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[casi] Ahtisaari enjoys the confidence of the USA..

Ahtisaari enjoys the confidence of the USA


By Kari Huhta

Many will recall the photo of the German Chancellor
Gerhard Schröder embracing President Martti Ahtisaari
at the European Council meeting in Cologne in June
1999. It was a defining moment in what was one of
Ahtisaari's greatest days as in international
negotiator and mediator.

The date was June 3rd, and Ahtisaari had just returned
from Belgrade. There he had presented the Yugoslav
leader Slobodan Milosevic with the peace terms set by
the international community for bringing an end to the
war over Kosovo. Milosevic accepted the terms and the
fighting came to an end.

EU leaders gathered in Cologne were waiting to express
their congratulations and to hear Ahtisaari's account
of what had happened in Belgrade, but before he could
meet them, the former President had another

His motorcade stopped for the first time even before
it passed out of the restricted access zone at
Cologne-Bonn Airport. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of
State Strobe Talbott climbed into Ahtisaari's
limousine, discussed matters with him for just under a
quarter of an hour, and then returned to his own car.
Only then did Ahtisaari go on to the cheering crowds
in Cologne and his meeting with Schröder.

The motorcade had to pull up because the war in Kosovo
was fought primarily using American firepower and was
brought to a conclusion on terms approved by the
United States.

Ahtisaari was a mediator in bringing the war to an end
because he enjoyed the confidence of Washington. He
continues to get significant international
assignments, because he continues to enjoy that

This does not mean that the UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan or the leaders of Europe would not trust in the
diplomatic skills of Martti Ahtisaari. Nevertheless,
their confidence alone carries insufficient weight in
disputes where U.S. interests are involved. One need
look no farther than Sweden for an example of this.

The former Swedish Prime Minister (1991-1994) and
leader of the country's Moderate Party Carl Bildt was
the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the
Balkans during the Kosovo conflict, but his role in
the proceedings turned out to be marginal, and since
then he has not been particularly prominent in other
fields, either.

The stubborn and independent Bildt crossed swords with
the U.S. representatives at the time when he was the
first High Representative of the International
Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU's
Special Negotiator at the end of the war in Bosnia.

Ahtisaari has not made a habit of publicly questioning
U.S. actions beforehand and nor does he criticise them
openly after the event.

Ahtisaari's understanding for the grounds for the war
in Iraq has raised little by way of discussion in
Finland but it has had a considerable impact on the
conditions for his international activities.

The U.S. administration has a great deal more riding
on the outcome in Iraq than it had in all the 1990s
wars fought in the Balkans put together.

Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 25.9.2003

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