery, they embraced democracy and appeared determined to join their neighbours on the long road to membership of the EU and NATO.
WHY STABILITY MATTERS
But the progress is fragile.
Formidable problems remain, and tackling them has a direct bearing on the security not just of the Balkans but of Britain, Europe and the wider world.
Eighty per cent of the heroin that reaches the streets of Britain comes through the Balkans
The bulk of weaponry smuggled into the EU comes through the former Yugoslavia.
Balkan criminal networks are responsible for some 200,000 of the women victims of the sex trade.
We know from past Balkan instability that it leads to significant migration, including to the UK.
And then – in the post 9/11 world – there is the constant threat of terrorism.
A lawless space in the Balkans would be ideal ground for Al Qaeda and others.
So preserving and enhancing stability in the Balkans is not just a moral imperative.
It is fundamental to our national security.
And it matters for wider reasons too: for the reputation of NATO, for our reputation in the Muslim world, for the credibility of the Alliance’s mission in Afghanistan.
A WORRYING TREND
That is why recent developments in the Balkans should be setting off alarms bells.
Since the summer, the situation has been steadily deteriorating, to the point where many worry that the region now teeters on the edge of its worst crisis since the early 1990s.
Only ten days ago the Financial Times carried a story headlined ‘Bosnians start to stockpile food as fear mounts’.
How have things come to this?
The main cause is the unresolved status of Kosovo, which UN resolution 1244 – at the conclusion of the conflict in 1999 – stipulated would be settled by a political process.
The former Finnish President Marthi Ahtisaari has worked heroically to negotiate a settlement between Pristina and Belgrade, based on the concept of ‘supervised independence’.
That approach was backed by the US and the UK, and the bulk of the EU.
But in March it was rejected by Belgrade and blocked by Moscow.
Since then a Troika comprising the US, Russia and the EU has shuttled to and fro in a bid to broker a way forward before the deadline of 10 December set by the UN Secretary General for a resolution – thus far to no avail.
In the interim, the behaviour of Belgrade, encouraged by Moscow, has made a difficult situation considerably more serious.
Belgrade has sought to exert leverage over Kosovo by linking its status to that of the entity of Republika Srpska in Bosnia.
Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica has threatened that independence for Kosovo could mean a referendum in Republika Srpska, followed by secession, and an end to the settlement negotiated at Dayton.
Belgrade has orchestrated a ratcheting up of the rhetoric on a scale not seen since Milosevic.
Moscow has encouraged Belgrade, and Belgrade in turn has encouraged Republika Srpska to confront the international community.
As the former US Ambassador to Belgrade, Bill Montgomery, wrote last week, “…a number of factors are coming together to create a potentially serious crisis in Bosnia.”
HOW WE SHOULD RESPOND
So what should be done?
We need to respond with speed, unity and decisiveness.
Things could move very fast in the coming weeks.
If our engagement in the Balkans over fifteen years has taught us anything, it is that hesitancy, division, prevarication or equivocation are interpreted as weakness.
Our policy must be clear, it must be consistent, and it must be firm.
There have been other periods of difficulty in recent years.
The conflict in Macedonia in 2000 could easily have tipped the whole region back into war.
But rapid preventive action – led by the US, NATO and the EU together - nipped that conflict in the bud, brokered the Ohrid agreement, and put Macedonia and the region back on the right path.
We face a similar challenge today.
NO UNPICKING OF DAYTON
So now is a time for some simple messages.
There is one over-riding message that needs to be understood right across the Balkans and beyond.
The resolution of Kosovo’s final status cannot and will not involve the re-opening of borders anywhere else in the region.
There can be no question of re-opening the Dayton settlement, or of acquiescing, as some have speculated, in carving off Republika Srpska.
Kosovo and Republika Srpska are not open to exchange as if they were pawns on a chess board.
The status of Republika Srpska is enshrined in Dayton, an international treaty to which Belgrade is a signatory.
It is an integral part of the multi-ethnic state of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a state that survived – just – Milosevic’s attempts to cut it in pieces.
There are still some people who believe that with a bit of imaginative map-making, a slight re-ordering of the geographical and ethnic patchwork, some neat solution to the age-old Balkan question will emerge.
But today, with all the blood that has already flowed down the river Drina, it would lead only to further disaster, with new waves of refugees and new bloodshed.
In Kosovo, where would such a solution leave the remaining Serb residents who don’t live in parts contiguous to Serbia, but in enclaves elsewhere in Kosovo?
