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Richard Holbrooke

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Richard Holbrooke

Richard Holbrooke
United States Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan
In office
January 22, 2009 – December 13, 2010
President Barack Obama
Preceded by (post created)
Succeeded by Marc Grossman
22nd United States Ambassador to the United Nations
In office
August 25, 1999 – January 20, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Bill Richardson
Succeeded by John D. Negroponte
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs
In office
September 13, 1994 – February 21, 1996
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Stephen A. Oxman
Succeeded by John C. Kornblum
United States Ambassador to Germany
In office
October 19, 1993 – September 12, 1994
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Robert M. Kimmitt
Succeeded by Charles E. Redman
15th Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
In office
March 31, 1977 – January 13, 1981
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Arthur W. Hummel, Jr.
Succeeded by John H. Holdridge
Personal details
Born Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke
(1941-04-24)April 24, 1941
New York City, New York
Died December 13, 2010(2010-12-13) (aged 69)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Larrine Sullivan (m. 1964)
Blythe Babyak (m. 1977)
Kati Marton (m. 1995–2010; his death)
Children 2 sons
Alma mater Brown University
Princeton University

Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (April 24, 1941 – December 13, 2010) was an American diplomat, magazine editor, author, professor, Peace Corps official, and investment banker.

He was the only person to have held the position of Assistant Secretary of State for two different regions of the world (Asia from 1977 to 1981 and Europe from 1994 to 1996).

From 1993 to 1994, he was U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Long well known in diplomatic and journalistic circles, Holbrooke achieved great public prominence when he, together with former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, brokered a peace agreement among the warring factions in Bosnia that led to the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, in 1995. Holbrooke was a leading contender to succeed the retiring Warren Christopher as Secretary of State but was passed over in 1996 as President Bill Clinton chose Madeleine Albright instead. From 1999 to 2001, Holbrooke served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

He was an adviser to the Presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry in 2004. Holbrooke then joined the Presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and became a top foreign policy adviser. Holbrooke was considered a likely candidate for Secretary of State had Kerry or Hillary Clinton been elected President. In January 2009, Holbrooke was appointed as a special adviser on Pakistan and Afghanistan, working under President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a frustrating assignment which was said to have caused his health to deteriorate.[1] He served until he died from complications of an aortic dissection on December 13, 2010.[2]

Holbrooke's unfulfilled ambition was to become Secretary of State; he, along with Chip Bohlen, were considered among the most influential U.S. diplomats who never achieved cabinet rank. Several considered Holbrooke's role in the Dayton Accords to merit the Nobel Peace Prize.[3][4][5][6]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Vietnam (1962–1969) 2.1
    • Morocco and Foreign Policy (1970–1976) 2.2
    • Carter Administration (1977–1981) 2.3
      • East Timor controversy 2.3.1
    • Wall Street years (1981–1993) 2.4
    • U.S. Ambassador to Germany (1993–1994) 2.5
    • Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (1994–1996) 2.6
    • Balkan envoy (1996–1999) 2.7
    • U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1999–2001) 2.8
      • GBCHealth 2.8.1
    • Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign 2.9
    • Special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (2009–2010) 2.10
    • Other activities 2.11
  • Positions 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Death 5
  • Writings 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Holbrooke was born on April 24, 1941, in New York City, to Dan Holbrooke and Trudi Kearl (née Moos); his brother, Andrew, survives him.[7][8] Holbrooke's mother, whose Jewish family fled Hamburg in 1933 for Buenos Aires before coming to New York, took him to Quaker meetings on Sundays. His mother, a potter, has stated: “I was an atheist, his father was an atheist... We never thought of giving Richard a Jewish upbringing. The Quaker meetings seemed interesting.”[9]

Holbrooke’s father, a doctor who died of cancer when Richard was 15 years old,[7] was born of Polish Jewish parents in Warsaw and took the name Holbrooke after migrating to the United States in 1939. The original family name was Goldbrajch.[10]

After Scarsdale High School,[11] Holbrooke earned a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University in 1962, attending on a full-tuition scholarship.[11][12] He was later a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, leaving in 1970.[12]


Vietnam (1962–1969)

