Senator Bob Dole contributed to Kosovo’s sovereignty and independence over more than three decades. On Senator Dole’s 98th birthday–July 22, 2021 — we recall with appreciation his critical efforts to deter Serbian aggression and spearheadpeacebuilding and independence for Kosovo as a sovereign state. During Senator Dole’s work as US Senator and Majority Leader over more than 30 years, three distinct actions define his contribution.
- Senator Dole led efforts on Capitol Hill to support the democratization of Yugoslavia, endorsing the right of Kosovo Albanians and others to self-determination. According to US Ambassador Philip Kosnett, “Dole’s visit on August 29, 1990 was the turning point for Kosovo’s freedom. His visit opened the eyes of the international community to ongoing human rights abuses.”
Senator Dole wrote Secretary of State James A. Baker III before his visit to Belgrade in June 1991 expressing “Continued US concern about the ongoing systematic human rights abuses against the Albanian population of Kosovo who have lived under martial law for two years now.” This led to President George W. Bush’s 1992 redline, the“Christmas warning”, threatening a unilateral US military response should Serbia aggress against Kosovo Albanians. Without Bush’s warning, Serb forces would have extended their rampage to Kosovo, where the Yugoslav conflict started.
- Senator Dole provided bipartisan support to President Bill Clinton’s military intervention in 1999 to “prevent from happening in Kosovo what had happened in Bosnia.”He condemned the Racak massacre, which led to the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM). He was, however, one of the first to conclude that the KVM was not working. He also influenced negotiations in Rambouillet. According to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “When I reached a really tough point at Rambouillet, I called Senator Dole. He has really been fantastic. We talked a lot about how to move this process forward. I called him because I wasn’t able to get movement from the Albanians and he did it.” Though Rambouillet ultimately failed, it was critical to exhaust all diplomatic options thus making military intervention a last resort. Senator Dole’s work with US Senate colleagues such as Senators John McCain, John Warner, Joseph Lieberman, Christopher Dodd among others, mobilized bipartisan support for NATO’s action, which ultimately influenced President Clinton’s decision to intervene.
- Senator Dole strongly opposed dividing Kosovo and swapping territories. On August 24, 2018, National Security Advisor John Bolton said that the US would not oppose a territorial exchange between Kosovo and Serbia provided Pristina and Belgrade work out a “mutually satisfactory settlement”.Senator Dole strongly opposed Milosevic’s project, revived by Aleksandar Vucic, to divide Kosovo along ethnic lines. He felt that Serbia should not gain through negotiations what it failed to achieve through ethnic cleansing. Furthermore, Senator Dole vehemently objected when the Trump administration demanded concessions from the Kosovo Government and threatened to withdraw US forces from Bondsteel. He understoodthat US troop presence is an essential deterrent to renewed Serbia aggression.
Senator Dole is an Americanpatriot who has earned the utmost respect from all Albanians around the world, in particular Kosovo Albanians. On his birthday, we pay tribute to his extraordinary role in Kosovo. Without Senator Dole, Kosovo would not be independent today. We also honor his service as a veteran war hero, his service to US interests worldwide, and lifetime devotion to the United States.