In Bosnia, where would it leave the tens of thousands of Muslim or Croat refugees who have returned to Republika Srpska?
What future, above all, would it offer to the two million Muslims in Bosnia, who would find themselves sandwiched on a European Gaza strip between Croatia and Serbia – as Noel Malcolm has put it, a modern Bantustan on the continent of Europe.
Demoralised and let down by the West, I can think of no better way to radicalise Bosnia’s Muslim community, who remain superbly and stubbornly moderate.
If we went down this path we would achieve the very goals that Mujahadeen cells and other Islamic militants have tried – and spectacularly failed – to achieve in Bosnia during the war and after it.
But nor is it reasonable to expect Kosovo to wait for ever for its status to be resolved.
Kosovo has been suspended for nearly a decade already in a constitutional limbo.
That is deterring investment and helping to fuel a climate of resentment and anger within the Kosovo Albanian community.
The Ahtisaari plan represents a fair and sensible way forward, the result of careful and exhaustive negotiation with all sides.
The Kosovo representatives accepted it, even though it offered less than the outright sovereignty they wanted.
But Belgrade rejected it out of hand.
I fully understand how painful and difficult the future of Kosovo is for Serbia.
But the people of Serbia are entitled to leadership from their government on this issue.
They deserve some straight-talking, not the sort of rabble-rousing that has led Serbia into calamity after calamity since 1989.
The plain fact is that the population of Kosovo is over 90 per cent Kosovo/Albanian.
The harsh truth is that after the events of 1999, there was never any prospect that Kosovo could remain under the sovereignty and administrative umbrella of Belgrade.
Serbia needs to face up to the unpalatable consequences of the acts that were committed in her name.
Kosovo is entitled to have its status resolved, and if the Ahtisaari plan is not acceptable, and no agreement can be found in the Troika, then I support the view of the US and UK that this issue will need to be resolved.
But it must be done in a way that is managed, and that avoids damaging repercussions in Bosnia, for Serbia, in Macedonia, and elsewhere in the region.
PAVING THE WAY
So we need to take the steps to pave the way for Kosovo’s independence, and to ensure that the threats to stability are contained.
First, we need to be very clear with Serbia, with the Kosovo authorities, with Republika Srpska as well as with Moscow where we stand.
Serbia needs to be clear what it can and cannot expect.
It is certainly entitled to expect the full protection of the rights of the Serb minority in Kosovo.
Pristina will need to ensure that its minorities share full rights with the Albanian majority, and the international mission that succeeds the UN authority in Kosovo must hold Pristina to that pledge.
But Belgrade will also face a clear choice.
If it responds with restraint, then there is every reason why Serbia’s progress towards EU membership should continue.
Indeed, if it meets the conditions, including co-operation with the Tribunal in the Hague, there is every prospect that it could become a formal candidate to start EU accession talks in early 2009.
But if Belgrade chooses another path, it needs to be clear about the attitude of NATO and the EU in those circumstances.
We need to make clear that in the event of Kosovo’s supervised independence, we will not tolerate any disruption in the traffic between Kosovo and Serbia….
…that any hint of para-military activity in Northern Kosovo would bring harsh consequences and firm action from the NATO force…
…and any interference in Bosnia Herzegovina – or encouragement of Republika Srpska in moving towards secession - would halt Serbia’s progress towards EU membership in its tracks, and usher in another period of isolation estrangement and isolation for Serbia and her people.
Is that what the young people of Serbia really want?
NATO and the EU also need to make prudent preparations for a possible new crisis in the Balkans.
In Bosnia, High Representative Lajcak needs to have the rock solid backing of the EU and NATO.
The planned closure of his office in mid 2008 should be deferred.
And the 16,000 strong NATO military force in Kosovo and its EU-led equivalent in Bosnia must be ready to act robustly to ensure that a safe and secure environment is maintained.
In the case of Bosnia, the military force there is now only 2,500 strong, of which only 580 are frontline troops.
They are backed up by an ‘over the horizon’ NATO operational reserve of some 3,000 thousand troops.
As we enter this period of tension, I believe there is a strong case for reinforcing the troop presence in Bosnia as a precautionary measure, to reassure the local population, to deter trouble and to send a clear signal that our commitment to the implementation of the Dayton agreement remains absolute.
There are two further factors which will make an important difference to the prospects for the Balkans – in the near and the longer term.
One is the behaviour of Russia.