In 1962, Holbrooke graduated from Brown University, where he was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s call to service to enter government work.[13][14] A few weeks after college graduation, Holbrooke entered the Foreign Service. A year later, after Vietnamese language training, he began six years of service in and on Vietnam. He served first in the Mekong Delta, as a civilian representative for the Agency for International Development working on the rural Pacification Program. This involved supporting the South Vietnam government with economic development and enacting local political reforms. Holbrooke then moved to the US Embassy, Saigon where he became a staff assistant to Ambassadors Maxwell Taylor and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.[14] During this time, he served with many other young diplomats who would play a major role in American foreign policy in the decades ahead, including John Negroponte, Anthony Lake, Frank G. Wisner, Les Aspin and Peter Tarnoff. As the Vietnam War escalated, President Lyndon Johnson formed a team of Vietnam experts to work in the White House under the former head of the Phoenix Program, R.W. Komer, in an operation that was separate from the National Security Council. As a rising young diplomat with significant experience in the country, Holbrooke was asked to join the group when he was only twenty-four years old.

Following his time in the White House, Holbrooke served as a special assistant to Under Secretaries of State (then the number-two position in the State Department) Nicholas Katzenbach and Elliot Richardson. In 1968, Holbrooke was asked to be part of the American delegation to the 1968 Paris peace talks, which was led by former New York Governor Averell Harriman and Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance. He also drafted a volume of the now famous Pentagon Papers, a top-secret report on the government’s decision-making in Vietnam. Following these assignments, Holbrooke spent a year as a mid-career fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Morocco and Foreign Policy (1970–1976)

In 1970, at his own request, Holbrooke was assigned to be the Peace Corps Director in [15]

Carter Administration (1977–1981)

In the summer of 1976, Holbrooke left Foreign Policy to serve as campaign coordinator for national security affairs to Governor Jimmy Carter (D-GA) in his bid for the White House. During the campaign, Holbrooke helped Carter prepare for his foreign policy debates with President Gerald Ford. After Carter's victory, Holbrooke followed in the footsteps of such diplomatic mentors as Philip Habib, Dean Rusk and Averell Harriman and, on March 31, 1977, became Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, making him the youngest person ever to hold that position, a post he held until 1981.[16] While at State, he was a top adviser to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. During his service, he oversaw a warming with Cold War adversaries in the region, culminating in the normalization of relations with China in December 1978.[14] He was also deeply involved in bringing hundreds of thousands of Indochinese refugees to the United States, thus beginning a lifelong involvement with the refugee issue.

East Timor controversy

In August 1977, then Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke traveled to Indonesia to meet with President Suharto in the midst of one of the Indonesian military’s brutal counterinsurgency campaigns in East Timor, in which tens of thousands of East Timorese were being killed. According to Brad Simpson, director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project at the National Security Archives, Holbrooke had visited officially to press for human rights reform but, after meeting Suharto, had instead praised him for Indonesia’s human rights improvements, for the steps that Indonesia had taken to open East Timor to the West, and for allowing a delegation of congressmen to enter the territory under strict military guard, where they were greeted by staged celebrations welcoming the Indonesian armed forces.[17]

Wall Street years (1981–1993)

In January 1981, Holbrooke left government and became both senior advisor to Lehman Brothers[7] and vice president of Public Strategies, a consulting firm he formed with James A. Johnson, a former top aide to Walter Mondale. From 1985 until 1993, Holbrooke served as managing director of Lehman Brothers. During this time, he co-authored Counsel to the President, The New York Times best-selling memoirs of legendary Democratic wise man and Defense Secretary Clark Clifford, published in 1991. He was a top policy adviser to then-Senator Al Gore (D-TN) during his 1988 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. And four years later he advised Bill Clinton, in his quest for the White House.

Holbrooke also remained deeply engaged in prominent foreign policy issues. He visited Bosnia twice in 1992 as a private citizen and a member of the board of Refugees International, witnessing firsthand the damage and devastating human costs of the conflict. This experience committed Holbrooke to pursuing a more aggressive policy in Balkans and, in a memo to his colleagues, he urged that "Bosnia will be the key test of American policy in Europe. We must therefore succeed in whatever we attempt."[18]

U.S. Ambassador to Germany (1993–1994)

In 1993, after Bill Clinton became President, Holbrooke was initially slated to be Ambassador to Japan due to his depth of knowledge and long experience in Asian affairs. However, this appointment eventually went to former Vice President Walter Mondale, and Holbrooke unexpectedly was appointed Ambassador to Germany.[19] In 1992, Holbrooke was also a member of the Carnegie Commission on America and a Changing World and Chairman and principal author of the bipartisan Commission on Government and Renewal, sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation and the Peterson Institute. He was Chairman and principal author of the "Memo to the President-Elect: Harnessing Process to Purpose," a blue-ribbon Commission report sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Institute for International Economics.[20]

Holbrooke served in Germany during a dramatic moment: only a few years after German reunification, he helped shape U.S. relations with a new Germany. A highlight of his tenure was President Bill Clinton’s visit to Berlin in July 1994, when thousands of Germans crammed the streets to welcome the American leader.[21] While in Germany, Holbrooke also was a key figure in shaping the U.S. policy to promote NATO enlargement, as well as its approach to the war in Bosnia.

In 1994, while serving as U.S. Ambassador to Germany, he conceived the idea of a cultural exchange center between the people of Berlin and Americans. With German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (1994–1996)

In 1994, Holbrooke returned to Washington to become the assistant secretary for European and Canadian Affairs, a position he held until 1996, when he resigned for personal reasons (he had recently married the author Kati Marton and wished to return to New York). While assistant secretary, Holbrooke led the effort to implement the policy to enlarge NATO and had the distinction of leading the negotiation team charged with resolving the Balkans crisis. In Paris in December 1995, he was the chief architect of the Dayton Peace Accords which ended a three-and-a-half-year-long war in Bosnia.[24] In 1996, he was awarded the Manfred Wörner Medal, awarded by the German Ministry of Defense for public figures who have rendered "special meritorious service to peace and freedom in Europe."

Holbrooke and Carl Bildt before peace talks in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina in October 1995.

Balkan envoy (1996–1999)

Upon leaving the State Department, Holbrooke was asked by President Clinton to become, as a private citizen, a special envoy to the Balkans given his distinguished service in the region. Holbrooke left his post as assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs and joined

Government offices
Preceded by
Arthur W. Hummel, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
March 31, 1977 – January 13, 1981
Succeeded by
John H. Holdridge
Preceded by
Stephen A. Oxman
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs
September 13, 1994 – February 21, 1996
Succeeded by
John C. Kornblum
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Robert Michael Kimmitt
United States Ambassador to Germany
Succeeded by
Charles E. Redman
Preceded by
Bill Richardson
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
Succeeded by
John D. Negroponte

External links

  • [Richard Holbrooke's plan to avoid the mistakes of Vietnam in Afghanistan].
  • The Principles of Peacemaking Holbrooke's address to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs conference on "Israel's Right to Secure Boundaries" on June 4, 2007

Further reading

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ .An American in FullNewsweek (2010, Dec. 12).
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  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d e
  8. ^ Sciolino, Elaine. – “Man in the News – Richard C. Holbrooke; A Tough Man (Some Say Brutal) for a Tough Job”. – The New York Times. – June 19, 1998.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Petition for Naturalization of Dan Holbrooke, U.S. District, Southern District New York Court #487977 dated 22 May 1944
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ a b
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  14. ^ a b c
  15. ^ a b
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  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
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  24. ^ a b AMANPOUR, CHRISTIANE. "Holbrooke." New Republic 242.1 (2011): 9–10. BusinessSource Elite. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.
  25. ^
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  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ Press Release: Israel Accepted to WEOG An Achievement for Israeli Diplomacy. – Ministry of Foreign Affairs. – The State of Israel. – May 28, 2000.
  32. ^
  33. ^ Global Business Coalition: Strategy Page. Archived September 18, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ Al Gore Support Center Accomplishments Archive
  35. ^ Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: "A Growing Business Movement".
  36. ^ Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: "New Group to Galvanize Business Role in Combating AIDS, TB and Malaria".
  37. ^ "Back on World Stage, a Larger-Than-Life Holbrooke"
  38. ^ Borger, Julian (2010-12-14) Afghanistan after Holbrooke, The Guardian
  39. ^ a b Corn, David (2010-12-14) Richard Holbrooke's Unfinished Business, Mother Jones
  40. ^ , September 2010, p. 13. Retrieved 23 Sept 2010 from
  41. ^ , May 2010, p. 13.
  42. ^ Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: "GBC President and CEO Richard Holbrooke Heading to State Department".
  43. ^ Council on Foreign Relations – Richard Holbrooke Archived July 15, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ Colbert Report, March 20, 2007, Comedy Central
  45. ^ Countrywide's Many 'Friends' Conde Nast Portfolio, June 12, 2008.
  46. ^ Richard C. Holbrooke's Diary of Disagreement With Obama Administration
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^ a b
  54. ^ Revisiting Holbrooke's Last Remarks, Robert Mackay, The New York Times, December 14, 2010.
  55. ^
  56. ^


  • 1991: Clifford, Clark, with Richard Holbrooke. – Counsel to the President: A Memoir. – New York, New York: Random House. – ISBN 978-0-394-56995-6.
  • 1998: To End a War. – New York, New York: Random House. – ISBN 978-0-375-50057-2.