And the other is the degree with which the EU – and NATO – remain committed to a process of their own enlargement that encompasses the Western Balkans.
For most of the last ten years, the role of Russia in the Balkans has been a positive one.
Russia contributed to the implementation of the Dayton accords, and to the settlement of the Kosovo conflict.
But more recently, in keeping with a hardened Russian attitude across the board, Moscow has been playing a less than helpful role, by encouraging interference by Belgrade in the affairs of Bosnia, and encouraging expectations which Russia must know to be unrealistic in respect of Kosovo.
The way in which Moscow has encouraged Belgrade to up the rhetorical ante in the last six months has contributed to the rise in tension.
Here as in other matters Russia needs to decide what sort of power it wants to be and where its interests really lie.
As the rise in oil prices has increased Russia’s self-confidence, it has chosen to make its presence felt rather than to promote stability.
That is true around its borders.
And it has been true in the Balkans.
Where previously Russia used its links to its Slav brethren in the region to help broker solutions in the Balkans, now it seems to be using those links to frustrate them.
President Putin’s approach seems to be based on a misunderstanding of the West.
We have no wish to keep Russia enfeebled, or to shut her out from sharing in global leadership.
We want to be able to welcome Russia as a major player – not just in the Security Council, but in the G8 and elsewhere.
But for that to happen, we need a Russia that is as responsible a player as possible on the world stage.
THE MESSAGE FOR EUROPE
The other key factor will be the prospects – or lack of them – for continued EU enlargement.
It is no secret that I and my Party have strong criticisms to make of the European Union.
But there is no doubting that the prospect of membership, one day, of NATO and of the European Union has - until recently - acted as a powerful driver for progress right across the Balkans, just as it did for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
In the last year, however, that beacon has dimmed.
There has been a cooling, especially in France, towards further EU enlargement, and with it the enthusiasm of the Balkan countries to make tough political and economic reforms has waned.
At the same time, EU member states have begun sending contradictory signals about the importance they attach to the conditions for membership.
Having insisted to Belgrade for years that the handover of the indicted war criminals Ratko Mladic – the chief architect of the massacre at Srebrenica – and Radovan Karadzic was a prerequisite to move to the next stage in the EU accession process, last month the EU relented and let Serbia move forward anyway, with both still at large.
The hope is that by giving Serbia something in exchange, it will adopt a more emollient attitude towards the independence of Kosovo.
But that is the wrong sort of linkage.
It undermines reformers across the region, and moderates within Serbia itself.
The most important question, however, is whether the nations of the European Union are serious about honouring the promise that it has consistently made to the war ravaged Balkan countries: if you make the reforms necessary, you will be eligible to join.
And if they let that hope die in the Balkans, what are the implications for the much bigger strategic partner, Turkey?
So let me make it clear: there could be a new crisis in the Balkans by Christmas.
That is a direct threat to our national security, and we must therefore take decisive action now to prevent it.
We need to reinforce the military presence in the region now, by drawing on some of NATO’s dedicated operational reserve, to prevent trouble later.
We need diplomatic action: sending a clear message to President Putin now that we expect Russia to play a responsible role, and sending a clear message to the political leaders in the Balkans that they too have a choice to make.
You can choose a stable and peaceful future, with the full backing of the international community.
Or you can choose belligerence and conflict, with the full condemnation and united action of the international community.
There are big issues at stake again in the Balkans, and a real danger that one area that had been showing promising progress could – if we let it – come off the rails once more.
European politicians like to describe the Balkans as a European problem, and in a strict geographical sense I guess that is true.
But I do not see them as a European problem any more than I see Afghanistan as an Asian problem.
The truth of the matter is that in this interconnected world, we are all in this together.
Instability in the Balkans, with all the dangers that would bring, would be a threat to us all.
No country has done more in the last decade to bring peace and stability to that region than the United States.
No country has the clout – from Sarajevo to Skopje, from Belgrade to Tirana – that you do.
As we cope with a new period of turbulence in the Balkans, you are entitled to look to the Europeans to carry their fair share of the burden, especially on the military front.
But we enter this final chapter, your continued engagement will be crucial in seeing this endeavour through to success and ensuring that the gains of recent years are made permanent.
After the catastrophe of the war, we have achieved a great deal together in the Balkans in the last decade.
In 2014, it will be one hundred years since the shot that was fired in Sarajevo rang out around the world.
A century later, our task, together, is to do all we can to help ensure that this corner of Europe is finally liberated from the demons of its past – for its own sake, and for ours.”