The 2014 film Diplomacy was dedicated to Holbrooke.

On January 14, 2011, Holbrooke's memorial service was held at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.[56]

Frank Rich of New York Times wrote: "His premature death—while heroically bearing the crushing burdens of Afghanistan and Pakistan—is tragic in more ways than many Americans yet realize."[55]

Holbrooke died on December 13, 2010, from complications of the torn aorta.[53] Holbrooke's last words before being sedated for surgery, which have been clarified to have been a comical interchange with his doctor, were: "You've got to end this war in Afghanistan."[54]

[53], a rare condition.aortic dissection While there, he underwent twenty hours of surgery to fix an [52] On December 11, 2010, Holbrooke was admitted to


Holbrooke was married three times. His first wife was Larrine Sullivan, whom he married in 1964; Holbrooke and Sullivan divorced.[7] He later married Blythe Babyak, a reporter for MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, on January 1, 1977; they divorced.[50] He was married to Kati Marton from 1995 until his death.[7] Before he married Marton, he was involved in a longstanding relationship with the broadcast journalist Diane Sawyer and lived with her for seven years. [51]

Personal life

During the CNN interview that he had predicted the conflict in early 2008.

On February 24, 2007, Holbrooke delivered the Democratic Party's weekly radio address and called for "a new strategy in Iraq", involving "a careful, phased redeployment of U.S. troops" and a "new diplomatic offensive in the Gulf region to help stabilize Iraq."[49]

In January 2001, Holbrooke said that "Bush administration at the United Nations." Further, "Saddam Hussein's activities continue to be unacceptable and, in my view, dangerous to the region and, indeed, to the world, not only because he possesses the potential for weapons of mass destruction but because of the very nature of his regime. His willingness to be cruel internally is not unique in the world, but the combination of that and his willingness to export his problems makes him a clear and present danger at all times."[48]


He was a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group.[47]

A documentary titled "The Diplomat" centered on the legacy of Holbrooke's career will appear on HBO in the fall of 2015. The documentary was directed by his son, David Holbrooke, and features notes from Holbrooke's "secret audio diary" which "he dictated on a near daily basis from August 2010 until his death". [46]

In June 2008, Conde Nast Portfolio reported that Holbrooke and his son allegedly got multiple below-rate loans at Countrywide Financial because the corporation considered them "FOA's"—"Friends of Angelo" (Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo).[45]

Holbrooke was an Eminent Member of the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation until his death.

On March 20, 2007, he appeared on The Colbert Report to mediate in what Stephen Colbert (or rather, his television alter-ego) saw as Willie Nelson infringing on his ice cream flavor time. Holbrooke was the 'ambassador on call' and after a short mediation process the two parties agreed to taste each other's Ben and Jerry's ice cream to make amends. He subsequently sang "On the Road Again" in a trio with Colbert and Nelson.[44]

He wrote numerous articles and two books: To End A War, and the co-author of Counsel to the President, and one volume of The Pentagon Papers. He received more than a dozen honorary degrees, including an LL.D. from Bates College in 1999. He wrote a monthly column for The Washington Post and Project Syndicate.

Holbrooke also served as vice chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston, managing director of Lehman Brothers,[43] managing editor of Foreign Policy, and director of the Peace Corps in Morocco.

Holbrooke was the vice chairman of Perseus LLC, a leading private equity firm. From February 2001 until July 2008, Holbrooke was a member of the Board of Directors of American International Group. He was a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and formerly served on the Advisory Board of the National Security Network. Holbrooke was also a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Citizens Committee for New York City, and the Economic Club of New York. He was a member of the Trilateral Commission, and he has been listed on their membership roster as one of their "Former Members in Public Service".[40][41] He was the Founding Chairman of the American Academy in Berlin; President and CEO of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, the business alliance against HIV/AIDS, until his appointment as a special envoy by President Barack Obama;[42] and Chairman of the Asia Society. Holbrooke's other board memberships included the American Museum of Natural History, Malaria No More (a New York-based nonprofit that was launched at the 2006 White House Summit with the goal of ending all deaths caused by malaria), Partnership for a Secure America, and the National Endowment for Democracy. Holbrooke was also an honorary trustee of the Dayton International Peace Museum, as well as professor-at-large at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, his alma mater. Additionally, Holbrooke was an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy.

Holbrooke in 2008

Other activities

However, "Holbrooke's skill set did not lead to much accomplishment in Afghanistan. He never worked out a productive relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai ... He butted heads with other administration officials and was dismissed by European colleagues. He brokered no breakthroughs."[39]

one of the most cost-effective steps Washington could take would be to boost the agriculture sector of Afghanistan, which in years past had been a productive and profitable source of exports. Replicate the past success, he said, and Afghans would have money and jobs—and that, in turn, would create stability in the country. He called for 'a complete rethink' of the drug problem in Afghanistan, suggesting that draconian eradication programs were bound to fail.[39]

In January 2009, Holbrooke was appointed by President Obama as special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.[37] In that position, he helped kill an initiative to "back the creation of a new UN special envoy empowered to pursue peace talks with the Taliban."[38] He also asserted that:

Holbrooke in Herat, Afghanistan, in August 2009 to be briefed by leaders of the coalition forces on the overall security of western Afghanistan.

Special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (2009–2010)

Holbrooke was Clinton's lead foreign policy advisor in her campaign for president and was believed to be her preferred choice for Secretary of State. When Obama defeated Clinton and selected her as Secretary of State, Holbrooke was her preferred option for Deputy Secretary of State, but was vetoed by Obama.[1]

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

Upon leaving the UN a year later, Holbrooke took over a nearly moribund The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and has grown into an important part of the ongoing war against these three diseases.[36]

In January 2000, when the United States was in the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, Ambassador Holbrooke held an unprecedented meeting of the Security Council to discuss AIDS in Africa.[33] No Security Council session in the history of the UN had ever been devoted to a health issue prior to this historic meeting. Vice President Al Gore presided over the Security Council and declared that AIDS was a security threat to all nations.[34]


Holbrooke's other achievements as UN Ambassador included getting the United Nations Security Council to debate and pass a resolution on Arab delegations.[32]

In August 1999, Holbrooke was sworn-in as the 22nd U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, replacing Bill Richardson. During his tenure, Holbrooke was known for innovation and for achieving diplomatic breakthroughs that settled a series of longstanding tensions in the United States' relationship with the UN. His highest-profile accomplishment was negotiating a historic deal between the United States and the UN's then 188-Member States to settle the bulk of arrears owed by the United States to the United Nations. The deal, achieved with the agreement of the UN's entire membership in late December 2000, lowered the rate of UN dues paid by the United States to the UN, fulfilling the terms of a US law championed by Senators Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Joseph Biden (D-DE). In return for the reduction, the US paid the UN over $900 million in back dues.[29] Holbrooke secured a reduction in US dues to the UN despite a booming American economy by enfolding the US position within a broad push to update the UN's long-outdated financial system. As negotiations reached a critical phase in the fall of 2000, Holbrooke bridged a gap between what the US was legally permitted to pay and the amounts the rest of the UN membership were willing to shoulder by securing an unprecedented contribution by billionaire Ted Turner, founder of the UN Foundation. Holbrooke and his team received a standing ovation in the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee when the terms of the deal were presented.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1999–2001)

According to Radovan Karadžić and Muhamed Sacirbey, ex-Bosnian Foreign Minister, Holbrooke signed an agreement with Karadžić that if the latter withdrew from politics he would not be sent to the Hague tribunal.[27] Holbrooke denied these terms, saying Karadžić's statement was "a flat-out lie."[28]

[26] ranked the book as one of the eleven best books of the year in 1998.The New York Times, ending the Bosnian civil war. Dayton Peace Accords, a memoir of his time as the chief negotiator of the To End a War Holbrooke wrote numerous articles about his experiences in the Balkans, and in 1998, published the widely acclaimed book, [25] before the NATO attack began.Slobodan Milošević president Yugoslav to ultimatum to deliver the final Belgrade In March 1999 he traveled to [24]

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